Xander walked through the unlocked front door of Buffy's house, thinking momentarily that that was a little odd. After six years living on the Hellmouth, the Slayer was usually more cautious than to leave her doors and windows open.
He called out tiredly when he didn't see her, "Buffy? I found Warren." He paused, grimacing at the memory, then more at the pain caused by the expression. "Well, actually, my face kinda found him…"
As he spoke he stepped toward the empty living room, stopping when he felt something under his foot. Looking down, he froze when he saw what it was – a small silver cigarette lighter.
Cold fury filled him at the very sight of the thing, which brought to mind the thought of its owner – who had obviously been here recently. He cast an accusing look toward the top of the stairs as he headed up them, disgusted and angered already by what he was sure he would find there.
At the top of the stairs, he saw that Buffy's bedroom door was open, and the room was empty. That was a small blessing, he thought. The bathroom door was open a crack, and the light was on. His fury prevented him from considering Buffy's privacy, and he threw the door back, holding up the lighter and demanding, "This is what you call not seeing Spike anymore?"
His voice broke off immediately at the sight of his friend, battered and disheveled on the bathroom floor, staring up at him through tearful, red-rimmed eyes.
No, no, no… seemed to be the only word her mind could come up with for the horror of the scene that had just taken place in her bathroom. It wasn't possible…it couldn't be real. A part of her brain refused to believe that it had actually happened. Spike wouldn't hurt her. He loved her. It had to be a mistake…an awful, terrible mistake. She had misunderstood somehow, he had not really been about to…
But her memory could not deny the truth, as his desperate words reverberated in her head, "You felt it…when I was inside you…I'll make you feel it!"
And suddenly she wanted to vomit; she was sure she was going to. Oh God, oh God, oh God…
Pounding footsteps on the stairs distracted her as she turned fearful eyes toward the door. Was he coming back? A part of her almost hoped that he was. He would come through the door, offer words that could explain away what had happened, make her believe that this man that she had trusted – she realized that only now, when that trust was broken – had not actually come into her home and tried to…
"Oh, God," she sobbed aloud, turning her head away from the door, unable to face him. Because against her best efforts at denial, it had happened.
Spike had tried to rape her.
But when she heard Xander's, not Spike's, voice in the doorway, she looked up at him through her tears, both relieved and disappointed. His eyes were wide, stunned by the sight of her. She must look a wreck, she realized, feeling numb, not caring.
"What did he do?" Xander asked, anger rising in his voice as he took in the sight. "Did he hurt you?"
"He tried," Buffy admitted expressionlessly. "He didn't."
Buffy could see a familiar expression in her best friend's eyes – the same expression she had seen that night outside the Magic Box, when the two of them had caught their ex-lovers together. "Son of a bitch!" Xander hissed, murderous rage in his eyes as he turned toward the door.
"Don't," she quickly stopped him, as a strange fear entered her heart. Why should I care? she wondered, angry at herself. After what he's done – I should let Xander kill him. But somehow, she just couldn't. She didn't know what it was that she felt for Spike, she was sure it wasn't love, especially not now, but in spite of everything, she still couldn't let Xander hurt him.
Especially not when a little part of her kept accusing her, telling her that she was the one to blame – for all of it.
"Please…" she whispered, looking away. "Just – don't."
And then Willow showed up, and she was forced to push back the pain, the trauma, and be the Slayer. It was getting easier every day – shutting off the emotions at will, no matter how intense or painful they might be. She wondered briefly if that should worry her, but did not have much time to think about it.
The nerds were apparently planning a bank robbery using the incredible super-strength that Warren had somehow acquired. Buffy was glad to hear it; she needed to do some slayer-style venting, and badly. Despite her best efforts to fight back the tears – or maybe because of them – she could feel the rage building in her until it was almost consuming.
So it was that she was very frustrated when she arrived on the scene of the robbery – too late. She saw the two guards who had been in the armored truck, bruised, bloodied and not moving near the overturned vehicle. She checked their vital signs rapidly and felt her heart drop when she could register no pulse or breath. From the looks of it, they had been beaten to death.
Warren's getting pretty comfortable with the whole murder thing, she thought with a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. First Katrina – now these two guards.
Thinking of Katrina made her think of Spike again, and that night outside the police station. I hurt him too, the thought came unbidden, followed by I hurt him first.
She shook her head, trying to shake the thoughts away. Nothing justified what he had done. No matter how many hurtful words and deeds had passed between them – most of them aimed in his direction, she had to admit – nothing she had done gave him the right to do what he had done to her tonight.
Trying to get her attention off of her personal problem of the moment and back to the matter at hand, she went around to the back of the overturned armored truck. Just as she had suspected, it was empty. She swore softly to herself; how had the nerds managed to pull it off? She had shown up twenty minutes before the delivery was supposed to take place; why had the truck been early?
She quickly located a nearby payphone and made an anonymous call to the police, before heading home, feeling completely troubled, unsatisfied, and miserable, now that she had nothing to distract her from the evening's earlier events.
Now that a little time had passed, it all seemed more real to her, as if the shock and denial had partially worn off. All that was left was the hurt and betrayal.
God, Spike, how could you do that to me? she thought desperately as the tears started to flow again. You said you loved me! You said you'd never hurt me!
She reminded herself angrily that he was, after all, an evil soulless vampire…hadn't she reminded him of the fact enough to believe it herself? Why should she have expected anything more from him?
But somehow, she had expected more. Now, walking home alone with no distractions to prevent it, she had to admit to herself: in spite of all her denials to him, she had expected more; she had trusted him; she had – had cared about him.
That was why it hurt so bad.
Oh, God! Oh, God, what have I done? The thought seemed to repeat on an endless loop in Spike's head, as he hurriedly packed a handful of items in an old, battered satchel which he strapped tightly to the back of his motorcycle.
He felt sick, and he was sure that he was on the verge of hyperventilating, despite the fact that he had no need for breath at all. He blinked back the tears that had not stopped since he had fled the scene of his hideous, horrible crime. Over and over again he heard her cries, her pleading, in his mind, begging him to stop.
"Oh, God, Buffy," he sobbed in agony, doubling over as if in physical pain beside the motorcycle. "Oh, how could I…oh, I'm so sorry, love! I'm so sorry!"
But it was too late, and he knew it. There was no taking back something like what he had just done. No way to recover any remnant of whatever thin sort of relationship they might have had. No amount of "I'm sorry"'s or attempts to make up for it could ever succeed.
He had lost her. Forever.
He had to get out of town. As fast as possible. For one thing, he knew that it was only a matter of time before one of the Slayer's friends – if not the Slayer herself – showed up at the crypt ready to stake him. Most likely Harris, he thought bitterly. The whelp had always had it in for him, anyway, long before he had made the mistake of sleeping with his demon. Always said he was untrustworthy and evil and should have been dusted a long time ago.
And he had just proved the boy right, hadn't he? The Slayer should have staked him good and proper a long time ago, and avoided putting herself in a position to have him do what he had just done to her.
He got on his motorcycle and took off, heading down the quiet streets at a reckless speed, still half-blinded by his tears. He should have slowed down; he should have waited until his emotions were under a little better control. If he had had any regard for his own safety at that moment, he would have. But at the moment he really didn't care all that much what happened to him.
Evil, soulless thing, her words echoed inside his head, bitter and angry, full of accusation. You can't feel anything real!
Wasn't she right? he thought as a fresh wave of guilt and shame assailed him. How real could his feelings for her possibly be if he was still capable of doing something like that to her? He had thought he loved her – loved her with every fiber of his being. But a man didn't do something like that to someone he loved, did he?
Not a man, he reminded himself, a cold despair washing over him and making the tears flow harder. Never that. Just a thing. Evil, dead, not nearly good enough for her. Proved that good and proper, didn't you, mate?
He desperately wanted to turn around and go back, throw himself at her feet and at her mercy, beg her to forgive him for what he had done. If she refused, if she just staked him, it might be a mercy, he thought. But he knew that it would be useless; his was an unforgiveable crime.
Before he even thought to consider where he was even going, he found himself out in the middle of nowhere, on a deserted country highway, about ten miles out of Sunnydale. That was just as well, he thought. Nothing to slow him down. As he rode on, the wind whipped his hair about, drying the tears that stained his face. It was a comforting feeling, in a physical sense, though he could think of nothing that could possibly soothe the ache in his heart every time he thought of Buffy, of how he had hurt her.
Ahead of him around the next corner, he could see a distant set of headlights, but did not give them much thought. As the vehicle, a large dark van, rounded the corner, their high beams nearly blinded him, as he put up one hand to shield his eyes, annoyed. Suddenly, mere yards away from him, the van swerved into his lane.
Bloody hell! Are these wankers drunk? he wondered, his eyes widening in fear as he tried to veer off to the side and pass them. But he couldn't really tell where he was going because of the bright lights still blinding him, and the van seemed to move with him in his attempt to pass.
He barely had time to realize that he was not going to be able to avoid the collision, before the van slammed into his bike, sending it flying thirty feet off into the grass at the side of the road, and sending him flying further, the motion of his body only stopped by a bone-crushing impact against a nearby tree. He crumpled to the ground, immediately knocked unconscious.
The van, barely affected at all by the force of his bike against its front bumper, pulled to a slow stop a few yards down the road from the "accident". Seemingly in no hurry to check on the welfare of the person they had hit, the occupants of the van slowly got out and approached the fallen vampire.
"He looks dead," one of them said in a near-whisper, sounding terribly nervous.
"He is dead, stupid," the largest of three pointed out with disgusted annoyance.
"But he looks -- really dead," the first one insisted, his voice anxious and concerned.
"Nooo," came the overly patient reply. "If he was 'really dead' you wouldn't see him. He'd be dust."
The big guy drew closer to the unconscious creature, taking in the bleeding gash in the back of his head, the unnatural angle at which his legs lay, folded up under him. It was going to be a while before the vampire would recover from these injuries, even with his accelerated vampire healing.
Stepping back again with a satisfied smile, he crossed his arms over his chest and said with an air of authority, "Let's get him in the van."
As the two other guys awkwardly lifted the unconscious form in their arms and carried him toward the van, the big guy followed, smiling in anticipation. So far, everything according to his plan. They dropped Spike unceremoniously onto the floor in the back of the van and then went to get in. The leader stopped for a moment to take another look at the injured vampire before closing the doors, a self-satisfied smirk crossing his lips as he spoke.
"This is going to be fun."