Intimate Strangers

Total Chapters: 15

Alternate Season 7. Starts a few days after Grave. Spike returns to Sunnydale ensouled and ready to die, but as usual his plan doesn’t work so well.

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Chapter 1: Return

I used to crash through the door of his crypt, making enough noise to wake the dead. Or undead, in his case. But today, I am quiet. Not a sound.

I close the door silently, expecting him to hear me, to make a comment, to come to me.

He doesn’t.

With the light from a couple of candles, I can see him. He is on the bed, sleeping on his stomach. His back is bare, and I bet the rest of him is too, under that sheet. His skin is so pale it almost seems translucent. But the usual perfection is marred by bruises. They seem almost healed, but I can see them. So many of them. I wonder what happened to him. Not that I should care…

His hair is tousled, and I have the urge to run my fingers in the bleached locks. Silk, they always were, under my touch. But that time is over. I can’t touch him now.

I try to focus on my task, think of nothing else. Try not to see my sleeping ex-lover, but instead see the man who tried to rape me. No, not man, the soulless monster that it’s my duty to kill. I wonder why I always forget that so easily.

Slow and silent, I move toward the bed. No, don’t notice how handsome he is. Don’t look at his sleeping face, so innocent looking, despite the bruises that mar it too. Remember, he is not innocent. He is anything but innocent. He is a killer. Always was. Always will be. He is…

God, he is gorgeous.

When he sleeps, he lets go of all the facades, all the walls, all the masks. I wonder what he is dreaming about. For some silly reason, I hope he’s dreaming about me.

I wish I could tell him how sorry I am for what I did to him. How angry I am for what he did to me. But if I wake him now, I’ll never do it. And I must do it.

I raise my stake and position it above his back, in line with his unbeating heart. The heart that he offered to me and that I broke more times than I care to remember. But my arm refuses to get down and end it all. End him. I can’t.

All the men in my life left. And came back. Giles did, to save Willow, and now he’ll be going away again. Riley returned too, for a day, with a wife, because of some demons. Angel only shows up when Hell is close to breaking loose.

Why did Spike come back?

I knew he would. I pushed him away, beat him up, mocked him, insulted him, rejected him, used him, hated him, but I knew he’d be back. That’s why I should end it now. But that’s also why I can’t. I need to know why.

“Do it. If you hate me that much, do it now, and let it be over with.”

My voice startles her. I hear her taking a step back, hear her heart beat faster. All I want is to open my eyes and lose myself in hers. I haven’t seen her in only a week but it feels like a year. A lot happened in just a week, to me, and to her too, or so I heard. I wished I had been there to help her. She probably wouldn’t have let me, anyway. The last time I saw her, her eyes were so full of contempt and hatred… Hell, I tried to rape her. She has a bloody right to dust me. She must do it. Rid the world of a beast and at the same time free me from this hell.

“What are you waiting for, Slayer? Just do it and we’ll both be free.”

She takes a step closer. That is it. No goodbye. No last wish. No last kiss. No…

Spike jumped as her hand touched his back. Not a stake, just her hand. He turned to her, a scowl on his face, a witty comment ready on his tongue. Then he saw the tear sliding down her cheek. His hand reached up to wipe it away. As he did, more tears emerged. Without thinking, he pulled her down on his lap. Surprisingly, she didn’t fight, and instead she curled against him, sobbing against his bare chest. His arms wrapped tightly around her, his fingers finding their way to her golden hair. For several minutes, the silence was only broken by her sobs. Eventually, she calmed down, but she remained huddled against him, while his hands were still stroking her blonde curls.

His mind was racing. He regretted coming back to Sunnyhell, cursed himself for causing her more pain if it was possible. At the same time, he wondered why she was crying. His actions should have angered her enough that she’d stake him without a second thought, not make her curl on his lap like a lost kitten. There was only one way to help her.

“I will leave for good, pet. You won’t have to kill me or see me ever again. OK?”

He tried to sound casual, but to his own ears it was a complete failure. Leaving was the last thing he wanted to do. He would just find a nice spot, wait for the sun, and she would never know any better.

But he heard a whisper and his resolve melted. ‘Not OK.’

And instantly he knew he wouldn’t take the easy way out. Even if the alternative was torture. After all, he deserved torture.

“Why, pet?”

Why hadn’t she killed him? Why had she broken up with him? Why was she crying? Why wasn’t it OK for him to leave?

She answered with her own questions.

“Why did you come back? Why did you leave? Why did you try.”

Her voice trailed, and his fingers froze in her short locks. She raised her head to look at his face, surprised to find his eyes closed.

“Why, Spike?” she insisted.

Slowly, the eyelids moved, and she drowned into the dark blue pools.

“You said you could never love me.”

She nodded, remembering.

“Is that why you left? I said that many times, Spike, and you never left before.”

“You didn’t have as good a cause to hate me before, did you?”

He heard the pain in his own voice. He had become such a bloody nancy boy! An absolute poof, who needed to be completely honest, even though he knew he should have just shut up.

“That’s not exactly why I left.”

He forced himself to look right into her eyes, to see how she would react.

“I left to have the chip removed. Planned to come back, kill you, and rule this town like I was always supposed to.”

She pushed herself away from him, and he didn’t try to stop her. The stake was back in her hand, cold anger in her eyes. Her voice was ice.

“Is it out?”

“It’s out.”

“You just had your chance to ace your third Slayer. Why didn’t you? You could have killed me with the chip anyway.”

He knew he could have made one of his smart ass comments, and be dust in a flash. He should have. He should have spared himself the humiliation of her knowing. Spared her the hesitation of whether to kill him or not. He knew, but he couldn’t. Again, he needed to be honest with her. Because of who she was, of what she was for him.

“Plans changed. I got more than I bargained for. Sodding demon took the chip out and put. something in instead.”

She kept watching him, waiting. He couldn’t say the word. Just thinking about it made him nauseous. Soul. He was a vampire with a soul. When he got the chip in, he had started thinking unlife couldn’t suck more. Then he had fallen for the Slayer, and reached in his own eyes a new depth. But a soul… that was just ironic, pathetic, ridiculous, torture, hell on earth, and a dozen more things each worse that the last.

She got tired of his silence.

“Spike, since you’re done talking, you have two seconds before I stake you. Any last words?”

He closed his eyes and whispered: ‘I have a fucking bloody soul.’

Silence. For a good minute, she was quiet. Finally, he looked at her, and read her face like an open book. Puzzled. Incredulous. Shocked. Curious.

“You mean,” she said at last, “like An.”

“Don’t say his name,” he interrupted. “Just thinking that I’m like the big poof makes me want to stake myself.”

A frown barred her forehead.

“Is it a curse? A spell? Is there a way for you to get rid of it and be the Big Bad again?”

From her voice, he could almost have thought she wanted that to happen. Probably because it would have been easier for her to kill him then.

“I don’t know how, Slayer. I just know what I’ve been told, which is not much. I have a bleedin’ soul, and I will have it until the day I turn to ashes. So do both of us a favor and make that happen now.”

She heard anger in his voice, bitterness, and also… pain?

“Is that why you came back? For me to kill you? Why didn’t you just do it yourself?”

She knew she was just taunting him, playing with him. It was simply easier than to think about the new situation. God, could she kill him now? She never could when he was a soulless monster. This just made things so much more difficult. Would her life ever be simple, all black and white? Kill the monsters, protect the humans. That would have been easy. But what about humans killing her friends? What about her friends killing humans? What about the demons who wouldn’t hurt a … well, they would hurt a kitten, but not much more. What about the vampires she wanted or loved, soul or no soul? White and black would have been easy. Shades of gray, she couldn’t deal with.

She returned her attention to Spike. He hadn’t answered her question, hadn’t moved. He was just looking at her.

“I came back to apologize,” he said slowly. “I am truly, deeply, really sorry for trying to force myself on you. And all the rest that I put in that soddin’ letter. Not that it changes anything, but I just wanted to say it. Now I did. Do your duty, Slayer.”

She tried to stall.

“Your soul doesn’t look to torture you much. Not like. him.”

His eyes flashing gold stopped her from saying Angel’s name.

“I am not a brooding poof,” he growled. “I killed for blood. That’s what vampires do. No guilt there. I didn’t play with my preys. Didn’t drive anyone insane. I am not bloody Angelus!”

He took a sharp, unneeded breath, as if calming himself.

“The things I regret, I apologized for them when I could. End of story.”

“Wait a second. You said you don’t regret killing. Does that mean you’ll kill again?”

He tilted his head, as if considering her question.

“No. I won’t kill to feed. I don’t regret doing it before, but I can’t do it anymore. The demon had free reins then. Now, it’s trapped by that bloody soul.”

She thought about what he had said, all of it. He could have lied, so easily. And she almost wished he had been lying, so that she could have staked him without remorse.

“You wrote a letter to Dawn. Did you apologize to her too?”

A smile crept on his face, his usual smirk, and for a second he was the old Spike, before the chip, before the soul.

“Would like to know, uh? Sorry, that’s between the nibblet and me. Ask her, maybe she’ll tell you.”

“Did you write other letters?”

Again, a golden flash passed through his eyes. Was the demon that close to the surface?

“That’s none of your business, Slayer. Your business is to kill me.”

How many times had he asked, no, begged for death already? Why didn’t she just do it?

“I won’t kill you, Spike. At least not today.”

“Why not?” He actually sounded surprised.

“Why would I? It’s only fair that you get some time one on one with your soul. Reflect a bit about the past. You don’t sound sorry enough for me to end your misery.”

Without another word, she exited the crypt. She leaned against the closed door and let the sun warm her. Unconsciously, she smiled.

Spike was back.

He had apologized.

He had a soul.

Since Willow’s attempt at destroying the world, she had talked a lot with Giles. Mostly about Spike and what it was she had shared with him. Her ex-Watcher had surprised her by his open-mindedness. She had expected him to be disappointed by her behavior, but he had talked to her like to a friend. Like he talked to adults. He had made clear in no uncertain terms that she was an adult, and didn’t have to justify her acts or feelings to anyone but herself. She had been teasing him about it, joking that he should have been a shrink, not a librarian. The truth was, he had helped her admit to herself that she had feelings for Spike. She had dumped him because it was becoming too hard to hide it to herself. The bathroom scene… More than once, their sex sessions had started out just as violently, the only difference that time was she had meant it when she said no. She knew it didn’t excuse him, but it somewhat explained.

Before Giles had brought them out of her, she wouldn’t have accepted her feelings because of that one little thing. Soul. Spike was a soulless creature, and everyone had made sure to remind him as often as possible that because of this he would never be one of them.

Which brought the question, what about now?

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