Set the day after "Serial Life," Buffy must contend with her deepening depression, attraction to Spike, and a wicked hangover.

Usual Disclaimer: I don't own anything.

Under the Sun

The demon had her by the hair, gripping it at the crown of her head. She struggled against it, but it was too strong. It bashed her head against a crypt wall, again and again and again. A throbbing repetition of pain. The pain was incredible, searing, pounding. She tried to get free but the demon would not loosen its grasp. It was all nastiness and bigness and ugliness. Not an unusual description for a demon, but this guy was strong. Stronger than anything she had been forced to fight in a while. Red and scaly with wings and horns. When she had come across it in the graveyard it had been vaguely familiar, but, then again, big, evil, and ugly was pretty much an everyday thing for her. Oh god, her head. It was pounding, throbbing, blinding pain. Suddenly, she realized, the demon was gone. Or at least it had released her head. She was still experiencing the searing pain, but she was no longer being beaten. She spun around, expecting a punch in the face or a kick to the gut, but all she saw was twenty mewing kittens milling around the graveyard. This was definitely weird. Evil did not often make so much with the cuteness. She would have to ask Giles about it the next time….

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Buffy groaned. The dream and the kittens were gone, but the pain had decided to check out consciousness. Her head was pounding. Like a vice had been screwed tightly around her cranium. Or like she had a giant hole in her head, the shirking of her alarm clock painfully reverberating throughout her skull. She hit her alarm clock. She might have broken it, but at least that effectively shut it up. Then she opened her eyes. Big mistake. The sunshine streaming in through the blinds she had forgotten to close last night before passing out on her bed was too bright. Searing. She groaned again.

Stupid head. Stupid sunshine. Stupid Spike.

Spike. It was all his fault. She had gone to him the night before, because…. Well she wasn't quite sure why she had gone to him. She wanted him to fix her life. Why or how she thought he could remained a mystery. But that had been her plan. Get Spike to fix things. Get Spike to make her feel better. Stupid plan. And that was before she had started drinking. Another stupid plan. Getting drunk with Spike. In what universe had that seemed like a good idea? What was wrong with her? How or why had she possibly believed that drinking with Spike would help make any part of her life better?

And it hadn't. Her life was just as fucked up as before. Only now she had a hangover over to add to the fucked-upiness.

Stupid plan. Stupid vampire. It was his fault. He was the one who had taken her to that stupid bar so he could play his stupid kitten poker. He hadn't even let her play. She just sat and the corner, drinking out of the bottle, getting more and more hopelessly drunk, and not feeling a damn bit better about herself or her life. He hadn't done anything to help. It was the worst date she had ever been on. And she had been on some doozies. Ones where she or her date had actually almost died. But this date with Spike had been worse.

No. She mentally checked herself. Not a date. No datiness. That had not been a date. She was not sure what it had been. But definitely not a date.

Okay, so it had been the worst not-a-date she had ever been on. It was still his fault.

Stupid vampire.

She groaned again. Her head was killing her. She wondered if it would hurt less if she just cut it off. And her mouth felt all icky. So not good. She pulled the covers over her head, blocking out the light and groaning again.

"Buffy?" she heard Willow's voice. "Are you okay? Giles said that you were pretty… uh… sick last night."

"I'm fine, Wil," she grumbled from under the covers, "just a little head-achy."

"Well heres some Advil and water, in case you feel you need it. Tara and I will get Dawnie off to school."

Buffy peeped her head out from under the cover. Yup, the sunlight was still there and bright and painful. "Thanks Wil."

"No problem. Let me know if there is anything else I can do. I'll be in class until 1:30, but after that I'm around." Willow looked concern, her brow creased with worry.

"I'm fine," Buffy reassured her again. "Benefit of being all Chosen. Super Slayer healing. Breaks, bruises, scrapes, deaths, hangovers, no challenge for The Chosen One. I'll be back to Buffy in a bit."

"Alright, well, I'll see you, Miss. Good-as-new, tonight," yeah, thought Buffy. Good as new. She hadn't felt good or new since they had pulled her out of heaven and she had clawed her way out of the ground. "Tara and I," Willow continued, "are going to The Magic Box after class to meet Giles to do some research about that demon you faced last night, see if we can find out what kind of oogily-boogily could cause all that temporal wackiness. Xander is going to come by after work. You should stop in when you're feeling better. Maybe by then we'll have a clearer idea of what you're up against."

"Yeah. I'll stop by. See you later." Much later, Buffy thought, as her friend exited her room, softly closing the door behind her. She had not been super eager to spend too much time with her friends since they had… well, since she had come back. And she really didn't want to see Giles. She was too embarrassed. She didn't want to see him after his generosity and her humiliation. She felt so unworthy. She had totally fucked up and instead of a lecture he had given her money. Instead of scolding her, he had bailed her out. Again. She could only imagine how disappointed he was with her. She had let him, everyone, down.

The thought of going to The Magic Box, of seeing all of them, being surrounded by, suffocated by all of them was majorly unappealing.

Maybe she would go see Spike, later. See if he wanted to patrol with her. They could try and find the demon. They could do the leg work while the others hit the books.

No. Bad. Very bad, thought Buffy. No Spike.

She groaned. Why did the de-dead Buffy make some many bad choices, decisions that the pre-dead Buffy would have never even considered. Life as the Slayer had never been easy, but things were so much clearer before… She had always known what she had to do. Even if it seemed impossibly difficult at least she had her conviction to sustain her. Now she had nothing. Only emptiness and the knowledge that she had gone to a better place, been happy, been at peace, before her friends had torn her out, brought her back here, to a life filled with pain and suffering and confusion. And the only person she could talk to about it was stupid Spike. Her confusing fucked-up life.

Buffy lay in bed until one. She had started feeling better an hour or two after everyone left, but she had no reason to get up, so she had remained in bed. There was nothing for her to do. No school. No job, well at least no day job. Her life didn't have any purpose until nightfall.

She could go to The Magic Box. Help with the research. Train with Giles. Pretend everything was okay. That she was fine. Ignore the looks of concern from Giles, confusion from Anya. Endure the lecture that she was sure she had coming. But why bother? It wouldn't change anything. It wouldn't help at all. There was a time she would have died for any of her friends, now she could not stand to be around them. She would still die for them, but it wouldn't be the same. She would die to get back to where she had been before they had forced her back into her body, her life.

Around one Buffy got up. She was hungry and had grown tired of listening to her stomach gurglings. She needed to eat something, so she dragged herself out of bed and down stairs to the kitchen. The morning dishes were still in the sink. She sighed. She would clean up later. She pulled the milk out from the fridge and poured herself a bowl of cereal.

She didn't feel much like eating lately. She didn't feel much like anything lately. She ate for the same reason she did everything else: because she had to. Because her friends had brought her back to this miserable existence and she was stuck living it.

Buffy had thought of killing herself. Only once. Only for a moment. But she had thought of it and only rejected the idea because of Dawn. Dawn needed her. She couldn't do that to her sister. Not like that.

Still, every slayer had a death wish, didn't they? And hers had just gotten a whole lot wishier. Now that she knew what was waiting for her when she died, she wanted to die more than ever. Die for good, this time.

She carried the bowl of cereal into the living room, and flopped down on the couch, turning on the tv. She started flipping through the channels, pausing on NBC. Passions was on. She wondered if Spike was watching the show. She knew he loved this crap. Her mom had told her that they had watched it together the day Buffy had brought her mom and Dawn to Spike for protection. Plus she remembered him yelling about it while chained to the bathtub at Giles' house. Majorly weird.

He was the weirdest vampire she had ever met. Not that she took the time to get to know most of them. Most of her interactions with vampires were limited to wham bam stake you man. Except Angel, of course. But that was different. Angel was good. He had a soul.

But with Spike things had always been different, weird, too. Even when he had been trying to kill her. Even when he was evil. No, she stopped herself. He was still evil. That hadn't changed. The chip was holding him back. That was it. If he ever got that chip out or if it malfunctioned, she, her friends, Dawnie, everyone was in danger from him. He was evil. She couldn't forget that.

He might claim to love her, but that didn't really change anything. Did it? No. It didn't. It couldn't. He couldn't really love. No soul. But then, the way he had looked at her, when she was first back, walking down the stairs, it was a look so full of tenderness and love… no. No. Vampire. Evil. Can't possibly love. He was just a stupid, evil, weird vampire.

She changed the channel. She so should not be thinking about him right now. Last night should have reminded her how very bad he was. Very bad for her. She had let her guard down. Let him give her drinks and take her to that stupid bar. And he had let her get wasted. Stupid vampire. He should have stopped her. She should have stopped her. None of that should have happened. She was the Slayer and it was icky.

And it was embarrassing. Not only that he had seen her like that, but she was pretty sure she had thrown up in front of him. Or on him. She wasn't sure. Lying in bed this morning she had gone over the events of the previous night, but most of her memory was still all fogginess. After the lame demon bar, he had taken her home. They had walked. He said he would get his bike later, said he didn't want her falling off and blaming him for bloody road burn.

As it was, she had not been much for the walking, and he had held her around the waist as she stumbled her way through Sunnydale. She had fought him at first. Pushed him away. But the sidewalk was so uneven. The town really should fix that, it was very dangerous. As if there weren't enough dangers in Sunnydale, she had to worry about spraining an ankle on a wobbly sidewalk. After she stumbled, almost falling over a couple of times, she gave in and silently accepted his support. Besides, it felt kinda nice to have his arm around her, to have someone to lean on. To feel herself pressed against his lean, muscular body. To feel his fingers gently pressed against her waist. She had imagined him stopping, pulling her close to him. Kissing her. Allowing those fingers to explore her body more thoroughly. She had want it. But only because she was drunk. It didn't mean anything. Clearly, she was not with the making of the smart decision. She was drunk. She would never have even though about those things if she hadn't been. Never.

But still it had been nice to be held by someone. Even if that someone was only Spike. Especially because that someone was Spike, a small part of her admitted. No. It hadn't been nice. Not nice at all. It had been disgusting. Repulsive. Especially because that someone was Spike.

She had to stop doing this. She had to stop thinking about him like this. It was wrong. It wasn't like she would ever do anything about it. Never. But still. Thinking bad.

He was bad. She had to push him away. For real. For sure. She knew that he had helped her friends, took care of Dawn the summer she was… gone. But she couldn't let him get that close to her. He was evil. She was crazy. It was crazy. A vampire. No good.

She would wash up the dishes, take a shower, get dressed, and head out. She would stop by his crypt. Only for a few minutes. Then she would head straight over to The Magic Box. See what Giles and the others had found out. She would see Spike only for a few minutes. Just long enough to apologize for the way she had acted the previous night. And let him know that it would never happen again. Never.

The sun was bright, even though it was getting late in afternoon. Buffy had on her sunglasses as she walked across the cemetery towards his Spike's crypt. She was a California girl, used to the sun. But for some reason, lately she had found it overwhelming, irritating. Probably because of the sun's unwelcome intrusion in her bed room this morning.

She was just going to apologize for the way she acted the night before, tell him it would never happen again, and leave. She had to get to The Magic Box, to be with her friends, to figure out the deal with this latest demon. To try and deal with her own.

She didn't bother knocking. She never did.

Spike was there, watching something on the television, Passions had been over for a few hours. He jumped up at her approach, at the sunlight streaming into his crypt. "Shit. Little Miss. Sodden Sunshine. Could you at least give a fellow a bit of warning? Its bloody bright out there, and I'm fucking flammable."

"Hello to you too, Spike." She looked past him, at the TV. "I can't believe this is what you do all day."

"Hey. Creature of the night. Daytime really isn't my thing, you know, Slayer."

"But, still. Hanging out here all day in a dank crypt watching crappy daytime television. Its kinda sad Spike. You really need to get a life."

"Dead, here, remember. And I thought of going out for a stroll. You know, take a little time to enjoy the flowers blooming, the birds singing, the sun burning me to a pile of ashes. But I just wasn't much in the mood for incineration today."

"You could at least get a hobby."

"Like what? Stamp collecting or building model airplanes. Maybe I didn't make myself clear here, Summers, creature of the night. We don't do hobbies. What are you here for anyway? Or did you just stop by to pester me about my telly watching habits? As if its any business of yours what I do."

"No, I was just heading over to The Magic Box, and figured I would stop by."

"On your way, is it? Sure you didn't just want to toss your cookies on my shoes again?" He smirked as a blush flared across her cheeks, and held up a bottle of Jack Daniels. "Care for a drink, love? You cleared me out last night, but I… uh… found a few bottles on my way home last night. Actually, I nicked them, because that's what I do. " Seven bottles, filled with golden and amber colored liquor, stood on top of his fridge.

"A thousand gallons of no."

"Fancy that's about how much you drank last night?"

"Ew. No. I should go," she started to move toward the door.

"Suit yourself, Summers," he shrugged, "didn't feel much like restocking the bar again tonight anyway."

Buffy was halfway to the door when she stopped herself. She had to do this. She turned around. "Actually I came here to apologize."

"Whats that now, Slayer? I don't think I heard right. You're not usually one for apologizes, seem to prefer the hitting and the insulting to admitting you've done anything wrong."

"Cut the shit, Spike. I came here to say sorry about last night."

"No need to apologize, love."

"Yeah, there is. That wasn't me. I don't know what got into me. But that girl, with the drinking and the puking. That wasn't me."

"Yes, it was. That was you, Buffy. The sooner you realize, the sooner you accept that was you, that's who you are, the happier you'll be."

"No, it wasn't. Its not. It was a mistake. It was bad. It was wrong. I should have never let myself get that way. It was dangerous and stupid and wrong."

"No need to beat yourself up about it, Slayer. It happens. Its not like you're the first girl who couldn't handle her liquor."

"I can handle myself."

"Yourself. Maybe. Booze. Definitely not. But you're not the first. And you sure won't be the last. I used to love to have drunk co-eds. They were so easy. And if I took enough of them, sometimes I could even get a bit of buzz. Tasty little treats they were."

Buffy glared at him. "Ew, Spike. Why are you telling me this? Its disgusting. Are you trying to get me to stake you? Because that is one thing I can still do right. And, ew, is there anything you haven't eaten?"

"There are some things that I have not yet tasted," he said. Was it just her, or was there a rough edge of seduction in his tone. She didn't like the way he was looking at her. Okay, part of her did like it. Like he would devour her, ravage her in a more sexy, less deadly kind of way. In a very very wrong kind of way. And part of her definitely wanted it. She gulped. No. Wrong. Very wrong. He looked at her, bemused. "Like clowns. I wouldn't go near those buggers," he continued in a more normal tone, "Not if you paid me. Frankly I think they're terrifying."

"Really, big bad Spike is afraid of the big top? Nightmares at the circus?"

"No, not the circus. Just the bloody clowns. Besides, Angel told me they taste like peanuts and bleeding cotton candy. Not much to my liking. My palate is a bit more refined. Give me a good aerialist any day. Now that's a treat."

"Again. Ew." She had to put an end to this. Sure, he had been there for her when she came back. He knew better than anyone what she had been through. Not the heaven part, he would never know that. But he knew she had clawed her way out of her coffin. He had so tenderly held her hands. He had so quietly been there for her when her friends, her life, were becoming so overwhelming. She wanted to be around him, near him, with him. And that was bad, because she was the Slayer and he was evil and he was talking about eating people. She could not keep leaning on him, depending on him, accepting his support, his love. It was wrong. And it would destroy her. She could see that already. These things she was feeling for him. They were bad, dangerous, and they would kill her. If not physically, then at least in her soul. She saw that. Knew it. Felt it. And yet, she kept coming here, seeking comfort in his crypt. It was wrong.

"I can't be around you," she said abruptly. "You're…evil and bad. Very bad," she finished lamely.

"News flash, pet, I've always been bad. Not exactly a bloody epiphany, you know."

"Bad for me, I mean."

"And I'm all you've got, Buffy. Sad, really, isn't it. Sodden superfriends brought you back into one hell of a quagmire, didn't they?"

"They were only doing what they thought was right. What they thought they had to do."

"What they thought was right? Messing with magic like that is never right."

"They did what they had to."

"They did what they wanted. And now you're left cleaning up the bloody pieces. Saving them from their own fucking messes again. Its all you do, Slayer. Help them. Save them. No wonder they wanted you back. Not that I'm not thrilled. I was fucking tired to doing my share to make your friends didn't bite the dust, or get bitten by any dusty nasties. Didn't mind looking out for the Niblet though. It was the least I could do. After I promised you. But as for the rest of them, I'm glad you're back to save their sorry asses again."

"Nothing has changed I guess."

"No, everything has changed. They just don't see it."

"No. It's all the same. Buffy dusts the vampires. Buffy fights the demons. Buffy saves the day. Its nothing new. There is nothing new. No new thing under the sun." She didn't know why she just said that. The phrase just popped into her head. She knew she had heard it somewhere, but she couldn't place it. In fact, the phrase had been floating in brain all day.

He looked at her, quizzically, tilting his head to the side, "Didn't figure you for the bible club, pet."

"What do you mean?"

"Ecclesiastes. Not much one for scripture myself. Evil and all. But the blokes got a point. There is no new thing under the sun, not for you anyway. You are a creature of the darkness, like me. You don't belong in the sun. That's not your world. Theres nothing there for you. Nothing new anyway. The sooner you decide to come out of the sun and into the shadows the happier you'll be. I take you there, Slayer, if only you let me."

She wanted to. Wanted to let him take her. She wanted to throw herself into his arms, crush her mouth against his, feel him, solid, inside her. Filling her. Taking her. Overwhelming her. She wanted to give in to it. Give in to him. She wanted to be free from her life, her responsibilities, her obligations, her duties, her destiny. She wanted to drown herself in his dark love for her. Let it surround her. Consume her. Protect her from her fear and confusion and pain.

She wanted to be free from the sun. To stay in the darkness where she knew what she had to do, why she was there. Things were so less confusing at night. There was the fight, the slay, the death. She was useful; she had a purpose.

In the darkness she knew who she was.

She just wasn't so sure she liked herself.

No. The darkness was dangerous. It was in the darkness that she drank and wanted to do things with Spike. Sexy, unnatural, repulsive things that would make her feel good. Feel alive. Feel at all. She had to stop thinking these things. Thinking about him, them, like that. It was wrong.

It was in the darkness that she lost her way.

She had to find her way back into the light.

She would not let herself lose her path in the creeping shadows that threatened to seduce her.

She would leave.

The door of Spike's crypt slammed closed behind her. She had not said goodbye. She had walked away from him. He had said something to her, but she hadn't listened. She wouldn't, couldn't, hear what he had to say. He was too bad, evil, dangerous, desirable. If she let him in anymore, he would have her. He would seduce her, take her, consume her. And she would let him.

She had run from him. Run from the darkness he represented. Run from the promises he made and the pleasure he promised.

She had run from herself as she went out towards the setting sun.