In Friendship and Love


by Saber ShadowKitten
Sequel to Return from Hell
PG-13 Version



Prologue




She was a shell. A pale, thin replica of what she used to be.

Buffy moved on automation, never smiling, hardly speaking, barely surviving. She had cried non-stop for the first week, not leaving Angel's bed except to use the restroom. Giles had finally just picked her up and took her home, where her mom bathed her, then held her until she fell into an exhausted sleep.

She felt as though a piece of her soul had been ripped away. It was worse than when the curse was broken, worse than when she had no choice but to send Angel to hell. It had taken until after her eighteenth birthday for her heart to heal enough the first time for her to accept a date. A week later, Angel appeared at the Bronze, turning her world upside down.

Now, he was gone again.

And unless fate intervened, it was only a matter of time until she followed.

Fate was up for the challenge.



Part One




Emptiness. That's what she felt as the days passed by, blending into one another until she no longer knew how much time had gone by since that day. The day she broke.

Her friends tried vainly to cheer her up, but Buffy was unresponsive. She would sit and stare vacantly, her body moving for her when required. Each night she patrolled, she came home a little more beaten, a little more bruised, a little closer to death. Giles and her mom had tried counseling, to no avail. Nothing they did could pierce the black hole that had become Buffy's life.

But it was darkness that brought the first spark of light.

Buffy sat in the kitchen as she did every night, staring down at the fake wooden counter, pushing the food on her plate. After four weeks, her mom was forced to start working at night again so as not to fall behind at the Gallery, and she was left alone. Not that she noticed.

Standing, she picked her plate up and moved to the sink, scraping the nearly full dish into the garbage disposal. She was about to walk out of the kitchen to return to her room when she heard knocking at the back door. Slowly, she went to the door and opened it.

Standing there was a male version of herself.

His features were gaunt, his pale skin a sickly gray rather than its usual alabaster beauty, a network of scars running up the side of his neck and behind his ear. Blue eyes that were once lit with an intensity stared lifelessly at her, and she knew in an instant what had happened.

Without a word, Buffy pulled Spike into her arms and held him close, not caring that they were supposed to be enemies, only knowing that someone else shared the emptiness with her. After a minute, she stepped away, taking his hand and leading him silently up to her bedroom.

Behind closed doors, they came together again, their mouths seeking each other's as hands shoved at the clothing they wore.

Spike rolled so they lay on their sides, clinging together like lost children as the darkness was broken. They began to cry, and they began to heal.

Sometime before dawn, Buffy woke out of the emotionally exhausted sleep to cover the window and clean herself up. As she climbed back under the covers, she studied him, her gaze tracing the path of burn scars that covered one arm, his shoulder and part of his back before they traveled up to join the ones she saw earlier on his neck. He was much thinner than he should be, his ribs showing through tightly stretched skin, matching her own. Her eyes began to droop, and she curled up against him and let herself drift back to sleep.


*****


Buffy woke late the next afternoon aware of the world around her for the first time in weeks. Opening her eyes, she found herself looking into at Spike as they lay face to face on the pillow. "Hi," she whispered softly, her hand linking with his under the covers.

"Thank you," he said in reply, squeezing her hand. "I…" He trailed off, his brow knitted as he tried to convey his thoughts.

"I know," Buffy said. "Me, too." He nodded, his face relaxing. "Are you hungry?"

"I think, for once, I am," Spike replied.

"'K," she said, rolling out of bed. "I'll run over to Willie's and get you something." She stretched, then put on some clean clothes, not embarrassed that she was naked in front of him.

"Try to get fresh," he said, pushing himself into a sitting position.

She nodded. "Towels are under the sink if you want to clean up," she told him, pulling out an old pair of her dad's sweats and an extra shirt. "These should fit you."

"Thanks," Spike replied, accepting the clothes.

"I'll be back in about twenty minutes," Buffy said, pulling her hair back in a ponytail. She gave him a small smile, then left the room to see if her mom was home. "Mom?"

"In the kitchen," Joyce replied in a startled voice. She hadn't heard her daughter call for her in weeks. She was even more surprised at the small amount of life in Buffy's eyes. "Did you have a good sleep?"

"Better than I had in awhile," Buffy confessed. "Two things: Spike is here and can you drive me down to Willie's?"

"Spike is here?" Joyce asked. She looked out the kitchen window into the sun. "When did he arrive?"

"Last night," she replied. "Drusilla…" Buffy left the female vampire's name hanging, knowing her mother would understand.

"Oh, no," Joyce said sadly. "Is he alright?"

"About as alright as I am," Buffy responded. Her lips curved up slightly. "I just made a funny."

The smile that broke out on Joyce's face was huge. Standing, she pulled her daughter into a hug, which Buffy returned. Stepping back, she wiped the tears from her eyes, then picked up her car keys. "Willie's, huh? Is that some sort of seedy bar?"

"You hit the nail right on the head, mom," Buffy replied. "But he serves the best chateau le moo in town."


*****


"Do you want to tell me what happened?" Buffy asked after the vampire finished his meal. Joyce had come up briefly when they returned from Willie's to express her condolences, then left them alone to grieve together.

"About three weeks ago," Spike began in a dull voice. "We stopped for the day in a boarded up shop. One minute, I was holding her in my arms, the next…" He pressed his lips together for a moment, then cleared his throat.

"She threw some sort of metal at one of the windows. I turned my head," he raised his hand and pointed behind his ear, then down the side of his arm. "And tried to grab her, but by then she was in flames. I don't knew why I put myself out. I guess my demon's survival instinct was too strong."

Buffy nodded, reached over and grasped his hand. He held on tightly, his cheek ticking as he clenched his jaw.


*****


Buffy stood outside the doors of the library, looking through the window at the occupants inside. Willow, Oz, Xander and Cordelia sat at the table that had seen many a late night's research, talking animatedly to one another. She could see Giles moving around, shelving books, sometimes smiling at something that was said. Five out of the seven most important people in her life right now sat in that room. And it was time to let them know that.

Pushing open the doors, she walked inside to be greeted by subdued "Hi Buffy 's" and looks of worry. She went right up to the table and set her books down before really speaking to the for the first time in over a month. "I love you guys. Thank you for just being my friends."

Willow was the first to get up and throw her arms around Buffy. "We love you, too, Buffy."

"Thanks, Will," Buffy replied, holding on to the hug, tears welling up in her eyes. Each one of her friends, including Giles, embraced her in turn before she slid into a chair at the table. "I need to tell you guys something so you won't freak if you come over to my house."

"What is it, Buffy?" Willow asked.

"Not what, Willow. Who," she said, thinking about the sleeping vampire still in her bed. After Spike had told her what happened, they just sat together, holding one another like the last survivors of a holocaust. Both had loved someone entirely and unconditionally who had been ripped away, tearing apart the fabric that made them whole. Comparing Buffy's love for Angel to Spike's love for Drusilla would have been impossible if not for the fact that she was the Slayer. Long ago, fate had decided to enhance feelings to make up for the short life span of the Chosen One, making each month seem like years emotionally.

"I'm not going to like this, am I?" Xander said.

"You don't have to like it," Buffy told him. "But he is staying with me because I invited him to stay. If it wasn't for him, I would still be moving on automation."

"Who?" Cordelia asked, getting impatient.

"Spike."

Mouths dropped open in surprise. "Did you say S-Spike?" Giles said, staring down at his ward.

"Yes," she replied simply.

"But why?" Willow asked. "He's bad. He's a vampire. He's tried to kill us. He's bad!"

Buffy looked over at her redheaded friend and answered with the one word that explained everything, including the emotions involved. "Drusilla."

"Is he…is he ok?" Willow said, immediately changing her worry to sadness. She knew how much Spike loved the female vampire.

"No," Buffy replied. "He feels like there's a big emptiness inside where something vital use to be, a darkness that seeps into every part of your day, threatening to smother you, wanting to die, but being unable to physically kill yourself. He feels like me."

"That's harsh," Oz said quietly.

"What if he kills you?" Cordelia asked.

Buffy shrugged. "Then he kills me. He won't, though, because then he'd be alone in the darkness again."



Part Two




Joyce still didn't like the idea of Spike and Buffy sharing a bed, but after four weeks she was used to it. They were two individuals who had lost everything and turned to each other to rebuild their lives, and she would not do anything to hamper her daughter's healing.

So, she mothered him.

At times, she would laugh to herself when she thought of the fact she was mothering someone old enough to be her grandfather six times over, but the look of quiet appreciation on his face made it worthwhile.

"Hey there, Joyce," Willie said, pulling a bag up from under the counter. "How's my favorite Slayer's mom?"

"I'm good, Willie," she replied. She opened the bag, pulled out a container and took a sniff. After weeks of buying blood from him daily, she could tell the difference between fresh and even a single day old supply. "Excellent."

"Hey, I learned my lesson the first time," the unconventional bar owner replied. "It took me a week to get that taste out of my mouth."

Joyce smiled at him and picked up the bag. "Thank you, Willie. See you tomorrow."

As she drove back to the house as the sun was setting, she thought of the irony of her life. She had thought her daughter was a delinquent, instead she really saved the world over and over. She wanted Buffy to fall in love and have a happy life, instead she lost her true love three times and was destined to die young. So, having a vampire living in her house, in her daughter's room, wasn't all that bad. Especially because Buffy was starting to live again.

Joyce heard their quiet voices as she came down the upstairs hall, bag in hand. She knew that when she went into her daughter's bedroom, they'd be sitting together, Buffy leaning against Spike's chest, his arm around her waist, with a box of Kleenex in easy reach. Sometimes they would be watching television, sometimes reading or working on Buffy's homework, but most talking.

Their conversations ranged from the past to daily activities and the near future. It was painful, at first, for them to share stories about the ones they'd lost, but eventually found that it helped, made them smile, sometimes even laugh. But they were there to comfort one another when the laughter turned to tears, both physically and emotionally. Joyce knew they had a physical relationship, however, she also knew it was based on the need to be close to another, to drown out the feelings of sorrow and emptiness, to not think for awhile.

"Knock, knock," Joyce said, entering the room. "Special deliver-" She stopped suddenly and looked at the couple on the bed. "Buffy, what in the world are you doing?"

"I would think that it was obvious, Mom," Buffy replied, not looking up from her task.

Joyce looked at Spike. "Did she talk you into this?"

"Um…no," Spike said, ducking his head in embarrassment. "I, uh, brought it up and she volunteered."

She shook her head and set the paper bag on the nightstand, then observed him with a critical eye as she did everyday. His face was no longer as gaunt, the scars as vivid and there was life in his eyes as he smiled sheepishly at her. "What's that color called?"

"Licorice. Oz lent it to me," Buffy informed her. "You know, I always wondered if it stayed on when he was in wolf form."

"Speaking of wolves, is Xander joining you guys tonight?" Joyce asked.

"Yup," she replied.

"Then I'd better make sure I heave enough Cheesy Chips," Joyce said, walking towards the door. "Oh, and Spike?"

"Yes, Joyce?"

"Nice nails."


*****


"So, what's it gonna be tonight?" Xander asked, flopping down on the recently added bean bag in Buffy's room. "Indian or Japanese?"

"Japanese," Willow said, getting comfortable next to Oz at the end of the bed. "Gamera is on tonight."

"Giant turtle gymnasts," Oz said. "Sounds cool."

"Why do I subject myself to this?" Cordelia asked as she settled between Xander's legs, leaning back on his chest on the beanbag.

"Admit it, Cordy. You're a closet bad Japanese film freak," Xander joked.

"Did the Ultraman poster on her closet door give her away?" Spike asked innocently. Buffy giggled at his side.

"Since when have you been in her bedroom, fang face?" Xander replied without too much hostility.

"Shh!" Willow instructed. "It's on."

As the movie progressed, Xander let his mind wander to the vampire on the bed. He wouldn't admit it, but when he'd first seen the blond vampire four weeks ago, he'd felt sorry for him. Spike looked as though his eight year old cousin, Lucy, could beat him up. And the scars on his neck and behind his ear had to be painful.

Spike wasn't that bad of a guy either, once he started to talk. The first half-dozen times Xander had visited, Spike had studiously avoided meeting anyone's gaze. He just sat next to Buffy and listened.

That was one thing Xander didn't like, besides the whole ‘Spike is a bloodsucking demon' thing. They were always touching. Either holding hands, or Buffy leaning against his chest or sitting with one of their legs over the other's. Willow patiently explained that it was a form of comfort and security, that they didn't want their one life-line out of the darkness to disappear. Xander still thought Spike was just trying to get in her pants.

Luckily, Xander didn't know about the physical aspect of their relationship. In fact, no one but Joyce knew, not even Giles, and the only reason she knew was because Buffy told her after she'd accidentally overheard them when she'd come to the bedroom door one day. It wasn't something they felt need to share because it wasn't based on romance or passion but on hurt and grief. But it brought the two of them more emotionally closer than they already were, forming a bond of friendship and trust.



Part Three




"Ow!"

"Hold still," Buffy said, putting both hands on the side of his head and forcing it how she wanted.

"You bloody nicked me!" Spike complained, bringing a hand up to his ear.

"I did not, you big baby," she replied. "Now, move your hand before I cut it off."

Spike grumbled, but complied. "I don't see why you have to take it all off."

"Exactly, you don't see because you don't have a reflection, so you don't know how icky this stuff is," she told him as she cut.

As time passed, both Spike and Buffy regained the weight they lost and their strength thanks to Joyce's mothering. And with that strength came the return of the vampire's craving for action, so one day, he'd asked Buffy if he could patrol with her and they'd been a team ever since. Which is how he got into this predicament.

"Just be glad it'll grow back," Buffy said. She gestured to the sink. "Until then, you could always were the hat I got you."

"I wouldn't have to bloody wear it if you didn't make me go in there," Spike pouted.

"How did I do that?"

"Oh, please. You and your big pleading eyes, batting your lashes at me, sticking your lower lip out," he listed. "No man, not even your best friend, could say no."

"How was I suppose to know that worm would do this?" Buffy asked. "I didn' t even know worms had mouths."

"Luv, this is the Hellmouth," Spike said. "What did you expect?"

"Well, when you put it that way," she replied jokingly, taking one more snip. "There, all done. Look at me."

Spike turned around as requested. The second he saw her expression, he grabbed the baseball cap off the sink and plunked it on his head backwards. "Remind me again why I don't kill you?"

"Because I'm your bestest friend in the whole wide world," Buffy answered in a babyish voice. In response, he grabbed her and bean tickling her ribs.

They goofed around like this often since rejoining the land of the living. Best friends in every way, the vampire and the Slayer were as close as two people could get without being in love. In fact, they made a pact to never fall in love again. Instead, they'd stick together for as long as they lived on the condition that Spike didn't kill any humans when he fed, to which he happily complied. Buffy helped fill the emptiness in his undead heart, and he wouldn't give that up for any reason.

Although they still had a physical relationship and comforted each other during nightmares, Spike had moved from the bedroom to the basement, making it his own private domain. He purchased furniture such as a bedroom set and bookshelves, which he crammed with novels of all kind. He spent nights after Buffy went to sleep reading, going from book to book as his attention waned. Currently, he was in the middle of twelve of them. He had also paid Joyce back, under her protests, for his food supply from Willie. It's wasn't as if he didn't have the money.

"Are we still going to the faire this weekend?" Buffy asked as she began to clean up the bathroom.

"Of course," Spike answered, frowning at the scraps of hair he picked up. She was right. It was disgusting. "The flyer said it'd be open until midnight on Saturday. I figured we'd meet up with Willow and Oz, then head over."

"What about Cordelia and Xander?"

"They can drive off a bloody cliff for all I care," he said.

"Spike, that's not very nice," she admonished.

"You're point?"

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Come on, baldy. We need to do a sweep, then meet everyone at the Bronze."

"If that whelp says anything about my hair, I'm going to rip his tongue out and use it as a bookmark."



Part Four




"Ready? Up," Spike said as Buffy jumped onto him for a piggy-back ride. The faire was still in full swing, crowded to capacity on Saturday night. Combination carnival and vender market, the six friends wandered through the people to purchase tickets for the rides.

Willow smiled as Buffy thumped the back of Spike's hat, yelling ‘giddy-up' and laughing when he neighed. It was so good to hear her laugh, to see her so happy after all those months of sorrow and depression. The redhead had confided in Oz that she was deeply afraid Buffy would commit suicide after Angel had been taken away from her for the third time. But a certain no-longer-frightening vampire had come into Buffy's life, full of the same pain, and together they'd gotten past the all-consuming grief, leaving scarred hearts, but not dead ones.

Oz reached over and took her hand, squeezing it as he gave her a small smile. He knew what she was thinking of, because he was thinking along the same lines. He really liked Spike. He had a dry sense of humor, told wicked stories when the ladies weren't around and was unerringly loyal. He' d do anything for Buffy, including die in her stead, and any man who would do that for his best friend made him a great guy in the werewolf's book.

"Where to first?" Buffy asked as they wove their way through the crowd. "Shopping or rides?"

"Rides!" Xander yelled out, earning a swat from Cordelia. "We need to hit the yakkers before we munch."

"Disgusting much?" Cordelia said.

"Then after we eat, we can take our lovely women shopping," Xander said to earn points with his girlfriend. Her smile was all the response he needed.

As suggested, they rode all the rides first before pigging out on slushies, hot dogs, popcorn and cotton candy. Even Spike had some after he'd tried to figure out how they made the pink, airy sugar known as cotton candy or a dentist's money-maker. Now, they were wandering their way through the vendor's area.

"Spike, come here, you have to see this," Buffy said, grabbing her best friend's hand and dragging him behind her. Spike sent a worried look over to the other boys, who laughed in response. She wove around several stands to one hidden partially by two poster stands and a dress makers.

The vender was a silversmith, who had created exquisite jewelry out of the pure metal. Necklaces, earrings, bracelets and rings, he had them all. And it was the rings to which Buffy was directing Spike's attention. "Let's get these," she said, picking up two matching rings.

The plain silver bands were inscribed with the words a amicitia ac agape in tiny, perfect script. Spike took one from Buffy to examine it closer, noting it was the perfect size for his right ring finger. "Do you know what this says?"

"It's Latin," Buffy told him. "It means ‘In Friendship and Love.'" He arched an eyebrow at her. "I asked. Oh, and the love part means closest friends kind of love, not that other kind." Her face turned sad at the thought, knowing that ‘other kind' of love had been lost to her forever.

Spike knocked her lightly on the chin, distracting her from her thoughts, then slid the ring on his finger. He immediately liked the feel of it. "Well, put yours on, ducks. We haven't got all night," he said, reaching for his money.

Buffy's smile lit up her eyes and she put the ring on her right ring finger, then threw her arms around him. "Thank you!"

"Just remember this when you want me to buy more stuff tonight," he told her.

"But you'd look so cute in a jester's cap," she teased, bringing her hand up to snatch the backwards ball cap off his head. He latched onto her wrist before she could reach it, sending her a murderous glare.

"Touch the hat and I'll cut your hair off while you sleep," Spike threatened.

"Ok, jeez, sensitive much?" Buffy joked. "Turn around."

He rolled eyes and complied, knowing she wanted another ride. "Did you forget how to walk?"

"Why walk when I have Spike-service?" she asked, hopping onto his back again. They started back to their friends when Buffy spotted two people she knew very well.

"Mom! Giles!" Buffy called as Spike led them right to the pair. "What are you guys doing here?"

"Enjoying the fair," Joyce replied. "Is that such a crime?"

"But with Giles? Mr. I-cross-reference-ancient-dead-language-texts-for-fun?"

"Very funny, Buffy," Giles said. "And riding piggy-back on a vampire is common?"

"Hey, this is the Hellmouth," Buffy said. "Anything can happen."

She was exactly right.


Continued