Racing the Truth

by Sandy S.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. All belongs to Joss and UPN.

Rating: PG-13

Spoilers: Through "End of Days" on Buffy and the season finale of Angel.

Summary: Okay, so I wanted to extend the episode and make it S/B… I know this will not happen on the show. I'm also spoiler free for the finale! Buffy POV.

It starts with a conversation with Willow, but the beginning is important to set up the B/S so bear with it! ;o)

A/N: This story is especially dedicated to dear Ami, my midnight, with whom I had a delightful discussion about soulmates and love! *hugs* Thanks for helping me talk through the issue! Although I didn't end up using a whole lot of our conversation, you started me on the thinking process, so thanks a million!

* * *

fold up feelings,
seal envelope,
store in deepest, darkest
shadow of heart.

paint on smile—
pretend indifference.

run away
faster than time
from truth.

eyes of light
no longer touch

safe now—
open envelope,
pour soul
to ground.

* * *

Hours pass without my notice as Angel and I catch up on everything that's happened in the year and a half since we've last seen one another. The comfort and love I've always found around him enshrouds me in a warm blanket, and I feel safe now that he's here. . . now that he will be by my side for the upcoming battle. I can't have too many warriors.

When he finally decides to get some sleep and I've arranged a pallet in the basement where my other. . . warrior has been staying, the truth of what I've done catches up to me as if I've been fleeing it and it's been running at top speed to reach me. . . to remind me. . . .

Shaking my head to rid myself of unwanted thoughts, I softly shut the basement door with a soft click.

I seek out Willow. . . my best friend. Happily, I don't have to search far in the bowels of the candle-lit house that no longer seems like my home. Giles found an old generator, so we have some electricity but mostly we're still using candles, and one of the girls knocked over two or three today. Not for the first time this evening, I wonder what my mother would think of the scorch mark on Dawn's bedroom wall.

Willow is in the kitchen with a large book open before her, her face a mask of concentration. Her finger traces the rim of a coffee mug filled with day-old caffeine-laced syrup, so I know she's lost in some text of importance, probably planning something for the inevitable final battle at the hellmouth's seal.

"Hey," I whisper when I invade her personal space, and she still doesn't notice me.

With a tiny shriek, my friend jumps and knocks over her mug, spilling liquid across the countertop and barely missing the papers as she snatches the book aside. She offers me a glance, and I reach around her to mop up the mess with a towel from a nearby countertop.

"Sorry," I apologize.

Willow smiles. "You scared the life out of me."

The Willow I know used to tack my name on the end of sentences. . . used to be ready with a hug and a joke. Now she has a quiet grimness about her that never quite goes away, and I don't know if it's because she's reacting to the changes in me or the changes in herself or if she's just this way because of the upcoming fight. Sorrow for days gone by fills me. . . for the second time tonight. Must relationships always change? And how do I go about recapturing the lightness in them? Will I ever get the chance?

"Watcha doin'?" I ask before I can delve too far into thoughts about friendship and evolving relationships.

Willow points at a passage in Latin, which I'm clueless about. "Looking up something for the SIT's to learn. . . a simple spell I can teach them to give them an edge."

"It's Greek to me."

Willow grins, but the seriousness doesn't lift from her eyes. "It's really easy. You could learn it if you wanted."

Quickly, I turn down her offer, "No, no. I think I have enough of my own weapons." I'm implying that I have more than just myself. . . that I have my friends, too, but I don't know if she gets my double meaning.

Willow nods at my choice. "So what's up with Angel? With the crew in L.A.?"

Angel is. . . Angel. . . my love. "Angel is fine. He's had a big offer in L.A. from Wolfram and Hart. He's a little torn about it."

"What kind of offer?" Willow is intrigued. She has just been to Los Angeles and returned Angel's soul to him in the midst of the recent sun-less days in the big city. The last she heard, everyone in the law firm of Wolfram and Hart was dead.

"Apparently, everyone in the law firm is alive, and Angel's been offered the entire company under the senior partners."

"Wow. That's um. . . interesting." Willow pours herself another cup of sludge and ends up pouring me one, too.

"Thanks." I accept the lukewarm mug gratefully. "Scary is more like it. He doesn't know what to expect from the senior partners. They are evil after all. But he also said that he thinks they're going to try working with them for a while to see if they can 'thwart more evil' that way."

"Maybe after this is all over, I'll have time to help them do some research on what their plans might be." Willow doesn't even consider the idea that we might lose.

"That might be good. You'll have to talk with Angel about it. Did you know that Cordy's in a coma?"

Willow's eyes widen, and she almost chokes on the coffee she's just sipped. "She is?"

"Yeah. And they can't really figure out how she got there or what happened to her. Angel seemed really worried about her." Angel's worry about Cordy sends a knot into the pit of my stomach every time I think about it, and I'm not really sure why.

"Has she seen a doctor?" The familiar line between Willow's eyebrows appears.

I frown slightly. "At Wolfram and Hart."

Willow matches my sarcasm, "Well, that's like taking her to see the dentist for a broken leg."

"I agree."

Willow sets her mug aside and carefully marks and closes the heavy book she was studying. "Does Xander know? Someone should tell him, being he used to be close with her. Say, have you seen Xander today? With everyone going every which way, I haven't kept track of him."

Well, I certainly hadn't told Willow I'd sent our dearest friend away. Given her opinion of my choices of late, I had chosen not to tell her that I sent him away with Dawn. Standing rooted to the spot and taking pains to not move uncomfortably to show my deception, I continue to dodge the truth. "I don't know. He's probably with Anya or something. They seem to be a little closer lately."

"Nope. Anya's sleeping in Dawn's room; I saw her up there about thirty minutes ago. Xander wasn't with her." Willow squints her eyes thoughtfully. "Come to think of it, I haven't seen Dawn either. Maybe they're off doing. . ."

I can't stand the lie any longer. "I-I actually sent them away."

"What? Why?"

I take in a jagged breath. "I want to make sure that Dawn's safe from harm. Being here has caused her nothing but grief in the last year. And I don't want to have to worry about her."

Willow is listening intently and playing with the hem of her shirt. "So. . .how does Xander fit in?"

"I wanted him to take her. . . to make absolutely certain she stayed away. He's driving her to Los Angeles as we speak. In fact, he may already be there." I want Xander to stay alive, too, but I don't say that out loud. Admitting that he's permanently scarred, that he's lost something because of me is still too hard for me to face directly.

"It's cause of his eye, isn't it?" Willow asks bluntly as if she's reading my mind. I raise my hand to defend myself, but she keeps talking, "I'm glad."

"You are?"

"I was really worried about how he would handle what's coming when he's not used to fighting with one eye." She cocks her head to one side and emits a genuine laugh. "Actually, how is he driving with one eye?"

A giggle of relief and humor escapes my lips. "That's a good question."

"And Dawn. . . Dawn's gonna be pissed," she adds, covering her mouth slightly with one hand and leaning back against the kitchen island.

"I know. That's why. . . well, he sorta kidnapped her."

Willow lets out another full-throated laugh. "Kidnapped her?" she asks when she catches her breath again.

I smile sheepishly. "Yeah. I put him up to it."

She sobers and crosses her arms. "How much you want to bet they'll be back?"

Rejecting the possibility, I assert, "They won't be back. Dawn should be unconscious all the way to L.A., and then, Xander's gonna lock her up in a hotel room. . . staying with her. . . until I. . . one of us. . . gives him the all clear phone call."

"Ah. Good." Willow taps her fingers on her forearm, and after a few seconds, she changes the subject, "So what does Spike think of Angel sleeping in 'his' basement?"

My heart nearly stops in my chest, and my hand goes to my ribcage to search for the now erratic heartbeat. "I don't know. Spike's not down there."

Moving away from me and busying herself with putting away some dishes, Willow avoids my eyes, so that I wonder exactly what she's thinking. "Well, he came in earlier. You weren't back yet from killing Caleb."

"Really?" My curiousity is peeked, and my stomach turns. "Did he say anything? I mean, did you talk to him?" I stop myself from asking too many more questions because I don't want her to think I'm too interested. . . although it's probably too late for that.

"Yeah. He didn't look too happy, so I didn't say anything to him. After about five minutes, he was gone again."

"Oh. Did he say where he was going?"

"Um, nope." Willow shuts the cabinet with a bang.

"Oh." I fight disappointment, but Willow's not finished talking.

She goes to what has now become the herb cabinet. . . her herb cabinet and gathers a few supplies in her arms. "He just muttered something at no one in particular as he was storming through the foyer."

Now I don't bother to disguise my concern. "What did he say?"

Willow faces me directly. "I don't know if I should tell you."

Cradling my arms against me, I insist, "Willow, you *have* to tell me. He's important to m. . . to the fight ahead. What did he say?"

My friend looks at her feet. "Actually, he was crying. . . or trying to hide it, I think. And he sounded angry. Said he was going out for a while and didn't know when he'd be back."

Crying. . . I know why he's crying. Energy unfurls itself in my muscles, and I set my mug aside quickly. I push aside thoughts of Angel as my concern for Spike rapidly escalates. "I'm going to go find him."

Bending over to deposit her treasure on the counter, Willow frowns. "Are you sure you should be going out tonight? You're exhausted, and you need rest. It sounded like Spike just needed to blow off some steam. He's probably not too happy that Angel's here."

Willow doesn't know the half of it. . . doesn't know what I've done. And now I have to fix it before I can talk myself out of doing so like I've done one hundred times before. I'm as jittery as a jackrabbit, and I feel the need to run. . . now. "I'm going."

She doesn't fight my determination. After examining the certainty in my eyes, she reaches out and pulls me into a brief embrace. . . a sign that the rift between us is mending. "Be careful."

"I will." Grabbing something out of the refrigerator, which is cool from the generator, I'm out the door and into the cool night air before she can say anything more.

* * *

For two hours, I've searched the whole of abandoned Sunnydale, and with each step, I feel a sense of sorrow at the darkness that's taken over the city where I've lived the past six and a half years. The darkness frightens me, and with each place that I explore that doesn't unearth the wayward vampire, my fear grows and the energy that's fueling me slowly becomes the energy of desperation.

Of course, the last place I look is the place I find him.

He's in the mansion where he and Angelus and Dru lived once upon a time. . . so long ago that I can scarcely remember coming here to fight Angelus and stop Acathla. Even the memories of the mansion after. . . when I spent happy times with Angel here. . . are not the same. Lifetimes have been born, spent, and died since that time. I was a different person then. . . . I am a different person now.

And yet, at core, I remain the same. . . the same scared little girl who barely killed her first vampire. That's a point to ponder at a later time. . . perhaps after the current apocalypse is averted.

The mansion's halls are dark, and I focus on searching each room meticulously, using my senses to reach out for him.

And each room is empty.

Until I reach the garden. . .

I am surprised to find that green things still grow and a waterfall still trickles miniature rivulets of cool water. I pause to get a drink to whet my thirst. The water baptizes my mouth. . . paving the way for what's to come. . . for what I have to say when I find him.

Jasmine intoxicates my nose, and I wonder if I should take some back to Willow to re-stock her supply of the relaxing flower.

As I'm examining a particularly full branch and debating about breaking the plant, the tiniest noise disturbs the sound of the breeze through the leaves and cuts through the water's cascading ripple. I step back from the liquid and the greenery, holding my breath and listening intently for the noise to repeat.

My eyes suddenly skim over a familiar form slouching on a wooden bench in the middle of the garden. He is shrouded in shadows as if he's retreating from me, and I shiver as cool air blows across the bare skin on my arms, sending an army of goose bumps across the tiny hairs.

I approach him, attempting to see his face, read his reaction. He wears his emotions on his face. . . he can't hide them no matter how hard he tries sometimes, and I know if I can glimpse his expression, I'll feel better somehow. . . I'll be reassured that he is still with me.

When I can't get my wish, I whisper so softly that I'm not sure if he'll be able to hear me. "Spike?"

Several seconds pass without a reply. The sound of the water and the breeze are deafening as I wait.

Then, "Go away, Slayer." The words aren't full of malice as they might have been. . . as they have been in the past. Instead, a thinly veiled hurt infiltrates his tone.

Immediate annoyance flashes through me as I react to the words themselves and not the emotion behind them, and I glare in the direction of his darkened body. "So I'm 'Slayer' now?"

He doesn't move, and I'm beginning to wonder if what I'm observing is actually real. . . or if he's a ghost from the past that still haunts the hallways of my memories.

When I'm ready to turn and flee the garden. . . race away from the mansion and back to the warm crowd that has invaded my house, he speaks again, "Yeah, you are. I guess I fooled myself into thinking that you could be something more."

Confusion fills me at the potential meanings of his words. "And that means. . .?"

He sighs, and I catch a flash of white-blond as he turns his head. "That I thought you were someone you aren't."

My fingers dig into my arms as I cross them across my middle defensively. "I'm only who I am, Spike."

"I know that."

If he knows who I am, why does he sound so disappointed? My stomach lurches with more emotion that I thought it would because I know the answer. Iif I had eaten anything earlier, I might have thrown everything up now. I stand back from him, feeling alienated. . . mourning the loss of the intimacy we so recently shared. My next words tumble out more harshly than I mean them to sound, "So what do you want from me? You said earlier that you wanted nothing from me."

He replies reluctantly as if he's hoping I'll disappear, "I meant what I said earlier. But now, I want you to leave me alone."

I have to ask the next question, "Why?"

"So I can gather my thoughts before the sun comes up. . . before I have to go back and face the house of gibbering girls, a washed-up Watcher, an inhibited witch, an annoying man-boy, and two slayers battling it out for power." Despite his sarcasm, his words barely disguise his hurt.

Forcing back the urge to respond harshly to his attempt at provoking me, I cross the physical gap between us, deciding to leave the emotional chasm alone for the moment. I take a seat next to him on the wooden bench, running my fingers over the familiar texture of wood grain.

He shifts away from me, closing in on himself, and I recall how he opened himself so unflinchingly to me the other night. . . trying to talk me into believing in myself again. Now that person inside is unreachable, and I don't know how to fix it.

I re-start with something simple, giving me the aura of being in control. "I don't remember this bench being here."

"I do." I wait for his next words. He sounds hollow. . . like someone's gutted him. "Dru liked it. She liked to sit in the garden and watch the flowers and the birds from the shade."


"So Angelus stole it from the park and put it here for her. He liked to steal things from people. Stole more than one thing from me."

I flinch at the double meaning. Angelus stole Dru from Spike after they'd been together over one hundred years. I clear my throat and ask boldly, "What do you think you saw?"

"I've seen lots of things." He's going to make me be more specific, and I'm not sure if I can accommodate him.

"Tonight. What do you think you saw after I killed Caleb?"

"You know what I saw."

I know Spike saw me kissing Angel. . . after our own tentative connection had been formed in the previous nights. I feel a sudden relief that the truth is finally unavoidable.

Then, he gazes into the distance. . . away from me. . . away from this conversation. And he chooses to answer another question. . . one I'm too afraid to ask. "I felt like I'd been stabbed. Betrayed. I felt it here." His fingers come to his heart that I know no longer beats. I've long since learned that doesn't mean he lacks the depth and strength of human emotion.

I say nothing. I'm not quite sure what to tell him. Sorry seems too trite, too inadequate. Not responding would be worse. I take a different path. . . one I've used woefully little in my short life for too many reasons to think about. "Would it help to say that I'm terrified, too?"

Surprised by my choice of words. . . my expression of feeling, he affords me an all too brief glance, and I glimpse a flash of blue when the moonlight catches his eye. Despite what I've done. . .how I've made him feel, he is genuinely concerned, "Of what, pet?"

He's probably thinking I'm going to say that I'm afraid of what's going to happen with the First, with the S.I.T.'s, with the hellmouth, but this time he will be wrong. "I'm terrified of being close, too." I haven't explained why I kissed Angel, but it's a start, and it's the truth.

He sighs and gazes up at the moon, which is unusually full tonight. After several seconds pass, he says, "So you did what you did because. . ."

"The battle with Caleb was tough. . . one of the toughest I've fought. He. . . he almost ki. . . got me. And then, then. . ."

"Angel showed up. Bloody poof to the rescue." His words could have been sarcastic. Instead, they are simply accepting. I'm not sure what that means.

"Yeah. He let me finish the fight."

"And after?"

My eyes fall to my hands . . .twisted together like knotted vines. . . on my lap. "And after, you saw. . . what you saw," I finish awkwardly. He saw what I wanted him to see. He saw who I am. Then, I was hoping to give him enough reason to run away. Now. . .

He leans back against the bench, imitating my posture but with legs splayed and his hands wound together between. "I don't understand it though."

I swallow past the lump in my throat. Now that I'm aware of what I've done in the past, I'm trying to rectify my mistakes in the future. Here is my first chance. "I was trying to push you away."

He's watching me, but I don't look up. I'm quite afraid of his reaction, and I don't know if he'll believe me or not. His next question doesn't surprise me. "But why?"

"I don't know. . . honestly." I offer him a steady look and discover his eyes lit with uncertainty and hope yet again. "Because it's what I've always done? It's easy?"

I break eye contact first, and this allows him to insist, "That's not it exactly, is it?"

Spike's no dummy. . . not in the slow group when it comes to emotion. . . when it comes to me. Sometimes I think he knows me better than I know myself.

My thoughts struggle to right themselves. . . to come together for a more cohesive fit. I haven't muddled this far ahead with my thinking, and now as is typical, he is pushing me further. I barely hear what I say next because I can hardly bear to hear them aloud, "Because being with Angel has always been easy. . . has always been my safety net."

"Angel's not particularly safe, pet. . . with the whole potential for losing his soul."

"Yeah. I guess it's something else. . . ." My revelation burst out before I comprehended exactly the meaning of my words, "Angel's safe because there's a limit to how close we can get." I clap my hand over my mouth in shock.

Spike politely does not respond.

I'm left hanging and forced to follow the path Spike's led me down, "And that. . . that means that you're not safe. . . not safe at all." Tears well in my eyes and cascade down my cheeks in hot rivers. . . before I can even attempt to contain them.

Cool arms encircle me, and I welcome them without reservation. He holds me as I weep. . . huge, gulping sobs that wrack my whole body with spasms. His hands glide down my back in soothing waves, and I press my face into the solidness of his chest so that I'm surrounded by his familiar scent.

As my body calms and begins to quiet, I notice that he is trembling. . . not as hard as me, but he's definitely vulnerable. As gently as possible, I wrap my arms around him and draw closer to him as if to contain his hurt. . .his fear that so matches my own. He lays his cheek atop mine, and his tears seep onto my scalp, sending tremors of desire and another emotion that I'm too frightened to identify across my body.

"I'm still scared," I admit, marring the peacefulness that's settled over us.

"Are you, pet?" He pulls me onto his lap and cradles me against him. His next words are hoarse, "I am, too."

I sniffle and snuggle down further into his arms. I feel insanely relieved that I'm allowing myself to do this. . . be truly *with* Spike again. "What now?"

Spike sounds muffled as he talks against my hair, his breath flowing over my forehead, "We go back, we fight a battle, we win, and we celebrate."

A small laugh comes from nowhere. "You make it sound so easy."

"It's bloody easy. . . when I'm by your side," he teases.

Playfully, I punch him on the arm. "Ha, ha. Seriously. What about *after* that?"

"After that?" His arms tighten protectively around me. "Depends on what just happened here."

"What do you mean?" I'm sure I know the answer, but I want to be sure. . . want to hear it out loud.

"What happened between us here in this garden. . . beneath this jasmine and near this waterfall. . . on this bench." He nuzzles my neck good-naturedly, eliciting a quiet groan from the back of my throat.

"Something of the good happened," I admit. "And. . . and I want to see where it goes. . . if something can be built out of it."

"Something good? Something you're comfortable with?" He reaches up and tears down a piece of jasmine, using the flowers to tickle my face.

Pushing a palm against his abdomen, I squirm back and wrinkle my nose. "Definitely *not* something I'm comfortable with."

Hurt pours over his face as if I've spilt a bucket of water over his head. Instantly, he tries to pack the emotion away. Compassion sweeps over me, and I reach out to caress his face. Thankfully, he doesn't turn away.

And I find that I can add to my initial comment with unanticipated ease, "But it doesn't mean I'm not going to try my hardest. Will you be there to help me?"

Without warning, he rises with me in his arms and does a tiny spin of joy that ends in him kissing me lightly on the space between my eyebrows. His blue eyes glinting with happiness, he murmurs, "Always."

I return the gesture with a tentative kiss of my own. . . this time full on his lips. . . much to his surprise and pleasure. As he deepens the affection, I push aside all thoughts of tomorrow and relish the realization that I've raced the truth. . . and the truth has won.

The end.

A/N: Phew! I'm worn out. . . that was very hard to write emotionally! I had to reach deep to fix that B/A scene. ;o) I sure hope you enjoyed it! (5-17-03, 5:03 P.M.)