Chapter 32 - Picking up the Pieces
Spike was an emotional wreck. Completely and totally shattered.
He’d thought he knew heartbreak, but he was sorely mistaken. Losing his mother was devastating, but it was entirely different type of loss. Nothing from his past compared to this, nothing could have prepared him for the loss he felt as he watched Buffy walk out of his life.
It took seconds for Spike’s heart to splinter into a million pieces, seconds for the tears to begin falling. Just mere seconds was all it took for his life to be turned completely upside down. And it all could have been prevented, if only he’d been honest with her.
It was close to an hour before Spike managed to move, the thought of leaving witnesses to his distress barely motivation enough to drag his sorry arse from the ground. He’d always been a fairly private person but in that moment he didn’t care who saw him crying. He’d announce his feelings to the world if he thought it would help him win her back.
And in that moment he decided to fight for her. He was not going to give up on Buffy. She was the best thing in his life and he’d be damned if he let her slip through his fingers.
He had to find her. He had to make things right.
Because without Buffy he was nothing.
Buffy was numb. After the emotional rollercoaster of the afternoon she was left utterly drained. If she had more tears to cry her body refused to part with them. Her eyes were bloodshot with sorrow, her cheeks blotchy and swollen. But she didn’t care, her appearance the last thing on her mind.
She couldn’t escape the events of the afternoon. The confrontation kept playing over and over in her mind. She saw it so clearly. Spike’s confusion at her actions, the look of realisation that passed through his eyes when he put the pieces together, and the desperate tone of his voice when he plead with her to speak with him. It looked real, it felt real, and when she’d told him it was over she broke a little more at his obvious despair.
There was no way he could have faked that, she told herself over and over again. He’s not that good an actor. Why would he pretend to be so upset if this was just a game to him?
Then the doubt would come crashing back in and the tears would renew their passage down her cheeks.
As promised, Willow had joined Buffy and Xander at the Summers’ residence a short time later. With Willow promoted to ‘shoulder to cry on’ Xander had excused himself to make a couple of phone calls. Buffy’s return to school the following day would not be an easy one, and he planned on providing as much support as possible.
“Angel, I need to ask a favour.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Buffy shook her head. She really didn’t.
“Are you sure?” Willow prodded, gently. She was at a loss of what to do, and seeing Buffy so broken made her feel less than adequate in the best friend department. “How about some ice-cream?” she suggested. “Can I tempt you with some chocolate-y goodness? It heals all that ails ya.”
Realising Willow’s predicament, Buffy consented with a nod. She didn’t want to be alone, and while she appreciated the support from her friends the attention was... overwhelming. Time to think and space to breathe was what she needed, and while Willow and Xander had the best of intentions they didn’t seem to understand that.
Spike would understand.
The thought crossed her mind unbidden and Buffy closed her eyes in an attempt to fight off the renewed flood of tears.
Willow retrieved the aforementioned ice-cream from the freezer and a couple of spoons from the kitchen, halting her return to the living room when she heard Xander’s voice coming from outside.
“Out here, Will,” Xander replied quietly.
Walking through the back door she found him sitting at the edge of the patio, his head resting in his hands.
“What are you doing out here?” Willow inquired.
“Preparing some back-up for tomorrow.”
“Back-up? What do you mean? Oh god, do you think Spike is going to do something?” Willow’s eyes widened at the thought. “Should we call the police?” She seemingly talked herself out of that, shaking her head before she continued. “No, of course not. Spike wouldn’t hurt Buffy, he loves her.”
“Pshyeah, and he’s done a great job of proving just how much he cares,” Xander retorted, sarcasm dripping from his words as he stood to face her.
“Wake up and smell the betrayal, Will. It was all a game to him.” Xander shook his head. “I should have seen it coming, I knew he couldn’t be trusted,” he growled.
Willow whacked Xander on his arm with the spoons. “A blind person could see how much Spike cares for her.”
Xander shook his head. “You don’t treat the ones you love like he treated her. You don’t make bets and keep secrets. She should never have gone out with him in the first place, it was a bad idea.”
Willow gasped. “How can you say that?” Shock switched to anger as Willow narrowed her eyes. “If I remember rightly you were just as supportive of them in the beginning as I was. Why the sudden change of heart? So he made a mistake—”
When Xander snorted Willow adjusted her assessment. “Large, bad, huge mistake, but I can’t believe he intentionally set out to hurt her. I just can’t.”
“Not can’t, won’t. Won’t see what’s right in front of you, just like Buffy.” Xander shook his head in a manner Willow could only describe as disappointed.
“Won’t?” Willow repeated. By now Willow’s voice was bordering on shrill, and she would be surprised if Buffy hadn’t caught wind of their argument. In hushed tones she continued. “What do you mean won’t?”
Xander looked at Willow in disbelief. “Am I the only one here who remembers how badly Spike treated Buffy in the beginning? The thing in the cafeteria with Harmony? Wasn’t it you who told me he once said to her that he was just trying to see how far she’d go?”
“You’re taking things way out of context and—”
“Why are you defending him, Willow?” Xander cut her off, his voice rising once more as he began pacing the porch. “What is it with you two and Spike? You say a blind person could see how much he cares; well I say you two are blind when it comes to Spike. This is not the first time he’s hurt Buffy but I’ll be damned if it happens again. I would never treat her the way he has and—”
“Oh my god!” Now it was Willow’s turn to interrupt. “You still have feelings for her.”
When Xander froze, obviously surprised by her observation, Willow shook her head in disbelief. “Please tell me this isn’t what this,” she waved in his general direction, “is all about.”
When Xander said nothing in response she forged ahead.
“Petty jealousy. God, Xander, is that why you told her? Please tell me you didn’t ‘share’ what you heard because you thought...”
“Thought what?” Xander prodded, daring Willow to continue.
“Because you thought you had a chance with her.”
Now it was Xander’s turn to shake his head in disbelief, his reply calm yet clearly projecting the hurt he felt. “After all the years we’ve been friends I’m stunned that you would think so little of me.”
Willow sighed. “What am I supposed to think?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Xander said with an exaggerated shrug. “Maybe that I was looking out for a friend?”
“No, Willow.” Xander gestured wildly. “I care for Buffy, yes. She knows that. And yes I was once romantically interested in her but I never deluded myself to believe that if Spike were off the scene that she and I would...” He trailed off, a bitter laugh escaping his lips. “Buffy has made it abundantly clear that her friendship is all I’ll ever get from her, and not once did I think of that as deficient.”
The wind in Willow’s sails deflated a little, but she still wasn’t entirely convinced. And the fact she doubted Xander’s intentions was killing her; she’d never not trusted him before. “Then why the ‘protecto’ act from earlier? Back-up? Back-up for what?”
Xander shook his head almost sadly. “It’s what friends do, Will, they look out for each other. I just thought Buff might want some friendly faces in her corner, you know? I called Angel, and asked him to call a couple of her friends from the swim team because I don’t have their numbers. Angel’s bound to have them, hell he’s dated half the girls on the squad.”
He resumed his pacing, talking almost to himself. “A few people on her side, you know? For when the shit hits the fan tomorrow. You and I both know that Spike isn’t going to walk quietly into the night as if nothing happened. He’s going to be around, in her face.” Xander laughed, wryly, turning his lop-sided grin toward Willow. “He’s not going to give up on her.”
Because he loves her.
The words hung unspoken between them, because despite Xander’s earlier protestations against the fact it was startling clear that Spike did care for Buffy.
Silence stretched on, bordering on uncomfortable before Willow finally spoke.
“I’m so sorry, Xander. I had to ask.”
Xander nodded. “I know. I would’ve done the same thing if I were in your shoes.”
“You would have chewed me out if I was interested in Buffy?” Willow questioned, her cheeks turning as red as her hair when she realised what she’d said.
“Will, if you were interested in Buffy I’d—”
“OKAY!” Willow interrupted before Xander completed the thought out loud, stifling a giggle. Xander just grinned which made her giggle again.
She was relieved they’d made up; Willow hated fighting with Xander.
Silence fell again, but this time it was relaxed.
“Do you think she heard?” Willow asked, her brow crinkling into a frown. It distressed her to think she’d possibly caused her friend more pain.
“Only one way to find out,” Xander replied.
Quietly, and with slight trepidation, the pair walked inside to find Buffy curled up on the sofa, sound asleep.
“I guess she wore herself out,” Willow whispered.
“Wouldn’t you be if you were in her position?”
Nodding, Willow raised the tub of half melted ice-cream. “Wanna wait out front for Mrs Summers and share this before it melts entirely?”
With a nod from Xander the pair walked through the front door, taking extra care to close it quietly.
When Buffy woke the house was quiet. Unnervingly so. A look over her shoulder alerted her to the fact a few hours had passed; the sky was beginning to dim with the onset of dusk. It didn’t explain the quiet though. A frown crinkled her brow. She was pretty sure that Xander and Willow had said they’d stay with her. The last thing Buffy wanted at this point was to be alone.
Stretching her arms over her head, Buffy decided to check where the others were.
As she stood she heard something fall, and her eyes were drawn to something small and gold. She retrieved it from the floor, immediately wishing she’d ignored it.
It was a delicate gold bracelet. A delicate gold bracelet with a small charm... three dolphins in motion.
A present from Spike.
A sob clawed at her throat and Buffy dropped the offending item on the coffee table.
She could remember the day he gave it to her so clearly, how nervous he’d been when she opened the small gift box. It was the day he’d taken her onto the rooftop of the gym, when she’d first spotted the lake.
This gift signalled the progression of their relationship from something light hearted—a relationship in its beginning stages—to something much more serious. It was only a few days later that Spike had taken her to the lake and they’d ended up back at her place... alone.
The memories—in retrospect—were some of the happiest of her life, save for today.
She wished she could go back, turn the clock a full 24 hours earlier, to a time when everything was so good between them.
To a time when she’d been so happy she felt like she would burst.
But that wouldn’t be enough. Those happy memories were not what they seemed... Spike had been lying to her and none of it was real.
Purging thoughts of him and their time together from her mind, Buffy walked toward the kitchen in search of her friends. She could really use a shoulder right about now.
Needless to say, Buffy was surprised when it was not Willow and Xander but her mother she happened upon. Joyce was sitting at the island bench, her attention focussed on paperwork of some sort. Hearing footsteps, she lifted her head.
And in that moment Buffy realised her mother knew.
“Oh baby,” Joyce gushed. “I’m so sorry.”
Buffy’s tears began to fall once more as she rushed to her mother’s embrace.
“Are you sure we did the right thing?” Willow asked, wringing her hands anxiously in front of herself.
“Of course,” Xander replied instantly. “It wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that Buffy is in pain, and this way we’ve saved her from having to relive it by answering her mother’s questions.”
Willow nodded, still unconvinced. She’d wanted to stay until Buffy was awake, but Mrs Summers had suggested they both head home before their own parents began wondering where they were.
It still didn’t sit right with Willow though, leaving her friend when she was still in distress. She’d promised she’d be there for Buffy. She wanted to be there for Buffy. A question plagued her thoughts, one she knew couldn’t be answered but one she had to ask all the same.
“Do you think she’s going to be okay?”
Xander frowned. “I honestly don’t know.”