Spike was for once finding himself at a loss for words.
After witnessing the confrontation between the slayer and her watcher, he’d kept quiet, replaying her words over and over in his head. It was nice for one of the damn Scoobies to realize they only wanted his help when they needed him. Never mind that he spent the entire summer caring for Dawn and patrolling with them. As soon as they had Buffy back he was again regarded as highly as a bug they’d squash underneath their shoes.
However, it was annoying that the one person who realized what a short hand he was being dealt was the one person who couldn’t remember a bloody thing. He was under no delusion that if Buffy’s memories were intact, she would be whistling another tune entirely.
It was while he was mulling over these thoughts that she asked him the question. A question he wasn’t entirely sure how to answer. He cursed Giles for not having this talk with her already. She had every right to answers, but was he really the one to give them to her?
Apparently, he was, because Buffy was looking at him, her eyes so trusting, like she knew he wouldn’t lie to her. And he wouldn’t, damn it, because he did a lot of things, but he didn’t lie to her.
“Yeah, pet, you do have parents. Far as I know, your folks split before you moved to good ol’ Sunnydale.”
“Then why do Dawn and I live on our own with Willow? It seems strange that three young women would live by themselves.”
“Not sure I’m the best person to be askin’. I don’t know as much as your mates do ‘bout this stuff,” he told her truthfully.
She looked up at him with those big green eyes, silently pleading for answers. “I tried asking Willow once, but she doesn’t seem to be very comfortable around me. She’s all twitchy. You’re the only person who acts somewhat normal around me.”
“Okay, then. This might be hard for you to hear, but your mum passed on last year. Dunno where your wanker of a father is, but seems he’s not interested in taking care of you or the Bit.”
“I should be upset by this,” she stated, still looking to him for guidance.
“And you would be if you could remember,” he assured her. “You and your mum were tight. She was a real nice lady.”
“You knew her?”
“Not very well, but she was the only one of your lot who was nice to me. ‘Sides Dawn, of course,” he said with a smile.
Buffy frowned. “You like Dawn better than me. Because I’m not nice to you?”
Spike had to laugh at that. “Oh, Slayer, if you only knew the half of it.”
She remained quiet, not sure if she wanted to know the half of it. The fact that Spike appeared to favor Dawn bothered her more than she’d like to admit. She knew it was completely irrational, because she had no knowledge of what her relationship with Spike was like before, but she couldn’t comprehend how any version of herself would be cruel to Spike.
“How’d my mom die?” she asked quietly, needing to say something to fill the silence.
Spike cleared his throat. “Brain tumor.”
Buffy simply nodded, walking ahead of him, letting him think she was wondering about her mother.
It was unusual for Spike to have visitors during the day, so he was surprised when Rupert came to his crypt the next day. Spike was sprawled out in his chair in front of the television waiting for his favorite program to come on. A warm mug of blood and Passions on the telly was how he preferred to spend his afternoons.
“Rupert. To what do I owe the pleasure?” Spike asked snidely.
“I’m sure you’re well aware of what I’m here to discuss, Spike. I’m surprised to find you here, and not overstaying your welcome in Buffy’s home.”
Spike glared at the other man. Hadn’t he gotten enough when he confronted the slayer the night before? “That’s right. Tried to use your watcherly influence on the slayer, but this time she set you straight. So what? Now you’re here to make idle threats?”
“I’m sure you’ll find any threats I make are to be taken seriously,” Giles promised, returning the glare. He’d had quite enough of Spike taking advantage of Buffy’s mental state. “I think it would be best for everyone if Buffy were to patrol alone from now on.”
“Not sure Buffy would see it that way.”
“No, I’m sure she won’t, considering the thrall you seem to have over her.”
Spike scoffed at that. Giles had no clue how wrong he was! Spike couldn’t be a more perfect gentleman around Buffy. Lord knows it wasn’t easy for him to be around her every night and not be able to touch her or tease her like he wanted. “No thrall, mate, just honesty. You should try it sometime.”
“I’m not interested in your thoughts on the matter. Tonight, I’ll tell Buffy you will no longer be patrolling with her. You’d do well to stay away from her, Spike.”
As Giles turned to exit the crypt, Spike couldn’t help but call after him, “Hey, Rupes, if I were you I’d keep a better watch on the witch. She reeks of all kinds of nasty magicks.”
Giles turned to regard him with a look of disdain. First Buffy, now Willow? “Lucky for me, you’re not,” he replied, in a condescending manner, like he couldn’t believe Spike presumed to know what was going on right under his nose.
Spike shook his head, not one bit surprised that Giles wouldn’t accept help from him. A wry smile broke out on his face. How he wished he could be a fly on the wall when the watcher broke the news to Buffy.
The night Giles told Buffy she’d be patrolling without him, Spike made a point not to be in his crypt after sunset. Although he disagreed with Giles’ need to constantly control Buffy’s life, he thought it best for him to take a break from her. In a way he was just as bad as Giles, treating Buffy like she was someone different, just because she couldn’t remember who she was. It felt wrong somehow, to get close to a Buffy who didn’t remember she despised him. If he did get close to her and then she remembered to be her bitchy self—well, he wasn’t sure he could handle that.
Instead, he went down to Willy’s for a few drinks every night. Most nights he could count on running into a few demons who didn’t like him palling around with the slayer. Nothing he couldn’t handle though, and he was happy to blow off some steam.
It took Buffy two weeks to figure out where Spike was hiding out. Before heading out to patrol Buffy had mentioned to her friends that she hadn’t seen Spike in a while, and she wondered where the demons went for a little fun. Xander had mumbled some snide remark, but Anya had helpfully supplied her with the directions to Willy’s, much to Xander’s chagrin.
It was an unusually cold December in Southern California, and Buffy was surprised to see a crowd outside Willy’s. Demons and vampires probably didn’t notice the cold weather she guessed, rubbing her gloved hands together. One of the members of the crowd caught her attention, and she smiled, picking up her pace. It wasn’t until she was closer that she saw Spike was surrounded by four large, horned demons that obviously had the upper hand in the fight.
Breaking out into a full run, Buffy wasted no time tackling the demon that had just thrown a punch at Spike. The other two let out growls, turning to see who would come to the vampire’s defense. She turned on them, getting in a few punches before they were scrambling back inside the bar. Turning back, she was dismayed to see the first demon was long gone; it most likely ran back inside once her attention was diverted.
“What the hell do you think you’re doin’?” Spike slurred at her, angrily. He’d obviously had too much to drink, but she was still surprised by his tone.
She wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Was that some sort of trick question? “Um…saving you?” she offered, taking his arm to help him off the ground.
He swung out, managing to hit the side of her face even though that clearly hadn’t been the intended spot. “Don’t need saving!”
Buffy touched the spot where his fist had just connected. “But—you…you’re not supposed to be able to hit humans!” She looked down at him, confusion written all over her face, as he tried to stand on his own.
“Right. ‘Cept we found out doesn’t work on you anymore. Does it, Slayer?”
“Guess not,” she said, lamely. “Let’s get you back to my house. I stocked up on some blood for you.”
“Don’t need your damn blood!” He wobbled on his legs, stumbling into her a bit.
“I’m just trying to help. The least you could do is accept it.” She smiled when he leaned into her, allowing her to help him get back to her house.
It took them a hell of a lot longer than normal to get back to Revello, but they made it without running into any more vampires or demons. It was relatively early, and although Dawn should have been tucked into her bed because it was a school night, she was up when they arrived. Buffy sat Spike down in the living room with Dawn while she went to heat him up a mug of blood.
“You’re staying here tonight,” she told him before she left. “You’ll never make it back to your crypt.”
“Don’t think that’s the best idea, Slayer,” he said, repeating the words he’d used the last time she asked him to stay.
“You’re in no condition to be judging ideas,” she told him before leaving for the kitchen.
“Where the hell have you been?” Dawn asked, once Buffy was out of earshot. She had her arms crossed over her chest, looking every bit the disgruntled teen she was at the moment.
“Sorry, Bit. Got pissed at the local watering hole is all. No harm done.”
“Yeah right. You’re eye is swelling up like Buffy hit you.” She paused, thinking over what she had just said. “Buffy didn’t hit you, did she?”
Spike chuckled. “Not this time.”
Dawn softened, leaning into him. “You know, she’s not the only one who misses you. You haven’t been around in weeks.”
Spike had only been thinking of keeping his distance from Buffy. He’d completely ignored the fact that he’d be keeping his distance from Dawn as well. “Been a bloody git lately. Trying to do the right thing and all.”
Dawn had a feeling Buffy’s friends were behind Spike’s sudden disappearance from their lives. It wasn’t like him to listen to them, and she had no idea what he meant by ‘trying to do the right thing’. “Whatever. You should totally stay over tonight. Buffy seems lonely lately.”
“She’s got you, hasn’t she?”
Dawn’s face read a mixture of sadness and anger. “Tell her that,” she grumbled under her breath.
Spike didn’t have a chance to respond before Buffy was back with his blood. The conversation with Dawn had done wonders to sober him up. He felt like a real jerk, basically abandoning Dawn, because Giles thought he was taking advantage of Buffy. Since when did he give a shit what that uptight tosser thought? Since never, and he’d do bloody well to remember that.
“Cot in the basement still got my name on it?” he asked, earning him two brilliant smiles from his favorite sisters.
Buffy insisted Spike stayed with them until Christmas. It was only two days before Christmas Eve when she suggested it, and both she and Dawn wanted him to join in on the festivities. With Spike in the house Buffy was happier than Dawn had seen her in a very long time. Although that realization left a bitter taste in her mouth, Dawn couldn’t be more excited for the holiday, even Tara was coming. It felt good to know she’d be surrounded by all the people she loved, especially since this was the first Christmas without their mother.
Spike, however, wasn’t looking forward to the fireworks that were sure to explode once Giles found out about his new living situation. Rather, his temporary living situation, because he certainly wouldn’t be staying much past the holidays. For one thing, the bed in his crypt was a hell of a lot more comfortable than the cot he’d been sleeping on the past two days and for another, it was just unnatural for a vampire to be living in a house, much less the slayer’s house.
Spike was somewhat surprised that Willow hadn’t put up a fight about him staying in the basement. Not that the witch was around very much to notice, much less care. Apparently, Giles hadn’t put much stock in Spike’s warning because she was still off until all hours of the night, coming home reeking of magic. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find it in himself to do anything about it. He’d already given Giles the heads up, and if Giles couldn’t be bothered, well neither could he.
Spike came up the stairs for his afternoon mug of blood to find Buffy standing at the sink, staring off into space. When he’d gone to the freezer to take a bag of blood then taken a mug from the cupboard and she still hadn’t noticed, he asked, “Everything okay, love?”
Buffy jumped at the sound of his voice, caught unaware that she had company. Turning to him, she shook her head sadly. “I have no clue what I should be doing right now.”
After setting his mug in the microwave, he gave her a curious look. “Not sure I catch your drift there, Goldilocks.”
She was grateful that he turned his attention back to the microwave, so he didn’t see the blush creep into her cheeks at the nickname. “It’s Christmas Eve. Shouldn’t I be doing something? Everyone’s coming here for dinner, and I don’t have anything to do. Do I even know how to cook?”
“Don’t have much knowledge in that department, but I do know you made a damn good meal few Thanksgivings back.”
“Sure did. Even whipped your own cream.”
Buffy’s brief smile quickly turned into a frown. “Okay, then why isn’t anyone letting me do anything?”
“Preaching to the bloody choir,” Spike muttered bitterly.
“Giles is coming over later with catered food. I feel so useless stuck here all day. It’s Christmas. It’s supposed to be a joyous holiday, but I can’t even remember what I’m supposed to be happy about.”
Spike’s unbeating heart went out to her; she looked so lost. Ironically enough, she had no idea she felt exactly the same way before the accident. “No harm in making a little something for dessert, yeah? Sure there’s something around here you can whip up before your mates arrive.”
Buffy beamed, as Spike took his heated mug out of the microwave. “I’ll go find Dawn and ask her where we keep the cook books. Thanks!” she exclaimed, embracing him in a tight hug before bounding out of the room to find Dawn.
Spike stared after her. It was the first time they’d touched since before her accident, and he was embarrassed to admit, even to himself how much he missed it. Even though he desperately wanted his Buffy back, a part of him wished she would act a little more like this Buffy, the Buffy who didn’t think twice about embracing him or welcoming him into her home. No, he wouldn’t mind that one bit.
Alone in the basement, Spike smoked a cigarette, reveling in what would most likely be his last opportunity to be alone that night. Willow had only just recently come out of her room, ready to celebrate a holiday she wasn’t meant to, and Giles and the rest of the crew were due any minute. He inhaled deeply, wondering just what the hell he was doing. Celebrating a religious holiday with people who despised him? If he didn’t know any better he’d think he was starting to act domesticated.
Good thing he knew better.
Spike looked up when the basement door opened and closed and tiny feet hurried their way down the steps. “Looks like I’m not the only one wanting a bit of alone time before the troops arrive.”
Dawn made her way to the cot, sitting beside him. “Actually, I don’t want to be around when Giles gets here, and Buffy tells him about you.” She made a face. “I’m so sick of everyone getting on our case for being friends with you.”
Spike smiled at the young girl. “Thanks, Niblet.”
“You’re like the only person who makes Buffy happy these days. The two weeks you weren’t around she walked around like a zombie. Why am I the only one who sees that?”
“It’s okay. You don’t have to defend me. I don’t care what they think of me.”
“No, it’s not okay. It-it’s like this assembly we had in school. On bullying. If you don’t say anything you’re just as bad as the bullies.”
“You think I’m being bullied?” Spike asked with a laugh, choking on the smoke he’d been exhaling.
“Well, yeah,” she said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “By Giles and Xander.”
“Don’t think when they were putting those assemblies together, they had vampires in mind. Don’t worry about me, all right? I can take care of myself.”
Dawn rolled her eyes. “I know. Besides, I’d rather be down here with you than up there.”
Spike stared sidelong at the teen. The last few days, he tried to make himself as scarce as possible, but he had noticed her various moods. She was angry, sure, but wasn’t that normal for a teenage girl? He knew things weren’t great before Buffy’s accident, and the memory loss couldn’t be helping things. Now that he looked back, Dawn seemed to be most angry when he and Buffy were around each other. Couldn’t be because she didn’t like him, because he knew she did, and she’d gotten over that silly crush ages ago, so—
The realization hit him like a troll hammer to the head. Dawn was jealous. Not of his attention toward Buffy, but the complete reverse. You’re like the only person who makes Buffy happy these days.
“Things’ll get better, Bit. Once big sis gets her memories back. You’ll see.”
Dawn didn’t look convinced. Probably because even he knew it was a lie.
Dinner had gone off without a hitch for the most part. Buffy’s oatmeal cookies were a hit alongside Tara’s apple pie and Anya’s store-bought fruitcake. Gifts were exchanged with smiles and laughter. It warmed Spike’s cold, dead heart when Tara handed him a gift. He knew he’d always liked her.
It wasn’t until Spike removed himself from the happy group to the front porch for a cigarette that Giles finally approached him. “Took you long enough,” Spike goaded. “Know you’ve been waiting to have your say all night.”
“I thought I made it clear that you were to stay away from them.”
Spike exhaled with a nod. “That you did. Might’ve been wise for you to share that bit with Buffy. I did like you asked. I stayed away. She came looking for me.”
“And you had no choice but to move right in,” Giles replied, sarcasm dripping from his words.
“Well, no actually, I didn’t. Was pissed out of my mind that night,” he admitted with a shrug.
“I’m not playing games with you, Spike.” Giles’ tone implied just how serious he was. “I find it rather suspicious now that Buffy’s lost her memory she wants you to be a part of her life.”
The words were like a knife to Spike’s gut. He couldn’t argue with that. It was the truth, no matter how much it hurt like hell. “No worries then. I’m sure as soon as her memories return she’ll kick me right to the curb.”
“I have no doubt of that. Why not make it easier on yourself and Dawn for that matter, and stay away now?”
Spike flicked away his cigarette butt, standing close the other man. He had to look up a little, but he did so with confidence, his tone just as serious as Giles’ had been a moment earlier. “Soon as Buffy and Dawn tell me to leave, I’ll be gone, but not a minute before then.”
As Spike walked away he idly thought that Giles could just stake him in the back before he made it to the front door. He wouldn’t put it past the watcher to do what he felt necessary to protect the people he cared for. When he made it through the front door without exploding into dust, he thought it must be a Christmas miracle.