By Devil Piglet
Disclaimer: All characters of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ are used without permission.
Author’s Notes: This is set post-Hell’s Bells, and while it overlaps some themes of Normal Again, for my purposes, that events in that episode haven’t occurred.
Many, many thanks and pudding cups to my beta, Annie. I'm her bitch forever.
Feedback: This is my first story posted to fanfiction.net. I’d appreciate reviews: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part 17: Survivor
Things got better.
It surprised Buffy, really. She resisted the pull of healing, feeling herself ineligible. But each morning the agony receded the smallest bit, making it easier to get out of bed. And when she did arise she went to the Magic Box, where Giles was a quiet but steadying presence, and employed her at renovation while Anya dispensed remarkably helpful advice.
The two girls sat now at the smoke-blackened table, Anya with a catalogue in front of her and Buffy wiping down jewelry with the precision and mindlessness of an automaton.
Anya slammed the catalogue shut, and Buffy looked up to find the other woman staring at her fixedly.
“What?” Buffy asked cautiously.
“You’re brooding. Right now. I can tell. Brood, brood, brood.”
“I’m not! I’m just reflecting on things. There’s a difference.”
“Is there? Either way you’re mentally castigating yourself for events beyond your control and consequently sullying what should be my store’s celebratory and spring-like atmosphere.”
“You’re blaming yourself.”
“I’m entitled!” Buffy retorted defensively.
Anya sighed. “Buffy, may I be blunt?”
The question was so ludicrous, considering the source, that Buffy merely nodded dumbly.
“You are a Slayer. You will always be a Slayer, until your violent and premature death. And yes, that makes you super-strength girl. But it also makes you vulnerable. Did that never occur to you? You’re a constant target, because of the forces out there –“ Anya’s slender hand flitted to the window and the encroaching darkness – “who want what you have.”
For the rest of the afternoon Buffy pored over a text Giles had given her a few days earlier about the Huna philosophy and its practitioners.
“Kehoe’s actions constituted a depraved misuse of their teachings,” he stressed. “It’s important that you understand the root of your affliction, but also the virtue and compassion that lay behind their true beliefs.”
All Buffy had digested at the time was ‘read this’, but she’d taken the book dutifully. Now she was ready for it; she wanted to absorb the knowledge and puzzle out how something beautiful and honorable could be warped until unrecognizable.
The crux of Huna…is that there exist three selves within each individual. They are the higher, middle and lower selves.
The low self, unihipili is like an animal. It does not reason; it only reacts. It is the center of all emotion.
The middle self is the uhane. Uhane knows free will.
Aumakua…is what the kahunas (teachers of the Ho’omana) call the highest self. It is the parent, and is completely trustworthy.
Giles’ notes in the margins: ‘Kehoe subsumed your aumakua; made it beholden to impulse and error.’ Yeah, understatement of the year, Buffy thought.
The aumakua guides and protects. Communication with the aumakua occurs in its purest form during slumber. It is then that the path of righteousness can be illuminated.
In a bittersweet rush Buffy recalled her conversations with William. How only during their stolen moments together had she felt herself again.
Positive interactions with our fellow man is vital to Huna. When one individual makes contact with another, an aka thread unfurls between them. Greater contact adds more threads, which finally braid together in an aka cord. When the cord is drawn between the two there is understanding, there is allegiance, there is devotion.
Dawn and Buffy lingered over the remains of an early dinner. Dawn frowned as she pushed apple sauce around on her plate. “I hate this kind. This isn’t the kind Mom bought.”
Buffy made a point of checking the label. “You’re right,” she agreed. “I’ll remember next time.”
“Sure you won’t.”
“What’s wrong?” Buffy asked softly. Often Tara’s death snuck up on them, making the easiest of moments awkward and aching. But Buffy suspected there was something else wrong tonight.
“I’m worried about Spike. He doesn’t talk as much, and he’s all pasty.”
I wouldn’t know, Buffy thought. He’d spent time with Dawn since they’d gotten back, plenty of time, but every instance Buffy had gone by his crypt he was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t like Spike to scurry off, much less at Buffy’s approach. He was defying his own reckless nature in order to avoid her. Which was ironic (although Buffy was never quite sure when something was ironic and when it was just sucky), because she needed to talk to him. Okay, she needed to hear him talk to her, and this time, she’d talk back. Really talk, not just abuse him with her words and her body. And maybe, just maybe tell him what he’d been waiting so long to hear.
All she said was, “Dawn, he’s a vampire. He’s been pasty for as long as you’ve known him.”
“Not like this. I think he’s watching too much TV.”
“Spike loves TV.”
“Yeah, but even he can have too much of a good thing. If he sees one more of those 1-800 commercials I’m afraid he’s going to do something awful to Carrot Top.”
“He can’t do anything. Carrot Top is human.”
“That’s not what Spike says,” Dawn replied ominously.
“What do you expect me to do about it?” Buffy asked, more brusquely than she intended.
Dawn rolled her eyes. “You’re worse than he is. For starters, just tell him you love him already. Oh, what, did you think I didn’t know?” she sniffed, when Buffy choked on her Frappucino and her eyes bulged. “You might as well be wearing a sign around your neck: Feeling Guilty About How I Treated Spike.”
Buffy coughed and searched frantically for a napkin. “That’s not the same as –"
Dawn nodded solemnly. “No. No, it’s not.”
“That’s right,” Buffy muttered.
“But I think you calling out his name in your sleep clinches it!”
Buffy projectile-mochaed again. Dawn screwed her face up in distaste. “Say it, don’t spray it.”
“I don’t – I have never – Oh, God. What else did I say?”
“Not much, thank God. Although I now live in fear of hearing your gross bedroom secrets. If you start acting like one of the chicks in those Herbal Essences commercials, I’m going to start sleeping at Janice’s.”
Buffy tried to compose herself. “I think you’re the one who’s watched too much TV,” she said in an attempt at authority. “And I think I know exactly who’s to blame.”
“Great. Give him hell, Buff.”
“I’ll do that. Yes. That’s just what I’ll do.”
“I wouldn’t beat around the bush, if I were you,” her sister said offhandedly as she rose to put her dish in the sink. “He’s starting to look around.”
Buffy frowned. “What do you mean, look around?”
Dawn shrugged and turned on the water, leaning against the sink as she waited for it to warm. “I’m just saying, he might have moved on. He, ah…” Dawn bit her lip in a gesture of vacillation.
“He what? Tell me!”
“Well, I played my Destiny’s Child CD a lot. You remember that one?”
“Intimately. I’m surprised Spike didn’t use it as a coaster.”
“Oh, no. He likes it. Really likes it. And…he likes the lead singer. Really likes her.”
Buffy gaped. “Spike has a crush on Beyonce?”
Dawn nodded gravely.
“Oh.” Of course.
“Well, there were all those trailers for ‘Goldmember’, too. Don’t freak, Buffy. I’m sure you’re still his girl.”
“Not if he listened to me,” Buffy mumbled. This was great. This was no problem. All she had to do was convince him of her abiding sanity, profess her love to him and compete with a gorgeous, platinum-record-selling pop diva/movie star.
No problem at all.
Later, on her way to patrol she found herself on Giles’ doorstep. Funny how that happened. It was after eleven when she knocked, but he was still up. He smiled down at her and ushered her inside.
“Sorry to stop by so late. I was wondering if I could talk to you about…” She trailed off.
“Of course, Buffy. Would you like some tea?” She didn’t answer, and he frowned. “What?”
“Giles. You have a computer.”
It was a compact silver box with a flat-screen monitor that glowed trippily in the dim apartment. He’d obviously been on it when she rang the bell.
“Oh. Yes. That was at Anya’s suggestion. She felt it would be a more efficient method of discussing the monthly expenses, purchasing trips, construction issues. I must admit that once I made a few mental adjustments to the concept, I’ve found it quite an agreeable device.”
“Uh-huh.” A well-known ping sounded from the machine. “Instant Messenger?”
He cleared his throat. “Tea?”
Her brain could only handle so much at once. The mental image of Spike and Beyonce Knowles trading hair-care tips crowded out the image of Giles IMing. “Tea would be wonderful.”
A few minutes later the delicate cup warmed her hands, and Giles watched her with reserved benevolence. “It’s so good to see you out and about, Buffy.”
“It feels…okay. I mean, not great, obviously. But…okay.” She smiled weakly. “If nothing else, I guess I have an excuse for not going back to the Doublemeat. Do you think temporary soul-removal is covered by disability?”
“I know all this must be a terrible struggle. Thank you, Buffy. Thank you for being strong for the rest of us.”
She wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry at that. “Giles, I’m about to do something you’re probably going to hate me for.”
“The way I hated you when you attacked your friends and burned down the store? Oh, wait,” Giles took a contemplative sip of his tea. “I didn’t.”
“You might think this is worse.”
In a hushed, desperate tone she whispered her need, and the love that had seemed lacking but in the last weeks had been all around her, cloaking her in regret like a hairshirt.
Giles listened with an expression of building worry and resignation. When he finally spoke his voice was weary.
“There’s very little I can tell you, Buffy. You’re an adult, and entitled to make your own choices. Romantic and otherwise. I can only implore you – think of what your mother would feel about all this.”
“Mom liked Spike.”
Giles paled. “Oh, dear God. You’re right. Well, your mother did have abysmal taste in men. She once brought home a robot that looked like Jack Tripper from that awful television show.”
Buffy raised her eyebrows. “True. She also slept with you. Twice.”
“I rest my case.”
Buffy smiled ruefully, and after a moment so did Giles. He reached out and put a hand on her shoulder, briefly, before withdrawing again.
“Buffy, I could find no fault in Spike’s care for Dawn while you were incapacitated. He protected her with his life and I have no doubt he would have died for her. But there’s very little I can read into that behavior that I don’t already know: Spike is obsessed with you. If you asked him to stop the earth’s revolution I believe he would do his damnedest to achieve that. That is understandable, but it is not a character recommendation.”
“Giles…” She did not want to tell him this; did not want to reveal more of her other self’s ugliness. But she was so tired of trying to puzzle it out on her own.
“The night he found me, when I was still…you know.” Giles waited patiently.
“I offered him everything he ever wanted. Me, on a silver platter. And a fun-loving, crazy, make-‘em-bleed me. Like, his ideal Buffy. Way better than the ‘Bot could ever be. His fantasy, just waiting for him to reach out and take it.”
“He turned me down.”
Buffy laughed quietly. “I was so angry. I couldn’t understand. I’m not sure if I do now. But he was determined to bring back the real Buffy, even if it meant I’d despise him and mock him again. He wanted Dawn to have her sister back. Dawn…God, Giles. The way he treated her. I could see the love for her shining in him. It had nothing to do with me. He doesn’t love her because she was once part of me, or because for a while there she was all he had. He loves her because of who she is. He knows her. I’m not certain even my friends can say that.”
There was silence for a while.
“I love him, Giles. When I came back to myself, it was like waking up from the longest sleep. I saw things…I saw him. There for me like he had been all along. And he saved me, knowing that he might lose me forever. Isn’t that love?”
Continued in Part 18: Wouldn't It Be Good
Author’s Note: Information on the Huna teachings was used without permission from Joshua David Stone’s Hidden Mysteries, as found on the following website: Crystal Links.
Also, I know I promised Spuffy goodness and Willowy badness. But you know that Our Heroes can’t make anything easy on themselves. And Willow? She’s getting all evil-ed up at this very moment.