DL 1.2

Aug. 13th, 2005 01:08 am
[identity profile] eee1313.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] dancing_lessons_archive
Lesson the Second: Enemies Like These

by Abby20
Letting the Cables Sleep by Bush | Lyrics

Shout-outs to the Redemptionistas, for letting me join the club, and especially to cousinjean, for major help with (and a scene for) this episode.


*

“Dear, I’m so sorry.”

The words were echoing in Buffy’s head. It had been two days since her mother’s funeral, and still her house was full with people Buffy barely knew, and some she had never met. In every room, there were hushed conversations that halted when she entered. No one knew what to say to her, not even her best friends. She could almost hear the painful searching of their minds to find something trivial to talk about. She knew they only wanted to help, like everyone else. But it was suffocating her: the crowded house that was overbearingly silent. At least now she was finally alone, for another minute or two. Or however long she could reasonably stay in the bathroom without someone getting seriously worried.

“Buffy? Are you in there, hon?” Not long at all.

“Yeah.”

“I need to talk to you about something.” Her father, something she didn’t like in his tone.

“I’ll be right there.”

She sighed, pulling herself up from the floor to look at herself in the mirror. Her father wanted to talk to her. They had barely spoken since he got into town, the night before the funeral. She had been trying to avoid him, well, him and everyone else. But Dawn was happy he was home, Buffy could see it in her sister’s eyes. Dawn was clinging to everything remotely familiar, and this scared Buffy more than anything her father had to say. If she knew anything anymore, it was that The Great Father Who Wasn’t Hank would be sure to disappoint them both.

She found him sombrely thanking a woman, who, miraculously, was on her way out the door.

“Hey, sweetie. How are you?” he turned to her as she approached.

“I’m fine,” she said, a hint of trepidation creeping into her voice. “What do you want to talk to me about?”

He shifted, avoiding her eyes. “Um, look, Buffy... I know it’s been short. And I want to stay. I do. I mean, I know you need all the help you can get right now, but I’ve got something really important I need to take care of in L.A.”

Buffy laughed harshly. She should have known. “Of course you need to be in L.A., Dad. Where else on earth could you possibly be needed?”

“Look, Buffy, I’m sorry-”

“Sorry about what?” Dawn had suddenly appeared on the steps.

“Dawnie, I was going to come up and tell you myself.” He smiled at her, but she wasn’t fooled.

“Tell me what?” she asked, panicked, eyes flicking from her father to Buffy, and back.

“Sweetie, I’m sorry. But I have to leave tomorrow.” He winced as Dawn collapsed on the steps, disbelief written on her face.

“Why?” Her voice was heavy with the promise of tears.

“I know you’re upset, Dawnie, but I have to. I’ll come back in a week or two, when everything’s settled. We can talk about what you want to do, then, about the house-”

“We know what we want to do with the house,” Buffy interjected, glancing back at her sister crying on the steps. “We want you out of it. For good. You can’t just stroll back in here and screw up our lives whenever you please. You think that’s what Mom would have wanted?” Her voice was shaking now, low and brimming with anger. “I should have known you’d do this. Come back, say you’re sorry and then up and run again. But Dawn needed you. She trusted that you would stay because she’s lost so much. You don’t have any idea how it feels, do you? To be abandoned? To have everything you know and love just disappear?”

“Buffy...”

“No. Don’t ‘Buffy’ me. If you’re leaving, then do it. Now. But you can’t come back and do this to her again. You just can’t.”

“Dawn,” he pleaded, reaching out to her, but she recoiled as if she’d been bitten.

“Don’t touch me,” she whispered. She was trembling violently. “Don’t touch me.” She ran back upstairs, slamming her door behind her.

Buffy watched her go, and turned back to her father. “I’m going out. And you’d better be gone when I get back.”

***

“Do you think that’s a good idea?” Giles asked, frowning at her. “You’ve been through quite a lot, I should think you deserve a break from patrolling.” They were standing in a corner of the living room, an impromptu meeting of the Scooby Gang.

Buffy waved him off. “Giles, I have been on break from patrolling. I feel so useless, and I hate it. I can’t sit here for one more night wallowing in pity, I just can’t. Don’t think I don’t appreciate it, guys,” she smiled at Willow and Xander, “but I have to go.”

“What about Dawnie? How’s she doing?” Tara’s eyes were concerned.

“Um, I’m not sure. I can’t get her to come out of her room.”

“Well, who wouldn’t be upset?” Xander fumed. “If he wasn’t gone already, that jerk would be in for some major confrontation with the Xan-man. I’d tell him, alright. He’d be sorry he messed with my friends.”

“He’s upstairs, packing.” Buffy told him, slightly amused.

“Well, in that case...” Xander smiled nervously. “In that case, I’m in the kitchen with Anya.”

“Buffy, are you sure you feel up to this?” Giles asked, ignoring Xander.

She smiled brightly. “Positive.”

***

Buffy wasn’t up to it. She hadn’t slept in days, and was walking through the graveyard with about as much stealth as an elephant. She couldn’t focus on patrolling, couldn’t shake the feeling that she had failed Dawn as much as their father had. Still, she couldn’t go back home. The absence of her mother and presence of everyone else was stifling, trapping her in a grey haze. More than anything, she ached for something normal and guaranteed, her final thread of that being snatched with her mother’s breath. She was itching for a fight, but too tired to seek one out.

“Slayer?”

Buffy felt her nerves grit at the familiar voice. She turned to find him, hesitant and wary behind a stone monument, cigarette dangling in his lips.

“What do you want, Spike?” she hissed, loving the words on her lips. This was normal. Or as close as it got for a Slayer, anyway.

He grimaced, looking to the ground and taking a deep drag of his cigarette. “How are you?” he asked finally, his eyes soft, voice concerned. Buffy bristled, ready for combat.

“Fine. Why wouldn’t I be, Spike? I’m out here in the middle of the night, it’s freezing, and I’m being asked about my welfare by the same dead bastard who chained me up alongside his crazy ex. How do you think I am?”

Startled, Spike began a quick retort, and then bit it back. Buffy turned away from him, something inside of her crackling. As much as she hated him, she wanted to fight him. She didn’t need one more person to tell her they were sorry. Besides, how could he possibly know? He hadn’t been skulking around lately, and he couldn’t sneak into her house anymore. Somewhere in his sick heart he had probably realized that the whole episode with Dru hadn’t been the greatest idea.

But instead of snapping, he moved closer, the same pained look on his face. “I liked her a lot, y’know. And I’m not just saying that ‘cause it’s you, and...” he trailed off, seeing the disgust and dismay on her face.

“How do you know about my mother?” she asked, steel in her voice. The cloud was forming around her again, numbing. Even with him she couldn’t escape it.

“I... I didn’t ‘till the bloody idiots got in a whole sodding pile of trouble, doing your job. They told me. Damn fools couldn’t kill a mouse with an axe. Poor lot to be sending out to save the world from evil, if you ask me.” He sighed, finally stepping on the spent cigarette. “We watched Passions together, her and me.” His voice turned wistful, sweet. “She liked Timmy as much as I do.” He glanced at her, then away, almost shyly edging closer. “Is there anything I can do?”

Buffy was stunned. Why would he, of all people, be doing this to her? “Yeah, Spike. You can go to hell.” Seeing the surprise on his face, she pressed on. “You’ll never be good enough to touch the ground my mother walked on. She was beautiful and sweet,” she said harshly, fighting off tears, “and you... you’re crazy. I know what this is. It’s another one of your stupid games. You didn’t care about her. You would have killed her yourself a thousand times without that chip.”

“You know that’s not true...” he said, his eyes hardening. He was on to her.

“Of course it’s true! You know damn well-”

“Look out!” Spike yelled.

Buffy ducked and felt a rush of air above her as a vamp swung at her, missing. She grimaced, annoyed. “No offense? I really... don’t have time for you... right now!” She dusted him in a graceful sweep, and turned back to Spike, who was staring at her.

“You didn’t see him coming,” he said incredulously.

“What does that have to do with anything? Where were we anyway? Oh, yeah, and you know-”

His voice tightened. “You didn’t see him coming, Buffy. And that’s your job. You know I wouldn’t have hurt her. You left them in the bloody crypt with me, trusted me, you did. And not just ‘cause of the bleeding chip, either. Because you knew I’d protect them. And now you’re so upset that you want to pick a fight, but you can’t even see one coming right at you.” Buffy could feel the earth spinning beneath her as Spike, pacing in front of her, came in and out of focus. “Look, Summers,” he said, stopping suddenly in front of her. “I liked Joyce and you know it. I’m sorry she’s gone. I’m sorry for you and niblet, and yeah, even sorry for myself. But you’re afraid that it’s your fault, even when you know that’s not true. And I don’t have the slightest bleeding clue what to say to make you feel better.”

Buffy laughed, short and painful. So he saw everything. “So it’s psychiatrist Spike tonight, is it? That’s actually laughable. You could write a book: ‘Chicken Soup for the Psychotic Vampire’s Soul.’ You could take it on the road, do the circuit thing...permanently?”

Spike was weary. “That was the truth.”

Buffy could feel the blood pumping wildly through her veins. It didn’t matter if he made sense or not. It didn’t matter if it was true. It was his game, and she was finally ready to play. He sparked something inside of her that she didn’t want to turn off, not now when she needed it. She edged closer to him, whispering softly. “You think fake pity will make me finally admit that I’m in love with you, Spike? That some part of me will crack and I’ll admit that I want a cold, empty shell?” She tossed her hair over her shoulder and stared defiantly up at the vampire. "Look at me, Spike," she told him, her voice dripping with venom. "Look into my eyes. Do you see anything here other than hatred and revulsion?"

Undaunted, he moved in, obscenely close to her, and fixed her with his gaze. "Do you want to know what I see in your eyes, Summers?" He leaned down close to her ear. As he did Buffy could feel her heart-rate increase, and she cursed herself for it. She knew he'd be able to sense it, and it burned her to give him even that much satisfaction. She fought to steady her breathing as he whispered, "I see me."

She shoved him back, hard.

"Hey! You asked, love."

She smiled wryly, but her heart was still racing. "I think you just found the perfect way to insult me."

Spike shrugged. "Didn't mean it as an insult."

"Etiquette lesson, Spike. A murderer tells me he can see himself in me, I take that as an insult."

"Well it's not like you don't have any blood on your hands, Slayer." He waved his hand to cut her off before she could retaliate. "But that's not what I meant." He stepped forward again, keeping a somewhat more respectful distance this time, and looked down into her eyes. "When I look at you, I see who I was. Before. And I see what he could have been. What I could be. I thought I hated him, but..."

He gazed over her head, as if he were looking for the words there. Buffy took the opportunity to swallow, hard. She hated that he was getting to her like this. This was supposed to be her fight, her escape. She was supposed to be messing with him, but she realized too late that he was going to mess with her. She was terrified of the aching in his eyes as Spike looked back down at her. "You make me miss being alive, Summers. You make me feel like I can do things I never knew or would have believed were possible. When I look in your eyes, I see possibility. Hope. Even for me. Hell, sometimes when I'm with you, I can almost swear that I can feel my heart beat."

Buffy didn't know what to say. She didn't know what to believe. But she had to say something. "Spike--"

"But I know that's not what you meant," he continued, cutting her off. "Do I see hatred in your eyes when you look at me? Revulsion?" He shook his head. "I've seen both of those in your eyes before. When you look at any random vampire before you dust him, whenever you looked at Angelus--hell, even when you looked at me, back when we first met. That's not what I see when you look at me now. That hasn't been what I've seen there for a long time."

"Then you're delusional." Her voice cracked as she spoke, almost imperceptibly, but she knew he'd heard it.

He smiled. Not a smirk, not his usual smug grin, just a smile, with just a touch of sadness behind it.

"Yeah, well. I'd wager one of us is, pet."

With that, he turned on his heel and strode back to his crypt.

***

Buffy watched him go in silence until he closed the door behind him. This should have been the gratification, watching him slink away to his crypt, preferably with a bloodied nose and some fresh bruises. Except he didn’t slink. And he wasn’t wounded. This had happened all wrong, she realized. Maybe she should go back to beat him senseless.

“Nah. Not worth the energy,” she sighed to herself, and turned for home. As many ways as she tried, she couldn’t distract herself from what had just happened. Spike, of all people, had taken one look at her and pulled a week’s worth of emotions from her eyes. That she did not like. At all. Then he had told her he saw himself in her, which she hated. But his voice when he spoke of her mother... if she didn’t know Spike better, she would have sworn he was in pain. But she did know him...right?

Suddenly she realized that she was drained. She didn’t know anything anymore. Dawn was her sister; Dawn was a key. Her mother was healthy; her mother was dead. Spike was sick and evil...

“You make me miss being alive, Summers.” Simple words, easy to discredit. It was all a play for attention, disgusting really in light of what she’d been through.

“You make me miss being alive...”

Buffy frowned. Her judgement was shot to hell. Spike was sick and evil. Everything he did and said was a part of a plan, all of them converging at one point--her death and his triumph. That was fact. But Buffy was frowning because tonight, she needed convincing to truly believe it.

***

Spike crumpled to the ground as he closed the door. The pain in her eyes was overwhelming. He couldn’t remember what he’d said to her, just the lost look on her face as he walked away. He’d never seen her like this before... bad, but not like this. She looked like the innocent child deep inside of her had been violently shaken and broken, blood spilling tears until her soul was flooded. Her face was haunted. Being close enough to feel her breath, he cursed himself for having none. He had just wanted to touch her so badly, to hold her until she had cried herself empty in his arms. She wouldn’t have that, of course. She didn’t believe she wanted it. But he’d felt the charge in her. Oh, he was delusional, all right, but in her own way so was she...

A sudden sound from the far corner brought him back. He rose slowly, cautiously.

“Who’s there?”

The silence goaded him a little further. “Bloody rats...” he muttered, then smiled wryly. “Bloody rats,” he repeated, swiping a knife off the fridge. Creeping closer, he heard it again: a soft, small breath, almost a sigh.

She was sound asleep. The Slayer’s sister, looking rumpled and exhausted, was curled in the corner of his crypt like a kitten.

“Oh, bloody hell.”

Now this was a problem. If she was here, then she wasn’t at home, and if she wasn’t at home, the Slayer would freak. He reached out to wake her, determined to send her home.

But she was sleeping. Peacefully. The dark circles around her eyes betrayed that it had been a long time coming for her. And here, of all places.

“I feel safe with you.” Her own simple, confident words. She trusted him. Spike discovered that this sweet evidence of the fact was as scary as it was touching.

He retreated, falling into his chair with a sigh. What the hell had they done to him? The Summers women, each a damned bloody vixen in her own way... getting under his skin and into his heart. Here was niblet, who he felt an overwhelming need to protect, and not just for her sister’s sake. She talked to him like he was real, like he deserved her time and attention. She trusted him enough to run to his crypt in freezing weather, to fall asleep knowing he would protect her from the Hellmouth's dangers.

Then there was Buffy. He laughed bitterly, wanting to curse the name. She was everything in a thousand ways...he loved her, craved her like blood but deeper still. She thrived in his veins, his heart, his mind; she filled him simultaneously with the heat of her beauty and the chill of her hatred. He couldn’t begin to think on the lengths he would go to for her. He only knew that when he tried, he never found an end.

And Joyce...Spike blinked in surprise as a tear for her slipped down his cheek. He had always admired her. Always...

Dawn shifted, stirring him from his reverie. He watched her for a moment, head tilted. Shrugging out of his coat, he covered her carefully and brushed a stray wisp of hair out of her face. There were plenty of hours left until daylight. As the tear dried on his cheek, he resolved to let her sleep. If she woke before then, he’d be there. Falling back into the chair he suspected that even if she didn’t, he’d be there waiting anyway.

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