Chapter 17, which concerns hearts and souls.
Spike nearly drove off the road when the slayer suddenly appeared in the passenger seat. “Bloody hell!” The car skidded sideways, and Buffy was thrown against the dashboard. Spike tried to stop the uncontrolled skid, and burned his hand, the sunlight streaming through the gap in the paper shielded windscreen. “Ow! Dammit!” The car finally came to rest half blocking the road, and other cars swerved around them, honking. “What the–” He finally looked at her properly.
Buffy had cut her lip on her teeth when she hit the dashboard. She dabbed the blood off and looked at Spike. “Hi.”
A horrifying moan blared at them from the roadway as the driver of a fifty-foot semi leaned on his horn as he barely guided his rig around them. Spike put his attention back to the road. “If you’re gonna kill me, it’ll have to wait till I get to the shoulder,” he said, and eased the Desoto back into gear. Spike gunned the car back into traffic as fast as he could, a lump in his throat, as he refused to look at his wife. “How the hell did you get here?”
“Willow granted me a wish,” Buffy said.
“Did she, now.”
She didn’t seem to be about to stake him. Of course, he wasn’t looking at her, so he wasn’t altogether sure about that. He passed under an overpass, after considering stopping there and deciding against it.
“Where are we going?” Buffy finally asked.
“What are you doing here?” Spike asked instead.
“I came to talk to my husband,” Buffy said, and nearly caused Spike to run off the road again. Okay. He had to find somewhere.
“Gonna have to wait a sec, pet. Bit too heavy metal out here.” He took the nearest exit and scanned either side for any kind of shelter. It was broad daylight; he was very vulnerable. There. Abandoned truck stop beyond the busy one on the other side of the highway. He turned the car and pulled in under the overhang, beside the gaping holes that had once held gas pumps. It wasn’t safe, but it was shady. He turned the car off and waited.
Buffy looked at his hand, still on the steering wheel. It was still graced by the simple gold band. “Where were you going?” she asked.
“Far away,” he said. He looked at her then. “Does it matter?”
“Yeah,” she said.
He wanted her so badly, he felt as if someone had tied a noose around his gut, and was trying to yank it out of him. She was beautiful. Her hair was down, framing her delicate face, her full lips thoughtfully pursed, glaring those lovely jade eyes at him. She had a bandage on her throat – oh, god, he could still taste her. He looked back to the dashboard. “Say what you came to say,” he said evenly. “Then get out.”
Buffy tensed, her back up. “Excuse me?” she said. “You don’t get to tell me to get out.”
“It’s my bloody car,” he growled.
“Communal bloody property, moron,” Buffy snapped.
“Fine! Then I’ll get out.”
“Go right ahead!”
Spike had his hand on the door handle. Yeah, they were under an overhang. There was still nowhere to go. He stopped. “It’s daylight,” he grumbled.
“Noticed that, did you?” Buffy asked.
Spike rounded on her. “What the hell do you want?”
“You to quit acting like a jerk,” Buffy said.
Spike considered this. “Keep dreaming.”
Buffy chuckled and looked down, gently shaking her head. Spike couldn’t help it. He started laughing, too. “What is it that you want, slayer, I’m going mad.”
“I’m not surprised,” Buffy said. She stared at him. “You fed on me.”
“Chip’s gone,” he said.
“I noticed that.” When he didn’t say anything more she asked, “So that’s it? Big bad’s back, off to slaughter the world?”
“Why not?” he asked. “Makes sense. I can be a monster again, can’t I.”
“Is that what you want?”
Spike stared at the steering wheel. “‘S what I am,” he said finally.
“I don’t think so,” Buffy said. “Tara told me what you asked for.”
Spike rolled his eyes, opened the car door, and stepped out. Buffy was half afraid he was about to go for the sun, and scrambled after him, but no. He just climbed onto the warm hood of his Desoto and stared out at the sunlit world. “Spike.” He pulled out a cigarette and refused to look at her. She knew him pretty well by now. She was pretty sure he smoked those cigarettes only for something to do with his hands. He almost never smoked them down to the butt. “Spike–”
“I ate your psych teacher,” he said frankly. He took drag on his cigarette. “Finally remembered her name this morning. Walsh. Killed a whole room full of soldiers, so fast they didn’t have time to get to the door. Perfect poem of death. Snapped necks, severed spines, smashed skulls like pumpkins.” He turned to look at her. “Loved every second of it,” he said.
“So that’s what you’re going to do now? Be a killer?”
“‘Cause you’re my husband.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Well, yeah, I was going to try and sort this out, you know, conflict resolution and all, but if you’d rather get all moody and throw a bunch of weird mixed signals my way, I can just go home again. Wasted a perfectly good wish trying to get you back. Stupid of me.”
“Yeah, it was,” Spike said.
“Was it?” Buffy demanded. She advanced on him. “You love me.”
“Haven’t exactly been keeping that a secret, pet.”
“Yeah, but you had your perfect chance to throw all this away, without any heartache at all, and you didn’t. You didn’t make that wish, you didn’t steal that time. Unlike Angel, you wouldn’t swallow my beautiful day – or the beautiful terrible six months after. You tried to get a soul. Even if they wouldn’t do it, you asked for one. What was that, Spike? Some stupid whim? Some blood induced impulse that went away with the rising dawn? You were trying to be better, what happened to that?”
“Nothing,” Spike said. “Still trying for it.”
Buffy stopped. “What?”
“There’s a demon,” he said. “Well, there’s a rumor of a demon. In east Africa. Call it a soul finder. For the most part people hunt it down to punish those unlucky sods who ticked off some wizard or some such and died before they could wreck vengeance. Or lonely little Orpheus types who want their pretty princess back. Usually he kills the numbskulls who come begging, but sometimes... every once in a while they’ll give him what he wants. Win through some trial or w’ever, and he’ll give ‘em what they want. Drag a perfect little soul back from heaven or hell. Put the wretched thing in a doll or a baby, even, after bringin’ them back from... wherever.” He shrugged. “Figured if I ask real nice, he’ll just stick my soul back in me.”
Buffy was stunned. “Spike, are you insane?”
He nodded. “Prob’ly.”
“Why on earth would you do that?”
“Shame on you, bitch,” he said quietly. He took another drag off his cigarette. “I’m not dumb enough to think you can accept me like this. Not after what I did to you.”
“You mean left me alive?” Buffy said. She took a step forward and tilted her neck. Yes, there was a wide bandage on one side. But on the other was a perfect oblong of a bite mark, a scar still shiny in her skin despite her slayer healing. “Angel did that,” she said. “Now I told him to, so you don’t have to go kill him for it or anything. He was sick, and injured, and he couldn’t stop. Not until he’d drained me so empty I passed out. I nearly died. If he hadn’t gotten me to the hospital and gotten me a transfusion, I would have. He did what he did... and then he felt really bad about it,” she said, in Spike’s own mocking tone. “You were better than him. You stopped.”
“Yeah. I did,” Spike said. “Staked through the heart every other day for a fortnight, and with a malfunctioning microchip burning a hole in my brain, my beloved slayer’s blood healing me up, tasting like the blood of heaven itself, I did actually manage to stop.” He flicked his cigarette away. It wasn’t even a quarter smoked. “Hooray for me.”
He didn’t sound proud of himself.
“Spike? Did you hear me?” Buffy said. “You stopped. You stopped for me. All these things you’ve been willing to do for me. Well... I’ll take it. If you’re willing to stop killing, I’m willing to make this work.”
“It can’t work, Buff,” Spike said evenly. “Not ‘less I go do this.”
“No!” Buffy grabbed hold of his arms and looked at him. “The soul won’t do it. I know that now. The soul doesn’t do it, the chip doesn’t do it, you do.”
“Yeah,” Spike said. “I do.” He slid down off the hood of the car and gently put her away. “I have to do this, Buffy. Red was right, a curse isn’t clean. But I need something. I need this.”
She caught at his hands. “You don’t have to.”
“Yes,” Spike said, pulling away. “Yes, I do.”
Buffy stepped up to him. “Not for me, you don’t.”
“Buffy, I nearly killed you.”
“No,” Spike said. “Not the bite."
"The gas, Buffy. The gas that you worked like hell to save every one of those sadistic bastards from. That was me.”
Buffy blinked. That hadn’t occurred to her. It had just seemed to fit in with everything she knew of this group that Riley admitted was called the Initiative. She opened her mouth to ask why, and already knew the answer. They’d been torturing him for weeks. They’d castrated him from his life. Of course he wanted them all dead.
“If that gas had worked as fast as it should’ve, everything human in that place would have been dead in five minutes. It leaked out slow. My bet is Red’s little chip-frying spell mucked up their pretty little gas dispensers, like it mucked up all the doors and stuff. Now, they had it set up, I just had to gouge the eye out of your professor and flip their little switch. But that was me. I did that. I wanted to kill every last one of the buggers. And I didn’t give a damn until I heard that milksop call your name.”
He reached up and gently touched her cheek. “I nearly killed you.” He caressed her with his thumb, gazing at her fondly. “If I gave a damn about anyone but you... you’d never have been in danger. You came for me. You came through for me. And I was so gung-ho to slaughter that I nearly took you out, too.”
He stepped away from her. “That’s why I need it. Not to make you love me – you’re gonna do that, or not, as you will. I need it. ‘Cause you wanna save the people I wanna kill. And I can’t love you, and live like that.” He shrugged. “Which leaves me with either that pretty sunny day out there, or this dumb quest. So. There’s a boat to Africa at the docks. And I’m getting on it.” He opened the car door, preparing to make his grand departure.
Buffy stepped up and took hold of his arm. “Do you have the vaguest idea how much this going to hurt?”
Spike smiled. “You think you’re the only one who knew Angel?” Spike said. “I knew him when he first got the damn thing. I’ll be fine.”
Buffy shook her head. “Angel’s soul was never as tender as yours would be.”
Spike closed his eyes, shy. “Yeah, I get that.” Then he looked up. “But he never killed slayers, either. I think I’m stronger than him. I’ll deal.” He leaned forward and kissed Buffy very gently on the lips. “Stay safe, slayer. If I come back at all, I’ll come for you. Then you can decide how you want.”
Buffy had already decided. By the time he’d closed his car door, she’d opened the other one, and climbed in.
“Buffy, what are you doing?”
“What’s it look like?” She dug for the seatbelt. It always liked to hide in this damn car.
“I’m not going back.” Spike sighed, as he realized she’d gotten here on a wish. She was stranded. “I can drop you at the bus station, I guess. Stupid woman.” He put the car in gear and looked behind him to back up. “Really ought to learn how to bloody drive,” he muttered.
“I’m not going to any damn bus station,” Buffy said. “Take me to the docks. If you don’t need a passport, I guess I don’t either. We stowing away, or what?”
Spike stopped the car so suddenly it stalled out. “What?”
“I’m not letting you face this damn thing alone,” Buffy said. “You yourself said it might kill you. Well.” She squared her shoulders. “I’m the slayer. I protect people. We’ll see if I let any creepy soul-finder thing kill my husband.”
“Buffy, what are you saying?”
“I’m saying, if you have to fight this demon or deal with him or whatever to earn your soul, you should do it with a slayer at your back. Like to see him beat you down with me standing beside you.” She glared at him. “What? You expected me to sit on the shore line waving my little white handkerchief like the maiden in a Victorian ballad, just waiting for some idiot to come back from the wars? You know better than that, moron.” Buffy sat back more comfortably. “If you’re gonna go on this epic literally soul-searching quest, you’re just gonna have to do it with your wife tagging along.” She pointed ahead. “Start the damn car. We’re married, god dammit. We’re gonna face this thing together, or you’re not facing it at all.”
Spike stared at her. “God damn it, woman, you are the bloodiest damn thing...!”
“I’m stubborn, too,” she said. “Are you gonna drive, or what?”
Spike’s lips cracked into a smile, and he laughed. A moment later he had Buffy sprawled across the wide front seat, all but devouring her lips, her face, her throat, her warm strong body moving beneath him, his own sweet slayer wife, alive, perfect, his for the taking.Fortunately, the boat didn’t actually leave til midnight.
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