Willow sighed as she hung up the phone resting on the hall table and leaned against the wall, staring at her feet, her eyes narrowed in thought.
Buffy’s phone call had been entirely unexpected, given that it was just shy of eight in the morning; unless there was an apocalypse looming overhead, Buffy had always made it a point never to call before ten. Buffy’s excited voice had been too quick for her to make out any words, and Willow had barely been able to interject with a “hang on a second,” to allow her to punch the hold button and slip out of bed into the hallway, wanting Tara to still get a few hours of sleep.
The phone conversation in the hallway had been brief but unnerving. Spike had returned to Sunnydale. Spike, who was supposed to be very much with the dead and gone, had come back, and was currently residing in the Summers’ home. Spike was back, and apparently he’d come back wrong.
She’d done the spell before, of course; she hadn’t forgotten her foray into Buffy’s mind some months before. The theory was the same – and so was the practice – but Willow held a bit of apprehension at the thought of actually performing the spell. According to Buffy, Spike was far from the catatonic state that Buffy had been in when she’d first performed the spell; Spike could consciously choose to harm her while she was in his mind.
Pausing in thought, Willow shook her head with a huff of disbelief. Knee-jerk reaction. It wasn’t going to happen. If Buffy had thought for an instant that Spike would do something like that, she wouldn’t have suggested the spell. And even if Spike had somehow convinced Buffy otherwise, there was still the chip. That could still count for something if she wasn’t actually in her body. And somehow, Willow had known this, for before she’d hung up the phone she’d told Buffy to bring Spike to the Magic Box after it had closed so that she could perform the spell.
And leaning against the wall in the hallway of the apartment she shared with Tara, Willow’s mind raced with the possibility of other spells.
It hadn’t occurred to her that the dead – even the undead – could be raised. Years of knowing Buffy had proven to Willow that her world view needed to be shifted to live in the shades of gray, but her view on death had consistently stayed in the realm of black and white. A person died, or a vampire dusted, and that was simply it. There was no coming back.
Willow blinked and pursed her lips momentarily as a distant memory prodded at her mind. Angel. Angel had been an exception; Buffy had sent him to hell, and he’d come back. They had always written Angel off as the exception to the rule – the Powers That Be had some sort of plans for him, and had restored him after his death.
Willow shifted in place. It obviously hadn’t occurred to Buffy that the Powers might have had plans for Spike as well, but it seemed to her that the idea held little merit. Angel was a cursed vampire on the path of redemption, and Spike was just…Spike.
So she hadn’t thought of the idea of raising Spike after he’d jumped. But it annoyed her in retrospect that she hadn’t at least considered the idea. She had scores of magic books at her disposal, and probably could have found a spell if she’d only known to look. Perhaps they would have been in the more complex spell books she’d seen shelved in some dusty corner of the Magic Box, but she might have found them eventually. And despite the fact that she had no idea exactly how much power one would have to possess in order to raise the dead – maybe even more so to raise the undead – she knew undeniably that she would have been able to pull it off. And the idea excited her.
She was surprised by the sudden realization that she was angry at the Powers. Not for bringing Spike back, but for not giving her the chance to do it herself.
She hadn’t felt her magic power surge in months, and she was beginning to feel antsy that she wasn’t progressing as she thought she should. Resurrecting a vampire would have achieved that aspiration nicely.
Pushing away from the wall, Willow walked down the hallway and slid back into bed, pulling Tara into her arms and pressing a light kiss to her forehead, knowing that she would not find sleep again this morning, but trying regardless.
Sunlight poured through the open door as Buffy simply stood, gazing at the sight of the undisturbed upper level of the crypt.
Well, she thought wryly, stepping through the door, for the most part. Her eyes fell on the path her fingers had traced through the dust that had collected on top of the television – had it really only been last night?
Buffy was somewhat amazed at the changes the mere passing of a night could produce. Mere hours ago, she’d sat in the lower level, crying for a man she’d thought lost to her, in a crypt that had felt harsh and unwelcoming, abandoned. Those feelings had fled from the sunlight, and the crypt felt like it could be inviting once again, once surfaces were cleaned and candles were lit. There was hope here, and she hadn’t realized just how long it had been missing.
Buffy shifted the strap of the empty duffel off of her shoulder and let the bag fall to the ground, reaching around in her pockets for the lighter she’d bought earlier that morning. As she looked around for a suitably large candle to light, Buffy allowed her mind to wander over the events of the morning.
She’d stayed away longer than she’d needed to. All she’d planned on doing was to run to the butcher to load up on blood for her vampire houseguest, but she’d been waylaid by the supermarket next to the butcher, and had bought half a cart of unnecessary food; impulse buys to help dissuade the underlying nervousness that pervaded every last one of her actions.
As a last minute scramble for normalcy – relatively speaking – she’d awkwardly asked the clerk for a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, pointing towards the familiar box of Spike’s brand. The girl had raised an eyebrow and looked her over before shrugging and pulling the box down from the shelf before grabbing a lighter from the small display at the side of the register and adding both to the tab. The pack of cigarettes had found a home in Buffy’s left jeans pocket; the lighter in her right.
Buffy had returned back to Revello Drive loaded with unnecessary groceries – and if she’d ventured to look at what she’d actually purchased, she would not have been surprised to find a vast array of junk food – and more than enough blood to get Spike through the week. The blood had gone directly into the fridge; the bags of groceries had found a temporary home on the counter before Buffy crept upstairs and into her room.
Her purpose had started out innocently enough – she needed a bag for the clothes she was going to retrieve from the crypt. That mission had altered, slightly, when her eyes fell upon Spike sprawled across the mattress, sheets riding low on his hips, one arm flung over the side of the bed, loosing needless deep breaths every now and again. Buffy leaned against the doorframe, watching him sleep, a part of her amazed at just how tired he must have been given that her presence had yet to wake him – she’d always known Spike’s senses to be top-notch.
Maybe I just don’t register as a threat.
The thought thrilled her; aside from a few touches downstairs, Spike had yet to actually confirm that he’d come back from wherever he’d been still in love with her. That she didn’t know for sure that he would reciprocate in kind made her extremely wary to tell him of her own feelings – but at this moment, seeing him spread out across her bed like he’d always been there, Buffy tapped into some previously unknown fount of courage deep inside of her, and found that she could – and would – tell him.
Tonight, she decided, creeping across to her closet for the small duffel bag she kept there. Before Willow casts her diagnostic spell. I’ll tell him tonight.
She hadn’t been able to resist running a feather-light touch across his cheek before leaving her room, nor had she been able to stop herself from tucking an errant curl away from his face.
As she’d walked out of the house into the bright sunlight and headed towards Spike’s crypt, she had been washed over with a relieved feeling – as though a weight had been lifted, but no words had actually been said. This was right, she’d realized. Telling him sooner, rather than later, and for some unknown reason to her it was important that he knew as soon as possible.
Buffy shifted her thumb off of the lighter and tucked it back into her pocket, picking up the large pillar candle from its dusty ledge and grasping it carefully in one hand, walking back across the crypt to the abandoned duffel bag and hooking her fingers under the carrying straps. She crossed to the open trapdoor – she hadn’t realized she’d left it open the night before in her haste to leave the cold and desolate crypt – and dropped the empty bag to the ground below, somehow managing to climb carefully down the ladder with only one free hand.
She did not know the layout of the lower level of Spike’s crypt as well as she knew the top portion – she hadn’t particularly cared to learn the lay of the land the only time she’d been down here, chained up by a love-struck and ranting Spike – and the first several minutes was spent walking around aimlessly, lighting candles as she stumbled upon them. Should have brought a flashlight, she chided herself, but continued to light candles, regardless.
By the time she’d decided that she’d lit enough candles – and was surprised to find even more that she’d passed by – a low light had been cast on the entirety of the area, and she was able to walk around and pluck up the clothes that had been scattered around the room. She was surprised to find that the entirety of Spike’s wardrobe – from what she could discern – fit into the small duffel she’d brought with her. Three pairs of jeans and a small assortment of shirts, as well as a spare pair of boots she’d found shoved underneath the bed. It would simply have to do.
Shirtless is a good option, too, her mind supplied, and Buffy forced herself to forget about the half-clothed vampire currently laying in her bed. There would be time enough for that later, after she’d confessed her feelings and after Willow had cast her spell. Fantasies could merge into reality, and that suited her just fine. It wasn’t long until dark, and she could wait.
Buffy blew out the candles in the lower level of the crypt, cloaking it in darkness before she hefted the duffel back over her shoulder and climbed up the ladder, intent on going home and keeping herself busy in the vain hope of keeping the image of the sleeping vampire out of her mind.
They walked together in the early evening, side-by-side, quietly but not entirely uncomfortably. Buffy found herself wringing her hands together nervously more than once, and had to fight to keep her arms down at her side, swinging with every step she took; stilted, but not entirely awkward. She counted it as a small victory.
A small part of her had also expected Spike to recognize her fidgeting and to grasp one of her hands in his, to tell her that everything was going to be okay. But he did not. She had ventured several gazes up at his face, and it was evident that the vampire was lost in his own thoughts.
He hadn’t said a word, and he didn’t have to. It was more than obvious to Buffy that he was nervous about the spell. And somehow, she could almost hear the monologue rushing through his mind. He was worried about what changes could be wrought after the results of Willow’s spell were made known.
After all, they still didn’t know exactly why he’d come back.
Biting at her bottom lip, Buffy slipped her hand into his, squeezing when it tensed in surprise. She glanced over at his confused face, and whispered, “It’s going to be okay.”
They continued walking, hand in hand, and she nearly cried out in joy when he squeezed her hand in response, tightening his grip around her hand.
For all her newfound courage, however, when they’d actually reached the door of the Magic Box, Buffy found herself struggling for words. When they stopped just outside of the door, she met his confused gaze with averted eyes and the light caress of her thumb across the back of his hand.
“Spike,” she began hesitantly, and breathed deeply, preparing herself for whatever might happen. “I…there’s something I need you to know before we go inside.” She squeezed at his fingers, wishing in vain that he could read between the lines, could offer her exactly what she needed to make this easier. “I…I told myself that I would…tell you. Before we went inside. To…try and prove to you that no matter what Willow says, if you really have come back wrong…that it doesn’t matter.”
A rush of bravery charged in from she did not know where, and she pulled him forward, rising up on her toes to press her lips to his. Her hand still clasped firmly to his, she ran the other down his cheek, around his neck, let it tangle in the fine hairs at his neck. He wrapped a hesitant and slack arm around her back, providing little more than a barrier in case she happened to fall.
It lacked the passion, the force that she’d always associated with Spike. But she couldn’t back down, not when she’d come this far. Maneuvering their kiss to an end, Buffy retreated enough to whisper against his lips, “I love you, Spike.”
She pulled back to look into his eyes, to gauge exactly what effect her confession had on him. To give him the opportunity to see the veracity in her own eyes, to see the smile tugging at her lips.
She had expected to see the awe. The underlying lust. And in this he did not disappoint her.
But she hadn’t expected to see the pain.
“No, Buffy,” he replied, his voice tight and harsh, pulling his hand from hers. “You don’t.”
A/N: Please don’t hate me.
I need to give credit where credit is due. A huge thanks to Holly for helping me hash out the Willow scene, of which I’m still not particularly fond, and to Mandi, who made another beautiful banner that I don’t think I’ll reveal until after the next chapter or two.
I adore the reviews you all leave, and it really does feed the muse. If you’re so inclined, please leave one!