Spike’s Girl

Rating:
Total Chapters: 3

“That vamp in the bathroom?” Buffy says. “She was with you?” What happens when worlds collide.


Author’s Notes: Written for the seasonal_spuffy community on Livejournal.com. So of course it’s Spike/Buffy. Set firmly post-Not Fade Away, so, spoilers for everything.

Completed: December 2005

Thanks: The Deadly Hook has, once again, nailed the fine art of beta-reading. If this is good, it’s because she coddled me along.


Part One

He’s had almost three good years with Clio when she goes into a club toilet and doesn’t come out.

After twenty minutes of waiting, of course Spike goes looking for her, and of course he starts asking all the women going in and out if they’ve seen her, and the third or fourth one he grabs looks scared and babbles incoherently about how this one chick asked this other chick to lend her the use of her mascara and the other chick sort of popped her in the chest and then she just, like, crumbled away into fucking nothing, man, I couldn’t believe it, and then the second chick just walked out of the bathroom like nothing happened. The woman looks at Spike like maybe he can explain her own story to her, but he’s frozen. For a moment they just gape at each other, Spike and the stranger who saw his darling die.

Clio. His little Clio, who’s never tasted human blood. Fuck no. NO.

Can she point her out, the woman who stabbed his girl? Yeah, the witness says, there she is, at the bar. The small chickie in the spangly top, with the brown hair.

He doesn’t even think before he storms up to her. In his fury he hopes she takes him on too, because he’ll clean her fucking clock. This is beyond slaying a vampire, this is murder. She’s taken from him the one thing that makes it worth going on with his blasted unlife with Angel gone. He’ll notch up his third slayer right here right now or go out trying.

“She was clean! Innocent! But you didn’t care about that did you, you smelled vamp an’ so you staked her!” He fists his shiv out of his pocket. He wants to draw blood from this one. He wants to cut her and hurt her and kill her.

The slayer turns. Spike’s about to grab her, when the mutual recognition stuns them both motionless.

Buffy recovers first. Her hand flies up to her mouth, then flutters out to touch his arm, then returns to her mouth again. She stammers, and her eyes are huge. “Oh my God—you. You?” She’s stunned, all kinds of emotions flitting across her face. Her eyes start to glisten with tears.

But he doesn’t lose his focus so easily. That it’s Buffy Summers who has slain his girl just kicks his shock and fury up a few notches.

He never thought he’d ever see Buffy again.

He really hasn’t wanted to.

“Girl wasn’t threatenin’ you or anybody. Didn’t deserve staking. Why couldn’t you leave her be?”

“Huh? That vamp in the bathroom? She was with you?” Buffy’s expression changes. She draws herself up, steps back. Her expression says that this situation has stopped being a miraculous reunion, and turned into a very possible slaying-about-to-happen. He can see her jumping to the conclusion, based on the company he was keeping, that he’s got to be sans soul. And therefore, that she’s got to take him out.

And seeing that, all the piss and vinegar deserts him. Little Clio, with whom he’s spent all his days and nights for nearly three years, cherishing her and protecting her, helping her to be good, has been pulled out of him. She was like his spine—without her, he’s only going to be able to crawl.

Because bloody Buffy, The Original Vampire Slayer, was blithely doing what she did as reflexively as breathing.

The knife slips out of his hand, clatters to the floor. He hears it fall, but the music is too loud for her to. She’s staring at his face, anyway.

He turns and starts for the exit. If she follows and attacks him, he won’t try to stop her. It makes a squalid kind of sense that after everything, it’s Buffy who’ll put paid to him at last.

Pushing his way through the throng waiting to get into the club, he turns his steps toward the alley entrance up the block. It’s another minute before he’s aware of her behind him, keeping pace. Tears are pouring down his face, but he doesn’t care if she sees him crying. He has no control, and anyway, Clio must be wept for. She was the sweetest mistress he ever had. She’s the only one he’s sure really loved as well as needed him. They had such nice times together, took such good care of each other. Every day he tried to make it up to her however he could, the misfortune of being undead. Even though he felt it more as misfortune than she could, she was appreciative. She wanted him to be proud of her, and he was.

She’d say she felt lucky, that she’d suffered what she did, because it led her to him.

Buffy grabs his elbow and yanks him around. “Spike—what are you doing here? What happened to you?”

“Fuck off! I don’t owe you any explanations!”

“You were dead. I saw you burning up. You couldn’t have gotten out.”

“Leave me alone.” He hasn’t forgotten how to hate Buffy Summers. He hates her so much at that moment that he doesn’t even want to kill her. To kill her he’d have to touch her.

Her lip trembles, but it’s disdain and nothing else he sees in her expression, hears in her voice. “What, so, we’re at square one all over again? You’re Mr Look-Ma-No-Soul, and you’re pissed off because I staked your new Drusilla? Excuse me, but how the hell did that happen?”

“Fuck off.” This time it’s a whisper. He turns his back on her, begins to walk away. Let her stab him from behind. He wishes she would, because he doesn’t want to return to the flat, where Clio’s things are and she is not. Why did she have to go into the bloody toilet at all? Not like she has to pee. He’d always told her she’d have to be vigilant, careful. That the world was full of slayers who’d see her as the enemy no matter what she did. But he’d never really imagined she’d run foul of one … why would she? She didn’t draw attention to that aspect of herself—she liked people, didn’t see them as prey. She was just a girl. An unfortunate girl. The tears pour unchecked down his face, his whole body shakes with every step. It’s too much. It’s too much, what this existence keeps putting him through.

He goes, and Buffy stays behind him, yards behind, but he knows she’s always there. She doesn’t say anything else. He tries to shake her off, walking at random, not arriving anywhere, hoping maybe she’ll get tired or bored and peel off.

Thinks about confronting her after all. Imagines what it would be like if he had a shotgun, like he’d had back in Sunnydale, that he could pull out from under his coat and use to blow her away.

Not that he really wants to. Those days are long gone. He just wants the slayer to leave him alone. He doesn’t want her of all people witnessing his grief. She doesn’t understand what she’s done. She doesn’t understand who he is or how she’s wounded him.

She never has.

At last he can smell the dawn approaching; he’s got to go back to the flat, unless he wants to burn. Which has its appeal, except that he senses Buffy’s still tailing him, and if he’s going to walk into the sun, he doesn’t want her to think she has anything to do with it. She always flattered herself that everything he did was about her. Which used to be true but it’s not fucking true anymore.

He lingers for a few moments outside the hulking old building where he lives with Clio in the basement. The sky is starting to lighten, but he knows there’ll be a shadow here for another while.

“C’mon then!” he cries out. “C’mon, slayer, have at me!” He stands with his arms outstretched, waiting to be staked, but there’s nothing. A dog barks in the street, he hears a plane overhead, and then there’s nothing else for it but to go inside and wait out the day with Clio’s things.


The knocking wakes him. First it’s part of his dream, but it doesn’t stop, it gets louder and louder. He cries out angrily, and for a moment there’s silence, then more knocking.

He doesn’t know, as he staggers up, what day it is. He’s been in here a long time, without blood, without moving. When he gets off the bed, photographs fall from the sheets to the floor. There’s so many of them. Polaroids. Photo-booth strips. Spike and Clio. She liked plenty of pictures, because of the not having a reflection, but really because, before him, she’d never had anyone to be in photos with. She kept them in a shoe box, and she’d pore over them sometimes like they were evidence of something, until he’d come up and take her in his arms. “Right here, love. Real thing’s right here,” he’d say, nuzzling her neck, and Clio would turn and smile and embrace him.

He yanks the door open. Buffy’s there. Beside her is the witch, substantially unchanged. Her eyes get big at sight of him, and Buffy’s roll.

“Spike … put something on, okay?” Willow says.

She’s seen it all before. Can stake me naked just the same.”

“Not here to stake you,” Willow says, “And I really didn’t want to see it, so put it away. Can we come in?”

“No.” He backs away from the open door, finds his jeans puddled at the foot of the bed, shins them on. The women are still standing out in the hall, apparently taking his refusal seriously. He doesn’t look at them.

“Like I told you,” Willow says then, addressing Buffy, “he has his soul, just like back in Sunnydale. I can’t tell why he didn’t burn up, but I don’t get any weird vibe off him, he’s just Spike. So, uh, I’m gonna go. Call me later, okay?”

Spike straightens up. “What the hell? You’re goin’, take her with you.”

“I want to talk to you, Spike.” Buffy’s voice is like ice. Deep polar ice.

“Yeah, well, don’t want to talk to you. This is a place of mourning. Don’t need insensitive bitches hangin’ about.”

“I want to—”

“Don’t you bloody get it? This’s her home. The young lady you murdered, with no provocation. She lived here. With me. Under my protection. Which didn’t end up being worth a tinker’s fart, but show some fucking respect.”

Willow’s still there, hesitating, looking at Buffy, looking at him.

“Spike,” Willow says, “… she was a vampire. A vampire, in a crowded dance club. We all know what vampires go to places like that for.”

“What, you the mouthpiece now? Been to law school since I saw you last?”

“No, I just—”

“It’s none of your damn business. Either of you. Why should I have to explain a thing about my life, or hers? You an’ me, slayer, we parted ways a long time ago, an’ my account with you’s marked Paid In Full. I’m not your problem anymore.”

“I didn’t know she was your squeeze, all right!” Buffy sounds exasperated, like a kid who’s being forced to apologize.

“She wasn’t a squeeze, you ignorant little cunt. She was Clio. She was my Clio. She never hurt anyone.” Talking about her brings the burning again to his eyes, the twitching to the corners of his mouth. He grabs up a shirt, puts it on. “She was a good girl. You hear me? She was never anything but a good girl. Got lost, got cornered by a coupla vamps, an’ by time I did for ’em, she was dead. Was going to put a stake in her corpse too … but she was so delicate, so torn … couldn’t help lookin’ at her. An’ while I was lookin’, she rose. An’ yeah, I was lonesome, an’ she was pretty. Not apologizin’ for it! Always liked a pretty girl. She was frightened an’ alone an’ I decided to help her. Thought maybe if I could steer her the right way from the start, she wouldn’t be like all the others.” He puts his hands through his hair. His mouth’s dry, and he’s still lightheaded from standing up so fast. He wishes he was still asleep. He wishes he was dead. “An’ she wasn’t.” He looks around for his boots. “She wasn’t like the other vampires. Until you made her one, by staking her.”

Willow’s making that sad face she ought to be too old to get away with anymore, but the slayer’s face is still flint. She must be mighty disappointed to be told he’s got his soul, because what else did she come here for except to slay him? She still wants to, but she’s ambivalent now. Buffy hates to feel ambivalent.

The rage rears up in him again, that she dares to come here after what she’s done, after everything she’s ever done. He didn’t sacrifice himself for her—no, he did that for the world. For the world, which he always enjoyed even before he felt an ounce of compassion for anyone in it. He did what felt right in his restless soul, and it had nothing to do with impressing Buffy. But he wouldn’t have fought for that soul if not for loving her. That passion tore him apart and made him into someone else he barely knew how to be. Someone who seemed destined always to be excluded.

He’d thought a lot after he came back through the amulet, about what it meant, Buffy saying she loved him when she did. Had finally concluded, after lots of gin-soaked mulling in L.A., that it meant only that, despite all they’d done for each other in those final weeks before the big battle, she still didn’t really respect him. If she had, she wouldn’t have breathed a lie like that. Not as the last thing he was supposed to hear on this earth. It was a conclusion that made it a little easier to raise his hand when Angel was looking for volunteers to go out in a blaze of no-one-noticing.

Except he hadn’t gone out. He’d watched Charlie fall, and Angel, seen Illyria use her last might to open a portal and shunt the attacking armies through it, before she fell too, leaving him to bleed alone on the blood-soaked cobbles of that alley.

He’d gone on, confused and despairing and on his own.

He’d been rescued from that despair, that gaping solitude, when he rescued Clio. Her love, the love of a naive and trusting young demon who adhered to innocence for his sake, brought him back to purpose. It was the sort of thing that shouldn’t be possible, the way a slayer loving a vampire shouldn’t be possible—not twice anyhow—and he should’ve guessed from the start that it wouldn’t last.

He doesn’t know why it has to be Buffy who tears it all down. Who shows him again that loving doesn’t get you anything but the chance to stand alone and feel all the pain in the bloody universe centered in your own flaming heart.

He’d have said she’s already taught him all the hard lessons in the world. He can’t think why she’s back again to repeat them.

Willow looks like she wants to sink into the floor. “Spike, I’m sorry.”

He hears a lot in this. He thinks, that if it wasn’t for Buffy’s presence, Willow would want to break into some more elaborate apology, for things that have nothing to do with Clio. There’s a petition in her eyes, asking him to understand more than she’s saying.

He thinks that if Buffy wasn’t here, he’d ask her in and talk to her about it. Monster to monster. They’ve got plenty in common.

Buffy says, “I didn’t know. How could I have known? She was a vamp, and I’m the slayer.”

He thinks of various retorts he could make, but then all he does is close the door on them.

With the door shut, the flat is dark again. He limps, one boot on and one boot off, back to the bed. The polaroids on the floor stick to his bare sole. He reaches down, scoops some up, flips on the bedside light.

She smiles in all of them. Her dark eyes are always bright. Her hair is dark too, shiny and squiggly and beautiful with that odd vibrancy that being undead brings. Her dewy skin is the smooth color of milk chocolate, and she likes that his is so white, milk without the chocolate; she likes the picture they make when they’re naked and twined together.

It’s almost three months after he’s found her that it happens between them. By now they’re pretty sure of each other. He’s sure he can trust her to live the way he’s taught her, that he isn’t going to have to stake her after all. And sure too that he never wants to lose sight of her, that he can build a new life around looking after her. She’s good company. She has a naturally trusting way about her. It’s a laugh to say it of a vampire, but hers is a sunny disposition.

He’s given her his bed, spends his days sleeping on the couch. Until she invites him to join her, invites him shyly, like the kind of bride he used to imagine having when he was a young man in London in a different century. He finds out, the first time, that she’s a virgin. Even though she was twenty-three when she died. “I just wanted to wait,” she explains. “It wasn’t about religion or marriage or nothin’. I just wanted to wait for someone I liked.” He’s moved by this, more than he could have anticipated—it’s the pity of her death, all over again, and it’s the sweetness of her offering herself in a way demons aren’t supposed to do, wanting gentleness. Her virginity should be a small thing, but it turns out to be enormous. It’s something no other woman has ever given him. A kind of trust he finds he knows what to do with.

Afterwards she fangs out and wants to feed from him. She’s never done this before, and filled with tenderness for her, he wants so much to consent, to attach her to himself like this, as if they were really sire and get, but he explains to her that it won’t do. That she mustn’t use her fangs, mustn’t feed from flesh, even his. Reminds her, as he’s taught her from the first, that they cannot be together if she won’t mind him in this. But tells her also that she mustn’t be ashamed either, of her desire, of her demon. She listens and nods and he knows that she isn’t ashamed, she can’t be ashamed, because she has no soul. But she loves him and is grateful to him, is so imprinted on him, that she’s happy to obey. It’s not the same as a conscience, but it doesn’t interfere with what he feels for her, what she feels for him. They’re so happy to have found one another.

And now she’s gone and everything he tried to help her be is nothing, and he is nothing, and Buffy is still standing on the other side of his apartment door.


He’s stretched out again on the musty bed, ignoring his hunger, looking at the pictures. Trying to get his head around what’s happened. In the old days, he was never particularly troubled by the dusty thing, but now it’s happened to someone he loves, so he’s got no corpse to anoint and inter, nothing he can hold and bid farewell to, the horror of it comes home to him. The girl in these pictures, who loved dancing, and kept her sweet tooth, who knitted sweaters and afghans and socks, and could beat him at half a dozen different X-Box games, is in every way gone. Just erased from the whole world.

Buffy would say she was erased the night those vamps tore her throat open, and turned her. But that isn’t true. Clio survived that. Clio was beautifully herself. He helped her be a new kind of demon, a demon like him.

She loved him as he always wanted to be loved.

He can feel the slayer out in the hall. After a while—it’s been at least an hour—she thumps once on the door. “You can’t get out of here without passing me! You might as well open up and talk!”

He ignores this, goes on shuffling the pictures, letting them drop onto the bedclothes like leaves. He spaces out, his mind floating off under the lightness of hunger, and she’s there, giving him warm blood in a cup with a kiss. Sitting on his lap, talking about what happened on Passions and wouldn’t it be nice to go away somewhere for Christmas, was there someplace they could go with snow? She wants to play with him in the snow.

Another hard thump and Clio shivers away. Sitting up fast, he throws a boot at the door.

“This is so stupid!” The slayer thumps again. “I’m sorry about your girlfriend! Just talk to me, Spike!”

When he opens the door, she looks sullen, gazing up at him through her eyelashes like Lauren Bacall in that old movie he’s seen a hundred times.

“Piss off.”

“Hello to you too.”

That almost makes him slam the door again. But Buffy shoulders her way in before he can.

He could leave her here. Just walk off, leave her here with all this stuff he doesn’t need anymore for a life he hasn’t got anymore. Except that suddenly her little hand is curled tight around his arm.

“Jesus, Spike. You’re alive, you’ve been around all this time.” She takes him in. “Why? Why didn’t you contact me?”

This is the very thing he never wanted to discuss with her. Now, some four years after the fact, it feels even more beside the point than ever. Why ask? Freeing his arm, he turns away. Buffy follows him further in. She crouches, picks something up from the floor.

He watches her look at the picture. He can’t see which one it is, but it doesn’t matter. “How could you …” Buffy pauses, swallows hard. Her voice has gone husky. “I don’t understand any of this. How could you care for another vampire? You have a soul, and she didn’t.”

He doesn’t want to hear this. Where does she get off, interrogating him?

“Yeah, ’cause lovin’ a girl with a soul worked out so well before.” It comes out before he can stop himself. He wasn’t going to engage, he was going to ignore her until she went away, and now he’s said this. Which she’ll think is about her, because she obviously thinks it’s still all about her. But it isn’t; for him, it’s about Clio.

Clio was a girl who couldn’t fight the monsters, and was made into a monster. Losing her soul was her misfortune—he tried to make that up to her, by keeping her from descending into the blood-soaked pit of no return. It should’ve been a futile thing to attempt—vampires have their nature. They’d had some close calls at the beginning, but more than she’d wanted to feed on live blood, she’d wanted to do what he asked her. It was so simple: she loved him. The exact reason for that love, as always, was enigmatic at the core. She would say, when he asked her, that he was the first thing she saw when she opened her demon eyes, “and that, Sweetboy, was that.”

He could’ve reminded the slayer, as Drusilla had occasion to tell her once, that you didn’t need a soul to love, that vampires could love quite well. But he isn’t interested in giving Buffy a disquisition on love.

She’s still looking at the picture. He plucks it from her fingers. “Go away now.”

“I just don’t understand. How is it that you’re even here?”

“What difference does it make? Get out.”

“It makes a difference. Spike, it … it makes a huge difference.” She looks at him, her eyes big and clueless and full of questions, and he feels like she’s trying to manipulate him. It always used to work, too. She’d give him that look and he’d fling himself at anything to help her. To be a hero for her.

With Clio, there wasn’t any heroism. She didn’t expect him to turn himself inside out for her, and she didn’t keep him guessing. She always wanted to hold hands when they walked together, liked him to cuddle her after a fuck, and she knew how to suck his cock in a way that didn’t make him feel small. She told him what she was thinking, and wanted to hear what he was thinking. Saving the world wasn’t on her radar, but she didn’t want any harm to come to anyone in it, either.

She was perfectably lovable, even by a vampire with a soul. Since when was he too good for a girl like that?

“I thought …” But Buffy doesn’t say what she thought. For a moment she just looks helpless, empty-handed. Then she walks out. Spike stands for a few moments in the dim light coming in from the basement hallway, then shuts the door and begins to gather up the scattered photos. He looks around for what else he wants to take with him; he can’t stay here any longer. He can call Hal, a bartender he knows, who will probably let him kip on his sofa for a couple of days while he figures out where to go now L.A.’s finished. For the first time he wonders what Buffy is doing here anyway, but he doesn’t ponder it for long.

He’s going to travel light. He won’t even take all the photographs. Just as many as he can fit in his wallet. And he’ll keep the black sweater she knitted for him, with the small white skull and crossbones on the right arm. And he’ll take the big multi-colored afghan, because she worked on that for months, though he knows he’ll probably have to leave it somewhere on the way. He’d have liked to take the necklace he gave her, the old-gold locket with their pictures inside it. But she never took that off, so it’s gone now. Dusted with the rest of her.

He’s pulling the duffle out from under the bed when the flat door swings open again.

“I … I know you’re planning to disappear. So if I waited to say this to you, I’d lose my only chance.”

Buffy’s shadow falls into the room in the oblong of light from the hall. It’s a slender shadow, arms akimbo. Just like always.

“You asked me just now why it matters. Spike, don’t you know?”

He doesn’t answer. He’s sorting through clothes—his own, because there’s no point taking hers, and if he starts looking through them, he’ll fall to weeping again, because everything she wore has some pleasant association for him. She liked him to help her choose her clothes. He bought them for her; he’s the one who, thanks to Angel’s foresightedness, has a little money.

Buffy takes a step into the room. She takes a deep breath. “It matters because if I’d had any idea that you walked out of that crater that Sunnydale turned into … I’d have done everything I could to find you. To come to you. So I could be with you.”

He wishes they’d done the laundry more often. Shakes out teeshirts, stuffs them in the bag.

Buffy trembles. He feels her tremble, hears her heart race. But it’s got nothing to do with him, this is her drama, and she can enact it here or anywhere, it doesn’t matter. He’s going to go. He’s going to go far away, and he’s going to mourn, and then after that … after that he doesn’t know.

Spike. I am sorry. I am sorry I dusted her. I didn’t know. But you have to listen. This is important, okay?”

He goes into the bathroom, scoops the contents of his shelf into the bag: shampoo, hair gel, toothbrush and all that. Her shelf holds all kinds of cosmetics and lotions and scents. She would get a new lipstick practically every night. Why did she try to bum mascara off of the slayer? She was wearing mascara when they went out. She was looking fine, like always, no reason to go into that club toilet. Not like she could check herself out in the mirror.

He’s sure that she meant no harm to any of the other girls in there. She liked to listen to their chatter, liked to join in it as if she was still a girl like them. She missed having gal-pals.

He picks up a bottle of her perfume. If he takes this with him, he can spray the pillow where he next lays his head, pretend … no. He puts it back. He doesn’t want to pretend. That’ll just make it worse.

When he turns to go out, Buffy’s in the bathroom doorway.

“Will you please just listen?” She’s almost whispering. She touches his arm. “I should have told you sooner. Days sooner. Weeks. I knew. I knew I was in love with you. But I was afraid. And there was so much … so much on me right then. I didn’t think we had time to give to being lovers. I was afraid that if we started, if I … if I got close to you again, I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my responsibilities because I’d just want to hold you all the time. So I waited, and then … when I did tell you, it was too late.” Her hand tightens on him, and she starts to cry. Not sobbing, not making any noise, just the tears slipping down her cheeks, making glistening tracks through her dewy face powder.

He’s going to walk right through her. He’s going to walk on through the slayer like she’s a mist, an apparition; he’s going to pick up the last few things and get on out of here. Goodbye to this dingy little flat where he’d known affection and the pleasures of home; goodbye to the bed where he and Clio fucked so magnificently, and were so confidential and warm together under the electric blanket that generated a coziness their bodies couldn’t.

He’s going to go, leave Buffy to sing this aria to the tattoo of her galloping pulse.

He really is.

Until her hand slips off his clothed arm, and closes instead around his hand. So he’s forced to feel the heat of her skin, its dynamic throb. “And now I find out you’re still here, you’ve been here all along, hiding from me … and just when I might’ve found you again and been able to tell you, I do this thing that makes you hate me. Spike, I didn’t mean to. I didn’t know. If I’d had any idea, I’d have left her alone. I’d have left you both to be happy.”

She lets go of his hand quickly, but the damage is already done. He’s felt her, and now he hears her—hears everything she’s just said, that he was just pushing through without listening to. It unreels in his head, and he sees her, hears her telling him, full of sorrow and without hope, that she loves him. He hears the apology for killing Clio, hears the futility she knows is in it, and how she has to say it anyway.

He can’t help it now. He stops. He faces her, and suddenly they’re looking at each other, full on the way they’ve only done a couple of times in the past, right before the end. Naked looking, looking that speaks. She gazes up at him, inches closer, and then the toes of her shoes come into contact with the toes of his boots, and her body leans into his, and he drops his head and their foreheads touch. He smells the scent of her sadness, her regret, and he’s powerless, as always with her, to do anything except be present to her.

Her brow is hot and dry against his, and she murmurs, it’s almost a chant, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry that it all went wrong like this. I wish you wouldn’t go. I’m so glad you’re still alive, I don’t want to lose you again.”

He feels sorry for her now, sorrier than he would’ve thought imaginable ten minutes ago. She’s threaded her arms around his waist, and he can sense that she’d like to hold him close to her like this for a long long time.

He can’t allow it, though. He has to go. He has to honor Clio, he has to mourn. Buffy’s changed everything, put him through so many changes in the last day that he doesn’t know if he’ll ever regain his balance.

When he tries to withdraw, she holds on. But when he peels her hands away, pushes them gently back to her, she retreats a step, staring at the floor. They don’t look at each other again, before he lifts the duffle and goes out the door.

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