The tiny alarm clock beeped at the top of the hour. Buffy opened her eyes, 12:00 a.m. She closed them again and willed sleep to come. Her mind, however, would not calm. It had been a hectic number of weeks since her return to Sunnydale, back into the bosom of her family and friends. Well, that’s what Xander kept saying. Buffy had her suspicions Xander just liked saying the word ‘bosom’.
The situation was strained. Joyce kept an eagle eye on Buffy around the house. At school Giles, Willow and Xander did their duty. Principal Snyder did his level best to make Buffy feel like a rat in a reconfiguring maze. “I’ve got my eye on you, Summers.” He would seethe in his polyester suit of armor.
It was all so much simpler in that little diner. Ten tables to juggle and the only real obstacle was Millie’s enormous hairdo. Those were the good old days now.
These new Sunnydale days were filled with uncertainty. Xander hugged her profusely upon her return while Willow was reticent. Willow took the separation personally. She had always been there for her friend and when Buffy bailed Willow felt the abandonment deeply.
Buffy tread on those issues lightly. Best pals meant something permanent to Willow. Even after a long heart to heart, Willow felt Buffy was still keeping things from her. It was the truth, of course, but Buffy sometimes found it hard to share, especially when she didn’t know herself how she felt.
It was hard trying to fit back into a life that didn’t seem hers anymore. Going to school? Partying with friends? How could these things be reconciled with what she was? With what she had done, and was doing. With the violence and risk that met her every single night on the quiet streets of Sunnydale.
The worst part was that everything she did warranted some detailed analysis from someone other than her. Whether the pronouncements came from Joyce or Snyder or Giles they were all unwelcome. Buffy was trying, really trying. She even scheduled homework sessions after school before Giles started on his boring slayer related lectures. Her grades were improving much to Principal Snyder’s consternation but she often appeared listless and uninterested in everything.
Before she was even allowed back at school Principal Snyder insisted on a psychological evaluation by a consultant from the board office. The psychologist was a young man with an unruly cowlick and a floppy green sweater. Buffy spoke to him for an hour.
His official report went to Snyder with a copy destined for Buffy’s permanent record. It stated that, clinically speaking, she was a melange of narcissism and perfectionism with a dash of paranoia, while remarkably blasé and affable at the same time. Statistically speaking, she was a normal teenager.
He said as much to Buffy. His exact words were, “apathy is your battle flag and time the only cure.” She didn’t quite get the gist of that poetic statement. “You have a healthy, normal adolescent ego,” that statement she understood perfectly.
Funny, she didn’t feel normal.
Xander’s analysis was the simplest. According to him, Buffy needed to get up on the dating horse and ride that bronco until it started tap dancing. Or something like that. Xander’s ability to ignore the recent near apocalyptic past and ensuing consequences was remarkable.
Kamikaze dating was his answer to everything.
Honestly, everything in Xander’s head emptied if a wiggle in tight jeans and a push up bra was in the offing and if that delightful package was Cordelia Chase, he was a lost man. It was always simple pleasures for Xander. Mostly, Buffy ignored Xander. She had to get things right with her mom and Giles. Her simple pleasures were a thing of the past.
Typically, Xander was completely oblivious to Buffy’s current indifference. He had his own stuff to juggle. Cordelia occupied most of his time and energy. She supplied him with a helpful schedule that he stuck to more rigorously than his class schedule. Cordelia had maintenance requirements so intricate it baffled the mind. But surprisingly, Xander was uniquely skilled in that one area: keeping Cordelia happy.
Likewise, Willow was immersed in her burgeoning relationship with Oz. Buffy didn’t know him too well but he had ambitions on the horizon. Apparently, werewolf status did little to quell his interest in being a rock star. His schedule of practices and performances hindered Willow’s smoochies schedule, but she was learning to deal.
Buffy turned on her left side and tried to relax. Sleep was at a premium these days. Soon her mind filled with Angel. Angel thoughts were not sleep inducing. They were migraine inducing.
Just as she thought she might have a chance of getting back into the swing of things at school, Angel returned from the unspeakable hell dimension she’d sent him to. The Scoobies jumped into action to help keep tabs on him.
He was different upon his return. Darker. Angel was darker on the inside. Buffy kept her distance. There was a change in his eyes, in the way he held his body. It reminded her of Angelus. Was this new? Or had it always been there, hidden behind her stupid girlish fantasies. She couldn’t remember. He spoke in mumbles and riddles. Honestly, it freaked her out.
All Buffy wanted was the assurance that the pain had ceased; that whatever Angel suffered by her hand was that at an end. Angel’s communication was enigmatic at best. That situation was another tightrope to cross, another question for Buffy to master.
Mindful of his obligation and the recent past, Giles advised extreme caution. At least Buffy hadn’t kept it a secret when she saw Angel walking through the graveyard near the old mansion. Buffy knew that a returned Angel was not something she could handle on her own.
When at last Angel told her there was no future for them as a couple, Buffy knew that was one inexorable truth to which there was no useful rebuttal. They only hurt each other. What kind of love was that? A love that burns and scars and twists your heart? All encompassing pain and sorrow?
That was great for those windswept British dramas, but in real life it was just horrible and messy. Misery had no redeeming parts; it just stunk up the place. They couldn’t be lovers and Buffy knew very well that they couldn’t be friends either.
Despite his words and warnings, Buffy often came across Angel on her nightly patrols. She felt the sharp pierce in her gut when she saw him. That pain only deepened. He stayed in Sunnydale and continually sought her out. It was a horrible torturous waltz that made Buffy both wary and exhausted. But sleep was always slow to come.
The worst revelation came when Buffy realized Angel craved the pain she caused him. It was as if her presence alone was the sword now, slicing into his flesh and soul. Angel would have the pain if he could not have Buffy in his arms and in his bed. That horrible realization was a constant agony for her. She needed to be free of it. Free of — it sickened her now to call it love — that agony; free of a love that destroyed, a love that skewered her. A love that made her small.
So Buffy turned away from love to the hunt. The hunt was almost geometric in its precision. It had clean lines and distinct parameters. It was the only component in her life where she found solace; the only embrace that did not burn. Unfortunately, her increased zeal for the hunt meant that Sunnydale was surprisingly demon free of late. Her nightly patrols were ending earlier and earlier.
A restful night’s sleep was another matter altogether.
Another beep. 1:00 a.m. She hissed a long sigh and opened her eyes to stare at the ebb and flow of the shadows on the ceiling. Joyce was off to San Francisco for some art thing.
The gallery was really coming along. It was neat for Buffy to see her mom so happy and involved with her work. Joyce would be away four days. She tried to put it off but finally the trip could not be avoided. Joyce decided to have faith that her daughter would be able to function for a few days without her. Buffy had after all survived months alone before her return.
Things were getting better between mother and daughter. Joyce still worried terribly over Buffy’s calling but there was no argument she could broach that could eliminate that reality. Her love for Buffy did not wane. Nothing was worth the possibility of Buffy leaving again.
The house was lonely without Joyce. Being the slayer came with that whole alpha wolf thing, but at heart Buffy wasn’t a loner. She liked the crowds at the mall and the crush of kids in the halls at school. 1630 Revello was a hollow place without Joyce. She always filled it with her woman power seventies music or her own singing voice. The Joyce vibe made these four walls a home.
Buffy warmed up some chicken and stars soup for dinner. It was a poor substitute for mom, but it felt great in her tummy. Chicken and stars soup was missing mom comfort food. It was as good as a mom hug; well, almost as good.
The clock beeped again. 2:00 a.m. Sleep was elusive this night. Buffy’s mind started to wander.
‘Spread your legs.’
That voice only visited her deep in the night when she was quiet and almost asleep. That’s when she let herself remember. When she let herself hear him. When she let him in.
She could see his face still. That sneer, those pulsing I’m-gonna-fuck-you eyebrows and that tongue. ‘You taste like candy.’ The gauntlet thrown down between them was soon abandoned as they lost themselves in each other.
Buffy hadn’t seen Spike nor heard anything about him since she left that motel room all those weeks ago. He’d found her hiding in a diner trying to be some anonymous girl named Anne, playing a poor game of run away.
Anonymity wasn’t exactly working out for Buffy before Spike found her. His presence alone made her realize that she was fading away into her own fragmented nothingness.
That night often figured in her thoughts and dreams. The night she found herself again in the honest arms of her enemy; the night when she discovered she’d have to return to Sunnydale and claim her life and the consequences of her actions. That was the night Spike freed her from the prison of her denial.
It was a pleasant memory and often came in handy during algebra and chemistry and most particularly during Giles’ ad hoc rambles into the glorious history of prophecies realized and squandered. She was starting to think that Giles might well be in love with the sound of his own voice. Ergo was bad enough, but who said forthwith and heretofore anymore? No wonder the dating situation had crumbled to extinction levels. When size is at issue, most women’s thoughts don’t immediately jump to vocabulary. It’s up there certainly, top ten for sure.
Xander was typically clueless about such things, but Willow zeroed in on the often cloud-dwelling Buffy. Willow accurately predicted that Buffy’s frequent disconnect was boy related. She briefly suspected a return of the Angel obsession but was grateful and relieved that her best friend seemed to have come to her senses in that regard. But still there was a dreamy reflection in Buffy’s face at times that caused Willow to ponder that maybe Buffy’s exile from Sunnydale wasn’t all about lugging heavy trays of deep fried food and counting dimes and quarters.
As Buffy lay on the elusive precipice of sleep she let the extraordinary events of that night fill her again. Spike had bitten her shoulder and tasted her blood. There was no mark anymore that could be detected but she could still feel his suction pull on her skin extracting her blood.
A familiar scenario entered her mind. It was simply the memory of what he did to her that night. How he held her and filled her, not with darkness, but with herself. The wicked words he whispered into her soul she sometimes whispered to herself. Everything was so clear that night: the past and the future. For a few hours it all made sense. What wouldn’t she give for that clarity again?
Buffy sighed once more and moved her hand between her legs. Maybe that would relax her and let sleep find her again. Her right hand however was uncooperative. She blinked herself fully awake to find both her hands tied by scarves at the wrists to her metal bedstead above her pillow. The window lay wide open. A scent of gardenia wafted up from next door.
The shadows on her wall undulated. A sylph like something, like a column of smoke interrupted the atmosphere in her room. Spike stepped from the shadowy corner by her bookcase as if from Buffy’s dreams to materialize in her room. “Remember what I said, love?” he oozed a voice that hit her hard between her legs. He gathered the bed covers in his hands and slowly pulled them down the bed, uncovering the length of her body. A cool trickle of air teased the exposed skin of her belly and hardened her nipples.
“If you don’t like it, take them off.”