He suddenly stopped for no reason at all or maybe it was for a reason I didn't know of. His lonely finger traced the bricks of the wall next to him, letting the crowd to pass him by - they didn't see him at all. He was a ghost. He leaned against the wall, a hint of knowing what he is, confident and cool, but it was exhaustion and weariness that brought him to lean against the wall with the subtle slump of his shoulders that wouldn't be noticeable to all who looked at him but I didn't look at him, I saw him. He drew out a cigarette, a hard glint in his eyes while he breathed in the poisonous air inside him, breaking him apart. Maybe he wanted to break apart because he couldn't otherwise. He had to look like he didn't care and yet his quiet smile told otherwise.
I went to him. I had to go to him. I didn't know why. He didn't look like much of an immortal without a soul, able to slaughter millions without flinching or even batting an eye but he looked lost then and I was the Slayer, was I not? I was The Slayer to shove the dark away from those that wander, lost and alone. "You shouldn't smoke," I murmured without thinking and cursed at myself.
He raised an eyebrow, a tilt of his head almost appearing to be arrogant but he was just pulling on for something. Maybe he just wanted to pull on this strange, abrupt conversation along. He looked like he needed it. "Yeah?"
And ooh, his voice. It was teasing and sly, a voice to hide secrets that was begging to be spilled. Immediately, I cleared my throat and moved right along. "Smoking, bad?" Wasn't I just the person for a sophisticated conversation with those short words pieced together?
He looked at me, his eyes wasn't sparkling with an agenda but something eager and something pleading. But then he simply shrugged. "Isn't like I can die, love." Yet with that declaration, he took his cigarette without looking at it and squished the cigarette with the wall behind him before letting it to fall down to the ground. "And it isn't like I haven't tried."
Then he just walked away. He didn't even look at me. He didn't see me then, he didn't see me at all. He only left, merging with the crowd just to disappear.
"William..." I whispered, the word was urging and failing. He didn't turn around.
"Leave him alone, Buffy," a voice cut through the icy, winter air. I turned around, smiling bitterly at the view of Xander. "Why bother with him?"
"Because he took care of Dawn. Because he was there, not trying to pry at me while everybody else was pushing at me to be normal and concluding that I was in hell. Because he was a friend of my mom. And because I know he would die to save the world if it meant he could for Dawn and me," I whispered like every word was a fragile thing, easy to break as soon it was said. "He was there when I had nobody else, and don't you dare say differently."
I didn't know what made me to utter those words but they all came crashing down before I even knew it. My eyebrows furrowed at what was said, still not realizing but slowly comprehending.
Xander was silent still, his face an open book of confusion of my defending, distaste of the person in question, wondering of what happened, and... Then he shook his head, opened his mouth, unable to say anything, choosing to say nothing at all but to shrug. It was slow, hesitating, but grudgingly accepting without another word. Xander wouldn't admit it but silently he did.
"Right," he paused. "Doughnuts? We need to," he cleared his throat before saying anything more. "Get some and go back to your house." He said it all cautiously, seemingly not wanting to upset.
I was apathetic to him still and could only manage a word. "Yeah."
Xander pulled into the driveway and shifted his gear to 'park'. He didn't bother to move out of the car. He only sat there frozen, fingers tapping on the steering wheel while he stared out at nowhere.
I unbuckled my seatbelt but stayed there as well, concerned etched on my face, looking at him. "Xander?"
He snapped out of it and turned to me. "I'm sorry."
"For..." he looked as if he couldn't find the words, the perfect words to erase it all. Nothing was erasable. "Bringing you back. For thinking the worst. For being selfish."
He shook his head, interrupting me. "I don't want to hear it. I want to be selfish one last time, okay, Buffy? I'm going to pretend that you're alright and don't care what I did. I don't want the guilt. I can't handle it."
I nodded and it was nothing then but stillness in the car before we decided to leave and to wander back into the house with the box of doughnuts ready.
Dawn came bounding after then halted, unsure and wary. Mentally, I sighed. Everything in me screamed of frustration and sleepiness, wanting to sleep everything away for a thousand more years till everything would stop feeling so empty and feeling like I had to be something more. I needed to be, the warrior in me ready for the world instead of sitting on the lonely throne in the stone room full of bloodied death of men that fought and gave it all.
But I pushed it all away. This was Dawn. She needed Buffy, only Buffy, and what was I if I couldn't even give her that?
I smiled. And it wasn't a forced smile completely.
"Dawnie." With a word, I embraced her and I felt her form to soften against me. She needed her sister as much as I needed to breathe, to finally breathe again - not literally at that.
We broke apart. She looked at me quietly before speaking again. "Everybody's in the living room."
We went into the living room. The smell of pastries filled the air, jellies and glaze tingling the air. Everyone seemed to slow down when I entered the room, and I groaned mentally. Would they be forever stepping on eggshells? It wasn't that long ago that Willow pleaded for forgiveness and I accepted, saying that everybody made mistakes. Hurt flashed into her eyes, I didn't ignore but didn't acknowledge all the time.
When I sat down, the quiet was still badgering. It was doughnuts and nothing more, no actual conversation or research being taken place as of yet. I growled in annoyance. "Would you please stop it? I'm fine now. Can we pretend to be normal? I want to pretend for a while."
"Buffy..." Willow gasped softly.
"No. No more," I said forcefully. "Tell me what we're looking for. I need to be the Slayer."
"And I want sex right now so can we move on?" Anya grabbed a glazed doughnut, shrugging indifferently.
"Ahn," Xander started.
"What? I'm tired of this 'Let's make Buffy normal again.' And the 'Let's say we're sorry over and over when she clearly doesn't want to listen and remember it.'" Ayna munched into her doughnut, nothing really affecting her.
And I was watching her in envy how unconcerned she could be.
"Anya!" Willow gaped.
"No. She's right. So, please, what are we looking for?" I was on the verge of begging them to put it all aside and to move on. I wanted to drown myself in something else, neck up in danger, breathing in suspense of whether I'd live to see another day. I wanted to forget and push for something else.
Something else. Just two words that meant everything.
"Something about Africa," Anya began, impatient to continue, and I was thankful for that. A smile tugging at my lips.
I turned to Giles and waited. "Giles?"
"Right. Africa." He took his glasses off to clean them habitually before putting them back on. "There was an occurrence in Africa, and I have a reason to believe that it ties to Spike."
Now it was time for Dawn to actually speak up. "Spike?"
"How do you know it was Spike?"
"Um. He came by the Magic Box and took some books out, saying he'd be out of town. The books, while he had ‘borrowed’ them, the records say they're about mythology of Africa. I recently had a contact telling me she saw a couple of demons, not many but considerably in power, and they were in the location where the books that Spike 'borrowed' spoke about."
"He wouldn't do anything bad, he wouldn't."
"This is Spike we're talking about and it's worth questioning..."
"Giles, Dawnie is right." I had to defend him. I needed to. He did so many for my sister. He did so many for me. There wasn't anything in my instincts that spoke about Spike defying every good he did just to do something destructive again, no matter how broken he appeared to be recently. And suddenly, I wanted to know what shattered him. "And you don't know what he did so it'd be best for me to go find out. I'll talk to him instead of this... Conspiracy." Before I knew it, coldly, I added, "Talking and taking actions for others never did well for you all. I thought you all knew better now. Apparently now."
With what was said, I left the room. I grabbed my keys and slipped into my maroon, leather coat, tying the belt of it tightly around my waist. I was almost out the door, the doorknob still cold in my hand - I heard the voice of Dawn calling after me so I turned and waited.
"Buffy. Spike wouldn't..."
"I know he wouldn't, Dawn. I believe in him like you do."
I lingered around at the door of his crypt, wanting to go in and yet not wanting to. Why didn't I not want to? I breathed in the cold air and only fell silently into the darkness. This was my niche. I felt alive being gone. I wasn't here. I've disappeared. But still I didn't live and I wanted to. It wasn't enough to be alive within my element. This is what I've known of. This is what I've always knew, and this wasn't enough. This only became a habitual routine. I wanted to forget. I wanted to feel. I wanted to be anything.
Too much was torturing in my mind that I took another breath and moved in the crypt.
"What do you want?" Coldness of his voice taunted me.
I turned to him and saw him lounging with a scotch in hand. I made a move to closer to him but the stone of his voice was there. "Slayer, I'd rather you to stay there."
I faltered, searching in his eyes. Those blue eyes that always reminded me of the storm in the sea, shocking and speaking of hushed legends. They told me nothing.
"I -" I shook my head mentally. If he wanted to be cold, I could just as cold. "Africa. What were you doing in there?"
Spike slammed his scotch onto the table, leaving the couch with a harsh grace, and he strode over to me until we were barely a breath apart. He was looking down at me, desperation clear in his eyes but covered in broken shards and anger. He never looked so helpless to me despite the radiating frustration and the knowledge that no matter how much he could be battered around, he'd still be prowling in the shadows to learn for the next round, or just to try to learn. But he wasn't helpless to me no matter how much his eyes could play the part of a breaking soul, he was far from helpless.
I was the one that was helpless. He could go on. Always did. Be shoved and he'd fight back, but I was tired of fighting.
"Why do you want to know?"
I could smell the scotch on his breath. My nose scrunched up in displeasure.
"Giles was... Concerned."
"I'm sure you all were fretting about, Slayer," he scoffed. "Worked up about me 'cause I'm untrustworthy as the next common demon to you."
"What? No." I shook my head. "I trust you." The words were out in a soft whisper before I even knew it.
He was the one this time to take a step back while I still stood like a soldier, unwilling to back down, and... I didn't want to leave him. The way he was searching me with confusion in his eyes, not quite sure if he should trust my words. My words were like both angels and devils and he didn't know which way it went. He never knew and he didn't like the chances but he couldn't help it.
I didn't know why I saw all of him then and it frightened me but I didn't want to leave him. He was silently struggling with a fever that I wanted to comfort, kill the demons in his nightmares for him to simply be. And I was all too aware of the comfort he brought me. He never demanded for something more than I could do but waited for me. I was his curse, was I not? That, I thought in disapproval, wanting to... Just wanting to be what he wanted me to be. He wanted nothing from me but me to be me while everybody else wanted something else, someone stronger, someone that knew what to do. And he wanted me, uncaring if I was breakable as well, just wanting me to be me, and I wanted to be me for him, I realized with a start.
"Whisper in a dead man's ear, it doesn't make it real," he once told me, but it was so wrong. He’s dead like I'm dead. I felt no difference. My secrets were his and I wanted his secrets to be mine. We were both living and dying.
There was no denial now. The black and white were forever gone as soon as I... I came back. This was the gray. I saw everything in gray. The world was full of grays, scarcely black and white.
"Buffy?" he questioned me, voice soft and dangerously close to breaking. I didn't want to break him.
"Why did you go to Africa?" my voice equally soft. I didn't ask him then because of Giles. I asked him because I wanted to know why he left me in the middle of everything and why he left me without telling me. I came to the crypt and found nothing waiting for me. Everyone and everything would leave me, they always had done and would always will, but I didn't want him to leave. I hated the idea that he could and he did.
But he came back.
"Why did you leave me?" I asked and he looked at me for a long time, unable to grasp what I was trying to say.
"I - ... You couldn't stand to want me without a soul," voice low, he murmured, and quickly, he added. "I'm a thing. Now I'm a thing with a soul." At his confession, he looked up to me and I gasped how brilliant his eyes looked at me, imploring, wanting a taste of my soul. "I'm always just a thing."
He shook his head, hand into his hand, shaking loose of his curls. He no longer cared to keep up his image. His roots were showing and his curls were screaming to be touched. He gave up on caring. With his chuckle that damned me, he turned away, back to me, and walked away deeper into his crypt.
"I can't not be a thing," he muttered in vain.
"I can't be anything."
"What am I if I'm a thing but with a soul? The soul hurts, you know. I wouldn't give it away still. I earned it. It hurts but it soothes. Why do I want it? Why do I want you?"
He turned to me at the sound of his name, his actual name, and only stood and blinked.
"Why do I want things I cannot have?"
I could see the hurt in his eyes, flashing. I was sure he was remembering. Remembering Dru, remembering Cecily, remembering me.
And I struggled to say the next words. They seemed difficult but I didn't want to leave him broken. I had to be broken and he had to be strong but now I had to be stronger. Was he teaching me to live again without even knowing it?
"You didn't need a soul, you had me."
"You always had traces of your mortality. I saw it in you, always did. You're different. My mother knew, she befriended you."
"She reminded me of my mother..."
"Dawn knew, too. She always stood up for you. You cared for her."
"She needed someone..."
"I knew then. You love me. You were always there. Can I have you now before you leave me? Everybody always leaves but I don't want you too. I need you."
"I - I won't leave you. I'm yours. I'm always yours."
I walked up to him, both afraid and not. There was only an inch apart from us both and I stood strong. He needed someone strong while he was breaking. "And - I'm," I took a moment to breathe deeply, my eyes never leaving his face, tracing mentally of everything he had. The high cheekbones that defined his ancient nobility, alabaster skin smooth to the touch that I wanted to feel just to make sure it was alive with me unlike those marble Greek and Roman statues. The flawed scar on his eyebrow, pearly white compared to his already pallid skin, but it wasn’t a flaw. He was gorgeous. And he didn’t need a soul to be even more gorgeous to me. "I'm yours. I'm always yours."
And then I felt his lips on me, hard and needing. He wasn't needing for anything else but just to know if I was actually his. I was his, he knew though he didn't know. I responded back, tongue tracing his lower lip making him gasp, and I took this opportunity to breathe life back into him, to pick up his pieces and to put him back together.
"I'm yours, William."
And he sighed, body shivering at the words. "Mine?"
He embraced me and I breathed in his scent. He smelled of everything familiar to me, comfortable and safe, yet exotic and raw in his masculine scent. I wanted to rest within his arms and just to stay there, but as soon those thoughts crossed my mind, he let go of me, his eyes panicking in loss and a slight tint of disgust for himself.
“Is it me that you want?”
“What - ?”
“Did you just want to feel my body? I’m a thing that’s a toy. Do you just want to play with me? Is that all you would ever want?” His tone was barely restrained though it wasn’t in the sense of anger but a twisted insanity. My heart broke in ways I didn’t know it could break.
Angry at myself, I didn’t want to cry. I couldn’t bear to cry looking at what I did to him, suffering from abuse, holding on a thin string of delicate hope that’d only snap for him, he knew yet he still held on. Why did he allow himself to submit to the abuse? Why did I use him?
Was I too broken that I had to make everyone I love to go away? And for those that were too stubborn to hang on, I had to break so they could be the same? I never knew how much I could hate and I never knew it could be directed at me.
“No, I – I just want you. I want the Spike. I want the William.” I choked out a halting sob, barely preventing myself from weeping. “I’m – I’m sorry – I did this to you – You’re broken now like I’m broken ‘cause I’ve bro… Broken you.”
“Buffy, no,” he was sharp now in speaking and with a hard intake of air; he brought me to him and allowed me to cry into his warmth. He whispered slowly into my ear like a secret was being given. “If you want me because of me, love, then I’m fixed.”
I looked up to him. I knew my eyes were still watered up but a half smile took over me. “I do. I’m only fixed with you.”
He chuckled softly, life within him now. “We’re fixable, pet.”