Buffy is taking down the disposable demon of the week when it turns out he’s got a longer shelf life than most, and a wicked luck roll too: he sticks her with Mister Pointy and she ends up running for it. She’s good at running when she has to—it’s something I respect about her—but this guy gives chase. What’s his deal? Did he just eat a motivational speaker?
Fortunately, Riley saves the night (thanks, Riley!) and hauls Buffy home for first aid.
She’s embarassed to have to admit to him that her enormous new ego-bruise and stab wound are both courtesy one lone vampire, not in any way special, with bad hair and a stink problem to boot.
Before they can really process this, Dawn bursts in to warn them that Mom’s on the way. They hide the medical supplies, Dawn inherits the chores Buffy can’t do until she’s healed, and Riley volunteers patrol. To his chagrin, Buffy asks him to take the Scoobies with him. For protection, presumably. Did she not see him just save her life?
This leads into a comedy scene where Riley’s wearing dark clothes and blending in with the graveyard while Willow and XandAnya stealthily chatter and munch chips in his wake.
The real meat of “Fool for Love,” though, is its criss-cross flashback tie-in to an episode of Angel, “Darla.” On Angel, the flashbacks are mostly about Darla’s origins and Angel’s first (and quite unlovable) attempts to deal with getting all gypsy-cursed and soul-infested. On BtVS, the close call with Hair Vamp gets Buffy curious about how her predecessors have died. After checking with Giles, who reveals that Watchers are too bummed after the fact to make detailed records of how their teen charges got wasted, Buffy makes straight for Spike. He’s killed two Slayers, remember?
Of course you do!
Ah, Spike. He tells Buffy he was always bad, but it’s not true. We learn, for the first time, that he started out as none other than toffy, hobbit-haired William the Bloody Awful Poet. Soppy with love, mocked by his peers and super-keen on the word effulgent, lil’ Willie lays out his heart for the stomping by one Cecily Adams, (a.k.a. Halfrek the vengeance demon). When Cecily obliges by rejecting him—you’re beneath me, she says—he goes off for a blub and ends up being eaten and turned by Drusilla.
While we’re all pondering whether this constitutes a good thing, the scene shifts back to the graveyard, where Riley and the gang have found Hair Vamp and his dauntingly large cadre of friends. We’ll kill them in the morning, Riley says. Mister Reasonable, we salute you!
Spike has a little fun extorting hot wings and booze from Buffy before getting down to business. He tells her about the fight with the Slayer he killed during the Boxer Rebellion. He’s broken his tale into a two-part lesson and the first big talking point is that the Slayer always has to reach for her weapon, whereas vampires have those delightfully pointy teeth at the ready.
(Can they not be extracted, I wonder?)
Put another way, the nameless Chinese slayer was reaching for her stake when he grabbed and ate her.
With Slayer-slaughter comes external validation and acceptance from the group. Not only is Drusilla pleased and excited about the kill (and we mean excited in a Rah Rah Do Me, Big Boy way) but even Angel concedes that his grandvampy’s all grown up. It was, Spike reminisces, the best day of his life.
This probably isn’t the best day of Riley’s life. Among other things, he’s proving himself to be a great whopping liarpants. Having ditched the noisy Scoobies, he has returned to the Hair Vamp’s tomb. The guy is counting his superpowered chickens, bragging about having killed Buffy before her death is truly hatched. Riley swaggers in with a quip, stakes him most efficiently, and grenades the rest of his pals into steaming undead fragments.
So, you know, maybe he really doesn’t need help from civilians?
Back at the Bronze, Buffy’s asking about the second Slayer, Nikki Wood. Spike’s only too happy to relive their 1977 fight in the New York subway system. The battle is cleverly intercut with his present-day narration, to Buffy, about how and why Slayers die.
So what’s lesson the second? Spike’s perspective on how he’s managed to kill both Slayers boils down to something close, in the end, to ‘they asked for it.’
So, okay. We’re talking about women who violently attack monsters, I know. It’s not as though the vampires are acting inappropriately, exactly, by defending themselves with lethal force. The fantasy situation and the real world don’t exactly overlap here.
But in light of events to come in the history of Spuffy, this hint of blame-the-victim is a little disturbing. Also high on my Ickometer is how Spike’s revelation—every Slayer has a death wish—segues into an a fervent expression of his desire to one day murder Buffy. And from there he segues to “Hey, wanna kiss?”
Buffy, naturally, rejects him, flinging money and using the same words as Halfrek nee Cecily. “You’re beneath me.”
As I’ve considered “Fool for Love,” I’ve been thinking about the conversations we’ve been having lately, about whether it’s really possible for these Buffyverse characters to grow beyond high school, about whether Xander ever makes it out of the metaphorical basement. William the Bloody Awful takes his turning at the fangs of Drusilla as an opportunity for a total reinvention of himself. It’s a very different reaction to being turned than, say, Liam’s. If anything, Angelus is a more purely evil expression of who Liam already was. He’s just carrying on the carouse in progress with less booze and more homicide.
But Spike gets himself a working class accent and a career goal of sorts—where he was going to be a gentleman poet, now he wants to become a hunter of Slayers. To cherry that sundae, he finds in Drusilla something he thinks is not only Reciprocated True Luv but also Forever.
In that “you’re beneath me” moment, Buffy flings him back to his origins: she takes it all away. It’s more soul-destroying (as it were) than losing Drusilla or getting chipped.
Little wonder that Spike goes in search of the nearest shotgun. In that initial moment of rage, he’s willing to risk the worst the chip can dish out to try to eradicate Buffy. Harmony is obliged to play the voice of reason here, reminding him that he had plenty of chances to kill Buffy before getting chipped. This gives us a chance to see Spike’s dumping at the hands of Dru, who in her wacky psychic way reveals he’s been in love with Buffy ever since they formed their anti-Angelus alliance in S2.
Could Spike have pulled the trigger? He thinks so. Of course, it doesn’t play out that way. While he’s loading up and crossing town, Buffy is home learning that Joyce is going to the hospital overnight for observation and ominous tests. By the time Spike shows, she’s on the porch crying. He can’t even pretend to attempt the murder.
Instead, to her bug-eyed discomfort and astonishment, Spike does his best to make her feel better. For good or ill, that’s who he is.
Next: Tumor Tales
A.M. Dellamonica has kaboodles of fiction up here on Tor.com! Her ‘baby werewolf has two mommies,’ story, “The Cage,” made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010. There’s also “Among the Silvering Herd,” the first of a series of stories called The Gales.