Title: The Mired Path
Author: Pricelessspike (Priceless)
Setting: Post Season 12 (Comic compliant)
Word Count: 2200
Summary: In Season 12 Buffy and Spike break up. Spike eventually leaves and this is their first meeting in three years. Plus, Angel needs rescuing.
A/N: Massive thanks to my wonderful betas Stoney and TriBel, if you like anything in this fic, it's because of them. All mistakes are mine, because I can't stop re-writing.
It took Buffy two days to fully recover physically. Her bones mended and her bruises vanished and a casual observer wouldn’t have guessed she’d been brutally murdered only days before. But under her skin, deep down in her strong bones and perfect muscles, she felt as battered and broken as she’d ever felt. She knew she’d done the right thing by telling Spike to go, but knowing gave her no comfort.
She tried to keep busy by helping around the house and taking care of her nephew and niece. She ran for miles every day, coming back exhausted. She volunteered at the women’s centre and in the evenings, she would patrol, mostly alone but sometimes with Willow or Xander. She’d get to bed around 2am and lay staring at the ceiling, only sleeping fitfully until the alarm went off at 7am.
By the end of that week Buffy realised she could never be busy enough and Spike was always just a stray thought away. She’d lay in bed at night and go over the things he’d said, searching out new meanings in old phrases. She’d berate herself for telling him to go, arguing with herself that she should have fought to keep him. She’d think about making love with him and imagine his passion and his gentleness and how easily he excited her. Her own finger moved between her legs, imagining Spike was the one touching her.
She would look for him during her nightly patrols and she’d tense whenever the phone rang, thinking it was him. Every email was scanned for any news, though she couldn’t bring herself to ask after him directly, afraid of what she might learn. Being constantly on edge was draining and she knew she had to get back to some semblance of normality and that meant going back to Cleveland, if only to box up her life there and decide what she was going to do next.
“I’m going to miss you so much,” Dawn said tearfully when Buffy said she was leaving. She reassured her that she’d be back for Christmas. “Not a flying visit,” Dawn ordered. “You have to stay for at least a week. No, two. You have to stay for Christmas and New Year’s.” Buffy promised she would.
Buffy was sure that Xander was secretly happy to get her out of the house, but he denied it almost convincingly. Willow offered to go to Cleveland with her, to help her pack up her stuff, but Buffy declined the offer.
“The mature thing is to ask for help,” Willow commented.
“It is if you need help, but I don’t, honestly Will.” She and Willow were closer than they had been in a long time, but Buffy felt she was turning the page to a new chapter of her life and she needed to do it by herself.
She rang Giles, who sounded so happy to hear from her, she felt guilty for leaving their relationship unattended for so long. “Oh Buffy,” he stammered, “of course you must stay with us. We have plenty of room and Liv will be so happy to see you. If you decide to stay, there’s plenty of work to be done. We’re currently contending with Wolfram and Hart. Apparently, one of their employees has broken their ‘in perpetuity’ contract and they’re not happy.”
She wasn’t sure if her move to London would be permanent or just a vacation, but she felt good about her decision. Moving to Cleveland had been a backwards step. She’d returned to a hellmouth because it was a life she knew and understood and it was easy. Moving to London felt positive, a step forward into something new and exciting. She’d rebuilt her bridges and now she wanted to cross them.
She flew to Cleveland the following day and was met by Chrissie, the slayer she shared her apartment with. “Am I glad to see you.” Chrissie hugged Buffy tightly and picked up her suitcase. “There have been sightings of zompires around the Gardens.” She sounded excited because zompires were rare nowadays and not many of the newer Slayers had seen them in real life. It didn’t surprise Buffy that they were seen around the Botanical Gardens, as that was the site of the Cleveland hellmouth.
“It’s like I’ve never been gone,” Buffy joked. She’d already rung Chrissie and explained she would only be returning to pack up her belongings. Even if her move to London wasn’t permanent, she wouldn’t return to Cleveland any time soon. “I’ve got a moving company coming to take my big stuff into storage. I’ll only need to pack the little things, then I’ll be gone. My flight’s booked for Wednesday 2pm.”
“Plenty of time for some zompire dusting,” Chrissie laughed. Buffy suspected Chrissie would enjoy being the lead Slayer in Cleveland and not have to live under her shadow any longer.
Buffy spent the rest of the day packing up her belongings. She had a pile of assorted items for storage, a pile for Goodwill and a much smaller pile of things she was taking to London with her. This was mainly clothes, but also some jewellery and photos, mostly sentimental things. Chrissie had her pick of Buffy’s clothes, and the two girls spent the afternoon giggling at some of Buffy’s fashion choices.
The doorbell rang at 8:30 and Chrissie went to open it, thinking it was the pizza they’d ordered. On the doorstep stood a guy she’d never seen before and he wasn’t delivering pizza. He had white blonde hair and bright blue eyes and Chrissie smiled, as she always did at handsome men.
“Is Buffy here?” he asked in the coolest English accent she’d ever heard.
“And who are you?” she asked, hand on hip but a smile on her face.
Buffy appeared in the hallway before Spike could answer. The two stared at each other and Chrissie looked from one to the other and suddenly felt incredibly awkward, realising there was something between the two that she didn’t fully understand.
She edged past Buffy, giving her a wide-eyed stare and hissing, “We’re going talk about this later.” Buffy didn’t hear her. She saw and heard nothing but the man standing in front of her. She was hyper focused in a way she’d never experienced before. It felt like the world had tilted and she and Spike were the only ones there, everyone else had slipped away.
He spoke, but she didn’t hear him. She put her hand on the hallway wall, steadying herself. She felt dizzy and nauseous and it took several moments till the silence ebbed and she could hear muffled sounds coming from the street and the other apartments. The world had righted itself, and she let her hand slip from the wall.
“Come in Spike,” Buffy said, not sure where she found the words. He stepped into the hallway and closed the door behind him.
She took him into her bedroom, closed the door and leaned her back against it. “I’m not going to make a run for it pet, sit down,” Spike smiled, gesturing to the bed and looking around the room. Buffy moved two boxes onto the floor, and pushed a plastic sack of old clothes into the corner.
“Packing up?” he asked, lifting the lid of a third cardboard box that sat on her dressing table. It contained books, some of them his, ones she couldn’t bring herself to part with. She wondered if he’d recognise them and how he’d feel knowing she’d kept them.
“Yeah, I’ve had enough of hellmouths for a while,” she replied, sitting on the corner of her unmade bed. “I’m going to London.”
“Yeah?” he said nodding, “good for you.” His face had a look of intense concentration and Buffy could tell he wasn’t really listening to her.
Spike paced the room nervously. His hand kept going to the pack of cigarettes in his jacket pocket. Buffy took pity on him and opened the window. “You can smoke Spike, it’s ok,” she said, returning to her spot on the bed. He thanked her, lit a cigarette and took a long calming drag.
“I thought my life was good,” he said, staring out of the window. The sun had set and the evening was warm, yet Buffy shivered and pulled a crumpled cotton throw around her shoulders. He turned to her, his face a mask of sadness. “I was doing the right thing, fighting evil, living quietly. I was trying to prove I could do it without you. But I missed you so fucking much Buffy. It was like I’d lost myself. There’s no me without you.” He walked back to the box of books and took one out, running his hand over the cover.
“I kept them all,” Buffy said, nodding to the books. “I had to keep a part of you, because there’s no me without you either.” She wondered if she sounded foolish, words not being her forte, but the look of bewildered gratitude on Spike’s face made her certain he finally understood how much she needed him.
“I’d seen Connor, but I didn’t know him.” He put the book down. “Well, that’s not true. I knew his type you could say, strong, confident, brave and a bloody know it all. Reminded me of you of course. I can see that now.” He sat on the edge of the dressing table and Buffy still felt the usual jolt of shock at his lack of reflection in the mirror above the table. “I didn’t want to meet anyone else, didn’t want love or romance or any of that bollocks. Not if I couldn’t have you,” he looked down, sounding embarrassed.
Buffy gulped and her stomach churned and she couldn’t sit still. She imagined his loneliness and his need for solace, and she wished to god she hadn’t put him through any of it. She moved to close the window and lean her back against it
“Once he left hospital, I told him about us.” Buffy felt her breath become shallow, still unsure what he was going to say, not sure she wanted to hear. “He was angry. We said some things. He knows I didn’t want it to be like this. He knows I’ve always loved you.” Buffy could see how hard this was for him but there was nothing she could do. She wanted to go to him, but he looked so despondent she was afraid he’d push her away.
“Connor’s gone with Angel to Ireland,” he said eventually. “Angel’s showing him where he came from. His Irish heritage.” There was a mocking tone to his voice and he shook his head, as if the idea was ridiculous. “Not been there in three hundred years and murdered his whole family, but ‘Heritage’.” He made it sound as if there were quotes around ‘heritage’ and it made Buffy smile. That sounded exactly like Angel, everything a dramatic aria, nothing small or ordinary.
“When we talked…” he began, but stopped, not able to put his thoughts into words. He sighed and began again. “Connor needs Angel far more than he ever needed me. I think I was just his route to get to him,” he looked down at his scuffed boots, sighed and said unflinchingly, “No, that’s just my pitiful attempt to justify myself. He loved me and I loved him, but we both loved other people more.” He laughed sourly, “Unless that’s more pathetic justification.” He threw his head back and took in a deep breath, letting it go slowly as if clearing his head. He’s so incredibly human Buffy thought. He looked at her, his face set in a determined fashion. “I love you and that’s all there is Buffy.”
She went to him then and moulded herself against him for a moment, then took his hands. She led him to the bed and pulled him down with her. She cradled him loosely in her arms, stroking his back and feeling him shiver from her touch. “If you send me away, if you tell me to go,” he said, wrapping himself around her, “I’ll go. But I won’t go back.”
“I don’t want you to go,” she whispered, her voice hoarse with emotion, making him look up into her smiling, tearful face, “I never wanted you to go.” She stroked his face and he kissed her tenderly, as if she were a fragile thing.
“I will always, always love you,” he promised, “sorry that I hurt you, it wasn’t meant.”
“No Spike,” Buffy shook her head emphatically. “It’s me who hurt you. It’s me who didn’t listen. It’s me who pushed you away. God if I could take it all back…”
“Shush,” he said, his hand slipping under her t-shirt, his fingers drawing patterns on her taut stomach, “it doesn’t matter now luv. I’m home and we can fight about it later.” His questing fingers moved toward her breasts and Buffy didn’t want to fight anymore either.