|Revenant by dreamweaver|
|Chapter #1 - Chapter 1|
‘Pinch Hitter’ was fluff and fun. This is fluff too, but a little more angsty. The other side of the coin. :D The wonderful banner is by Julie A.
Life sucked, thought Buffy, trudging gloomily through her patrol.
Ever since the PTB brought her back after Willow’s Adjoining spell ended up dropping Buffy into limbo, things had been in a constant upheaval. The PTB had brought over an older Buffy from another dimension to pinch hit while she was gone and that Buffy had had a disturbing effect on everyone and had left an unsettling legacy behind her when she had finally returned to her own dimension.
That Buffy (call her Buffy2 for convenience, Buffy thought irritably) had been four years older than she. Buffy2 had come from four years further along their timeline, which meant she knew everyone’s futures, both things like the apocalypses that were going to happen and the things that the Scoobies themselves would do in the future. She had apparently had a lot to say to everyone about the way they were going to behave and she had left an inch thick folder for Buffy to read.
Some good things had come out of it. Willow now had a tutor. Giles had set that up and Willow was blooming under that tutelage and becoming more responsible about how she used her magics. Sending Buffy to limbo like that had given her pause.
Giles was also different. He kept talking about grays and encouraging Buffy to network with the non-harmful demons in Sunnydale. That was working out very well, so it was obvious that Buffy2 had known what she was talking about.
Buffy had realized that right away the minute she started reading that folder Buffy2 had left for her. That folder had become Buffy’s bible. She read and reread it obsessively. The folder not only listed the things that had happened in the other Buffy’s dimension and might happen here, but it also provided the reasons why and suggestions on how to avoid the bad things like Big Bads called Glory or the First Evil.
What disturbed Buffy the most was what Buffy2 had to say about people. About Buffy herself and the Scoobs and Giles and Angel and Riley.
Like Willow’s addiction to magic, for instance, which really was an addiction to power, Buffy2 said; to making people do what she wanted. Buffy had never seen that, but once it was pointed out, it was obvious. Willow was insecure, which was why she needed to make sure things stayed in the tracks she ordained for them. But that was being corrected now. The tutor was not only teaching her about consequences and how to handle her magic, but was giving her confidence in herself too.
Giles was making big strides away from the Council’s indoctrination and Buffy could see the difference in him. He was far more flexible and openminded. He had always been so insistent that only a creature having a soul could be good. That was gone now. Working with non-harmful demons had worn that rule away, replacing it with a ‘how do they act?’ Which really did make more sense, Buffy had to admit.
Xander had always been the worst of them, the most intolerant of demons. But now with Willow and Tara talking at him and with Giles’ changed attitude, that too was starting to diminish.
And then there was what Buffy2 had to say about Angel. Once the fracas was over, he had gone back to L.A., saying that it was too dangerously tempting for him and Buffy to spend too much time together and that he would come back whenever he was needed. But, after reading Buffy2's folder, Buffy wondered just how much she could really rely on him. He had his own life in L.A. and his focus on his personal redemption seemed far more important to him than Buffy did. Which was only natural, but it left Buffy hanging.
What Buffy2 had said about Angel was hard to digest, but it was nothing to what she had to say about Riley. Buffy2 had been scathing about the evils of the Initiative and the way Riley not only followed but agreed with their precepts. Riley was the Initiative’s poster boy. And Giles was leery of him too. Giles had never really paid much attention to Riley before. Riley was just Buffy’s boyfriend. But something must have happened while Buffy was in limbo, because Giles now had a marked distrust of Riley and avoided him whenever possible.
On top of that, Buffy2 said that Riley was going to start screwing around with vamp hos and then walk out on her and marry someone else and come back to rub that in Buffy’s face. Buffy knew that Riley hadn’t done that yet and maybe never would, if she kept an eye on him. But having to keep an eye on him was a distasteful thing in itself. It meant that she couldn’t trust him and that made Buffy uneasy and uncomfortable with him. Which put Riley on edge, so the whole thing blew up one day, with him calling her on it and her retaliating with some of the things Buffy2 had said about him.
It all ended up in a screaming match, with him saying she was still hung up on Angel and had never loved him and didn’t even get off when she was sleeping with him. All of which was true, but how had he known that last part? Buffy had always thought she had covered up her inability to climax very successfully. Then Anya told her that Buffy2 had flung it in his face one day when she got mad. Buffy couldn’t help finding that funny, although it must have been disastrous to Riley’s ego.
In the end he had walked out and gone off to Belize, just as Buffy2 had said he would, only a little earlier.
So here she was all alone again and likely to be alone forever, if some of the things Buffy2 said in her folder were correct. No human could ever satisfy a Slayer, said Buffy2, who should know if anyone did. So where did that leave her? There was no such thing as a male Slayer. Was she supposed to get it on with a demon?
Buffy2 had. With Spike, of all people. That creeped Buffy out more than a little. Spike was a vamp. And Buffy2 was a vampire slayer. That was just plain wrong! But Buffy2 had taken Spike with her to that other dimension and everyone, even Xander, said that they were madly in love.
But Buffy2 had a lot to say about Spike in her folder. She had never thought that Spike would be allowed to accompany her, so she had gone into great detail about Spike and what he had done for her in her dimension and why Buffy should let this Spike leave Sunnydale and not stake him, even though he wasn’t chipped anymore.
Angel wasn’t chipped, but Angel had a soul. Which made all the difference. Or did it? Buffy2 said Spike had a heart. Which seemed to work the same or even better by all accounts, if she believed what Buffy2 said about him sacrificing himself first in the Hellmouth and then in Angel’s future fight with the Senior Partners.
Buffy had seen him with Dru, seen the care he had taken with her. Yeah, he had loved Dru. And he must have loved the other Buffy to die for her like that. The trouble was that Spike was unique. Buffy had never met or even heard of another vamp who loved like that.
Heck, she didn’t think she herself could love like that. Buffy2 did, but that didn’t mean that she ever could. Buffy2 wasn’t her and had gone through a lot of things that she never would. Maybe she was selfish and self-centered and incapable of love, like Riley had flung at her during that last nasty quarrel.
There was a small commotion going on in the middle of Restfield. Buffy could hear the high, piping voices of Firoud agitated about something. She ran forward hurriedly. The Firoud were small, rather charming, non-harmful demons. She liked them and didn’t want them to get hurt in a hassle with the kind of vicious and murderous demon that sometimes turned up around the Hellmouth.
They were surrounding a dark figure standing in the shadow of a crypt, chattering at it excitedly.
“Where the hell am I?” the figure demanded. It was a male voice, blurred and shaken. “This sure isn’t Hell!”
“Sunnydale, Sunnydale!” the Firoud chorused back.
“Sunnydale’s a sodding hole in the ground!”
The figure staggered away from the crypt and into a clear area between tombstones. Moonlight washed over platinum hair, a black duster, black jeans and black tee.
Buffy’s mouth fell open in shock.
The Firoud ran towards her, shouting. “Slayer, Slayer! Look, look! Spike, he is back!”
It was Spike. He swung around to stare at her.
He jerked towards her, not even noticing the stake she had raised automatically at the presence of a vamp in front of her. His hands swept to cup her face, then his mouth was on hers.
Her knees almost gave. Not even Angel had ever kissed her like this, with so much passion and intensity. And forget about Riley, who had never been capable of rising above the mildly pleasant, never had this depth of feeling, and clearly hadn’t known the first thing about kissing. She fell helplessly against him, her mouth responding involuntarily to his, her whole body turning suddenly to flame under the thrust and slide of his tongue.
Whoever thought anyone could make her feel like...
‘Oh, my God!’ she thought in horror. ‘This is Spike! What am I doing?’
Her hands found his chest and thrust against it forcefully. He tore his mouth away and gasped. She realized in appalled disbelief that her own breath was shuddering and that her body was trembling violently.
“Shouldn’t have done that,” he muttered. “Know you don’t want it. Sorry, sorry. Couldn’t help it.”
His hands were still cradling her head, his eyes gazing deeply into hers.
“Buffy!” he breathed.
No one had ever spoken her name like that before—in awe and wonder and pure joy. No one had ever looked at her as he was looking at her—with so much love and tenderness and delight.
“God, it’s been a year!” he whispered. “A whole year since I’ve seen you! I can’t believe you’re here!”
His chest was solid under her palms. He wasn’t a phantom. Well, after that annihilating kiss, she sure knew that.
“You’re her Spike.”
“The other dimension’s Spike.”
He pulled back in bewilderment and the moonlight fell across her face. His eyes widened in shock as he finally registered that she was not the Buffy he had thought she was. He hadn’t moved past the wonder of her presence until now.
“You’re...younger! How...?” He turned his head and stared around him. “It’s Restfield! It’s Sunnydale! But Sunnydale’s gone!”
“Not here. You’re in another dimension, Spike, and it’s the beginning of August, 2000.”
He let her go abruptly and jerked back, then swayed and nearly fell. She caught his arm and guided him down onto a tombstone.
“Your time is two thousand and four or five, isn’t it?”
“Yeah. My time...?” he muttered disbelievingly under his breath.
He was as different to her as she seemed to be to him. It wasn’t the Spike she knew, cocky, snarky, arrogant, the coldly lethal killer only kept in check by the chip. There was a warmth to him now, a softness in his eyes, a vulnerability.
“You’re from another dimension, Spike. But...” She frowned. “How is it possible? You died there.”
“Died. Yeah. We fought. It was a battle with the Senior Partners. That lance...” His hand went to his heart, then he looked down in bewilderment when there was no wound there. “It went straight through my heart. I should have dusted...”
“I think you did dust. But something’s brought you back. What do you remember?”
“The lance. Then...a place.” His brows flicked together as he struggled to remember. “A good place. Everything was possible. I felt lo...” He broke off abruptly, his lips tightening. “I felt welcome.”
She watched him with a kind of awe. It wasn’t limbo. She’d been there and hadn’t even been aware of it. “Was it Heaven, do you think?”
Angel had gone to Hell. Everyone thought Spike would too. He had killed thousands of people over the last twelve decades. But then he had saved the whole world, billions of people, when he had sacrificed himself in the Hellmouth. And then there was that battle with the Senior Partners. Maybe he had earned Heaven after all.
“Don’ know...I can’t...It’s all going away. It wasn’t Hell though.” He rubbed his hands roughly across his face. “I need a drink.”
She laughed a little. “I guess you do. There should be one in your crypt. Unless some demon’s taken the place over.”
“Crypt. Yeah. Year 2000, right. I had a crypt then, din’ I?”
“What did you have when you were with Angel?” she asked as he got up and they headed for his crypt.
“This grotty little basement flat some wanker got for me, thinking he could use me. Never cared for it.” He grinned crookedly. “ Liked the crypt a whole lot better.”
He was swaying a little as he walked. She put out a hand to steady him and he glanced down at her, his brows rising a little.
“So how come you’re not staking me, Slayer?”
“The other Buffy said I shouldn’t.”
“The one from your dimension.”
“I really need that drink,” he muttered.
“Yeah, it’s a little complicated.”
“I should say.” He was frowning. She could see that he was thinking rapidly, working out what was happening and slotting everything into its proper place. Spike had always been very good at that, picking things up from remarkably few clues. He had demonstrated that when Adam had him set them all against each other.
“Do you still have that chip?” she said abruptly.
He said nothing for a moment, then let out a slow breath. “It malfunctioned and you...my Buffy had it taken out.”
“Then maybe I really should be staking you,” she muttered.
“Won’t kill, Slayer.”
“How do I know that? That chip was the only thing holding you back and now it’s gone.”
“One can choose not to kill. It’s not a compulsion. And the chip’s not the only thing holding me back.”
“What else would work?”
She stopped dead and stared at him. “You’ve got a soul? Oh, come on! What, some other gypsy wandered by and cursed you, the same way one cursed Angel? Yeah, right.”
“Wasn’t cursed. Fought for it. Won it.”
“You...chose to get a soul?” No vampire had ever done that. Even Angel had had his soul forced on him. But it would explain that unfamiliar softness in his face, that vulnerability in his eyes, the difference she felt in him. “But why? Why would you do something like that?”
He said nothing, just turned away, not meeting her eyes.
“For her,” she said and he hunched his shoulders uncomfortably.
“Thought it would make a difference. It didn’t.”
She stood staring after him, her mouth open, as he walked away from her, his head a little down. That was an unbelievable thing for a demon to do. In a way, it was more of a sacrifice than when he had died in the Hellmouth. To burn would have been agonizing, but finally there would have been an end to the pain. To get a soul was to scarify one’s being with pain and guilt for all the centuries of his possibly immortal unlife. It was a huge, a magnificent thing to do.
Why hadn’t Buffy2 mentioned it? She had said nothing about the soul in that folder. Buffy suddenly realized why. The Spike of this dimension whom Buffy2 had been trying to protect by writing those notes didn’t have a soul, so she hadn’t remembered to mention that the one in her dimension did. She hadn’t thought about it at all. It hadn’t mattered to her. She had proved that when she had taken their Spike with her, soulless and chipless as he was. That Buffy didn’t care whether Spike had a soul. She just loved him.
‘I didn’t know I did until he was burning up in the Hellmouth,’ she had written. ‘And then it was too late. I told him I loved him. But he didn’t believe me. Why should he? I’d treated him so badly. I’ll never forgive myself for that.’
Spike had reached his crypt. She shook herself out of her stupor and ran after him.
“Bit dusty,” he said wryly, holding the door open for her. “Hang on while I get some light for you.”
He lit a few banks of candles. Everything seemed to be just as this dimension’s Spike had left it. No other demon had moved in.
Spike was looking in the fridge. “There’s a couple of cans of cola in here. Must’ve got them for you. Would you like one?”
He poured a can into a glass and handed it to her, then poured himself some JD and stood leaning back against a sarcophagus, sipping his drink while she seated herself in his old green armchair.
“Bring me up to date,” he said. “What other Buffy were you talking about?”
She explained what had happened, how Willow’s spell had sent her to limbo and how Buffy2 had been brought here to take her place and then had been returned when the PTB finally figured out how to fix things and bring Buffy back.
“So everyone’s in their right place now,” he said slowly at the end.
“Well, sort of,” she said wryly, thinking of this dimension’s Spike being now in the other dimension.
“Sort of is right. What am I doing here? This isn’t my dimension.”
“Well, see, two of the same thing can’t exist in any dimension. They explode or something. I suppose that’s why whoever sent you back couldn’t send you to your own dimension and had to send you here instead. There’s already a Spike there now. Buffy took ours with her.”
“She did what? Why?”
“Well, she loved him and she didn’t want to be without him, so the PTB...”
“Bloody hell! What did that wanker do to make her love him that I didn’t?” With a violence that startled her so that she jumped, he flung his glass against the wall where it smashed into sparkling fragments.
“She loved you, Spike, and he was you and...” Whoa, this was complicated!
He sat down suddenly on the floor and leaned wearily back against the sarcophagus, his elbows on his bent knees and his head back against the stone.
“She didn’t love me. She never did.”
“She did. She said so. She said she even told you that, but you didn’t believe her.”
“In the Hellmouth...”
“She didn’t mean it. She just said that because I was dying. Just some pretty thing to say to make up for the death.”
“She meant it, Spike.” She looked at him with compassion, seeing the grief and the pain in his face. “I can show you. She left me a telephone book sized folder telling me things. There’s a lot about you in it. I’ll bring it over tomorrow and you can read it.”
He gave a little breath of laughter. “Telephone sized book? And you don’t like to read.”
She laughed too, wryly. “Yeah, that is funny.”
“Funny. Too right, it’s funny. Cosmic joke, it is.” He wasn’t looking at her. He was looking into space and his face was bitter and desolate. “After all I did, after all I went through, he gets the girl.”
She hadn’t seen it from his perspective until then. She had been thinking only of Buffy, who had finally gotten the man she loved. But this was the man who’d made the sacrifices that their Spike had profited from.
“Oh, Spike, I’m so sorry!”
He sighed deeply. “Not your fault. Not his either, I suppose. Just the breaks. I’m just so tired of being jerked around by some higher power. ‘Let’s have a little more fun with him, eh?’ Don’t you get the feeling sometimes that somewhere someone is laughing?”
She didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t make the situation worse. It had been just a rhetorical question anyway. He had his forehead down on his crossed wrists, his face hidden. She let him be, feeling an unwilling surge of pity and compassion for him. It just wasn’t fair, what had happened to him.
After a long while, he said, “What do I do now?”
“Anything you like.” She spread her hands. “You don’t have to stay in Sunnydale. You can go anywhere you want. I won’t stop you. You said you wouldn’t kill. Does the soul keep you from even feeding?”
“Yeah. Doesn’t stop me exactly. Just tells me it’s wrong, so I...don’t want to.”
“Like Angel.” A thought struck her. “He’s got a detective agency over in L.A. You could...”
“No.” His voice was flat and hard. “Not again. We trusted him the last time and he suckered us.”
He shrugged at her quick glance.
“God knows what he was trying to accomplish with that fight with the Senior Partners. Go out in style maybe. I didn’t mind. I like a good fight and I wasn’t caring much about staying alive by that time. But Wes and Gunn died because they were human and he sent them up against demons. I don’t know what happened to Illyria or Lorne.”
“I don’t know about this Lorne guy, but Illyria survived, the way I hear it. But when it was all over, she left for another dimension.”
“Yeah, Blue still had a lot of Fred in her. Wes dying hit her hard. Angel make it?”
There was a little silence. Then he sighed.
“Mind if I stick around Sunnydale for a while, pet? I won’t get in your way. Just need to get my head together, figure out what to do.”
“Sure. Take as much time as you like.” She got up, then hesitated. “Just don’t...don’t stake yourself.”
“Past that point now, luv.” Then he gave her a twisted smile. “Whoever is it would only bring me back again anyway. Don’t think they’re through playing with their toy yet.”
“Hey, things will work out,” she said, trying to lighten the mood. “Where there’s life, there’s hope, right?”
“Sursum cauda, eh?”
“Up with the tail.” He grinned wryly when she laughed.
“I’d better go. Thanks for the drink, Spike,” she said as she rose, then glanced around the crypt. “Where do you sleep? I never thought about that before. On the sarcophagus? That can’t be comfortable.”
“There’s a downstairs, Slayer.”
“Should be by this point in time. I know I was working on it that year.” He got up and went to a trapdoor at the back of the crypt and pulled it open. “Oh, yeah. He got it finished.”
“Then I don’t have to worry.”
He looked around, puzzled. “You’re worrying about me? Doesn’t sound like the Buffy I remember from that year. She’d have staked me without a thought.”
She would have if it hadn’t been for Buffy2.
“There’ve been some changes made,” she said uncomfortably. “You’re different, I’m different. Guess we’ll have to get used to each other. Oh! Riley’s gone, but there are still some Initiative people hanging around, so be careful.”
He frowned. “I’m still trying to get the time frame sorted out. Mr. Bits is history, right?”
“Yeah, Adam’s dead and the Initiative’s been pulled out. But there’s still some military about. Mostly admin and MPs taking care of the last little details, I think. No one’s grabbing demons to experiment on now, but it would be safer to keep out of their way.”
“Captain Cardboard’s gone? In my dimension, he hung around for nearly a year more.”
She shrugged awkwardly. “We decided to call it quits.”
He glanced at her, his face gentle. “He wasn’t worthy of you, Slayer.”
“That’s what the other Buffy said. Did he really go with vamp hos?”
“Yeah, he did. Moronic thing to do. Could have gotten turned and then he’d have been a real danger to you and your Mum and the Scoobs. Can’t think of anything more brainless and irresponsible. Held that against him a lot more than him shoving that plastic stake through my heart.”
She swung around to stare at him. “He did what?”
“Just trying to teach me a lesson. Telling me he’d do it for real if I didn’t keep away from you.”
And why was she shocked? A plastic stake wouldn’t have killed Spike, but it would have hurt him immensely and torture like that was right up Riley’s alley. She saw that now. He had never flinched from any ugly thing the Initiative had demanded of him. Even the time he had helped rescue Oz was when he had realized Oz was Buffy’s friend; the cruelties done to Oz and other demons hadn’t bothered him until then.
“Well, I’d better go,” she muttered and moved towards the crypt door.
She turned. “Yes?”
He was just looking at her, his gaze soft and sad and wistful as it lingered on her face. Her skin heated under that silken look and she flushed.
“Just...Buffy. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any Buffy. I just like to look at you. You’re so beautiful.”
This wasn’t the Spike she knew. He was so different from the Spike she knew. It frightened her.
“I’ll, uh, I’ll see you around, Spike,” she said hastily and fled.
|Chapter #2 - Chapter 2|
Okay, so Spike was back. She could live with that, especially when he wasn’t the Spike who got on her last nerve with his arrogance and his attitude so that she had to grit her teeth to keep from dusting him, even when he was chipped and couldn’t fight back.
The soul had changed him. It wasn’t just that it kept him from killing. It was more than that. The humanity in him had been activated. He wasn’t just a vamp anymore. Or maybe it wasn’t the soul at all, but the experiences he had gone through.
Or maybe...it was his heart.
Because the soul had come after. His heart was what made him go and get it. The guilt that his soul had brought him kept Angel on the straight and narrow. With Spike, it was loving that other Buffy Summers.
It made him a danger. Because she felt sorry for him, was softening towards him. She had to remember that he was a vamp. Yeah, Angel was a vamp and she trusted him. That was different. Angel had had his soul for a century. Time had tested his resolution not to do evil. Not so with Spike.
She had to keep her guard up.
“Slayer!” someone called and she swung around, almost dropping the binder she had tucked under her arm when she had left the dorm. It was Willy, coming out of one of the frat houses.
“What are you doing on campus?” she asked suspiciously.
“Making a delivery. Got some news you might pay to have.”
“Spike’s back,” she said flatly and watched with enjoyment as his face fell. “I know. But how do you?”
“He came into the bar last night. Wanted to get severely plastered and did.”
Buffy frowned. “Where is he now?”
“A Brachen female took him home. She won’t have gotten much use out of him. He was blotto.”
Buffy gave him a glance of distaste. She thought she knew which particular Brachen female that had been and Fasra would have seen Spike home out of concern, not what Willy was implying.
“When are you going to dust him, Slayer?” Willy was asking eagerly.
“Making book on that? I’m not going to tell you.”
“Oh, come on,” he wheedled. “I’d split the profit with you.”
“Out of my sight, Willy.”
She held up her clenched fist. “If you know what’s good for you.”
He cringed and went. Buffy forgot about him the minute his back was turned.
Spike’s crypt was deserted when she walked in. The bottle of Jack Daniels that he had drunk from last night now lay empty on the floor with another one equally empty beside it. And even after that, he had still gone to Willy’s for more. She had to admire his capacity for booze. And couldn’t blame him for needing the forgetfulness the booze would have brought him.
The trap door leading to the space below was open and light was coming up from it. She went down warily, then turned in a full circle when she got to the foot of the ladder, staring about her in surprise. The other Spike had made it unexpectedly cosy down here. It seemed he liked his comforts. There was a big bed, rugs, candles, shelves of books. A lamp had been left on, over on a table at the far side of the room where its light would not glare on the bed.
Spike was flat on his stomach in the middle of the bed, sprawled as if he had been thrown down from a great height, his face buried in his arms. He was out cold and probably would be like that for the rest of the day, until the booze wore off.
She walked over quietly and put the binder she had brought on the night table where he would see it when he came to. The binder held all the pages that had been in the folder that Buffy2 had left her.
She glanced at him to make sure that she hadn’t woken him, then found her gaze lingering on his body. He was naked and the sheet he had yanked over him just barely covered his ass. Whoa. Would you look at that! Alabaster skin, strong fine bone, lean and totally ripped muscle.
Riley had worked out—to the point of pushups first thing in the morning, God!—but he had been the beefy kind, hadn’t had this cut shape, this perfect definition. The palms of her hands itched, wanting to touch that really gorgeous bod in front of her.
And she wasn’t thinking that way about Spike! He was Spike, for God’s sake, the bane of her life. Only he wasn’t that Spike, was he? Yeah, but he was hopelessly in love with another woman. In another dimension, retorted her treacherous mind. Shut up! she told herself furiously and got out of there as fast as she could.
So she wanted to jump his bones. Naked guy, that kind of absolutely tempting naked guy, who wouldn’t? It was lust, that was all. The sudden realization of what was under the black tee and jeans. Just put it out of your mind, she told herself angrily; you’re not that kind of girl; you know how unsatisfying just fucking can be. Been there, done that with Parker, and what a bust that had been! She was the kind that needed a connection and there was no connection possible with Spike. She had principles after all.
But she couldn’t help thinking about the way he had kissed her, the passion and the intensity and the delight of it. It had started a slow burn inside her that she couldn’t dismiss. The taste of his mouth and the deep sensuality of the thrust and slide of his tongue and the way his body had felt against hers.
She suddenly remembered the time he had kissed her during that ‘will be done’ spell of Willow’s, not long after he was chipped. They had been hating each other then, but under Willow’s spell they had fallen for each other, hadn’t been able to stay out of each other’s arms, had spent the whole time kissing. And the thing she hadn’t admitted to herself after the spell was over and they had gone back to hating each other once again was that those light, easy, teasing kisses had aroused her more than Riley, trying his best, ever had. It was part of the reason she had been so antipathetic to Spike—the way he made her feel.
Had been? No, was antipathetic!
She went to her classes and then on patrol when it got dark and the monsters would start coming out. When she realized that she had deliberately bypassed Restfield, she bit her lip and forced herself to go there. Avoiding the problem was useless. Might as well face it head on.
Spike was sitting in his worn green armchair when she walked in, the binder open on his lap. His face was wet.
She turned away, making a business of settling her stake neatly into its sheath in the small of her back, giving him time to recover. Out of the corner of her eye, she was aware of him swiping hurriedly at his face with the heel of his hand.
“So,” she said lightly. “Have you read that?”
“A couple of times, yeah.” His voice was blurred and thick.
“All those things that she says will happen, did they happen?”
He swallowed and his voice went back to normal. “Yeah, they did.”
“So I really do have advance warning. Good. Can I ask you a favor?”
“Yeah, sure, anything.”
“It’s my Mom. Buffy2 got her to have a CAT scan done and, sure enough, they found a tumor. But the hospital was backlogged, so they’re only going to go in to take it out a couple of weeks from now. The thing is, Buffy2 said the operation would go all right, but...”
“The aneurysm. Yeah.”
“Vamps can watch for it, right?”
“Sure. Nothing we can’t sense about blood. Even the hospitals can with their CATs and MRIs. It’s not hard to fix once it’s detected. I think they clip the blood vessel or block it with material.”
“So I was going to ask Angel to come over to keep an eye on her, but who knows how long he’d have to wait around for it to show and...”
“I can do that, pet, seeing as how I’ll be around.”
“Thank you!” she said with relief.
“No big.” He smiled at her. “I like your Mum, Slayer.”
“She likes you too.” She turned to the door, then hesitated. “I’m going on patrol. Want to come?”
It would be better for him than sitting around brooding or drinking himself into a coma.
He looked at her in surprise. “You want me to help you patrol?”
“Unless you have some objection to killing other demons.”
He grinned involuntarily. “Don’ care what I kill, pet. Despite the soul. Just like to kill. But you never liked me tagging along before.”
“Well, I was wrong,” she muttered. “It’s hit me that you could be useful, the kind of fighter you are.”
“Happy to help. And is that a compliment? I may die of shock.”
“Enjoy the moment ’cause you’ll probably never get another one from me.”
“As if I didn’t know.”
He followed her out of the crypt, telling himself to keep on kidding her like that, keep things light. It was hard to smile, but there was no point on laying his depression on her. He’d learned long ago that no one was interested in anyone else’s pain. Until he had got his soul, he’d always been pretty open about his feelings, but he had always tried not to show his pain. Pain was like blood in the water to vamps; he’d have been giving them the opportunity to rip him to shreds. And humans never cared how a vamp felt. Years of abuse from Buffy and the Scoobies had demonstrated that to him very thoroughly.
Reading that binder had cut him up with both pain and joy. Buffy had loved him after all. It hadn’t just been a comforting lie. No one had ever loved him before. And here Buffy had. He could hold that knowledge to him, close and warm and cherished, the one light in the darkness.
That was the joy. The bitterness came from losing that love and knowing it was his own fault that he had lost it. If he hadn’t been such a coward, if he only had believed her when she had said it there in the Hellmouth, if he only had gone to her once the amulet brought him back or rather when that flash of light had made him solid and freed him from being bound to L.A., he would be the one with her now, not that other Spike. He had thrown it all away.
Because he had been terrified of being rejected yet again. Or of being taken back only because she thought she owed him after what he had done in the Hellmouth. He was used to rejection, used to always losing. So used to it that he hadn’t seen that everything that he had ever wanted was right within his grasp. And so he had lost it after all.
And now what? What was he going to do with himself? The long years of his unlife stretched barren before him. He couldn’t go back to the easy, hedonistic, meaningless life of a vampire. The soul made that impossible. He liked action. Do what Angel was doing? Helping the helpless, except in some other city? New York, maybe. No, Cleveland. Hadn’t someone said there was another Hellmouth there? That would give him a purpose.
He grinned twistedly, remembering Wes and Gunn coming after him when he had started doing that in L.A. When Angel helped the helpless, Angel was regarded as a hero; when he started doing it, they called him a vigilante. The usual double standard both the Fang Gang and the Scoobies reveled in.
It hadn’t satisfied him though, saving those people. That ponce Lindsey had tried to build it up big, but it had seemed just a drop in the ocean for him. Angel maybe had seen every rescue as a step closer to redemption, but Spike didn’t care about redemption and, after the Slayer and her apocalypses, it all seemed rather small potatoes to him, though certainly it had meant their very lives to the people he saved. The soul was mildly pleased with that, but it still wasn’t enough to really motivate him.
He watched the Slayer sauntering lightly in front of him. It was a pleasure to see her like this, young and untroubled. Bad things had happened to her, yeah, but so far not the really dark ones. She hadn’t died and been resurrected, hadn’t gone through the trauma of losing Heaven, hadn’t been betrayed by her loved ones as badly as she would be, hadn’t turned into that grim, stoic warrior that she had had to be to face the First.
The darkness hadn’t touched her yet. She was still naive and innocent. He looked at her with tenderness, wanting to keep her that way, shield her from everything that was coming.
He suddenly had a blinding epiphany. There it was! His purpose. To protect her. Do whatever was necessary to keep her safe. Change those things he knew were coming.
That had to be why he had been brought here! Maybe the PTB had done it. They must want things to be changed, otherwise why would they have allowed the other Buffy to write all those warnings in that binder? They wouldn’t have done that if they had wanted things to go the way they had in his dimension.
Spike started to smile slowly. This Buffy wouldn’t love him the way his Buffy finally had. But that didn’t matter. It was hardwired into him to need someone to cherish and protect. And here she was.
This wasn’t his Buffy, but it was still Buffy. He belonged to her. She wasn’t his, but he was hers. Written in stone, that was.
And this time he wouldn’t ask anything back Wouldn’t make the same mistakes, demanding things from her that she wasn’t willing to give, demanding that she love him. Maybe it was the soul that finally showed him that it was enough sometimes to simply love and ask nothing in return.
He suddenly realized that they were nowhere near any of the cemeteries.
“Uh, Slayer, where are we going?”
She looked back over her shoulder and flushed a little. “Well, you know, I thought it might be better for Giles and the Scoobs to know that you’re around. That way, they won’t suddenly stumble over you somewhere in Sunnydale and maybe stake you because they don’t know any better.”
“Good plan.” He thought of how Giles and Xander would react to him wandering around without a chip in Sunnydale. Probably go into cardiac arrest, he thought and couldn’t help grinning.
“So I called a Scooby meeting over at Giles’ place,” Buffy was saying. “I haven’t told them that you’re here yet. Couldn’t say something like that over the phone. I thought it would be better to tell them in person.”
“Got a point.”
“Since you’re here with me, we can make it a Show and Tell. Better than just a Tell, because they’ll be able to see what you’re like now.” She was jittering.
“With the soul,” he said dryly.
“Yeah.” She gave him a nervous glance.
They reached the Watcher’s place and she hesitated for a moment at the front door. He watched her with gentleness as she wavered.
“Don’t have to do this, pet. Don’t have to have anything to do with me.”
“Are you leaving Sunnydale then?”
When there were so many things menacing her? Not a chance. But she didn’t have to know that. He knew how to keep a low profile when necessary. He could stay and she’d never know he was there.
“Do you want me to?”
He could see her considering pros and cons.
“I don’t know,” she muttered. “Will you if I ask you to?”
He didn’t want to go into that, avoided a direct answer.
“I could help, pet. I can be useful. Think of me as a weapon you can use and put aside. An attack dog at your disposal. Point me at a target. I’ll take it down for you.”
She looked at him intently, seeing the possibilities.
“Not a dog,” she said. “A partner.”
That was more than he had hoped for. What Angel could have had and had thrown away.
“Whatever you want me to be,” he said very low, unable to hide his intensity.
She frowned a little, picking that up. Her eyes were wary. Then she nodded abruptly.
“Deal.” She turned to the door. “Let me go in first.”
She saw that they were all there, Willow and Tara on the couch, Xander handing Anya a mineral water at the fridge, Giles pouring himself a Scotch. They all looked around as Buffy walked in and stopped just inside the door.
“So what’s up, Buff?” Xander asked as he and Anya came out of the little kitchen area. “Another apocalypse or something?”
“Something,” said Buffy wryly. “Brace yourselves for a shock.”
Spike stepped in when she put out a hand to him. He looked distinctly amused.
“Aw geez!” said Xander and sat down hard.
“Spike?” said Giles in disbelief. “But...”
“He’s not our Spike,” said Buffy. “He’s the other dimension’s Spike.”
“But the other Buffy said he died in that dimension!”
“Yeah, well, don’t seem to be able to stay dead,” said Spike sardonically. “Someone keeps yanking me back into existence. That’s twice now. Really getting sick of dying, I can tell you.”
“Please tell me he’s chipped,” moaned Xander.
Spike grinned nastily at him. “Not chipped. But don’t shit your pants, wanker. Got a soul instead.”
“A soul!” This time it was Giles who sat down hard in the nearest armchair. “That’s impossible!”
“No, I can see his aura,” Tara said softly. “It’s beautiful, Spike. It glows!”
“Glows, huh?” He made a face. “Never thought I’d end up as a night light. You couldn’t have said it was something diabolical?”
Tara laughed at him and he smiled back ruefully, then glanced at Buffy who was frowning.
“It figures that a demon would prefer something ookie,” grinned Willow.
“Any self-respecting demon would.” Spike was watching them all with some surprise. They weren’t reacting as he expected. They should all have been freaking out at his presence. Xander in particular should have been reaching for stakes and howling threats. Giles should have been fulminating. They were startled, but they weren’t upset. He couldn’t think of a time in his own dimension when hostility hadn’t been behind every word they said to him, irregardless of chip or soul.
“How...?” Watcher was staring at him.
Spike shrugged. “Went through some trials with this demon in Africa.”
He didn’t want to say. He had done it for her, for Buffy, so that he would never hurt her again. But that was too personal to say. Even in the other dimension they hadn’t known all his motives. Hell, he hadn’t known all of them himself.
‘Make me what I was,’ he had said to the demon. And he wasn’t sure what he had meant by that. Certainly he hadn’t wanted to be William again; he had grown past William. Spike was what he was, what suited his psyche. And he hadn’t wanted to be human, to be weak and useless again, like that asshole, Finn. Let Angel yearn to Shanshu. Spike liked the power and the preternatural abilities of a vampire, liked being the Slayer’s equal and wanted to stay that way. When he and Angel had battled for the Cup of Perpetual Torment, he had fought to beat Angel, to win over him, not because he truly wanted to become human. If he had, he would have drunk from the Cup before Angel even got there; Spike had arrived first.
‘So Buffy can get what she deserves,’ he had said to the demon and it had responded by giving him the soul.
He hadn’t known himself what he had meant, so maybe the demon hadn’t either. The nebulous thought in his head had been on the lines of ‘make me someone who won’t hurt her, make me someone she could love, make me worthy of her.’
When Angel had walked out on Buffy, telling her she should have someone normal, he had explained it by saying, ‘You deserve something outside of demons and darkness. You should have someone who can take you into the light.’ But Buffy didn’t need anyone to take her into the light. She was light. And she wasn’t normal, however Angel deluded himself, and no one normal would do for her.
By winning his soul and bringing it home to her like that, Spike had wanted to show her that he wasn’t all darkness anymore, that he now had a little bit of that light, that spark, in him as well and didn’t care how much it hurt him as it burned. Once, for all too short a time, she had seen him as a man, not a monster. But after they had started that disastrous liaison of theirs, she had seen him only as a monster. He had wanted her to see him as a man again, wanted to show her that though he was a vamp, he was still capable of light. It was the best he could do and he had hoped that it would be enough.
It hadn’t worked. Buffy hadn’t loved him. Or maybe it had in the end, because now it seemed that she really had finally loved him. The soul made him understand now what he had done wrong those three months they had been lovers and ripped each other apart. At least he wouldn’t do that again; at least the soul would keep him from ever hurting this Buffy the way he had his own. But he still wasn’t worthy, the way he saw it, though he’d do his best to be.
“Had my reasons,” he said curtly.
“He’s going to be helping me,” Buffy said. “You’re going to see him around Sunnydale and I don’t want any of you dusting him. That should be my decision as a Slayer.”
To his immense surprise, all of them nodded, even that wanker, Harris.
“What’s with them?” he asked Buffy as they headed out for patrol. “I thought they’d be frothing at the mouth.”
She made a rueful face. “The other Buffy kinda raked them over the coals for what they did in her dimension. Things have been a lot different since she came.”
Interesting. A lot of the things that had gone wrong had not been caused by the Big Bads, but by the attitudes of the Scoobies themselves. Things might go better if they kept on feeling chastened. He hoped it took.
A couple of vamps turned up during patrol. They didn’t look like much, so he backed off and watched her with pleasure as she dealt with them. She knew her stuff, though his Buffy had picked up a few moves that this Buffy didn’t know and could use. He wondered whether she’d let him show her or whether she’d be offended at the suggestion.
The Firoud were tracking them. He was aware of the small forms pacing them, scampering silently through the shadows, watching. When Buffy took down a demon, they came swarming out to dismember the body and carry it away.
“Now that’s different,” he remarked and she laughed a little ruefully.
“No cleanup to worry about and it’s good eating for them. Buffy2 had an understanding with the non-harmful demons and I’ve been going along with that.”
“Sensible.” It would have made things easier for his Buffy and it seemed that she had learned that and passed on the knowledge. “How’s Watcher taking it?”
“He’s adjusting. But we haven’t told the Council. And don’t plan to.”
He nodded. The hidebound mentality of Quentin Travers and his Council would not accept a détente between a Slayer and any demon.
He was enjoying being in her company. She wasn’t his Buffy, but it was still a pleasure to be with her. Feel the power in her, watch the expressions on her face, see the movements of that lithe body and the swing of her golden hair. He had missed all of that, was happy just to be in her presence, knew better than to ask for more.
She wasn’t comfortable being in his company though. He could see the uneasy shift of her eyes in his direction every now and again. It would take her a while to get used to him being there, but as long as she didn’t flat out tell him to go, he was going to stick around.
Buffy was relieved when she could call it a night. It felt peculiar to have Spike with her. She was used to patrolling alone or occasionally with one or the other of the Scoobies. Usually after only a few minutes in each other’s company, Spike and she would be snarking at each other. Instead, they were exchanging small talk. She found that very unsettling and uncomfortable. She would have felt more at ease if he had leaped at her throat. That at least would be familiar. And he kept watching her with that strange expression in his eyes. The way he was looking at her felt somehow more dangerous to her than an attack would have been.
They had almost reached the cemetery gates when something hissed at them from the shadows. They both turned sharply. The moonlight glistened on a wet-looking, reptilian shape, purplish and scaled, with muddy green eyes that had no sentience in them. She could hear the agitated piping of the Firoud.
Spike pulled her back when she started to move forward.
“This one’s mine, Slayer.”
He hadn’t interfered when she had taken on the vamps. She supposed it was only fair to let him have this demon.
He called something and suddenly the Firoud were there, skimming around the creature in twisting, dizzying circles. It snarled and lashed out at them, but they were too fast for it, weaving fluidly about it and ducking the slash of its claws.
Spike had ripped one of the pointed metal bars of Tranquility’s fence free and was now using that as a weapon, to her surprise keeping his distance and making no move to close on the thing. It rushed him, trying to grapple, and he shoved it back with the bar. Puzzled, she stepped forward to help.
“It’s a Quenat! Stay away, Slayer!”
“What’s the big? It’s only a demon and killing demons is my job!”
He snapped something and a few of the Firoud suddenly rushed her, pushing and shoving her back.
“Hey, let go, you guys!” she exclaimed in surprise and anger. “Spike!”
He wasn’t listening. He was driving the Quenat back, using the bar like an épée while it hissed and slashed at him. A moment later, he lunged, driving the bar right through its heart, his knee almost on the ground and his arm at full extension. The Quenat fell onto the ground, spasming as it died, its flailing arm striking his hand before he could jerk it away. He shouted in pain and bent over, clutching at his hand.
The Firoud left her and all started dragging him towards the drinking fountain near Tranquility’s gates.
“Water, Spike,” they chorused. “Water.”
“Yeah.” He shoved his hand into the flow as they held the button for him.
Buffy ran to him. “What did it do?”
“Its skin touched me. Quenat, their skin’s covered in slime and the slime’s acid. Burns.”
The back of his hand was black and charred. The water had washed off the slime, but he hissed in pain as the air touched the burn. One of the Firoud pushed his hand back under the flow of cold water. Another reached up and pulled at the scarf around Buffy’s neck.
“What? You want this?” she asked, startled.
She took it off and held it out. The Firoud snatched it from her, then ran off.
“That’s why you wouldn’t let it grab you or let me attack it,” she said to Spike. “Acid.”
He nodded. “Stuff’s like oil of vitriol. Eats through anything. You didn’t know. It’s all right. Vamp healing will fix it in a couple of days.”
The Firoud was back, carrying her scarf smeared now with a paste of sap and some crushed, green plant. It wrapped that around Spike’s hand. He gave a sigh of relief.
“That’s better. Thanks, mate.”
“Why’d you do that?” Buffy said angrily. “You shouldn’t have interfered!”
His brows flicked together. “Did you want to get burned, Slayer?”
“Taking out demons is my job, not yours!”
He gave her a mocking look. “Thought we were partners.”
“I’m not your Buffy!” she said under her breath.
“Never thought you were,” he snapped back.
“Then don’t act as if I were!” she flung back and stomped off.
|Chapter #3 - Chapter 3|
Why did he have to keep protecting her like that? It threw her off balance, made it difficult to keep that cool, professional distance she wanted between the two of them.
“I’m sorry,” she said stiffly to him the next day.
His brows rose. “For what?”
“I never thanked you for taking on the Quenat.” Looking at his hand with her scarf still wrapped around it made her feel guilty.
“Don’t have to.” He hunched his shoulders uncomfortably. “Not used to thanks.”
She glanced at him quickly. He had that set face on, not looking at her.
“From any of you,” he said after a small hesitation.
Which really meant from her, even though he was avoiding saying it. She had clearly neither thanked nor apologized. Buffy was not surprised: both came hard for her. Buffy2 hadn’t gone into detail about what had happened between her and Spike, but the pain behind what she did say suggested that she had behaved very badly. Buffy thought back over how she and the Scoobies had treated Spike ever since he came to them when chipped; they had treated him like a thing, not a person. She winced.
“Does it get worse in the future, what we do?”
His lips tightened, then he shrugged it off. “Doesn’t matter if it did or it didn’t. That’s the other dimension. Won’t happen here, right?”
“I guess.” She was going to make sure it wouldn’t.
“It’s not important, Slayer.” He reached out with his undamaged hand and stroked her hair lightly.
She flinched away unthinkingly and he jerked his hand back.
“Sorry,” he said in a muted voice. “Didn’t mean...”
“No, it’s okay,” she muttered uncomfortably. “That’s nice. It’s just that I’m not used to you being nice.”
He laughed involuntarily. “Never been called that before! God! ’S embarrassing for a demon. Should be hiding my bleeding head in shame!”
It wasn’t the soul that was doing it. She had thought it was in the beginning, but he was just as cutting and snarky as he had always been to Giles and Xander, though he was kinder to the girls and especially gentle with Tara. That piqued Buffy a little. She hadn’t missed the way he had smiled at Tara that evening she had brought him to meet the Scoobies. Then she realized with a little shock of amazement and embarrassment that she was jealous of him smiling at Tara like that. She turned away hurriedly.
But he had caught the surprised glance she threw the two of them.
“She died,” he explained to her later. “And she didn’t deserve to.”
They were in her room at the dorm where they usually ended up after patrol for a quick overview of whatever had happened during the day and to set up the next day’s plans. Buffy grabbed the binder and skimmed through it fast.
“Yeah. But don’t worry, pet. We’ll take care of the Troika early this time around. She won’t die.”
“Good.” Buffy looked away to hide her pleasure at the implication that Spike was planning on still being around two years from now.
She was getting way too used to having him around. As the weeks went by, she grew more and more at ease with his presence. She could talk to him about the problems and triumphs of being a Slayer and he understood. Even Giles didn’t really understand; he always had this ‘sacred duty’ attitude towards it. And the Scoobies had a kind of dichotomy about it—on one hand, she was Buffy, their friend; on the other, she was the superhero, saving the world and having to act perfect all the time. Even Angel was weird like that, insisting she belonged on a pedestal and wanting that ‘perfect’ thing. Spike saw her flaws clearly, accepted them and valued her anyway.
He saw her, understood her. Saw the person she was, not the person he wanted her to be. No one else ever had. She could relax and be herself around him and it was comforting to be known like that. It was a...turn on.
It felt completely natural now to have him there at her left side on patrol. Always on her left side, because he was left-handed and she right, and that kept them from getting in each other’s way and covered the widest fighting arc possible.
Patrols had always been a chore before, but now they were fun with a companion beside her whom she never had to worry about and could rely on completely. She had never had that before. Angel would tell her of a problem, but he often left out important details and never actually fought the fight with her. Spike was right there, telling her all he knew about some situation that might not be mentioned in the all-important binder, fighting the fight right at her side, teasing her, making her laugh, competing with her to see who would make the kill first or most efficiently or use the trickiest moves. She was enjoying having him with her.
His passion for life was what got her. She had never really looked at him before, never really seen him. She was looking now. Soulless or souled, demon or not, Spike reveled in his nature and took joyful pleasure in the world. Enjoyed living and grabbed happily at every new sensation. Duty and responsibility always hung like millstones around her neck; she had always felt she was betraying her calling if she relaxed and simply enjoyed herself. But: “Why not have fun?” asked Spike, flinging himself exuberantly into battle. And now with Spike egging her on and Giles and the Scoobies no longer obsessing about her ‘sacred duty’, she could.
“You’re doing it on purpose, aren’t you?” she said to him once she realized what was happening and he laughed, reaching out to stroke the side of her face lightly with his fingertips. He was a tactile being and she was getting used to those light, caressive, undemanding touches now. The burn on his hand was long gone.
“Gotta love what you’re doing, pet. Gotta get a charge out of it or it’s just a grind. You’re the Slayer. The One Girl. You’re faster, stronger, more powerful than anyone on the planet. Isn’t it a rush?”
“Well, yeah, but...I don’t want to be the One Girl,” she said irritably.
“I don't wanna be this good looking and athletic. We all have crosses to bear.”
She laughed involuntarily, then gave him an exasperated look. “That’s not the point.”
“Sucks to be you, huh? That’s the point, innit? Sniveling about that.”
He cast her a scornful glance. “Still hung up on what that ponce Angel said, aren’t you? Still wanna be ‘normal’. Think you’d like being a shopgirl or a social worker or some other peaceful occupation? You’d hate it, pet. That’s not what you are. That’s not your nature. Can’t ever deny your nature, Buffy. You do and you’re fucked. Why do you think the other Buffy got herself so royally screwed up? She never came to terms with it until the end.”
She stopped, frowning, thinking about that.
He shook his head ruefully. “Everyone else in the whole world wants to be special and here you are special and you’re whining about it.”
“That’s not fair!”
“Life’s not fair. Grow up, Slayer. Face it. You’re never gonna be normal. Deal.”
“That’s so damn depressing,” she muttered.
“Is it? You’re a warrior, Slayer. You’re deadly and you’re lethal and you’re glorious with it. That’s your nature. Enjoy it.”
“Yeah, I’m a killer. Only a demon would think that a positive thing. Riley said I couldn’t love. I think he was right.”
“Ah, pet, you’ve got it bassackwards. You’re not killing because you like killing. You’re killing because you have to. To protect the people of Sunnydale and elsewhere. You go out every night and put your life on the line for them. Greater love hath no man.”
She drew a little sharp breath, staring at him.
“Why do you keep putting yourself down, Slayer? You’re the best. The brightest and the bravest and the most beautiful. A shining light. How can you want to be otherwise? To put that light out, to become normal, would be a sacrilege.”
Angel was the one who wanted normal, who spent his life yearning to Shanshu, yearning to be human. As usual, he saw his way as the only right way and laid it on her. And she had bought into it.
She considered Angel from a new perspective—what she personally knew about him and what Buffy2 had said about him. Angel wanted order. Both he and Angelus in their differing ways wanted order, Angelus to rule, Angel to remain in control of himself. He distrusted passion not only because it was Angelus’ gambit, who used people’s passion and twisted it against them, but also because it broke that control of his. With all those crimes on his shoulders, he was as insecure as Willow. He needed redemption and, to be sure of finally gaining that, kept himself oddly dead inside, needed rules and regulations to keep himself in check, stay in the straight and narrow. He didn’t change, feared change because it shook him out of that path he had so carefully constructed for himself. He was forever on the point of stasis.
No wonder he distrusted and dismissed Spike, that chaos figure breaking every rule he could, that elemental force at once controlled and uncontrollable, rushing at the world and turning it upside down, always dancing on the edge of the abyss. Transformation was Spike’s middle name.
And yet Spike was the one who had always stood beside Buffy2 and now was proving to be the bulwark at Buffy’s own shoulder, empowering her, giving her the belief in herself that she lacked. Angel was always showing up and then walking away. From what Buffy2 said, Spike stayed. Buffy had thought she was alone. But she wasn’t. Here was Spike, who never left.
Bright to Angel’s Dark, chaotic to Angel and Angelus’ mutually rigid order, tactile and full of life to Angel’s remoteness and life-renouncing withdrawal into himself, passionate and out there and without borders, he had become like a standing wave, constantly fluid, yet eternally there.
She had been caught in Angel’s static-dream of forever, never growing past that teenage, star-crossed lovers scenario that they had created between them. It was time to move on.
She was learning. Spike’s version of the world had sharp and painful edges, was raw and messy and disorderly. But it was real; it was true. He was never dead inside, too full of energy, too involved with the world.
Her old retort to the Master sprang to mind and she smiled involuntarily. Well, he might be dead, but he’s still pretty.
“What are you thinking?” he asked, noticing her amusement.
“That you’re beautiful.”
He shot her a sharp, startled glance. “You feeling all right, Slayer?”
She was starting to understand the attraction now, why Buffy2 had been so drawn to him. With the moonlight washing light and shadow over that chiseled body and the sharply defined planes of his face, stressing those killer cheekbones and that beautiful mouth and glinting on his bright hair, he was...tempting. But it wasn’t just that he was hot, it was all the rest of it too.
She stood back to watch him take on a Grathar, his face vivid with laughter and enjoyment. In battle, Spike was a thing of beauty, the swagger changed to fluid grace. He was a warrior through and through and fighting was an essential part of his nature. No wonder he had wanted to stake himself when the Initiative had first put that chip into his head and he thought he could no longer fight. He was right; she didn’t kill for pleasure, only for necessity. For him too, it wasn’t the killing that was important; it was the fighting. Angelus was the one who killed, destroying whole villages in his path. Spike just liked to fight, even against impossible odds and especially when the outcome was in doubt, the fact that he could die proving that he was alive.
So damn hot. She wanted him. Who else was her match? She wanted to find out what Buffy2 had experienced. Angel, also a vamp, was the only one who had ever got her off and that had been only once. But Angel was out of bounds, with that curse of his. She couldn’t take up with him again and put his soul at risk. Parker and Riley had been disappointments. They were human and she had had to hold back to keep from hurting them and so she had never really gotten off. She wouldn’t have to hold back with Spike.
No, no, no. So not going there! It wasn’t fair to Spike. She’d only be using him and besides he was still in love with that other Buffy. It wasn’t right, any way that she looked at it.
Moreover, things were going too well for her to mess them up by indulging herself.
Joyce hadn’t died after her surgery. Spike’s careful watch had caught the incipient aneurysm and Buffy had cooked up a story for the doctor about Joyce having more headaches and had insisted on one more CAT scan. This one pinpointed the aneurysm and the surgeons went in and pinched off the blood vessel before it ruptured. Joyce should now have a long and healthy life.
And she was learning a lot from Spike. Some of the moves he used were unfamiliar to her and, when she remarked on them, he diffidently offered to teach them to her. She leaped at the chance to upgrade her skills and sparring with him was a true pleasure. Giles, Xander or even Riley, drug-enhanced as he had been, had never been satisfactory opponents; she never even broke into a sweat. She had to work to match Spike; she had never had a sparring partner so skilled and so much her equal.
“I’m glad you’re a vamp!” she exclaimed one night after one of the sparring sessions in the cemetery with the Firoud chirping and cheering them on.
He choked on a strangled splutter of rueful laughter. “Never had you say that to me before! The one thing you could never overlook was that I’m a vamp. Guess you like the challenge after all, Slayer. Finally agree that vamps are more fun, right?”
A thought struck her. “If being a vamp was the problem, why didn’t you ask that demon to make you human?”
“And become Captain Cardboard? Even with the drugs, Corncob couldn’t keep up with you.” He gave her a mocking, sidelong glance. “Couldn’t satisfy you, could he?”
She flushed vividly and he laughed.
“Deny it all you like, but it’s the truth. What would you do if Angel ever turned up human? That’s what he’s got a yen for, y’know. That’s the carrot the PTB keep dangling in front of his nose. But is that what you want, Slayer? Your one true love, this time with a soul that won’t go bye-bye, but a body you could break in half. Just another Harris, he’d be, just another Scoobie waiting at home while you fight the monsters.”
She flinched, then glared at him. “Shut up, Spike!”
“Why don’t you people ever think things through? I like being a vamp. I like the speed and the strength and the power. And you need someone who’s your match. I went through those trials for her and I asked for the prize I thought would work. If the soul couldn’t do it, d’you think turning human would?”
“Angel doesn’t want to be human because he wants me. He wants redemption.”
He was silent for a moment, then gave her a twisted smile. “Back to Angel, are we? That’s all any Buffy can see, innit?”
It wasn’t, but she couldn’t tell him that.
“There’s no point in this,” he said suddenly and turned on his heel.
“Why do you stay, Spike?” she flung at him irritably. “What’s in it for you? What’s keeping you here? You should just go.”
He gave her a bleak look.
“Got nothing better to do, do I?” Then in a sudden burst of exasperation, “Because I’m a bloody fool, Slayer!”
And was gone into the shadows.
She glared after him. Why couldn’t he see that she wasn’t hung up on Angel anymore? Seething, she stomped back to the dorm. The Firoud had vanished, picking up her bad mood, and she was all alone.
And aroused. Sparring with him always aroused her, that necessarily intent focus on each other, the give and take of their moves, the violence. Violence had never been a factor in her other three relationships, but it was a factor with him. He woke that in her. Because of her frustration.
She lay in bed, glaring at the ceiling while Willow slept peacefully on the other side of the room. Her breasts ached and she was all buttery and throbbing and, even though it was so wrong, she was dying to jump his bones. God! She got angrier and angrier just thinking about it. At herself, at him.
She was in an absolutely foul temper when she got to Shady Rest the next evening. Spike, coming strolling along, his face remote and collected, only exacerbated her more.
“Whoa,” he said, stopping in front of her. “If looks could kill, I’d be a flaming pile of dust right now. What’s put a bug up your ass tonight, Slayer?”
So refined. Even the soul couldn’t teach him manners. Couldn’t he at least try not to be insulting? Her temper flared and she hit him.
Then stopped short, appalled at herself, as he staggered, then recovered himself. He didn’t step back, didn’t move away, just stood there looking down at her, a twisted smile on his face.
“Well, that was familiar,” he said wryly. “You getting pissed at something and taking it out on me.”
“I d-didn’t mean...” she stuttered.
“You never do. But I still end up your whipping boy, pet.”
No way to explain. And words had never been her forte. Furious with herself, finding no other way to make things plain, she caught his head in her hands and kissed him.
His body jolted in shock against hers. Then he made a strange, agonized sound in his throat and was kissing her back, despairingly, devouringly. And God! it was what she wanted. Her arms locked about his neck and her whole body ignited in violent response.
Raw greed in both of them, mouths twisting together painfully and bruisingly hard, arms clenching so tightly about each other it would have broken bones on anybody human.
They kissed and kissed again, unable to break their mouths apart, eating each other alive. All heat and need and violence, bodies rubbing and straining together, tongues thrusting and battling, passion flaring, urgent and imperative. He stepped forward, turning, and she found herself backed against a tombstone, found him between her parted thighs, his body hard and insistent, pressing demandingly upon her. Her legs came up without her even thinking, to lock about his hips, pull him even harder to her.
He gasped against her mouth. Then he was suddenly shoving himself backwards, jerking away from her. She stared at him in astonishment, seeing his face gaunt with strain and appalled, his eyes glazed with some private horror.
“Oh, God, no! Not again!”
“What..?” she stammered, bewildered and shaking, shocked down from that high of heat and exigent desire.
“Never like that again! Not gonna fall back into that old downwards spiral of mutual destruction!”
Her legs gave and she sat down on the tombstone, staring at him, at the torment and the horror in his face.
“Spike, wait! What is it? What are you talking about?”
“Starting with violence and anger and ending up with sex as a weapon.” He was vibrating with the intensity of his feelings. “Not gonna let you do that to yourself again! Hell, no! I want you. God, I want you, Buffy! But I’m not going back there again!”
He backed away, shaking his head violently.
“It would destroy both of us. It almost did. I won’t let that happen. Not this time!”
He flung out his hand in a slash of absolute negation, then whirled and was gone.
Buffy sat staring after him for a moment, then pulled herself together and raced back to the dorm. The binder was where it usually lay, on the night table beside her bed. Willow was out with Tara somewhere and she was able to search through the file in peace.
‘I cut him up,’ said Buffy2. ‘I used him to make me feel and then hated him for making me feel. Hit him, shamed him, flayed him with my contempt. He’d always be making love, but I just fucked him. I destroyed him, wanted to destroy him, and so I nearly destroyed myself.’
“Oh, boy, I really screwed up,” Buffy whispered. She had skimmed over that the first time she had read the file, then ignored it on later readings because it seemed to have no relevance once there was no Spike any longer in this dimension. She should have checked any reference to him when he came back, but she hadn’t thought to do so. She did so now.
Violence leading to sex leading to pain, around and around. God, what must he have felt, finding the old dynamic recreating itself!
But this wasn’t that old dynamic and she had to explain that to him.
She went to his crypt, hoping to find him there. If he’d gone someplace, Willy’s or wherever, she’d wait. But he opened the door when she knocked, looked at her without surprise.
“Shouldn’t be here, Slayer,” he said bleakly, turning away. “It’s not safe right now.”
“It’s safe. You’d never hurt me. You just proved that.”
“We need to talk.”
He let out a little spurt of bitter laughter. “That’s what I kept saying in the other dimension. Sure makes a change, hearing it from you. Come on in then and let’s...talk.”
He shut the door behind her and, after a small hesitation, barred it, then waved a hand at the ancient armchair.
“Have a seat. Want a drink?” His face was guarded and withdrawn. He had pulled back into himself. She had never seen that in the Spike of her dimension whose emotions had been always out there. But this Spike carried it like an accustomed defense. His Buffy had hurt him badly, must have done things even after he had the soul to make him shield himself like that. Maybe even Angel had, in that year Spike had been with him. The ease with which he wore that armor spoke of long familiarity with it.
“No.” She sat down, trying to think of how to get through that barrier. “None of us Scoobies ever talked to each other. Not about the things that mattered. Maybe things wouldn’t have gone so badly wrong several times if we had, instead of bottling it all up.”
“True.” He swung himself up to sit on the sarcophagus well away from her, ran a hand through his hair, disarranging its smooth slick-back so that strands tumbled down over his forehead. The uncharacteristic gesture betrayed his unease. He wasn’t wearing his duster and his feet were bare and, with his hair falling across his brow like that, he looked young and oddly vulnerable. “Want to get to the point, Slayer?”
“I’m not her.”
His head jerked up and he stared at her.
“I haven’t gone through what she did. Haven’t died, haven’t been ripped out of Heaven, haven’t lost the ability to feel. Have learned a lot in the last couple of months, both from what she said and what you’ve said. Don’t care if you’re a vamp. In fact, I like it. It’s going to come in handy.”
She smiled crookedly, but he didn’t.
“Um, I don’t know exactly where you’re going with this, pet...”
“Never going to hit you again unless we’re sparring. Well, except for a whack upside the head when you deserve it.” She grinned when he made a little amused sound, then sobered again. “But never in anger. Ever again. I swear it, Spike.”
“Don’ mind you hitting me, pet. It’s the...the combination.”
“Yeah. Violence and desire. You’ve been there too often. It’s going to come up again. We’re both violent people and it’s a turn on. Like when we spar. But not in anger. Not in hatred or in self-hatred. Not in contempt or in shame.”
“Buffy...” he whispered. She was no longer talking about blows and he knew it.
She stood up and came and laid her hands lightly on his shoulders. “I want you, Spike.”
“Oh, God!” His eyes closed for a moment.
“Do you want me? I’m not your Buffy.”
“You’re Buffy.” His hands closed on her upper arms. Their faces were almost level and she could see the struggle in his eyes, his irises vividly blue, his pupils expanding hugely over an intense, burning blackness. “I can’t help wanting you. Only...”
“It’s not going to be like it was. I promise you that.”
“You don’t...” He drew a shuddering breath. “Don’t want to cheat you. Don’t want to get in the way of you finding someone better, someone you could...you could...”
“Love? Don’t know if I ever will. Haven’t had too much luck with it so far. This love thing. You don’t love me either, Spike. You love her.”
“But we want each other. Maybe we won’t ever love each other. Neither of us is there yet. We both know that. Maybe we never will. Is that a problem for you?”
“I don’t know. What do you really want, Buffy?”
“You. Just you. You turn me on and I want you. Real bad.”
His breath shuddered in his mouth; his forehead fell against hers. “Bloody hell.”
“Gotta be honest with you. I also want to find out what it’s like with a vamp.”
He laughed a little. “But Angel...”
“That was once, just once. And I was virgin and nervous and it mostly hurt. And then he turned into Angelus, so I never did get a chance to find out what it could really be like. After that, well, there was Parker and Riley.” She made a face. “You were right. They both were...disappointing.”
“Can guarantee you won’t be disappointed with me, luv.” His eyes were dancing. “Curiosity, is it? I can live with that.”
“More than that. More like greed.”
His breath hissed between his teeth. “Like the sound of that.”
“I don’t want to use you,” she said fiercely. “I don’t want to make you feel the way she made you feel.”
He slid off the sarcophagus and pulled her against him, cradling her face in his hands. “You won’t. You care a little, don’t you?”
“That’s...more than enough. More than I hoped for.”
He couldn’t have held back even if he had tried. Not with her offering herself to him like this. This wasn’t his Buffy. But it was Buffy. It was Buffy. And he had two years of want built up inside him.
He kissed her and lost himself. It was Buffy and more. Her body melting against his, her arms around his neck, her taste, her scent wrapping him around. Familiar, but God! so different because it was willing. Not in anger and resentful lust, this yielding, but in sweetness and shared surrender. Not fighting it, but responding unreservedly to every touch, every caress. Only the Bot had ever responded that way—Robot Buffy, programmed to respond. And even knowing that it was a program, he hadn’t been able to stop himself, blocking out the artificiality because he had needed that response so desperately. Counterfeit as it was, he had clung to it, for lack of the reality.
But this was real. And the pleasure was so acute it hurt.
“God, Spike!” Buffy thought her legs would give way. The intensity of it! Her whole body was melting; her bones turned to water; if it hadn’t been for the iron bar of his arm around her waist, she would have gone straight down to the ground.
And that was from his just kissing her! But it wasn’t just kissing. It was eating her up alive. His tongue sliding and thrusting and devouring her in a famished, ferocious wanting that shot fire along her every nerve and woke an equally frenzied, equally abandoned response in her.
“Two years wanting you,” he muttered. His mouth raked down her throat.
She gasped, her head falling back, eyes closed, losing herself in sensation. Her knees gave way. Arms around his neck and waist, she dragged at him imperatively.
“Where are you going?” he asked on a breathless spurt of laughter.
She laughed herself. “I think into a little puddle on the floor.”
“Oh, no, no.” His eyes were alight with tenderness. “Not gonna make love to you on the floor. Got something to prove, don’ I? Not going to disappoint you.”
“I don’t think you could.” He had already taken her past anything she had ever felt before, turned her frantic and wanton with need, mouth ardent on his, nails digging into his flesh through the thin cotton of his tee.
He scooped her up and dropped through the trap. She felt the little rush of air as they fell, then the flex of his body as they landed. He reached out to turn on a lamp, then set her down on her feet beside the bed.
“Not where I want to be,” she said severely and hooked her fingers into his belt and pulled him towards the bed. “You’ve missed the mark by a foot.”
“No, I didn’t.” He pulled her back. “We’re exactly where I want us to be.”
“Oh, come on.”
He pulled her hands away from his zipper, laughing. “Don’t. I’m hanging on by a thread right now. It’s going to be hard and fast as it is, I’ve been wanting it too long. But we’re gonna do this right. You’re not there yet.”
She wound herself around him. “Trust me. I’m there.”
“No, you’re not. You don’t know, do you, what it could be like. You don’t have a clue.”
“If you’re the expert, then stop talking and do something! Want it. Want you.”
“You do, don’t you? God, Buffy!” His eyes were shining as he looked down at her. “Raise your arms.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere!” She raised her arms, laughing, to let him pull the tee she was wearing over her head. “Now you.”
“Want to touch your skin.”
Her bra was gone.
His hands had slid across her breasts. She arched to them, but the way he was looking at her, the heat and the deep, wondering pleasure in his eyes was almost better even than his touch. He lifted her, bending her back over his arm, and his mouth closed upon her breast, suckling on her nipple, his tongue circling it, pressing it against the roof of his mouth, hardening it to the point of pain.
“Oh, yes!” She caught his head, holding his mouth to her breast, her fingers digging into his thick hair.
He tipped her back onto the bed, coming down beside her, bending to move from one breast to the other. She purred, pushing herself into his mouth, savoring the sensation.
“You’re overdressed,” she complained. “Take your tee off.”
He yanked it over his head and threw it away.
“Wow.” She had only seen his back before. Talk about gorgeous, his chest, that sixpack, all that ripped muscle and clean, strong bone. That skin like cool satin against her. She ran her hands over him with pleasure and felt him shudder in delight against her. “Oh, that’s nice.”
“Nice,” he muttered, amused. “Yeah, you know this. You’ve been here before with those other wankers. But let’s take it up a notch.”
That tingle of vamp presence she always felt in his presence suddenly intensified. Her Slayer instincts reacted and she pushed him away a little to look into his face. He hadn’t gone into full gameface, but his eyes were gold and the fangs were showing.
“Can you take it?” he asked, smiling.
Her eyes widened. Full gameface with the ridges made him look like a predator, like a lion or a leopard; but she was used to that and it wouldn’t have bothered her. But the gold eyes and the fangs by themselves was a look she had never seen. It was shockingly sexy.
“It’s hot! But why?”
“For this.” He bent and licked her nipple.
His tongue had gone raspy as a cat’s. She almost shot right off the bed, the stimulus was so intense. Her whole body arched involuntarily to his mouth, her back bowing.
He scooped her against him on a growl of laughter and heat, held her while that wicked tongue rasped over her breasts and belly and ribcage.
“Oh, God, oh, God...!” She was writhing uncontrollably.
“Didn’t Angel at least...?”
“He stayed human. God, Spike!” Her brain was blanking out into nothing but sensation.
His tongue was rasping up her inner thigh. Where had the rest of her clothes gone? She hadn’t even been aware of him sliding them off. He was turning and twisting her to his mouth and his hands were caressing and kneading every inch of her and all her senses had gone into overload.
“You’re still overdressed!” She pulled at his belt buckle and he let her, but stopped her when she would have yanked his zip down.
“Jeans are the only thing holding me back and we’ve one more level to go.” He was gasping too, his breath panting in his open mouth, close to losing control. She could feel how aroused he was.
“One more level will fry my brain!”
“You’re a Slayer. You can take it.”
He bit her, fangs sinking delicately into her flesh everywhere across her body. He had driven her so high already that the tiny pinpricks were excruciatingly erotic. Her whole body flamed into white-heat. She keened in helpless pleasure and clutched at him, nails clawing down his back, teeth sinking into his shoulder. She felt him shudder and surge against her. Bites to a vamp, oh, yeah. She suddenly remembered where the trigger point was.
“Can’t take it anymore, Spike!” she snarled and bit him hard at the junction of his neck and his shoulder.
He hissed, then contorted against her, shucking off his jeans as fast as he could. Then he was between her thighs and she felt the broad, satin head of his cock breach her entrance.
“Oh, finally!” she sobbed and clawed at his taut ass, pulling him into her. “I thought you’d drive me insane!”
She gulped in shock and delight as he thrust into her, feeling him larger than she was used to, so impossibly hard, her body having to stretch to accommodate him.
He paused, his lips brushing her forehead. “Am I hurting you?”
“No!” Her legs came up involuntarily to grip his waist and pull him deeper. “It feels wonderful! But so big!”
“The vamp side.” His fangs had receded, but around the black blaze of his hugely enlarged pupils his irises were still gold.
“Don’t shift back!”
He laughed breathlessly. “No. I know you like it.”
He filled her to the utmost, a glorious feeling.
“I’d like it more if you’d move.” She clenched on him demandingly and he closed his eyes for a moment with a shudder of pleasure, himself drowning in sensation.
“God, those Slayer muscles! I’d almost forgotten..!”
He was moving now, unable to keep still any longer, losing control, powering into her, gasping at the resistance of the tight Slayer muscles of her sheath.
“Oh, yes!” she whispered, arching to him, finding his rhythm. “Oh, yes! Oh, God, the way you feel!”
She had never felt anything like this before. Hard and fast, he had said, and that was the way she wanted it, with both of them out of control and slamming into each other. All heat and violence, like leopards coupling in the spring. She clawed at him, bit, and he snarled back, hammering into her. Driving each other higher and higher. Raw savagery. And something elemental in her wanted it, reveled in it.
“Slayer,” he whispered in delight, in triumph, and that was it, that was the side he had unleashed in her, the Slayer, the match to his vamp side, that no one had ever released before.
Unendurable. She screamed as her whole body seized up in a blaze of unbearable, white fire. Heart, brain, lungs all stopped, her climax was so shattering. She felt him jolt and pulse within her at the same moment.
She came staggering back to consciousness an eon later to find him grinning down at her.
“So. Did I disappoint you, Slayer?”
“You know you didn’t. Can the man be any more smug?” she muttered under her breath and he laughed.
“Good. And now that the edge is off, we can play.”
Buffy’s jaw dropped. “You’ve got to be kidding! You can’t mean..!”
But she could feel him still partially erect within her and rapidly hardening. He blinked down at her, surprised.
“Yeah, sure. Vamp here. Just getting started. Haven’t you ever done it more than once?”
She shook her head dumbly.
“Wimps,” he muttered. “And you a Slayer. Can go all night if you want to.”
“All night?” she said in a failing voice.
“Think just once, even twice, is gonna be enough for me?” He kissed her deeply and sensuously. “Wanted you too long for that. Wanted you too much. But we’ll go slow. Just a few more times tonight.”
“A f-few...” From an under-achiever to an over-achiever in one short leap. But he had it all wrong. She wasn’t capable. “Uh, Spike, I don’t think I can...Oooh!”
He had started to move, not really thrusting, just push and relax, push and relax with his hips. His mouth took hers.
All golden this time, all sweet, voluptuous sensuality, slow and rich as honey before speeding up to that sizzling, accelerated rush. But tender, loving. He had shown her the Slayer side of herself and that was raw violence and savagery. This time he showed her the human side of both of them, the side that was all tenderness and heart. She was both and so was he. She saw his eyes above her filled with delight and wonder; caressed him and watched his helpless, drowning response. No wonder that other Buffy hadn’t been able to give him up. She couldn’t understand how that Buffy had managed to resist him in the first place.
It was a long, long, delirious night.
|Chapter #4 - Chapter 4|
Buffy lay on her side, her head propped on her hand, watching Spike sleep. She was thinking. She’d never done so much thinking as she’d done these last couple of months, ever since Buffy2 had come and turned everything upside down.
That stupid dream of being normal that Angel had encouraged. Spike was right. She wasn’t normal and was never going to be and she had always felt a freak because of that. But Spike had redefined that for her. ‘Special,’ said Spike. ‘The light,’ said Spike. Angel, always walking away, accepting the status quo, putting together his art of stasis, his art of death. Spike, always diving right in, fighting to make things the way he wanted with nothing but hope and fists and fangs, creating his art of living.
Vampire. Dead man walking. The unliving. Yeah, right. Soul or no soul, he was life.
She laid her hand affectionately over his unbeating heart. His chest was motionless under her palm; it seemed that he didn’t breathe when he was asleep or out cold. Those were the only times she had seen him ever looking dead. The rest of the time he was too full of dynamic energy to ever look anything but furiously alive.
They had worn each other out in the end. She grinned. There was a limit to even Slayer and vamp stamina. But he had proved what Buffy2 had said, that no one normal would ever satisfy a Slayer.
His chest moved under her hand. His eyelids flickered, then he woke, stretching contentedly, then looked up. His eyes widened as he saw her looking down at him. Wariness flashed into them and his eyelids tensed a little.
Braced for pain. Something the other Buffy must have done to him.
“Good morning,” she said and bent and kissed him.
His mouth answered her; she felt it soften and begin to smile.
“That was,” she said, “the best night of my life.”
His eyes had gone intensely blue and that helpless look of awe and disbelief was back in them. He reached up and touched her face delicately.
“You were with me,” he said wonderingly.
“Yes, of course.”
“There’s no of course about it.”
She thought about that. It said a lot about the way the other Buffy had been.
“What was it like...before?”
His lips tightened. “Painful. To be that close to her and not have her. To have, but not. To be all alone while you’re holding her.”
She took his face in her hands and kissed him. “Not gonna be like that this time. Told you. I’m not her.”
His arms tightened about her.
She ran her hand caressingly over his shoulder, then down across his chest and the ripped muscles of his stomach, felt him shiver with pleasure under her touch.
“Nice. Only saw your back that day after you went and got plastered at Willy’s. Even that was really a turn on. Damn nearly jumped your bones right then.”
He laughed under his breath. “Wish you had, pet.”
She grinned at him. “You were out cold and it would have been rape.”
He grinned back. “No objections to being raped by you.”
“Yes, you do,” she said softly. “You do have objections. Or why would what she did to you have hurt you so badly?”
She saw the sudden widening of his eyes.
“Yeah,” she said.
His lips compressed faintly. “It’s not rape when it’s willing.”
“Maybe not in physical fact, but in intent.”
“I was a monster.”
“No, you’re not.”
“Was then. No soul.”
“No. Soul has nothing to do with it. She wanted you to be a monster. She was punishing herself for being thrown out of Heaven, for wanting to die and go back, for not wanting to live. Like those people who cut themselves with razor blades. You were only the instrument. She was in love with pain.”
He jerked, his lips parting on a sudden intake of breath.
“She said you were, didn’t she?” She nodded at the betraying flicker in his eyes. “Everything inverted. She wanted you to be death, but you were life. She wanted you to kill her. But you made her feel life, feel alive. You wouldn’t let her give up on living and she couldn’t forgive you for that.”
“How do you know all this?” he said on a shaken breath. “She never did. How do you?”
“She’s me. That’s how I would react. And I can read between the lines in that binder. You’re not a monster, Spike. Not to this Buffy.”
He pulled her down to him, his cheekbone against hers and his face in her hair to hide the fact that he was close to tears. It was what he had wanted, that she see him not as a monster, but as a man. His heart hurt him, because she had also seen more than he had seen himself.
He had resented the way his Buffy had treated him. The three months of their involvement had been an emotional rape. He had cooperated, but it had flayed him, left him raw and bleeding, had driven him at last to attempt that actual rape. He had taken the guilt for that, for all of it really, onto his shoulders, being what he was, the monster.
Now here was Buffy saying he was not. Something eased in him, iron bands that had been around his heart. They hurt him as they loosened, the constriction had been so much a part of him. But the pain was welcome, like the pain that came when a frozen limb was warmed and sensation slowly returned.
She had given him...absolution.
He had no illusions that she would stay with him. This what they had right now was transitory, ephemeral. She didn’t love him and all of this was just an interval existing outside of time. Sooner or later, the rug was going to be pulled out from under him. He wasn’t going to take anything for granted, was going to live moment by moment, asking for no more than she was willing to give. But this gift she had just given him would never leave him, was a radiance that would light his way forever.
He wondered whether she would tell the Scoobies about them, didn’t care as long as she came to him every night, as long as they kept making love in this so different, so caring way. In the other dimension, he had kept pushing her to tell them, even threatening sometimes to tell them himself. But he wouldn’t actually have humiliated her that way, hadn’t until after she had dumped him and Xander had pushed him into it, insulting Anya like that, bullying him as Xander always did when he was chipped and unable to fight back. He had flung it like a blow at both their faces then, angry that the two of them should have used him and Anya the way they had and then blame them for that one instance of comfort sex they had both needed.
No, this time he didn’t mind staying in the shadows. He had only wanted Buffy to tell the Scoobies about them because for her to do so would have meant she cared about him. Here she did care for him and that was all he had ever wanted.
When she and the Scoobies went to the Bronze Saturday night, he let her go alone. Louth, the boss man of the Hadraden demons, had given him a job that suited him, enforcer for Louth’s extensive gambling operations. Buffy just nodded when he said Louth needed to see him, her indifferent expression telling him nothing. But he was pretty sure she must be relieved that the Scoobies wouldn’t see them together.
Business didn’t take long, just a request to convince a demon not to welsh on his particular debts. The demon paid up after only a little physical encouragement and Spike found himself at a loose end again.
Of course he went to the Bronze. Not to join her; just to watch her. He couldn’t keep away, though he knew he should. He leaned on the railing of the Bronze’s upper balcony, sipping at his drink and resting his gaze with pleasure on her vivacious face as she laughed and joked with her friends. Down in the middle of the noise and the lights and the gaiety this time, not withdrawing to the shadows.
‘You try to be with them...’ he had said once to her, ‘but you always end up in the dark...with me.’
He hadn’t led her into that darkness, only pointed out—truthfully—that she kept on ending up there. He had never wanted to take her out of the light, drag her down, only wanted her to be with him.
‘That’s not your world,’ he had said. And it hadn’t been at that time, with Buffy fighting life, fighting living.
It was her world now and he was glad to see it. It was where she belonged, not in the shadows with him.
Her head had come up and she was looking around. He realized that she was picking up his vamp signature and drew hurriedly backwards, away from the railing. Time to go. This time, he didn’t mind leaving alone, knowing that when the evening was over she wouldn’t be going back to the dorm, she would be coming to his crypt.
He finished his drink, set the glass on a side table and turned towards the stairs.
And found himself with Buffy right in front of him.
“What are you doing, hiding up here?” she asked.
“Just watching you. You look like you’re having fun.”
“Am. Should have come joined us.”
“Ah, well, Scoobs wouldn’t have liked that, pet. Didn’t want to cause trouble.”
“You won’t. But this is nice too.” She backed him up against one of the metal supports of the balcony and set her hands on the railing on either side of his hips, leaned full against him. “Very nice.”
His arms went helplessly around her, pulling her tightly to him. “Oh, yeah.”
Her hands left the railing and slid under his duster, wrapping about his waist. They kissed slowly, sensuously, again and again.
“This evening is really looking up,” she murmured, locking her arms in the small of his back.
He hadn’t braced his stomach muscles for it and it took the breath right out of him. Good thing vamps didn’t need to breathe. He cradled her face in his hands, suddenly very happy, stroking the waves of her hair back from her face.
“Scoobs might see.”
“So?” She turned her head a little and sucked his thumb into her mouth, swirling her tongue about it. “Whoa. Direct line from your thumb to your cock, huh?”
Mentally at least. With her tongue swirling about his thumb like that, all he could think of was how it would feel swirling around his cock. His dick had gone hard in an instant in his jeans.
“Oh, I like that,” she purred and rubbed herself against him.
“You have no mercy, Slayer.”
They were both laughing softly, kissed and kissed again, mouths greedy. His hands slid down her thighs, then he sighed.
“Much as I love those leather pants on you, I really wish you had worn a skirt.”
“Don’t know how I could have made such a mistake.” Her foot slid up the back of his calf and she bit his lower lip. Then she glanced around. “Damn.”
Footsteps were coming up the stairs. They broke apart reluctantly.
“Scoobs will be looking for you. I’d better...”
“Oh, come and have a drink and dance.” She caught his hand and pulled him towards the stairs.
The Scoobs looked at him warily as Buffy dragged him over to where they were sitting.
“Hey, guys, look who’s here.” She picked up a half-full glass of coke, drank, then handed it to him. “Finish that, then you can get the next one.”
He sipped and his brows rose. “There’s rum in that coke. You getting adventurous, Slayer?”
“We did suggest beer,” said Anya, “but she doesn’t like it.”
Buffy grimaced. “They should pour it back into the horse. Come and dance, Spike.”
He set down the glass and followed her, glancing back over his shoulder at the Scoobies as he did so. To his astonishment, they weren’t freaking, just looked resigned.
“Not again,” he heard Xander mutter. Willow and Anya both hit his shoulder reprovingly. Tara was smiling quietly to herself.
“How come they’re not upset?” he asked in bewilderment once they were on the dance floor. It was a slow dance. Buffy had her arms up around his neck and was leaning intimately against him, their bodies rubbing sensuously together. The Scoobies should have been going rabid.
“Guess they got used to it with the other Buffy and Spike. Told you they’d changed.”
“You’re...making our relationship public?”
“What, you ashamed of me or something?” she teased and tiptoed to kiss him. “They’ll deal.”
He didn’t know whether he could. He was caught somewhere between shock and incredulous delight.
“I’m a vamp.”
“So’s Angel. They got used to that. Why not you? At least there won’t be any repercussions from this relationship. You’re not gonna lose your soul and suddenly turn into Spikelus. Even Mom and Dawn like you. They never really liked Angel.”
He grinned. “Yeah, they’ve got taste.” Then it hit him. “Dawn?”
“My kid sister.” She looked up at him in surprise. “You did meet Dawn in the other dimension, didn’t you?”
She hadn’t had a sister a few days ago. It seemed that the monks had finally gotten around to sending over the Key. And everybody’s memories had been rearranged.
Except for him. Maybe because he was from the other dimension and Glory was dead there, so he was able to retain his knowledge of Glory and Ben and Dawn. The Hellgod, her alter ego and the Key. Dawn’s arrival meant that Glory must be here as well or would be arriving soon.
His Buffy had died to defeat Glory. And that had led to all the rest of it—the resurrection and her being torn out of Heaven, and that long cycle of loathing and self-destruction, and in the end the First Evil and the final battle. Had to stop all of that from happening.
There was only one way.
He broke into the hospital offices at three in the morning and hacked into their computer. Sure enough, Ben’s name was on the roll of newly hired interns, listed on evening shift on their roster. Spike did a quick check for his address. There was none, only a note on the file that he was looking for one and would advise, but in the meantime there was a cell phone number at which he could be reached. Ben would certainly continue to forget to advise the hospital of where he was staying. He wouldn’t want to risk them finding out that he was Glory. But Spike knew where the penthouse that her minions had arranged for Glory was located.
A Hellgod like Glory could not be killed. But Glory’s vulnerability was Ben, who was human and could be killed. Kill Ben and one killed Glory.
The soul of course was trying to tell him that it was wrong to kill a human. But what was one more death added to the ocean of blood already on his hands? He shrugged that off indifferently. Ben’s alter ego was Glory and Glory was the Beast, a Hellgod raging to return and rule the hell dimension she had been cast out of and not caring that all the universes would bleed into each other when she opened the gate, all turn into one vast hell dimension.
Sure, it was a shame about Ben who probably didn’t deserve to die and had committed no crime. But the wanker knew what Glory intended and was still going along with her instead of fighting her as he should. As far as Spike was concerned, that made him fair game.
What bothered him was that Buffy might not see that Ben’s death was necessary, might see only that Spike had killed again. He could lose her, lose everything he had right now. She would look at him in horror again, see the vamp that he had never ceased to be, see the monster.
His gut wrenched.
But he had no choice. There was no other way. Ben had to die or she would. Whatever it cost him, he would make sure she survived. Even if she never spoke to him again, she would be alive and the resurrection, the First, all those horrific consequences, would not happen.
It was too late to do anything about Ben tonight. His shift would be over and he was probably back at the penthouse as Glory again. There was no hurry. He had plenty of time. Tomorrow he’d start stalking Ben, waiting for the moment when he would be alone and open to attack.
He went quietly home to his crypt. Buffy was there. Even in pitch darkness, his vamp sight could pick up her form curled warm and supple in the middle of his bed. He watched her for a little while, his insides melting with pleasure. She would never have been waiting for him like this in his dimension, never come to him like this, so willing and welcoming. Maybe never would again once he had killed Ben.
He tried to be as quiet as he could while taking his clothes off, but her Slayer senses warned her of his presence and she woke.
“Where were you?” she asked sleepily, reaching out to switch on the lamp beside the bed.
“Had a job to do,” he shrugged, which was the truth though it misled her into thinking that the job was something Louth had requested.
She reached out to him as he got into bed, her arms coming around his neck and pulling him down to her.
“What’s wrong? You’re all tense.”
“Nothing.” He stroked the golden tumble of her hair back from her face. She was drowsy and warm, her eyes smiling as she looked up at him and her mouth soft. “You’re beautiful.”
“I was thinking the same thing.” Her hands slid along his shoulders, caressing him.
He closed his eyes, drowning in the feel of her body yielding against his. “Can’t believe you’re here. After all those times we tried to kill each other...”
“And somehow never did.” Her lips brushed along his collarbone, lingered in the hollow of his throat.
“Couldn’t. Wanted you right from the beginning.”
“Can’t say the same. Knew you were hot, but you were my enemy. And you kept saying you were going to kill me. Couldn’t think of you that way. Wasn’t acceptable.”
“Vamp. No soul. Yeah.”
“But I wonder how many of our battles were a kind of twisted version of sex between us.”
“Was for me,” he murmured. “Always got a hard on whenever we fought.”
She laughed, but there was a strip of color across her cheekbones. “Me too.”
“Yeah?” he said, delighted.
“Well, fighting gets me horny and you’re the best fighter around.” She bit his shoulder and he purred. “It was Willow’s spell though that made me realize you turn me on.”
“The will-be-done one?” He grinned. “That started me thinking too.”
“Yeah, well, I kept trying not to think about it. And kept thinking about it. Hated you for that, but kept wanting it. Wouldn’t admit it, but I wanted you. The things the other Buffy said just allowed what was already there to come out. ”
“Buffy...” He kissed her desperately hard.
Her fingertips stroked his face lightly and she frowned at him when he finally lifted his head.
“What’s wrong?” she asked again and he knew she had seen the shadow in his eyes.
“Don’t want to lose this,” he said on a little, painful breath.
“Neither do I,” she said quietly. “So we won’t.”
He hoped so.
She pushed him onto his back, leaned over him, smiling, shaking her head so that the her hair swept back and forth like silk across his chest and throat. The feel of that light, teasing touch, the languorous, heavy-lidded look in her eyes, made him harden. She laughed, then slid downwards to bite him just under his navel, her hair sweeping down him to pool over his groin.
“Oh, Christ!” The way that felt!
“Like this too. That vee-cut.” Her fingers slid down the two shallow furrows from his hip bones to the flat plane just above his cock, lingered there rubbing back and forth when he caught his breath. “There was this study asking women which area of a guy they found sexiest—um, leaving out the obvious,” she corrected, smiling, when he grinned and started to speak, “and eighty-seven percent said the vee-cut.”
“Just when I thought you didn’t read.” He hissed involuntarily in pleasure at the breath of her laughter on that flat plane.
“Well, you know. Fashion mags at the hairdresser’s have the weirdest bits of info in them,” she grinned, then blew a raspberry into his navel.
His back arched in surprise and amusement. It was so silly and sweet that his heart hurt him. The other Buffy had never played with him like this. It had always been raw sex and violence. Not that he didn’t enjoy that from either Buffy. He liked raw. But this, with the warmth and the teasing, was treasured.
“Come up here,” he growled, reaching down to pull her upwards.
“Nope.” Her arms fastened about his hips, keeping her in place. “Not done yet.”
He surrendered himself to her mouth moving across his torso, the feel of her sliding upon and over him, memorizing every second as sensation turned time fluid and elastic, endless, until nothing existed but her.
“Getting to you,” she purred as he surged against her, painfully erect.
“Was that in doubt? Oh, Jesus!”
His cock had slid between her breasts as she twisted around him. She looked down and grinned, then bent to lick the pre-cum off it, tongue delving into the little slit at its head.
“Almost there, huh?”
“That does it!” He yanked her upwards and onto her back as she laughed. “Can’t take any more.”
“And you said I was a wuss when I said that.”
But she was as breathless and gasping as he was, legs coming up to lock about his hips, body arching to his as he rammed into her. Both of them out of control, which he never was with anyone but her, unable to keep himself from powering into her, driving them both into that brutal, galvanic frenzy while trying desperately to hold back, to prolong it. Almost impossible as that was, seeing her head go back like that and her throat arch, seeing her mouth contort into a snarl just as he was snarling, feeling her nails claw down his back and her sheath clench with Slayer strength upon him every time he withdrew for the next pistoning stroke.
Even lost in sensation as he was, half-blind and his brain frying, it was her pleasure that gave him the real feeling of triumph, knowing that he was giving that to her, that no one else had made her feel, would make her feel like this. He heard her scream and his brain blanked as he came shatteringly hard and her sheath milked him, wrung him right out.
He dropped his face into her hair as she held him fast, her arms tight about his neck. Angel was her first and so she would never forget him, but:
“You’ll remember me too,” he muttered, holding her fiercely close.
|Chapter #5 - Chapter 5|
It took a week of patient stalking before he finally found Ben alone and not in the company of either humans or Glory’s annoying little minions.
Should be easy. Just walk up and snap the man’s neck. Spike remembered the last time he and Glory had gone up mano a mano. He had underestimated her strength and she had knocked him cold. Stuck in a human body she might be, but she still had a lot of her godlike powers. At least that wouldn’t happen with Ben who had none.
He watched Ben come out of the hospital and head across to his car. At two a.m. the back parking lot was deserted except for the cars of those nurses and interns still on shift. Spike glanced about swiftly to make sure no humans were wandering about, then flashed towards Ben.
And things immediately went pear-shaped. Because Ben unexpectedly turned into Glory.
“Ugh, cotton!” she exclaimed, pulling at the scrubs she was wearing. “Could a fabric be more annoyingly pedestrian? And look at that scrap heap he drives! Hello? I’m a god. Shouldn’t it at least be a Veyron?”
Spike had skidded to a halt in shock. The being in front of him might seem like a attractive blonde presently looking swamped and vulnerable in those oversized men’s scrubs. But this was a Hellgod and she was dangerously unstable and deadly. A strategic retreat seemed to be called for. Ben was an easy mark, but even the Slayer had trouble going up against Glory. He could try again some other night.
“It’s rude not to answer when you’re asked a question.”
Damn, she’d noticed him.
“Uh, sure it should be a Veyron. Only a car worth a mil four would be worthy of a god.”
“See, you have the right idea.” She frowned at him, screwing up her face prettily. “Why is your hair that color?”
“I’m vain.” His mind was too busy trying to figure out ways to get him the fuck out of there to pay much attention to the conversation.
“This whole mortal coil thing just blows,” said Glory bitterly. “Humans, eww! A meatsack of stink and bile and sweat and protein. Don’t you agree, vampire?”
“Uh, yeah,” said Spike, looking for cover.
“To trap me in that kind of container. Me! Really infra dig.”
“This is true,” he agreed, backing away carefully. “Beneath anyone’s dignity.”
“But you were going to harm that container. It’s a crappy thing, but, hey, it’s mine. No one plays with my toys. You shouldn’t have tried to drain Ben, bloodsucker.”
“Wasn’t even thinking of it.” Drain, no; kill, yes. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Really?” She gave him a dazzling smile. “That’s so sweet. But somehow I don’t believe you.”
Spike backed hurriedly. “I think I’ll just be leaving now.”
She was suddenly right in front of him, zipping forward in a blur of speed, far faster than even he or Buffy could ever move. A long red fingernail poked his chest and, taken by surprise, he yelped. That fingernail had sunk right into his flesh.
“Did I say you could go? I didn’t hear me saying you could go.”
“Listen, your Godliness...”
“Shh. I kinda wanna hear me talking right now. Me talking.” She flicked his chest with her nail and smiled, perky as a squirrel. “People shouldn’t play with other people’s toys. So guess what? You just volunteered to become one. Playing with you might ease the boredom. Only for a little while though. You look like the kinda toy that breaks easy. Oh, well. Wanna run? That might make things more fun.”
He hit her as hard as he could. It should at least have rocked her. It would have rocked the Slayer. Glory didn’t even budge.
Her eyes widened in affront. “You hit me! A god! Are you crazy? Don’t you know that’s sacrilege?”
She backhanded him across the face, straight-armed. Spike flew fifty feet backwards and crashed right through the chain link fence at the end of the parking lot.
“Okay, now that hurt,” he muttered, staggering back to his feet. No point in running. She was too fast and it would just give her a thrill with that cat and mouse game she was playing.
“Hey, you can fly,” she said, strolling towards him. “Can you turn into a bat too? That would be so cool. Wouldn’t help you, but it would be cool.”
He didn’t have a chance against her as Glory, only as Ben. But it didn’t look like she was going to turn back into Ben any time soon and there was no way of predicting when she would. Even she didn’t know that. And he didn’t have Olaf’s hammer to wear her down the way Buffy had, slugging her until she weakened and finally turned into Ben out of sheer debility.
“You can’t go around hitting people. What, were you born in a barn?” She stopped in front of him, smirking. “You’re so going to be sorry.”
He didn’t waste breath answering, just whipped around her and caught her from the back, his arms wrapping around her and locking her elbows to her sides.
“Oh, like that will help. Hey!”
Spike had sunk his fangs into her neck and was drinking in great, hurried gulps. God’s blood, ichor, whatever one called it. The ancient Greeks said that it was poisonous to humans. He was taking a huge risk in drinking it, but he could think of no other way to weaken her.
To his relief, it wasn’t poisonous to a vamp. It was even more powerful than the blood of a Slayer, though it didn’t have the aphrodisiac he had discovered Slayer’s blood had when he had drunk from that Chinese one. The power in it was dizzying.
She was screaming in fury and struggling wildly. But her own power was running through his veins now and she couldn’t break his grip. He drank and drank, and every second increased his strength and weakened hers. Being a god, she wouldn’t die, but if he drained her enough she might turn back into Ben.
It seemed to go on forever. The human body held about five quarts of blood, four point seven liters to be exact, and for all her supranatural powers the body she was in was human. He should have been able to drain her with ease. But the power in her blood made that difficult. It sizzled through every cell in his body, filling him till his skin felt taut and stretched. He didn’t know whether he’d be able to hold it all.
At long last he felt her begin to sag. He didn’t stop drinking, not until she turned into Ben. Then he withdrew his fangs.
“There we go,” he said with satisfaction and yanked Ben’s head sharply around as the man struggled and tried to cry out.
Ben’s neck snapped and he went limp.
Spike let the corpse fall onto the blacktop and staggered away, as unsteady on his feet as if he were drunk. He felt like an overloaded battery, as if he could throw lightning bolts, raze Sunnydale to the ground with one flick of his hand.
“Sodding hell,” he muttered. “Now there’s a high.”
He laid a hand on one of the metal supports of the fence, wondering whether that power would ground itself like electricity. It didn’t. Giddy with overcharge and amused, he flung out a hand at a parked car, willing it to lift off the ground or explode or something. Nothing happened. He was just a vamp, not a god or even a witch like Willow to know how to use all that power. Red would probably turn green with envy, but he’d be glad when the whole thing finally bled off. It had taken a couple of days for that Chinese Slayer’s blood to wear off. If that was anything to go by, he guesstimated this would take about a week.
He headed back to his crypt, wavering on his feet at first, then steadying as his body adjusted to all that power. To his disappointment, Buffy wasn’t there. But she had left a note saying that Giles had called her on her cell to say that he wanted to see her and that she had gone over to his place. She had written down the time of the message, so that he wouldn’t think it was earlier in the evening and start to worry. Less than half an hour ago. He wondered what the emergency was. Better go over and see.
He knew he should tell her about Glory. But he didn’t want to. Not yet. What if she blamed him for killing Ben? Staked him or told him to get the hell out of Sunnydale, which would be the same as, the way he felt about her.
Of course he would have to tell her eventually. Sooner or later she would check that binder for the next Big Bad, see that it was Glory and start wondering why she didn’t show. He just wanted it to be later.
Just a few weeks more. Even a couple of months. For as long as he could get away with it. Who would it hurt?
He got to Giles’ place and stopped abruptly in the little courtyard in front of it, picking up the vamp vibration. It was coming from Giles’ flat and it was familiar. Angel.
Sod it, he didn’t want Angel around. Angel would try his best to turn Buffy against him. God, he really didn’t want to see that wanker and his stupid hair again! But here Peaches was and there was no help for it.
His vamp hearing caught the conversation inside the flat.
“Cordy had a vision,” Angel was saying. “Something about a Hellgod and a green ball of energy. You’re in serious danger, Buffy!”
“Check in that binder, Buffy,” said Giles. “I do remember it saying something about a Hellgod named Glory.”
Trust Angel to queer his pitch.
Spike sighed deeply. “Bugger.”
She was no longer fixated on Angel.
Buffy realized that with a shock when she walked into Giles’ place and found Angel waiting for her. She was fond of him and she always would be. But she didn’t feel that yearning and anguish that she had always felt before, even when she was sleeping with Riley. ‘You’re still hung up on Angel!’ Riley had flung at her during their last bitter quarrel. She had been and that was why she had never let Riley into her heart.
Now all she felt was exasperation. She didn’t want to deal with the hassle when he realized that she was having a...relationship with Spike. For all that he said he wanted her to find somebody else, he had always resented Riley. And Riley was human, was ‘normal’. Spike was a vamp and Angel’s bête noire. She moved carefully to the other side of the room from him, hoping that he wouldn’t smell Spike on her. Why couldn’t he have phoned instead of coming down?
She was over Angel. She could move on now. Spike had done it.
She didn’t know how. She didn’t know what she felt for Spike. It wasn’t that dizzy, dancing, walking on air feeling she had had when she had first fallen in love with Angel and all the agony and the angst was yet to happen. With Spike, it was not romance, but sex.
No, it was more than that, deeper than that. Passion, yes, but also warmth and understanding and tenderness and knowing she could rely on him absolutely, that he would never walk away from her of his free will.
Was that love? Or was she just being selfish again? It wasn’t what that other Buffy had felt for her Spike. The other Buffy had been willing to cross dimensions to find him again. She didn’t know whether she would do that. And this Spike had loved and died for that Buffy. Could he ever feel that way about her or was he just making do? Were they both just making do?
Angel was talking about Hellgods and green balls of energy. Glorificus, that’s who he was talking about. The next Big Bad. This year’s apocalypse. Buffy didn’t know what the green ball was, but Buffy2 had died to stop Glory in the other dimension. She’d have to ask Spike whether there was any way to avoid that.
“I’ll check that binder the minute I get back to the dorm, Giles,” she agreed. “Buffy2 may have said something about how to deal with her.”
“You might talk to Spike about that as well,” said Giles.
Angel stared at him. “What are you talking about? Spike’s gone! The other Buffy took him with her.”
“Oh!” Giles colored hotly. “Er, yes, well, you see, we’ve still got one around.”
“Got one what?”
Giles shot Buffy an apologetic glance, then took off his glasses and started to polish them. “We’ve still got a...a Spike. Not our Spike. The other dimension’s Spike. He, well, he’s turned up here.”
“I knew I sensed a vamp! I’ve been picking up vamp vibrations for the last ten minutes. He’s right outside!” Angel stared at the front door and sniffed.
Then his head jerked around and he stared at Buffy.
“Why do I smell him all over you?”
“Oh, good grief,” muttered Giles.
Buffy sighed. “Um, Angel...”
“No! Not you too!”
Angel snarled into gameface and hurtled towards the door.
“Angel, wait!” yelled Buffy and ran after him, Giles right behind her.
Spike was outside in the little courtyard, beside the steps leading up to the pavement above. He looked as if he was debating coming in and causing a scene, or quietly leaving and letting Buffy break the bad news to Angel whenever she thought it best. He looked around as Angel charged through the door and roared towards him.
“Peaches!” He was grinning widely. “Wish I could say it’s good to see you again, but I really can’t. Honestly haven’t missed you one bit.”
“I’m going to kill you!”
“Still think she belongs to you, huh?” He ducked the roundhouse punch Angel threw at him. “Guess what, poofter. She doesn’t.”
He socked Angel as hard as he could. Angel soared into the air, clearing both the stairs and the bushes at the top. They heard him crash onto the ground somewhere up on the sidewalk. Buffy and Giles both gaped and even Spike looked surprised.
“Forgot the extra mojo,” he muttered.
“How...did you..?” Buffy couldn’t believe it. Spike had possibly acquired a few more fighting skills over the four years he had on them, but strengthwise he and Angel had always been fairly evenly matched.
“I’m kinda amped right now,” he shrugged. “Ingested something unusual.”
“It must have been. Giles, stop that!” Buffy glared at Giles who was sniggering helplessly. “You sound like that cartoon dog Muttley.”
“It’s the way he just sailed up there.” Ever since Jenny Calendar’s death, Angel hadn’t been one of Giles’ favorite people. “That was hilarious. Pillock.”
He wheezed again and Spike grinned at him.
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake.” Buffy headed towards the stairs. “I’d better go see how he is.”
“He’s fine, pet,” said Spike. “Barring a few bruises. I can hear him getting up. Let’s go in. I stay here, he’ll wanna go on trying to beat me up and I’ll have to hurt him some more. Not that I have any objections to that, of course, but you might.”
“Go right ahead, be my guest,” said Giles and Buffy shoved him into the flat with one hand and yanked Spike along with the other.
“Honestly! Act your age, Giles. I so do not have time for this, with Hellgods and crap like that to worry about.”
“Scotch?” Giles asked, beaming at Spike. “I’ve got some very good Glenfiddich I’ve been saving.”
“Appreciate that, Watcher.”
Angel appeared in the doorway by the time Giles poured the drinks and handed one to Spike. He hulked there, glowering, his fists clenched.
“Come outside,” he grated.
“Oh, put a lid on it, Peaches,” said Spike, sipping his Scotch. “The way I’m juiced right now, it would be too easy. That’ll wear off in a week or so and then we can play.”
“Come in and sit down, Angel,” said Buffy sternly.
“My relationship with anyone is none of your business. It stopped being your business when you left for L.A.”
“But that’s Spike!”
“So it is. I tried normal and I didn’t like it. He’s a vamp, but he’s way more fun.”
“But he doesn’t have a soul!” yelled Angel, falling back on the tried and true objection.
“Well, actually he does.”
“Picked one up in my dimension,” said Spike. “You’re not unique anymore, poofter.”
“No, he isn’t,” said Giles. “I had Willow do a spell to check. He’s got one all right.”
Angel came in and collapsed into an armchair. Giles kindly poured him a Scotch too and walked over to hand it to him.
“To get back to what really matters,” said Buffy firmly. “We’ve got a Hellgod to worry about.”
“No, you don’t, pet,” said Spike. “She’s gone. I drained her. That’s why I’m so juiced right now. Her blood had a lot of power.”
“You mean she’s dead?” exclaimed Buffy. “Wow, Spike! You killed a god!”
“But...gods can’t die,” objected Giles. “That’s not possible for a true immortal.”
Spike shrugged. “This one was thrown out of her hell dimension and trapped here in a human body. As Glory, it’s true she couldn’t be killed. But when weakened, she turned back into her human shape, a guy called Ben. And he could be killed.”
Buffy caught her breath. “You killed a human?”
Spike looked at her with a hard, set face. “Yeah.”
“So much for the soul,” said Angel smugly.
Spike gave him a scornful glance. “Oh, like humans with souls don’t kill. In my dimension, Buffy had to die to stop Glory. It was either Ben’s life or Buffy’s. Which would you have chosen, wanker?”
“Spike...” whispered Buffy, horrified.
“It was the only way, Slayer.”
She spun on her heel and walked away, trying to take it in, all the implications. He watched her in silence, his face grim and his lips tightly compressed.
“A human,” said Giles and Spike gave him a sardonic look.
“Don’t get on your high horse, Watcher. In my dimension, you were the one who killed Ben.”
“You suffocated him, Ripper. For exactly my reasons. It was either him or Buffy. But you did it too late. Glory had already opened the gateway that would bleed all existing dimensions together and Buffy had to die to close it.”
There was a terrible silence, Buffy pacing back and forth, and Giles trying to come to terms with the knowledge that the Ripper side of him that he tried so hard to suppress was still there and capable of murder. Angel was clearly considering how he could use Spike’s admission to his advantage.
Spike just watched Buffy sadly. It looked like he was right to fear how she would take this.
“And what about this green ball of energy Angel was talking about?” Buffy said abruptly.
“Ah, well, she’s the Key. What Glory used to break down the walls between dimensions and open the gate.”
“Your sister. Dawn.”
“Dawnie?” Buffy spun to stare at him. “She’s an energy ball? No way! I remember when Mom and Dad brought her home from the hospital fourteen years ago. She’s human and she’s my sister!”
“She’s human, but she’s only just become your sister, Slayer. A couple of weeks ago you didn’t have a sister. Trouble is, you don’t remember that. These monks were trying to hide the Key from Glory, so they turned it human and sent it to you, figuring you’re the best one to protect it. They’ve rearranged everyone’s memories.”
“Except yours.” She gave him a disbelieving look.
“Maybe because I’m from the other dimension.” Spike shrugged wryly. “If you don’t believe me, check that binder. The other Buffy may have said something about it.”
“Somebody could use her against you, Buffy,” said Angel sharply. “You have to do something about her!”
“Do what? She’s my sister!”
“She’s not your sister! She’s a construct! She’s dangerous!”
“She’s innocent!” snapped Spike. “They made her human. What do you want to do? Kill her? Ripper here suggested that in the other dimension. And you say it’s wrong to kill a Hellgod who really is dangerous, just because she’s in her human shape. Hypocrite.”
“Oh, you see a difference?” Angel flung back. “This one’s not human either!”
“She is human. Cut her and she’ll bleed Summers blood. Have Willow, anyone, check her DNA. She’s your sister, Buffy, and she’s not going to turn incorporeal anytime in the future. She doesn’t even know what she is.”
Angel made a dismissive gesture. “How can she not know?”
“The monks did a good job. All she knows is that she’s a human teenager and that Joyce is her Mum and Buffy’s her sister. I wouldn’t tell her different, Slayer. Not unless something comes up and you absolutely have to. She’ll freak. Teenagers are unstable enough without being traumatized by thinking they’re some kind of alien monstrosity.”
Angel glowered. “Why are you protecting her like this?”
“She’s my Niblet. And I promised Buffy I’d protect her. To the end of the world. It doesn’t matter that it was supposed to be the end of a different world. You try to hurt her, you’ll have to go through me.”
“That’s an incentive,” snarled Angel.
Buffy slammed her hand down on the dining table. “No one’s hurting Dawn!”
Angel was on his feet. “Buffy, be reasonable. She’s a threat!”
“You say she’s a threat. Spike says she’s not a threat. All I know is that she’s my sister and I love her!”
“She’s a ball of green energy! She’s not your sister!”
“Even the other Buffy thought she was, otherwise why would she ask Spike to protect her? No one touches Dawn!”
Angel realized that she was looking at him with revulsion. “Look, I’m just trying to help. I’m trying to protect you.”
“That’s what Spike was doing too. Is it a vamp thing, that despite your souls the only solution either of you can find is to kill?”
There was a silence. Giles was rubbing his hand across his face, looking indecisive and worried. Angel was seething. Spike just leaned against the kitchen pass through and waited for the boom to fall.
“Go back to L.A., Angel,” Buffy said at last. “You’ve given your warning. I’ll take it from here.”
“This is not your turf, Angel. It’s mine. I make the decisions.” She turned on her heel. “And right now I’m going to get some sleep.”
“I’ll walk you back to the dorm,” said Angel immediately, clearly planning to continue the argument.
“She’s not staying at the dorm,” said Spike and Angel snarled. But then Spike’s face went suddenly grim and resigned at the way Buffy wasn’t looking at him. “Or are you, Slayer?”
“I think I’ll go back there for a while.”
Angel shot him a triumphant glance that Spike didn’t even notice. His whole attention was on Buffy who refused to meet his eyes.
He pushed away from the pass through and came to stand in front of her, not touching her, just looking down at her, his blue gaze somber and shadowed.
“You’re seeing me as the monster again, aren’t you?”
“I just need time to think.”
“Yeah, sure. This is what I am, Slayer. The vamp. You forgot that for a little while. I never did. Killing Ben? I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
“Want me to leave town? I won’t. I don’t leave. You’ll have to stake me.”
She turned away from him. “Giles? Don’t tell the Scoobies about Glory or the Key.”
“Yes. Quite right. I won’t.” Giles was polishing his glasses. “The danger posed by Glory is now non-existent and Dawn is no one’s business but yours.”
“Thank you, Giles.”
“I’ll walk you,” insisted Angel.
“Why not?” shrugged Buffy indifferently. “Spike can come with us.”
Angel ruffled up at once. “Why...?”
“I know Spike. He’ll only follow us. And his being with us will keep you from continuing this argument.” She gave him an exasperated glance. “Just for once, Angel, it would be nice if you consider that maybe your way is not the only way. I am so sick of you thinking you’re right all the time!”
Affronted, Angel fell into glowering silence. Spike passed him without a glance and fell into step at Buffy’s left side. He too was silent, his gaze resting on her averted profile with an odd, quiet, relinquishing stillness.
They walked through the silent, deserted streets, heading past the hospital towards UC Sunnydale and the dorm. They came abreast of Restfield and Spike’s step hesitated for a moment. Then his lips tightened as Buffy kept walking.
There was a crack of sound and the smell of ozone. Just above the tallest crypt in the cemetery, a garish red line broke open in the darkness.
“It’s a portal!” gasped Angel.
Buffy was staring, horrified. “Glory’s portal?”
“Should have known it wasn’t going to be that easy!” groaned Spike.
|Chapter #6 - Chapter 6|
“She must have done it when she was weakening,” Spike was muttering. “Just before she turned into Ben.”
Of all the times to leave her cell at home! Buffy whirled.
“Angel. Go get Giles. And tell him to call Willow and Tara. Oh, and ask Willow to bring my binder.”
Angel nodded and went.
“Won’t be anything in that binder about this,” said Spike. He was studying the rift intently as it quivered and shook, a red gash across the night. “It’s not the same as the one we had before. That one was white and things like dragons came out of it and buzzed us—dimensions starting to bleed together, I suppose. To open that, Glory needed spells and the Key, and it had to be on a certain date. This is different.”
“Maybe it’s worse,” muttered Buffy. “That red light isn’t very reassuring.”
“Bet you anything it’s a hell dimension.”
“Gee, thanks. Make my day.” She was watching the rift start to widen. “What did she think to gain by it?”
“That bint was stuck on herself. Couldn’t possibly conceive that she could die. But she’d have been furious I even tried to drain her. She’d have wanted to unleash hell on this world for one of us daring to do that to her. I should have been faster,” he said bitterly. “Wanker! I should have known she’d do something.”
Buffy touched his arm gently. “It’s not your fault. No one could have predicted this.”
He just shook his head grimly. He was blaming himself.
“So this is her hell dimension?” she said to give him something else to think about.
“Don’t think so. She wouldn’t have needed the Key if she could just will hers to open for her like that. No, this is another one. Whatever spell she cast, she had trouble with it, being more human than god. Look how long it took to work and how slowly that portal’s opening.”
“Yeah, but it’s still opening. How did you close it in your dimension?”
He swallowed painfully. “You threw yourself in. You died. Your blood closed it.”
She was silent for a moment. “I see.”
“It’s the blood. Someone else with your blood could do it. Dawn, for instance.”
“No,” he agreed. His face was gaunt with strain, all the bones standing out under the tightly stretched skin. A muscle jumped diagonally across his cheek as his jaw clenched. “Maybe there’s another way. This isn’t the portal we faced, the big one where the walls between the dimensions were breaking down. Maybe Red and Glinda can figure out a way. Red’s a powerful witch and Glinda’s got the right instincts. Together they might be able to close it.”
Angel was back, with Giles panting after him, his arms loaded with books.
“I didn’t know whether I had time to do research before coming,” Giles panted, plopping down on a tombstone, the books tumbling onto the ground around him. “So I just came and brought what I could.”
“We might have some time, but not much.” Buffy was watching the smoky red slash of the portal. It was opening only by slow millimeters, but it was definitely and inexorably opening. A hellish red light glared from it and black fumes were seeping through into the air of Sunnydale. “What’s that stuff coming out of it?”
“Don’t breathe that,” said Spike sharply. “Those fumes are poisonous. Like chlorine or mustard gas. I can smell it. We’re lucky the wind’s blowing the other way.”
“We can’t let that spread!”
Giles was skimming through his books at a headlong pace. Willow and Tara came running up, their arms full of magical supplies, and behind them Xander and Anya carrying weapons.
“We found a spell that closes portals,” Willow gasped.
“Try it,” said Buffy, taking the binder that Willow had brought as asked. “Try anything.”
While Willow and Tara set out the ingredients needed for their spell, Buffy waded through the binder, a lot slower than Giles was doing through his books but still as fast as she could. But Spike was right. There wasn’t anything in the binder to tell her how to close the portal except in the way Buffy2 had done it, flinging herself in and dying.
‘It’s always about the blood,’ Buffy2 had written. ‘Dawn bleeding opened the portal. But the monks made her out of me and her blood is mine. Summers’ blood opened it and Summers’ blood had to close it. Dawn wanted to jump, but I couldn’t let her do that. I’m the Slayer. It was my job. The work I had to do.’
Spike was watching her. His lips were parted and drawn tightly back against teeth set on edge, his eyes black with strain and fear. He knew, Buffy saw. He knew that she would do what Buffy2 had done, if Willow and Tara failed to close the portal.
“You and your plans,” Angel said to him contemptuously. “If you can find a way to fuck up, you always do.”
Spike didn’t even glance at him, his focus totally fixed on Buffy. Buffy ignored Angel as well. He was just trying to put Spike in a bad light with her. Spike had had to kill Glory. She knew that now, couldn’t even blame him for Ben. If he hadn’t, Glory would have ended up opening the greater portal anyway before the year was out. And Angel was a fool if he thought anyone could have predicted this lesser one or kept her from opening it.
“We can do this, Buffy!” Willow was saying as she and Tara finished setting out a ring of candles and hurriedly shaped a pentagram of salt and herbs within it. “We can close it!”
“You have to, Red,” said Spike intensely and Willow saw how he was looking at Buffy. He was cold afraid. Her eyes widened in horrified realization and she redoubled her efforts.
The rift was a couple of feet wide now and forms were moving within the glare and the fumes. A black and grotesque shape squeezed its way out sideways and fell onto the roof of the crypt, crouched there, its knees rising in sharp angularity high above its head like a spider’s, bones contorting in non-human angles as if they were double-jointed. Others followed.
Buffy grabbed at one of the swords Xander had brought and started to head towards it.
“No!” Spike caught her back. “Those fumes are all around there. You mustn’t breathe them! They’ll burn your lungs out.”
“We can’t let those get loose!”
“We won’t.” He caught up a sword and threw it at Angel, grabbed another himself. “Come on, poofter. This is our job. Vamps don’t have to breathe. Take care of the ones that get past us, Slayer.”
Willow and Tara were chanting and making arcane gestures, Giles holding a moldering book open in front of them so that they could read out the spell. The flames of the lit candles surrounding the three of them wavered in the light breeze blowing the fumes away from where everyone stood. The portal jerked, then stopped opening. It jerked again and narrowed a little.
Not much, but enough to block the bulky shapes beyond, even when they twisted sideways to try to get through the opening. But the gap was still wide enough for someone the size of Angel to get through it. The demons they could see were large, but there was nothing to say that smaller ones didn’t exist in that dimension and weren’t being called even now.
Spike and Angel were cutting down the creatures that had made it through already. One slipped by them and Buffy leaped forward to kill it.
“Don’t let its blood touch you, Slayer,” Spike yelled over his shoulder.
She slashed at it with all her strength, her sword slicing its head off, then jumped back hurriedly as greenish-black fluid sprayed from the stump. She saw what Spike meant when the ground charred and burned wherever that fluid struck it. The thing’s blood was caustic. The corpse curled up into a ball like a stricken spider and began to steam. She leaped back even further. The fumes stank, a rotten egg smell, sulphuric. The corpse dwindled, then vanished. At least they wouldn’t have any clean up to worry about.
But the portal wasn’t narrowing any further.
“It’s stuck,” Xander muttered. “Come on, Will! Make with the mojo!”
Buffy didn’t think Willow and Tara had much power left. They both looked white and exhausted. Only that glare of red light and the fumes were coming out of the portal now, but it stayed stubbornly open.
“Hellgods are powerful,” muttered Anya. Giles had explained what was going on and Anya with her demonic background understood a lot more than Xander. “It’s not easy to fight any spell they cast.”
Spike and Angel finished off the last of the creatures and came running back towards them. They had both been fast enough to avoid being sprayed by that caustic blood and there were no burns on either of them.
“You did a good job, guys,” Buffy said to them.
“We didn’t,” said Willow in a raw voice.
Buffy looked around. Willow was on her hands and knees on the ground and Giles was supporting Tara who looked like a limp rag.
“We can’t close it and we can’t hold it,”said Willow, agonized. “We’re just not strong enough. The spell Glory did is too powerful. Even though her powers were watered down by her human body, she’s still a god. That rift will widen soon and it’ll keep on widening until it takes over the whole world.”
“Why would she do something like that?” Xander exclaimed. “Wouldn’t it mess up her own plans?”
“She only had to be in a certain location at a certain time with the...a Key,” said Spike harshly. “Wouldn’t matter if the place is in meltdown and hell beasts are frying people all over it. That’d just be a giggle to her. And a hell world would make her feel right at home.”
Willow looked up at Buffy, tears rolling down her face. “Buffy, I’m so sorry!”
“But...isn’t there anything we can do?” whispered Xander.
“Yes, there is,” said Buffy quietly. “There’s something I can do. Tara, hand me that scarf of yours.”
Tara took off the silk scarf she was wearing around her neck and held it out, puzzled.
“No!” said Spike as Buffy took it from her.
“It has to be done, Spike. You know that.”
“There has to be another way, Slayer!” he said violently.
“What are you two talking about?” Xander asked in bewilderment, but Giles had a sick look on his face and Tara and Anya’s eyes were widening in appalled comprehension.
Willow was crying bitterly. “Buffy, don’t...We’ll find a way...”
“When? There’s no time and no other solution. All of you stay here.”
“Buffy!” Spike grabbed at her and she dodged.
“Angel, keep him from stopping me!”
Angel didn’t know what was going on, but he grabbed automatically at Spike. Spike hit him with all his force, sending him crashing into a tree twenty feet away. Glory’s blood still powered him.
But Buffy had already wrapped the scarf around her nose and mouth, and was running towards the crypt. She swung herself up onto it as Spike charged after her. He caught her just as she began to leap into the rift and swung her away from it.
She heard Angel and Xander shout in horror below them as they finally understood.
“Spike,” she said with gentleness through the scarf that kept her from breathing the poisonous air. “It’s my job. You know that. This is the work I have to do.”
“Only you?” He had a gray, deathly look on his face and his arms held her fast.
“Me or Dawn. It has to be Summers blood and I won’t sacrifice Dawn anymore than the other Buffy would.”
“Can’t let you do this, Slayer! Won’t!”
He bit her suddenly, his fangs sinking into her neck. Shocked, she tried to push him away, but his grip was unbreakable. She could feel him taking huge gulps, draining her, could feel herself start to slump. He was trying to weaken her as he had weakened Glory, so that she wouldn’t have the strength to jump. She heard Angel roar in fury below them at Spike’s attack on her and race towards the crypt. But he wouldn’t get there in time. Her knees were already sagging.
Spike retracted his fangs and kissed the bitemark, then raised his head and grinned down at her.
“Summers blood. Got that in my own veins now, haven’t I?” He stroked her hair. “Third time pays for all. I love you, Buffy.”
Then he let her go and jumped.
“Spike, no!” she screamed.
The rift flared blindingly, scarlet light blazing through the night. In the midst of it, she glimpsed Spike falling, his face contorted in pain. Then heavy winds screamed past her, knocking her off her feet.
The portal imploded violently, sucking the winds, fumes and light with it. And Spike.
Darkness descended, soothing after the glare of red light. Buffy staggered to her feet, ripping the scarf off her face. Something crashed with a heavy thud onto the ground beside the crypt. It was Spike’s body. She looked down at him as he lay on the turf, sprawled and unmoving.
“Oh, no. Oh, no, Spike.”
She scrambled down from the crypt and gathered him up in her arms. His head fell limply back and she moved so that it was in the curve of her shoulder, knelt there rocking him back and forth, her tears falling on his still face.
“Oh, Spike. It should have been me. It should have been me. You didn’t have to die a third time!”
He had meant it when he said he loved her. He had sacrificed himself for her, just as he had for the other Buffy. And just as the other Buffy had, she had lost him.
After a while, she became aware of movement around her. A hand touched her shoulder.
“Buffy,” said Tara softly.
“Go away!” she said angrily. “All of you, just go away and leave us alone!”
“Buffy, he’s not dust.”
“If he’s dead, shouldn’t he be dust?”
Buffy caught her breath. Tara was right. Spike’s heart never beat and, when he was sleeping or out cold, he didn’t breathe. The only way to ever tell that a vamp was dead was if he were dust. And, solid in her arms, Spike wasn’t.
Still no breath or movement. But behind the one closed eyelid that she could see, there was a flicker as his eyeball shifted just fractionally.
“Spike! Wake up!”
His lashes fluttered and his head turned. Then his eyes opened and he stared groggily up at her.
“Oh!” She kissed him fiercely.
He responded drowsily, still not fully conscious.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered, already going into protective mode. “Why are you crying?”
“You goof! I thought you were dead!”
He blinked. “Tears? For me?” His hand came up and touched her wet face with wonder. “Never had anyone cry over me before. ’S nice.”
“You scared me half to death, damn you! Don’t you ever do that again! I’m supposed to take care of apocalypses, not you!”
“Couldn’t let you die.”
“No more freaking sacrifices! Promise me!”
“No. Promise you anything but that. Partners, aren’t we?”
She snarled in exasperation. “Don’t you dare use that against me!”
“If you hold me any tighter,” he said contentedly, “you’ll squash me to death. If I weren’t already unliving.”
She dropped her face into his hair and just held him for a moment. Then she drew a long shuddering breath and pulled herself together.
“How are you feeling? Can you get up?”
“Give me a minute.” He turned his face into the curve of her neck and shoulder. She felt his lips brush the bitemark that he had left on her neck. “Did I hurt you when I did that?”
“No.” She kissed his temple. “It felt good, actually.”
“It can feel a lot better. I was in a hurry.”
“You’ll have to show me.”
“Love to. That’s some rush, that Slayer blood of yours. Never had it before. Tasty. Like the rest of you.”
They grinned at each other.
“You’re not biting her again!” roared Angel.
“Butt out, Angel,” snapped Buffy. “He can bite me anytime he likes.”
Spike was looking around in surprise. “Bloody hell, we’ve got an audience. Bunch of sodding voyeurs.”
He grinned at their affronted looks, pushed himself waveringly into a sitting position, then staggered unsteadily to his feet. Buffy got up too and braced him as he wobbled.
“Lean on me,” she said, sliding an arm around his waist, and he did so, his arm across her shoulders.
“I’m all right. Just a bit shaky.”
He straightened and she saw with relief that he was recovering rapidly.
“Well, that was an interesting experience,” he remarked. “Kind of like being put through a mangle backwards.”
“Why are you alive?” demanded Giles.
“Got me, mate. Sure wasn’t expecting to see your bright and shining faces anytime soon.”
“But the other Buffy died when she jumped into the rift.” Buffy held him tight, her face against his chest, and he kissed the top of her head. “Why didn’t you?”
“Haven’t a bleeding clue. Oh, wait! Bleeding. The blood.”
“Glory’s blood. That god’s blood of hers. All that power I was juiced with. It must have protected me.”
“Oh, Good Lord! Of course!” exclaimed Giles. “Do you still have that power?”
“Nah, it’s gone. Must’ve burned off in the rift.”
Giles was just about rubbing his hands together in glee. “I have to write this up in my diaries!”
“Nothing I like better than being a footnote in some Watcher’s diary,” muttered Spike and Buffy laughed at him. She was almost giddy with joy and relief.
“I think you need a drink.”
“Oh, yeah. Pity we’re not near Watcher’s pad. Could have used some more of that Glenfiddich. But I’ve got some JD at my crypt.”
“We’re near that. Come on.”
“I thought you were going back to the dorm, Buffy,” said Angel sharply.
Buffy and Spike both gave him scornful looks.
“Don’t be a bigger bonehead than you can help, poofter,” said Spike. “Game’s over. Go back to L.A.”
“You’re not going to break those two apart now, Angel,” said Anya kindly. “Look at the way they’re hanging onto each other. They might as well be claimed.”
“Don’t use that word!” said Angel violently.
Buffy gave him an interested look. “Must be a big deal in the vamp world if Angel’s having such a cow about it. What’s this claimed thing?”
“Kinda like being married,” said Spike a little breathlessly.
“Except more so,” explained Anya. “The bond can’t be broken. It’s for all time. Only death breaks the link.”
“For all time, huh?” Buffy looked at Spike whose eyes were starting to shine. “You’d belong to me for all time?”
“And you’d belong to me,” he said very softly, very intensely, his arm around her waist drawing her tightly to him.
She smiled. “I like the sound of that. Do you?”
“I’ve dreamed of it.”
“There’s a catch,” said Anya. “The sting is, vamps have a weird twist on that ‘till death do us part’ bit. If one dies, the other one dies too.”
“I don’t think either of us have a problem with that,” purred Buffy.
“Giles!” said Angel desperately.
“Don’t look at me,” said Giles, waving him off. “I’ve learned to bow to the inevitable. The other Buffy crossed dimensions for him. I shudder to think what this one might do. Just don’t anyone tell the Council.”
Angel looked around in search of support. But to his dismay, the girls were all smiling sappily at Buffy and Spike, and Xander just shrugged ruefully.
“What he said,” sighed Xander. “The guy just tried to sacrifice himself for the third time for her. I mean, that’s commitment.”
“I think Spike and I need to talk,” said Buffy. “See you all later, guys.”
Angel reached out to stop her. “Buffy...”
“I love him, Angel. The other Buffy loved him and I do too.”
Spike’s arm tightened excruciatingly around her waist. Angel’s hand fell. He turned on his heel and walked away.
Spike made an odd little sound of triumph and amazement in his throat, then swept her towards his crypt.
“We won’t be seeing them for a couple of days,” she heard Anya remark behind them. “Wanna take bets on how many orga...”
“What? I could make money on it, Xander. I wonder if Willy...”
The crypt was dark. Instead of lighting candles, Spike just scooped her up and headed for the trapdoor at the back. A minute later, they were standing beside the bed and he was switching on the lamp on the night table.
“You keep missing the mark,” she complained.
“I’m exactly where I want to be. You said we need to talk.” He pulled her against him and took her face in his hands. “You love me?”
She smiled. “Yeah.”
“When did this happen?”
“All along, I think. Since you first arrived. You were so different. You were what I needed. But I didn’t know I loved you until you jumped through that portal and I thought you’d die. We Buffys tend to be morons that way. Only knowing when it’s too late.”
“You love me,” he said in wonder and kissed her.
She kissed him back, her arms fierce around him.
“I thought I’d lost you, Spike. I thought you’d died. I wanted to die too. I should have. It should have been me!”
“Never while I exist.”
“No one’s ever loved me. Not ever. I’ve wanted it for a hundred and twenty years. Wanted someone I love to love me back. Won’t let you die. Not if there’s any way I can prevent it. I won’t lose you! I love you, Buffy.”
“Do you?” She took his face in her hands and, startled, he let his drop to slide up and down her back. “Who do you love, Spike? Me or that other Buffy? Because we’re not the same.”
“You,” he said softly. “You. This Buffy. You’re what she was before all the pain and anguish started. You’re what I fell in love with. My shining light.”
“Spike...” She drew his head down to hers and they leaned their foreheads together.
“You’ve given me so much, Buffy. So many gifts,” he whispered. “You’ve made me whole.”
She understood. He had been so battered and torn up when he had arrived in Restfield, world-weary and almost wanting death. ‘I wasn’t caring much about staying alive by that time,’ he had said, explaining why he had joined Angel’s unachievable battle against the Senior Partners.
“I was all in pieces. You and that binder, you’ve made me whole. Given me absolution.”
“You didn’t need absolution. You redeemed yourself there in the Hellmouth when you chose to burn. The Powers sent you to Heaven, Spike, not Hell, remember?”
“Don’t remember and it doesn’t matter.” He stroked her face with delicate, loving fingertips. “What matters is that when you look at me, you don’t see a monster.”
“You’re not a monster.”
“Most people wouldn’t agree. I’m a vamp. But you see me as a man. You see me.”
The way he saw her. She understood that, the need to be seen and still cherished.
“I see you, Spike. And you’re beautiful. There’s darkness in you, but there’s also so much light. You say I’m a light. Maybe so, but there’s darkness in me and it comes from the same Slayer side that my light comes from. There’s light and dark in both of us. We match.”
“You’re the one who’s brought me into the light. Your family, they’re my family, Joyce and Dawn. The Scoobs, they seem to be my friends now. There’s a place for me beside you in the world, in the light.” He shook his head in wonder.
“No more hiding in shadows,” she agreed and kissed him. “But the light was in you already, Spike. It was there when you came. You brought it with you. Your soul.”
“My soul. In the end, it wasn’t a mistake, was it? It’s brought me you. God!” he said. “I can’t believe this is happening! I can’t believe you’re with me!”
“I’m with you. Forever, if you want to make it so.”
He looked down at her, his eyes blazing. “You mean it.”
She looked back gravely. “Yes. I want it. I want us to own each other. I want us never to be parted.”
“God, Buffy!” His breath shook in his mouth. “It’s never been done. Vamp and Slayer.”
“So we’ll break new ground.”
“There might be all sorts of repercussions...”
“Is that the soul talking?”
He laughed a little ruefully. “Don’ know. Must be. The rest of me is being totally selfish. Want you to be mine more than anything else in the world. To never lose you. But you only just heard that such a thing as a claim even exists. You should take a few days, research it properly, be sure...”
“It’s a link between us that binds us together and can be broken only by our deaths. What else is there to know?” She kissed him, smiling. “Be selfish. I plan to be. Because I don’t want to lose you either. Want you to be mine for all time.”
“Oh, God!” He caught her up against him. “I’m yours, pet. With or without the claim. Don’t you know that?”
“Yeah,” she purred. “But what’s wrong with making it official?”
“You’re giving me everything I’ve ever dreamed of,” he said wonderingly, gathering her up in his arms. “You’re giving me the world.”
“Works both ways.” She twisted to kick off her sneakers as he dropped her on the bed. “How do we do this?”
He was heel-and-toeing out of his Docs. “We make love and I bite you and say you’re mine and you say yes. Then you do the same to me.”
“I like every bit of that plan.” She was drawing his clothes off him, just as he was sliding her out of hers, their hands tender on each other. “Wanna bite me now?”
“Claim will hurt less if you’re closer to climax.”
“Oh, not the claim yet. Just want you to bite me. It felt good, but you didn’t give me time to enjoy it.”
His eyes were dancing. “That’s twisted of you, Slayer. You do realize that’s bad sex, don’t you. Forbidden. A real no-no.”
“No such thing as bad sex between us. Not when it’s willing and with love. We’ve probably already gone through every position there is. Did you ever bite her?”
“Never. She’d have freaked.”
“It was all bad sex to her, wasn’t it? And I might have gone that way myself, if it wasn’t for you and that binder.”
They were both naked now, twisting and coiling around each other, worshiping each other with their hands and their mouths and their bodies. His eyes had turned gold. That raspy vamp tongue slid up the underside of her breast, teasing her. She shuddered and arched to it. He reached her nipple and suckled on it, that tongue rubbing and rasping upon it.
“Oh, God!” She would never get used to that.
“Love the way you respond,” he breathed. “Love that you like it, want it. From me.”
“Always want it. Wanted it right from the moment you turned up in Restfield. Even earlier really, except that I couldn’t admit it.” She groaned as that tongue slid down her belly. “Bite me!”
He bit her high up on the inside of her thigh and she gasped, not having expected it there. His fangs slid painlessly into the vein, began to draw. But not in great, hurried gulps like before. Slowly, sensuously, stretching it out.
Fire shot through her every nerve. A drunken, almost orgasmic feeling. A heated, voluptuous rapture thrilling through her veins. No wonder humans went crazy over it, kept going back obsessively to the bite shops.
She felt him smile against her thigh.
She had never felt anything like this before, this incredible sensation singing through her. She was drowning in it. And it went on and on, seemingly forever. Her body writhed uncontrollably and her mind blanked out and she was hopelessly wet between her legs.
His thumb slid across her clit, rubbed at it. She was so aroused, she needed hardly a touch. She came excruciatingly hard, her brain spinning out.
When she came to, he was leaning over her, laughing.
“We have got to do that again!” she gasped. “A lot!”
“Oh, we will.”
His eyes were blazing and she could feel him impossibly hard between her thighs.
“It does something for you too.”
“Slayer blood,” he explained. “Aphrodisiac.”
“As if you need it,” she groaned.
He grinned down at her. “Ready to go again?”
“Are you kidding? I’m wiped!”
“But we’ve miles to go before we sleep.” His head came down.
“God, I love you, Spike!”
“Make me yours, Spike.”
“Yes,” he said. “Yes.”
His eyes were ablaze with wonder and delight and triumph. She pulled him down to her, her whole body rekindling under that look and the feel of him upon her and the deliberate, inciting caresses of his hands and his mouth that knew exactly how to drive her crazy. He was whispering blurry, indistinguishable endearments into her skin and she was whispering them as well into his, feeling him quiver and tremble as he heard them.
He took her and she cried out with the sheer pleasure of it, that first thrust always forceful, always an excruciating rapture. Felt him thick and hard within her, driving her higher and higher.
His fangs slid into her neck and that glorious fire started again, that sizzling, agonizing, ecstatic delight.
“Mine,” he said. “Mine.”
“Oh, God, yes!” she gasped and bit his neck as hard as she could, sucked at the blood that welled up. “And you’re mine.”
“Always was. Always will be.”
Something locked, clicked within them, weaving them inextricably together, every cell linking and matching.
“Mated,” she whispered, understanding exactly what that meant now. “Partners forever. Always and for all time.”
“Yes,” he hissed. “Yes. Buffy, you’re mine now.”
They fell over the edge together.
Hours later, she watched him sleeping, lay lovingly caressing and brooding over him.
He was hers. He didn’t belong to that other Buffy. She suddenly understood what the Powers had been doing when they sent him to her.
He and that other Buffy had too much history between them. Too much pain and violence and anger to be ever completely forgotten, too much guilt and anguish whose memory might shadow and mar the loving. They had needed the slate to be wiped clean. That Buffy had needed a Spike whom she hadn’t hurt. This Spike had needed a Buffy who had never hurt him, never rejected him, saw him, valued him, loved him as he desired to be loved, right from the start.
And she had needed a Spike with a soul, who saw her and valued her, was mate and partner and the dearest of friends.
“What are you thinking?” he asked and she realized that he had woken and was watching her himself, his eyes soft and smiling. That silken look of warmth and love and devotion that she had feared in the beginning and now prized.
“That you could have been in Heaven.”
“But I am.”
“No, I mean, they sent you to Heaven, Spike, and then they took you out of there.”
“They gave me a gift.” He pulled her down to him. “They gave me the only reward I wanted.”
“You don’t get it, pet. It wouldn’t have been Heaven for me without you. Heaven’s right here, pet. Right here. The only heaven I want.”
“Oh, me too, Spike,” she said and kissed him.