Spike leaned his head wearily back against the cold concrete wall of the school basement. His moments of sanity came and went these days. He never knew when the battle inside would rage again and send him teetering to the edge of sanity. So little of the day truly made sense – between the soul’s guilt over his past transgressions, and the true evil he knew crawled in and out of his consciousness, he wondered how much longer would pass before something broke irreparably deep within.
Footsteps echoed in the cavernous environment of the basement as someone neared the corner he’d laid claim to. Almost he wished for something to engulf him again, the soul’s torment or the evil’s madness, just so he could avoid the interaction with whichever member of the Scoobies had returned to seek out his services again. They were so much easier to deal with when he peered at them from behind the veil of his madness. Except for her. Why does a man do what he musn’t? For her… and speaking of the devil or in this case, his goddess, his Guinievere, here she was in all her effulgent glory.
“Buffy,” he greeted, rising to his feet from the half-crouched position he had meditatively been in for the last few hours.
“Spike,” she returned.
Her face betrayed her and he felt a slight jolt as he realized there was concern in her expression that seemed to be directed at him.
“Spike, will you walk with me,” she asked. “Just outside, to the courtyard? It’s late and I waited until the other staff cleared out.” She turned and began to walk away, as though she had no doubt he would follow at her request, but suddenly stopped and faced him again. “Please.”
Spike sighed and hoped the sanity remained just a little longer as he followed her out of the basement and into the moonlit courtyard of the school.
Buffy sat on a bench and waited until Spike tentatively seated himself at the other end before starting.
“Spike, I don’t know were to begin. I needed a few days to think, after what happened in the church.”
“I wasn’t entirely myself, or at least myself was not entirely together that night,” he replied, hoping to prevent some deep exploration of his new status he knew he wasn’t ready to discuss with her.
“Well, that’s the thing.” Buffy stared at the foliage behind his head for a long moment, then drew herself up with a determined face. “Spike, you can’t stay here”.
“What, Slayer, I’m not hurting anyone here.” He could feel the somewhat conflicting sensations of anger from his demon and sadness from his soul that he had once again failed the Buffy test in some indefinable way by his mere existence.
“No.” Buffy’s face softened, ever so slightly and her hand reached out to touch his arm. Wow, he seems smaller and less threatening without the coat somehow, I have to remember to ask if he wants it back. The coat remained in the hall closet at the Summers house, an object that Buffy had only looked at rarely when the anger or longing became too much.
“Spike, I think this place is hurting you. It’s on the Hellmouth, you know that. I think it’s feeding your,” Buffy paused, returning to her internal dialogue. Should she say madness, why the heck not, he had mentioned it himself several times. Your nuttiness.
“If you’ll leave with me, we’ll take you back to your crypt or, maybe you could stay with Xander, he’s living alone now, or…” Buffy stopped.
She should have had a more definite idea and plan before she came down those stairs. But her talk with Willow and the struggles she’d faced had brought Spike’s frail state to the fore again. She knew, deep inside, that she still had a few things to face before they were healed as well. Sitting at her desk all day, listening to the woes of adolescents ranging from the absurd to the truly disturbing, she had found her mind wandering to the vampire with a soul who had taken up residence in the basement. She couldn’t leave him alone to be tormented, even after what had happened between them. He was her Lancelot. She sighed. One day, she would have to face certain memories that she had pushed aside during the summer, when her focus had been on Dawn and Xander and reconnecting with life, but not yet with love. But for now, she knew she needed to help heal this broken man, her former lover and friend. She suddenly realized she had zoned out and found Spike gazing at her with that awed look he seemed to get at times these days.
” … or you might could stay in my basement, if you want. Its dark and quiet there, we would leave you in peace.”
“Buffy, I appreciate the offer, but I can’t – can’t be that close to you right now.”
Buffy paused, slightly taken aback. Spike, not wanting a spot in the Summers household, not jumping at the chance to be near her? Oh right, Conceited Buffy much. He needs space and likely you do to. Don’t want to begin communing with the evil undead again, or not so evil undead, or OK, stop before my head explodes.
“Well, what about Xander?”
“Yeah, I imagine the whelp would love to have me in his home.”
“Actually, Spike you might be surprised. Xander has changed over the summer and I think he’d let you stay,” a slight grin crossed her face, “even if only to make sure it’s not with me.”
“I’ll think on it Buffy.”
Somewhere, something deep inside him lit up. She cared, if only a little, a least about his basic well-being – or did she? His demon laughed at his confusion. She just needs you to be her tracker, her seer, her strongman, she doesn’t really care for you, it was all just a game. He felt the throes of struggle beginning and knew he needed to back away from her.
“Buffy, I’ll think on it and get back to you – you run the idea by Xander, OK? Thank you for your concern.”
And then he was gone.
Buffy looked at the sky and sighed. She should patrol now. Sacred duty, etc. But she needed some time to sort things, in a way she had resolutely failed to do over the summer. She knew things were better with Dawn, her ties with Xander were the best they’d ever been – her sister and brother were good. And Willow, her bubbly, shy, nerdy best friend, who had changed and become so much more than any of them would have ever suspected. Buffy knew they were on the right track, that healing had begun. None of them were innocents any longer. They had all, one way or another, taken lives, or been responsible for the loss of life. But they were healing now. Except for one final and possibly the most difficult relationship to resolve – Spike.