Author's Note: Sorry it's been awhile. I've been revamping some details of this story, and as a result, I re-edited all the previous chapters. So if you've read this story before and are back for the new chapter, I would suggest rereading the previous ones if you have time since I've change some significant details. I'm excited to get rolling on this again
Chapter Seven: Finding Your Place
"Because Buffy…you aren't the first slayer ever to be brought back."
Buffy blinked. She stared and she blinked some more. Giles eyes implored her to say something and he slightly shook her with the hand he had place on her arm. Her eyes fluttered, "Excuse me, I must be hallucinating. What was that again?"
Giles dropped his hand from her arm and put it instead to his mouth, rubbing in a smooth stroke from his jaw line to his neck.
"Because I could have sworn I just heard you say that I'm not the first slayer ever to be brought back." She restated, more than just a little shell shocked.
"Buffy-" he started, but Buffy wouldn't let him finish.
"Because if that is really what I heard, that sort of information might have been nice to hear, say… during any apocalypse I've faced." She felt a righteous anger rise within in.
He reached his arm towards her once more, "You have to understand-"
"Oh, I understand! You must have felt it necessary to have me feel terrified for every major battle, every major evil I've ever faced. Wouldn't want the Slayer to lose her touch, get lazy on the job would we? We wouldn't want to let her know that the end would necessarily mean the end?" she spat at him.
"Buffy, it hasn't been done in centuries, millenniums even. It has been forbidden." Buffy felt herself freeze up, her anger shattering, not at his words, but at the indignant emotion behind them. Immediately, Giles' condemnation turned apologetic at the sight of her reaction, "Sorry," he muttered, "I was hoping to bring that up a bit more delicately."
"No, it's my fault," Buffy sighed slowly shaking herself out of it. "I guess I've had some pent up frustrations since…" she shrugged and sat down at the table resigned.
"I quite imagine," Giles breathed, looking relieved that they were back on sturdier ground and followed her in suit, sitting in the chair beside her.
Buffy leaned her head against the back of her chair and let out a sigh staring at the empty table across from her. The air was silent for a minute as the two regained their composure. Eventually, Buffy returned her gaze to Giles who was staring forward just as she had a moment ago, "So why has it been forbidden?"
At this, Giles got a dark look on his face, and she felt disappointment radiate from the spot next to her. "It is unnatural. It disrupts not only the balance of life itself, but the balance of the slayer lineage." He looked quickly over at her and hurriedly said to fend off any possible outburst, "Don't let me confuse you, it is not you being here that is the perversion. It is the act that brought you back."
She nodded, and looked downward, "Willow," she said softly.
"Willow," he said, the word barely enunciated through his clenched teeth.
Pausing for a moment, she cautiously asked, "Is she…is she okay?"
He shook his head and looked skyward, "The magic that it took to bring you back here Buffy… well, when you ask for a gift-when you ask for a life, you must pay something in return." He looked at her solemnly, "It's bound not only to have consequences on nature, but on herself as well."
Buffy didn't have to ask. It made a lot of sense. The darkness she felt around Willow, the fragmented emotions within her. She gulped nervously, "But will she be okay?"
Giles seem to realize just how nervous Buffy was becoming, and she felt his emotions rapidly change to one of comforting, "Yes. She'll be fine. I just need to know just what exactly she did, so we can get her the help she needs." He smiled at her.
But Buffy didn't smile back. It was hard to tell with Giles if he was being honest or not as it had been with the others. For some reason, she didn't believe he was being entirely truthful with her. His emotions were a little bit too cherry and comforting to feel natural. But she had to admit that this conversation had not started off well, so she could just be reading too much into it. "So that's why it's been forbidden? Because of what happened to the people who resurrected the slayers?"
"Not just slayers, any person," he inserted. "But yes, that is why it's been forbidden."
There it was again, that little gush of anxious energy, seeping out of him. She just couldn't tell if he was lying to her, or at least sharing everything. "Is that the only reason?" she pressured.
"That we know of anyway. As I said, a slayer has not been brought back for thousands of years. There is very little knowledge of these procedures and the after effects. The Watcher's Council deemed it necessary to remove all information on these resurrections so as to not tempt future watchers into resurrecting their old slayers," he had taken off his glasses and to clean his glasses.
"So how did Willow find out how?"
He placed his glasses back on the bridge of his nose and frowned, "Just because the Watcher's Council destroyed their records, does not mean there still aren't other accounts out there. I don't want to think of where she had to look to find the procedures and ingredients necessary," he said darkly.
Buffy frowned, something still didn't add up. "Giles," she paused, "why did you ask me if there was anything different about me?"
"Sorry?" Giles asked, as though snapping out of a thought. But once again his emotions betrayed him and she felt that similar nervous energy from earlier.
"Remember how this whole conversation started? You asked me if I was different in any way?"
"Ah, yes, well, I was just curious. As I mentioned, very little is known about the effects of a resurrection, and I was just wondering if you noticed anything unusual or dissimilar from before?" his tone conveyed that of a gentle father, but his emotions were twisted and turbulent as if he was waiting for answer he knew he would not like.
Buffy stood up slowly and walked to the kitchen. She heard Giles get up silently as well and follow her. She stopped and leaned on the counter, her mind travelling a million miles an hour on what to say, debating what to tell him.
"It's alright Buffy, you can tell me," he said softly placing his hand on top of hers. Now directly linked to his emotions, she could tell that even underneath his anxiousness, was still the caring, paternal love she felt earlier. It reassured her greatly and it helped finalize her decision.
"Well, everything from my past, my memories, my friends, my home, they seem familiar and foreign at the same time," she sighed and leaned forward into the counter, stretching into it. "And everything is so much harder than before…" she bit her lip trying not to betray just how much harder it actually was for her. She felt Giles squeeze her hand, urging her to continue. She stretch back up to a straight back position and faced him, "But, I'm still me. I'm still the same ole' Buffy." She smiled almost sheepishly at him, "Just adjusting."
He nodded, the corners of his lips turning up slightly. She felt at once the tense energy die down, but he was still hesitant, so she added, "If you don't believe me, test me."
"Test you?" he asked surprisingly.
"Yeah, test me. Like Anya did. She followed me closely around for the first few days. waiting to see if I decided to start munching on anyone's brains," she said with a shrug.
At that, he let out a genuine laugh and she felt his hesitance leave him, "Well, unfortunately for Anya, she could have saved herself a large amount of time and energy by simply noticing that you had a pulse and were speaking."
"I guess she figured better safe than sorry."
"Indeed," he said with a grin. But it faded slightly, "Buffy, I hope you don't mind keeping our discussion about Willow to ourselves for now, would you?"
"Sure, but why?"
"I'm still debating on just exactly how to proceed. The Watcher's Council doesn't know about any of this yet, and until I figure out just what exactly Willow did, I'm not going to inform them about this situation. And the less the group knows the better considering I'd rather speak to Willow about this directly instead of her finding out my concerns secondhand," he added, his mouth turned grim into a grim line.
"Works for me," Buffy agreed easily enough. They stood in an easy silence for a moment, until Buffy broke it by slapping her hands together. "So, fancy a walk on over to the Magic Box? Excited to see what Anya has done with the place since you've left?"
He eyed her suspiciously, "It's only been a couple weeks. How much could she have done?"
"Hey, don't ask me, things look different to me, but I was gone for 147 days, not just 14," she raised her hands up in mock defense.
"Oh dear Lord," he groaned. He walked over to the kitchen door and opened it for her, "Let's get going than shall we?"
The next morning, Buffy awoke to her sister beside her. Buffy and Dawn had agreed to share a room while Giles needed a place to stay. It had been slightly amusing when he realized he would be sleeping in a room decked out with Teen-Bop posters, but Buffy had insisted on giving him a bed rather than a couch. It must have done him some good, because by the time Buffy was ready for the day and Dawn was off to school, he was still sleeping away the jet lag from the day before. When she was finished applying her makeup, she walked down the stairs to find Willow and Anya at the table surrounded by receipts, books, Willow's laptop, and a random assortment of papers. They were silently arguing between themselves and only stopped when Buffy approached the table.
"Buffy!" Willow excitedly greeted, promptly interrupting whatever Anya had been saying to her. "How'd you sleep last night?"
"Fine, I guess," smiling, looking slightly confused. She glanced around at the mess on the table. "What's going on? Why aren't you at the Magic Box? And where's Tara and Xander?" she asked, looking curiously at the both of them
"It's Monday. We don't open until noon on Mondays. Tara's at morning classes and Xander is at work. Buffy we need to talk about your finances," she hurriedly said in one breath. Willow shot her a dirty look. "What, that's why I'm here, isn't it?" Anya defended.
"Well, yeah, but… never mind," Willow rolled her eyes. She looked back to Buffy with a slightly guilty look on her face. "Buffy, we need to discuss what's been going on around here since you've been gone."
"Okay," Buffy said slowly and she slid into a chair. "What's up?"
"Well, Buffy, you see, your Mom, she left some money, and…"Willow struggled.
"You're broke," Anya cut in simply.
Buffy felt a surge of anger expand from where Willow was sitting, "Anya, honestly, a little delicacy for once!"
"It's no use slowly easing her into it. You need to just rip off the metaphoric band-aid in these situations," Anya replied matter-of-factly.
"Okay, I'm broke," Buffy cut in before Willow turned purple, "how?"
"Well, as I was trying to say," Willow said, shooting Anya a dirty look, "your mom left you some money. She had things set up really well, life insurance, savings accounts, etc."
"Yeah, I remember her telling me that," Buffy said softly as she remembered when she and Joyce had talked about what would happen in case her operation failed. She swallowed back the memories, and focused on the matter at hand. "Shouldn't have that been enough?"
"Well, it was, for awhile," Anya supplied, "but her medical bills and funeral costs pretty much dried up everything she had. The sale of her gallery went through a couple months ago, and that helped, for awhile anyway. But now, you're starting to drift into the red. You barely have enough left to pay for utilities and the mortgage this month."
"What about food and stuff?" Buffy asked, concern starting to fill her.
"We've been helping with that," Willow cut in, looking desperate to make the situation not seem so dire. "Tara and I took out more student loans than we needed this year, to help pay for things around here." Buffy simply stared at Willow. Willow, misunderstanding her stare, stumbled on, "We would have done more, gotten jobs or money from our parents, but we're both in school full time, and neither one of us really talk to our parents much any more and-"
"Thank you," she broke in, before Willow dug herself into an unnecessary hole. She felt a comforting warmth from the inside of her chest. She smiled broadly at her, touched, "You didn't have to do that, you know."
Willow blushed, "Well, it only seemed fair you know. We live in this house too."
"And I would be charging them rent if I were you," Anya interjected. "The amount that they give is still approximately only 25% of what they should owe you in comparison to apartment rentals and dorm room rates."
"Anya," Buffy said firmly, before Willow had the chance to get herself all flustered, "they gave would they could, and they didn't even have to do that." She turned to look at Willow and gave her trusting look, "They took care of Dawn for me while I was gone. That's payment enough as far as I'm concerned."
That was all Willow could take as she rushed over to Buffy and gave her a big hug. Directly connected, Buffy could still feel the unnatural darkness within her that made Buffy want to instantly repel herself away, but at the moment, her gratitude at being thanked was overpowering. She felt ashamed that she had thought of it as arrogance before when all she could feel now was gratitude and love. Buffy returned the hug, but frowned into her shoulder, unseen to Anya and Willow. These were her friends, and she had yet to say thank you for bringing her back from 'hell'. During the embrace, she resolved she would talk to the group soon and finally give them the closure they desperately sought. She didn't understand until now just how desperate they were for Buffy to realize just how much they had done for her—her, and not themselves. Willow stepped away, her eyes shinning, Buffy quickly turned her frown into a smile.
Anya just looked impatient by the scene in front of her, "We're here to discuss how Buffy can get not broke, remember?"
Willow returned to her seat rolling her eyes, "Excuse me for letting my human emotions overtake me," she emphasized.
"Ah yes, because I was once a demon, I do not let my emotions ever overtake me," she said dryly. Then she tilted her slightly to the side to ponder this. "Actually, that's pretty accurate." Instead of looking disconcerted by this, she smiled smugly at the two of them as if she were the one better off. "Anyway Buffy, I have an idea."
"Burn the house to the ground and collect the insurance?" Buffy offered helpfully.
"Ooo, fire!" Willow joined in.
"Pretty, right?" Buffy nodded and Willow, smiling.
"No, start charging!" Anya said excitedly.
Willow looked exasperated, but Buffy let her curiosity take a hold of her, "Charging?"
"For slaying vampires! You are providing this community with a valuable service, why not cash in?" she finished triumphantly.
Buffy looked blankly at Anya, "You want me to charge people for saving their lives?"
It was Willow's turn to look smug, "I told you she would react this way."
"No, really think about it! Here you are, equipped with abilities that no other person in the entire world has! You're a precious commodity. And if they don't pay you, just threaten to leave. See if they refuse then," she was looking at them back and forth, like a puppy asking for a treat for job well done.
Buffy kept her empty stare, "You want me… to charge people… for saving their lives?" she said again, emphasizing slowly.
"Well, it's not so crazy…"she muttered
"Yes it is," Willow said, in a mild manner. She looked at Buffy, "So what are we really going to do?"
Buffy sighed, and said, "I think it's pretty obvious that I have to get a job."
"But Buffy, are you sure you're ready for that?" Willow asked apprehensively.
"Yeah, I'd just… rather it be a job where there aren't a lot of people," she said in a small voice, hopeful.
Willow looked sympathetic, "Still tough getting used to everything?"
"Oh yeah," she said strongly. That and she was pretty sure she would go insane if forced to be around hundreds of different people every day.
"Well, that will help narrow down your job search anyway," Anya said grudgingly, still bitter that neither liked her idea. "But it will be tough finding something that isn't customer service related. Everything else might require job experience or educational training."
"But it's what I can handle right now," Buffy said firmly. She scooted her chair closer to Anya's mini workstation. "So, what exactly do I need to be making in order to support this house?" Anya's eyes brightened at the sound of money, and immediately starting quoting figures. Buffy listened attentively, but part of her was already exhausted at the idea of holding a job, taking care of Dawn, and performing her slayer duties. But she forced those thoughts away. This had to be done, and nothing was going to change that.
Spike exhaled a thin stream of smoke from his lips, his head rested against the tree closest to his crypt. Shifting slightly, he winced as piece of bark scraped at the none-to-pretty scab at the back of his head. He lifted his head up and placed his fingers on the wound to examine it. Bringing the evidence to his face, he saw that yet again, he was bleeding (seemed to be the theme for him the last two days). Course, pretty much all the wounds had been self-inflicted, either by accident or drunken judgments. He dropped his hand back to his side, and lifted his other hand to take a long drag from the dangling cigarette between his digits. Letting his head bleed served as a necessary reminder of just how much he had fucked up, and he deserved it.
"You wanted to know why she didn't want to be around you, well there's your answer ole' boy," he scoffed at himself, thoroughly disgusted. Oh, it had felt good. Bloody amazing actually. Part of him would have done it all over again, drunk or not. She had just slid into his arms, a perfect fit. And the worse part of it all, she responded back in a way that he was sure he would only ever dream of. Her hands ran up the curve of his spine, sending chills to the edges of his skin. Her lips showed a fervor and desire equal, if not greater, to what he had given her. It could have been the most passionate and real moment of Spike's existence.
But it wasn't.
No longer was she just Buffy, she was a bloody emotional sponge, soaking up the feelings of those around her. Everything he felt for Buffy and desired for Buffy to feel for him had just been a reflection of his own damned emotions. None of it was hers. Or at least not enough to count.
Spike took one last inhale of the diminishing cigarette and flicked it to the ground if front of him. He pushed off the tree and began to walk around the cemetery to clear up his head. It was obvious that Buffy fed off his emotions, got a high from it even. Course these were the same emotions that had originally disgusted her in the past. But now, with her new superpower or whatever you wanted to call it, she knew exactly how he felt for her. No longer could she pretend that his love was something evil and foul, but it was the most human thing about him. At least now, maybe she'd realize there was more to him than just fangs and a notable murder record.
He gave a depressing bout of laughter at that. "Yeah, get your hopes up Spike. That's done you loads of good in the past," he remarked bitterly to himself. But despite it, he still wanted Buffy to look at him like man and to know in her head and not just her sponge ability just how much he loved her.
And hell, he wouldn't mind getting another kiss like that.
Spike walked on in the darkness, letting the night air fill his lungs and energize his body. It was cleansing, after the solid Jack Daniels treatment yesterday. He was eager to step out of his crypt, eager to get his mind off things, and eager to kill any demon that crossed his path… and just as though nature herself had heard his thoughts, he saw something about eight cemetery plots in front of his steps. A very large something.
As he lurked forward and saw clearly that is was a Chorago demon. Easy enough to spot considering the heifers could weight up to 800 pounds and had bright toxic yellow skin. This one, clearly male, had dozens of small venomous horns on the top of his head (females had antlers, which incidentally was the antidote to the deadly, male venom). They were easy enough to avoid. After all, you don't get to be that big and without sacrificing your reaction time and speed, something Spike had in spades. Didn't mean he would go down easily though. That was all fine and well with Spike, he could use a decent tumble.
Currently, the demon seemed to be distracted by something else, so Spike wasted no time. He quickly took off and ran towards the demon landing a round house kick straight into his back. Not hard enough to do much, just letting the bugger know he was there. Spike didn't believe in any fight that didn't involve face to face combat. If he was going to win a fight, he was to make sure it was based on his superiority, not because he stabbed someone in the back while they were looking the other way.
Sure enough, the monstrosity stumbled forward, almost falling on his face. Spike chuckled, "Seems you might have tripped on something, you all right there big boy?" Slowly, the beast lumbered back to Spike, his large brown lips forming into a snarl. "Hi there," he said, giving a wave, only to clench it into a fist and punched him in the face, "Need a hand?"
The demon's face whipped to the side, but he recovered quickly. He rushed forward to Spike, grabbed him by the torso, and threw him into a nearby gravestone. It abruptly turned it into rubble. Spike grabbed the largest stone of the pile and threw it straight back at the demon, hitting him in the head. Apparently his skull was harder than the gravestone marble, for he simply ran towards Spike with fury painted on his face.
Spike tried to push himself on his feet, but he wasn't quite quick enough. The demon reached him before he could steady himself. As a result, Spike found himself dangling in the air, the yellow demon's hands tight around his throat.
"Didn't yer mama ever tell you to pick on someone yer own size?" the demon garbled out, clearly taunting Spike.
"Never -was too good- with -the listening," he choked out, his vocal cords being smashed by the demon's hands.
"Bet ye wished ye would have listened now," he belted, laughing loudly and squeezing harder. Spike was ready to resort to gauging an eye out when suddenly, an arrow shot into the demon's shoulder. With a howl of pain, he dropped Spike harshly on the ground and tried to reach the arrow that was sticking out of his back. Unfortunately, his body mass simply did not allow him to stretch that far.
"Didn't your mom ever show you a daily nutritional pyramid? Because I've got to say, there is just no excuse."
Spike stood up slowly, his hand massaging his damaged throat. There she was, his salvation. Without knowing what else to do, he choked out as much as his voice would allow him, "Buffy," and gave her a nod.
"Spike," she replied, returning the gesture. She was looking at him with uncertainty, and Spike knew that his eyes were displaying the same thing. Suddenly her eyes widened as she yelled, "Duck!"
"Huh?" he forced out, but was soon hit harshly in the back of the head. Stars danced in his vision, and he began to seriously consider how much head trauma a vampire could take within a day.
Buffy raced forward and kicked the mustard demon away from him. Using her crossbow, she smashed it repeatedly against his face. But just as before when Spike had thrown the rock at him, it barely affected him. He laughed as he punched her in the stomach, knocking the wind out of the Slayer temporarily. But before he could lay another hand on her, Spike jumped back into the action.
Although he couldn't see too clearly yet with the stars in his vision, the giant yellow blob was enough of a target for him. He aimed his punches and kicks lower, aiming roughly for his kidneys. These seemed to work a bit better, as it threw the demon off balance. Recovered, Buffy looked at Spike quickly, and at the same time, they kicked the demon square in the chest, sending him reeling backward into a crypt. Upon hitting the stone wall, the demon's howls renewed as the arrow embedded itself further into his body. He charged at Spike, and the two of them separated, so Buffy could get behind the demon while Spike distracted him. Just as the yellow giant swung at Spike, effectively missing him, Buffy clambered on top of him, grabbed his head, and twisted it sharply. The demon's neck cracked and he fell down to the ground, narrowly missing Spike by inches.
Spike went back to nursing his throat, "Nice one luv," he croaked.
She winced and shrugged, one her hands holding her stomach lightly where she had been punched; the other, clenched in a tight fist. "Seemed like you needed the help," she gasped slightly.
"I had him right where I wanted him," he defended.
She massaged her stomach and gave him a sarcastic look, "Alright, fine. But that'll be fifty bucks."
He looked at her like she was crazy, "Excuse me? Fifty dollars?"
"It's a new idea Anya gave me," she simpered, holding out her hand from when she had been massaging her stomach. "It's either that or get a real-person job. I was opposed to it at first, charging innocent bystanders money… but I figure, you're not that innocent," she finished, slightly gasping in exertion still.
"Excuse me, but I never asked for you to 'save' me ," he pointed out.
"I don't know, seems like you've gotten rusty to me. Maybe you've been doing less fighting and more Disney movie watching instead," she smirked.
He scowled at that, "Remind me to tend to your sister later."
She chuckled softly, but it was strained as she dropped her hand. Both of them were standing there, facing each other, insecurity etched all over their faces. Spike gazed at Buffy. He hadn't really been in the state to notice yesterday, but she had gotten thinner and paler within a week. She was holding herself closely together, her one hand hanging freely from her side; the other, still clenched. She had a tough time meeting his eyes, and Spike had a feeling if he tried to get any closer to her, she would back away abruptly.
"Buffy," he hesitantly started, "I'm sorry, about yesterday." Her lips formed into a tight line. "I should have never-"
"Don't," she stopped, although her voice faltered and she licked her lips.
"But, Buffy, I-" he stepped towards her.
"Don't!" her body stepping several steps away from him to widen the distance. She held up her hand, warning him to stay there. Once certain the he would hold his ground she brought her hand to her face and held her forehead. "It was my fault anyway." She bit down her lip, and looked down at the ground, "I should have never come over."
Well he certainly had not expected that. Flabbergasted, he stood as still as a statue, his shock clearly displayed on his face. He shook his head slowly, "Buffy, I'm the one who kissed you, not the other way around."
"But I'm the one who used you," she added with finality. She dropped the hand from her face and looked down at her clenched hand. She sighed. "It's not your fault for feeling; it's not something you can stop. I know that," her fist started to tremble violently. "If I don't like the consequences, I just need to stay away."
"No… no, Buffy" Spike pleaded. Her entire body was shaking, "Buffy, I can control myself, I can, just—BUFFY!" To Spike's horror, she had fallen to the ground and started to convulse. He rushed towards her fallen body, and looked frantically up and down, wondering what had happened. Her body was still seizing, her eyes wide with confusion and fright. When suddenly, she stopped, and slumped. She had fallen into a dead faint, finally relaxing her body. It was then Spike saw her hand, the one that she had clenched into a fist. It was covered in small red holes, holes approximately the size of the venomous horns from the Chorago demon's head.
Without wasting a second, Spike swept her body off the ground and began sprinting full speed toward the magic shop.
Spike busted down the door as soon as they arrived, ignoring all sense of propriety at this late hour. He ran toward the large table used for research, and carefully laid his previous cargo on top. Not wasting a moment, he ran to the cellar and began searching for a Chorago antler.
Luckily, everything was sorted alphabetically, and he quickly found what he was looking for. He was further impressed when he found that they sold it already ground up, so he didn't have to bother with finding a mortar and pestle.
With the powder in hand, he tore back up the stairs to the training room. Inside, he found a package of water and quickly grabbed the bottle closest to him. Rushing back to Buffy, he poured the crushed antler into the bottle and shook it up. Once it turned opaque and became thick as glue, he twisted off the cap quickly and spread the mixture over the small holes that desecrated her hand. Once applied, he sat down in the bench closest to her, holding her injured hand gingerly within his own.
It seemed like an eternity, even though it was only a few minutes, but slowly, the red holes began to fade from her glorious skin. Spike let out a shaky breath of relief. She would wake up momentarily, as the venom was slowly dissolving from her body. Before she could open her eyes though, Spike brought her hand to his mouth and gave it a soft, lingering kiss, completely ignoring the blood, grime, and antler bits still on it. Afterwards, he just held her hand to his cheek and closed his eyes into it. He couldn't believe he almost lost her again. He found himself unable to move from this position, and instead, just breathed in the life that radiated from her skin, grateful that she had been spared.
"Spike," he heard, as soft as silk. He opened his eyes to find Buffy looking at him, her eyes wet with restrained tears.
"Buffy," he breathed hoarsely. "You almost…" but he did not finish. Instead, he closed his eyes and held her hand more tightly than ever. Gone entirely was the memory of her keeping distance between them at the cemetery. Right now, all he wanted to think was that he had been finally able to save her.
He barely heard or felt her body shift, but when opened his eyes, she was sitting on the bench with him, looking at him with those eyes he could drown in. And suddenly, he felt as if she were with him-really with him. Not as a lover, or a friend even. But she was there, knowing and understanding what he had been trying to express. He felt lighter, as if a heavy weight had been lifted of his chest. And as it was removed, he felt words pouring out, as if to help lighten the load.
"I remember what I said," he said trembling slightly, refusing to let go of her hand, "the promise. To protect her." He lowered her hand from his face, and instead just kept it safely within the palms of his hands. He looked down at them instead of her face as he continued, "If I had done that… even if I didn't make it… you wouldn't have had to jump," he swallowed.
Hesitantly, Buffy slid closer towards him and raised her other hand so as to stroke his hair and face. He leaned his head into them, drawing in all the sweet comfort he could. "I tried so hard to save you," he whispered, "After that…. I'd see it all again and I'd do something different. Be faster or more clever, you know?" he gave the smallest a smiles before looking up at Buffy, her eyes still trained only on his face, tears now freely spilling over. "I'd get so close, but I'd never… dozens of times, lots of different ways… I tried to save you." He choked on the last words, but he was able to finally say, "And tonight, I finally did."
Buffy hardly knew what to do, she had woken up after… whatever had happen to her, to find Spike holding her hand as though she were on her deathbed. And she woke up with his emotions flowing more strongly than ever into her and her body had tensed herself against them, her automatic barrier in place.
She knew something had been wrong after the battle with Chorago demon, but she had been focusing so hard on distancing herself both physically and mentally that she thought that she thought her face and body heating up was a result of that strain. She looked briefly as her hand that was touching Spike's face, and saw that some sort of salve had been poured on it. It was cold, and sent ice down her veins, but it had put out the fire flowing through her blood that had sent her body into shock.
Her eyes trailed slowly to Spike's face. There were no tears, nor wet streaks stained on his shapely cheekbones. But there were deep lines etched in his face between his eyes from strain of shutting his eyes so tight. His mouth was having a hard time deciding whether to stay open or closed. Every so often he would screw up his lips, as if restraining whatever it was bottled inside him from pouring out. But then the next minute, his mouth would be slack and open, breathing and tasting the scent from Buffy's presence.
Being so close, so directly connected without moving away for so long was chaotic, but eye opening. She felt all the emotions that she had craved similar to that a drug addict might crave heroin. His love and desire to be whole with her extended far beyond any primal, animal sense she had always attributed it too. It seemed to be the kind of devotion romanticized in the great love novels and movies, things that had always seemed more of a dream than a reality.
"Spike," she whispered, partly in awe, partly in fear. His eyes looked up at her and she knew just how much his world was centered on her. It was flattering and overwhelming. She wanted the pleasure but not the responsibility that came with it. He would take anything he could from her and consume her until she was dry. He loved her and wanted to cherish her, but the demon inside of him wanted to own her and make her his once and for all.
It would be easy to reject it if she only felt herself struggle with these feelings, but she felt it within him too. When he was with her, she felt his contentment to be within her presence, but he struggled with constantly wanting more. More than she could ever give him. For all that she ever tried to persuade him that it would never happen, he tried to convince himself a hundred times more. He was in a constant battle with his emotions, and no matter what she would do to him, he would always want her.
She moved closer to him, and once again, her brain was shouting to run away. But by the time the warning reached her thoughts, it became a faint whisper. Perhaps it was easier to ignore because of how close she was to him, or maybe it was because he had just saved her life. Whatever the reason may be, she did something that she knew that more than likely, she would regret later. Removing all barriers and eradicating all her mental restraint, she let his emotions flow inside her, unchecked, unguarded, and completely accepted.
She had prepared herself to be overpowered, to succumb under the weight of his feelings. But once she had opened herself completely to him, she felt him make a place within in. He didn't besiege her mind with his, nor did he take over anything that had been Buffy's. But she felt herself expand, and the vacant place that had formed within her had become Spike's and Spike's alone. She breathed in deeply, and for the first time since she came back, she was in complete ease around the presence of another person. She still felt his emotions strongly, but she observed them; she didn't soak them up as her own. And she felt whole-er. It was nothing like where she had been, but it was reminiscent of it.
Spike began speaking and Buffy gave him all the attention and comfort she had. He was speaking of saving her life, and how he wished he could have done more. But he had no idea just how much he had given already. How he had shown her that she could find a way to live in this world without going crazy, and how it had happened only within the last minute. But her tongue had turned dumb. So instead, she did all that she could to try and send her feelings back to him, letting him know she understood, forgave, and thanked him for all he done for her sake.
Spike had just finished speaking and she was looking at him, crying. There was a singular tear sliding down his cheek, the first he had shed the entire conversation. Buffy, took her hand that had been stroking his hair, and wiped it away in one clear swipe. She gave him a watery smile and leaned in gently to give him a soft, serene kiss of his forehead. She heard him gasp at the touch of her lips, but she held her place for just a few seconds before releasing him. She touched his forehead to her own and closed her eyes.
"Thank you," she whispered.
They were sitting there, intoxicated by each other's presence. Neither Spike nor Buffy it would seem wanted to be the first to break the spell.
Part of Spike was in doubt; after all, this could just be the reflections of his own emotions. But she was still there, still allowing him to hold her hand, and still touching her head against his own. Last time, she had forcefully broken the moment and throughout their encounter looked conflicted and nervous. Now, she was calm and serene.
Spike hoped the night would never end. It gave him fragile hope that maybe there was something between them, something more than just his feelings alone. Part of him desperately wanted to cradle his salvation's face and kiss it gently, but he knew to add anything to this moment would stain it. And maybe it was just him being superstitious, but he believe that once the spell was broken, it would all be over, and he would never be able to get back into this perfect moment.
Of course, as soon as he thought this, he heard a loud noise come from the back of the shop. It was the sound of the back door being closed. Someone had come in.
Both of them reacted instantly, as they dove under the table, opposite from the register. Whoever was coming in clearly had keys, so it was either Anya or Giles. And although he knew either would be fine with the fact that he had broken to save Buffy's life… this moment had been private and perfect, and hell, he didn't want anyone else to intrude. Since it was dark and the table support was fairly large, they were hidden fairly well from sight. They sat close to each other, shoulders touching, listening to hear who had entered.
The loud footsteps came out toward the area where Buffy and Spike were hidden. Spike guessed it was male from the weight behind them, but he sniffed the air, just to be sure. He looked over to Buffy and mouthed "Giles."
She nodded, and set her gaze straight forward, her eyes narrowed in concentration. Spike followed suit as he listened closely. Giles was making his way to the cash register area, and he heard him lift up the separator. Shortly thereafter, a light turned on. Luckily it was a small, dim one that hung directly over the counter and did not cover the entire store. Spike looked down briefly in relief, and concentrated on the situation once more. It wasn't long after when he heard Giles pick up something, followed by a series of clicks.
Buffy looked at him, with a question in her eyes. He mimicked a phone receive to his head with his hand. She nodded once more. There was a lot of button pushing, so Spike figured he must be making an international phone call, he turned to Buffy to let her know, but she put her arm across his chest when they heard Giles began to speak.
"Rupert Giles," he enunciated slowly. He paused for a moment, "I'm here…It was Willow. Willow and her friends, Xander, Tara, and Anya."
He listened to the person on the other side of the phone, "So far nothing. Buffy seems normal. Well, normal as you can be after-" This time, the pause was much longer than normal. Spike's hearing was good, but unfortunately, he could make out nothing but mumbling and the fact that the person speaking to Giles was British and a male.
"I'm sure," Giles spoke harshly. Spike felt Buffy tense up. There was mumbling from the other side again, and Giles sighed, "Well, by all means, send it to me immediately. I believe you have the Magic Box fax number?... Yes, that's the one." There was a sound a small wooden door creaking open near the register. "It's on, go ahead." He said a moment later.
Promptly thereafter, an electronic buzz filled the air and soon, paper was printing from the machine. It took a couple minutes, for it sounded as though 20-30 pages had printed off. "Alright, I got it. I'll give it a look over and call you tomorrow when I've finished…. Yes… Bye." He set the phone down on the receiver, and began rifling through the pages. He heard him give a long sigh, and soon turned off the light once more. Spike listened closely, hearing Giles steps move slowly from the cash register area and back to the rear entrance from where he had entered. It was lucky the rest of the Magic Box had remained dark the entire time. He might have notice that the front door showed signs of breaking and entering. He let out an unnecessary breath of air and step out of their hiding spot once he heard the back door open and close. He turned back to Buffy and offered her his hand.
Buffy quickly grabbed hold of his hand, and Spike, as though feeling her urgency, hauled her rapidly to her feet. She wasted no time hurrying over to the cash register.
It was regrettable that Giles had decided to come at the particular moment he did. She had wanted nothing in interrupt their peace. But her newfound curiosity over what had transpired almost made up for it. She flipped the same light Giles had used, and looked under the register. She found the phone sitting in place, but she looked further down and saw a small wooden cabinet beneath. She opened it quickly to find the fax machine Giles had been using.
"What are you doing?" Spike said, coming up to her side.
"Seeing what they faxed Giles," she answered, turning the fax back on.
"And just how do you expect to do that?"
"Well… I'm pretty sure you can reprint whatever fax you received last," she said uncertainty. Her knowledge of electronics was severely limited, but she vaguely remembered her father having to reprint a fax one time after she had gotten sick over his original copies. That was years ago of course, but they should still have the same options available, right?
Unfortunately, there was no distinct reprint button, so Buffy had to stumble through various menus and settings, until she found an option to reprint the last fax. She was about to shout with triumph at her newly found genius, but was side blown when asked for the administrative code.
She stared at the machine, frowning. She turned her head towards Spike, "If you were Giles, what would your administrative code be?"
Spike kneeled down next to her and looked at the machine. He smirked, "83745," he said with certainty.
She looked at him blankly, "I wasn't really expecting an answer."
He smiled at her once again, and pointed at the top right corner of the machine. She could barely see it in the dark cabinet, but written on a piece of notebook paper and taped to the edge was a note in Giles handwriting - Admin. Code: 83745.
"Ah, I see," she remarked, and shook her head with a smile. "Gotta love the security measures they take around here." She punched in the code, and soon, the machine began spewing out pages. Buffy was looking over them eagerly as they came in. Giles emotions had been fairly in check during his conversation, but when he had said, "I'm sure" she felt that similar nervous energy she had felt yesterday when he was asking about her. Her instincts told her that these documents would hold the answer to the secret that Giles was hiding from her.
Finally, once it had finished printing, she turned off the fax machine and gathered up the sheets. She placed them on the counter before her, and began gazing through the first few pages, hardly noticing Spike looking over her shoulder. Ever since the moment had been broken, she half expected to feel lost and confused by what had happened. But she was still at ease, for Spike still had his place within her that did not weaken with physical distance. It was controllable, comforting, and peaceful.
But her mind became focused on other things when she looked at the next paper in the bunch. Her heart began pumping in excitement and trepidation, "Side-effects from past resurrections" was written on top of the printed sheet as a side note by whoever sent this to Giles.
The first paragraph told of what Giles already had informed her of, that those who performed the resurrections usually became affected. It mentioned how results varied depending on the spell, summoning, or dimension altering used. A side note scrawled on the margin for Buffy refer to page 23 for more information. Buffy told herself she would look at that next, but her eyes went down to the next paragraph. She read:
"Little is known about the effects on the subject being resurrected. If the resurrection is performed incorrectly, results are obvious. Reanimations of the corpse are a common result (see Zombies on page 13 was scrawled in the side margin beside the neatly typed text), but sometimes in irregular cases the opposite occurs and only the spirit is summoned back (see Haunting page 14). For a correctly performed resurrection (for Slayer specific, see page 8), the subject will appear just the same as before. However, due to reasons that can only be explained as psychological trauma, the subjects are unable to function as before. This symptom is shown in a variety of methods, but the most predominant, and certainly most alarming example is that every successfully revived subject has killed the person(s) responsible for bring them back."
Buffy looked at the paragraph several times, and reread the last line at least eight times. Without feeling anything she looked at Spike, who had been reading over her shoulder. His eyes met hers, staring at her with shock and caution. She should have felt it, but she didn't. All she felt was an eerie calm, a calm that came from knowing that there was only one thing she could do.
"Spike, I have to leave Sunnydale."