Personal Attention by Jaesha

ReviewsRating: NC-17

Summary: After Spike Giles' wife leaves him for another man he falls into despair. Will Buffy be able to save him before he destroys himself?

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Chapter 29: Up and Down Again

Chapter Notes: Wow, it's been a while, hasn't it? I swear I haven't dropped off the face of the planet. I've just had a very bad case of writer's block. I am hoping this update means I am getting over it. In any case, enjoy. Love, Jae.


P.S. This one is for the lovely and talented damperandspoons. I told you'd I'd update...it just took me a frakking long time. ; - )


Tingley Coliseum- Albuquerque, New Mexico

Stepping into the huge arena did nothing to make Spike's decision about that night's show any easier; in fact, it made it ten times more difficult. His stomach pitched violently as he gazed across the seats that staggered almost up to the rafters, thousands of them in neat rows that wrapped around the inside of the building and surrounded him like a ring of flames. He could see a face in each uncomfortable chair, fans who had paid to see a show tonight and who may be sorely disappointed depending on his final say on the matter.

It wasn't bloody fair. Why put this decision on his shoulders? He didn't want to be the one who let everyone down.

Of course, he had to face the facts. Either way, the fans would be getting the short end of the stick and it would be all his doing. If he cancelled the show, the fans would be upset, but if he decided to bite the bullet and perform tonight, they wouldn't be getting his best anyway. And that was the crux of his dilemma. No matter what he did, people were going to be unhappy.

He rubbed at the tense muscle between his eyebrows and shut his eyes for a second. There was no sense in beating himself up over this. After all, he couldn't change it, couldn't escape the inevitable, and he certainly couldn't wish it away.

"Do you want me to get you anything?"

Spike glanced at Buffy, who was walking beside him as they made their way to the stage, and sighed. Things between them had been strained, at best, since they'd left the hotel in Phoenix. In fact, the question she had just asked him was the most she'd said in hours.

"Buffy," he began in a tired, thoroughly frustrated tone, "you don't have t' get me anythin'. I can get-"

"I know you can get it yourself. I know, Spike." She suddenly stopped walking and grabbed his forearm to halt his movement. "I'm trying to be helpful, that's all. Nothing more. I'm worried about you and I just...I just want to help."

God, he felt like an ass. His exhaustion was making him irrational and, he could admit, a tad bit irritable. Not that his being tired was an excuse for lashing out at her, but it did make it a whole heap more difficult to control.

"Fuck," he muttered, running a hand through his hair. His gaze met hers and he gave her an apologetic look. "I'm sorry. Buggerin'...I can't keep my head on straight."

She smiled brightly. "So, do you want me to get you something?"

"Actually, I could use some caffeine. Lots an' lots o' caffeine. With extra sugar. You sure it's no trouble, luv? 'Cause I could-"

"Spike," she said with a sigh.

He tossed his hands up in surrender. "All right, all right."

With a triumphant grin, she turned to walk away.

"Hey, Buffy?" he called out before she got more than a few steps from him.

"Yeah?"

Shoving his hands into his jeans' pockets, he looked up at her through his eyelashes. His eyes narrowed into dark slits as he studied her, all the while trying to figure out where her thoughts were now. Sometimes she was so difficult to read.

"Are we...okay?" Or did I fuck this one up for good.

She blinked, her easy expression faltering slightly. "I thought about asking you the same thing."

"And? Where does that leave us?"

"I don't..." She swallowed hard and glanced at the floor. "You said you wanted to take things slow. So here I am. Going slow." There was no anger in her tone; it was just a simple statement of truth.

Spike felt the breath he was holding release from his tense body and he visibly slumped in relief. "I wish I could take back this mornin'," he told her, the hint of a smile playing at the corners of his mouth.

She shrugged. "Well, you can't and neither can I."

"Buffy, I-"

"Look, I'm not going to pretend I know what's going on in your head, Spike. I don't really understand what happened this morning or what your reasons are for wanting to slow things down. Maybe I'm just too..." Her voice drifted into silence and it took her a moment to finish her thought. "Maybe I'm just too stupid to get it."

"Don't say that, luv."

Lifting her head, he could see she had on her brave face, a kind of grit-your-teeth-and-just-deal-with-it look that made her seem proud even though Spike knew without a shadow of a doubt she was feeling anything but right now.

"I don't know how to do this. I'm out of my league here with this whole relationship thing, Spike. But I'm willing-" Her mouth snapped shut and she shook her head. "No, not willing. I'm determined to make this work. And I'm not saying it'll be easy because we both know it won't be, but I'm not going anywhere. So unless you decide that you don't love me anymore, then I guess you're stuck with me."

He should have been surprised by her sudden declaration, but a part of him had known it was coming. After all, this was who she was. Buffy Summers, a woman that stood her ground no matter what the odds were, who defied anyone who told her she couldn't. She had strength and a resolve so solid that it could take a beating from the ugliest of storms.

Hell, that resolve was what had taken him so long to break through to her, to make her see that she deserved to be loved and that their relationship was worth fighting for.

Oh, he wasn't kidding himself. There was a long road ahead of them and it wouldn't all be smooth sailing, but at least they'd gotten over the biggest hurdle in relatively one piece.

His tired legs moved slowly but with purpose as he walked towards her. She didn't back away even though he was so close to her that he could feel the body heat radiating from her paler-than-usual skin. Large hands reached up and cupped her cheeks, pulling her to him until their lips finally touched in a whisper-fine caress. His tongue gently teased the soft flesh of her mouth, asking for entry so he could taste her sweetness. She mewled and as her lips parted, her hands sought purchase on his lean hips.

He deepened the kiss and moved so that he could wrap his hands around her petite frame, dragging her against his body and basking in her warmth.

"That'll never happen, luv. I'll always love you. Never gonna give you a reason t' walk away."

******

Her head was swimming with images and bits and pieces of conversation, but nothing was coming together, nothing that would explain why Spike was suddenly putting on the brakes when he had been the one running red lights for weeks. She just couldn't wrap her brain around what had happened this morning especially not when she had offered him something she was positive he wanted.

Soft Bohemian-style indie music flowed through the warm and wonderfully smelling Starbucks and Buffy was suddenly very happy to be somewhere familiar even if it was just a chain-store selling overpriced coffee. Despite the time, it was uncommonly busy and she stood patiently at the end of a six person line, waiting for her turn at the register.

Life had been turned upside down and thrown over a sharp shoulder. She didn't know what was right or wrong anymore and everything she thought she knew was tossed into the clay until it was mashed and broken. It was all gray these days, blurred, swirled, but gray nonetheless.

And she had been a black and white girl for a long time.

It was her turn in line and she quickly gave the cashier her order before moving towards the corner and sitting down in one of the funky wooden chairs.

Looking back at the last few months of her life, she was startled by how much had changed, by how much she had changed. She was awash with all of these unfamiliar and uncontrollable emotions and she wasn't even trying to fight them anymore. The woman she was six months ago would never have let her guard down enough for that to happen. Of course, Buffy now knew that the person she used to be wasn't as infallible as she had once believed and had eventually let something permeate that hard exterior.

No, not something. Someone.

As much as she wanted to blame her current emotional instability on Spike, though, the truth was she had let him in. Willingly. She'd had every opportunity to run away from him and the feelings he stirred within her, but every time, every damn time, she had chosen to stay. All of that fighting and denying was nothing more than a last ditch effort to keep those walls up by the scared little girl inside, the one that feared the change to come. But it wasn't enough to make her walk away.

"Buffy," the barista called out as she set the finished coffees on the counter.

Standing up, Buffy walked to the counter and picked up the two cups before turning towards the small stand where the sugar was. She popped the lid on Spike's Venti quad-shot latte and started dumping the contents of the seven sugar packets she had ripped open into the creamy liquid. With a quick stir and two more sugar packets, she finally placed the lid back on the paper cup then grabbed her own.

She didn't think she'd ever been disappointed to leave a Starbucks before, but for some reason as she walked out the door, she wished she could have stayed just a little longer. Maybe she was a bit homesick. Not that she wanted to go home or that she didn't enjoy traveling, but with her life seemingly spinning out of control, she was looking for anything familiar to hold on to, to keep her steady.

The arena was only a couple blocks away and she made it back in no time at all. Finding Spike in the huge building took quite a bit longer.

The sounds of voices finally reached her ears as she turned down a long corridor in the endless maze of hallways and she jogged towards the door. With a soft knock, she pushed the heavy door open and peeked inside. It looked like a standard green room with a couple of couches and a coffee table in the middle. Spike and Oliver were sitting on one sofa, Anya and Xander on the other, and Oz was parked on the floor with his back against the cement wall.

Their conversation had a serious tone about it, not that Buffy was surprised. She knew what they were discussing: whether or not to cancel the show that night. She also knew that the decision rested primarily on Spike's shoulders and that it was weighing on him pretty heavily.

And she felt horrible about it.

He could argue about it all day long and he still wouldn't be able to convince her that she didn't have something to do with this whole thing. The poor man was exhausted beyond reason and it was her fault. All of his time was spent worrying about her, taking care of her, trying to make her see and he had completely worn himself out because of it. He needed a break. And maybe, she thought, he needed a break from her.

It only solidified her desire to get in and out as quickly as possible. They didn't need her there. She'd already caused enough trouble. Besides, it was none of her business what the band decided to do about tonight's show. She was just Spike's assistant...or girlfriend, rather...which meant she really had no right to even be involved in the discussion.

"Hi," she interrupted quietly as she stepped inside. "I'm just dropping Spike's coffee off and then I'll be out of your way."

Spike's mouth opened, but Oliver cut off what ever he was about to say. "Coffee? How do you bloody rate?"

"Jus' that special, I guess," Spike replied with a smirk.

Rushing across the room, Buffy set the cup on the table in front of Spike. As she turned to walk away, she felt a strong arm wrap around her waist and pull her backwards. She landed on the couch with an audible 'oof' and suddenly found herself wedged between the two Brits with Spike's arm holding her possessively. Glancing up, she gave Spike a perplexed look and he returned it with a sleepy smile.

He leaned in, his warm breath tickling her ear, and whispered, "Want you here with me, luv."

His voice sent shivers down her spine, making the hair stand up on her arms, and she couldn't find the power to refuse him. If he wanted her there, then she would be, no questions asked, no matter how out of place she felt. He needed support and she would be that for him.

"When could we reschedule the date, Anya?" Oliver asked, his expression hard in a way Buffy had never seen before.

Anya was furiously scrolling through her Blackberry and it took her a moment to find the information she was looking for. "March, maybe, but it'll be tight," she finally announced.

"Fuck," Oliver muttered. He sat forward and turned his attention to Spike. "Well, mate, that's what it is. So what's the verdict?"

Spike sighed heavily and slumped a little against the soft cushions. His eyes were red and shined with unshed tears as his lips formed into a grim line. "I really don't want to, but I think...yeah, let's cancel."

"Dude, it'll be fine. So the fans will be pissed? They'll get over it and we'll give them one hell of a show in March," Xander said, grinning, and trying his best to smooth over the difficult situation.

"Yeah," Spike mumbled roughly. "Still doesn't make me happy about doin' it though. We've already cancelled on them once. S'not soddin' fair."

Buffy wanted to say something that would make Spike feel better, but she couldn't think of anything. He was blaming himself for this even though it wasn't his fault and there wasn't a damn thing she could say or do that would change his mind.

"No, it's not fair, but I think I speak for everyone in this room when I say we'd rather lose a few fans over this than see you collapse from exhaustion. Xander's right, they'll get over it," Oliver told him. "Family first and sod all to the bloody rest."

Everyone was nodding in agreement to Oliver's statement and suddenly, Buffy felt like she was missing something. But just as she was going to ask about it, her cell phone rang. She pulled the annoying little thing out of her pocket and frowned when she didn't recognize the number popping up.

Knowing she was interrupting their conversation, Buffy politely excused herself and walked to the corner of the room before flipping the phone open.

"This is Buffy," she said even as her gaze remained locked on Spike.

"Sneaky poppets will get no supper."

Oh, hell...

"Dru?"

******

Spike's head shot up when he heard Buffy say his soon-to-be-ex-wife's name and anger began boiling in his gut.

"What do you want?" Buffy asked.

He didn't know what Dru was saying on the other end, most likely sodding nonsense, but what ever it was, it wasn't good judging from the look on Buffy's face. "That's not true, Dru!" she exclaimed.

Oliver smacked him in the shoulder and jerked his head in Buffy's direction. "Tell her to hang up, Will. Nothin' good can come from talking to that crazy bird."

His eyes narrowed on his friend. Like he needed anyone to point out that obvious fact. Besides, he could definitely do without Oliver telling him what to do; he was quite capable of figuring it out on his own.

Spike pushed himself off the couch and stalked towards Buffy. Stopping in front of her, he held his hand out and mouthed at her to give him the phone. It looked like she was going to refuse for a moment before her eyes widened and she pulled the phone away from her ear, mouth gaping open. He snatched the phone out of her hand and cautiously lifted it to hear what kind of ridiculous blathering Dru was spewing now.

"...never love you like he loved his princess. You'll always be in the shadow of the dark mountains."

"What the bloody fuck are you on about, Drusilla?"

"William? Is that you, my darling pri-"

"I'm not your darling anything!" he shouted into the phone.

Dru cooed softly, a sound which used to make him melt like warmed chocolate, but now it just made him sick to his stomach. "You'll always be mine, William. No matter what kind of mongrels you lay down with at night."

He wasn't sure what pissed him off more, that she was still insisting she had some sort of control over him or that she thought Buffy was beneath her. It didn't really matter. His fury was blind to the whys and hows, all it knew was release and he was about to do just that.

His tone was deadly calm as he spoke. "I don't know what kind o' game you're playin', Dru, an' I really couldn't care less. But I promise you, if you ever call Buffy again, if you even think about her, I'll make you wish you'd never met me. You're nothin' t' me."

Static-filled silence drifted from the speaker for several long seconds before she started cackling. It grew louder and louder until he finally had to pull the phone away from his ear. If he didn't think she was completely off her rocker before, this left little doubt in his mind.

"Nothing? Nothing, he says." She began to howl a disjointed tune that sounded a lot like one of his songs, only eerily off-key. "I'm everything. I sing the stars' song and I look down, see you crying blood like pretty men on crucifixes. It burns, doesn't it? You've no voice and all that's left is burning memories of things you can never have again. You are nothing. Nothing without the sweet muse of pain. I could give it back to you in a bird's breath, my sweet."

His heart was beating wildly in his chest. "An' you think I want that? Pain, torment? Do you think I ever wanted that, you soddin' crazy bint?"

"You crave the pain, William. You seek it out. Gluttonous for sound lashings, twisted and barbed lines cutting through you until your soul is left to rot out in the sunshine. You can't do it without me. Only I know how to make the hurt run deep," she said, a rumbling noise echoing through the phone, like a growl.

He laughed. "Baby, your cuts were only ever skin deep an' they're all healed up now."

"You need me, William."

"The fuck I do. I've got all I need right here," he replied, his gaze finally shifting back to Buffy. Her face was full of concern, but a smile was playing on her lips and Spike felt his heart soar.

"She'll never stay. Too many demons to slay."

"Then we'll slay 'em together," he replied. "Go back t' the great big git, Dru. I'm done with you."

"Willi-" Her voice was cut off when Spike snapped the phone shut.

When he looked up, everyone was staring at him. "Enjoy the show?" he asked them, his words doused in sarcasm.

"Like a train wreck, mate," Oliver said with a gleeful grin.

Adrenaline was pumping through his veins and he felt renewed in a way that promised a total crash later, but for right now, he was practically crawling out of his skin. Ready for a fight, ready for a shag, ready to scream out his frustrations, and since two of those things were not plausible options, he'd just have to settle for a good scream.

"Well, I might be good for one more of those tonight. If you're all still up for a show, then I'm ready and willin'."

******

The arena was packed, fans screaming in a deafening tidal wave that washed over the stage and filtered into the tunnels that ran behind the scenes. The floor hummed with the footwork of several thousand people, vibrating up through the walls and rattling the roof. A surge of power seemed to electrify the building in anticipation and impatient desire.

Buffy watched as Spike ran gel through his two-toned curls in front of the mirror. He was every bit the quintessential rocker tonight with a worn-to-softness print t-shirt that used to be black but now looked like soot and torn, dark blue jeans with a heavy chain that ran from one belt loop to his back pocket. There was a leather cuff with metal studs around his right wrist and several thick rings on his fingers, not to mention the thick silver rope necklace hanging loosely against his collarbone.

He was ready to put on a show, that was for damn sure.

"I hate when you're quiet like this."

She glanced at his reflection in the mirror and caught his eyes staring back at her. "As opposed to when you can't shut me up?" she asked jokingly.

Nodding, he turned around and leaned against the makeup counter, folding his lean arms over his chest. "Least when you're talkin' I can figure out what you're thinkin' about. When you're quiet, I have no bloody clue. Makes me nervous."

"There's nothing to worry about, I promise. I was just thinking that you looked ready to rock the house."

He chuckled, shaking his head. "I feel like I'm strung out on uppers an' can't get down. Not much else I can do other than go out there an' burn some of this energy off. I jus' hope I don't fuck up too bad."

"You won't. Besides, even if you did, they wouldn't care. Those people out there love you, Spike."

"Yeah?" He tilted his head to one side, his blue eyes sparkling, and then he pushed away from the counter and walked over to where she was standing. Reaching up, his hand caressed her cheek and he searched her eyes. "Now if only the people in here felt the same way."

She couldn't stop the roll of her eyes even if she wanted to. "Uh-yeah. That wasn't obvious at all."

"What can I say? I'm just a glutton for punishment," he replied with a grin. A grin that began to fade as quickly as had appeared.

"What's wrong?"

His mouth tightened, twisting into a grimace, and he dropped his hand with a loud smack against his thigh. "Jus' somethin' Dru said comin' back t' haunt me."

They hadn't talked about his conversation with Dru at all. Sure, she'd been standing there during the whole thing, but her knowledge of it was completely one-sided. What ever the crazy woman had said, Spike hadn't been happy about it, in fact, he seemed positively livid after he'd finally hung up the phone.

"And...?"

He swung his head to the left, staring at some non-existent thing on the cement floor. "She said I was gluttonous for pain, that I needed it. An' a part o' me wonders if she's not wrong. I mean, look at me; look at us. What are we bloody doin', Buffy? Love shouldn't hurt so much."

Swallowing hard, her chest heaving as it tried in vain to keep up with her racing heart, she slipped her hand over his arm and tugged on it until he finally looked at her.

"I don't want to hurt you, Spike. If being around me is-" Suddenly, her voice just wouldn't work anymore, wouldn't allow her to finish the sentence ping-ponging around in her brain. She shook her head, maybe to loosen her tongue or maybe to shake away the thought all together. "I meant what I said, Spike. I'm not giving up on this, not unless you tell me you don't want me anymore. I know I can't make up for all of the stuff I did or said. No apology will ever fix it, but I'm going to try and be better. I want to be better. For you."

"Buffy..." His voice was so soft that she barely heard him say her name. Soulful blue eyes gazed down at her, awe shining brightly from their fathomless depths. "I'll always want you, luv. The way I feel about you isn't goin' away any time soon, I can promise you that."

An almost-timid smile slid over her lips and she reached up, resting her fingers at the base of his neck where the corded muscles met with his shoulder. His skin was hot and the vein just beneath it was pulsing with quick rushing blood. She heard his breath catch in his lungs as her fingers began to rub at his flesh.

"I want to love you, Spike," she said, her tone low and smoky.

He squeezed his eyes shut, his head falling back slightly, and he made a sound deep in his throat that was a cross between a sigh and a moan. "If you're tryin' t' kill me, you're doin' a bloody fine job o' it," he finally replied several moments later.

"No, no killing intended." She drew in a large breath of air before continuing. "I just...just need you to know that I'm serious here, that I really do want to make this work. I'm tired of being so closed off and scared all of the time. And I...I trust you...with my heart."

His eyebrows furrowed together over his rapidly narrowing eyes and his jaw tensed up as he clenched his teeth. "Do you really mean that, Buffy? 'Cause, honestly, luv? I don't know that I could take it if you change your mind. If you don't really mean it, then-"

"I mean it. I want this."

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