Author’s Notes: It’s no secret that I have a love/hate relationship with Season 6 of Buffy. On the one hand, it spurred me to both seek out and write fanfic, so that’s good. On the other hand, it made me genuinely dislike—if not hate—characters I had loved. In any case, the inspiration for this story came from several conversations with jen_nsync_landl, talesofspike, spikereader, and Jennifer Crusie’s essay in Seven Seasons of Buffy . Because her interpretation of that last scene in Smashed is so crucial to the story, I’ve reproduced it below. Again, without permission, so please don’t sue.
“In what was evidently one of the great botched metaphors in the history of storytelling, Buffy and Spike consummate their relationship and demolish a derelict mansion in their throes. Houses are a common symbol for people in stories…and this one seems to clearly represent Buffy’s once rich but now derelict past life. She has died in one life and been resurrected into a new one, but she’s clinging to the past, living in the decaying shell of her former existence, an old life that must be rejected before she can live fully in the new world. When she embraces Spike, she embraces the dark side of her destiny, an adult rejection of the simplistic good/evil universe of her childhood, freeing herself to move into the future…Their consummation takes them to the deepest levels, both symbolically and literally as they fall into the basement, and leaves Buffy standing in a shaft of light in the morning, reborn. As metaphoric scenes go, it’s one of the most powerful in the history of the series. Except that’s evidently not what the writers had in mind, since they insisted in interviews that the wreck symbolized the relationship as a bad choice.” ~Jennifer Crusie, “Dating Death,” excerpted from Seven Seasons of Buffy
So that’s my question. What if Crusie’s interpretation was right? What if that marked the beginning of something good? And, because I’m a therapist by training I’ll ask, what if that was just the kind of release Buffy needed to be able to move forward, at least a little bit at a time?
I liked some of the themes the writers were trying to explore in S6. I still want to look at growing up, being an adult, dealing with the daily stuff that can kill you slowly. I also want to take a new look at what it means to desire control badly enough that you’ll take it, what it means to love somebody enough to spend your life with them, and how friendship can get you through the worst times of your life.
And it’s about hope, because we wouldn’t have a prayer of surviving this world without it.
Chapter 1: Release
“Call you up in the middle of the night/Like a firefly without a light/You were there like a blowtorch burning/I was a key that could use a little turning/So tired that I couldn’t even sleep/So many secrets I couldn’t keep/I promised myself I wouldn’t weep/One more promise I couldn’t keep…Can you help me remember how to smile?/Make it somehow all seem worthwhile/How on earth did I get so jaded?/Life’s mystery seems so faded… And everything seems cut and dried ,/ Day and night, earth and sky,/Somehow I just don’t believe it…” ~Soul Asylum, “Runaway Train”
Buffy awoke with a start. It was the first time in months that she hadn’t dreamt of waking up in her coffin and clawing her way out.
It was also the first time in years that she’d woken with no idea of where she was.
She took a deep breath, the previous night’s activities coming back to her slowly. Buffy stood, wrapping her skirt around her and stepping into the light that streamed down from the hole in the ceiling. Apparently, she and Spike had literally brought the house down.
She turned slowly to look at him, laid out on the floor, naked and unashamed. It hit her then—what she’d done. She’d had sex with Spike. A lot. In an abandoned building. The Slayer had screwed the Slayer of Slayers into a wall—and the floor. Buffy could see her marks on his torso and face.
“Oh, God, what have I done?”
Spike’s brow creased, and his eyes reflected a mixture of concern and anger. “You wanted this last night.” It was an accusation as much as a reminder.
She had. Buffy had wanted him so badly she could taste it. She’d wanted to let go for a moment—to release that image that everyone seemed so determined to wrap her up in. Buffy wanted to know what it was like to taste death, and paradoxically, to taste life all at the same time.
Wasn’t that what sleeping with Spike meant? That she was embracing death—and yet he was the most alive person she knew. He was the only one who hadn’t made any demands of her since she’d been back. At least, he hadn’t made any demands until she’d kissed him. After that, all Spike wanted was to talk about it.
Buffy didn’t have the words.
Spike stood, approaching her cautiously. Buffy turned away from him, hiding herself from his view, even though it was a futile gesture. Spike had always been able to see her. Carefully avoiding the sunbeams, he put a tentative hand on her shoulder, knowing that it could go either way at the moment. The Slayer could turn on him, deny everything that had passed between them, and declare that it would never happen again, just as she’d done with their kisses—chaste when compared to last night.
Or she could finally let him in, as he’d thought she was doing. It was impossible to tell.
Her shoulders were shaking under his hand, and he reached out to cup the back of her neck, tugging gently to get her to step back from the light a bit. He knew he couldn’t do her any good if he went up in flames. “Come on, pet. ‘ s gonna be okay.”
“How is it ever going to be okay?” she demanded, turning.
For one brief moment Spike was certain that she was going to stake him. Instead, she took a step forward, leaning her tear-streaked face against his bare chest. Spike could feel her hot tears, her warm skin, her shaking form. As far as he knew, this was the first time Buffy had allowed herself to cry since getting dragged out of heaven.
Spike was fairly sure that the last thing a guy wanted after his first night with the woman of his dreams was her sobbing in his arms. It made him uncomfortable—and oddly touched. Buffy’s weeping in front of him seemed far more intimate than anything they’d done the night before.
He only wished there was something he could tell her, some promise that he could give.
Buffy suddenly pulled back from him, the waterworks ending as quickly as they’d begun. “I have to go.”
“Dawn’s been alone all night,” she said, searching frantically for her discarded clothing. “She’s probably wondering where I am.”
Spike sighed. “And I’m stuck here for the day.” At her questioning glance, he waved at the patch of sunlight. “No way out.” He raised an eyebrow. “You could stay.”
“I can’t, Spike,” Buffy said irritably. “Not when Dawn has no idea where I am.”
He grunted, finding his jeans and pulling them on with an angry snap of the fabric. “Right. This is where you give your ‘this’ll never happen again’ speech. Spare me.”
“Have you not been listening to me?” she demanded. “I have responsibilities, Spike. I can’t just spend the whole day with you.” Buffy straightened out her clothing, knowing that she probably looked a complete mess. “Look, I’ll come back later with some blood or something. Before sunset.”
Spike’s eyes were wary. “Why?”
She rolled her eyes. “I figured you’d probably want to talk .”
The way she said it, he’d have thought it was a dirty word. Spike was silent, not knowing quite what to say in response. “Yeah, it’d be nice.”
“Then I’ll see you later.”
Buffy started the climb out of the rubble, hearing his voice call out behind her. “It was good, wasn’t it?”
She didn’t turn around, whispering, “Best damn night of my life.”
Buffy knew she probably ought to be feeling guilty. It certainly wasn’t something she could ever have imagined doing. Having sex with Spike was wrong.
And why the hell should she care if it was?
She’d lost herself last night. For hours, she’d had no thoughts of heaven, of not having enough money, of worrying over Dawn. There had only been her and Spike and the moment.
That’s when the guilt hit. It wasn’t because it was Spike she was sleeping with; it was because she knew he loved her—and Buffy had no idea what she felt for him. He was the guy that kept her steady, the one who listened, but she had no idea if there was any more to it than that.
She had to talk to him. Buffy had to tell him that whatever was between them—it wasn’t what he thought. It couldn’t be.
Buffy reached the front door just as Tara was coming out, and she stopped the other girl with a hand on her arm. ” Tara ? Is everything okay?”
“I-it’s f-fine,” she stuttered. “I-I stayed with Dawn l-last night, and W-w-willow just got back.”
Buffy frowned. “Do you—can we talk sometime? Maybe here isn’t a good place, but—”
“We could meet at the Espresso Pump,” Tara suggested, her own discomfort forgotten when she caught sight of Buffy’s eyes. The Slayer looked haunted. “This afternoon maybe? I should be done at the library by four.”
“Yeah, that should work,” Buffy said, sounding distracted. She was trying to work out when she would be able to manage visiting Spike, and how she was going to placate Dawn.
And whether she should do anything about Willow .
“Buffy, are you okay?”
Buffy met Tara ‘s eyes, her lips curving up in a smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “Yeah. I’m good.”
“We’ll talk later,” Tara said, squeezing the Slayer’s hand.
Buffy entered the house, going straight into the kitchen where Willow and Dawn were standing, looking at each other a little awkwardly. Dawn turned to her, her eyes widening in relief. “Buffy! Are you okay? You’re limping.”
“I’m okay,” Buffy assured her, levering herself down onto one of the stools. She ached all over. “I was just out—with Spike. We had a big crowd of demons to take care of.”
Dawn let out a breath. “Did he get hurt?”
Buffy shook her head, holding back a bitter laugh. “No, he’s fine. About as banged up as I am, but no worse.”
“You were with Spike?” Willow asked, incredulous. “I didn’t think you liked patrolling with him.”
Buffy raised her head and looked Willow straight in the eyes. “Spike watches my back. And, we have a lot in common these days.”
“Like what?” Willow asked.
Buffy raised her eyebrows. “Well, for starters he’s the only other person I know who still dreams about waking up in a coffin.” Buffy could see the hurt flash in Willow ‘s eyes, but for once she didn’t care. It was all true. She was tired of pretending that everything was okay for her friends’ sake.
She turned to look at Dawn. “I’m going to go take a hot bath, try to get rid of some of these aches. Do you want to pick a movie to watch?”
Dawn’s whole face brightened. “Yeah, sure.”
“Something low key?” Buffy requested. “I may end up falling asleep, but I’m still feeling wired right now.”
“You got it, Buffy,” Dawn replied happily. She watched as her sister limped out of the room, and then looked over at Willow . The witch still appeared stunned. “Don’t tell me you didn’t know Buffy was still having nightmares.”
Willow shook her head. “That was months ago, Dawnie. She should be over it by now.”
“That was, like, Buffy’s greatest fear since she was little,” Dawn replied. “Even I know that.” She left the room to find a movie that would help her sister get to sleep. Buffy wanted to hang out with her, even after spending all night fighting monsters.
Maybe things would be okay after all.
As the sun sank lower in the sky, Spike became more and more certain that Buffy was going to stand him up. It was getting late in the day, and she’d promised to come by sundown. It didn’t look like that was going to happen.
He still wasn’t quite sure what to think about the Slayer’s reaction upon waking. Sure, she’d run from him, but there was good reason, and Spike didn’t think it had sounded like an excuse. Buffy had said she needed to get to Dawn, and he could understand why the Bit would be worried.
Spike couldn’t help but think that there was going to be more fallout from their tryst, though. Buffy had promised to talk to him, and he didn’t think he was going to like what he would hear. The whole night had been a bloody revelation. If she cut him off after this, if she refused to speak to him or have anything to do with him, Spike knew it could end up driving him just a bit crazy. She needed him. He was sure of it.
He’d thought she was in his blood before. It was nothing compared to how he felt now.
Buffy climbed down carefully, picking her way through the rubble to hand him a thermos. Spike could feel the heat through the metal. She’d warmed up his blood for him. He looked down at the metal container, trying to hide a wince. “So, I’m guessin’ that whatever you’ve got to say to me is either really good or really bad.”
“We can’t do this.”
“Right. Really bad then.” Spike turned away from her, wondering whether he could crush the thermos if he squeezed hard enough.
He heard Buffy take a deep breath. “I’m not going to tell you that what we’re doing is wrong. I don’t know if it is or not anymore, and I don’t care either way.”
Spike faced her once again. “Then what are you sayin’?”
“I don’t love you.” Spike’s jaw tensed, the muscle ticking. He didn’t blame her for not loving him. It just hurt like a bitch to hear. “I like being around you. When I’m with you, it’s easier to forget that I hate being here.”
He tilted his head. So far, it wasn’t so bad. Buffy was giving him something to work with. “I don’t understand.”
“That’s just it, Spike. I know—how you feel about me. I can deny it. I can tell you that you’re imagining things, but there are some things you just can’t fake.” Buffy forced herself to meet his eyes. “From what Dawn’s said—I know what you did for her while I was gone.”
Spike looked uncomfortable. “Look, Slayer, I—”
“Let me finish,” Buffy said. “I know how you feel, which is why I can’t do this. I don’t know what I feel for you, but it isn’t love, and if we keep doing this I’d be using you to make myself feel better. I’d be using you to forget.”
“Don’t I get a say in all this?” he demanded. “You think I don’t know that you don’t love me? You think I can’t see it? I know what I’m getting myself into, Buffy.”
Buffy shook her head emphatically. “No, you don’t. Spike, I—”
“Give it time,” he said. “You don’t know. In another few months, you might have changed your mind, an’ I’m not goin’ anywhere.”
“I can’t love anyone!” Buffy burst out. “I have to make myself talk to Dawn, and to my friends. I don’t have the energy to give you anything. I don’t even know that I’ll be able to love anyone again. Everything is wrong here. It all hurts, and it’s too bright and too—it’s too everything, and not enough at the same time, and I’m not enough! You’re going to figure out that I’m not going to love you, and then you’ll get pissed off and resentful…and you’ll go away.”
The words poured forth as though a dam had burst. Spike had managed to crack her mask somehow, and now there wasn’t any hiding. Buffy couldn’t seem to stop herself.
Spike started laughing. “Please tell me that you’re not comparing me to Captain Cardboard, because I might just have to kill you for that.”
“You’ll leave because I can’t give you what you need,” Buffy said, unfazed by his laughter. She was too intent on her own pain to notice that she’d just given Spike what he would probably consider the ultimate insult. “I was enough in heaven, Spike. I was complete, I was okay. I felt loved, and now that I’m here, I know that I have to…”
Tears were threatening again, and Buffy felt Spike’s hands on her shoulders, squeezing gently until she looked at him. “You’re enough.” She shook her head silently. “Stayed here when you were dead an’ I didn’t think you had a chance of comin’ back, didn’t I? What makes you think I’d run off when you’re alive?”
Buffy looked away. “Spike—”
“Look, you want to go back to what we were doin’ before, okay,” Spike said, his face twisting in disgust. He wasn’t sure who he was angrier at: Buffy or himself. “I’ll take what I can get.”
Buffy gave him a half laugh. “Yeah, right.”
“No, that is right, Summers ,” Spike nearly snarled. “Told you. I’m sticking around for you , not to get in your pants. Won’t deny that I’ll probably have a hard-on every time you’re anywhere close, but what else is new?”
“That’s not what I want,” Buffy said softly. “I just needed you to know how I feel. I needed—I have to be honest with someone.”
Spike snorted. “Might as well be with the guy who doesn’t exist.”
“You exist.” Buffy pulled away from him. “I have to go.”
Spike released her. “Yeah, sure, whatever.” He was more disappointed that she wasn’t staying than he would have liked to admit. “Go do whatever you have to do.”
“I’m meeting Tara ,” Buffy said, feeling it necessary to give him an explanation, although she knew she didn’t owe him one. “I needed to talk to someone, and Willow…”
” Willow ‘s what?” Spike asked suspiciously. He’d always liked the witch, but raising the dead made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. She was getting more powerful than he liked to think about.
Buffy swallowed her words. She wanted to talk to someone about Willow , but she didn’t think that was going to be Spike. Then again, if not Spike, who else? She hated to burden Tara with her ex-girlfriend’s problems, and Xander and Anya were planning their wedding. Dawn was too young, of course. Who else was she going to tell?
“We could talk later,” she suggested. “On patrol.”
“Sure, if that’s what you want,” Spike said, cursing himself for a fool. He wanted to get back under her skirt—well, pants right now. He wanted to remind her of all she’d be missing if she didn’t come back to him.
“I have to go,” she repeated.
As she was leaving, Spike called out after her, “What did you tell them? Dawn and your friends, I mean.” Buffy turned, clearly unsure about what he was referring to. “About last night.”
“I told them I was fighting demons with you,” Buffy replied, leaving before he could ask more questions.
Maybe it wasn’t the entire truth, but Spike thought he could live with that.
Tara wasn’t sure what to expect from Buffy. Since she’d left Willow , Tara hadn’t seen much of anyone in the group. She wished she could say that she was surprised, but she wasn’t. Tara had always suspected that her membership in the Scoobies was contingent upon her relationship with Willow .
Well, Dawn accepted her, of course, but the girl was hungry for a little mothering. Over the summer, she’d treated Tara as a surrogate aunt, just as she’d treated Spike like a—something. Tara just knew that they were close, closer than you’d think was normal for a vampire and a teenage girl. With Buffy gone, they’d made up some sort of odd little family.
Now that Buffy was back, everything had changed.
It wasn’t entirely the Slayer’s fault. Tara had watched the fault lines emerge as soon as Buffy had returned. She was the planet around which their world had turned, and it had been a wrench to change things. It had completely changed the dynamics of their relationships with one another.
The magic had changed Willow .
” Tara ?” Buffy stood next to her table. “Sorry I’m late. I had to—” She paused, then sighed. “I had to go see Spike.”
“Oh, that’s okay,” Tara assured her. “Did you—did you get some sleep?”
“Some,” Buffy replied. “Dawn put a movie in and we crashed on my bed. Or I crashed. Dawn just watched the movie.”
Tara smiled. “It’s good that you guys were able to spend some time together. I know Dawn’s been kind of lonely recently.”
A pang of guilt hit Buffy. She knew she wasn’t being a very good sister. “Yeah.”
“What did you want to talk about?” Tara prodded gently.
Buffy looked down at her hands. She had wanted to go to Tara because she seemed the one least likely to initiate an intervention. Buffy didn’t want an intervention. She wanted someone to tell her what the hell was going on.
Besides, as weird as Willow was about magic these days, it didn’t seem like a good idea to approach her.
“Something happened last night,” Buffy began. “It—Spike can hurt me.”
Tara ‘s eyes widened. “He hurt you?”
Buffy shook her head quickly. “No, not exactly. We were arguing, and I hit him, and Spike hit me back. I guess the chip just doesn’t work on me.” She winced. “He said I came back wrong.”
“Oh.” Tara bit her lip. “I can look into it for you,” she offered. “Can I ask why you didn’t go to Willow with this first?”
Buffy was silent for long enough that Tara didn’t think she was going to get an answer. When the Slayer did speak finally, she sounded both angry and bewildered. ” Willow hasn’t said anything about me being in heaven. She hasn’t apologized, or even acted like she was sorry at all. She acts like I’m supposed to be over it by now, and I’m not.”
Tara could have guessed as much. “Buffy, I’m really sorry for my part in it. If I had known—”
“I know,” Buffy replied, cutting off the other woman’s apology. “That’s just it. I’m not so sure Willow would be able to say the same. And there’s more.”
Tara braced herself mentally. “Okay.”
“I slept with Spike.”
The blonde witch just raised her eyebrows. “And?”
It was probably the best reaction Buffy could have gotten from anyone. No anger, no shock, nothing more than concerned interest. “That’s pretty much it right there,” Buffy admitted. “Last night, it wasn’t demons. It was—us. We—things got a little rough.”
“Did you enjoy it?” Tara asked bluntly.
Buffy let out a little laugh. “Yeah, I really did. It’s never been like that before. Spike—if anyone else knew, they’d hate me. They would tell me I’m wrong, I’m messed up; there would be an intervention.”
“Buffy, there’s nothing wrong with sleeping with Spike as long as you both want it,” Tara said. “I know how the others feel, but Spike’s done a lot of good. He was here all summer, and he took care of Dawn. He cares for you. I believe that.”
“I do too.” Buffy laughed. “I can’t believe I just said that, but I knew it before—before I died, you know? I asked him to be ready to die for Dawn, and he said he would. No hesitation. He was the only one I could ask.” She looked right into Tara ‘s eyes. “Spike’s the only one I trust right now, and I don’t know what that makes me. Does that make me evil?”
“No!” Tara said vehemently, careful to keep her voice down. “Buffy, you’re not evil. I don’t think Spike’s all that evil these days. He’s done a lot of good.”
“I don’t love him,” Buffy objected. “I’m—I slept with him, and I don’t love him. Doesn’t that make it wrong?”
“I guess that would depend on whether or not Spike’s okay with the situation,” Tara replied. “Sometimes, I think it’s okay to need another person even if you can’t give them anything right then. It doesn’t mean that won’t change.”
“And if it never changes?” she asked.
Tara gave her a sympathetic smile. “Maybe you should let Spike worry about that.”
Buffy didn’t see Spike anywhere near the abandoned house, and calling inside hadn’t brought an answer. The last thing she wanted to do was to try and crawl down into the basement in the dark. She’d promised that they would meet for patrol, though. They needed to talk.
She’d talked more today than she had in months.
It had felt good, though—to tell Tara what had been going on, to come clean to someone other than Spike. Buffy felt a little guilty for that, too, since she hadn’t been there for Tara after her break-up with Willow . And, really, their problems had been more of Willow ‘s creation than Tara ‘s.
Something inside her had snapped last night. No, not snapped—broken free. Buffy still wasn’t sure what it all meant, and she wasn’t any happier, but the mask was gone and the gloves had come off. What did it matter anyway? Technically, she shouldn’t even be alive. Maybe she should look at this as a chance to live her life exactly the way she wanted to this time around.
Buffy turned to see the flare of a lighter that briefly illuminated Spike’s face as he lit a cigarette. “Hey. Where’d you go?”
He held up a fresh pack of cigarettes before shoving them in the pocket of his duster. “Ran out awhile ago.”
“I would have brought you some if I’d known.”
Spike raised an eyebrow. “You know, Buffy, don’t take this the wrong way, but… Why the hell are you bein’ so considerate?”
“Because I want to,” she replied, feeling an enormous sense of freedom. Buffy was going to be nice to Spike. She was going to sleep with Spike because he seemed to be okay with that scenario. And if her friends found out, Buffy would have no problem blaming the whole thing on them for bringing her back in the first place. If they’d left her in heaven, she wouldn’t have had a chance to do either, would she?
“You hit your head last night?” Spike asked. He reached out to tip her head, apparently looking for any sign of damage. “Or maybe you’re sick?”
“Not sick,” Buffy replied. “And I don’t have a concussion, if that’s what you’re worried about. It’s just that I’ve decided I don’t care anymore.”
“Care about what?”
“Any of this.” Buffy waived a hand. “Why should I? I’m supposed to be dead.”
Spike frowned in concern, not sure that he liked where this was going. “You’re not goin’ apathetic on me, are you, pet?”
“No, Spike,” Buffy replied. “Apathetic is what I’ve been for the last few months. This is something else altogether.” She smiled, and it was a bittersweet expression—for once more sweet than bitter. “I’ll let you know what it is when I figure it out myself.”