"Who has not sat before his own heart's curtain?
It lifts, and the scenery is falling apart."
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Buffy was surprised when the bathroom door opened. Grimacing as she straightened, she thought,Why does everything hurt when your back hurts? At the same time, she wasn't at all surprised to see who was invading her private space. "Spike. Not now. Please."
"Yes, now." He locked the door, then leaned against it. "I want to have the talk I always say we need to have, the one you don't want to have. We don't talk now, everything is going to fester and be that much worse later. The Bit said that I hurt you. Never meant to do that."
She reached for patience she never had with him at the best of times. "I don't want to talk, it's not a good time. Whatever excuse you had for..." Fucking Anya, "...what's happened, it can wait."
"When would be a good time?" came the graveled query.
She turned back to the bathtub, bent at the knees and turned on the water.
"The rest is silence, huh?" Spike spoke above the water. "That's what I thought you'd say."
She gasped and winced as she turned. "Just go, okay? I promise not to fester."
He tilted his head in that predator's way that always jolted her heart. It was a gesture that always reminded her how easily he could cull the weakest from the herd. How strong he was and how dangerous. A fully capable and always hungry killer, curbed only by a fragile piece of silicon and wire nestled in his brain. "Something nasty get a piece of you?"
"Something like that."
"Did you kill it, anyway?" he asked.
"But it hurt you?"
"No. I'm running the water as hot as I can stand because I want to play battleship with Dawn!" she snapped. "What part of, 'I don't want to talk to you right now' don't you understand?"
Striding across the tile, Spike swung back the door of the linen cabinet and began rummaging.
"Get out of there!"
Snatching up a box of Calgon that had belonged to Buffy's mother, he peered at the small print. "Here we go, 'Perfect Bliss'.
"What are you doing?"
Opening the box, he slipped around Buffy and poured out a generous handful into the water. Then another. "I'm helping you relax, Slayer."
She snatched the box from him. "You have never helped me relax."
He smirked. "You're lying, and we both know it. You came to me weeks ago because I'm the only one you can stand being around, remember?"
"I never said that."
"Being drunk enough to not remember isn't any excuse for not remembering. You said it and I heard it. End of story, end of discussion." Snatching back the box, he poured another handful of Perfect Bliss into the water.
"Will you quit?" Buffy demanded. "I'm going to end up with a rash or something from all the yuck you're putting in there."
"Suit yourself. At least you'll have a good-smelling rash." He let her have the box and went back to rummaging in the cabinet.
"Now what are you looking for?"
Squatting down and digging deep into the back of the bottom shelf, well past the stack of thick, new towels that nobody not even company had ever gotten to use, Spike pulled forth a pair of fat candles set in deep crystal holders.
"Elusive little buggers." Spike set the candles on either side of the vanity. The wicks were blackened and had shallow puddles - evidence that they'd been used before. Pulling out his lighter, the vampire lit the candles.
"Who do those belong to?" Buffy demanded. "I really don't want to use them if Willow and Tara have--"
"Your sis bought them for herself bought, mind you. Didn't steal 'em. She baby-sat for some neighbor or other in June, used some of the money from that."
"How did you know they were there?"
"Took care of her all summer, when your Scoobies went out. The Bit showed them to me when she got them, and the witches always had to remind her to blow them out. Not to mention to clean the bathtub after taking bubble baths. A bloke with vampire hearing picks up things when he's sitting in your living room and people are screeching at one another up here." Spike set the candles carefully away from the tile backsplash, so that the flames reflected in the mirror even if he didn't.
"You are not setting up a candleit bath for two," Buffy warned.
"No, I'm not." Satisfied with candle safety, he nodded at the bathtub. "That water hot enough for you?"
Moving up beside her, he turned off the flow. "You might want to get in now and relax."
"It's too bright in here to relax," she protested.
"So turn out the lights, Slayer." He took the three steps to the lightswitch and flicked them off. "Wonderful invention, electricity. You can turn it on when you want it, off when you don't." He scowled at her. "You hurt too much to move?"
She glowered at him. "What's all this for?"
"I told you what it's for. Get on with it." He turned his back on her.
"Spike..." She sighed, exasperated. "What are you doing?"
"Waiting for you to get in the water. Unless, of course, you want me to dump you in?"
Ignoring the romantic, comforting flicker of the candles and the hot, fragrant water calling to her aching muscles, Buffy ran her fingers through her hair and grit her teeth. There was no way she was getting naked and into that bathtub with Spike in the vicinity. "You need to leave. Now."
He glanced over his shoulder but did not turn about. "I'm not leaving until we talk, Buffy. It's your choice whether that happens now, later tonight, next week, or next month. But until it does, you've got a houseguest."
"You have got to be kidding."
"Far from it, love."
She could only stare in disbelief as he faced the wall again, adjusted his stance and shoved his hands into his pockets. "You know, Angel warned me about this months ago."
"He warned me about the way you are, about the fact that when you go after something, you never stop." She reached a hand toward him despite herself, only to let it drop without touching the tense back shielded by his duster. "Spike, you have to stop."
"Stop what? Stop caring about you?" He snorted. "Get into the bloody water before it gets cold and we have to run it all over again. Or are you telling me to stop looking after Dawn now that you're back? Should I stop trying to understand how you can run hot and cold where our relationship is concerned?"
"We have no relationship, Spike. That's what you have to"
"So you want quit of me completely, is that it? I should just get the hell out of town?" He spun about and was in her face so quickly, she saw only a blur when he moved. "You tell me that it's over, and you want me to move on. Then you tell me it's all right to tell your friends about what's happened between us they'll deal isn't that what you said just last night? And then, when I try to move on--"
"What you did with Anya was not moving on!" They were standing so close, Buffy could see the flecks of yellow sparking in his blue eyes. He was getting pissed off which was fine with her. I'm already pissed with him. "You hurt Xander."
"I hurt the whelp? Buffy, he left his lady at the sodding altar. Have you any idea how much demon-girl is hurting from that?"
"You didn't lose any time moving in to comfort her, did you?"
"That is not how it happened," he growled.
"Then tell me how it happened." Crossing her arms, she stepped back a pace and regarded him steadily.
Spike opened his mouth, only to close it again. "Your bath water's getting cold."
"Let it get cold. Tell me, Spike. Say what you came to say, and then get out."
"You wanted to talk, you're getting your wish. Let's talk."
He slumped back against the wall and eyed her warily. "I went to the shop asking for a spell. Something, anything to make me forget how I feel about you. Something to make it easier for me to accept your ending things between us. I should have known not to turn to magic, it's bitten me in the arse before."
"So Anya magicked you into having sex on the table with her?"
"No." He glowered at her. "Will you please let me tell the tale before going all righteous and judgmental on her? I know you can't possibly do that for me, but you might do it for Anya, who's been a friend to you. One of your Scoobies, any road."
"There wasn't any magic. Only a full bottle of Jack Daniels and two lonely people sitting and drinking and talking out their pain. It was all about the whelp and you - God help me, Buffy, it's always about you, at least for me. Demon-girl still loves the whelp, and he hurt her. She thinks she's not good enough for him, and I know I'm nothing to you. We started out talking, she and I. Just talking. You'd said to move on, and the whelp had made it clear he didn't want her - not in any way that matters. The drink and the circumstances made it all about solace rather than wanting sex, and so help me, at the end we were both of us sober and everything felt worse than before. All we'd done was try to find some comfort in each other, when neither of us was the one the other wanted to be with. Nobody should have been the worse for it because you cut me off days ago, and the whelp walked away at their wedding."
"Xander wanted to get back together," Buffy said softly. "They've been trying to resolve their problems."
"Is that how Harris sees it? Because the way demon-girl sees it, she's always loved him more than he loves her, and he doesn't want her for anything but sex. While he may get off on how she gets him off and wants back in with her, she doesn't believe he'll ever marry her. Look at it through her eyes, Slayer. The whelp won't commit to building a life with her, and why not? Because he's scared. Doesn't matter what he's scared of, whether it's because she used to be a justice demon or because he thinks he might somehow screw things up after they're married. It all comes down to one thing: she's loving him the best way she can and it's not enough. So that means she's not enough. What they have together isn't stronger than his fears.
It sounds like the way he loves me and the way I feel about him, Buffy reflected. Why isn't he rubbing my nose in that?
"It hurts her like hell, and you know what?" Spike continued, speaking in a rush as if he expected Buffy to cut him off any moment. "There's no way around it. No way she can fight his fear-demons for him or with him because it's all inside of the whelp. It's part of him, and he won't let her in that far."
Spike stopped to draw a shuddering breath and stared across at Buffy, who stared back. "Am I getting through to you, or am I just talking out of my--"
"You care about her," Buffy interrupted, her hazel eyes widening with the realization.
"Yeah, of course I do. Don't you? I can't help feeling for her because she's doing everything she can, and it's bloody well not enough for Harris. I know how that feels, you do too." He stopped there and looked once more at the slayer.
Buffy regarded him calmly, her expression unreadable.
"Right then," Spike pushing away from the wall. "That's what happened. I'm not giving you excuses, I only wanted to try and explain. Best you get on with your bath. Sorry to have interrupted." He unlocked the door.
"That's it?" said Buffy. "You're leaving now? You've got nothing more to say?"
"I'm a soulless, evil thing to you. Nothing I say is going to change that, nothing can fix it short of my getting a soul and finding a way to not be a vampire. Bit impossible, that. But cardboard human males aren't of any help to you, while what you hate about me can help protect you and the Bit. I'm more use to you as a vampire, so...." He shrugged.
"You talk about Anya and Xander, and then you leave?"
"Yeah. Don't want you or the whelp blaming demon-girl for what happened, so maybe you could tell Harris what I told you and maybe he'll give her another chance. Or at least not turn green and sick up when he sees her again. He can hate me all he wants, but it's not fair that he takes it out on you or his girl. You're his friend, and she's the one what loves him. He should know better than to throw her away just because he hates me."
"What happened to your staying here until I talked?" Buffy asked.
"You don't want to talk, I got that. You don't want me around, I got that too." Spike slipped out into the hallway and closed the door firmly behind him. Turning, he nearly trod on Xander. Scowling, the vampire snarled and loomed over the young man. "You ever heard that him what listens at keyholes never hears anything good?"
"Nope, can't say that I have. I have been told that if I'm gonna listen at keyholes, I shouldn't wear squeaky shoes."
"You get an earful then, whelp?"
Xander hesitated. "Actually, I came to check on Buffy."
Slipping past Xander, Spike made his way down the stairs and out the front door. A few seconds later, Buffy joined Xander on the landing.
"Did you hear what he said?" she asked, tightening the belt on her robe.
"Oh, yeah. I heard. That big, booming vampiric voice is hard to miss."
"What will you do with it?"
Rocking on his heels, Xander considered for a moment. "I'm thinking of going to see Anya tonight. Maybe she'll want to go out for a drink with me and talk. Or stay in and talk. For once I'm going to listen. Really listen. What about you, Buffster? What are you going to do?"
"I'm changing clothes and going after Spike."
~ ~ ~
For once, Buffy didn't kick open the crypt door. It was dark within when she slipped inside, and she waited, uncertain, on the steps. She could sense Spike and knew he was close by, but he wasn't offering any clues as to his location - upstairs or down. Why doesn't he breathe or say something when I want him to? Contrary much?
"Spike?" she whispered in the dark.
"Yeah. I'm here." Came the familiar clink of his Zippo and its flame flared to life. Sitting up on the sarcophagus, Spike rubbed his eyes and waited for her to approach.
"You look tired," she said.
He shrugged and gestured with the Zippo. "You want to take this, light a few candles?"
"Thanks." She lit the candelabra closest to them, but left the rest of the crypt draped in shadows. Hopping up onto the sarcophagus, she sat cross-legged opposite the blond vampire before returning his lighter.
"Didn't expect to see you here," Spike murmured, rubbing the back of his neck.
"I was half-afraid you wouldn't be here," Buffy confessed.
"Yeah, well. Can't just up and leave the Bit, can I?"
So he did consider leaving. That is what I thought I wanted after all. Isn't it? Clearing her throat, Buffy released her death grip on the book she'd brought. "Xander was listening at the keyhole, just as you thought. He went off to find Anya tonight. If she'll forgive him, I think they might be okay, given some time."
"That's good. She does love him, God knows why. Thanks for letting me know Anya may get her happy ending."
"That's not why I came." Buffy ran a finger across her book and hesitated. "You know I'm not very good with the words, Spike. I can't put them together the way you can. That doesn't mean I don't like words, it just means that words and me... not mixy. I have things I want to say to you sometimes, but I don't know how to say them. I'm more action girl, you know?"
"I had noticed." There was no malice in his response, only calm agreement.
"Tonight... I really appreciate what you did tonight. How you made me listen and understand what Anya's feeling, and explained how the two of you ended up doing... doing what you did."
She stopped for a moment and tried to gauge his reaction. Spike regarded her steadily, offering no encouragement but no sneerage either. That's encouraging, right?
Taking a deep breath, Buffy went on. "Before Mom got sick, I was taking this literature course, and I liked it. Those people's words the ones we were studying would touch me sometimes like yours do. Sometimes. I had to quit classes, but I kept the book we were using. That's not important, right? It's just that tonight, when you were telling me so much about Anya and not so much about yourself, I wondered..." Frustrated, she faltered. "While you were talking. I thought..." She squirmed on the stone slab. "This is so hard, Spike."
"You don't have to tell me anything, Slayer."
"But I want to, don't you see? It's not that I don't want to tell you, it's that... Oh, hell." Opening the book, she found the page she wanted. "I want to read something to you."
Spike's hand slapped down on the page. "You dog-eared it?"
He sounded appalled, and his fingers reached to unfold the paper.
She pushed his hand away. "Just let me get through this, okay? You can check the dogs and lecture me on book abuse later. Now listen before I give up trying to tell you this. You weren't talking about yourself, weren't trying to defend yourself earlier tonight like others would. My Dad had all sorts of excuses when things got sticky between us. You know what Riley did and Parker, and of course Angel."
"Of course Angel. Yeah, so?"
"What you weren't saying tonight reminded me of something I read, and I wanted to tell you about it. Even if you don't get it, I want points for trying to do the talky thing, okay?"
He nodded, his blue eyes intent while Buffy bent over her book.
"It goes like this. 'Do not assume that he who seeks to comfort you now lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes do you good. His life may also have much sadness and difficulty that remains far beyond yours. Were it otherwise, he would never have been able to find these words.'" She looked up. "That's what you reminded me of tonight. And when you came to Giles' door at Thanksgiving, after getting the chip? All I could think of while I chained you in that bathtub was another one."
She found another dog-eared page. "'Perhaps everything terrible is, in its deepest being, something helpless that wants help from us.'"
"So Rilke tells you about me?" Spike murmured, half-smiling at her. Reaching over, he subtly un-dog-eared the page.
"Yeah. I mean, it feels like he does. Is that weird or what?"
"I don't think it's weird at all. He's spoken to me as well, especially when he wrote, 'All the soarings of my mind begin in my blood.'"
"Oh. Yuck." Buffy stared at him, stunned, and thwacked him with the book whe Spike smired at her. "Why, you"
"Hey, no hitting! You'll hurt the book."
"I'm trying to be serious, and you're making puns or whatever they are," Buffy protested.
"No whatevers. It's the truth." Grinning, Spike reached out and pried Buffy's fingers free of the book. "Let go, pet. You're mangling the pages."
He held her hand while she flexed her fingers. "It's all right, Slayer. I get what you're trying to say. I love you, too."
"I didn't say..." she sputtered. "I don't--."
"Don't what, Buffy?"
Her heart raced, she felt dizzy with terror. Why is he hearing things I'm not saying? Things I'd never say? I'm not even sure I'm not mad at him anymore! Glancing down, her gaze fell on another Rilke quote: 'The only journey is the one within.' She didn't have to look, she could feel Spike tilting his head -- tilting at his windmill while hoping she'd join him.
How can I do that? she wondered. After Angel, how do I dare even try?
"I know you love me," she said so quietly she knew only he could have caught the words.
"Are you acknowledging that vampires can feel love?"
"Yeah... I guess I am," she ventured slowly, still not looking at him. "My vampire, anyway."
Glancing up through her eyelashes, she realized he'd stopped breathing. Again. I think I've managed to stun Spike speechless. Go me!
"Alrighty then." She snapped closed her book. "Ditto."
"Ditto?" He blinked in bewilderment. "What does that mean?"
"It means ditto. That's what it means."
Spike gave her a blank stare. "Where did Rilke write ditto?"
"It isn't Rilke, it's Buffy. Why is everything so hard with you, Spike? Is it because you're Victorian, because you had to read Dickens and... and Middlemarch and those paragraphs that go on forever, describing the wallpaper?"
"I didn't have to read Dickens, he--"
"Did all that Pre-Raphael-extra-lite stuff melt your brain? And Jones-who-got-burned with all that shivery stuff--"
"His name was Burne-Jones, and that's chivalry, pet. As an artist he did a lot more than--"
"Yeah. Whatever. Ditto means ditto." She waved her hand at him. "I don't know how to make it any more clear. Maybe if you give me a rhyming dictionary for Christmas?"
"But what rhymes with ditto?" he puzzled. "And while I can usually follow your train of thought even after it derails, pet, I've no idea what you're on about right now."
"Oh for... You understood Dru, but you can't understand me? Spike! I said ditto, and ditto means.... what?"
"It's a duplicate, a copy as in copying a paper or...whatever."
"Whatever? Whatever?? You are so entirely hopeless!"
"It's not my bloody fault that your grasp of the English language is bollocks up."
"Like your sodding, bloody, sussy, dumb-as-a-sack-of-wet-mice thingies don't confuse the ever-loving crap out of me?" she rejoined.
"Ditto! Buffy, ditto is also a pair of parentheses used by editors. All it means is that the word or phrase above is to be repeated."
"You're right. And that's it, I give up. I'm going home." Hopping off of the sarcophagus, she brushed off the dirt. "You do the researchy thing like Giles and let me know when you figure me out, okay? Bye-bye."
She backed toward the door. "You said that you love me, right? I got that, and I was saying...."
"That you love you, too?"
She narrowed her eyes. "You're doing this deliberately, aren't you?"
"Fine, Spike. Listen up because I'm only saying this once. You love me, I love you. Ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto!" She stomped up the steps to the door of the crypt by way of punctuation and wrenched it open. "Are you happy now?"
She slammed the door of the crypt, effectively muffling the jubilant shout and ecstatic laughter erupting behind her. Running through the headstones, she thought, I give him ten seconds. And he is so very staked if he doesn't come after me.
It only took Spike five to catch up with her. Skidding up beside Buffy on the damp grass, he jammed his hands into his pockets and set a more casual stride. The duster thwacked the slayer in the knee at every step.
"So much for your breaking up with me."
"Ego much, mister?" She rolled her eyes. "You see the terrifying power of words, Spike? One little word, and I've created a monster."
He grinned down at her and captured her hand. "I certainly hope so."
"Ditto," said Buffy, locking her fingers with his.
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DISCLAIMERS: Blood Ties and its characters/teleplays are the property of Tanya Huff, Insight Film, Chum TV, Kaleidoscope Entertainment and, their associates and license holders. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel the Series and their characters/teleplays are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, UPN, 20th Century-Fox and, their associates and license holders. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and all character names are the acknowledged trademarks of George Lucas and Lucasfilm. Lord of the Rings and all character names are the acknowledged trademarks of the J.R.R. Tolkien Estate and/or its licensees. Character and other creative elements from these respective works are used on this site without permission for entertainment, not-profit purposes only. This site contains only fan-produced fiction and artwork which intend no copyright infringement.No money is collected or made off of anything on this site. Everything here is fictional (this means it never happened). Any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental. By entering this site, you agree to hold the author and website owner completely blameless and liable for absolutely nothing.