Summary:Basically, the Buffy/Spike scene of "Touched", from him kicking Faith's arse onwards. Follows the dialogue and action pretty much exactly, so no points for originality on my part ;)
Rating: PG, Spuffy-centric angst.
Disclaimer: Dialogue isn't mine, nor is most of the action since I followed it pretty much exactly as the episode went. Inner thoughts and feelings are mine, even if they're completely wrong…
Spoilers/Setting: Well, it spoils Season 7 through to "Touched", and is set, as mentioned, in that episode.
Dedication: This one's for Shilpa, because it's her birthday and I'm a cheapskate, and because I know she likes that scene about as much as I do…
Author's Notes: This is the unfortunate result of Buffy-athons from "First Date" to "End of Days" in one sitting. It's also something of a tribute to the only episode on record to ever make me cry, since the Spuffy cuddle in that episode had me bawling like an idiot before I knew what was happening. This is based on some of the thoughts that were going around my head during the fourth re-watch ;) even though this fic doesn't cover those exact thoughts just yet. This is part one. Part two is coming whenever I finish it (but the second part has the good stuff, so be patient…)
Counterpoint - "Touched"
She waits for a sleep that doesn't come, that hasn't for days. Or is it weeks? And that's when she remembers. Spike's not back yet. He's still off on whatever mission Giles sent him on this time, and the way she sees it, he'll either end up dead, or end up killing Andrew, but either way Giles will get what he wants. She tries to pinpoint the moment when thoughts of Giles turned her stomach, and thoughts of Spike brought up too many emotions to try and count. It's impossible. The whole world's gone crazy, and all she can do right now is lie in the dark and wonder whether or not she's in love with another vampire. Top priority, Buffy. Really. Even her inner voice is sarcastic.
There's nothing else she can do now, except wait for exhaustion to take over, and let her thoughts ramble beyond the plan she's been trying to form for weeks. It's not like there's any point to it.
Maybe, she thinks, if Spike had been there, being in the minority wouldn't have hurt so much. Maybe, she thinks, that knowing at least one person was on her side would make it better. That just having someone stick up for her would give her the strength to carry on. That knowing someone loved her, even when her best friends and her family betrayed her, might have stopped her giving up.
Except she's not even sure of that, any more. She hasn't exactly given him hope. He hasn't exactly given her any hints.
He leaves the house, fists aching from the fight with Faith, and curbs his anger until it becomes a dull thud in the pit of his stomach. He needs to find Buffy, and anger's not going to help anyone right now. He needs to tell her the news, show them who was right and who was wrong, and who knows, maybe she'll be grateful. He stops at the gate; he trains his senses to her. It takes a while. It's been so long since he's even thought of tracking her like this. It's only been a few hours since she left, if that, and he can still feel her presence in the air.
It takes everything in him not to let it all resurface, all the pain and the old feelings, the anticipation of seeing her. 'You're pretty sweet on her, aren't you?' she'd said. If only you knew, Faith… If only you bloody knew.
He's close. She feels it, deep in the pit of her stomach. Her Slayer sense is buzzing - it's been buzzing for weeks, now - only now it's changed pitch. It's a familiar anticipation, a familiar almost-dread that makes the hairs on her neck stand on end, and she wishes she knew what he wanted her for this time. No time to move, now. He'll be there any minute. She doubts she'll have the energy to get up and let him in, either, and it's not like there's any point trying to keep him out.
"Come on in, Spike," she mutters to herself.
He finds the house easily enough. The town's deserted, and all he can feel now is power. The First is gathering its army of übervamps, somewhere in the bowels of the Hellmouth; Willow's powerful, even though she tries not to be, and she's antsy, and Spike can tell; Anya feels it coming, and her own demon wants to be a part of it, struggling against the confines of whatever is left of her humanity; the power of the Potentials bubbles, waiting for release; Faith's a Slayer, and his instincts tell him to avoid her. Above and beyond it all, though, he feels Buffy. It's reassuring, in a way, that he hasn't lost his touch, that he's still able to pick up on her so quickly; it's also a little disappointing, because he'd hoped he'd be over her by now.
She's in pain. It's suddenly all he can feel, and he wishes he knew why. He's surely not supposed to be this receptive to the Slayer's moods and feelings. It's not his place to find out why she hurts, though. He's here for a reason, to pass on a message, and once he's done that, he's out.
Soon enough, he's there, waiting outside. Four knocks - strange he shows her such a courtesy as she denied him - and then five more, and then he appears. She doesn't make a move to greet him, or even turn her head. It's too much energy expenditure.
He sighs. She can hear the relief at having found her. "There you are. Do you realise I could just walk in here, no invite needed?" She'd tell him why, but there's no point. He should realise he's allowed wherever she is, now, and if he doesn't, that's his problem. "This town really is theirs, isn't it?" he asks, rhetorically. "I heard. I was over there. That bitch. She's all about smiles and reformation when you're on your feet, but the moment you're down, she's all about the kicking, isn't that right…" God, she'd forgotten how much he could talk. "Makes me wanna-"
"It wasn't just Faith," she says, somehow feeling the urge to correct him. "It was all of them. And it's not like they were wrong." Finally, she looks at him, and she knows he's not going to stop talking any time soon. Suddenly it's too difficult to cope with his signals, with the feelings she's not even sure he has any more, and she's too damn tired to work out her own. "Please leave."
"No." Why doesn't it surprise her? "This'll change your tune. I came here 'cause I got something to tell you." Secretly, she dreads it. Spike telling her things tends to end badly. "You were right," he says, positively gleeful about it. He can barely contain his smile, and she wonders how he can still manage it after everything he's been through. "Caleb is trying to protect something from you. And I think you were right all along. I think it's at the vineyard." He's expecting a reaction, but she can't bring herself to feel anything. It's like being brought back all over again, only this time, death isn't something she'd welcome, and it's not something she can avoid, either. "So? You were right!" And now he knows there's something wrong; he can tell. She'd somehow forgotten that he always could. "Buffy?"
"I don't feel very right," she admits.
He takes the chance, and starts to come closer. "You're not fooling me," he says, trying to sound like he's playing along, despite the fact he's obviously worried. He's cryptic as ever, just as observant. He's always known her better than she knows herself. It's still annoying.
"What do you even mean?"
"Well, you're not a quitter."
He sounds like he can't convince himself, so how does he expect to convince her? "Watch me…"
"You were their leader," he says. "You still are. This wasn't something you gave up, it's something they took."
"And the difference is?"
"We can take it back."
He's not even careful about the 'we'. He'll always take her side. It just came a little late.
It's safe to say he wasn't expecting a straight out 'no' as her reply. Some kind of chastisement for his presumption that they'd work as a team, perhaps, but not just 'no'.
"You mean 'no' as in 'eventually'?"
"You really have problems with that word, don't you?" She still has the power to cut through him with only a few words, whether she knows it or not. It's not the time to let it bother him, and he can pretend it doesn't hurt faster than she realises it might have done. Only that's the point, isn't it? She never realises, not any more; at least before she knew what she was doing. Somehow it's worse when she doesn't.
"You can get them back."
"Can? Maybe… Should?" For a moment, he thinks she's going to cry, but it turns into a yawn. "I'm just so tired…" And she looks it, in every sense of the word, but tired or not, she's still the Slayer, and the world needs saving again.
"They need you." He catches himself before his 'they' becomes an 'I' - he's not part of the equation any more. It wouldn't make any difference, anyway.
"It's bloody chaos over there without you."
Except now he has to actually convince her. "Yeah! Yeah, it's… there's junk, y'know, food cartons, sleeping bags not rolled up, everyone's very scared and… and unkempt."
"Sounds dire…" At least she can still be sarcastic. Maybe he's doing some good after all. But nevertheless, after everything, she deserves the truth. He takes the risk again, and sits beside her.
"I didn't see much," he admits. "I came, hit Faith a bunch of times, and left."
She looks at him with something akin to gratitude. "Really?" Then, she catches herself. Can't let that cruel streak show, after all. "I mean, not that I'm glad, but…"
He remembers that he's chipless now. Buffy was meant to be his third Slayer, but that's unthinkable, now. He's got easy pickings of all the Potentials and every one of her so-called friends, and right now he'd like to tear the throats out of all of them for doing this to her. "Oh, you say the word and she's a footnote in history. I'll make it look like a painful accident." And yet, try as he might, he just can't picture it, can't see himself doing it.
She sighs. The gesture's probably appreciated, on some level, but she won't admit that. "That's my problem," she tells him. "I say the word, some girl dies. Every time."
"There's always casualties in war," he says. It doesn't sound as reassuring as he intended it.
She repeats the word. "Casualties… It just sounds so… casual." Ever stating the obvious, she is. Only this time, she happens to have hit the nail on the head. "These are girls," she says, "that… I got killed." He wants to protest, tell her she's not to blame, but the words won't form fast enough, and all he can do is watch her beat herself up over it. "I cut myself off from them. All of them. I knew I was gonna lose some of them, but… I didn't…" She lets it trails off and sighs, standing up and starting to pace in irritation. "You know what? I'm still making excuses. I've always cut myself off. I've always… being the Slayer made me different. But… it's my fault I stayed that way." And, of course, being ripped out of Heaven didn't have anything to do with it, he thinks, but leaves his sarcasm out of her diatribe for the moment. "People are always trying to connect to me. And I just slip away." She looks at him, almost challenging. "You should know."
Oh, so she wants to talk about them, does she? It's a topic he's rather proficient in, if not one he's wanted to approach. He's not going to bring up the big stuff unless she does; he picks his words carefully. "I seem to recall a certain amount of connecting…"
"Oh, please," she snorts. "We were never close. You just wanted me because I was… unattainable."
"You think that's all that was?" he asks her, shocked she could believe that. Hasn't he tried over and over again to prove himself? He gets up, intending to settle this matter once and for all. She sits again, defeated. She doesn't want a fight over it; they've fought enough the past year.
"Please let's not go over the past…"
"Ohh, no, let's not hold back, here. I've hummed along to your pity ditty, and I think I should have the mike for a bit." He cringes at himself, glad she doesn't know of his poetic past. That was a William rhyme if ever he said one. He's got a lot to say to her, now, thoughts running through his brain and phrases he'd die to be able to say to her and have her believe them.
"Fine," she concedes. "The stage is yours. Cheer me up."
She waits, wondering what he's going to come up with this time. It occurs to her that she's never been this patient before, never let him have his say, because she knows he can talk and talk without ever really getting to the point. The way she sees it, though, none of them might come back alive in a few days, and even chipless, souled vampires deserve a final rant against the world.
He seems to think about it, trying to put together his thoughts. Then, all he can come up with is, "You're insufferable."
"Thank you," she mutters. "That really helped."
"I'm not trying to cheer you up," he says, indignant.
"Then what are you trying to say?" But does she really want to know? It's going in a negative direction right now, and that thought lingers: does he still love her? She's not even sure she wants the answer.
"I don't know!" He's rising to the bait, and annoyed with himself for doing it. She'd forgotten just how easy it was to get him this riled up. "I'll know when I'm done saying it. Something pissed me off, and I just…" He remembers. "Unattainable. That's it."
"Fine. I'm attainable. I'm… I'm an attain-athon," she says, humouring him. "May I please just go to sleep?" She's too tired to be dealing with this. She's even beyond caring now if he loves her or not; it's not like it'll make any difference, either way. They'll both be dead in less than a week, so what does it matter if he loves her?
As he kneels to her level, and meets her gaze, she realises it matters a whole lot more than she thought. Suddenly, knowing how Spike feels - or doesn't, as the case may be - has become the most important thing in the world to her. "You listen to me," he says, and she wants to, for the first time she can remember. "I've been alive a bit longer than you, and dead a lot longer than that. I've seen things you couldn't imagine, and done things I'd rather you didn't. Don't exactly have a reputation for being a thinker. I follow my blood, which doesn't exactly rush in the direction of my brain." She wants to laugh at the ironic comment. Her body won't let her, so she listens. Besides, she gets the impression he's leading up to something, and his voice has never been more hypnotising. "So I make a lot of mistakes," he continues, "a lot of wrong bloody calls. A hundred plus years… and there's only one thing I've ever been sure of. You." He gives her a weak smile that almost - almost - reaches his eyes to dispel the sadness there, and then he lifts a hand to touch her. His skin is like ice; she flinches at the contact and pulls away. She averts her gaze, but not fast enough to avoid the flash of pain in his eyes.
"Hey, look at me," he says, coaxing her out of the protective shell she's formed around herself. "I'm not askin' you for anything." She realises too late that it was never about him, only about her. "When I say 'I love you', it's not because I want you, or because I can't have you. It has nothin' to do with me." Oh, God, is the relief obvious to him, too? Does her expression reflect how much it means to her to know that nothing's changed? She almost forgets to keep listening. "I love what you are," he tells her, and he means it. "What you do. How you try. I've seen your kindness, and your strength. I've seen the best and the worst of you." And she's certain she looks a mess right now, her face all tear-streaked and her eyes all puffy from tiredness, but he'd tell her she was beautiful anyway. "And I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You're a Hell of a woman. You're the One, Buffy…"
He's right, and she knows it. He's always right when it comes to her. The tears fall; she doesn't bother to pretend they're not. "I don't want to be the One."
"I don't want to be this good-looking and athletic, but we all have crosses to bear," he says, immediately lightening the mood. She laughs a little, but it feels hollow; she thinks he deserves more for his effort, but she's too exhausted. He's succeeded in making her feel a little better, though, and at least she knows, now, that his feelings never changed. She shifts position, lies down on the unfamiliar bed. "You get some rest now," he mutters, getting up. "I'll check in before first light. You can decide how you want."
She watches him as he nears the door. "Spike?"
Her voice is all he hears in the room, and it's enough to make him turn around to face her. Despite his best efforts, all of the old feelings did resurface, and it's too much effort to try and deny it. He loves her, with all of his brand new soul. He'll deny her nothing, now. Love's bitch, indeed.
"Could you… stay here?"
Those four words are like a sacred blessing, when only a few minutes ago she was begging him to leave her alone. He can't speak, won't, for fear of his voice cracking over the words. He manages a shaky "Sure" and slowly heads back to the centre of the room. Some part of him awaits retribution, so he keeps his eyes on hers for that telltale flicker of malice. It doesn't appear; she means this, she honestly wants him to stay with her tonight.
Regretfully, he tears his gaze from hers to seek out a place to sleep; his eyes alight on something lumpy and amorphous that might be furniture, and he removes his duster for the night. He mutters to himself, to keep on proving it's all real. "That diabolical old torture device, the comfy chair. It'll do me fine…"
"No," she says, and his head snaps back to look at her. Does she expect him to sleep on the floor? A slightly nervous smile graces her lips. "I mean… here…" He watches, not quite believing it, as she shuffles over a little, to her right. He's frozen. He can't do anything but stare dumbly at her. She doesn't want… no, she can't… can she? After everything they've been through- "Would you just hold me?"
The query is so quiet, he barely hears it, even with his heightened senses. She looks lost and alone, terrified he'll refuse. It's all he can do to stop himself from bursting into tears right there, but, no matter what, he has his pride. Again, he doesn't speak. If he does, he'll ruin it, so he simply gives her an acknowledging smile, and forces his legs to carry him to her. When she cringed from his touch, he'd lost all hope, memories hitting him of that fateful night in her bathroom, and now it seems like a dream. He's not entirely conscious of his movement as he approaches her.
He doesn't break her level gaze, in case she disappears. If this is a dream, then he wants to see it through. He realises there's barely room for him on the bed, despite the apparent miles left on the other side of her, and he perches carefully on the edge, giving her a chance to change her mind. He reaches his arm out slowly, around her shoulders.
Without hesitation, she allows herself to fall into his half-embrace, resting her head on his shoulder, and snuggling into his side. He strokes her hair, no longer caring if she minds or not - sometimes, it is about him - and mentally counts the hours until sunrise. He knows this is a one-off chance, and he's going to make the most of it.
A/N: Honestly, this time I'll try and finish it quicker. There's only one more part to this, which I'm currently writing. And then I've got a couple of post-"Cradle" ficlets to write that've been buzzing around my brain for a while. Anyway. Please R&R.