Title: Melting Fire
Length: >100,000 words
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine. Only the plot, one demon and the veil are.
Setting: Right after 'Dead Things'
Summary: The night after, all he wants is talk.
The night after, there’s nothing she wants less than talking.
And suddenly they find themselves in another dimension; one that Buffy can’t leave. There’s only one way to get her out. A way with consequences.
Sigh no more
(Title from a song by Mumford and Sons)
From one second to the next Spike’s wide awake. He feels oddly unsettled, so much so that he’s sure, had he a heartbeat, it would race in his chest now. He shakes his head impatiently, trying to chase away the last remnants of a weird dream he doesn’t quite remember.
It takes him only seconds to conclude that he’s alone in the house; as much as he reaches out with his senses, there’s no one. She didn’t come back.
He sighs, rolls on his side and then proceeds to sit up, slowly, taking his time to figure out his strength. Not too bad, he thinks while rising to his feet, standing then without effort. The blood finally did its healing work.
That and sleeping through the whole day, he notices a little irritated, seeing that dusk already set in. He briefly wonders where the girls are, the niblet and the witch, but then his thoughts drift to Buffy.
Of course they do.
He’s not the least bit surprised that she didn’t come back. She ran for a reason, after all. Avoidance, thy name is Buffy.
It still stings.
He considers waiting for her; she can’t avoid coming home forever, and he could force her to deal, one way or another. Yeah, because that always went so well for you, you prat.
He sighs again and walks over to the window, stares into the darkness, and finds himself hoping against hope. Then he squares his shoulders. He doesn’t need her anymore; not for protecting him, that is. He’s strong enough to fight his battles alone again, thanks to her. And willing to do so in the first place, also thanks to her. He’ll go back to his crypt, back to where he belongs. He may have a soul now, but he is still a vampire, still only a guest in the house of the living.
For a moment he contemplates leaving her a message, I’m sorry for scaring you. Nah. Denial-girl would probably just be angered by the offending thought of him scaring her. Just I’m sorry? But, apart from scaring her, he isn’t sorry. Not for getting his soul and even less for doing it for her. For not telling her? Well, he isn’t sorry for that either. If he’d gotten his wish, she would’ve never found out. Besides, until now he was in no condition to tell her anyway.
Impatiently shaking his head, he dismisses the idea of leaving a few words for her and stalks to her door. He’s already halfway through when he dashes back, frantically searching for a piece of paper and a pencil. When he doesn’t find one, he races into Dawn’s room, tears a page from one of her notebooks on her desk, and writes just two words. He returns to Buffy’s room and gingerly places the sheet on her pillow, his fingertips lingering a second longer on the fabric, before he finally severs the connection.
He can only hope she’ll understand how much she has given him.
He leaves with a last glance to the paper. These words she can’t possibly take offense in, right? It’s important to him to let her know, and he has the distinct feeling that it’ll take a while to see her again. So he wrote it down. Just two words, but right now, they mean the world to him.
When Buffy slowly drifts to wakefulness, the first thing she realizes is his scent. The second is the sense of peace still hovering from her dream that is weirdly reinforced by his scent.
The third is the reason for his scent; she’s still in his crypt, because she fell asleep on his bed. And with that, everything rushes back to her and she sits bolt upright. The peace she felt is gone in an instant, leaving her heart hammering in her chest all of a sudden. She can’t be here. Whatever her dream was trying to tell her, she’s not ready to face it. Not yet.
Which means, she’s not ready to face him yet.
Even if a part of her scolds her for being such a wimp.
Probably that part of her that feels eerily compelled to stay here.
She scrambles out of his bed, her hand lingering for a second on the sheets, but then she snatches it back as if burnt, and she feels heat rushing up in her cheeks, abashed about her indecisiveness. And then, just like that, instinct takes over; the same as before, the one that was telling her to run last night. It propels her up the ladder and out of the crypt, and when she slows down, she’s already halfway to Revello Drive.
That’s when she realizes that it’s more than possible that he’s still there, in her house. In her room.
In her bed.
For a spilt second there, her pace quickens. Until her brain kicks in.
She’s irritated. First her instincts tell her to run, then they lead her to his crypt. Let her fall asleep, in his bed no less. Then, again, they shoo her away from his place, only to race her to where he still might be.
Damn, childish, unreliable instincts.
How the hell is she supposed to know what to do, if neither her brain nor her instincts stay true to the direction once chosen?
She raises her chin defiantly, her steps that had slowed down when she became aware of the acceleration getting determined. She strides out, eyes held ahead; the small tremor in her hands going almost unnoticed. It’s certainly coincidence that she shoves her hands into the pockets of her jacket, and then a little deeper.
She ignores the thundering of her heart as best as she can when she, most hesitantly, enters her home. But she knows it the second she’s inside; he’s no longer here.
She relaxes and refuses to wonder whether it’s into relief or disappointment.
Shrugging off her jacket and disposing it at the coatrack, she calls out for her sister, then for Willow, but neither one of them answers. In the kitchen she finds a message pinned to the fridge, in Dawn’s still so girlish writing.
I’m going to the Magic Box after school, giving you two some peace and quiet.
Call me there if you need anything (more blood?),
For a moment, anger bubbles up in her. Giving you two some peace and quiet? How dare she assume…And then it occurs to her it’s probably not at all what her sister assumes. It’s just what her own guilty mind makes out of harmless words, like all those weeks before. Like, say, connecting the question of having had a rough night automatically with the secret sexcapades against the tree in their front yard just mere minutes before. Ugh. No, Dawn only meant what she wrote; she’d seen Spike last night, after all, and she knows he needed to rest.
Which brings her to the next question: where is he?
She checks the living room, just to be sure, before she rushes upstairs.
She sees it the second she’s opened the door, the slip of paper on her pillow. Just two words.
That’s when she knows - she won’t see him soon.
And once more she wonders if it’s relief washing through her.
Or what else it could be.
This time, she doesn’t hide in her room.
Not because it isn’t what she’d love to do. She’s still afraid of the inevitable confrontation with the others, reluctant to bear the wary glances cast toward her.
Terrified to meet Spike while patrolling.
But there’s also a tiny piece of her that wants to see her sister, her friends. That is determined to partake in normal life again. So she braces herself and goes back into the world.
There are wary glances in the beginning, and from time to time there’s the odd pause in conversation, and then inevitably someone hastily begins to speak about, well, something. She knows that’s when someone bit their tongue to prevent themselves from asking an intruding question, commenting somehow on what happened.
She’s relieved they do bite their tongues then. She’s not yet prepared to answer, to explain.
How could she, when she doesn’t understand herself?
They are getting better in avoidance, all of them. They had time enough to practice after all.
Even so it’s hard enough to find her footing again, at least going through the motions like before.
It takes a few days for her to realize that the colors of the world surrounding her slowly, slowly begin to change.
It starts when, two days later, she sits in the kitchen with Dawn, sipping a coffee her sister has brewed almost perfectly, and listening to some weird story she tells her about a cat of one of her class mates, that somehow got tangled in her little brother’s toys and ended up with a horn firmly attached to one of its paws. Dawn bursts out laughing at the memory of the poor cat, dancing around through the house, honking with each step, while being chased by two teenage girls determined to help the pet, and Buffy feels herself smiling.
It’s the first time since she came back that she actually can feel the smile, not as painful distorting of her features, but deep down in her belly, spreading warmth throughout her whole body.
It feels good.
The next day she sits on her porch, staring into the distance, trying to figure out how to get a new job. No selling double sweet double meats for her anymore; her vanishing for a few weeks saw to that. Not that she mourns the loss of that hell job, but they still need to eat. She hugs herself tightly, at least partly to protect herself from the cool breeze on that cloudy day, when she notices the sudden warmth on her skin. She stares at her arm, almost shining golden in the light of the sun that is peeking out from behind a cloud. She stares at it for a long time, her heartbeat accelerating in excitement at the wonder of having felt the warmth before she saw it. She never did before, not since heaven. Not like now, and she feels the sunbeams warming her not only on the outside, but also deep down, at the same place she felt her smile blossom the other day.
From then on, things become a little easier, bit by tiny bit a little brighter. It’s not that everything is right as rain all of a sudden; she still feels mostly numb, the world around her mostly bleak. But here and there small slivers of light slip in, dimmed somehow, not light enough to brighten her days; but light nonetheless. Too rare to become even remotely familiar, too rare also to go by unnoticed - a foot tapping the rhythm to a song not heard for ages; the feel of ice cream melting on her tongue. Small things only, but it makes all the difference to take notice of them at all.
Maybe, if one of her friends had asked her now, she would’ve answered. About how she really feels all the time; how hard every day is, how much effort it takes to get up in the morning, to go through the daily routine.
But no one ever asks.
What needed active avoiding in the beginning has silently slipped into forgetting.
They don’t even ask about Spike, regardless of the entrance the both of them had made that night. Willow, who promised her support then, is too preoccupied with her own life, with keeping from using magic and trying to win Tara back, to remember showing interest. And Dawn, well, Dawn actually does ask about him when first she stomps back into the house, but seems to be content with hearing Buffy’s brief answer that the blood she brought really helped and that he’s okay now. She’s probably just too much of a teenager; Buffy back, Spike okay - good. Her once so close relationship to the vampire has cooled off distinctly ever since Buffy’s been alive again and he never came to see the Slayer’s little sis anymore, and soon other things are of more importance, like which shirt to wear with the new jeans and which boy shot her a side way glance.
Not even Buffy hitting one of her best friends is a subject anyone ever talks about.
They make up though, she and Xander; kind of. In light of the impending wedding they can’t afford that kind of grudge held against each other, best friends that they have been for years. But they don’t talk things out either; neither of them makes any effort. Just some I shouldn’t have hit you’s and a few I’m sorry I talked that way to you’s, mixed with lots of best-friends credits and a bear hug in the end, that’s it. Not a word about what they truly think or, beware, feel. The uneasiness that sneaks up on Buffy about another missed opportunity is being shrugged off, hidden away into that dark chamber in her mind that fills up more and more lately with thoughts better unthought.
She resumes patrolling every night, always coincidentally – if with a racing heart - passing by his crypt; but she never catches a glimpse of Spike.
She’s not sure whether it hurts less than seeing him.
This time, he doesn’t hide in his crypt. His past haunts him wherever he is, so he might as well go out and distract himself, now that he’s mostly lucid again. Go to Willy’s, meet Clem, do stuff. Maybe meet the Slayer somewhere, too.
It’s not the same as before though, being at Willy’s, meeting other demons. Their constant bragging about all the marvelous havoc they wreaked, plus the knowledge that he used to be one of them, not only repulses him, but makes him feel the urge to huddle in a dark corner and bury his ears beneath his arms. So no, it’s not the same as before.
He never lasts long at Willy’s, and after barely escaping a beginning brawl at the poker table on his first night out, he avoids the back room; the mere thought of fighting causes him nausea. So he just sits at the bar for a beer or two and keeps to himself. Then he pays and leaves, trying to appear as if not fleeing when in truth he really is.
He usually takes a long walk then, strolling through the streets of Sunnydale and telling himself he’s patrolling; but he almost always only walks the streets still busy with people, and he’s not sure if it’s the fighting or the Slayer he keeps dodging.
Because, as much as he yearns to be with her, he is as afraid to see her still scared or, worse even, disinterested.
After a while he usually heads home to his crypt; buys some pig’s blood at the butcher’s and some more beer on the way and, since the night he resumed smoking again, some fags at the all night grocery store. He sits in his ratty armchair, stares at the telly, mostly unseeingly, and tries to distract himself until the new day dawns.
Tries to not listen for her steps outside the door.
As soon as the sun is up he descends the ladder to his basement and lies down on his bed, the bed that still smells of her even though he washed the sheets, and pretends to sleep.
Tries to not add another day that she didn’t come to the ones before.
He never really sleeps though. Sometimes he begins to drift away, but the voices in his head always bring him mercilessly back to reality. Too unbearable are they still, and to stay halfway sane, he mostly snatches a book then and reads through the rest of the day.
Till nightfall he’s usually so on edge that he leaves again no sooner than the last sunlight has died. Go to Willy’s, do stuff. Maybe meet the Slayer somewhere, too.
But whenever he senses her from afar, he bails.
Even though he’s not sure he can cope better with the pain of not seeing her.
Almost a week passes by until the routine changes.
It’s the word ‘Mala’hla’ that rings in Spike’s ears like an alarm clock one night at Willy’s. They are a rare species, and no way is this coincidence, a second Mala’hla appearing so shortly after the one that shoved them into the portal.
It’s almost funny, he thinks, how quickly his will to stay abstinent from fighting and killing is forgotten, given the right motivation. It’s not the thought of revenge though that drives him to the booth the word floated off. It’s only concern for the Slayer; at least that’s what he tells himself.
Still, his hands itch suspiciously to ball into fists as he approaches the two vamps sitting there, and he feels all that pent-up pain and disappointment boiling into rage within seconds, directed at the demon that had almost damned the Slayer to go to hell, literally. He reins it in, though, as much as he can - he wants an answer, after all - so he addresses one of the vamps, barely more than fledglings both, almost politely.
“Heard you had a run in with a Mala’hla, mate.”
They both turn their heads and look up at him, and a smug grin spreads on the younger one’s face. “If this isn’t William the Bloody in need of information,” he sneers. “What’s the trouble, mate, the Slayer doesn’t keep you in the loop any longer?”
With a scrunching sound Spike’s fist connects with the fledgling’s nose. Well, there goes politeness, he thinks, and that it’s bloody overrated anyway. He kicks the second one, coming to his fellow’s aid, in the gut, eliciting an unpleasant ‘oomph’, and flings him against the nearest wall where he lands in a heap on the floor, obviously unconscious. He hauls the first one up by his collar; all smugness has left the vamp. Instead he’s defiantly raising his chin, but fear flickers in his eyes, and after a second he averts them as best as he can. Which proves difficult, seeing that Spike holds him face to face, only inches apart.
“Talk.” His voice has dropped dangerously low with this one word he says; he feels a tremor running through the fledgling’s body, and almost triumphantly he recognizes the chill of a good hunt.
After a brief look to his unmoving buddy the vamp caves in. “I didn’t see the Mala’hla myself, just heard of him”, he all but whimpers. “There are these boys, humans all three of them, and I heard they summoned him to do their bidding.” He tries halfheartedly to wriggle free, but Spike just has to tighten his grip a little to make him stop obediently.
Spike knows enough already. Three boys - of course. But it feels just too good to see the fledgling’s reaction, the terror he inflicts on him. It’s as if a shell around him that held him paralyzed bursts open all of a sudden, lets him move more freely, lets him breathe again, if tentatively. So he lets his eyes flash golden for a second, jerks the vampire a bit closer and asks again with that deep, low voice, “Where?”
“I don’t know”, the fledge whispers and closes his eyes in defeat.
Spike breathes in deeply, and then, with a swift movement of one arm, he flings the vamp against the nearest wall, watches him landing with a thud next to his chum and staying there without moving. He smooths the lapels of his duster, and with a derisive snort toward the two heaps on the floor he turns to the bar. He downs his beer, gives Willy a nod and leaves.
On the dark street he walks a few steps to the left, then he feels his knees giving way to his weight, the elation he felt just seconds ago giving way to horror. For weeks he’d been sickened by even thinking about violence of any kind, and now it seems as if the old reflexes not only are still there, but one of them is still to rejoice in violence. Kneeling in the dirt of the alley, he fights off that damn feeling of nausea. Just a few weeks ago he couldn’t even remember nausea, and nowadays it apparently is lurking everywhere.
He swallows convulsively to not give in to the urge to throw up, to rid himself of the fucking delight he felt. He inhales the cool night air deeply, breathes in and out until it gets a little better. He steadies himself at the wall beside him and slowly rises to his feet again. For a moment he feels ridiculous; they were just demons, and he didn’t even kill them. But that’s not it. It’s not about what he did or to whom, it’s about how good it felt; how very much he liked it, seeing the fear in the vamp’s face, listening to his blood singing in his veins, cheering him on, feeling the power in his hands - that’s what has shaken him to the core.
It’s not supposed to be this way. The bloody soul is supposed to stop him from feeling that good while beating up somebody, no matter demon or human.
Because if it doesn’t, how can he be sure not to hurt the wrong people? The ones he loves even?
It’s moments like this that he curses his soul; when it not just isn’t of any help, but leaves him in fact even more confused than before, while a big chunk of reason for gaining that sodding thing was to solve his confusion, to finally understand.
His hand comes up to rub the back of his neck, and then he walks tentatively forward on shaky legs, trying to find his equilibrium.
It gets easier, his steps get more confident the second he focuses on what he learned tonight. Three boys, summoning the demon that shoved them into the prison dimension the Slayer had no way to escape. Well, unless the vampire that was pushed in with her by accident was the one being that not only knew how to help her, but also was willing to do about anything for her, of course.
Three boys out to make Buffy’s life difficult. Like, say, shooting her with invisibility rays. Or giving her groundhog hours. He suspects the Rwasundi in the woods with the dead girl was their doing, too.
No coincidence, that much is clear.
If those wankers still had the Mala’hla around, there had to be something done about it. If he was right, then it wasn’t the boys’ first attempt at getting rid of the Slayer, and it would most likely not remain the last. Of course that wasn’t anything new to Buffy; someone striving for killing her is her day-to-day routine. He’d been part of that routine himself once. But this is different; they all clearly underestimated the capabilities of those geeks. Bot boy is a technic genius, as Spike once experienced on his own, and the little what’s-his-face has already very successfully summoned demons for their liking. And there must be a capable witch, too. Creating those hours-that-wouldn’t-end was not an easy task, and he’s quite sure that the dead girl, that apparently had been long since dead when time went wonky, but seemed very much alive nonetheless, must’ve been the work of a witch too; the small boy probably, whom he dimly remembers having cast that super hero spell upon himself; Jonathan, he thinks. They need to be stopped. But first of all, the Mala’hla has to be stopped; and now he finally has a clue where to start with the search.
Gaining momentum, his strides get longer and faster by the minute. Mala’hlas are a lot bigger than he is, and pretty strong.
He’ll need weapons first.
He knows someone’s inside as soon as he gets to his crypt. Warily he pushes the door open, but relaxes instantly when his nose catches a well-known scent.
“Big sis know you’re here?”
Dawn turns from the niche with the small window where she’s fidgeting with one of the candles.
“Does she know you are?” She gives him a measuring look, chin raised up defiantly. Oh, she’s good at reading between the lines, always has been. He glares back for a few seconds, then he lets it slide.
“That’s not the point, and you know it. She’ll be worrying sick, you out alone in the dark, with all the nasties around.”
Dawn turns back to the interesting work with the candles and shrugs. “She won’t even notice. She never does.” And very quietly, “No one does.”
He gives her a sharp look, and with a pang he realizes what he missed all those months. She feels alone. Regret bubbles up in him; he did his fair share in neglecting her. After Buffy came back he wasn’t needed as sitter anymore, and nothing except Buffy seemed important to him anyway. As much as he loves Dawn, as much as he still would do anything to keep her safe, he has to concede that he didn’t spend a lot of time thinking of her.
He moves a little closer, his hand reluctantly rising, but then he turns away from her, toward his fridge.
“Want something to drink? ‘m pretty sure Clem left some Mountain Dew.”
Her head turns around. “That’d be great, thanks.” Her body follows the motion of her head and she walks a few steps, then hops on the sarcophagus. It’s her invitation to talk, he knows that; it’s their usual talking-place. He retrieves the promised drink out of the fridge and tosses the can over to her, pours himself some blood from a bag into a glass and flavors it with some burba weed and a shot of bourbon. Obediently, he sits opposite her on the coffin, his legs dangling to each side, even though he’s itching to go find the demon, and hopefully kill it. But a ‘sorry, not now, Dawn’ won’t cut it; he can’t do that to her.
They both sip their respective drinks in silence for a while, and he’s surprised how good it feels, how familiar still. The bond is still there, he realizes, just not as tight as it once was.
“What brings you?” he finally breaks the silence.
“What keeps you away?” she counters, and underneath the bratty, petulantly challenging tone of hers he can hear that she’s seriously pissed, but he discerns also uncertainty, worry maybe. He still thinks about how to answer that, because, really, what could he tell her, when she eventually loses her patience. ”What did happen to you that night, Spike?”
He contemplates her for a little while longer. “’d you ask the Slayer?” he then asks warily. This is something he is actually quite curious about - what Buffy would tell the Scoobies. But Dawn just snorts.
“What do you think?”
He nods. Just as he suspected. Her so-called best friends, and still no one cared enough to risk a fight, a breakdown or anything at all. Not even Dawn.
“She wouldn’t have told me anything anyways,” she mutters.
He leans a little closer; he wants her to listen, really hear this. “Maybe she’ll surprise you.”
The glance she shoots him is definitely wooden and pointy. “Yeah, sure.” Then her face gets this look, all puppy eyes, all pleading. “I’ve never seen you like that before, Spike. And I’ve never seen Buffy this worried before, about any of them. She hit Xander when he complained about you being in her room, did you know that?”
He can’t prevent a small smile tugging on his lips for a moment; of course he remembers, how could he not? “Yeah, that she did.” But then the smile vanishes. It’s almost a week now, and the last he saw of her was not her defending him with her fists.
He straightens; it doesn’t matter. What matters is finding the demon.
He finally reaches out and gently strokes Dawn’s cheek. She shoots him an alarmed glance, and he knows why; he never shows his affection like that. He yells at her, grabs her by the arm to drag her somewhere, calls her Niblet and his little bit; but he never is so gentle to her, almost tender.
Very deliberately he briefly cups her cheek and strokes again before he lets his hand sink back in his lap. “Look, Niblet, I was a little out of it, kinda sick, and she just helped me to get on my feet again. But I’m alright now, see?” And he makes a show of posing, complete with the look-at-me-I’m-not-only-full-of-muscles-b
Dawn glides down from the coffin and follows him; seeing what he’s gathering, she perks up. “You’re going out to kill something? Can I come with?” she asks eagerly.
He gives her a slightly exasperated look, annoyed that she forces him to reject her. ”No,” he says, “you really can’t.” When he sees the disappointment on her face, his stance still softens a little. “Sorry, Bit.”
“Why not?” She reaches for his arm to make him stop, to at least think about it. “I could help.”
He gently pries her fingers from his arm and holds her hand in his for a moment, squeezing it before letting her go. “No, you can’t, Dawn. I’m going to kill a really nasty, really big, really strong demon, and trust me, you can’t help with that.”
The use of her given name should’ve told her that he’s serious, but she’s not yet willing to give up; apparently she’s had it with being put aside by everyone, and since he is the only one who ever treated her almost like an adult and not only like the child that needed protection, she throws in everything she has. Her eyes turn pleading, puppy dog style; she knows his weaknesses well and is ready to play them. “I helped you fight that Ghora demon.” And then she brings in her biggest gun. “Of course Buffy doesn’t even know that. If she knew, maybe she’d let me help her too?”
He stares at her indignantly. “First off, I helped you. And I remember pretty well having to go in and fight the damn three headed bitch a second round, because someone dropped the soddin’ egg.” He watches her closely, sees her chin rising again, but doesn’t miss the tears welling up in her eyes either; he knows her threat is an empty one, she wouldn’t betray him to her sister; and she knows she lost the battle. He sighs, pushes aside the impulse to embrace her, grabs her shoulders instead and catches her gaze. “Look, Niblet, that demon I’m gonna fight is bloody strong. I can’t be distracted by having to keep you safe, yeah? Even so, ‘specially with the humans around, I don’t know if I…” He trails off, realizing too late that he was about to say too much. He tries to shrug it off, turns away and grabs the weapons he discarded in favor of her shoulders. He hopes she didn’t pick up on it, but of course, it’s Dawn. She’s too good at reading between the lines.
She follows him, and her voice tells him about her furrowed brows even as he avoids seeing them. “This demon is really that dangerous, huh?” she inquires.
She’s silent for all of a second. Then she grabs his arm again and forces him to face her, and now he can see fear in her eyes. “If it’s that dangerous, why do you go on your own? And humans? You can’t even fight them!” Her voice is urgent, and he’s touched when he understands that she fears for him. But her next words make him reel back. “Why don’t you take Buffy with you? She’s the Slayer after all; it’s her job, right?”
“No way. I can’t risk her to be shoved in that bloody portal again.” As soon as the words are out he wishes he could catch them and shove them back down his throat. He knows it’s too late though when she leaves him be, her eyes widening in horror. “The Mala’hla?” she whispers. She obviously knows about it; maybe Anya told them how strong and ruthless they were. “But…I thought it was gone.”
“Well, it isn’t,” he replies, his thin wearing patience evident in his voice now. She must have picked up on that, too, because she keeps her mouth shut now, and Spike uses her drop in defense to his advantage to wordlessly drag her along as he leaves his crypt.
When she realizes he’s headed to Revello Drive she looks at him, hope in her eyes, but a glare of his quenches that small flame instantly. She glares back, but remains silent, until he pushes the front door open and shoves her inside, not without making sure first that there’s no Slayer in the house.
“Stay,” he says and turns on his heels.
He whirls back, his eyes blazing. “Don’t you dare tell her.”
He sees her swallowing hard, and for a second he is tempted to go back inside and reassure her, embrace her, tell her that he’ll be back safe and sound, that nothing will happen to him. That he still loves her. But then she nods, and he doesn’t do any of this. He just turns and leaves.