Chapter 31 - I Fall to Pieces
Buffy couldn’t think. She literally couldn’t process what Xander had just told her. There was no way, no way it could be true. The thing was, she had no reason to doubt Xander. What would he gain from lying to her? He was one of her closest friends, and she could see how much it hurt him to see her so upset. He was hurting because she was hurting.
She wished she could take back the last five minutes. Rewind time, so that she could have not heard this.
Her perfect world had been shattered.
Apparently, it wasn’t as perfect as she had thought.
It was all a lie.
A bet, nothing more than a stupid agreement between two stupid selfish people.
She had thought he cared about her.
“No,” she whispered.
“I’m so sorry, Buffy.”
“It can’t...” She shook her head. “No, he wouldn’t do this. He wouldn’t lie to me like this.”
Xander didn’t know what to do, what he could say, to make her feel better. He didn’t regret telling her, but he did wish that Willow were here. “Maybe I didn’t hear things right, maybe they were talking about something else.”
It was a lie meant to comfort, and they both knew it did little to soften to blow.
“I... I can’t be here.” Buffy stood up forcefully, her seat scraping across the ground before tipping over. “I have to go be somewhere that is not here.”
“No,” she interrupted harshly. “I know you meant to help. I do. I know you didn’t want to hurt me.” A shower of tears cascaded down her cheeks as her voice broke with emotion. “But I can’t, I can’t be here. I feel like I’m falling apart at the seams, my heart is breaking and I can’t be here. I can’t fall apart here. I just can’t—”
“Shhhh,” Xander soothed, drawing Buffy into his arms. Sobbing wracked her tiny body as her knees gave way, Xander’s embrace the only thing saving her from collapsing to the floor.
“It’ll be okay.” Even to his ears the words sounded hollow, but nothing was going to stop Xander from comforting his friend. “You’ll get through this.”
Buffy turned tearful eyes toward him, a one word response all she could manage between the torrent of tears and the sobs rent from within her.
Buffy didn’t come to class. And while outwardly Spike acted as if he didn’t notice, internally he was worried. Where could she be?
His first thoughts that maybe she and Angel had gotten together for a little tête-à-tête. But when his old mate had turned up to class, alone, and there was still no sign of Buffy, Spike became concerned.
He looked over at Willow, hoping to catch her eye, but she was immersed in her assignment.
“Red,” Spike whispered.
Still no response.
“Willow, where’s Buffy?”
Now Spike knew that something was up, because there was no way that she hadn’t heard him. She was only a row in front of him, and he wasn’t exactly being discrete.
Ripping a piece of paper from his book he balled it up and threw it at the back of her head.
Willow finally gave him her attention, shooting a glare in his direction. “I don’t know where Buffy is,” Willow whispered back harshly. “But I’m guessing her not being in class has something to do with you.”
And with that she turned around again.
Spike was stunned speechless. The look she’d shot him was borderline vicious. Whoever had put her in that mood had better watch out.
Resigned to the fact he’d have to wait until the end of class to find out what was going on, Spike opened his book and got to work.
As soon as the bell for the end of class sounded, Willow dashed from her seat and out the door.
Something was wrong; it was the only explanation she could come up with for why Buffy hadn’t come to class. Dumping her books in her locker she rounded the hallway, checking if Buffy was at hers.
Neither was she in the pool, or the library, or in the quad.
She expected nothing when she walked into the cafeteria, it being the least likely place she’d expect to find Buffy. But there she was, standing with Xander, with her back turned to the door.
How was it that Willow hadn’t noticed Xander missing from class?
Willow’s thoughts were cut to an abrupt halt when she saw the way Buffy’s shoulders were shaking, ever so slightly.
“Buffy... what’s wrong?” Willow asked as she approached the pair.
Both Xander and Buffy swivelled to face Willow. One look at the concern on Willow’s face was enough to send her into another fit of tears.
“Willow!” Buffy sobbed, before an incoherent stream of words flooded from her mouth.
Willow looked over Buffy’s shoulder at Xander, who was currently pacing in front of the girls, his hands clenching into fists at his side. “What’s going on?”
“Spike,” Xander all but growled.
“You know?” Willow questioned in surprise.
Xander was confused. “Yes, I know, how do you? I didn’t see you in the hallway.”
“Hallway?” Willow repeated, her expression mirroring Xander’s. “What’s going on?”
“Spike’s been lying to Buffy,” Xander informed.
“Oh no, not lying,” Willow shook her head in denial. “Not voicing his feelings, maybe, but lying? That’s a bit of a stretch isn’t it?”
“Willow, what are you talking about?”
“This is about how Spike didn’t tell her that he loved her after they...” she trailed off, wiggling her eyebrows in suggestion in the hopes of not having to voice her friend’s sexual activity out loud. “Isn’t it?”
Xander’s expression was blank for a moment before reality came crashing, a look of pure fury crossing his face.
“He slept with her?”
Willow realised her mistake instantly. “You didn’t know?”
“I’m going to kill him for hurting her like this.”
“Like what?” Willow practically yelled, not knowing the full picture. “What’s going on? I thought Buffy and I had sorted this out earlier, we spoke about how he didn’t say he loved her back and I assured her everything would be alright.”
“He doesn’t love her,” Xander snapped angrily. “It was all a lie.”
All the colour drained from Willow’s face. Xander didn’t just say what she thought he said, did he? “What?”
“It was all just part of a stupid bet.” Xander kicked at a nearby chair sending it flying in the opposite direction. “Cordelia wanted to sink her claws into Angel, has for months now, but with Buffy around she didn’t stand a chance. She made an arrangement with Spike for him to keep Buffy off the market while she made her play for Angel.”
Buffy’s sobs increased.
Willow was shell-shocked. She could not believe her ears. How had this happened, how had they not known? All of a sudden she was consumed with guilt, she felt partly responsible for having encouraged Buffy to begin dating Spike in the first place.
“Oh my god,” she whispered. “And you told her? Why would you do that?”
“Of course!” Xander exclaimed. “I wanted to forewarn her, before things got too serious.”
He snorted, realising the irony of his statement, before turning sympathetic eyes toward Buffy. He couldn’t bear to see her so upset, knowing that it was information he’d shared which had put her in such as state. He turned away again. “I didn’t know I was too late. If I had... maybe...”
“Maybe nothing,” Willow snapped, joining Xander in the fury department. She couldn’t believe Spike would do something like this; he’d seemed so sincere about his feelings for Buffy. And the look of concern on his face in class... was it possible that was all an act? “You didn’t do anything wrong. He is the one who was using her.”
“Guys, please... stop!” Buffy begged, having remained silent for several minutes as her friends battled it out on her behalf. “I just want to go home, I can’t be here any longer, I can’t see him... I want my mom.”
“Of course,” Willow replied softly, her expression instantly softening. “Xander will take you home.”
“What! No.” Xander shook his head vehemently. “No, I’m going to teach that son of a—”
“And that’s exactly why you’re taking her,” Willow interrupted. “I’ll go and let Principal Snyder know that Buffy is unwell and going home, and you’re driving her. I’ll be right behind you.”
Xander hesitated for a moment before nodding in agreement. Willow was right. As much as he wanted to confront Spike about what he’d done, now was not the time. Getting Buffy home was priority.
“Buffy,” Willow said gently. “Let’s get you home.”
With a nod Buffy let herself be led from the cafeteria by her friends.
When neither Willow nor Buffy showed up to the next class Spike knew something was up. As far as he was aware, Willow had never skipped out before.
Making an excuse to go to the toilet, Spike left the classroom and headed off in search of Buffy.
It didn’t take him long.
He rounded a corner and collided with someone, taking a moment to realise that someone was a very irate Xander Harris. And curled into Xander’s side, under a protective arm, was his girl.
She was crying, and by the look of her had been doing so for some time now. When she saw him she flinched, hiding her eyes against Xander’s chest.
“You get the hell away from her,” Xander said menacingly.
And for the first time ever, Spike was actually intimated by Xander. The boy looked like he wanted to murder him, and he had absolutely no idea why. But threatening aside, there was nothing and no one that was going to stop him from talking to his girl.
“I want to talk to my girlfriend.” Spike reached for Buffy, and Xander reacted immediately, pushing her behind him.
“You don’t touch her.”
Ignoring him Spike tried once again to talk to Buffy. “Love, what’s wrong?”
Xander made a move to push Spike away, only stopping when Buffy placed a hand on his shoulder. She didn’t say anything, but the look in eyes clearly expressed her wishes. With a nod, Xander took a step to the side, keeping a watchful eye on his friend and the person responsible for breaking her heart.
Spike mistook this as meaning she wanted comfort from him and he took a step toward her, confusion clouding his expression when she reacted instantly by moving out of his grasp.
She sniffled once before turning her soulful eyes toward him. And the look she shot him was heartbreaking, filled with so much betrayal, with so much hate. Spike was stunned. Never would he have expected her to look at him in such a way.
Still she said nothing.
“Buffy, love. Talk to me,” he pleaded.
“I’m not your love,” Buffy spat out, her voice husky from crying.
For a moment Spike was gobsmacked. No... No, she didn’t just say that. It was not possible that Cordelia had been right. Buffy loved him. She loved him.
“Stop calling me those pet names!” Buffy shouted, her eyes blazing. “You don’t have the right. I’m not your love, your kitten, your anything. I’m not yours.”
I’m not yours I’m not yours I’m not yours...
Her words repeated over and over in his mind, and Spike could pinpoint the exact moment he felt his heart break.
As was his nature, Spike struck out in retaliation. Remembering the little gathering he’d seen earlier, the words were out of his mouth before he even had the chance to consider the repercussions. “Did your little reunion with Angel not go so well?” he sneered.
Tears filled Buffy’s eyes once more, Spike’s words a reminder of what she’d recently learned.
Spike mistook her tears as her answer.
“So it’s true. I was just a stand in while your lover boy was out of town.”
Buffy gasped in disbelief. She could not believe the things she was hearing. How could he be so cruel? Any doubts she had about the information Xander had shared with her earlier were now dashed.
Her hand flew from her side and struck Spike’s cheek before she even realised what she was doing.
“How dare you,” she gasped. Buffy shook her head in disbelief, watching as Spike’s mouth became a thin angry line.
A bright pink handprint began to appear on his cheek, and she fought the desire to apologise for being responsible. He was not the person she thought he was. He may have broken her heart, but she was not going to let him belittle her. It was clear what she had to do, not that there was any real doubt about it. Their relationship was a ruse, and it had to end.
“I gave you everything,” she began, her voice trembling with emotion that she fought to keep in check. She was not going to cry again, not in front of him. “I gave you my body, and I gave you my heart. I loved you.”
Spike’s expression softened immediately and he opened his mouth to respond but Buffy wouldn’t let him.
“But it was only a game to you. Part of a plan, keep my interest so tha...” Her words lodged in her throat.
The realisation of what she was talking about was instantaneous and it hit him with a crushing force. “No, Buffy! It’s not what you think, I can explain.”
Buffy shook her head. Fighting back tears she looked him directly in the eye as she put the nail in the coffin of farce which was their relationship. “Well, game’s over, Spike. I know your secret.” She laughed with false humour. “Over... funny, considering it never really began, did it?”
She closed her eyes, her voice barely above a whisper as she added, “It was never really real, was it?”
Once more Spike was stunned silent by her words.
It was never real.
He could wrap his head around it all, how things had managed to get so fucked up. He’s been so desperate to keep her that he didn’t even realise that he was actually driving her away.
“No, it was real!” Spike insisted. “Everything was real, everything we did, everything we felt...” He was desperate to explain. He had to make her understand, make her realise, but his words failed him once more.
And then it struck him. It struck him hard, like being punched in the gut by a freight train. He was going to lose her. Buffy was going to leave him. In a perfect moment of clarity he realised that there was no coming back from this, there was nothing he could say that would make things right.
But that didn’t mean he was going to let go. He couldn’t. She meant too much to him. She was his life. He loved her.
He knew now that he was an idiot for not telling her immediately, he should’ve told her every day just how much he loved her. She looked so defeated, so lost, and it was all his fault.
“Buffy, you’ve got it all wrong, it was real!”
I can convince her, I can tell her how much she means to me. I can make this right.
“It was real! All of it was real, every last minute. God, baby, I need you, I need you so much,” he insisted, grasping her hands, only to find himself shoved away by her bodyguard hard enough to send him sprawling to the ground.
Xander took Buffy by the hand and began leading her away, she’d suffered through enough.
Spike scrambled to find his feet, his voice desperate as he shouted after Buffy.
“BUFFY! Please, I lo—”
Buffy interrupted his confession, looking over her shoulder as she let herself be led away by Xander.
“Don’t follow me, don’t look at me, and don’t ever speak to me again. It’s over.”
“No,” Spike denied, finding his feet, only to have them crumple beneath him when she turned her back on him.
“It’s so over we need another word for over.”