"Itís nice to be forgiven," Willow had said.
Yeah, thought Buffy. Yeah, it is. Still twitchy about Willís magic, but she forgave her. Thatís what friends did. Thatís what Willow did for her, after the incident. You know, that little thing where she tried to kill all her friends. She remembered hiding in her room, crying for hours, knowing that theyíd never trust her again, never want to be near her again. And then Will coming upstairs and Dawn and Xander, all of them hugging her and crying, too, and they just....forgave her. And everything was ok again. Sort of.
All the awful things theyíd done to each other over the years, large and small, and all forgiven, because...they loved each other. She forgave Xander for the hyena incident, and Willow for trying to kill them all, and Giles for leaving, and Angel for....everything. So why, her mind whispered, why couldnít she forgive him?
She stared down at her hands, busily constructing paper-clip art. It didnít help. Keeping her hands busy didnít get rid of the smell of burning flesh still in her nostrils, didnít wipe away the mental image of Spike, cowering in that hole, the sick guilt in her belly. Did she really say those awful things about him, make fun of his pain? The corner of her mouth twitched downward, and she pressed her eyes shut against the tears that threatened. Why hadnít she told Dawn and Xander about Spikeís soul? She told them he was there, let them see his humiliation, but didn't mention the overwhelming act that had brought him to that godforsaken place. Had God really forsaken him? Well, you have, her mind whispered, why not God, too?
She pushed the thought away, behind that big locked door in her mind, the one labeled "Things Buffy Doesnít Want to Think About". Seemed like it was getting full, though, because things kept spilling out these days. It was harder and harder to keep them locked away where they ought to be. Like now; his haunting voice. "I tried to cut it out," he said. His heart? His soul? Were they, really, just the same?
She leapt up, then, prowled through the office, hoping to see students ready for her mentoring. So much easier to focus on other peopleís problems instead of her own. But no one was there, just the secretaries who looked at her with thinly-veiled dislike. She headed down the hall towards the cafeteria. Maybe a soda. Getting it would give her something to do, anyway, maybe a few minutes where she didnít have to think about -
And then, there it was, in front of her. She managed to set her hand to the doorknob, before her mind and stomach started churning. What would she say? What could she say? "Sorry I fucked you? Wish I could have loved you back? The soul doesnít make a big enough difference for me to treat you like a person in front of my friends, sorry?" She swallowed, hard. How about "You were right, you know. Except I didnít come back wrong. I was already broken. Coming back just gave me an excuse."
She took her hand off the knob. It didnít matter anymore, anyway. Anything that had been between them was gone. He was gone. Soul was a different person, she knew that well enough. But it still looked like him, and sounded like him, and he still stared at her with that same expression of wonder and hope and.....love. And it still twisted her heart when he looked at her that way.
And she was the same, too. Treated him just like before - like a thing. It wasnít true. Then, or now. She knew it, now that it was too late. She started to turn away, walk back to her office. Halfway 'round, her lip curled in disgust. When did she turn out to be such a coward? Resolutely, she snatched the door open, and marched inside. She stepped down into the oppressive blackness, the feeling of evil growing stronger and stronger, all around. She wondered, for the first time, if it bothered Spike now that he had his soul. Why hadnít she thought of it before? She found the door, slipped inside, calling his name.
She panicked a bit when he didnít answer, till she finally found him, asleep, his head laid on the cold floor, his hand outstretched, empty. He looked awful. Filthy, all skin and bones, and had he eaten anything since he...since he came back? She bit back a sob. She didnít know how to make it better, didnít know if there was a way to make it better, a way to process this enormous thing heíd done. Done for her, because of her. Didn't even know if she could let herself really think about it, make it real. But she had to do something.
She lowered herself to the floor, reached out to slide her hand into his. "I forgive you, Spike," she whispered. In his sleep, he whimpered, clutched her hand tightly. It would do for a start.