All Roads Lead To Rome - Chapter Six - Paths Unclear
To Spike’s ears, it sounded like a gunshot. Obviously, he had forgotten he and Buffy weren’t alone. He could choose to ignore the git and continue to snuggle Buffy. Had a certain appeal, for sure. However, the little tingles in his arms made moving a smarter idea. Still not totally healed, but Spike thanked whatever powers above he could for the ability to hold and feel the woman in his arms. Slowly, he nudged Buffy’s head from under his chin, and they stepped apart.
They looked up and saw varying degrees of discomfort and amusement on an office full of people. Spike thought, with a chuckle, that Angel looked decidedly constipated. Wes stood behind his shoulder, obviously feeling sympathy for his friend, and interested in the couple. Lorne was fairly glowing with happiness for them both, but it could have been his radioactive complexion. Security was there; someone must have called in response to the doors slamming to the floor. Harmony was there, because she was a very nosy little bint, mouth making a little moue, so as not to spoil her lipstick. Charlie was smiling broadly… think he was looking for a possible throw down. Fred was smiling her sweet little smile. Spike was sure she was happy for him, but he could sense an underlying melancholy.
This time, Buffy said, “Angel! Enough already. Don’t you owe us a moment? Last time I saw Spike he was rather busy making with the inner glow. I just… want… I just need to make sure that he’s actually here. That I’m not going to wake up screaming and alone again. Let me tell you, nightmares of telling someone you love the…”
Utter silence. The people who did breath, stopped.
Spike gasped, looking directly at Buffy for the first time. There she stood, his little vision in red and black. He tilted his head, smiling at her quietly… waiting for her to continue. Whatever she was going to say was going to make all the difference to his world.
Regrouping, Buffy continued. “Okay… that took me by surprise, so I can imagine you’re all pins-and-needley waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
There was a small snicker from Spike. He could just hear the collective eyeballs rolling as Buffy mixed her metaphors. He knew her grammar gaffs were a put-on, she just didn’t choose to be all anal about it.
“Before Spike died, I told him I loved him. He said I didn't, but thanks for saying it. There was no time to argue or anything. He made me leave, he went poof, and Sunnydale collapsed.” Buffy paused, looking at Angel, who was grimly staring at his desk blotter.
Realizing that conversation had stopped, and everyone was looking at him, Angel said, “Please… continue, Buffy. I suppose it’s all got to come out, and now is as good a time as any.”
Sighing, Buffy began again. “Well, in a way, Spike was wrong. It had taken me 3 years to tell him I loved him, from the time he first said he loved me. I never said a word to him I didn’t feel, and that included some rather ouchy words I will never, ever say again. Not to him. He was also right, in that I wasn’t IN love with him. Slight difference, but all important.”
“Spike and I have had about the rockiest relationship possible, with the possible exception being that little interlude with Angelus.” Taking a breath, Buffy looked up and saw Angel’s pained expression, but forged on. She wasn’t sparing anyone anything today. It was too important that everything come out in the open. “Started with chaining me up and promising to off Dru if I’d want it, if I’d tell him I felt something for him. Oh yeah. I felt something… had him disinvited from my house for it.”
“I never told him that his expression when he hit the barrier at the door almost broke my heart. He looked like a little lost boy.” Buffy smiled softly at that.
“Oi! Was the Big Bad, then… mostly. Didn’t do the lost boy routine.” Spike gritted out through his clenched teeth.
“Yuh huh,” said Buffy. “I remember everything. I’ve had the past 6 months to try and grasp every single moment we’d spent together and cherish each one, since it was all I had left.” Rounding on Spike, she said, “And by the way, Mister… you have a whole lot of ‘splaining to do. Like why you’d never bothered to call me once you became all non-ghosty. Don’t think I’ve forgotten you never answered me.”
For the moment, Spike stopped his complaining and said, “Yeah, pet. I know. We have to talk. Lots to say, I get that.”
”Right. We do, Spike. You and me, me and Angel, you and Angel, Angel and us. Whole bunches of talk to be had. Soon.” With that, she smiled softly at him, and then turned back to her audience.
“Thanks to Angelus, I never really fully trusted another guy again, until I met Riley. Suddenly, I had someone who understood the demon part of my world, and I thought we could work together, and love together. Hah! That worked out so well.”
“Sing out, pet!” came from a very amused Spike.
“Down, Spike!” growled Buffy, “Let me continue or we’ll be here, talking, all night.”
Angel could be heard snickering quietly, and Buffy said, “Same goes for you, Brood Boy. Still have lots of words you need to hear.” She glanced around the room, daring anyone else to comment.
“Little did I know that Riley was part of the Initiative. They took great delight in systematically eliminating all demon life in Sunnydale. At the time, I agreed with them. From what I had been taught, demons equal bad. Black and white. Simple. Formula worked every!single!time. Nobody ever figured Spike into that formula, though. He screwed it all up. Always had. Starting with Acathla. Soulless demon, saving the world. Did not compute.” Buffy shook her head, fondly.
“Getting back to the Initiative… turns out they had captured Spike, and as you all know, there was that whole behavior modification chip business. Once again, the formula went out the window when Spike came to us for help. He was half starved and hurting, and for some reason trusted us enough not to dust him on sight. God knows why, it would have been so easy to take out the most dangerous threat I’d faced in years.”
At that, Spike looked at her with the most delighted expression. “Why pet, I do believe that’s the nicest thing you’ve said about me in ages.”
“Shut up, Spike,” came the giggly rejoinder. “Anyway… to make a long story possibly longer, Spike ended up staying with Giles, then eventually Xander. He found out he could kill demons without setting off the chip, and usually went patrolling with us. I never did tell him what a huge load off my back it was to have him along. Feel pretty shitty about that, but again, it’s in the past.”
“Oh yeah, the whole point of this part is Riley. Thought things were great… found out they weren’t. He couldn’t handle the whole Slayer gig – the being stronger and more capable at demon killing bit. Freaked out when he found out that Angel was my first boyfriend, and a vampire. Had conniptions when he found out that Spike, Hostile 17 to him, was helping us out, AND had developed feelings for me, AND I hadn’t staked him.”
“One night, Spike made me follow him to a vamp brothel, and showed me that Riley had been getting suck jobs from vamp ho’s. His excuse? They needed him. I didn’t. I made him feel like less than a man, and he wanted to see what I found so appealing about demons. Cripes!” She shivers at that… it wasn’t the best of times for her.
“Anyway, my mom was ill, Dawn showed up, Spike wouldn’t leave me alone and then…then there was Glory… Glorificus, the Hellgod.”
“Turns out Dawn was a dimension-busting, mystical glowy key in little sister form, and Glory wanted to use her to collapse the walls separating the dimensions. Made Acathla seem tame. During all this, Mom died, Spike was still there, helping and being annoying; never stopped trying to stick himself into the middle of things, hoping I’d see him as something other than demon. He’d stopped trying to kill me and mine for months, by then. Mom loved him, in case you didn’t know. I used to come home and find him having hot chocolate with her. Freaked me out mostly, ‘cause she didn’t particularly like Angel. Just couldn’t wrap my head around that one. She knew Spike for who he was, soulless, demon, man. Wish I’d actually listened to her once in a while.”
Buffy looked so small and sad, that Spike couldn’t take it any more. He went to her side, and slipped his arms around her waist, then dropped a chaste kiss on her head.
Gathering strength, Buffy continued “For some reason, Glory’s minions thought Spike was the key, and took him to Glory. Hellbitch tortured him for hours. We had to storm her hideout to try and prevent Spike from telling Glory that Dawn was the key. I was so sure he’d rat her out. Always so sure to think the worst of him. Had plenty of reasons to believe he would. He surprised us all. Told Glory nothing, and he was just this side of dusting. It was the first time I realized he meant what he was saying. That he actually cared about us to some extent. I did kiss him then… in thanks, nothing much… but he said it meant everything.”
“I know I’ve been going on and on, but it’s important. You have to know. You have to see Spike as I’ve learned to.”
It was absolutely silent in the office, all eyes focused on the Slayer and the Vampire. Huddled together, a perfectly matched pair. They ‘fit’ together like they’d been made from one piece split in two. They glanced into each other’s eyes, clasped hands, and Buffy spoke again.
“Glory was relentless. She destroyed Tara’s mind, and ended up chasing us out of Sunnydale. Spike managed to find an RV, and we attempted to escape. Of course, Glory found us, kidnapped Dawn for her freaking ritual. Found out she needed to bleed her to open the portal. Giles was all set to kill Dawn to prevent the ritual, but Anya pointed out that all we had to do was delay it. There was only one chance at a certain time for this ritual to work. I wasn’t gonna let ANYONE harm a hair on Dawnie’s head, so I turned to the strongest person I knew to help me.”
Another glance at Spike, and more story. “Spike and I went back to my house, to load up on weapons. He was sorta quiet… told me to hand them over the threshold. I had completely forgotten about the disinvite. Gods, you should have seen his face when I let him in. He would have taken Glory out singlehandly for me had I asked. Again, told me he knew I didn’t love him, but I treated him like a man, and for him... that was enough.”
“I knew in my heart that we weren’t all going to come out of this fight, and I made Spike promise me to defend Dawn if anything happened to me.” Looking at Spike, she asked, “What was it you said, Spike? Exactly?”
“I said, ‘to the end of the world, even if it happens to be tonight.’ I meant it with all my heart, Buffy… so sorry I couldn’t…”
Buffy stopped him with a slight kiss to his cheek. “Spike, you did all you could. You did more than I could have expected of anyone else. Shhh.”
“Anyway… suffice it to say that Glory was stopped. Unfortunately, some demon called Doc managed to bleed Dawn after all, after throwing Spike off the top of the tower Glory’s minions had built. I got up there too late. Threw Doc off the tower, got to Dawnie, but it was too late. The portal was opening. Dawn was going to jump, it was awful. She was resigned to dying. I realized that she was made from me… same blood in the veins, and all. I know there’s a lot I’ve not explained, but you don’t need the info to follow this. Anyway, I had been told that “Death was my gift” by the First Slayer on a vision quest I had undertaken. I knew then that the only thing to do, was to jump, letting MY blood seal the portal.”
Spike’s fingers tightened around her own, and she could feel him silently sobbing. She just hugged him tighter. The worst was almost over.
“I told Dawn to tell Giles that I had figured it all out. I was fine with my decision. I could do what I had to. Most of all, I told Dawn that she needed to live for me. All my friends. That the hardest thing to do was live, and they needed to go on, for me. I jumped, knowing my time was over. I’d be fulfilling my purpose, and the world would be saved. Dawn and all my friends would be fine. It was enough for me.”
If Spike hadn’t been supporting Buffy, she would have collapsed. She looked haggard, but she needed to finish.
“Next thing I knew, I was trying to breath, lying down in a closed box. Ended up digging my way out of my own coffin.” She shuddered and said, “Ended up fighting my way through Sunnydale, not sure of where I was, or what was happening. Found Dawn, who ended up leading me back home. Cleaned up, changed clothes, heard Spike bellowing for Dawn from downstairs.”
“I walked slowly down the stairs, and when Spike looked up and saw me… realizing it was actually me, returned from the dead and buried, and not the Buffybot…”
“Buffybot?” came from Angel and Wesley.
“Don’t worry about it – one day I’ll fill you in on everything,” said Buffy. “As I was saying… when Spike realized it was me, I thought he had gone catatonic. The awe in his face would have lit up the night sky. He saw my bleeding knuckles and knew what I had done. He offered to clean them for me, when my resurrectionist friends burst into my house. Blah blah blah, and I found out that they had thought I was in hell, and ‘saved’ me from eternal hellfire and torment.”
“Basically, every moment back was sheer torment. I was in heaven, and they pulled me out. Only place I could find any solace was at Spike’s crypt. He didn’t ask, he didn’t judge, he didn’t insist I be shiny, happy Buffy. It was good. It was more than good. We talked, we were friends, we just connected… then I fucked it all up.”
“Luv, that’s not right,” Spike insisted. He was heartbroken. Again, sweet cheek kisses, and Buffy sssh’d him.
“Spike… this is it. The real truth, and nothing but. I was depressed, and became abusive. I couldn’t even tell my friends what they had done to me, so I took out all my frustrations on Spike. I beat him down mentally, I smacked him down, I fucked him. Led him on, and hurt him over and over again, because I was just dead. Didn’t think much more of him, either. Dead, soulless creature, and he was more alive than I was. I was more a monster than he was.”
“He tried to save me when I’d been framed for the murder of a girl. How did I repay him? I beat him to within an inch of his final death. Never told him I had found out who actually murdered the girl, never told him I was sorry. Never even looked to make sure he got out of the alley where I’d left him before the sun rose. If there is anything in this world that I am ashamed of, it was that night. Gods, Spike… how you can even look at me is beyond my understanding sometimes.”
Both of them were sobbing out loud now; all Spike could do was hold onto her, as she finished her tale.
“I’d begun to get my bearings again, decided I wanted to live. Stopped going to Spike for escapist sex; using him. I’d done that several times before, saying no… coming back. Fucking with us both, actually, but this time I meant it. It’s not that I didn’t feel anything for him, it’s that I wouldn’t allow it to be real. I was worried about the reactions of the Scoobies. Just wasn’t strong enough to assert my own wants and needs. I told Spike he had to move on, that whatever he felt was real, but just to him.”
“Turns out the nerd trio had bugged most of Sunnydale, including the Magic Box. Spike went to Anya for a forgetting potion, ended up polishing the table with her, caught in 100% Technicolor thanks to a video camera. We’d all seen it on Willow’s laptop… she had been tracking the paths of all the bugs. Xander flipped, and went after Spike with my axe. My relationship with Spike came out when I wouldn’t allow Xander to kill him, everyone was devastated. I ran off, as usual.”
“Blah blah blah, Spike came to apologize to me for hurting me, even though I had told him to move on, I admitted I cared for him, just didn’t trust him enough to ever love him. He pushed a little, I pushed him away. It was an old dance. He just didn’t realize I actually meant no this time.”
Angel’s growls could be heard from across the room.
“Angel, knock it off, and bear with the rest of this. Trust me, it’s hard enough to tell knowing the whole story. I’m fine. Never was hurt physically.”
“As I was saying… Spike got a bit physical, I threw him off and, as upset as I was, I could see the devastation on his face. I told him that’s why I could never love him… couldn’t trust him, when in truth, I had been to blame as much as he for letting things get so out of hand.”
Gathering the remnants of his strength, Spike said, “I had to leave. I’d done the one thing I’d sworn I’d never do. I hurt the girl. Hurt the woman I’d loved. The damned chip wouldn’t let me be a monster, and I couldn’t be a man. Had to change. Couldn’t let something like this happen again. I ended up seeing a Shaman in Africa, fought his trials and won, and had my soul returned to me. Drove me bug shagging crazy.”
Buffy smiled at him, grateful for his taking over the storytelling.
“Somehow, I ended up in the Sunnyhell High basement, and, as Angel is fond of reminding me, spent three weeks out of my mind. Doesn’t seem to know about the weeks of being used as The First’s bitch, murdering innocents and not remembering. Being rescued by Buffy, staying with Xander, and let me tell you, ducks, that was torture in its own right. Living with people who hate you, mistrust you. You’d think I’d be used to it. Don’t mean it didn’t sting.”
“Actually knocked down a wall and bit Andrew at one point. Found myself manacled in Buffy’s basement. Tried to get her to kill me. Told her of all the horrid things I’d done, told her not to trust me in a house full of potential slayers. Kill me while she could, evil thing that I was. And what does the silly cow do? Tells me she’s seen me change, tells me that she believes in me.”
“Was then kidnapped by the Bringers, bled to open the Seal of Danthazar and raised the bloody Turok’an. Don’t know how long before Buffy rescued me again, only thing that kept me going was that she believed in me… I was worth something, that she’d come for me. And she did, and we fought, and with the lovely Elizabeth Taylor accessory so kindly provided by Angel, closed the bleedin’ Hellmouth.”
Buffy nodded her head, agreeing with all Spike had said.
She took up the narrative. “And you know the rest. We stopped by LA before heading for London, we all did our thing, and nothing was out of the ordinary until Andrew came back from his visit with Dana, the other day. Kept his promise to Spike for all of 5 minutes in my presence. I got pissed off, got the next flight I could, and here I am. Instant Scheherazade!”
“Don’t quite know where this is leading to. Haven’t had the time to actually speak with Spike alone yet, but I can tell you this. I do love him. With all my heart. I trust him with my life, my sister’s life, and the lives of everyone on this planet. He’s more than proven himself to me. It should be good enough for everyone else.”
“Spike, we need time to see just where we are, what we are, to each other. If you’re willing… I wanna do this right. We need to spend time with each other. We’ll work something out. Are you game?”
Turning to face her, Spike was speechless. He grasped her hands, brought them to his lips, and kissed them gently. He released them, lifted her face gently, and kissed her with all the enthusiasm he could muster.
Neither of them heard the catcalls and applause from most of their audience.
**Whew** I am exhausted. Hope you enjoy, I think it ends nicely here. Can do more if my newborn muse awakens. Might just move on to something different. Let me know what you think.
ETA: Now beta'd for your reading pleasure. Also, I guess you can tell that this is nowhere near the end! **grins**