Title: Hey There, Blondie Bear (Part 2/5)
Summary: Being normal doesn’t include having a vampire for a boyfriend, even one with a soul, but Spike’s not willing to be just her friend anymore. Is “normal” all it’s cracked up to be? Is it worth the price? Begins after issue #10 (which will be released 6/13), which is when Spike will temporarily leave S9 for his own miniseries. 5,000 words. Part 1 here.
Trigger Warning: Teensy bit of self-harm in this section.
A/N: Here's the second part of the Spike-miniseries-inspired fic! I'll have the third and last part up sometime in the near future, definitely before #10 comes out.
“Ooh, Bachelor re-run. That could be fun.”
Buffy wrinkled her nose at the television. “Really?”
“Yeah. Catfights, drama, romance- what’s not to like?” said Robert.
Buffy eyed him, brow arched. “Catfights?”
“Is it politically incorrect to say that nowadays?”
She didn’t deign to answer. “What else is on?”
“Bet you’d be okay if it were the Bachelorette…” Despite his aggrieved tone, Robert looked content as he pressed the remote. A blonde lounging in an armchair appeared.
“Hey, she’s supposed to be funny. That vampire celebrity. What’s her name…Melody?”
“Harmony,” said Buffy, with enough annoyance in her tone that Robert looked at her curiously.
“Knew it was something musical. You don’t like her. ‘Cause she’s a vampire…”
“I went to high school with her,” said Buffy shortly. As Robert blinked in astonishment, she added, not thinking, “And we dated the same guy.”
It took a moment, and the flit of uncertainty across Robert’s face, to realize what she’d said. Her cheeks warmed almost instantly.
Dating was a bit of a strong word to describe their…antics. Or maybe it was too casual of a word. After all, dating was supposed to precede- but in any case, she shouldn’t correct herself because that would just draw attention to it and make things awkward, and anyway, it was so long ago now that it was really just semantics.
Spike wouldn’t care what she called it, right?
“In high school?”
It took Buffy a second to understand what he was asking. “No. After.”
“But before she became a vampire.”
“Oh… Huh.” Robert’s stare was as frank and questioning as could be, but she ignored it. She was so not dissecting her relationship with Spike with Robert. He wouldn’t be able to guess that the mystery man was Spike, right? She hadn’t told him the extent of their history.
“All right. Not Harmony,” said Robert finally and flipped channels again. “Law and Order. That’s good, right?”
“I guess,” Buffy hedged. “I’ve never seen it.”
Robert actually shifted in his seat to stare at her. “You’ve never seen Law and Order? How have you never seen Law and Order? 99% of Americans have seen Law and Order.”
“You just made that up.”
“Well, yeah, but still. All the reruns…you must have seen it sometime.”
Buffy shrugged. “If I did, I don’t remember. Slaying doesn’t leave a lot of time for TV watching.” She couldn’t keep a defensive note out of her voice, and he must have heard it, because his mouth snapped shut.
“I’d think you wouldn’t like procedurals,” said Buffy, still feeling self-conscious. “Don’t you get enough of it at work?”
“Yeah, sometimes they’re boring. Or annoying. But it can also be amusing to see how badly they mess things up. If someone made a show about slaying, wouldn’t you want to watch it to see how it measured up?”
“Maybe.” Buffy bit her lip and tried to look at the screen in a way that didn’t make it obvious that she wasn’t looking at him. “I’m, uh, not sure I’d want to watch some of the things I’ve been through,” she admitted.
She felt Robert’s gaze and suspected his curiosity was gentler this time, but she still didn’t look at him. As seconds ticked past and a coroner on the television described entrance and exit wounds, she found herself torn between hoping that he would press her- carefully, considerately- for more details and hoping that he would just let it lie.
It wasn’t like there was anything particular she wanted to talk about but-
But she wanted to be able to say something like that and have him understand. She didn’t want it to be a big deal or to seem all tragic; but for him to understand- in order for it to be causal instead of tragic- she would have to explain, and explaining her life…just thinking about it made her feel exhausted, and no matter how she phrased things, he would pity her.
I’ve died twice…after the second time I was clinically depressed and suicidal…I found my mom dead on the living room couch…one of my best friends was killed in a bullet meant for me…one of my best friends was killed in a battle I started…I had to kill the love of my life because sleeping with me made him evil…now he goes evil again just because, and last time he killed the closest person I had to a father- oh yeah, my actual father cut ties with me after the divorce. I left another man I loved to die, and I thought I meant everything to him, but I guess I was wrong because he didn’t come find me after he stopped being dead…
Oh God, why would she ever want to watch a show about her life? Why would anyone?
A touch on her knee made her jump and finally look at him.
The look on his face was so startlingly kind and non-judgmental that for a second she thought she might cry.
“If there were a show about slaying, I bet it would be really popular,” he said softly. “Everyone would want to see the kind of amazing things you’ve done.”
A watery-sounding chuckle escaped her, unbidden. She leaned forward to give him a quick kiss.
“Do you want to turn the TV off? We can do something else.”
“No, this is fine.” She waited until his attention was back on Law and Order to brush her eye.
What was wrong with her tonight? She didn’t usually get all weepy and emotional at the drop of a hat.
It was good that he had chosen not to press her for more details. Then she might actually have started crying, and that wouldn’t have helped her casual-not-tragic case at all.
She didn’t need to talk about her past, anyway. Not like she hadn’t had lots of practicing at dealing internally. And that was good because she would run into the same problem with any human guy she dated. It had been hard enough to explain her past even when the guy had a secret double life of his own, too.
And the fact that she couldn’t even make it work with Riley didn’t mean anything…
But that was just part of the price of slaying; she would always have to repress a little- okay, a lot- around boyfriends. And it wasn’t like it was just boyfriends. She didn’t talk to Anaheed and Tumble about her past, either. Not even the Scoobies knew her inside and out; She didn’t tell Willow and Xander everything anymore; much as she told Dawn, she’d always instinctively shelter her a little just by virtue of being the oldest. No one understood all of her.
No. No excepts.
It would be nice- not nice, wonderful- to have a boyfriend who understood her, all of her, but that wasn’t part of the ‘normal’ package.
And right now she was doing normal.
Buffy looked at the plates on the coffee table filled with hard crumbs from the brownies she’d baked and burned while Robert cooked pasta for dinner; at the detectives and their latest corpse (seriously, why was this show so popular? Why did 99% of Americans want to watch people die in horrible, gruesome ways that left their loved ones traumatized for life?); at her boyfriend, eyes intent on the television, beer in one hand, feet propped up on the table. She couldn’t see it, but she knew his chest was wrapped; his recovering rib was one of the reasons they had stayed in tonight instead of patrolling; he’d seemed pleased to have a night off to relax in front of the tube.
This was normal, right? Dinner and fresh-baked dessert and prime-time reruns, and no vampires to be seen, not even on the screen.
This was normal.
Maybe a little boring.
* * *
Beside her, Robert let out a tremendous snore. Buffy smiled. For the first time, the upside of his heretofore annoying condition was becoming apparent: he was definitely asleep, which meant now was her chance to leave.
As stealthily as she could, she slipped out from under the covers. Her clothes were in a jumbled but neatly bunched pile on the floor, easy to scoop up and perfect for making a quick getaway.
She dressed in the kitchen, where the light wasn’t bright enough to reach the bedroom. Her tight jeans and peasant blouse were not the most ideal slaying clothes, but when preparing for their date earlier, she hadn’t expected to slay; watching TV all night had left her bored, though, and Robert was out like a light after only one coupling. Besides, she felt guilty for not patrolling.
She felt guilty for leaving him, too, of course, but it wasn’t like she was doing anything wrong; this was what she would have been doing if he hadn’t asked her to spend the night, and she had tried to fall asleep. This wasn’t like Riley sneaking out on her to his whores…
With that thought in mind, Buffy scribbled a note on a pad next to the phone and snuck back into the bedroom to leave it on her pillow, just in case he woke up while she was still gone. Then she grabbed her stake from her purse and was out the door.
The cool summer night breeze was a balm on her face after so many hours cooped up inside. She turned right without thinking, the routes to the nightclubs and grittier districts that were prime vampire hunting ground already mapped in her mind from the past weeks of slaying with Robert.
An hour’s worth of wandering turned up only two zompires, even after Buffy traded the clubs for warehouses and abandoned buildings. She knew she should be glad that there were fewer zompires preying on the good citizens of San Francisco, but her pent-up adrenaline was frustrating.
Were the police getting better at their new zompire-slaying duties, doing her job for her? Maybe normal vampires were just siring less frequently these days; they weren’t all stupid; continuing to create feral monsters would turn the public against them, and they wanted to stay in society’s dumb-hearted graces.
Or maybe she was just unlucky tonight and looking in the wrong places. Buffy stopped short in her current alley, glanced around, and allowed herself to heave a sigh. It wasn’t the sort of thing she advertised to her friends, but sometimes she really missed Sunnydale, even with all its annual apocalypses. Complicated and scary as life had been much of the time, it had also been simple in a way: she patrolled every night, she worked on the moment’s ongoing crisis, and she took care of Dawn. It was a dependable routine, even if the crises themselves weren’t. She didn’t have to wonder where to patrol or whether there would be vampires to christen her stakes.
It was bizarre to feel nostalgic for the cemeteries that had once felt like her prison, and yet she missed their earthy smell and the feel of grass underfoot, the reliability of it all. There weren’t old-timey graveyards here for her to haunt. Even if there were, zompires usually rose too fast to buried. They made everything erratic, zompires. They might gravitate to the darkest corners of the city, but they would hunt anywhere. They weren’t sentient like normal vampires, able to strategize and use common sense about where and when to attack. Such mindlessness probably would have made them easier for novices like Robert and his officers to deal with if it weren’t for their terrifying savagery. As it was, they were just fiercer adversaries than vampires and more unpredictable to boot.
With another sigh, Buffy started off back in the direction of Robert’s apartment. Sunndayle and all its routine was long gone. Vampires were popular; the Scoobies were broken; Giles was…
She lurched, almost stumbling, and had to take a few deep, steadying breaths, squeezing her eyes shut.
Giles was dead.
And now Spike was gone, too.
What would she give to have him beside her right now, cracking a stupid joke, obnoxious, familiar, and reassuring, a piece of the home she’d never return to?
She gazed at the nearby rooftops, wistful. Wouldn’t it be nice to pretend that he was back in the city, unwilling to talk to her, maybe, but still keeping an eye on her? Maybe that was why there were so few zompires for her to slay; he was getting to them first, San Francisco’s dark knight. He could be watching her right now, debating whether or not to reveal himself.
The hope that flared and quickly died in her chest created an ache so unexpected and acute that Buffy halted with a soundless gasp.
Then she took off running, desperate to get back to bed, even Robert’s, and away from the silent, empty streets.
* * *
Buffy hadn’t recognized the last five songs, but the music’s beat was pounding in her chest, and that was al she needed. Robert’s hips swayed with hers, his hands were hot on her waist, and his lips grazed her ear. Other couples writhed around them, heedless of who might be watching, or maybe galvanized because of it.
This was good. This was how people in their twenties were supposed to spend their Friday nights- clubs, dancing, sweat, beer, boyfriend. This was no Bronze, but it would do- it would do-
She turned, hands snaking up Robert’s torso, leaning up to kiss him-
“Buffy!” Robert’s confused cry barely registered as she pushed her way past other patrons, eyes focused only on the bleached blond head near the bar.
“Spike! Oh!” Buffy yanked her hand back as the man turned, revealing a profile that was definitely not Spike’s. He looked at her quizzically, as did the man and woman beside him.
“Uh. Hello?” he said, sounding confused rather than unkind. He was American; and judging from his youthful features, probably in possession of a fake ID.
“S-sorry,” said Buffy. “Your hair. I thought you were someone else.” Up close, she couldn’t have said why; his hair wasn’t slicked down, he wore a white T-shirt, and he was much slimmer in the shoulders- scrawny even- than Spike.
The boy grinned. “No worries. Yeah, distinctive, isn’t it?” He waved his beer bottle toward his head. “Weird! It’s new. Did it on a dare.”
His friends snickered. Buffy tried to smile politely, aware that it probably looked like a grimace. The bottom of her stomach didn’t seem to be there anymore.
The boy glanced at his friends and then quickly back at her. He licked his lips. “I mean, I could be someone else if you want…”
The girl giggled. “Smooth,” muttered the other boy.
Politeness, Buffy decided, was overrated. “Not necessary.”
She turned and stopped short against just as fast. Robert stood a few feet away. His face was studiously blank.
“I thought I saw Spike,” said Buffy after a moment, disliking but unable to stop a note of defensiveness creeping into her voice.
“I know,” said Robert.
They looked at each other. The music thundered on around them.
“Wanna dance?” he asked.
That’s all we’ve ever done.
Buffy blinked. “Um. Sure. Yeah.”
She let him lead her back out onto the floor.
* * *
Buffy stared at the calendar, but the number hadn’t changed from the first two times she had counted; she was late.
Her heartbeat roared in her ears.
No. Not again. Please, no, not again-
She ripped the thumbtack from the wall, sending the calendar crumpling to her feet, and plunged it into her left arm.
For such a small point, the pain was excruciating. Tears sprang from her eyes almost instantly, and her knees buckled. She gasped through clenched teeth, trying to keep more sounds from escaping. She failed, but at least Anaheed and Tumble weren’t at home to hear her whimper.
Through watery eyes, she could see what made the pain worth it, though: crimson rivulets spilling toward her wrist. The roaring sound in her ears receded a fraction, and she shuddered. Take it out, be sure…
Movement wasn’t instinctive anymore, though; her arm felt like it was on fire, but her hands were numb. She forced her trembling fingers to grasp the thumbtack, sucked in a breath, and pulled it out.
Though acute, the pain was not overwhelming, but it was all background noise now anyway. What mattered was the blood, so much of it, human blood gushing from human skin-
Human not a robot not a robot I’m me me human me not a robot-
The tack fell from her fingers. She touched a stain, coating her fingertips. Her nose filled with the smell of copper.
Her knees still sagged, and finally she let them carry her downward. She felt lightheaded and boneless; her arm throbbed. Blood stained her clothes and carpet.
And the calendar stared up at her, steadfast and accusing.
If she wasn’t a robot, was she…?
* * *
Buffy stared at the red patch on her underwear. As its meaning registered she slumped on the toilet and let out a sound that was half gasp, half laugh of relief.
She wasn’t pregnant. She was just really late. Oh thank God.
* * *
“I thought you were coming around to the idea of a baby.” Dawn tried to keep both judgment and unwanted sympathy out of her voice, which was easier said than done when her sister had just said that her reaction to a pregnancy scare was to cut herself.
Mental note: Kill Andrew.
“You said…” Dawn hesitated, wondering if she should even press the matter. Buffy had only discussed the pregnancy-robot debacle with her once, a week and a half after Spike had left, and she’d been extremely drunk at the time. Would she even remember admitting that part of her had wanted the not-a-child, had contemplated running away with it? Or would she pretend to not know what Dawn was talking about, in which case should Dawn play along?
Perhaps it would be kinder to let the subject drop, but it had been so long since they’d had anything resembling girl talk; sister talk.
And Dawn really missed being able to understand her sister.
“You said part of you actually wanted the last one.”
Buffy shrugged, shifting on the couch to sit cross-legged. “Yeah, but then I had Spike. This not-a-baby would have been Robert’s, and I-”
Buffy froze, eyes darting to Dawn’s and widening in something close to panic. Her hand flew futilely to cover her mouth.
“Oh,” said Dawn, inadequately. “But doesn’t that mean…”
“Oh god.” Buffy convulsed, once, and then tears were spilling down her cheeks. She cupped her face, fingers fluttering frantically, and stared at Dawn through huge, helpless eyes.
“It’s okay,” said Dawn automatically, even though it wasn’t. She scrambled across the couch cushions to hug Buffy. The slayer shook in Dawn’s arms.
“We’ll get him back.”
* * *
Robert’s eyes lit up when he opened the door. “Hey!” He leaned forward and kissed her, briefly enough that Buffy didn’t have to think about responding.
“To what do I owe the pleasure?” His face fell. “Wait, do we have plans? Did I forget-?”
“No! No, we don’t,” said Buffy hastily, her feeling of guilt growing. As Robert looked relieved, she tried to smile kindly but distantly; the second part wasn’t difficult.
“Robert, we…we need to talk.”
* * *
I tried calling you, but the number doesn’t work anymore. I really hope you’re still checking this address.
I changed my mind about wanting normal. Will you please come home? I really need to talk to you.
I miss you. I’m sorry.
Your phone isn’t in service, and you’re not answering your email? You’d better not be dead, you stupid vampire, because I want YOU. I was wrong about normal.
I really need to talk to you. Please come home.
Dawn says my last email was super aggressive. I guess it was, but I thought it was all right because it’s us. If I offended you and that’s why you’re not answering, I’m sorry. The important part was the “I want you” part.
Maybe my first email didn’t seem urgent, and that’s why you didn’t answer. But it is urgent. There’s a more important part that I didn’t want to say over email. I wanted to tell you in person, or by phone at the very least, because this way isn’t romantic at all, but I guess I don’t have a choice, so here goes:
I love you.
Please come home?
And I really, really mean it. I know you didn’t believe me in Sunnydale, but please believe me this time.
Be mine, Valentine?
I know it’s ridiculously cheesy, but I mean it. Maybe I should have mentioned that when I said I wanted you, I meant girlfriend-boyfriend kind of want you. It won’t be painful anymore. I promise. I love you back.
And maybe you don’t love me anymore, and that’s why you’re not answering, but if you did move on, could you at least let me know? I know you were mad at me, and I understand why, but I think I deserve that at least.
I hope you’re doing well, and your bugs. I hope you’ve been happy. Not moving-on-happy, because I’m selfish, but happy.
Please answer me.
I think I’ve begged enough, especially since you know I’m not the begging type, so this will be the last time I write. I can’t believe you would ignore me like this, especially after the things I’ve said, so I’m going to assume you don’t have access to your email. I have to assume that.
I’ve been asking all the demons I find if they’ve heard of you, and I’m going to keep looking. I really hope you’re not in space, because I don’t know how to look there.
I miss you. I’ve missed you this whole time, even before I realized I was wrong about what I wanted.
Dawn misses you, too. She says hi.
If you ever get this, please write back or call me. Even if you’re not interested. I need to know that you’re alive. And if you are interested, please come back to San Francisco.
* * *
“Are you still willing to do me a favor?”
Eldre bowed his head in what could have been a nod of affirmation or a mark of deference. “I remain in your debt. Is there some means by which I can discharge it?”
Buffy took a deep breath. “I hate to ask this-”
And she really did. Eldre Koh didn’t owe her anything. His freedom was an accident, and she’d take it back if she could, because if she hadn’t destroyed the Seed, there would still be magic, and then she could us a locator spell to find him and bring him home.
“Could you look for Spike?”
Could you search the ends of the Earth?
“I wouldn’t ask you if I hadn’t tried everything else,” she said quickly. “He’s not answering his phone-”
“The number you have dialed is not in service.”
“Or his email. I’ve gone to every demon haunt I know of in the Bay Area and no one knows anything about where he is. I’m-”
Her throat closed up. She hated relying on others, burdening them. She would be in Eldre’s debt when this was over. But it would be worth it.
“I don’t know what else to do. Please?”
It took effort not to look away from his grave, unmoving face, not because she worried she would cry- she had cried enough already- but because she knew she asked so much.
Leave your new home and scour a strange planet for a man who might not want to be found.
Favor was such an inadequate word.
A few seconds passed. Buffy struggled not to keep count.
Eldre inclined his head again. “Yes, Slayer. I will search for your vampire.”
My vampire. Is he? Please let him still be mine.
Buffy exhaled loudly. “Thank you. Thank you.”
Eldre crossed his prison cell-bedroom and took a scimitar off a hook on the wall. As he hefted it, he said, “It is a good way to honor my debt.” He looked at Buffy, alien eyes sharp and unexpectedly penetrating. “I have felt the loss of his company, too.”
She had to glance down this time, overcome by a never-far-from-present-these-days feeling of shame. Did Eldre know already why Spike had left? That it was her fault, that she had driven him away?
“Tell him I’m sorry,” she said, trying to keep her voice calm. “Tell him I made a huge mistake.”
Tell him I changed my mind. Tell him I love him. I love him miss him need him. Tell him anything.
* * *
“I could help! I could think of something to find him-”
“No! Try to help me again, Andrew, and I will find a zompire, sic it on you, let it turn you, and then I’ll stake you! Do you understand me?”
* * *
Xander had just settled on the couch with his microwaved dinner and started aimlessly flipping channels when the door opened. He hit the mute button and turned toward Dawn, who offered him a wan smile as she took off her jacket.
“Hey! How was girls’ night?” He had worked at a far-away site today and gotten home late, so Dawn had gone out to dinner with Buffy.
“It was all right.” She came over and plopped onto the couch beside him, curling her legs beneath her. “How was your day?”
“Same as usual.” Xander waited a beat and then asked casually, even though he already knew the answer was no because otherwise Dawn would have told him instantly, “Does Eldre have any news?”
Dawn signed perfunctorily, as though she’d expected the query. “No. He called from London yesterday. None of the demons he’s gotten a hold of know anything about Spike, and no one’s seen anything resembling his spaceship.” Dawn sounded more dejected than usual. Xander knew she’d been banking on London’s answer being different from LA, Mexico City, and half the East Coast’s.
“He could be there,” said Xander encouragingly. “Maybe Eldre just didn’t talk to the right demons.”
That didn’t sound nearly as comforting out loud as it had in his head.
Dawn sighed again. “Yeah. That’s the problem. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack. Worse, actually! Because at least you know the needle’s in the haystack! Spike might not even be on the planet! And if he is, he could be anywhere. He could be where Eldre is and we’d never know because Eldre can’t possibly search entire cities, or he could arrive just as Eldre leaves, and until he checks his goddamn email, we’ll never know where he is or if he’s even-”
Her high-pitched voice broke off, and her eyes blinked away. Xander put his dinner on the end table and scooted over to wrap his arm around her.
“He’s not dead. We would know. If he died, Buffy would…she would have felt it.”
Dawn arched an eyebrow but didn’t call him on his magnificent bullshit.
“And he could still come back on his own,” said Xander. “He’s only been gone, what, six months? He’s probably still in sulking mode. He’ll get over it soon and come back to stalk her again. You know he’s an ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,’ type of guy.”
He tried to sound jocular, but Dawn still looked un-amused and unconvinced. He wondered if she was thinking the same thing he was: Spike had stayed away from Buffy for a lot longer than six months after he died…
“I just wish we had magic,” said Dawn glumly. “Some way to search everywhere at once or some way to contact him; something he couldn’t ignore.”
Xander wasn’t sure what he could say to that that he hadn’t already. He squeezed her lightly and kissed the side of her head. Dawn pressed against him for a few seconds, as though gathering her strength, and then straightened. Xander was reaching for his dinner when she said, voice full of disdain,
“Why are you watching this?”
Xander glanced at the television, where a blonde woman was lounging in an armchair, cuddling a toy dog, and talking a mile a minute. “Oh. I wasn’t. I was channel-surfing and stopped when you came in.” He watched for a moment in horrified fascination; the world was still crazy, even without magic. “I can’t believe she has an audience. Ditz…”
Dawn twitched beside him. “Say that again.”
“No, before that.”
“Um, I can’t believe she has an audience…”
Dawn scrambled upright so fast that Xander jumped. “I have to call Buffy.”
“Why?” Her urgency was infectious, making him sound unduly anxious; he couldn’t remember the last time she had sounded so agitated.
Dawn paused with her finger on speed dial. To his surprise, she crooked a smile at him. “I have an idea. But she’s not gonna like it.”