Disclaimer: Characters by Whedon, lyrics as sung by Paisley and Krauss, angst by me.
Nothing So Soothing As a Lullaby
It was the summer after her resurrection that Buffy realized there was such a thing as an epiphany that crept up on you so slowly that you weren’t even aware of it.
And, like so many other things in her life, it was because of Spike.
She really tried not to think of him after that night in her bathroom. Even when she hauled Dawn off to his crypt to keep her safe from a Willow gone seemingly insane, she didn’t think of all the badness that had happened between them. She was only thinking that Spike would protect Dawn, that he’d cared for her the entire summer that she herself was dead.
I never thought he’d just… leave.
Over the months that followed, when it was just her and Dawn and Xander, Spike sometimes snuck into her thoughts. At first, she would firmly push everything that had to do with him aside, because after what he’d tried to do to her… well, it just wasn’t right to allow a guy who’d… done that any space in her head that wasn’t accompanied by disgust and revulsion. Was it?
And really, that’s what worried her most about the whole thing. Her Spike-thoughts weren’t filled with those ultra-negative emotions.
But eventually, she found herself missing him. Not insano-Spike from that night in her bathroom, but… Spike as he was when he first saw she was alive again, filled with awe and joy and wonder. Understanding-Spike, who she’d told what she’d lost, who always just let her be her, because he always wanted her to just be her.
Sometimes, when the day had been long or patrol had been difficult, she found herself wishing he was there, just so they could bicker a little and maybe lighten her spirits. Snarky-Spike had a comeback for nearly everything.
And there were times, in the rush after a good fight, or even for no particular reason at all, she missed him in a way that she knew would make him insufferably smug.
She could only think of the time they’d spent together – both talking and the companionable silence of just being, before they started having sex – in small increments. Just a little at a time, then she’d have to stop.
She didn’t like what she was remembering. No, and for once, she was completely honest in her own thoughts, I don’t like myself in what I’m remembering.
And every once in a while, when she couldn’t stop herself, in her mind’s eye Buffy would watch Spike picking himself up from the bathroom floor, his expression one of utter disbelief and horror.
It was toward the end of summer when that light burst upon her, but she really had been taking it slow, and as action-girl, she’d never really considered herself much of a thinker. That wasn’t Spike… not really. That was a Spike desperate to have me give him something, after all I’d taken from him. It was Spike confused by everything I’d done to him, because otherwise he never would have done that. He hadn’t even hit me since the night we first had sex, and I started that. He never even raised his hands to keep me from… when I… in the alley…
She just sat on the edge of the bed in her mother’s room – and even though she slept there now, it was still her mother’s room, and probably always would be – looking at the door but not seeing it, stunned by the thoughts running through her head.
What he did… I drove him to that. Everything I said, everything I did… I meant to hurt him because he cared and I wanted him to hate me and… and if he hurt me that night and betrayed the trust that I did have in him, I’d already hurt him even worse.
She was still staring blankly at nothing, too shocked for remorse, when Dawn came home from her summer job, demanding supper.
After that moment of enlightenment, Buffy wondered what about her Spike had loved. Because, really, he ought to hate my guts, she thought, and she hated herself a little for what she’d done. No one deserved to be treated the way she had treated Spike.
She still missed him – more than she wanted to – and not for the first time, she was just a bit glad he was gone. Originally, it had been in the hateful I hope he never comes back sense, but after acknowledging her own wrongs, it was in the I hope he’s happier now, without me, wherever he is way.
Of course, once she’d started to make peace with the idea that wherever he was, Spike was probably better off away from her, that’s when he would show up.
In the middle of experiencing first-hand the craziness of the new high school’s basement, part of her wasn’t terribly surprised that Spike was acting somewhat less than sane. But it was the way he looked that made her feel like she’d taken a sucker punch to her gut. His hair had grown out, wild dark curls bleached for half their length, and his clothes were caked with dirt and dust. He always made sure he looked good before, Buffy thought almost forlornly, and shuddered at the deep scratches on his chest, over his dead heart.
And despite her revelations over the summer, all her good intentions, crazy-Spike did not really lend himself to getting a warm welcome, even when he was more Spike-like. Even though she knew she’d driven him to that extreme, bits of fear still lingered, and she was colder, harsher than she meant to be.
Then, oh, God, he blew her away, confused and confusing ramblings in an ancient church, confessing everything to her. He’d gotten his soul. And her first reaction was to cry.
She cried for him, for everything he suffered, and a little for herself, too, for all she regretted. For a few brief seconds, she was amazed at what he had done, but then suddenly the burden of her own guilt slammed down on her again. Because she had broken him – had pushed him until he’d snapped – and yet he had assumed responsibility for it.
“Why would you do that?” she asked, her heart aching. But what she really meant was Why would you do that for me when I don’t deserve it?
And his quiet “Shame on you, Buffy,” reminded her – as if she’d really needed to be reminded – of his devotion and love. It jolted her to realize that as much as she’d talked to him in her head, the summer just past and even before, Spike himself hadn’t heard her, and he had no idea that she’d already absolved him. He accepted the unending shame and pain as his due, because he only saw what he’d tried to do; he would never admit that she was at fault, too.
As painful as it was to watch, she still did not look away as he draped himself over the cross on the dais. And when his skin started to smoke and burn at the contact, tears coursed down her cheeks. Look at what you’ve done! she thought fiercely, and self-loathing rose up to choke her. You drove him to this – you were so cruel to him, such a monster that you drove a soulless vampire to make himself insane with guilt.
She managed to pull Spike off the cross, tried to persuade him to return to his crypt, hoping that the normality would help him. But she couldn’t stop crying – at the terrible burns on his chest and arms, at the devastating wreck of the proud vampire he had once been – and her tears only seemed to hurt him more. So, hating herself with every step, she ran.
For a while, Buffy really thought she’d made progress, but in the end, she saw she was only fooling herself.
Her guilt at what she’d forced Spike to endure was overwhelming, and at first, unwilling to cause him any more pain, she tried not to see him. When she couldn’t stop herself from seeking him out anyway – even though she tried to convince herself that circumstances forced her hand – she was unable to cope with all she felt, and she reverted to taking her frustrations out on him. Only this once, she promised herself as the words tripped acid-filled off her tongue, and only because I want to make him angry enough to want to leave…
I want him to be Spike again…
And yeah, once she’d gotten him out of the insanity-making school basement, he seemed to improve, but even so, he was quieter and more withdrawn that she’d ever seen him.
Every day that passed just gave her more proof – as if any were needed – of how thoroughly she’d ruined him.
A part of her wanted it to be true when she discovered that Spike might be killing again, wanted to have him be disloyal to her like that simply because it would prove that he was stronger than she, that he hadn’t given up everything that he was… that she hadn’t broken him completely.
But she really had. That knowledge crushed her, and never more than when he pleaded with her to kill him, demanding that she put him down, as if he were a rabid dog that she would care nothing for.
She couldn’t. She didn’t want him to suffer, but she couldn’t betray him any more, and killing him – especially once they had figured out that it wasn’t entirely his fault – would be the ultimate betrayal.
Not to mention that the very thought of staking him and returning him to dust made her feel cold and hollow inside.
Then he was gone. And, as was so utterly predictable in her life, it was only after the First had taken him away that Buffy realized that she loved him, that she’d loved him for a long, long time.
She was horrified at herself – not for loving Spike, but for everything she’d done to him while loving him, while denying that she felt anything for him.
I’ve got to get him back was her mantra, frantic and despairing. It’ll be different when I get him back. It has to be.
Then she did, and there was awe and wonder in his eyes when he looked at her, and she honestly believed she would make it work.
But that night, with Spike safely recovering on the cot in the basement, she lay on her bed alone, staring up at the darkened ceiling and recalling in painful detail each wound and bruise and scar he now bore, and she knew. He had endured the First’s torture, but It had only targeted him because he had a soul. And he only had a soul because of her.
She didn’t take the blame for what the First had done to him, but it was entirely her fault that he was vulnerable to It at all. She wept when she decided that he didn’t deserve her… because no one deserved a person who would hurt the one she professed to love as she had hurt Spike. It’s not right, she thought, and wiped away the tears scalding her cheeks. I’ve got to let him go…
The only thing was… Buffy just couldn’t turn off her feelings. Now that she knew she loved him, she discovered it was much more than that. She needed him there, needed him to be near her more than she needed air to breathe. At the same time, though, she couldn’t tell him any of it. Her guilt just crippled her at times, and it closed up her throat to keep the words inside. She felt so very selfish, because she knew he deserved better, that he deserved more than her twisted and desperate love, but she just couldn’t let him go, couldn’t bear the emptiness in her chest at the very thought of him not there.
The closest she could come was “I’m not ready for you to not be here,” that far and no farther, and she knew that half-admission was not nearly enough to let him know what she really felt… but it was enough to make sure he stayed.
And, because he stayed, she just continued to hurt him.
The soul had changed him more than she’d thought possible, had sapped his will to fight, if not his skill. And as the days wore on, and the burden of the war she’d been forced into ground her down, she discovered she needed both. She needed Spike whole.
But the words she needed to heal him would not come, no matter how she tried.
She intended to tell him I’m sorry I was so cruel! I never wanted you to change for me like this, and I can’t bear to see you in so much pain. But as they always did, the words got warped somehow, and she condemned him for not being what he once was.
So he changed again… because he always wanted to be what she thought she needed.
Buffy had been so glad to see him wearing the duster once more. She had saved it against all hope that he would return, had given it back to him when he could hardly stand to see it for the shame it brought him.
But all too soon, she realized it was just a costume, the swaggering Big Bad covering again for the soulful, sorrowful lost boy. Spike was still broken inside, and when she was alone, she cried bitterly, hating herself because she just couldn’t seem to stop hurting him. All that progress she thought she’d made in treating him better was nothing more than deluding herself that she could repair as well as destroy.
For weeks after Sunnydale fell in, Buffy comforted herself with the few warm memories she had of she and Spike together. For that little just before the end, they were close, as they so very rarely had been. She clung to that, telling herself that she was content to have had that short time with him, that she was proud of how he’d saved the world.
Bottles of Jack Daniels were hard to come by outside the States, and for a long while, she didn’t open that first bottle, choosing instead to keep it in remembrance.
She might have been able to pretend for a long while if she hadn’t made the mistake of thinking If only we’d had more time…
Because then she had to face that she herself was the reason she and Spike hadn’t had more time, that she was the one who had pushed him away even as she longed for him.
And she welcomed the pain that accompanied those thoughts, because she knew she could never let herself forget just why she was alone, why she deserved to be alone, why she was never worthy of Spike’s devotion.
After Giles’ betrayal – after the brutality in Principal Wood’s garage – Spike seemed to come to terms with the soul… or perhaps he just grew more adept at pretending to cope, she wasn’t sure. Either way, Buffy couldn’t. She wouldn’t let herself forget that no matter what she did, she ended up hurting him. But she simply couldn’t bring herself to let him go, because just the knowledge that he was there was somehow soothing.
He was her very stability, the one thing she could count on, even when she tried not to.
She had meant it when she whispered “I don’t want to be the one,” though she choked and couldn’t add the rest, the because you deserve more than me that rested bitter on her tongue.
But he had seen it as rejection – another lesson she’d taught him well – and accepted it as he had everything since his return, with a shiver of pain that he couldn’t quite control and guilt weighing heavy in his eyes, despite the light words that tumbled from his mouth.
And for Buffy, it was the last straw. She’d used up all her strength fighting the First, fighting her friends, fighting herself. She had nothing left with which to resist him, so she gave in, wildly hoping that this time, she could do it right.
Almost. She almost did, but then they ran out of time.
Her “I love you” had been heartfelt, because in that moment, she loved him as truly and completely as she ever had. And it was true, because she could give him nothing less, feeling that the way the sun and his soul shone around him forced the truth out of her.
And at the same time, it was the most selfish and shameful thing she’d ever done; she’d known for months, and had every opportunity to say it. But she hadn’t, had forbidden herself from even considering the possibility of saying the words, because she knew that if she did, he would never leave… and as much as she wanted him to stay with her, she couldn’t bear to think of the ways she would manage to hurt him if he did.
She only said it then because she could see death looming over him, and she needed so desperately to keep him with her. It was the only thing she desired more than never hurting him again.
But she had. Just by saying the words, she had.
“No, you don’t,” he replied, pain pouring from his eyes, “but thanks for saying it.”
Somehow, her anguish that he hadn’t believed her was mingled with relief.
She’d given him nothing to support her words, nothing that would help him believe… nothing that would force him to live so she could keep destroying him a little at a time. He had turned to dust thinking that she didn’t really love him, that her words were only meant to ease him in his last moments. And yeah, there were times when she thought that maybe he’d just said it because he thought she would have stayed and died in the Hellmouth with him, and he wanted her to go and to live… and then there were the times when she felt that he really knew, really believed, and he just wanted to get a little of his own back.
Her heart ached to think that she’d managed to kill his love for her. But at least I can’t hurt him any more, she thought, and that was almost enough.
She welcomed that pain. And while at first she only used the Jack Daniels to remind her of Spike, then of how he tasted, she discovered that it made everything more real somehow, made her pain sharper, her guilt deeper, and that only made her crave it more.
Then Andrew returned from L.A. with the news that Spike was undead and mostly well.
Buffy tried to tell herself that she wasn’t upset that he hadn’t tried to get in contact with her. He’s got reason, she thought, watching the light refract through the amber liquid in her glass. God knows he’s got reason. I’ve hurt him enough…
Earlier, she had nearly convinced herself that it was because she’d managed to make him fall out of love with her. She’d finally inflicted enough wounds – intentional or not – to make him think of himself before her.
Now, with bourbon burning her throat and clarity her mind, she knew that wasn’t it at all. He was still thinking of her, thinking that she’d be better off without him, and tearing himself up inside with his love.
She was still hurting him, even though he was a world away from her.
That was the first night she drank enough to get more than just a dull buzz of a hangover the next day.
But it wasn’t the last.
One night, it occurred to her to wonder if she would be the first Slayer to live long enough to die, if not from old age, from a broken heart.
She came looking for me. I’ve got to say, I’ve never seen my sister quite so trashed, not even after the Ubervamp. It wasn’t trashed as in extremely beat up, either.
She told me everything. Everything that had happened that I didn’t know about, everything that she had thought and felt… and she did it in this flat, almost dead voice, like she was talking about someone else.
I was sitting there, kind of stunned, when she said, “I love him, Dawnie, but I hurt him so much…” Then suddenly, her face just kind of… crumpled, and she whispered, “You always hurt the ones you love,” and the tears were running down her cheeks like a river.
She cried herself to sleep in my bed. Just before she fell asleep, I heard her talking very soft, and when I leaned in to listen, she said, “He doesn’t love me anymore. He shouldn’t love me… but I want him to. I love him…”
I think she wants to die, and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t even care about going back to heaven now. She just wants the pain to stop… but whether it’s because she can’t take the guilt anymore or because she truly believes Spike doesn’t love her, I don’t know.
And I just don’t know what to do. Part of me screams and wants to keep her with me because she’s my sister, but part of me sees that she’s so hurt…I want her to be free.
One of these nights, I know I’m going to have to make that decision. But for right now, I’m just going to keep holding her and singing the lullaby Mom always used to sing, and hope that Buffy can just dream herself happy for a little while.
April 10, 2007
© randi (K. Shepard), 2007