Bloody Soul by Kallysten

ReviewsRating: NC-17

Summary: Story goes AU at the end of Becoming 2. Rewrite of season 3. Buffy/Angel for part of the story, spuffy undertones throughout.

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Chapters 9-12

Chapter 9: Staking Angelus

As she made her way through her second graveyard of the night, Buffy was feeling terrible. Everything in her life seemed to be going horribly wrong, these days. And that little war between her and Cordelia over who was to be Homecoming queen was really the least of it all. It didn't matter that it was splitting the gang; the competition would be over in two days, Cordelia would receive a good lesson in humility, and the Scoobies would get back to normal. That really wasn't what was worrying her. Although she wished it was. Life would have been infinitely simpler if the biggest thing she had had to worry about was a stupid popularity contest. Instead, she had to worry that her greatest foe was back and currently chained to a wall. Soon, she was going to stake him.

Wasn't she?

Ever since she had stumbled upon Spike's prisoner almost two weeks before, she thought of it day and night, repeating the words, trying to believe them.

I am going to stake Angelus.

Then, all too often, the last word eventually turned into 'Angel', and the thought was suddenly unbearable. Even after all this time spent trying to reconcile in her mind that they were two faces of the same coin, even after seeing Spike and how much his soul had not changed him, she still had trouble thinking of Angel and Angelus as the same person. Still had trouble accepting that her lover was gone for good. That it wasn't he currently chained in the mansion.

"Good thing I'm not here to kill you or you'd be dead already."

The partly mocking words stopped her dead in her tracks and she spun, already punching at the vampire behind her before she had seen him. He didn't move. Didn't parry, didn't jump back, didn't even seem surprised. He merely wiped at the blood trickling from his nose with the back of his hand once she took a step back.

"What do you want?" she shot at him, annoyed that he had so blatantly managed to surprise her.

"My, aren't we chipper," he commented dryly. "Something bothering you, Slayer? Didn't get your good night kiss from your boy?"

Her eyes narrowed. She wasn't happy that Spike had been around enough to notice that she had - no, had had - a boyfriend, and it sounded way too much like he was taunting her about having lost that relationship.

"The only thing bothering me," she snapped back, "is why I didn't stake a certain vampire yet. And yes, that would be you, Spikey."

He didn't have the decency to look even slightly worried.

"Because I'm useful, that's why. I heard."

"Useful?" she interrupted with a dry chuckle. "You're useful? You're a pain in the ass. Useful is the last thing I'd call you."

"If you would just listen for a minute," he said with irritation, "I'm sure you'd change your mind."

Turning her back on him, she strode away. "But I don't want to listen," she called over her shoulder. "Last time I did, you convinced me not to put down a rabid dog. What would you do this time? Tell me that Faith is evil?"

She walked away, glad he didn't come after her. She had been lying, to him and to herself, when she affirmed that he had convinced her not to stake Angelus. Even if he had wanted her to do it, she knew she wouldn't have been able to. Still, she was wondering why he didn't want the soulless vamp staked. What could he want from him? One more thing to worry about. She worried too much. She felt like she hadn't laughed or really smiled in forever.

Apparently, Scott had felt the same way, because that was part of the reason he had given her when he had broken up with her a few days before. Strangely enough, she couldn't make herself care that much about it. It seemed insignificant when compared to the rest of her problems.

Compared to Angelus, few things were significant.

Spike was seething as he watched Buffy walk away and refuse to listen to him. He had gone out of his way to find information after overhearing a hint of new Hellmouth player in a demon bar, and now it was for naught, since she didn't even want to listen to what he had discovered. Silly bint. He would show her how much of a pain he could be, that would teach her.

He spent the rest of his night gathering more information, following trails and tips toward his mysterious vampire. By morning, he wasn't any further along than when he had talked to Buffy earlier. He was of half a mind to give up and simply watch it all play out; but after a long day stuck inside the mansion with his irritating guest, he decided he needed the action. At least, it gave him a purpose clearer than wandering alone in graveyards looking for random vampires to stake.

It took him all night, but he finally found what he was looking for in the person of a vampire called Trick. The guy was apparently becoming the closest thing to a Master that Sunnydale had.

"I've heard you're having a little party with the Slayers," he said as soon as he was introduced to the other vamp. "Is it too late for a fellow to join the fun?"

Frowning, Trick signaled his minions to step back. Spike didn't relax in the slightest.

"And I have heard that a blond vampire is already having fun, staking minions and barely risen fledglings. Would that be you, by any chance?

Spike had thought his growing reputation would precede him, so he was ready for the question. He pushed a hard smile to his lips and inclined his head slightly in acquiescence.

"Survival of the fittest and all that rot," he commented with a shrug. "Less cannon fodder for the Slayers to train on increases the odds for the most skilled of us to take them down. The name's Spike, by the way."

A raised eyebrow was the first indication that Trick had heard the name before. Good.

"I see," the vamp commented with a half smile. "So you don't need me to tell you Slayers are not exactly easy to kill. I guess I could make an exception and let you in as a late player."

Spike couldn't help the smile that bloomed on his lips. He was in. Then, after going through the rules, Trick announced the amount of the entry fee, and Spike's smile disappeared instantly. He hadn't thought about that. Fuck.

After Trick showed him the door, sunrise was too close for Spike to do much more than return home and the hell his life had become. Because living with Angelus was exactly that now that he had begun talking again. And just like Spike knew the brunet didn't have a soul, Angelus had guessed about Spike's and was constantly reminding him about kills they had done together, the bloodiest and most violent of them. It was getting harder and harder for Spike to justify his not staking his grand-sire. Still he couldn't do it, pinning his hopes that Willow would come through with something. He desperately wanted to talk to Angel, wanted to hear him say that it got better with time. Wanted the words that he would never receive.

He ignored the soulless vampire the best he could; and after his nightly inspection of how well the chains were holding against Angelus' constant pulling, he retreated to his room. Even if he was angry about the way she had treated him, Spike couldn't let Buffy and the other slayer get hurt if he could do something about it. Helping them wouldn't make up for the slayers he had killed, but that wasn't why he was doing it anyway. Somehow, these deaths weren't the heaviest ones on his conscience. Both girls had known what they were doing when he had taken them on; both of them had been good fighters. And the soul couldn't completely silence the demon when it pointed out that slayers and vampires had fought for millennia, it was the order of things.

Thinking along these lines however was too close to accepting that feeding and killing was a natural process for vampires, and that it had little to do with good and evil. Spike couldn't let himself follow that path. Thankfully, he had Angelus close to remind him that more often than not, vampire did equal evil; and since the brunet had trained him well, he had to be evil too. No relief to be found in thinking he had only done what he was supposed to.

If he had known where she lived, he would have gone to Faith and tried to convince her something bad was brewing. He didn't though, so that wasn't an option. The only other person he could go to was the Watcher. The idea wasn't appealing, but he went to Giles' flat right after sunset. As he arrived, the Watcher stepped out the front door, dressed in a tuxedo that Spike barely noticed as he tried very hard not to look as if he was hiding anything. He doubted that Giles would be as indecisive as Buffy about what to do with Angelus.

His warning given, Spike hesitated but finally declined to go with Giles, afraid that his anger at Buffy might get the better of him. Not that he would have hurt her, but getting into a shouting match where her mates could hear might not be the best thing to do when they shared such a heavy secret.

To say that the Slayer pissed me off doesn't even begin to describe how I felt when she ignored me. Here I was, trying to give her important information that could have meant life or death for her and the other girl, and she dismissed the tip because it came from me. She had been childish about my help; and it was even more annoying because she was being immature about Angelus too.

Later that night, she came to the mansion. Afterward, she told me she had come to apologize for not listening to me. I was out having a spot of dusting fun when she arrived, and I don't know how long she waited there. She still was in the main room when I came back. Crying. Not big sobs or weeping, no, nothing like that. Just silent tears rolling down her cheeks as she watched Angelus, who was watching her in return. He didn't say a word to her while I was there, but that nasty grin on his face made it all too clear that he had been taunting her as he had been doing with me. I don't know what he told her; she refused to tell me and I knew better than to ask him.

I could have understood if she had staked him, if she had been trading insults with him, or even physically lashed out at him. He certainly wasn't fit enough then to escape a beating from her. But she didn't do any such thing, just sat on the cold floor and cried. It made me even angrier with her. I grabbed her arm none too gently and pulled her to her feet and out of the mansion, Angelus' laugh echoing after us. I wanted to yell at her and tell her exactly what I thought of her behavior, tell her that a Slayer couldn't be weak like that or she'd be dead, tell her she couldn't ignore help that was offered to her and then deliberately put herself in a situation where she was getting hurt, mentally or physically. I didn't say a word. Couldn't.

As soon as I banged the door close behind us, her teary eyes turned to me, pleading. That completely threw me out. She asked me to kill him. Asked me to do it for her before it destroyed her. Said she had tried to do it herself but couldn't, that she still saw Angel when she saw him, and that Angelus played on that. I refused to stake him; instead tried to cheer her up by saying, I had asked Willow to work on a loophole-free curse so she might have her Angel back soon. If anything, she cried harder, and I felt even more lost. I understood why she wanted him gone for good, but not why the idea of getting her love back was so painful. She has never been able to explain that to me, and it's not something she's particularly fond of talking about anyway.

That bloody soul of mine of course was all too glad to take the blame for her tears. I was the one who hadn't staked Angelus, so it was my fault if the Slayer was crying. My fault if she was emotionally weakened, and therefore potentially vulnerable. More guilt to add to the count, and the promise of even more if she got herself killed because of all that. So, I tried to comfort her, awkwardly patting her back, until she gave me a half incredulous, half questioning glance through her tears. She didn't protest when I said I would walk her home.

I can't say she was exactly pleased when I found her the next night and patrolled with her, but I can be stubborn when I want. In the end, she gave up. It helped I suppose that Faith was there and sided with me, saying that more help was always good. It wasn't help with slaying that Faith wanted, but rather help with more. personal matters. I was aware of it, but I could have cared less. The girl could take care of herself, while Buffy on the other hand was on the edge of collapsing, and no one but me was seeing it. No one but me knew how much of a reason she had.

For a few nights, I made sure she was safe, like I had made sure her mates were safe during the summer. Then she met William, and that changed the cards drastically.

Chapter 10: William

Buffy knew she should have felt guilty; yet, she couldn't summon the feeling. She had lied to her mom, telling her she was going to study with Giles for her SATs. She had lied to Giles, telling him she was having a quiet evening at home to bond with her mom. The truth was, she needed some time away from both of them, away from thinking about exams and colleges. What were the odds she would even live long enough to go to college? A lot was bound to happen, before that. A lot was already happening right now.

Ironically, as she tried to escape for a few hours from her many responsibilities, she had ended up in the very same place where she fought most of her battles, one of Sunnydale's many cemeteries. At least, she could be alone there - or so she thought, until a familiar bleached blond approached the large headstone where she was sitting. A few nights before, she might have greeted him with a few well-chosen insults, but not anymore.

She grudgingly had to admit that the vampire had proved himself more than useful ever since she had flung it in his face that he was anything but. She had a feeling that he was enjoying just a little too much his proving her wrong. Every night, he managed to find her, whether she was alone or with Faith or Giles, and tagged along. He had never actually said so, but it was clear he was guarding her back. For what reason though, she couldn't fathom. In any case, now she could understand how he had won over her friends during the summer; his help on patrol was flawless. However, things might have been simpler for them if there hadn't been their unspoken secret. She hadn't returned to the mansion since the night she had broken down in front of Angelus.

Spike came to stand a few feet in front of her, head tilted to the side as he observed her.

"Is that a new slaying technique?" he commented with more than a hint of teasing. "Sit there prettily and serve as bait?"

She rolled her eyes at him.

"I was just trying to have some quiet time and think. Of course, I should have known you'd show up. Don't you have anything better to do?"

There was more hostility in her words than she had wanted, but he didn't seem affected by it. That was pretty much standard for their exchanges.

"Anything you want to get off your chest? 'M a good listener. Ask your mum."

Another thing that was usual. More than once, he had hinted that he would have liked to visit her mother again. He had never asked flat out for Buffy's permission, though. She didn't really understand why he simply didn't go behind her back.

"You'd be upset with both her and me," he replied with a shrug when she voiced the question. "I figure you two have enough on your plate without me adding to it."

"And how do you figure that?" Buffy couldn't help but ask.

"You're here, ain't you? Said you wanted some quiet time and instead of staying safe and warm at home, you come to a gloomy graveyard. Tells me something about how things are between you and her."

Buffy's gaze dropped to the ground and her hands became tight fists on her knees. She hated it when he could see through her. Hated that a vamp she wasn't even friend with - because they weren't friends, were they? - could read her like an open book while her mom, Giles, and even Willow had no clue that not everything was perfect in her already strange life.

"You need a bit of fun, that's what you need," the blond said suddenly. "Wanna fight?"

She looked back up at him, incredulous.

"Fight?" she repeated. "That's your idea of fun? My whole life is a fight!"

"'S different when you do it because you have to or because you want to unwind," he insisted, grinning widely as he settled into a fighting stance. "Different when you know your life isn't at stake. Come on, Slayer, it won't hurt a bit."

The words struck her, an echo of their first fight. She let herself slide off the tombstone and took her jacket off, folding it neatly over the marble. She made stretching movements as she paced in front of the vampire, never taking her attention off him, wondering.

"Shouldn't you be different?" she asked as she finally stepped into position, arms raised and ready to defend.

"Different? Different from what?"

Before the words were even out of his mouth, he literally leapt forward, straight at her, looking like he was going to strike her face. Buffy moved to her right as she parried; but at the last instant he had shifted his course to her left and breezed by her without even trying to land a blow.

"Different because of your soul," she said reluctantly. However hard she had tried to convince herself that a vampire with a soul was no different from his unsouled counterparts, she still couldn't embrace the idea. And whereas Spike should have proved her theory, she couldn't understand what was going on with him.

"But I am 'different'," he said darkly, almost spitting out the word. "If I wasn't, I'd be trying to kill you now rather than playing."

Again, he was the one to attack, this time with a flurry of punches and kicks that Buffy countered with increasing difficulty. If that was playing, she was glad he wasn't out to kill her and that brought the sobering realization that she was very far from her top form. Too many worries and too little sleep were taking their toll.

"I'd be taking advantage of your weaknesses instead of following you around like a lapdog, making sure no one else did."

The words were bitter, and Buffy jumped back, momentarily out of his reach. So, that was why he had been patrolling with her. Unwilling to let the talk turn back to her weaknesses, Buffy took another verbal shot at him.

"But you're like. the same. Sure you're not killing and helping us instead, but you're not brooding or. I don't know, shouldn't you be all tortured and stuff?"

She forced herself to stop there, but the unvoiced words seemed to hang between them.

Shouldn't he have been tortured by his soul as Angel had been?

For long seconds, he stared at her, hard. Then, without warning, he turned on his heels and walked away, duster billowing behind him. His words seemed to echo in the graveyard, and sent a chill down Buffy's spine.

"Who said I wasn't?"

As he stormed away from Buffy, Spike instinctively directed his steps toward Revello Drive. If he waited for the Slayer to agree, he'd be waiting to see Joyce forever. And if it pissed Buffy off. well, even better. Right then, that seemed like a perfectly fine idea. She didn't show the slightest regard for what he may feel, so why should he care what she thought?

When he knocked on the back door, Joyce was immediately there and to his surprise, she invited him to come in. He did so cautiously, wondering why she had offhandedly given him an invite, and was startled when he noticed that the lady of the house wasn't alone. He expected the Watcher to protest at his presence, but Giles merely nodded and continued to munch on a chocolate bar.

"I just came 'round to say hi," the vampire said quickly, his gaze going from one human to the other and back. "Didn't expect you to have company."

Joyce waved her hand dismissively as she swallowed a piece of chocolate.

"No problem at all. You can come by any time you want. Although I suppose coming during the day might be a little difficult."

She chuckled at that, and Giles grinned. Something seemed a little peculiar, and Spike sniffed the air, wondering if the two might have consumed a little too much alcohol. All he could smell however was the almost overwhelming smell of chocolate.

"Yeah, well, Buffy doesn't seem too happy about the idea of me being here," he said distractedly, still trying to comprehend what was happening.

The name brought stern looks to both previously smiling faces.

"What Buffy says isn't always the truth," the Watcher said with a shake of his head.

"But we might have been a little hard on her," Joyce said pensively.

The two of them began talking about the Slayer, and Spike felt oddly out of place.

"Listen, I'll be on my way," he said at the first occasion. "Didn't want to bother you. Night Joyce, Watcher."

"But we didn't even have hot chocolate yet!" Joyce exclaimed, sounding disappointed, and Spike felt a pang of warmth hit him at the tone of her voice. Could it be that she had missed his company? He certainly had missed hers.

She smiled and handed a few chocolate bars to him. "Here, take these. It's not hot chocolate, but it's really good!"

He took the bars and pocketed them without a second glance. He wished she had asked him to stay. He wasn't going to impose his presence though, especially with Giles there. He still felt awkward around the Watcher, still remembered all too well the torture he had witnessed the man endure.

After leaving the Summers' residence, Spike stayed out until sunrise was close. Increasingly, he hated spending time at the mansion. Angelus was regaining more strength every day, and earlier Spike had had to knock him out in order to double the chains and secure them more solidly to the wall. He could easily imagine what kind of mood his grand-sire would be in now that he had probably awoken. Spike would need to find Willow the next night, ask her if she was making any progress with the spell. And if she wasn't. Well, it was certainly better to give Angelus a soul, even with the possibility that he might lose it again, than to take the risk of him escaping and wreaking havoc on Sunnydale.

Buffy's day and evening had been a nightmare. A very disturbing, very freaky nightmare. It was just wrong for adults to behave like kids, and it was even more wrong for their children to witness it. She was certain she would need therapy about seeing her mom and Giles make out like two horny teenagers. At least she had found them before they had done anything more. embarrassing than kiss. Moreover, she now had enough blackmail material against Giles to last her a lifetime. It was still hard to believe that her serious Watcher had been so wild in his youth.

She parked the car and got out, trying very hard to ignore the dent and not think about her mother's reaction to it once the effects of the candy had passed. For now, Joyce was pouting, having finally given up on protesting that it was too early to go home. They walked to the front door together and came upon the last person Buffy wanted to see right then. She had a test in the morning and no time left for a half insane vampire. She was about to tell him in no uncertain terms, when he smiled at her and her mother, seemingly relieved.

"Good evening, Mrs. Summers, Miss Summers. I trust you ladies are well? The streets have been rowdy tonight."

Her mother giggled, and Buffy blinked in confusion before understanding. Where had Spike found some of that damn chocolate?

"I'm fine, honey. I'd be even better if Buffy wasn't such a spoilsport though."

With that, Joyce winked at the vampire and sashayed into the house. Buffy watched her go, incredulous, before looking up in desperation. Why did things like this always happen to her? Spike looked just as mystified by Joyce's behavior, as proved by the small frown on his brow.

"Why are you here, Spike?" Buffy asked with a deep sigh.

"I beg your pardon, Miss Summers, but it's. It's William, Miss, if you would be so kind. Although it isn't very appropriate for you to call me by my Christian name. And I came here thinking. I mean."

Despite herself, Buffy couldn't help smiling at the obviously prim 'William' in front of her. So, that was what the vamp had been like in his youth, huh? She would never have imagined it. She had actually never given it much thought, but she would have been ready to bet he had been a bad boy since the cradle.

"Go ahead," she encouraged him. "I don't bite."

Had he had any circulation, Buffy was sure he would have been crimson. As it was, she wasn't certain there wasn't a little more color in his cheeks than usual.

"Well, I realize now that it might have been unnecessary for me to worry," he babbled, looking anywhere but at her, "but as I said, the town is particularly unruly tonight, and I thought you might have needed the protection of a gentleman. Not that I can hardly call myself such a thing anymore."

The chuckle that had been rising in her throat died at the incredibly deep pain apparent in both William's voice and features. Spike was a certainly good actor, if he had managed to hide these kinds of feelings. Also, the idea of William wanting to protect her seemed peculiar, to say the least. Then she remembered Spike's words in the graveyard the night before and realized his offer of protection was what he had been doing for the past few nights already.

"It was very kind of you," she acknowledged with a smile, wondering if Spike would remember any of this. "I truly appreciate the thought. But as you can see, mom and I are fine, and."

Just then, two cars speeded down the street, music blaring through the open windows but not loud enough to cover the boisterous laughs of the cars' riders. William frowned at passing car before turning his gaze to Buffy.

"May I offer to remain here for a few hours?" he suggested. "I would feel better knowing that your sleep and your mother's are protected."

She was about to protest, but he looked determined, and Buffy had the sudden thought that if she didn't agree he might very well spend the night on their front porch. She would probably regret it as soon as Spike was back to himself, but with a sigh, she nodded. It wasn't as if this version of Spike was any danger to her or her mom, after all.

"Come in, William."

She led him to the living room, and rapidly explained to him about the cursed chocolate bars. He seemed appalled at the idea that he was under the influence of magic, and even more so when Buffy told him about the babies-eating demon. All the while, she was imagining how Spike would have reacted, what he would have said. One of his sarcastic comments, maybe?

"It is truly dreadful that a young lady like yourself has to fight such awful creatures," he offered with a sad shake of his head.

For a second, Buffy was stunned, and again couldn't help but wonder if Spike would ever have uttered these words.

"I need to get some sleep," she said apologetically. "Maybe you could stay until just before sunrise? I am sure we will be safe after that."

He nodded his approval as he looked around him, obviously looking for something.

"Need anything?" she offered.

For the first time, he seemed a little hesitant as he replied.

"If it is not too much trouble, maybe. something to write?"

"To write?" Buffy repeated, puzzled.

"Yes, I write. That is, I try to write poems. I am not very talented, I fear, but."

Shaking her head in wonder, Buffy pulled a notepad and a pen from the nearby desk and handed them to him.

"What do you write about?"

Again, he seemed embarrassed. "I. if it would not be too presumptuous, I would like to. to write about you?"

There was a clear question in his last words, and Buffy smiled at him gently. "I would be flattered."

Because William was just too cute, overprotective one second and almost bashful when talking of his writing, and because she was sure it was the last time she would ever speak to him, Buffy followed a strange impulse and leaned over to brush her lips across his cheek. William looked at her in amazement, blinking furiously.

"Good night, William," she said softly before retreating to her room.

"Good night, Miss Summers," was his choked reply.

Here again, this isn't quite how I remember it. What I recall is that I went to the Summers house that evening but didn't wait by the door. Instead, I came in at the insistence of a frightened Dawn who had been alone since coming back from school and didn't know where her mum and sister were. My poncy self tried to reassure her as well as he could. We made a mess trying to cook her some dinner, I helped her with her homework, promised that everything would be fine when I didn't know any more than she did. When the Slayer and Joyce came back, they found us in front of the telly. Buffy sent both her mother and sister to bed and then reluctantly thanked me for taking care of Dawn. After that, it pretty much happened as you described it. Her thinking I was charming, me offering to stay and protect her - as if the Slayer needed protection in her own home - the admission that I wrote bad verses. And the kiss.

It was such a small thing. Less than a second, the barest touch of her lips to my skin. It undoubtedly meant nothing to her. Spike wouldn't have thought twice about it. William was overwhelmed. That simply wasn't proper at all; yet, she had done it, and he couldn't regret that she had.

That simple and oh so chaste kiss seared my soul, my very being, imprinting itself in my mind and body like a lover's most tender embrace. William probably fell in love with Buffy right there and then, the first lady to ever grant such a tender gesture to him. Spike.

Fuck. I'm both Spike and William, ain't I? Even now, William is in me. Buried deep, no doubt, but still present. Why do I bother trying to pretend we're separate entities?

I started to have a crush on her that night. Even the way she treated me the next time I saw her didn't change that. It didn't help that I composed terrible poetry until morning thinking of her and left the less awful of my creations for her before I slipped out of the house half an hour before sunrise. I wasn't completely under the spell anymore by then, but there must have been some residual effect, because in my right mind I would never have left incriminating proofs behind. I returned to the mansion, thanked God that Angelus was asleep, and went straight to sleep. Dreamt of her. Of her fighting, laughing, smiling. Dreamt of her lips. Of a lot more than her lips. It wasn't only kissing we did in my dreams. And it wasn't chaste at all.

When I came out of my room late in the afternoon, Angelus watched me pull the blood from the cooler, all the while grinning. He had learned to keep his mouth shut while waiting to receive his food, and so didn't say a word until he had drunk the last drop of nasty blood that was our dinner. But after that.

After that, it seemed as if he'd never stop. Somehow, he seemed to know. I suppose I must have said her name in my sleep and he heard, that's the only thing I can think of. He taunted me, told me in graphic details what a good fuck the Slayer was, how tight and responsive she had been under him, that she was a fast learner, that all it would take was a night with her and I would be free of that pesky soul of mine. Told me he'd help me turn her; break her, until she was nothing but an eager slave to me. To us. I don't think he realized that all he did was convince me not to ever dare touch her.

Inside, I was shaking from his words, but I refused to give him the pleasure of that knowledge. I remained calm, and put an end to his ramblings by lying and saying the witch had found a better curse and was in the last stages of her preparation. That shut him right up. What I didn't know at the time was that his re-ensouling was indeed a matter of days.

Chapter 11: Revelations

A few days had passed since Buffy had had the unexpected but very enlightening pleasure of meeting William, and it seemed that Spike was intent on avoiding her. Before the chocolate incident, he had made a point of patrolling with her every night; now she was sure he was purposefully avoiding her. Was he embarrassed, maybe, by the folded sheet of paper bearing her name he had left on the kitchen table? She had not shown it to anyone, and was fairly certain that the poem written on it would never be part of a masterpieces anthology, but it still felt strange that these words had been written for her. Strange, but nice. She was impatient to talk to him again and see whether his behavior would be different now that she knew, what he probably thought was his darkest secret. William the Bloody had once been a gentleman. Hard to believe, yet undeniably true.

At the same time however, it was a good thing that he was laying low. Faith's new Watcher had arrived a couple of days before, and she was a stickler for the rules, enough to shame Giles. Buffy doubted that Mrs. Post would approve of the gang receiving help from a vampire, even a souled one. And speaking of bleached wonders.

Buffy watched Willow as she wove her way around the dance floor from the restrooms and back to their table when her friend suddenly paused. She turned and walked toward the bar, and Buffy guessed that someone had called her name. Someone named Spike. Determined to speak to him, Buffy left their table and arrived in time to hear Willow say that she had found nothing new.

"Nothing new about what?" she inquired curiously.

"Oh, Spike asked me to find a way to foolproof his soul," Willow replied excitedly, as always, thrilled by the prospect of anything having to do with magic. Her excitement deflated however when she added: "But I haven't found how to do it yet."

Buffy was about to ask Spike why he wanted to make his soul failsafe, but as she caught his eye she understood. It wasn't for him. The realization was like a sudden icy shower, and she shivered, barely noticing when Willow excused herself to join Oz who presently was coming off stage.

"She's still with the wolf, then?" Spike said, sounding surprised, and Buffy frowned at him.

"What do you mean, still? Why wouldn't she be?"

His eyes had left the couple already, to settle instead on the table where Xander and Cordelia were sitting alone, Faith having left them for the dance floor. He seemed somewhat puzzled as he watched them flirt, and he shook his head slowly, muttering very low:

"Could have sworn she smelled like."

He cut himself short, and Buffy flashed him a look of distaste.

"You smelled Willow? Can I say ewww? I'm deeply disappointed, William. These are not the manners of a gentleman."

She had to struggle to keep a straight face when saying the last words, but couldn't hold her laughter when he looked at her with wide, horrified eyes.

"What the fuck."

"You thought I'd forget just because you hid for a few days?" she teased him with a grin. "Of course I didn't. I am the 'warrior of fire', I can't."

Before she could finish, he was striding away; if the fiery glare he had thrown her was anything to judge from, he was angry.


She hurried after him, catching up with him outside.

"What is wrong with you?" she called after him. "First you hide, now you run away?"

The reaction was immediate. He stopped dead in his tracks and slowly turned to her, eyes glowing amber in the darkness surrounding them.

"What is wrong with me?" he repeated, his voice like ice. "What the hell is wrong with you, I'd ask. You act like a child, not a fucking warrior. Why don't you grow up a little, Slayer?"

Taken aback, she stared at him. What was he rambling about now? Was he completely insane? Again?

"If you need a staking," she said warningly, "I'll be glad to prove to you I'm not a child."

He snorted. "You're not? Oh, excuse me. I must have mistaken you for the other Slayer. The one who likes to make fun of the stupid bloke who tries to keep her alive. Or maybe you're the one who can't decide if she wants a murderer alive or dead because she shagged him once."

"I wasn't making fun of you!" she shot back angrily. "I thought William was sweet. Definitely nicer than you are now!"

He snorted at that, shaking his head in disbelief, and she continued heatedly. "And you're the one who doesn't want to kill Angelus anyway."

"Yeah, because you've been trying real hard, haven't you, luv? But it's so difficult to stake a chained vamp, maybe I could give."

He stopped abruptly; his eyes shifted behind her. Buffy looked back as Faith stepped forward.  She felt her throat constrict. How much had the brunette heard - and how much had she understood?

"I thought you two were going to patrol, but it sounds more like you're getting ready for war," Faith joked uneasily. When neither of them answered, she added, addressing Buffy: "Did you tell him about the meeting tomorrow? We probably could use his help."

The fun had already started when Spike arrived at the library the next day, and for a few moments, he hesitated behind the door, listening as the Scoobies took verbal shots at Buffy about Angelus. The night before, he had hoped that Faith hadn't heard more than was safe, but obviously, she had and had shared her newfound knowledge with the others. The others weren't happy, and that was putting it mildly. If he walked in there, Spike might very well get staked for his role in the mess. It would be safer to walk away, but when had he ever played it safe?

He entered the library as if the he owned the place. The room fell silent as he approached the table and stood next to Buffy. He was still angry with her for mocking him, William, and his poem the night before - just as he had been so sure she would - but his soul refused to let her take full responsibility for Angelus' continued existence.

"You want to blame someone, blame me," he said, slowly making in turn eye contact with all of the Scoobies, finishing with the Watcher. "I'm the one who found him. I didn't let the Slayer stake him. And I want to see him souled again before he is dust."

A few seconds worth of silence were followed by an eruption of words from all sides. Ignoring them, Spike kept focused on the silent Watcher. He was the one who would make the decision in the end, deciding if anyone was going to be staked.

"Hey! That's why you wanted an improved curse! Not for you, but, but. for him!"

Willow's exclamation brought an end to the others' ramblings, and Spike nodded as he glanced at her.

"That's why," he confirmed. "I was going to give you a couple more days to find an answer; then I would have asked you to do it, loophole or not, rather than take the risk that he would escape. You have to trust me on that."

"Trust you?" someone said from behind him, and Spike turned to see a woman walk into the library and come to stand by Faith. Instinctively, he knew what she was, if not who. A Watcher.

"Trusting vampires seems like an awfully dangerous thing to do," she commented with a condescending glance toward Giles. "Even vampires with a soul. From what I understand, they are prone to lose it, aren't they Ms. Summers?"

The Slayer blushed brightly, but Spike soon realized it wasn't from shame, but rather from anger.

"Could you all maybe stop flinging that at me?" she spat heatedly. "Don't you think I know I made a mistake? A very, very big one? Don't you think I remember it every time I see Giles? Every time I walk past Miss Calendar's room? Every time I walk into this room and see Kendra on the floor?"

Her voice broke on the last words, but she wasn't crying. Not yet. Spike could understand too well for comfort how she felt, and his soul was crying in sympathy for hers. Without being conscious of doing it, he rested a hand on her shoulder, squeezing lightly, barely aware of Giles quiet words informing everyone that he needed to talk with his Slayer, and of everyone leaving until it was just the three of them.

Giles words were harsh, but he certainly had cause. Neither Spike nor Buffy could find anything to reply.

Dear Gwendolyn had warned them against trusting me. Turned out, she wasn't that trustworthy herself. Had myself a good laugh when it was all over and the Scoobies were left to digest that the big bad this time had been a Watcher. Or rather, ex-Watcher, since her slight tendency to practice dark magic had gotten her kicked out of that fine organization. One thing's sure, she knew what she was about. Might have found that pretty glove appealing myself, if I hadn't been all soul-having. Hell of a fight to get it off her though, and without me, the Slayers would have been fried. The slayer of Slayers saving two.

Alright, alright, no need to get fussy. Help, not save. A bloke can't even embellish a little anymore.

She did have one redeeming quality, our wannabe destroyer. Books. The girl apparently traveled with a few rare volumes, and Giles managed to get his hands on them. They gave him and Willow the key.

Two days after the whole glove near fiasco, the Slayer came to the mansion, told me - and Angelus - that they had an answer to the loophole and were fixing the last details. One more night, and they were there. They could have done the spell from the library, but for some reason they decided to do it at the mansion. They were all there except for Faith, even those who had no part in the spell. It's as if they wanted to witness the resouling, to be sure that Angelus was gone for good. And if he wasn't. they had stakes. It took hours of chanting and nasty smelling herbs - or at least it felt like hours to me. All the while, Angelus was struggling to free himself more than ever before. He was utterly enraged, promising all of us the most painful death. That didn't stop them.

Eventually, there was a flash of light. Angelus fell to his knees, head bent down as if dizzy. The silence was so complete; I couldn't even hear the humans' respiration. They must have been holding their breath. All of us were waiting. For what? I'm not sure. A sudden sign proclaiming that this was now Angel in front of us? A tearful apology for everything that had happened since the last time he had been around? A cruel laugh that would have informed us the spell hadn't worked?

We all woke up from our daze when he finally looked up, blinking wildly as his gaze swept the room. He seemed startled for a second when he saw me standing there with the Scoobies, but not as startled as me when I realized I could see it in his eyes. See the soul.

"It worked," I announced to the humans, and there were a couple of relieved sigh from the kids. Buffy started to walk toward Angel, but Giles' hand on her arm stopped her. He did a quick spell, something I vaguely remembered him doing on me during the summer. A simple trick to reveal if a demon had a soul or not. The test was positive.

"It worked," Giles echoed my words. He didn't sound like he really believed. Or maybe he didn't want to believe. I often wondered why he had agreed to help Willow modify the spell and perform it. I suppose he thought it would make his Slayer happy. Of course it did. Not for long though.

"What worked? What's going on? Buffy?"

Angel's first words. Clueless as ever.

The kids trickled out of the mansion, silent, until only the Watcher, Buffy and myself were left, all three of us facing Angel. He still hadn't received an answer. It took him calling Buffy's name again for her to finally step forward and free him from the chains. She lowered herself to her knees in front of him, comforting him with hesitant touches and soft words. It was somewhat eerie to see her act as if the last months, almost year had been nothing but a nightmare, and to seemingly fall back in love with him like that. I suppose she had never stopped loving Angel even when Angelus was making her life hell.

It hurt me, because, as I already admitted, I had a crush on her. But when she babbled that nothing had happened, that Angel shouldn't worry about it and everything would be fine, I saw the Watcher jerk back as if he had been slapped. I'm sure she didn't mean it like that. The last thing she would have wanted was to hurt Giles, but she did, very effectively. Deeply enough that, when I drew him outside, he followed without a word of protest. Followed me to the closest human bar, and we proceeded to drink ourselves into a stupor. He was drunk long before me, but even then he kept quiet. Finest example of British upbringing. Or maybe I wasn't the best person for him to talk to. I helped him back to his flat when he looked like he had enough liquor in him to stand the night, opened the door for him and pushed him in. I didn't have an invite, and didn't want one. He stumbled a little, but had the presence of mind to come back to the door to close it.

"I haven't forgotten," I told him then. "And if it were to bring you any peace, I'd apologize."

I wasn't as drunk as I wished I had been. Neither was he, because he nodded, slowly, and there was something on his face that told me he understood what I meant. Thankfully, he didn't say a word before closing the door. I don't think I could have stood it if he had.

Sunrise wasn't anywhere close, but I didn't feel like staying out. Drunk, but again not enough to think I was in any state to pick a fight. I was surprised to discover that the Slayer was gone when I entered the mansion; part of me had expected them to fall into bed right away. Surprised to find Angel standing in front of the fireplace, staring into the flames as if they held all the answers. Surprised when he spoke to me, without even turning to look at me.

"You have a soul."

I can't really remember what his voice sounded like. I like to imagine it was the voice of a whiny child who suddenly discovers he's not as unique as he thought he was. Must have grated that he wasn't anymore 'the' vampire with a soul, but only one of the two.

"So do you," I replied blankly. "Again."

Finally, he turned toward me. He looked. haunted. There's no other word for it. Made me choke on all the nasty things I had in store for him. Made me forget all the questions I had waited so long to ask. Made me unable to stand anymore, and so I collapsed on the floor, my back to the wall, as I had done so many times before when I had wished I had Angel in front of me instead of Angelus. He told me, then, that he couldn't remember everything. Told me he had shreds of memories, but couldn't make sense of them. Said Buffy had been unable to talk about it. Asked me to fill him in.

I did.

I didn't sugarcoat it. Didn't forget anything. But also tried not to say 'you' did this and 'you' that. Instead, it was 'Angelus killed the Watcher's girl'. 'Angelus tortured the Watcher'. 'Angelus' tried to send us all to hell. 'Angelus'. did so many things that my soul wished I didn't know about; things I wished I hadn't done myself in the past. I knew, from first hand knowledge, that however I said it he would blame himself for all of it. He could pretend and convince anyone else that he was totally distinct from Angelus, but he couldn't fool himself, and he couldn't fool me, not anymore. I knew better, now. Didn't mean I needed to make it even more painful for him.

Because it was painful. With every word, I could see him hurting a little more. But I didn't stop. He had a right to know. Had a right to his own guilt. Everyone was going to look at him and remember what had happened. He had a right to know exactly what they would be thinking of when seeing him.

When I was done with my tale, he was silent for a long time. Then he thanked me, no louder than a whisper. I think there were tears on his face when he walked by me and toward his room, but I may have been mistaken.

I had told him how he had lost his soul, and that it wouldn't happen again. He never asked if my soul had conditions on it or not. He probably had too much to brood about. The question of cursing me with a no-loophole spell wasn't raised by anyone until my losing my soul had become an issue.

Chapter 12: Never Friends

"Spike? Who did you piss off this time?"

Buffy's sneering comment made Spike turn to her and growl, game face in full effect.

"How do you know they're not after you?" he shot back as he dusted his assailant with his own stake.

"Because they usually don't come at me with stakes."

She was right, and she knew he knew it; just as she knew he wasn't going to admit it. He had been irritable ever since he had turned up for patrol, and if she was correct, the smell coming off him was alcohol. He didn't appear to be drunk, but she would have bet anything he had been not very long ago.

"How about we get out of here?" he suggested before a fresh wave of vamps could attack. They were clearly outnumbered, and she agreed easily. There was no shame in knowing when to retreat, or so Giles had told her on a couple of occasions.

At her signal, they fled. They ran the entire cemetery and three more blocks before they finally shook off the last of their attackers.

"So, any idea why they want to dust you?" she asked again.

He shrugged as he searched his pockets for his cigarettes and lighter and grimaced when he pulled out an almost empty package.

"What do you think? I patrol with the Slayer. Does Trick need a better reason that that?"

She stared at him. "You know who is after you?"

"I don't know for sure," he said after he had lit a cigarette. "But he tried to off you, so it makes sense he would try to get rid of me for helping you."

She remembered then where she had heard the name before. Trick was the vamp who had organized Slayerfest. It was hard to believe it had not even been a month since she had refused to listen to Spike's warning. Hard to believe, also, how much she had come to rely on Spike since then. Even. even begun to trust him.

"I'll head back to the mansion," Spike said glumly. "Lay low for a couple of nights, see if they forget about me."

Buffy nodded and decided to accompany him. She had planned to see Angel later as she did most nights, so she might as well go now with Spike in case he was attacked again. She doubted that the vampires would give up so fast, or that Spike would be able to stay in for more than a night as he had said for that matter. She had noticed he had been very edgy the last few days - or rather, even more than he had been before. And it was worse on the nights Angel joined them for patrol; Spike infallibly walked away without a word after a few minutes. It was difficult for her to understand why he had wanted so much to keep Angelus alive and curse him with a soul. Now that it had happened, they didn't seem to be getting along. Apparently, his plans had not worked any better than Buffy's.

After Angel had returned, Buffy had been happy. She had hoped that they could pick up from where they had left off after that fateful night; but more importantly, she had had the certitude that everything would be fine. Everything. Instead, long days and even longer nights had passed crushing her illusions.

Everything was going to be fine, except nothing was.

Her mom knew about Angel's return. She did not approve of Buffy spending time with him - and that was the understatement of the century. Coming from the same woman who regularly chatted with a vampire over cups of hot cocoa, it was, however, somewhat laughable. Moreover, it was during one of these chats that she had learned about Angel, Spike having blabbered about it one night. Buffy had given him hell, until he had icily pointed out that her mother deserved a minimum of respect and telling her what everyone else knew had been a simple courtesy on his part. The blond really cared about Joyce, and Buffy wasn't sure what to think of their friendship. She wasn't sure, either, if she was imagining things or if he had sounded like William when he had lectured her.

Giles and the Scoobies were very twitchy whenever someone mentioned Angel's name. She couldn't really blame them; but she had hoped they wouldn't have reacted so badly. After all, they had accepted Spike. They were supportive, in their own way, but there had been no mistaking Willow's relief when Buffy had told her she was only friend with Angel, nothing more. Angel wasn't ready for more; he seemed wary of the theoretical improvement of the cursing spell. Buffy wasn't sure she trusted it either, or that she trusted herself. Sometimes, she wasn't even sure she trusted Angel.

When he had been resouled, Angel had had no memory of what had happened. It could have made things simpler, but it didn't, quite the contrary. He had asked her to tell him what he couldn't remember, to help him understand why he was on the mansion's floor, chained, with the Scoobies doing spells over him, and Spike looking at him as if he were the devil and his savior all rolled into one. Buffy hadn't been able to tell him. She knew now that Spike had, and Angel's pain and guilt about what he had done were obvious. She tried to spend time with him, comfort him; but it wasn't always easy, especially when she was the one needing to be comforted. They were taking things slow. There had been a few late night patrols, but not enough talking as far as Buffy was concerned. She didn't know what, if anything, Angel felt for her now. They hadn't picked up things were they had left off with Angelus' intrusion. Instead, they had started again from square one, and sometimes, it felt as if they'd never get any further than that.

As soon as he and Buffy reached the mansion, Spike retreated to his room before the usual show could make him gag. He had seen the Slayer and Angel do their act practically every night since his grand-sire had returned, and every night it was worse. She came to the mansion after patrol, spent an hour or two with the big brooder, tried to make him talk when it was clearly the last thing Angel wanted to do. Or maybe not the last. Spike had never seen them do much more than hold hands. It was downright sickening.

Not that he wanted them to do anything more than hold hands, of course.

They were playing a game, both of them, pretending they were old friends getting reacquainted after a long absence, pretending they didn't still want each other. Didn't really work. It was clear to anyone but the most obtuse that the attraction was still there. They both wished things would go back to what they had once shared; but they both were too scared to even try to reach out for it and see if it was possible. And that was nauseating to Spike. If they had fallen in bed together, he could have accepted it. Not been happy about it, but not surprised either. But to see them dance around each other, pretending they didn't want more and being miserable for no other reason than because they were inflicting it upon themselves.

One good thing had happened with Angel's return. The brunet apparently had a little money stored away, and in itself, it had been a surprise, although not as much as the fact that he was now paying for both their blood. They hadn't talked much since Spike had explained to him the events during Angelus' little stroll, and the blond could see that his grand-sire was wary of him, which made his generosity even stranger. Spike still planned to ask the questions that burned his lips, about the soul, how to make it ache less, how to simply survive; but there had never been a good time so far. Angel was always brooding, or with Buffy, or in his room, and none of it helped to start a conversation. So instead, Spike took his time, telling himself that he was simply waiting for Angel to adjust himself to his soul. Cheap booze bought with the cash he didn't spend on blood helped to make the time go faster. Drunkenness was a blessed state of being, freeing him from the less than pleasant guilt he still wasn't getting used to as well as the crappy soap opera playing out in his own house - no, not his, Angel's. The claim hadn't been made in words, but it was all too clear from the way Angel had taken to cleaning it, even getting a sofa and armchair from wherever.

Drunkenness was a blessed state of being, but it was also difficult to achieve with only one bottle of bad scotch.

Having emptied said bottle, Spike put his boots and duster back on with a little more difficulty than usual and frowned as he checked his pockets. Enough to get a bottle, even two if he picked the cheapest brand, but definitely not enough to last long. Scowling, he walked out of his room, trying both to steady his uneven stride and to ignore the not-couple on his way out of the mansion. Unfortunately, the not-couple didn't ignore him.

"Where are you going?" the Slayer called before he had reached the door. "Vampire gang wants you dust, remember?"

He stopped with his hand on the door handle, the muscles in his arms shaking from holding it too tight. The battle in him was raging. Part of him wanted the fight, the possibility of coming across the gang again and being dust before morning came. But another part, a louder part, refused to take the easy way out.

"At least if I'm dust I won't have to look at you two anymore," he growled.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Buffy replied instantly, defensive as always.

He turned to face them. They had been all cozy, sitting on the new sofa by the fire, but now the Slayer was on her feet, arms crossed and eyes storming.

"It means," he replied slowly, fighting his uncooperative tongue to enunciate each word precisely, "that it makes me sick to see the act you're playing. Making googly-eyes at each other."

"We are not."

". and pretending you aren't," he finished as if he hadn't been interrupted, his words becoming quicker and more slurred as he came to stand in front of her. "Bad stuff happened, got that, I was there too. Now you're trying to pretend it didn't, not talking about it and ignoring that everyone sees Angelus rather than Angel. Even you, Slayer. Fuck, even Angel does it, don't you peaches? It's fine with me. Not going around calling myself William. You were right, Slayer, I'm not different. Soul or not, I'm the same man inside; it's time we all stopped pretending. Angelus could have loved you, if he hadn't been so bloody scared of what it meant. And now your dear Angel is just as scared, and you."

The brunet finally reacted, getting up and glaring at Spike as he ordered him to be quiet.

"You have no idea what you're talking about," Angel spat. "You've had a soul for a few months, and you think you have it all figured out? You think it'll make it hurt any less to help the Slayer do her job? You haven't begun to learn. And you don't know a damn thing about love either. Just because you were with Dru since she made you, you think that makes you an expert? She didn't even."

Spike's reaction was instinctive. And like so many times before with Angelus, he lashed out at the implied insult about his relationship with Drusilla. His fist was blocked inches from Angel's face by the Slayer's deceptively small hand.

"I think you need to sober up," she said coldly. "You're obviously not thinking straight."

"And you're thinking too much!" he shouted, pulling out of her grip and storming away from them. "You two look at each other and I can practically hear you think! Wondering if you can forget and forgive, if there's too much in your past to be more than friends, or if you'll end up hating each other because it all gets so blurred. Hey, newsflash. You're not friends. You'll never be friends. You'll be in love till it kills you both. You'll fight, and you'll shag, and you'll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends. Love isn't brains, children, it's blood... blood screaming inside you to work its will."

Hand clenched over his own aching heart, he watched them, standing side by side, looking at him as if he were insane. Too blind to see they were more insane than he was. Shaking his head in disgust, he strode out of the mansion, leaving them to their game of pretend.

The vampire in front of him twitched in nervousness, and Mayor Wilkins sighed. He was beginning to regret his decision of employing vampires. The same sense of initiative that had interested him in Mr. Trick in the first place had now proved to be more than a slight inconvenience.

"Now, explain to me again why you thought it would be a good idea to rouse the Slayer's suspicions that vampires in this town are anything but organized," he asked pleasantly. "And while you're at it, try to persuade me that you'll never do something stupid behind my back again. By all means, be convincing. I hate to have dust all over my office. It's very unsanitary."

Angel, in all of his incarnations, had and still has a problem with letting people get close to him. Got a whole theory about that and how it played a part in Angelus' obsession with the Slayer. Angel had allowed her to get close, too close, close enough to make him feel human, and that just set Angelus off once he was back. It didn't help that his demon had lost the plot somewhere after a century of being caged. I had seen the same thing before, with Darla, Dru, even me. Periods of showering us with attention followed by sheer brutality once his interest reached a certain point. Angelus refused to feel anything that might have even remotely resembled love, claiming demons could not know the feeling. Angel followed the same path, simply shifting his arguments to say he wasn't worthy of being loved, couldn't give the other person's what they deserved. Buffy learned about his feelings soon enough.

I guess it's not just a demon thing though, that inability to accept and enjoy what is freely given to you. Humans also get hurt in this game. Like the Witch and Harris. They played with fire and got burnt; burnt their loved ones in the process. I had seen it coming - smelled it, in fact, as their scents were more of each other's than of their respective crushes - but it had never been my business to interfere with their choices, and I couldn't make myself care much about the crash when it came. I had my own deep aches by then.

I had thought Angel's presence would help me. Thought he'd be able to share with me whatever he had learned about being souled in the past hundred years -bloody bastard. I still haven't decided if he has learned nothing or if he simply is too much of a bastard to share. I had thought also that having someone like me around would make things easier. I am not one for loneliness. Angel's return made me feel lonelier than I had even been with Angelus around. The bloody idiot would barely talk to me at all, and that night when he finally did it was to basically rip me to shreds. And there was the matter of the Slayer, still in love but so afraid of what might happen if the curse hadn't really been fixed, spending ever more time with the poof, and in consequence less with the poor dupe who had a crush on her.

I was set on leaving town when I left the mansion the next night under Angel's silent stare. I didn't believe I had it in me to fight once more with him over a woman who had clearly already chosen. I didn't believe I could stay and not eventually make a fool of myself. Of course I had to stop and say goodbye to Dawn and Joyce. And of course they talked me out of leaving Sunnyhell.


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