There were very few people the soulless vampire known as Spike remembered from his human life with any degree of respect. William Pratt had been a milksop of a man, hanging about the edges of a crowd of fashionable people far too impressed with their own consequence, hoping they'd toss him a crumb of recognition. He'd lived at home with his mum, surviving off the scraps of his father's inheritance, and spent his days writing terrible poetry to a woman who couldn't have cared less about him if she'd tried. Drusilla had been that boy's savior, his effulgent angel; Spike had drunk power and freedom from her lips and only once looked back.
Her, though. Her, he remembered: the woman in black who'd appeared on his mother's doorstep several months after Father's death. The only time in all his young life he'd ever been angry enough to give grief to his mum; Nanny McPhee had promptly straightened him out of it.
A lot of good that had done him in the intervening years. Still, he remembered her, if not fondly, then with a certain degree of still-childish awe. The process of growing up, after she'd knocked the obedience back into him and departed, had convinced him she couldn't possibly have been as knowledgeable and magical as she'd seemed; his reawakening as a vampire, however, had overturned many of his previous assumptions, and left him wondering in retrospect just where the obviously unnatural woman had acquired her powers.
Looked like he might yet get an answer to that, if nothing else.
"Nanny McPhee," he said respectfully, a trace of the cultured man he'd once been creeping into his tone as he bowed to the woman seated by the window in Buffy's living room.
...On second thought, it might be better to put off his questions until he knew just what she was here for.
"William," she greeted him, in measured, calm tones.
Spike glanced up the stairs toward Dawn's bedroom, then cocked an eyebrow at the woman. She wasn't as ugly as he knew she could appear, but not yet beautiful, either; definitely in the middle of a job, then. "Knew the bit was a little off balance this year. Didn't think she'd got bad enough for you to be called in, though, or I would've done something about it."
"Would you, then?" Nanny McPhee asked, mildly. "It seems to me that you've been neglecting lessons four and five." She had a teacup in her hands of a sudden, and as she waited to see how he reacted to that, she took a small, ladylike sip.
Spike didn't need to ask which lessons she meant; the long ago days he'd spent under the woman's thumb had made quite an impression, and the last two had been the most difficult for him to learn. 'Does he listen?' she'd asked his mother. 'Does he do exactly as he is told?'
"Vampire, luv," he replied, letting his mouth slide into its familiar smirk. "Comes with the territory."
"That's no excuse for neglecting one's manners," Nanny McPhee chided him, then let her eyes drop to rest upon a particular wooden chest on the other side of the room. "Unless one prefers to be numbered amongst the monsters?" she continued, suggestively.
Spike's eyes narrowed at the implications of the statement. Just how did the woman know the things she knew, anyway? He usually had a lot more trouble convincing former acquaintances that while he might be a vampire, he had no desire to slaughter those he cared for, nor put an end to the world.
...And she'd managed to successfully divert him from his original line of conversation, as well. "Are you here for the nibblet?" he asked, pressing the point, as he went back over what he knew of recent Scooby events in his head. "Or-- you wouldn't have had something to do with Anya's boy coming back to finish the wedding after we all thought he'd done a bunk--?"
She smiled slightly at that, and took another sip of her tea. "A rather creative application of lesson three, if I do say so myself," she said enigmatically.
Lesson three, if he remembered right, consisted of: 'does he get dressed when he is told?' Spike considered that a moment, trying to envisage all the various ways in which that Lesson might apply at a wedding, then shook his head to clear away the distracting images the thought evoked.
"Right," he said slowly, dismissing the issue into the mental compartment labeled 'don't need to know.' Then he glanced up the stairs again. "Buffy at home, then?"
She nodded her head, slowly. "Don't disappoint me, William," she said, then turned back toward the window, dismissing his presence.
"...Right," he muttered again, then shucked off his leather coat and draped it over the banister at the foot of the stairs. For the conversation he was about to have, he didn't think his most recent Slayer trophy would make an appropriate accessory.
He wasn't sure Buffy would believe him when he told her what he'd been doing at the Magic Shop when Willow caught him via the Geek Trio's spy-camera network. He'd broken in whilst the Whelp and his new wife were off on their post-wedding shagfest, intending to do something-- anything-- to get rid of the emotional pain that had haunted him ever since she'd shaken him off; Buffy'd taken one look at the pile of spell components he'd piled next to her picture and gone incandescent with fury. She'd been too angry to listen, then, and might still be-- but he couldn't just let it go. Let her go. It just wasn't in him to give up without a fight.
He gave Nanny McPhee one more uneasy glance, then ran up the stairs, following the sounds of Buffy's movements to the bathroom.
She was wearing a bathrobe, bending to turn on the water-- but she didn't move with her usual, economical grace; she grimaced as she leaned over, then pressed a hand against her back.
"You hurt?" he asked, all else flying out of his mind in the face of her pain.
She gasped, then turned toward the doorway, anger darkening her beautiful features. "Get out," she spat.
He'd been half-expecting that reaction, but it still stung. "We need to talk," he said firmly, back-pedaling to the script he'd planned.
"I really don't," she parried, eyes flashing daggers in his direction.
"This isn't just about you, as much as you'd like it to be," he insisted.
"You spoke. I listened. You leave," Buffy demanded in reply.
Right. Well, that tack was getting him nowhere. He shunted aside the resentment that had welled up at her attitude, and went right for the heart of what he'd come to say. "I'm sorry," he said, as earnestly as he could. "Not that it matters now. But I needed you to know that."
"Why?" she asked, some of the anger and hurt fading from her face.
"Because I care about you," he replied, hoping that this time, finally, that might matter to her. That she might finally realize it was more than the unhealthy obsession of a non-human creature.
"Then you might want to try the not casting spells on me," she said sharply.
"It wasn't for you," Spike said instantly, relieved at the opening. "I wanted something, anything to make this feeling stop. I just wanted it to stop." Then he paused, calculating her probable reactions to what he intended to say next. "It would have been kinder to kill me, you know," he said, softly.
She turned her face away at that. "I-- couldn't," she said.
He wished he could see her expression. "Why?" he asked, half-hopefully.
"You know why."
"Because you love me?" She had to, no matter how she denied it. Though it seemed odd that she would just come out with that, not after so much denial--
Buffy paused, then drew in a ragged breath and shot him down. "No, I don't," she replied, emphatically. "I could never trust you enough for it to become that."
Frustration burned in Spike's chest, and he opened his mouth to call her a liar, to insist that trust was not necessary for great passion, to demand that she let herself go and not hide the truth from herself, or him, any longer.
But then, without warning, Nanny McPhee's voice echoed in his mind. 'Don't disappoint me,' she'd said. And before that-- 'Does he listen?'
Spike paused. He wasn't listening; he had, in fact, tried to dominate the conversation.
'Does he do exactly as he's told?' the memory of her voice continued, coolly.
Buffy'd told him to leave, but he hadn't; he'd stayed, and given his chance, would press her into the floor and attempt to persuade her with the passion that had always flared hot between them.
But she was injured, and tired, and angry. What good could he possibly expect to come of that?
Abruptly disgusted with himself, he took a deep, unnecessary breath, sucking in his cheeks as he attempted to subdue his ragged emotions, and shook his head. "I'm sorry you feel that way, luv," he said bitterly, then turned and left the room, heavy-hearted.
A thick, choking silence fell behind him as he walked slowly down the stairs. He lingered at the bottom, one hand resting on his coat, then glanced over in Nanny McPhee's direction.
The woman was still ignoring him, looking out the window, but the sight of her made him feel even guiltier than he did already. Unnatural state for a vampire that it was, still, he felt it. He took his hand off the coat, abruptly deciding that he no longer wanted it, and took another step toward the front door.
Then a voice called, troubled, from the top of the stairs.
"Wait," Buffy said, hesitantly. "Spike, I-- I'm sorry. You're right. We need to talk."
Disbelieving, Spike glanced back up the stairs, staring at her for several long seconds before registering that she actually meant it. Then he walked back up, slowly, and followed her to her room.
Below, forgotten, Nanny McPhee smiled, relieved, into her tea.
"Lesson four, complete."