Stage Fright

Chapter 1




Buffy was absolutely, positively convinced that she was cursed.

Someone or something must have place a hex on her. Or maybe she'd been unknowingly branded when she'd first set foot in town. Either way, every birthday she’d celebrated in Sunnydale since the move from LA, something bad had happened. Nearly being choked to death by a decapitated arm, her boyfriend losing his soul and going on a massacre, the loss of her powers and resulting broken trust at the hand of her watcher, nearly killing said watcher after he was turned into a demon, and most recently... being trapped inside her own home because of a vengeance wish.

The one common theme? Men. As of today, Buffy was giving them up. She was determined her next birthday would be celebrated as a single, and safely at that.

There was only one problem.

She had a sort of, almost--but not really, sometimes, boyfriend.

Spike.

A burble of laughter rose in her throat at the thought. While she might have been spending a lot of time recently with him, intimately at that, she wouldn’t really consider said time to be... a relationship. Not really.

Not to her at least.

But Spike...

No, he has to know this isn’t forever, this is just a...

Buffy shook away the notion. It didn’t matter what Spike considered their recent attachment to be. It wasn’t real. Not real in the way she wanted, the way she deserved. The way he deserves... something she’d never admit out loud.

It was decided.

She had to end things.

Tonight.

~*~*~


“It’s over.”

When Spike had run into the slayer in Restfield Cemetery he’d been hoping for a little rough and tumble. He supposed he should have expected the ‘it’s over’ speech; it had become an almost nightly occurrence. Each time they met she would profess the end, and each night he would convince her it was just the beginning. Tonight would be no different.

He quirked an eyebrow in amusement, clearly not believing a word she said. “Alright love, I’ll play along.”

“Spike—”

“I mean it,” Spike interrupted, his voice rising in pitch as if trying to mimic her voice. “It’s over. I don’t want to see you anymore. There will be no more life-altering shagging.”

“Spike, I said... life-altering?” Buffy tilted her head to the side in contemplation. “Really?”

“Well, yeah,” Spike answered with a nod, mirroring her with a tilt of his own. “Isn't it?”

“Wow,” Buffy breathed. “That’s just—”

She shook her head, almost as if she was trying to shake the thoughts right out. He was distracting her, and judging by the suggestive leer he was shooting her way he knew exactly what he was doing. “You’re trying to distract me, and it isn’t going to work.”

“Isn’t it?” Spike asked. With the grace of a panther he prowled forward. “Because that’s not how it looks from my end.”

“Stop it,” Buffy ordered. “Stop it, or I’ll—”

“Or you’ll... what?” Each word was punctuated with a step until there was barely a hairs breadth between them.

Buffy inhaled sharply, the closeness between them affecting her more than she would ever confess. However, Spike didn’t need her words, her response to his presence more than obvious by the increase in her heart rate, among other things.

“You want this, why can’t you just admit it?”

A shiver rolled up Buffy’s spine. Though his words rang with truth she couldn’t allow this to continue. Despite her earlier conviction, she could feel her resolve weakening. She had to be strong.

Spike could see that Buffy was wavering; her earlier bluster had left her sails. With her resistance waning, now was about the time he could normally convince her to change her mind, be it with his words, his kiss, or his touch. This time would be no different.

I’m not going to give in; I’m not going to give in... The words repeated over and over in Buffy’s mind, a mantra she was desperately trying to hold on to.

Spike caressed Buffy’s arm, a trail of gooseflesh rising in the wake of his fingers. Why did it have to feel so good? She supposed that if being with him, being with Spike, if it lacked the allure then she wouldn’t be in her current position, trying to fight her desire. The way he made her feel, it was addictive. The rush of excitement, the pleasure, the element of danger which always accompanied their secret trysts, it was elicit and she craved it.

Since returning from the dead it was only with him that she felt any sort of... peace.

Funny that, the times she felt most alive was when in the company of a dead man.

If there was one thing she’d learned about Spike over the duration of their clandestine affair, it was that he was a man. Unlike the majority of his kind Spike was not ruled by his demon. He felt, he desired, he loved. He loved her.

He loved her, yet another reason why it had to end now.

Buffy met his gaze and held it, only to drop her chin a moment later. It was the most surprising thing about him, just how expressive his eyes were. After all this time she was blown away by the magnitude of feeling, of adoration that shone from them. Adoration Buffy did not want to see right now. It would make leaving harder than it already was.

“I don’t want this,” Buffy lied, keeping her face as straight as possible despite the fact she knew Spike would see through it immediately.

“Buffy—”

“No,” she interrupted. “No, you need to listen, Spike. I’m telling you it’s over. I can’t do this anymore.”

Spike shook his head in disagreement. This wasn’t how things were supposed to be. She’d never been this certain before, and that didn’t bode well for him. He couldn’t lose her, not now. Despite what she was saying, Spike knew she didn’t want this to end. He didn’t want this to end. He knew he’d never captured her heart—and seriously doubted he’d ever be so lucky to claim it as his own—but he had something, a small part of her, and he couldn’t give that up. Losing her was not a price he was willing to take.

“Buffy, how can you just throw this away? What we have is—”

“What we have?” Buffy laughed half-heartedly. She looked to the heavens in search of guidance, but was met with nothing but the twinkling stars. “What we have,” she repeated with a little more ferocity, “is a joke.”

“No, you don’t believe that. I can’t accept that.” Spike shook his head vigorously. “This,” he indicated with a wave of his hand between them, “this is real.”

“To you, maybe,” Buffy conceded quietly. “To me...” She trailed off.

“What?” Spike demanded furiously. “If it’s not real to you, then please, enlighten me. What is it?”

“It’s an escape, nothing more.” She sighed with defeat. This was harder than she’d anticipated it to be. “A temporary reprieve from my not-so-perfect life.”

Spike’s expression softened and his eyes flooded with emotion. “That’s okay. I can be your escape. You need this, you need me!” He thumped his chest emphatically. “With time, with time you could grow to—”

Love me...

The words died on his lips when he met her emerald gaze. She meant it, every word. And it broke his heart.

Spike’s Adam's apple bobbed with choked emotion. This was it, the end he’d been desperately trying to prevent. “I can wait.”

“No, Spike. You can’t.” Buffy reached out to touch his cheek, but withdrew when he began to lean toward her open palm. She didn't trust herself to be able to stop. “I can’t. I won’t take advantage of you any longer. I don’t want to be that sort of person.”

“Buffy, please...”

“Spike...”

Although she said only his name, the word alone carried with it so much meaning.

“Is there someone else?” He did mean it to sound like an accusation, but he couldn’t stop himself from asking. He couldn’t believe she was ending it just because. There had to be a reason... someone else would be reason enough.

“Would it make it easier if I said there was?” she asked gently. Then, without waiting for his presumed nod, “No, there’s no-one else.” When his eyes lit up with hope, ever so slightly, she knew she had to extinguish it. “But one day there will be.”

“It could—”

Be me...

“It won’t.”

It can’t...

“No, I can’t accept this.”

“You have to. It’s over.”

Spike blinked back tears which were threatening to fall. This was it. The end.

Without even a farewell, Buffy turned on her heel and began to walk away into the night. And for a moment she thought he was going to let her leave.

“Just...” Spike faltered, swallowing hard to reign in his emotions. “Just answer one question.”

Buffy stopped and turned slowly. She met his gaze, and despite the pain she saw reflected in those expressive orbs, she did not falter. They may be ending, but she would give him this... her respect. She nodded her consent.

“Was it something I did? Did I—”

“Do something wrong?” she finished for him. Spike didn’t need to respond, the dejection in his eyes was answer enough. “No, no you didn’t.”

The relief which flooded Spike’s expression was miniscule, and it was fleeting. But it was something.

And with that Buffy left Spike, her departure signalling the end of their union once and for all.




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