Debts VI: And Every Step
by Te
June 1999

Disclaimers: But they *need* me...

Spoilers: Vague references to general third 

Summary: Meanwhile, back at Rancho de 

Ratings Note: R for violence, some f/f 
references, disturbing imagery.

This story is meant to fill in some of the 
space between "One More Time" and "Cry Out
Loud," as well as moving a little further in 

Acknowledgments: To Iain, for filling my head 
with the relatively happy thoughts for this 
series that have absolutely *nothing* to do
with *this* story. 

Rock on gold dust woman
Follow those who pale in your shadow
-- "Gold Dust Woman," performed by Hole
Yes, baby's not speaking to her angel anymore
-- "Shelf Life," Seven Mary Three

Buffy remembered dying before she woke up, but 
the first thing she did when she opened her eyes
 in the close, airless blackness was use the rest 
of her senses to scan for trouble. Just like every
day she'd woken as the Slayer. 

And then she took a deep breath, but caught only
the heavy perfume of aging roses and too much
CK One. 

Somebody had doused her body with the stuff
in the hopes that she'd go ahead and rot like a 
good little dead Slayer. 

Buffy made herself still until she stopped trying 
to breathe. She knew that if she was going to get
out of there she had to have calm, control. It 
took a long time, and it didn't help that she 
could hear... feel *something* Not Breathing 
right along beside her.

Inside her. 

She knew what that meant, too. She was a 
vampire. She housed a demon. She needed to 
be killed. She ought to just stay down here and
starve back down into death. Send the demon 
back to Hell, save lives.

Yes, but she also knew it wouldn't work that way. 
She would live and live down here until the 
hunger drove her up out of the soil like a 
landmine, a large and solid weapon of pure 
bloodlust. It wouldn't matter who got in her way. 
They would die, quick and messy. 

Her mind supplied the image of Willow //tearing
her apart// of Willow's face as she tore Willow 
apart and Buffy snarled, shook her head against 
it. No, no, no.

Buffy did not notice how her body's writhe 
ceased above her hips -- she was too busy tearing
at the smooth, thick wood above and around her.
It smelled like mahogany. 

A part of her got lost in the images of burning...

//dark wood, dark people around a fire, dancing
for him. For the coming sacrifice. For *him* 
and know he was stuck in the body of another 
stupid fledgling. Stupid *crippled* fledgling -- //

The voice was getting louder and louder. The 
*demon's* voice speaking, flooding her brain 
with memories, trying to take over --

//You're already dead, girl.//

Buffy did her best to push the thoughts back, 
pushed and pushed until she saw Faith smile at
her, felt Faith press the curves of her hips 
against Buffy's own, felt Faith cup her breast 
and drink from her and knew she'd gotten back.
Let the demon stay there with the woman who
gave it to her. 

Sire now. 

//You must not hurt the sire.//

Buffy screamed and screamed and screamed and
tore at the coffin, screamed when she felt the 
first clods of dirt fall in past the hole she'd 
made. Didn't stop until the dirt had clogged her 
mouth with muddy acid.

//They buried you in consecrated ground. You 
can feel it, can't you?

//You'd better try not to swallow.

//In fact, why don't you just let me take care of 
this part. I've done it before, after all...//

But Buffy didn't listen. Buffy kept on digging, 
feeling the dirt just settle around her, thanking 
whoever had chosen what she'd wear had picked
something with long sleeves. It was thin, but it
still kept most of the dirt from touching her. 

She wished she had a veil, though. She could feel
her skin peeling and then continuing to peel. 
The ground wasn't just concecrated, it was 
soaked with Holy Water. The earth was nearly
 muddy with it. Who had done this? 

//Giles, wasn't it? The Watcher. He tried to 
hurt you. Tried to make you suffer here, alone,
burning, so hungry. Forever, Buffy, forever 
burning like this why don't you let me help
you --//

Buffy screamed again and stopped trying to 
widen the hole in the coffin to accomodate her
legs comfortably. She'd wriggle out using just 
her arms. Swim out from under the grave, 
save herself from drowning and God she hated
drowning so much she could take anything 
but the drowning and how *dare* Giles do 
this to her?

Was this what he really meant when he said 
he was no longer her Watcher? All those times
when he allowed her to bitch out the 
Watchers' Council. Giles was... was...

//Washing his hands of you, perhaps. Such 
a troublesome Slayer.//

Shut. Up.

//Of course he loves you, anyway, but 
resentment is such a tiny, fertile thing. Lies 
in wait, wrapped in the darkness. Lies and 
breeds lies.//

Please stop...

//Girl you aren't even supposed to be here. 
What did you think? You would use your 
powers for good? 

//Oh yes... Angel to think about. Well how 
much do you really know about him? How 
many times has he fooled you, little 

"Don't you call me that or God help us I'll kill
us both. I'll get us out of this grave and... and
*make* Giles kill us." Buffy spat dirt, felt her 
tongue numb a bit with pain and had to 
struggle not to slur... though she couldn't have
said what made her speak out loud. "You said
it yourself, right? Resentment. Needs me gone.
Why, we'd be doing each other a favor, isn't 
that right, demon?"

//What you will.//

Buffy did not think she imagined the touch of
something that could be considered petulance
in the demon's voice. The echoes of it bounded, 
raced around the inside of her skull. But the 
important thing was that it was *quiet* again. 
Buffy concentrated on the hard swim and did 
not panic or rush.

If she dug *just this way* the earth would loosen, 
fall around her in loose layers. She could move 
easily, though she'd apparently somehow managed
to get her hips caught in the coffin-hole she'd 
made. She couldn't move her legs.

She spared a moment to wonder if she'd had 
time to gain weight from the ice cream she'd 
eaten before she died, or if this was just another
disgusting part of the process...

The process. Yes. Giles would probably think 
this was the sort of valuable lesson she needed. 
That was how all those Watchers worked, 
anyway. Always testing, needing to see how 
Slayers worked under any number of conditions 
that had no basis in Buffy's life whatsoever.

Training. Perhaps to them this was just more 
training. Building a better Slayer around the 
demon that occupied the old one.

Using her. Manipulating her. 

Buffy heard a small voice protesting and nearly
squashed it out of pure instinct. But then she 
heard it say that these weren't her thoughts, 
that Giles had *never* been the enemy, that the
demon didn't need to say anything pretty if it 
could just speak in her voice.

A bolt of feeling hit her, sudden, wracking, 
incomprehensible. Buffy nearly crushed out the 
voice out of the sheer need to make. It. Stop.

But the ground burned her face, and fangs had 
sliced her lips to ribbons, and those weren't 
human fingernails slicing through the packed 
earth. Buffy *knew what she was* and she would
not be tricked, would not lose her soul.

She had to... she had to get out and warn 
everyone that Faith was out there. Had to... had
to do whatever it was she should be doing now. 
Had to find someone with an *answer*.


It was nearly dawn before she'd gotten herself 
out of the grave, and so it was under a greying 
summer sky that Buffy first felt the sickening 
swing in her lower back that meant something 
was deeply wrong.

The heat was burning off the fog some distance 
away and Buffy knew what she was, and what 
she was was --

//Crippled thing. Feed now, it will make you 

And oh, she needed to be strong, didn't she? 
Needed to be able to fight -- that's who she was, 

So when the shadow, dark and tall, resolved itself
over the next rise Buffy remained still. 

Got low to the ground and stayed there and waited.
If she could just take a little from this one, 
whoever it was, then perhaps she'd be powerful 
enough to find someplace quiet to rest against 
the sun. 

Just a little blood. 

But when the shadow resolved itself it was Angel, 
Angel looking down at her with a stake in his hand
and he'd been *crying* --

"Angel --"

"They told me how you'd been found. I made them
promise to let me be the one who... who did it. 
But I found myself waiting and waiting... Buffy, 
why didn't you escape?"

"Angel, please... I don't want --"

He shook off her voice. "What's wrong with your
legs -- oh. Oh, my God. It didn't heal..."

Buffy snarled and pounced. 

Or tried to. All she could manage with her useless
legs and weak arms was to fall on her face, burn 
her face again on the terrible ground.

"Help me, Angel, I can't --"

"Buffy this isn't *you*. We both know you know

Looking down at her, lecturing like she was a 
child. Didn't he know who she was? Who died and
made him the sensei? 

//Don't show the anger. Show him only your 

And before Buffy could think, long before she 
could scream or object, she let her shoulders sag 
like they wanted to and lowered her head for a 
long moment. 

//Yes. Show him how he *really* needs you.//

Buffy looked up from under her damp, muddy 
lashes. Looked up into eyes she'd known, it 
seemed, since before she was even born. Perhaps
Angel had stalked her mother around L.A. while
Buffy had been in the womb. It would certainly 
be true to character....

Buffy looked up and she said "please," again, 
and tried to cry because she needed him so badly,
because she was scared and this was wrong, 
because they were supposed to protect each 
other from this. 

In the end, the only tears she managed were 
those of rage and pain and hunger, but Angel
scooped her up anyway. Carried her off like so
many beautiful dreams and ugly realities. The
rise of the sun weighed on her entire body. A 
great mass of presence that wanted her to 

She could not resist. 


Buffy opened her eyes and found herself propped
on several pillows that filled her head with 
Angel's scent. It was a disappointment to get this
much of it and have it *still* seem so subtle. Had
she lost some of her senses in the change? 

She moved to get up, start getting answers. And
that's when she found herself chained to the bed. 

Her legs hadn't been chained....

//Why should he? They're useless.//

And it was a fact she kept stumbling over, just 
another bit of unfairness on the galactic scale. 
Buffy had spent much of the past three years 
forcing herself not to look at the unfairness of
things. It hadn't been an easy adjustment.

Trapped in a bed she would've liked to share, 
paralyzed, aching with a hunger whose origins 
she did not even try to veil to herself, Buffy 
found herself wondering why she'd ever 
bothered. The reward of a good Slayer is death. 
Not even necessarily honorable death. Not even
a death whose nature is known to your friends
and family. 

Sure, she'd managed to hold on to loved ones. 
More of them than she hadn't, but in the end, 
what did that really mean?

//Most of them will come to us like lambs to 
the slaughter if you play your cards 

Buffy howled, pouring everything she had left 
into it. Wishing to God it would escape on her

But all that happened was that Angel came in
to check on her. With Giles at his side, holding
two blood bags. 

Suddenly, she could do nothing to shift her 
focus from the blood. She heard voices and 
they fell on her ears like wind through leaves. 
Meaningless things, nothing to her --

//Look how they tease you. You are no longer
anything but an animal to them. A pet vampire
to replace their pet Slayer.//

No no no no no no--


Command in the voice and something that 
wasn't entirely her responded immediately. Buffy
found herself looking up at Giles again, catching
his face with her eyes and holding it. Everything
was hazed over with gold. 

How had she never realized how close to *dead* 
mortals were all the time? Just a little push would
be all it took --

"... listen to me. Why should we keep you alive?
Who are you?"

And the blood dangled from Giles' fingers. 
Dangled and made Buffy angry, so angry.

This is another test.

//They never stop, do they? But you'd really 
better pass this one.//

She'd had voices in her head before but there 
was something... oddly soothing about a voice 
meant for her and only her. Buffy tore her 
eyes away from the blood, away from Giles' 
exposed throat and yes, this *was* a test, isn't

She gazed into Giles eyes. Stared and held 
Giles' stare easily. A million times before...

"I'm Buffy."

"And who else?"

"As near as I can tell, the people in this guy's 
memories chanted 'Bokanu, Mobane' or 
something like that. He just used my brain for
his own personal projec --"

And that's when the pain hit, a sword, many 
swords, hot from the flame and burrowing 
through her brain, scarring everything in its 
path, slicing her to pieces, making her hurt
hurt --

//You *never* speak the Name!//

Buffy felt her body whipsaw in the chains, 
felt one go altogether and growled, screamed. 

But the moment she opened her mouth the 
blood was soaking her lips, filling her dry 
dirty mouth with what she needed and how 
had she gone so long without this? How had 
she survived when it was this good made her
this powerful... powerful like a Slayer needs
to be --

//Break the other chain while they're 
distracted. Kill them both!//

But Buffy knew the test hadn't ended, and 
subsided as quickly as she could, even 
closing her mouth and turning away from
the blood. 

The scream in her head had a satisfying 
hint of pained incredulity.

"I can control this thing, Giles. But I'm going
to need your help."

Hint of pride in the man's eyes for a moment,
but they never lost the hint of cold appraisal.

//They never will. *Kill* him.//

"And you're going to tell me everything I have 
to do to make you trust me."

Curt nod. "There is the matter of your legs..."

"Haven't you heard, Giles? Handicapped is such
a *limited* word."


That day he'd left her alone with Angel. 
Whatever she'd hid from Giles, Angel saw 
right away. Of course. 

How could she love him anymore? Everything
he'd done... Need her love her leave her hurt 
her and *leave* again. And what did he come
back for? To kill her. 

Buffy kept the anger out of her eyes as best 
as possible, and when Angel ran a hand along 
her cheek she pressed into it.

But when he cried she could not keep herself 
from lapping the tears away. They had, 
after all, been for her. 

Angel didn't stay with her that night, though,
and when she woke the next sundown he was
gone altogether.



Her arm strength was just as good as it had
been before. Better, in fact, though not so 
many other people would notice. So long as 
she could forget her lower body was there 
altogether, she'd be fine.

She couldn't, though, and her legs flopped 
and swung as uselessly as bags of sand.

Buffy had examined them closely -- they 
showed as little sign of decay as the rest of
her. Pale beneath the tan and useless. That's it.
Giles had assured her that the demon inside 
her would continue to heal her as best it could,
but that by no means included her spine.

Two vertebrae at the base, splintered by her 
dear old friend, her fellow Slayer Faith, because
Faith had wanted to cop a feel before killing 

One good kill deserves another, and another, and
another. Sires just got you into trouble, and if 
she had any doubt of that she could just look 
over at Spike. 

Found not so far east of here, tied to a hotel bed, 
partially shredded, less partially burnt. Giles had 
taken the call over the police scanner on his way 
back from a magic shop in Modesto that doubled
as a gym.

Giles had returned with the vampire pate and a
witch who looked suspiciously like someone 
she'd seen on American Gladiators. Ice, maybe. 

Janine would be her brand new physical therapist. 

And Spike... Spike had decided to fly on the side of
the angels. Giles had wanted to know why, 
thought there had to be more to it, some big plot
by the forces of darkness. 

Buffy knew it was just because Dru had finally 
dumped Spike in a way even he could accept. 
Spike would do anything to avoid being alone. 
Buffy knew the type... they were all over any 
high school. All you had to do to assure loyalty 
was to keep them on the tight, tight leash they
handed you themselves. 

Besides, she also knew he could teach her. The
first thing he'd done was teach her the threats
and promises to use to get her demon to keep
its mouth shut. 

He wasn't as chatty as he used to be, though he
was good company over a blood bag. Genuinely
enjoyed each one. When no one was watching 
them, pretending not to watch them... When 
they were alone they would occasionally drain 
their bags down halfway and then use them as

People screaming, embracing each other 
plasticly, pudgily, running from the big scary 
vampires that would, of course, get them 

Both together or one at a time. One to sit alone
on the table, watching the other die.

They never told each other precisely who the 
blood bags represented, and that was OK, too. 


Therapy was hard, painful and humiliating. If her
arms had been longer, her chest broader it might 
have been easier to compensate for the flopping 
flesh bags of her legs -- still obscenely toned. 

Spike wasn't healing very fast, either, so that
meant Buffy was, inexplicably, seeing Xander
for hours every day. Hours of 
more-than-half-serious bile from Xander, 
hours of Spike's aggressively cheerful 
responses. Inevitably, Xander would lose 
the ability to not get pulled in to actual 

Invariably, Xander would walk out much too
quickly, shaking his head, muttering darkly 
about being in league with monsters or 
something else that would make him look 
over at Buffy with naked regret, apology. 

He hadn't said more than a handful of actual 
words to her since she'd risen. 

"'s he always like that?"

"Just when he has a Deadboy to pester."

"Ohhh... Hmm. I don't suppose I'm doing a 
very good Angel, am I?"

"Do you think I'd let you live if you did?"

And oh that thought had crept out of her 
mouth long before she'd realized it was there...
Spike just nodded, though. 

Walked up to her chair and leaned in. "I have a 
few thoughts for you, Buffy."

"Don't strain yourself. Sorry, momentary Xander

A strange little smile, not quite for her. "You can't 
let the demon have your emotions, ducks. It'll 
just use 'em --"

"Against me, I get the point."

Spike squeezed her shoulders. "*Listen*, Buffy. 
Using your emotions against you is besides the
point. They take your anger, your resentment 
and build and build... They take your emotions 
and twist them until they're not yours anymore.
And you don't know the difference, do you?"

Buffy snarled at him, desperate to shut him up
he was a liar --

Buffy ground her teeth together until she 
thought they'd shatter in her gums. Held them
there for several moments. 

"Spike... how do I stop this?"

"You can't let yourself feel. Even affection'll fuck
you over if you're not careful."

"I just thought it would fuck you over no matter

"Yes, well, it *takes* longer if you're careful. 
Look... what I'm saying is that the angrier you 
get, the easier it is for the demon to kill every 
last shred of you that's left."

A part of her wanted to know if that would 
really be so bad, the rest of her immediately 
jumped to ruthlessly mangle the thought, 
whether or not it was really hers. Buffy put 
her head down and rubbed her temples, losing 
herself briefly in the pattern of the blanket 
that covered her legs.

Bright and pastel. 


But everything in the room was bright... an 
attempt to trick Buffy's brain into believing there
was still sunlight for her. Stave off depression, 
according to the preternaturally chipper Janine...

"I can still get a good hate-on for the Ubertrainer,
can't I?"

Spike snorted, hopped up on the table beside her.
The awkwardness of his re-attachment was 
almost invisible now. "I'd bloody fucking worry
if you couldn't. Janine is clearly the Anti-Christ."

A pack of cigarettes appeared from nowhere, one
found its way between Buffy's fingers. She didn't
hesitate to take the light when it came, though 
the demon's little screech of alarm at the sight 
of the flame was something of a surprise. 

"Cowardly little buggers."

Buffy nodded, smiled a little. Took a short drag 
off the cigarette, testing her reactions.

"C'mon, luv. Your lungs can survive the smoky 
bits of a four-alarm fire. Trust me, I know."

"Is this peer pressure?"

"Nope, I'm too much older 'n you for that. This 
right here is the considered advice of a wise 
and caring elder."

Buffy blew smoke in his face, Spike dutifully 
inhaled and sketched a little bow. 

"Want some more advice?"

"Does it involve my love life?"

"Not by a long go --"

"Then sure." She grinned.

"Bitch. Anyway, cut your legs off."


"You heard me, they're just in your way. Cut 'em 
right the fuck off. Bandage up the thigh, case the 
stumps in some tough leather, and get back to
your training. 's the only chance you've got, in 
my opinion."

"As a physical therapist."

"As a survivor."

There was a long silence then, but there was 
nothing to really think about. 

"So, let me see if I get this straight. Spike's Three
Steps To A Happy Unlife: One, chill out. Two, 
start smoking. Three, self-mutilation."

"Yep. Sounds about right to me."

"Will you help me?"

Spike nodded. 


Janine fainted when Buffy swung into the mat 
room the next day on her heavily-padded knuckles. 

It was almost payment in full for the way the 
scent of her own burning flesh remained high 
in her nose. 

Spike had surrendered scraps of his duster for
wrapping the stumps. He'd also done most of 
the stitching, after Buffy had admitted she was 
about as good at sewing as Spike was at polka 

Willow came to visit that day, and cried.

Xander looked sick. And then Spike came in 
and commanded his attention immediately. 
From the pull-up bar she could see Xander 
haranguing the other man. At length. 

Giles looked her over twice. Nodded and gave her 
a smile she knew would've disturbed her... before. 

Now it just felt right.


Buffy tried and failed to keep from belching after
the incredibly starch and protein-heavy *thing* she'd 
been fed. Apparently, vampires could bulk up.

But they had to work at it. 

Spike flicked a cigarette at her and Buffy caught it
in her mouth without thinking. 

"It'll help with the nausea. Remember, you've got
blood in there, too. You really don't want to puke."

"So remind me why I'm trying to get up to
Janine's neck size."

"It's a good look on you?"

Buffy flipped the table over, Spike just barely 
managed to land on his feet. How many weeks 
had it been? 

"Temper, temper, Buffy. The stronger your 
upper body gets --"

"The more chimp-like I become."

Spike walked over to the ubiquitous fruit bowl -- 
Giles said her mother kept bringing them -- and
fetched her a banana. "Ook, ook Slayer. Pretty 
soon you'll be back out --"

"Don't call me that."

"You're still the Slayer."

"*A* Slayer. An undead paralyzed Slayer."

"The new ones are pikers. Boring."

"Twins. With great big powerful legs."

"Legs like tree trunks, yeh. They used to play 
fucking rugby, you know it? And I'll tell you 
something else -- they're just a little too close 
if you ask me."

"They're doing the job, they're the Slayers."

"Oh, for fuck's sake, Buffy. If that's self-pity I 
won't help you cut your legs off again."

"You could've mentioned they'd grow back."

"*Most* demons give up after the fourth or 
fifth time."

Buffy chuckled despite herself. "Leave it to me
to get the overachiever."

Spike picked up the table again and settled
himself on it. "It's probably just pissed about 
you not killing people."

"Fuck it."

"Good girl. Keep your fangs clean in your own 
backyard, even if you don't anywhere else."

"I don't want to kill, Spike."

"Uh, huh. You're getting better at playing Buffy."

"It's not a lie, not completely... You're the one 
who said I have to hold on to myself."

"True, but... ah, fuck it is right. I'm not gonna 
pretend I've got all this figured out."

"Gimme another cigarette."

"Sure, ducks."

They smoked in silence for a while, Buffy coating
her fingers with ash and tracing patterns on the

"Spike, what's the deal with you and Xander 

"Ah, he thinks I'm stalking him. Won't lay off 
about it. Paranoid fucker, he is."

"So... are you stalking him?"

"Of *course* I am."

Buffy giggled helplessly. "*Why*?"

"Well, I've got to keep those old skills honed 

Buffy knew she wasn't getting the whole truth, 
but decided to leave it alone for the moment. Still, 
though... "Spike, how much of... this," and she
made a gesture to include the two of them, "is 
you and me getting along and how much is it 
you and the demon?"

"I dunno, luv. Sounds more like the Watcher's 
area of expertise to me, but... why question a 
good thing?"

Another pause. 

"I'd miss Bloodbag Theater."

"Damned right. Thrill-a-minute plots, never 
know how it's gonna end."

"Except for how we always eat them."

"Except for that, yes."

"Spike, you're going to help me find Faith."

He nodded soberly. "And you're going to help 
*me* find Drusilla."