When writing an unconventional Spike ship, it's often helpful to look at the canon Spike ships, and see how he treated the women he loved.
Or maybe not, but you're getting an essay on it anyway.
No, I'm not talking about some saucy rendezvous set in LA after Buffy ran away from Sunnydale and changed her name...I'm talking about Spike's mother, Anne. The Season Seven episode "Lies My Parents Told Me" is the first - and only - introduction to Spike's mother. There's no mention of his father made, so we can assume it was just the two of them for at least the end of Spike's days as William the human.
As a human, William is utterly devoted to his mother.
William: I still have hopes that one day there will be an addition to this household, but I will always look after you, mother. This, I promise. ("Lies My Parents Told Me")
After being sired by Drusilla, William remains devoted to his mother. So much so that he sires her to save her from tuberculosis and allow them to remain together forever.
William: Think of it. No more sickness. No more dying. You'll never age another day. Let me do this for you. [...] It's all right, mother. It's only me. We'll be together forever.
Okay, so maybe this isn't the smartest or sanest action a devoted son could take, but we are dealing with a vampire at this point. And it's different than what we know Angelus did to his family after vamping, at any rate.
Anne, unfortunately, does not prove as capable of continuing to love her son after being turned.
Anne: I hate to be cruel- No, I don't. I used to hate to be cruel in life. Now, I find it rather freeing. Nothing less will pry your greedy little fingers off my apron strings, will it?
When she tries to stake him, William stakes her instead, then sets off re-inventing himself as the badass rebel who appeared in Sunnydale. In part to prove something to Drusilla, or Angelus, and in part to disprove his mother's declaration that he'd always be a "limp, sentimental fool." Over a century later, Spike finally comes to the realization that he "had a mother who loved me back. When I sired her, I set loose a demon, and it tore into me, but it was the demon talking, not her" ("Lies My Parents Told Me").
So we have a human who was devoted to his mother, and a vampire who remained devoted to her when most vampires can't be bothered to care about anything but their own comfort.
But before I get too into Spike's mother and his big ol' Oedipal complex, I'll move on to his romantic loves.
Yet her smell, it doth linger, painting pictures in my mind.
Her eyes, balls of honey. Angel's harps her laugh.
Oh, lark. Grant a sign if crook'd be Cupid's shaft.
Hark, the lark, her name it hath spake.
"Cecily" it discharges from twixt its wee beak. ("Lies My Parents Told Me")
As William so aptly proves, the word 'discharge' has no place in poetry. Still, it's a good indication of his feelings for Cecily. Okay, poetry was my least favorite section in Literary Analysis, so I'm not going to even attempt trying to figure out William's feelings through a deconstruction of his poetry. Mostly because that would involve reading it again, and there are only so many times one can read about eyes being compared to balls of honey without reaching for a spork to doing some damage to one's own eyes. I'll just say that references to Cupid and a lark singing Cecily's name seem to point to William having an idealistic, romantic vision of love, and of his object of love, Cecily.
Though in later years, William became Spike and, arguably, less idealistic in love, the one thing he showed with Cecily that followed him through the years was a reverence, bordering on worship, of the women he loved.
William's crush is definitely one-sided. When he finally professes his love for her, she shoots him down, rather brutally:
William: I know I'm a bad poet but I'm a good man and all I ask is that...that you try to see me-
Cecily: I do see you. That's the problem. You're nothing to me, William. You're beneath me. ("Fool For Love")
William immediately leaves the party, heartbroken, only to encounter...
Teacher. Mother. Not-So-Secret Lover. Drusilla chooses William, turns him into a vampire, helps shape him into what he is now. More or less.
Spike: [Drusilla's face is] the face of my salvation! She delivered me from mediocrity. For over a century we cut a swath through continents. A hundred years, she never stopped surprising me. Never stopped taking me to new depths. I was a lucky bloke. Just to touch such a black beauty. ("Crush")
In return, Spike spends 118 years being completely devoted to her. He has a lot of patience for Dru's, well, insanity, and is usually immediately sorry when he loses his temper.
Drusilla (to a dead bird): I'll give you a seed if you sing.
Spike: The bird's dead, Dru. You left it in a cage, and you didn't feed it, and now it's all dead, just like the last one.
(Drusilla cowers and whines.)
Spike: Oh, I'm sorry baby. I'm a bad, rude man. I just don't like you going out, that's all. You are weak. Would you like a new bird? One that's not dead? ("Lie to Me")
When Drusilla is weakened by a mob in Prague, Spike brings her to Sunnydale looking for a cure. Spike's devotion to and love of Drusilla make him more human than other vampires. Or, at least, that's what the Judge, a giant, blue, humanity-frying demon, thinks:
Judge: You two stink of humanity. You share affection and jealousy.
Spike: Yeah. What of it? ("Surprise")
When Drusilla teams up with Angelus to try and destroy the world at the end of Season Two, Spike does the unthinkable and allies himself with Buffy to get Drusilla back. And, you know, save the world.
Unsurprisingly, it's Drusilla who finally ends their relationship. First, she cheats on him with a chaos demon before dumping him, saying that his alliance with the Slayer softened him. After he decides to "find her, wherever she is, tie her up, [and] torture her until she likes me again" ("Lovers Walk"), she eventually dumps him again, this time for a fungus demon. Though we'll never know for sure, it may be safe to say Spike would have remained devoted to Drusilla until the end of time - or until one of those Slayers he was so obsessed with finally got him - if she had remained devoted to him.
But she didn't because, you know, crazy ho. So she downgraded from Spike to a fungus demon, and Spike did some downgrading of his own.
Harmony, Harmony, Harmony. Does she belong on a list of "women Spike loved"? Nope. Really, really not. Really. But she is one of his major relationships, and warrants inclusion. Spike treats Harmony pretty horribly, handling her as a nuisance, even staking her ("Harsh Light of Day"). But in the least, he never pretends he loves her.
Harmony: You love that tunnel more than me.
Spike: I love syphilis more than you. ("Harsh Light of Day")
Harmony is convenient, and while it's wrong of him to treat her - or anyone - that way, I don't think a fanfic writer would be wise to take his relationship with Harmony into account when writing about Spike being with someone he even vaguely likes in the story.
Again, not a woman Spike loved, but a woman he cared for nonetheless. Starting as a friendship in Season Four's "Where the Wild Things Are," Spike and Anya's unexpected sexual encounter came about while both were looking for comfort post-Buffy and post-Xander.
Spike: I saved the Scoobies how many times? And I can't stand the lot of you.
Anya: Me either! I hate us! Everybody's so nice! Nobody says what's on their mind.
Spike: You do. That's why you're the only one of them I wouldn't bite if I had the chance.
Spike: Absolutely. I have nothing but respect for a woman who is forthright. Drusilla was always straightforward. Didn't have a single buggering clue about what was going on in front of her, but she was straight about it. That's a virtue.
Anya: What if it was just pretending? What if he never wanted me ... the way I wanted him? Oh...I'm sorry.
Spike: Now now. He would have to be more than just the git he is, Anya. He'd have to be deaf, dumb and blind not to want a woman like you. ("Entropy")
Though it was only a one-night stand, Spike still treated her kindly and respectfully.
A fun debate topic for Spike/Buffy fans is, when did Spike fall for her? Many hardcore Spuffy shippers will tell you it's the moment he sees her at the Bronze in "School Hard." James Marsters has admitted he played that scene as a sexual attraction.
Then, there is a scene in the Season Five's "Fool For Love" which shows the initial breakup between Spike and Dru:
Spike: I haven't said a word about the bloody Slayer since we left California. She's on the other side of the planet, Dru!
Drusilla: But you're lying! I can still see her floating all around you, laughing. Why? Why won't you push her away? [...] You're all covered with her. I look at you...all I see is the Slayer. ("Fool For Love")
Even if Spike loved Buffy back then, I stand by what I said earlier: Spike would have remained devoted to Drusilla if she'd stayed devoted to him. He would have buried any feelings he had for Buffy so deep, it would be as if they never existed. If you don't think that kind of denial is possible, just look at Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thorton. Theirloveissopure.
But the only hard evidence we have of when Spike really and truly admitted he was in love with Buffy was at the end of "Out of My Mind":
Buffy: Spike...I want you.
Spike: Buffy, I love you. God, I love you so much.
(Cut to Spike sitting up in bed with a gasp. Shot of Harmony sleeping in the bed next to him. Shot of Spike sitting up in the bed, looking horrified, while Harmony continues to sleep.)
Spike: Oh, god, no. Please, no. ("Out of My Mind")
Spike then spends the next several episodes trying, in his own...clumsy...way, to woo Buffy. His feelings for the Slayer seem to be mostly an obsession, at first. He steals her panties, builds a shrine to her (see also: "reverence, bordering on worship, of the women he loved," in the Cecily section), imagines conversations and practices giving her presents.
But mostly, he steals panties.
And then Spike decides the best way to discuss his feelings with Buffy is to chain her up until she admits she loves him. He even offers to stake Drusilla to prove how much he loves her. When that doesn't work, he says, "If you don't admit that there's something there...some tiny feeling for me...then I'll untie Dru, let her kill you instead" ("Crush").
So...Spike's generally better behaved than most vampires, but he still gets his fair share of asinine ideas. Like, say, vamping his mother. There are things Spike has done that go against his own best interest, to put it mildly, and he still obliviously trundles on, only realizing later that maybe, just maybe, he wasn't supposed to do that. But, that seems to be the nature of the beast, being a vampire and all.
Against all odds, Buffy chooses not to stake Spike then and there. Spike stays out of her way, for the most part, and actually shows a lot of affection for the other Summers women.
(Shot of Spike's hand holding the flowers.)
Xander: You actually think you're gonna score points with Buffy this way?
Spike: This isn't about Buffy.
Xander: Bull. We're all hip to your doomed obsession.
Spike: They're for Joyce.
Xander: Like you care about her.
Spike: Care? Joyce was the only one of the lot of you that I could stand.
Xander: And she's the only one with a daughter you wanted to shag. I'm touched.
Spike: I liked the lady. Understand, monkey boy? She was decent. She didn't put on airs. She always had a nice cuppa for me. And she never treated me like a freak.
Xander: The guy thinks he can put on a big show and con Buffy into being his sex monkey.
Willow: Xander...he didn't leave a card. ("Forever")
Dawn: Spike, I'm not stupid. You're, like, stalking my sister. You'd do anything to get in good with her.
Spike: Buffy never hears about this, okay? Found out what I was doing, she'd drive a redwood through my chest.
Dawn: Then, if you don't want credit, why are you helping me?
Spike: I just don't like to see Summers women take it so hard on the chin, is all. ("Forever")
Still, in an impressive display of making a bad situation worse, Spike orders a Buffy sexbot. As far as bad ideas go, that up there with New Coke and Kevin Costner's Waterworld. Besides getting all the Scoobies pissed and/or skeeved out, it gets Spike kidnapped by Glory and tortured for information. Spike, however, does not crack under Glory's duress and spill Dawn's secret. Buffy later tells him, "What you did, for me, and Dawn...that was real. I won't forget it" ("Intervention").
Over time, Buffy grudgingly accepts his help, and a tentative, almost-friendship, almost-respect is formed, culminating in the big battle between the Scoobies and Glory:
Buffy: We're not all gonna make it. You know that.
Spike: Yeah. Hey. Always knew I'd go down fightin'.
Buffy: I'm counting on you to protect [Dawn].
Spike: Till the end of the world. Even if that happens to be tonight.
Spike: I know you'll never love me. I know that I'm a monster. But you treat me like a man. And that's.... ("The Gift")
When Buffy dies, Spike is broken. But he remains reverent, and he continues to show affection for Dawn, keeping his promise to protect her.
Then Buffy is resurrected and everything changes.
Spike is, of course, grateful, relieved, and surprised to see her alive. When she visits him in his crypt, he reminds her of his promise.
Spike: Uh...I do remember what I said. The promise. To protect her. If I had done that, even if I didn't make it...you wouldn't have had to jump. But I want you to know I did save you. Not when it counted, of course, but...after that. Every night after that. I'd see it all again...do something different. Faster or more clever, you know? Dozens of times, lots of different ways.... Every night I save you. ("Afterlife")
Later in the episode, Spike becomes Buffy's confidante, because, as she says, "I can be alone with you here" ("Afterlife"). So she tells him that she was in Heaven, and happy, and that her friends pulled her out of there.
Over the next few episodes, Buffy and Spike spend more time together, Spike doing his best to keep Buffy's spirits up while she falls further into depression. He saves her from burning to a crisp at Sweet's hand, leading to their unexpected kiss in "Once More, With Feeling."
Though she brushes the kiss off at the start of the next episode, it ends with more frantic groping between the two in the Bronze. Which leads to more denial. Then Spike realizes he can hit her without her chip firing, which leads to...Buffy, frankly, jumping his bones.
Their sexual relationship continues for many episodes. He occasionally goads her into it, she more often than not seems to initiate. The one thing that doesn't change is that Spike loves Buffy and wants her to love him back. He's happy they're having sex, sure, but he wants her to love him. Let him in to her life. Or, barring that, he wants her to go fully into his.
Spike: This vanishing act's right liberating for you, innit? Go anywhere you want. Do anything you want. Or anyone.
Buffy: What are you talking ab-
Spike: The only reason you're here, is that you're not here. [...] You need to go. Get dressed if you can find your clothes, and push off. 'Cause if I can't have all of you, I'd rather.... ("Gone")
Buffy then, er, uses her mouth to get him to shut his. So things continue through to the episode that was really the Spike/Buffy turning point, "Dead Things." Spike, again, is interested in more:
Spike: What is this to you? This thing we have.
Buffy: We don't have a thing, we have...this. That's all.
Spike: Do you even like me?
Buffy: Sometimes. ("Dead Things")
Spike later finds her in the Bronze, watching the Scoobies dance and have fun.
Spike: You see? You try to be with them...but you always end up in the dark, with me. What would they think of you if they found out all the things you've done? If they knew who you really were?
(His hand moves down to her elbow and then farther down, out of shot.)
Spike: Stop me.
(Wider shot of the two of them from the waist up. Spike gives a strong thrust and they both gasp slightly. Buffy still has her eyes closed. Spike leans in to look at her face.)
Spike: No, don't close your eyes. Look at them. (Shot of the Scoobies dancing on, oblivious.) That's not your world. You belong in the shadows, with me. Look at your friends and tell me you don't love getting away with this right under their noses. ("Dead Things")
The trio of geeks make Buffy think they killed Katrina. Buffy, of course, wants to confess to the police. Spike meets her at the station and tries to stop her. When he refuses to let her turn herself in, Buffy whales on him in self-loathing, in a scene reminiscent of Faith beating up her own body (with Buffy inside it) in "Who Are You?":
Buffy: You don't have a soul! There is nothing good or clean in you. You are dead inside! You can't feel anything real! I could never be your girl! ("Dead Things")
Faith: You're nothing! Disgusting! Murderous bitch! You're nothing! You're disgusting! ("Who Are You?")
Spike calmly takes all of Buffy's punches, cheering her on ("Come on, that's it, put it on me. Put it all on me."). Okay, Spike's made a lot of mistakes at this point, true...but being willing to take punches to the face, verbal abuse, anything to keep a loved one from making a mistake? That takes a lot, and I think it shows Spike is still devoted to her.
Buffy comes to a realization a few episodes later:
Buffy: I'm using you. I can't love you. I'm just...being weak, and selfish...
Spike: Really not complaining here.
Buffy: ...and it's killing me. I have to be strong about this. I'm sorry...William. ("As You Were")
Amicable, as partings go, but of course it gets worse.
Remember what I said earlier? About Spike doing asinine things, and thinking that vamping his mother and chaining Buffy up to make her love him were good ideas? Spike did a lot of good as a vampire. Some unselfishly motivated, some not so much. Spike has also done some unequivocally wrong things, which I think the attempted rape in "Seeing Red" can be safely filed under. It must have seemed like a good idea to him, at the time. Remind Buffy of what she was missing, yeah, get her to admit she cared about him....
What he tried to do to her was horrible, and there are essays enough about it that I don't have to touch it with a ten-foot pole, so I won't. Besides, story-wise, its real purpose was as a catalyst. Spike was so horrified by what he'd almost done, he chose to change himself, try to become a better man by winning his soul in Africa.
Buffy and Spike, as a romantic coupling, ended in Season Six. But Buffy remained the woman Spike loved up until his death in "Chosen." His feelings for her, his love and devotion and reverence, were best expressed in "Touched":
Spike: I've been alive a bit longer than you, and dead a lot longer than that. I've seen things you couldn't imagine, and done things I prefer you didn't. I don't exactly have a reputation for being a thinker. I follow my blood, which doesn't exactly rush in the direction of my brain. So I make a lot of mistakes, a lot of wrong bloody calls. A hundred-plus years, and there's only one thing I've ever been sure of: you. Hey, look at me. I'm not asking you for anything. When I say, "I love you," it's not because I want you or because I can't have you. It has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try. I've seen your kindness and your strength. I've seen the best and the worst of you. And I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You're a hell of a woman. You're the one, Buffy. ("Touched")
So, can anything be learned about Spike through his relationships? Totally. When Spike falls in love, he falls hard and stays fallen. He's given to obsession when his crushes are unrequited (poetry, shrines, stalking). He generally treats the women he cares for with respect and reverence. When he wants something, he can show patience in obtaining it, and has a very devoted, single-minded way of reaching his goals, in a way that goes against his usual, impatient style.
And he occasionally has very, very, very astoundingly bad ideas.
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