The next morning Buffy woke early. Or maybe it wasn’t early for her, she couldn’t be sure. The clock on her nightstand told her it was seven. She wondered why she didn’t have to get to a job. She might, but she was pretty sure the others would have told her about a job. Did she get paid to be the slayer? She had so many questions she needed answers to.
Glancing around the room she saw pictures of her friends and family. She got out of bed to inspect her closet and dresser. It seemed like she had good fashion sense, at least she hoped so. Deciding some things should come to her naturally; she took out underwear, a bra, jeans, and a sweater. She chose a pair of brown boots from her closet to complete the look.
“Not too bad,” she said out loud to herself. Finding a makeup bag on her bureau, she added a bit of lip-gloss to put some color on her pale face. Her stomach gurgled, and she wondered if she was always this hungry or if it was because she’d been fed through a tube for the better part of the past week.
Dawn greeted her with a bright smile as she entered the kitchen. “You’re up early. Are you feeling okay?”
Buffy nodded, taking a seat at the counter. “I could use some breakfast though.”
Dawn looked guiltily at the empty milk container in front of her. “We didn’t really make time to go food shopping this week,” she explained. She quickly ran to the refrigerator, looking for something to appease her hungry sister. “I could make you some eggs?”
“No, I’m okay. Got any juice?”
Dawn poured her a glass of orange juice and put a bowl in front of her for dry cereal. They ate in silence for a few minutes before Dawn moved her empty glass and bowl into the sink. “Xander should be here any minute to take me to school. I don’t want to leave you, but Giles thinks I’m going to fall behind if I keep missing class.”
Buffy took a sip of juice, barely glancing at Dawn. “It’s fine, really. No biggie. I’ll still be here when you get back.”
Dawn grabbed her bag from the stool next to Buffy, giving her an awkward side hug. She tried not to take it personally when Buffy didn’t return the hug. She told herself that Buffy just needed time to adjust; her memory would come back any minute now. Sadly, Dawn knew that probably wouldn’t make much of a difference.
Buffy snuck out the back door, needing a moment to breathe in the cool evening air. She took in a deep lungful of air, exhaling slowly through her mouth. It was too much. All day everyone had been handling her with kid gloves when she was supposed to be this strong, powerful woman. They were constantly hovering over her, making sure she was all right. She didn’t feel all right at all. She felt completely lost.
“Getting to be a bit much in there?”
Her head popped out from where it had been nestled between her knees at the unexpected company. He took one last drag from his cigarette then tossed it into the grass before taking a seat next to her. “They can be a bit overwhelmin’, the lot of them, huh?”
Buffy inhaled the familiar smell of his leather jacket. It was comforting, weirdly enough.
“I know you.” It was more of a statement than a question. She eyed his bleached hair. “You’re Spike.”
Spike tilted his head, staring at her in disbelief. “Yeah,” he finally drawled. “How could you—? I thought you—you’re not supposed to remember.”
“I don’t, not really.” She shrugged. “Xander said something about Spike having bleached hair,” she trailed off.
“Are we close?” she asked, looking at him. “I feel like we’re close.”
Spike raised a brow, giving her a smirk that looked sad to her. “We’re a lot of things, pet, but close isn’t one of them.” He stood, telling her, “Came to see your watcher. He around?”
Buffy nodded and watched him walk into her house. She couldn’t shake the feeling that there was more to it than Spike was letting on.
Taking one last deep breath, Buffy followed Spike inside. She found him in the dining room, already deep in discussion with Giles and Willow. None of them noticed her entrance, if they did, none of them acknowledged it. The air in the room crackled with tension, both from the intensity of the conversation and Spike’s presence.
“What’s going on?”
Three heads turned to look at her. Standing up straight and squaring her shoulders, she came to stand next to Spike waiting for someone to fill her in. Giles and Willow shared a look, not sure how much to tell their amnesiac slayer.
Spike rolled his eyes. “Went back to the alley and found tire tracks under the ash from the explosion,” he told her. “Think you might’ve seen the wankers who did this to you.”
Buffy’s face scrunched up in confusion. “Wankers?”
Giles glared at Spike. “It’s an English slang term.”
Ignoring the look from Giles, Spike turned his attention to Buffy. “Yeah, you know, Slayer. Idiots. Morons.”
“Oh, right. Guess ‘wanker’ isn’t in my memory bank.” She closed her eyes, trying hard to remember the night of her accident. Frustrated when nothing came back to her, she shook her head. Fighting tears, she swallowed the lump in her throat and faced her friends again. They would never stop treating her like an invalid if she didn’t toughen up. “I still can’t remember anything about that night.”
“Don’t worry Buffy, I’m sure your memories will come back when you least expect it.” Willow gave her a sympathetic look. “You shouldn’t try so hard to remember.” Turning her attention back to Giles and Spike she said, “Tomorrow I’ll go over to the alley and see if I can figure out what kind of car the tires belong to.”
“I’ll be on my way then.”
“Wait!” Buffy grabbed Spike’s arm, the contact sending a bolt of electricity through her. The look on his face was unreadable as he shook her off of him. She tried to keep the hurt out of her voice. “Where are you going?”
Before Spike had the chance to answer her, Giles was standing next to them. “Spike will be patrolling in your absence.”
“Shouldn’t I go with him? I mean it is my job.”
“No,” Spike growled.
Giles saw the pained expression that crossed his slayer’s delicate features. He glared at Spike for the second time in a matter of minutes. “Not tonight. Tomorrow we’ll go to the Magic Box and see how much of your training you can recall.”
As Giles was speaking to her, Spike strode out of the house, slamming the front door behind him.
For a weekday, the Magic Box was much busier than usual. As customers floated around the store, Buffy and Giles trained in the back room. Giles was impressed to see how innate Buffy’s strength and coordination were. She might have been a little rusty at first, but picked up quickly. He had no doubt she’d be ready to patrol again with one more day of training.
One thing that saddened Giles to notice was how unusually quiet Buffy was during their session. Whenever they trained in the past they would talk, whether it was about mundane, everyday occurrences or the latest threat. Giles had hoped getting Buffy back into her routine would help her to remember, but when they took a break she was still a stranger in his slayer’s body.
While they were in the training room the Scoobies trickled into the shop one by one. Willow showed up first after her last class of the day. Dawn came next complaining about a huge math test she would need Willow’s help to study for. Xander arrived after work looking uncharacteristically spiffy in a suit.
Buffy took a seat on the stairs leading up to the loft. It didn’t go unnoticed by the rest that she chose to sit there instead of taking one of the empty seats at the main table.
The front door chimed, signaling another customer’s entrance to the shop. Anya looked up from the cash register where she was finishing a sale. The incoming blonde customer waved at Anya and kept moving until she reached the rest of the group. She headed straight for Buffy, but stopped as if just realizing Buffy would have no clue who she was.
“I’m so glad you’re okay.” The woman’s voice was soft and gentle and immediately put Buffy at ease.
“I-I’m sorry. I don’t remember.”
She quickly gave Buffy a hug. “Oh, no sweetie, of course you don’t.” She pulled back. “I’m Tara. I, um, used to live in your house.”
Buffy smiled at the soft-spoken woman. It was refreshing to interact with someone who wasn’t on edge around her.
“I’m sorry I didn’t come see you sooner,” Tara said, looking down. “I thought it would be better to give you a few days to take in everything.”
“I appreciate that. Things were hard at first, but they’re getting better,” she fibbed. Some things were getting better, but it still felt awful being a guest in your own life.
At the main table everyone had resumed what they were doing before Tara walked into the shop. Willow’s face was flushed, and she seemed to be trying the hardest not to look in Tara’s direction. She looked up when she realized Giles was waiting for her to continue their discussion.
“Oh, right. I’ve been reading a few books, and I think I found a spell that might work to get Buffy’s memory back.” Willow beamed proudly.
Until Tara bit out a harsh, “No!” wiping the smile completely off Willow’s face.
Xander kept his gaze on the tabletop, and Dawn had her nose buried in a textbook while Giles cleaned his glasses. Tara looked away angrily, her mouth set in a thin line. The air in the room crackled with tension, and Willow looked near tears.
“I’m just trying to help.”
Before Tara could retort, Giles stepped in. “We’re all trying to help, but I remember all too well the last time you used a spell to alter someone’s memories.” Giles intentionally avoided looking in Tara’s direction, which also looked like he was trying to avoid looking at Buffy. Willow’s face flamed a bright red in embarrassment.
“Is that how I lost my memory?” Buffy exclaimed.
“What? No!” Willow denied.
“Buffy lost her memory naturally,” Giles intervened. “And she will regain it the same way. I know that’s not the answer we want, but unfortunately it is the reality of the situation.”
An awkward silence enveloped the room, and it aggravated Buffy not to know the obvious history behind Willow and Tara’s disagreement. Buffy had mixed feelings about the spell herself. On the one hand they were in a magic shop—a shop Giles owned, so clearly they did this kind of thing often. But on the other, she wasn’t very comfortable with anyone messing with her mind like that. Luckily, the decision was made for her before she had to speak up.
Xander was the first to break the silence by asking Giles and Buffy how their training session had gone. Giles smiled, happily conveying how well she did and told them she should be ready to patrol the next night.
“Good for you, Buff.” Xander smiled at her encouragingly. “Someone should let Spike know he’s off the hook. And by someone, I mean not me.”
“Maybe Spike should go with me,” Buffy suggested. Xander looked ready to protest, so she quickly added, “I might be rusty when it comes to actually killing things, a-and he could watch my back.”
Giles thought it over, obviously not wanting to agree with her, but rationally seeing the benefit of Buffy having a strong ally her first night back out on patrol. He nodded his agreement. “Tonight I’ll take you out to the cemeteries while Spike is patrolling. You can watch his technique and, perhaps engage in some combat yourself.”
Spike was avoiding them like the plague. The only time they caught up to his hurried pace was when he stopped to fight. The cemeteries were crawling with vampires tonight, and Spike was finding it extremely therapeutic. Being around the slayer who wasn’t his slayer was driving him mad. She smelled and looked exactly like Buffy, but the way she acted was completely different.
Giles was speaking to Buffy from behind him, critiquing his fighting skills. It was more than a little distracting. He was so busy taking his anger and frustration out on one vampire that he completely disregarded the other until he heard her shout his name and then felt dust littering his back. He quickly dusted the one he’d been fighting and turned to find the slayer with a stake in her hand and a bemused expression on her face.
“Oh my God!” she exclaimed. “That was so cool.”
Spike rolled his eyes, turning and walking away from her. He knew without looking that she had her hands on her hips when she called out to his retreating back, “No need to thank me for saving your life!”
That got a smirk out of him. So there was a little spunk in her after all. He fixed his face in a stony expression before calling back over his shoulder. “Didn’t need your help.”
She scoffed, running to catch up with him. “Like hell you didn’t. You had no idea that vampire was behind you.”
“Yeah, well, if you and your watcher would pipe down maybe I’d be able to hear something other than you both prattling on like a couple of school girls.”
“I’d hardly call it prattle,” Giles replied, catching up to them. “I was merely providing helpful suggestions to Buffy for when you two are out here alone tomorrow night.”
“Don’t know why I bother,” Spike grumbled under his breath.
Giles cleared his throat. “I think you’ve seen enough for tonight, Buffy. I’m sure Spike won’t mind us turning in now.”
“Don’t mind it a bit,” Spike agreed. “Should get your rest, slayer. You’re gonna need it.”
The idea of going home so soon after her first slay since the night of her accident was unappealing, but she couldn’t think of a good reason to stay. “Okay,” she said finally. “I’ll come to your crypt at sunset.”
Spike nodded curtly at them before they took off in separate directions.
Buffy showed up at his crypt ten minutes before sunset. She was anxious and more than ready to patrol. Not only did it mean she got to use her super speed and strength, but she also got to spend alone time with Spike. That was like an added bonus.
Out of everyone she’d met since her accident, Spike was the only one she felt a connection to. When he was around, her body tingled all over. It wasn’t just the vampire senses she had learned about the night before; it was something completely different.
Unfortunately, Spike was the only person around her who seemed to want nothing to do with her.
Buffy considered knocking, but it didn’t feel right so she opened the door and let herself into his crypt. She called out to him when she didn’t see him inside. There weren’t a ton of options as to where he could be since the sun was still hovering over the horizon, so she looked around, finding a hole with the top of a ladder sticking out of it.
Climbing down the ladder, Buffy found herself in what seemed to be Spike’s bedroom. He was standing by his bed shrugging on his duster when he noticed her arrival.
Buffy’s cheeks burned. “Only a few minutes.” She looked around the bedroom, noticing quite a few empty liquor bottles littering the floor. His bed was messy and unmade, a book haphazardly placed on the sheet. “You read?”
“Don’t sound so surprised, love. I’m not as dumb as I look.”
Her cheeks flamed an even darker red. “No, I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Yes, you did.”
“Okay, maybe I did,” she admitted. “I’m just surprised is all. When Giles and the gang told me about vampires, I never pictured them lying in a bed reading books.”
“Never was one for conformity.” Spike grabbed a pack of cigarettes off his night table and motioned for her to lead the way upstairs.
They walked in silence most of the way through the cemetery. Every now and then his arm would brush against hers or her shoulder would bump into his arm, and a little jolt of electricity would crackle between them. It took every ounce of strength she had not to act on the insane impulses she had that would surely just embarrass her.
There were much fewer vampires out that night than the night before. The lack of physical activity was doing nothing to ease the awkward tension between the pair. Buffy thought she might scream, if only to break the silence. Finally, she settled on asking him a question she’d been mulling over since the previous night.
“Why do you do it?”
Spike looked up, surprised by the sound of her voice. “Do what?”
“Last night you said, ‘Don’t know why I bother.’ I’m just not sure I understand why you do. Bother, I mean.” She took a breath to calm her nerves. “From what I’ve been told vampires are all grr argh. They’re evil, and they certainly don’t help the one girl whose job it is to kill them. You don’t seem ev—“
“Hey! I’m perfectly evil. Got all sorts of nasty ideas.”
“Right, so you’re what? The evil vampire who helps the slayer?”
“It’s a long story.”
“We’ve got all night.”
They stood facing each other, staring each other down, each waiting for the other to relent. In the end Buffy held out the longest. Spike sighed, lighting a cigarette and taking a seat on a nearby headstone.
“Used to be one of the evilest vampires around. Whole reason I came to this God-awful place was to kill you. Then a bunch of bloody soldiers stuck a chip in my brain and everything changed.”
“What kind of chip?” Buffy asked, taking a seat on the headstone across from him.
“Behavior modifying kind. Can’t harm a soul without the damned thing frying my brain. Took a little bit before I realized it only worked on humans.” He took his seat again, lighting up another cigarette. “See, it’s the fight I really love. When I found out I could hurt demons we formed a strained alliance of sorts.”
“Now I’ve got a promise to keep. Last summer when—“ Spike searched her face for a flicker of emotion at the mention of the previous summer. When he found none, he continued carefully. “When things got hard, I promised you I’d look after Dawn. Seems like the Niblet could use some more looking after, with you not being at your best and all."
Buffy nodded and looked down at her feet. She wanted to ask Spike so many other things, but couldn’t form the words. She knew he would be honest with her, but maybe she’d had enough honesty for one night.