Rating:PG-13, you watch the show, you can read this.
Time Line: Sixth season, up to "As You Were".
Disclaimer: Not mine, oh but I wish they were.
Comments: Something had to be done. (You know, I honestly thought I was gonna get much darker than this fic actually did, but it resisted me. Also, I thought Iíd end it at a much happier place, but the fic resisted me here, too. Oh well).
Feedback: Very much appreciated.
"This isnít real, but I just want to feel." Ė Buffy, ĎOnce More, With Feelingí.
* * * *
"Giles? Itís me, itís Tara."
"Tara? Are you alright? Is anything wrong?"
"Iím okay, itísÖ itís Buffy. Giles, I think thereís something you need to know."
* * * *
She walked down the alley, feeling more comfortable in the shadows here than anywhere else. There were probably more vampires in the cemetery, but that was almost an off limits area now. One step inside those gates and sheíd be lost. Again. Giving herself up, again, almost not caring, again. Funny, thereíd once been a time when she felt most comfortable in the cemeteries. Just one more thing taken from her.
At the end of the alley, joining the main street, Buffy saw people walking, laughing, living. She envied them, their carelessness, their ability to live in the light. She thought of the house waiting for her, those peering, accusing eyes in every room. The disappointment that would descend on her like a shroud as soon as she entered. What would they know of her life now? Why did they even care anymore?
It was becoming harder and harder for her to care anymore.
The hands came from behind her, grabbing her roughly, throwing her against the wall. She felt the bricks slam into her spine, felt the impact ricochet through her body and make her teeth chatter, the familiar brutality. Just when did she lose the reflex that made her stop these attacks?
"Spike." She said the name like an exhalation, a weary breath. "Not now, ok?"
The words were growled and they were angry, bristling with rage. Buffyís eyes flew up, she knew that voice, and suddenly she felt the heat of his hands holding her down. This couldnít be, he couldnít see her like this, she couldnít let him know. Her head tried to shake, forming a negation, but it didnít quite make it. She could feel the tears already.
"Whatís wrong, Buffy?" Giles brought his face agonizingly close to her ear and his breath was hot against her cheek. "Disappointed?"
"No! IÖ" This was wrong, this was all wrong. She tried to get out of his grasp. "Giles, let me go!"
"Let you go? I thought this was what you wanted?" She couldnít meet his eyes and this didnít escape his notice. "Youíre the slayer, Buffy, make me let you go."
He brought her hands up above her head, holding her wrists together with his left hand, he forced her chin up with his right, being none too gentle about it. Her whole body shivered, once, as if taking a breath and she stopped struggling, going limp in acquiescence.
It surprised him, how easily sheíd given up. It saddened him.
"Look at me, Buffy." She did. "What are you doing?"
"What does it matter?" She whispered and a tear fell down her cheek. "Itís not hurting anyone."
Giles had to pause, breathing in deeply. He let her chin go and watched it fall, taking her whole face with it, the hair on the side of her head falling forward, a make shift curtain. The shame radiated off her in waves. This was not Buffy, not the Buffy he knew. How could it have gotten this far?
"Look at yourself!" He practically hissed the words. "Not hurting anyone? Buffy, youíre killing yourself!"
She didnít say anything and a blade began to pierce his heart, slowly and accurately. All the anger left him, replaced by cold fear.
"Thatís what you want, isnít it? Thatís what this is all about. Oh my lord. Iím too late."
Buffy looked at him, no longer fear or shame in her eyes, but pleading, a desperateness that shook him.
"Just let me go, Giles, let me go."
"You have to!" Buffy threw him back, watching him stumble, her face red and flushed. "You have to, because I canít do this! Itís too hard! You all tell me to get over it, but I canít! I told you, I told you Giles, I didnít want to live anymore! I didnít want toÖ"
Her fury subsided as quickly as it came. She deflated as she looked at him, standing several feet from her.
"And you let them bring me back."
"No!" He stepped forward and immediately wished he hadnít seen her step back, flinching. "I didnít know what they wouldÖ I wouldnít have let them. You have to believe me, Buffy, I didnít know."
"Thatís what he said." Buffy crossed her arms in front of her torso, hugging herself. "But I donít believe him, either."
The unsaid name hung between them, heavy and unwanted. He couldnít speak.
"Would you? I mean, could you have stopped it if youíd known? I saw you, Giles, I felt the emotion in you when you saw me. At least heÖ"
Buffy stopped, suddenly deciding that she didnít need to finish her sentence. She sat down on a crate nearby, lacking the energy it took to keep standing. Taking a step forward, Giles had to stop himself from shaking her.
"At least what? At least what about Spike?"
"At least," She spoke so quietly he had to strain to hear her. "At least Spike doesnít try to hide his greed."
That hurt. Giles sat down next to her.
"Is that why youÖ?" He couldnít finish the sentence, didnít have the words in his vocabulary. "I mean, why? Why Spike?"
"I donít know. IÖ" She sighed. "Itís what I deserve, isnít it?"
"Deserve? What?" He tried to place a hand on her shoulder, but she shook it off. "Buffy?"
"Faith was right. I didnít understand for so long, Giles, I damned her, but I didnít know. How could I? I was so goddamned sure of myself, of what I believed in. Look at me now, Iím a shadow, Iím not even really me anymore. I donít know who I am, but Iím not good."
His heart was breaking for her.
"Of course youíre good, Buffy, youíve always been good."
"No, Iím not. How can I be good? How can I be worth anything, when even Heaven doesnít want me?"
"Is that what you think?"
"Think? Giles, itís what I know! Spikeís chip, it doesnít work on me. And I know Tara has an explanation, but the simple truth is, I donít deserve to be in Heaven and I certainly donít deserve to be here! I was dead, I still am. I came back wrong, I know I did."
Giles closed his eyes. There was too much to process. He knew, deep down he knew, that heíd left too soon. Sheíd been forced to take hold of her life, look after Dawn, get a job. All of which sheíd done spectacularly. But at what cost? Why hadnít he seen this before heíd left? Or had he not wanted to? Happy to have her back, he hadnít wanted to face any negative consequences.
"Heaven didnít throw you out, BuffyÖ"
"I know, really, I know, butÖ still."
"Spikeís chip works on you?" She nodded. "He hurts you?"
Buffy closed her eyes. She could feel the chains cutting into her wrists, feel her legs being held down, she could hear her own voice begging him to stop, feel the slice of his fangs pierce the vein at the top of her thigh, could feel all her blood being pulled to the one spot, drawn out of her, could feel the agony that was so close to ecstasy it scared her.
"And you let him?"
She had been weeping, but now the emotions bubbled to the surface in engulfing sobs, choking her as she fought them. Her whole body shook with them and she clung harder to herself, as if she could squeeze them out of her.
"IÖ I donít want to! But I canít stop it, I canít stop him. I say no, butÖ butÖ" She hated herself. "I donít mean it. And he knows it."
"But why? Buffy, why?"
"BecauseÖ becauseÖ" She flailed, looking for the words, not really knowing what they were. "Itís so blurry, so surreal, I can barely breathe. And he pushes past it all, he makes everything sharp. For a moment."
"Heís taking advantage of you."
She almost laughed, the ball of bitterness sticking in her throat.
"Iím taking advantage of him. Itís equal."
"And thatís enough for you?" He knew it wasnít, but did she?
"It has to be, doesnít it?"
"Why does it?"
"Because heís the only one I canít hurt! Iím falling, Giles, Iím going down a spectacular spiral thatís going to end in a crash and burn and I donít want to take any of you with me."
"Have you even given any of us a chance? Or are you just so eager to hurt yourself that you donít care? What about Dawn? What about Willow?"
They were going around in circles, dizzying circles, but he wasnít going to give up, no matter how much she wanted him to.
"What about them, Giles? Dawn hates me now, and I know I could have done better, but I tried! Itís not my fault. She much prefers Tara and I donít think Tara would mind. And Willow? Sheís getting stronger every week and she keeps trying to make it better. Sheís so guilty, about me, about Tara, about Dawn, if you pressed her right now, Iím sure sheíd apologize for the Apollo mission, and I canít take it. Itís not my responsibility, Iíve tried and I canít make it better for her. Xander and Anya, they have each other now, theyíre getting married, theyíre going to be fine. And you? You left."
"I felt I had to." He said quietly.
"That wasnít an accusation." He looked at her. "Honest. I understand why you left, and Iím taking care of everything, butÖ butÖ itís still not enough. Itís like I go through everything in a daze, just going through the motions."
She gave a small, ironic little laugh at those words, not giving Giles an explanation, despite the confused look he gave her.
"And if, in a brief respite, I can actually feel something, something for myself, why the hell canít I have it?"
"Because itís killing you."
"I told you, Giles, Iím already dead."
"Stop saying that!"
"Why? Because it makes you upset? See? This is exactly what Iím talking about. You canít handle it, Willow and Xander, they canít handle it. Spike can handle it, or he just doesnít care, either way."
"I want to help you, Buffy."
"How, Giles? How are you going to help me?"
"I donít know, I honestly donít know. But I want to try."
She looked at him.
"I donít know, either."