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Chapter 6, in which Angel attempts to make it all better.
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A good marriage is that in which each appoints the other guardian of his solitude.
Rainer Maria Rilke

    Spike opened the kitchen door, and nearly slammed it shut again. “And what the hell are you doing here?” he asked Angel.

    “I’m not staying long,” Angel said. “This isn’t a social call.”

    “No. It’s not. Get lost.”

    “Buffy!” Angel called, peering past him. Only peering. He wasn’t barging in....

    Spike realized Angel couldn’t. This was a predominantly human dwelling, and Angel hadn’t been invited. Bloody brilliant! “Well, in’t this just neat,” he said with a grin. “Left out in the cold. You can’t come in unless I say, Why don’t you–? But I don’t have to.” He beamed at Angel. “You’re not welcome in my home, Angelus. You’re not invited. You cannot enter. I do not want you here.” He was almost dancing his delight.

    Angel did not look intimidated. “Buffy!”

    “Come on in, Angel,” Buffy said softly. She’d come up behind Spike.

    Spike stepped back as Angel barged his way into Spike’s home. “Hey now, slayer!” Spike glared at Buffy. “I was enjoying that.”

    “Could you two quit sparring for two minutes?” Buffy asked wearily. She turned to Angel. “Hi,” she said.

    The expression on her face was very different than it had been the last time she’d seen Angel. At their wedding, Angel had been an annoyance. A distant acquaintance. Now the love Spike knew would never completely leave Buffy’s wounded heart was a heavy weight in the center of the room. Like a black hole. And like a black hole, it was sucking in all the light and heat and energy, and devouring it. Spike’s glorious slayer seemed dimmed, diminished the moment Angel had reared his low-browed head. “I’m glad you got my message,” Angel said.

    “Yeah. You said you had an idea?”

    “What message?” Spike asked.

    “He left one on the machine yesterday,” Buffy said. “Giles said he called back.”

    “Called back about what?”

    Buffy looked up at Spike, and then looked away. “You know what Giles has been after,” Buffy said.

    Giles had been trying to lift the curse off himself and Xander. And by extension, Spike and Buffy’s love spell. General reversals, good fortune anti-curses, specific de-hexings, none of them had done any good. “So what’s Angel got to do with it?”

    “I’ve been doing some research,” Angel said. He didn’t look at Spike, but stared down Buffy, and Buffy, without much expression, stared back. “Giles told me what hasn’t worked. I didn’t find anything likely to reverse the spell in general, but... I think I might have something that’ll work on you two.”

    “Now see here, wanker. Buffy and I are happy together, do you get that?  I’m not having you do mojo on me!” Spike snapped.

    “Spike,” Buffy said. She still sounded so weary. It was as if Angel had sucked all her vitality away. “Just hear him out.”

    Spike looked down at her, wounded. “You want to listen to him?”

    Buffy glanced at Angel, standing tall and sure with a spell book in hand, and then looked back at Spike. “I know it’s Angel,” she said. “And I know you two have issues, but come on, Spike. We’re not happy.”

    Spike did not say speak for yourself. He did not say, we would be if you’d just let yourself!  Both of those things would have been too painful.

    “We can’t end this love on our own. I mean, Wes is working an uphill battle on this counseling thing.”

    “So you just want to cut it out, rather than try and fix it?”

    “Well, wouldn’t that be easier than trying to make this impossible thing work?” Buffy asked. “I mean, seriously. Weren’t you happier when you just wanted to kill me?”

    Spike glared at her. “I still want to kill you,” he snarled.

    “Yeah! But you still love me, right? It’s awful!” She turned back to Angel. “What did you have in mind?”

    “I found a spell,” Angel said. “It’s a reversal. A reset.” He paused. “You need me to tie him down?”

    “Shut your gob,” Spike glared at him. He turned back to Buffy. “Can I talk to you?”

    Buffy looked shyly at Angel. “Um...”

    “Alone, pet.”

    Buffy frowned. “Okay. Um...”

    “You’ve already invited this poof into my home – without checking to see if it was okay with me, first, which, if you hadn’t been able to see, it was not,” Spike snapped. “Do we really have to do this in front of him?”

    Buffy looked chagrined. “Okay. Um. Angel? Could you... um...? Giles’s apartment is upstairs, could you...?”

    “I’ll wait out front,” Angel said. “I’ve a guest.” Angel slipped back outside.

    Spike still found him too close for comfort. He took Buffy by the arm and led her to the training room in the back. Their workout room was large, well outfitted with targets and weaponry and punching bags. It was supposed to be the livingroom, but Buffy and Spike had put the couch and TV in the kitchen. They didn’t need much space unless they were working out.

    “What’s the trouble?” Buffy asked.

    Spike stared at Buffy. “The trouble is that you’re suddenly okay with him waltzing in and getting his fingers into our relationship.”

    “He’s not getting into our relationship,” Buffy said. “He’s trying to end a curse.”

    “So being with me is still a curse, is it?”

    Buffy sighed, rolling her eyes. “Spike–”

    “No, you don’t get to just Spike me on this one. You knew Angel was coming, and you didn’t tell me.”

    “I knew you wouldn’t be happy.”

    “Too right!” Spike said. “You know what he’s done. To you, to Dru, to everyone around you. He’s a torturer. Why are you okay with him just walking all over you?”

    “That wasn’t Angel,” Buffy said. “He didn’t have a soul then.”

    “Why does that make such a big difference to you?”

    “It’s just... it’s different, Spike. He’s different.”

    “No,” Spike said. “He’s not. And until you realize that, you’re– God! Why are you okay with him coming up with some random mojo for us?”

    “You’re okay with Giles trying to end the curse.”

    “He’s trying to get rid of his own, and wanker-boy’s, we’d be just a by-product. This is Angel coming over specifically to break us up!”

    “Yeah!” Buffy said. “Because this is insane!”

    Spike stared at her. “Are you really that unhappy?”

    Buffy swallowed.

    “Why?” Spike asked.  He searched her face. “What am I doing wrong?”

    “I...” Buffy rolled her eyes, but she still wouldn’t meet his.

    “I fight by your side,” Spike said. “I give you my time and my attention. I try to be kind, and generous, and work with you. I go to these damned counseling sessions with your bloody ex-watcher, and none of it’s gonna be good enough for you, is it. You take me to your bed, you take my love and my body, and its never gonna be enough. No matter what I do for you. I’m never gonna be Angel, I’m never gonna have this precious soul, and you’re never gonna be happy.”

    “Spike, it’s not that,” Buffy said. “You aren’t doing anything wrong. But this... is something someone did to us. We should see it ended.”

    “And you want it ended by Angel.”

    “By anybody!” Buffy said. She reached out and touched his chest. “I can’t stop this,” she said. “I can’t stop wanting you. It’s like being chained! Just let me be free, Spike, god!”

    “You feel chained,” Spike said. “I’m a prison.”

    Buffy looked down.

    “I love you,” he whispered.

    “I love you, too,” she said, unable to meet his eyes. “That’s my prison. Not you. Me.”

    Spike gazed at her for a long moment, and then strode out of the workout room. “All right, you great poof!” he shouted out the open kitchen door. “Get in here and try your blasted mojo.” Angel reappeared in the doorway with his head up like the white-hatted hero, the grand savior himself. Spike glared at Buffy. “But if this spell gets reversed,” he told her, “I’m telling everyone about the chocolate syrup incident.”

    Angel looked horrified. “You...!” He grabbed hold of Spike. “What did you do to her?”

    Spike laughed. “Jealous, peaches?”

    “Angel, I just didn’t have the lid on right, it got all over my shirt.”

    “For starters,” Spike said with a flick of his eyebrow.

    “Just put him down!” Buffy said. “We said we’d do your spell, you’ve won. Quit sparring for like ten seconds, my god!”

    “If he did something to you, Buffy–”

    “I’ve done everything to her,” Spike said with a wicked grin. “Just ask ‘er.”

    “Spike! Stop it. Please.” She looked ashamed.

    “She’s got endurance, mate,” Spike continued.

    “Spike!” She sounded almost in tears.

    Angel growled low. “She’s disgusted by having been with you,” Angel said. “As soon as she’s not poisoned by you, Spike, I’m gonna kill you.”

    “If either of us is going to kill him, it’s gonna be me!” Buffy said. “Just put him down.” Angel complied, and the two vampires squared off, the whistle blown – for the moment. “Okay. So. What’s this spell entail?”

    “I don’t know if I trust mojo done by Captain Forehead here. He’s no witch.”

    “Which is why I brought some help,” Angel said. “A friend of mine has visions, found a witch right here in Sunnydale to do the actual spell.”

    Spike grunted. “Dunno if I trust visions from that dumb mick,” he said, but everyone ignored him.

    Angel looked outside. “Tara? Do you want to come in?”

    A young woman nervously poked her head around the door frame. Tara was a shy looking dark-blonde, with curious eyes and a modest bow to her head. “Um, hi,” she said.

    “Hi,” Buffy said, liking her almost immediately. “I’m Buffy, this is my husband Spike.”

    “For now,” Angel said.

    Buffy shook Tara’s hand. “So you’re the witch?”

    “Um... yeah. A-a little. My mother... she... taught me some....” She trailed off. “Um, Angel found me... told me a little bit about himself. He told me you two are under a spell? From a witch here in Sunnydale?”

    “Yeah, my friend Willow did a spell that went wrong.”

    “Willow?” Tara frowned. “I think she was in my wicca group.”

    “Yeah, she went to that a few times.”

    “You mean she was a r-real w-w-witch?”

    “She was learning.”

    “Messed us up something royal,” Spike said darkly. “Think you can do anything about that, Glinda?”

    “It’s Ta-Tara,” Tara said. “And... um... yes. With... um... your help?” she turned to Angel.

    “Tara’s going to take my memory of you two from before the spell, and reset,” Angel said. “It won’t really affect you much, but there’ll be this moment when you’ll remember who you really are, as seen from my eyes. And when that happens, your own memories of who you are and how you feel should reassert yourselves. Any spell that’s affecting your emotions should be wiped right out.”

    “So it’ll change how we feel?” Buffy asked. “Isn’t that... well... the same as the spell in the first place?”

    “It’s a mental cleanse. It can only remove foreign influences,” Angel said. “What the spell is actually doing is reasserting your own natural mental defenses. It’s just using me as an example, because I know both of you. My memories of you aren’t so foreign that it’ll cause you any damage, but they’re not yours. Because the memories I’m giving you will be mine instead of yours, your own mind tries to fight it off. Like a sort of mental immunity. Your mind will want to remove the foreign body. Since the spell is a foreign effect as well, it should be shunted off along with my memory. Then your memory of the event I’m recalling should reassert itself. And the love spell, that’ll be fought off as well, by your own actual emotions.” He shook his head. “I know it all sounds kind of weird and metaphysical, but it’s all in the book.”

    “I told him to choose very strong memories,” Tara said. “It... it’ll only really work because he’s a demon. We need to use his blood to activate the cleansing spell. I don’t have that kind of power, but his blood does.”

    “What memories you using?” Spike said. “I won’t have you resetting my emotional state with some crappy memory of me in a wheelchair or nothin’.”

    Angel looked over at Spike. “I thought for you the Boxer Rebellion,” he said.

    Spike frowned. “All right,” he said dully, though he felt a tingling of pride. It was one of the best moments of his life, and Angel had seen him still hot with slayer’s blood. It would do. It would sure remind him of what a slayer was really for, yeah?

    “And what are you using for me?” Buffy asked.

    Angel gulped. “Christmas.”

    Spike rolled his eyes. He had no idea what that meant, but Christmas? Seriously, Christmas? God, Angel’d gotten all nancy boy with that soul.

    Whatever he was referring to seemed to mean something to Buffy, because she went white. “Okay,” she said. Spike really wanted to come up and hold her, but no. Not with Angel in the room.

    God, no spell yet, but Angel had got his hands into their relationship, and it was already breaking. Spike suddenly wasn’t able to comfort his wife! And of course, Angel walks into a room, and bang, she needs comforting. Didn’t she see what a wanker he was? Guess not, because she was discussing the logistics of the spell with this Tara person now.

    A few minutes later they sat down around the round coffee table in Giles’s apartment, where the most of the anti-curse spells had been cast, and failed to work. Angel had sent Giles up to Xander, to keep them both out of the way. The two vampires and the two women held hands. Spike refused to touch Angel. Buffy sat with Angel at one side and Spike on the other, and Tara across from her, and swallowed. Spike looked daggers at Angel from across the table. Tara lay down an intricate spell chart which had already been mostly completed. Spike realized it was mostly written out in Angel’s blood. He recognized some of it. It was a general memory spell, and from what he could understand of the Latinae phrases around the edges – his Latin was very sketchy – it did seem to be only a cleanse. It couldn’t do anything to his mind that wasn’t already there.

    Tara asked for a strand of hair from Buffy and from Spike, and set them in the middle of the circle. Spike’s platinum blond curl with its darker root was dwarfed by Buffy’s gleaming strand. Spike looked up at Buffy’s hair. Would he still find it so stunningly beautiful in a few minutes? Would it be easier if it wasn’t?

    He’d still be chipped up and impotent without her. Would the rage be able to take the place of the love? He doubted it.

    But if being free of him was what she wanted...

    God. He hated this. Angel was right. Get rid of the love. It only mucked him up.

    Tara chanted and chanted and gripped their hands, and suddenly – Woah! Fire! Fire everywhere, and screaming in the darkness, and there was Spike... blooded across the face, flushed with heat, power in every line of him, Drusilla snuggling up beside him, standing with pride. “My little Spike just killed himself a Slayer.”

    Spike had forgotten how lovely Drusilla could be in her wicked, distant delight. He spared a moment to admire his former, though he was distracted a bit by Angel’s thought process. Angel’s emotions in that moment were remarkably torn. Spike remembered the poor bugger had a soul even then. There was both resentment and guilt in his old sire’s mind, resentment that Spike got to do something so powerful and so evil, and guilt that Angel had let him. Let him? Angel had no say in whatever the hell Spike did!

    “Congratulations.” Angel said. “I guess that makes you one of us.”

    So dismissive, even then. Only then did Spike get to be properly considered part of the Whirlwind, when he’d been putting up with their demands and their contempt and their dismissal for two bloody decades! And to Spike’s chagrin, his next move in this memory was not, as he now knew he should have been, to return contempt for contempt, but to try and placate him. Try, yet again, to please his old sire. “Don't be so glum, mate! The way you tell it, one Slayer snuffs it, another one rises. I figure there's a new Chosen One getting all chosen as we speak. I tell you what... when and if this new bird does show up, I'll give you first crack at her.”

    And that’s exactly what Spike was doing, he realized. Letting Angel have the slayer. Letting Angel have whatever the bloody hell he wanted! Spike snatched his hands back from Buffy and Tara and glared down at Angel. “I tell you what, mate,” he said.

    But something else was happening, and his finally remembered ire wasn’t going anywhere near the charged stare between Buffy and Angel in that moment. Buffy’s eyes were wide, her face was even whiter than before, both fists clenched, and the rage and pain in her eyes... Spike felt as if he’d been staked. “Spike,” Buffy said, her voice dull. “Tara, get out.”

    “Um... did it work?” Tara asked.

    “Get. Out.”

    “You’re gonna want to get out of here, love,” Spike said to Tara, and lifted her bodily to her feet. “You don’t want to get in between this.” He put Tara on the stairs and turned back, ready to help. “Slayer, I’ve got your back.”

    “Out. Spike. Now!”

    He didn’t want to. He couldn’t without having one question answered. He knew, even without searching his heart, that it hadn’t worked on him. He still loved her, loved her so much that the look on her face right now was like being beaten. But for her? “Did it work?”

    Buffy glanced at him, the first time she’d taken her eyes off Angel’s. “Just go,” she said. It was a plea.

    Go. Go where? This was home. Home was her.

    But this wasn’t his place, he knew it wasn’t. “Fine,” he said. “If you two wanna shag, get on with it. I’m off.”

    “Gah!” Buffy scoffed, but the contempt didn’t seem to be directed at Spike. As Spike headed down the stairs he heard her speak in a voice that sounded like she was being disemboweled. “How could you!

    Oh, bloody hell. There was really something going on there. He took Tara’s arm and marched her quickly away from what was about to become a battlefield between two powerful opponents , which would not, he was sure, care about collateral damage.

    “What’s happening up there?”

    “I don’t know,” Spike said. “Whatever it is, it’s ugly. The two of them have dirty history.”

    “How dirty?” Tara asked. She didn’t stutter as much with fewer people around.

    “He was told by some uppity-up demon that he was supposed to help her, so he got all possessive and stalkery and figured he’d fallen in love with her. He shagged her the moment she was slightly less juvi-jailbait, and it blasted his soul back out of him. He spent the better part of a year torturing her.”

    “Torture?” Tara sounded shocked.

    “Mentally, mostly,” Spike said. “But he killed some of her friends.”

    “Is that what he’s doing with her now?” Tara asked. “Torturing her?”

    “Oh, no, he thinks he loves her again. When he’s got a soul, he gets all moonfaced and martyred, and thinks he can love again.”

    “How’d he get his soul back?”

    “You know, I’m not sure how he got all soul-having again,” Spike said. “Don’t really care.”

    “Don’t you?”

    Spike shook his head. “Nope. I got no soul, and I’m thrilled with it.” At Tara’s nervous glance he added, “You’re safe enough. I can only kill demons.”

    She still looked just as nervous.  But she dared to ask, “Without a soul... how do you love?”

    Spike shrugged. “Never troubled me,” he said. He glanced at her. “How do you know I do?”

    “The look on your face when she was hurting,” Tara said. “That... that wasn’t small.”

    Spike smiled. “Well. Yeah.”

    “You didn’t want to do this spell, did you.”

    Spike shook his head.

    “Why did you agree?”

    Spike shrugged. “‘S what she wanted, wasn’t it. She doesn’t want to love me. She loves Angel. I’m sure it’s tearing her up inside.”

    “He tortured her for a year, and she loves him?”

    “Love doesn’t make sense,” Spike said. “Believe me. After a hundred years with my last girlfriend, I know for a fact – love doesn’t make sense. She almost never did.” Spike sighed. He still missed Dru.... Missed her more whenever Buffy talked about ending their love spell.

    “And he can’t love without a soul?” Tara asked.

    “‘S what the man says.”

    Tara walked silently for a moment. “That’s sad.” She looked up at Spike. “Why can you?”

    Spike shrugged. “Dunno.” He looked about. “Where do you live?”

    “The college,” Tara said. Spike turned her that way. “What are you doing?”

    “Walking you home.”

    Tara looked touched. “Why?”

    “There’s all kinds of nasties between here and there, and the demons are restless with the boy out of their reach. It’s not your fault Angel’s a ponce.” Spike didn’t want to say he kind of liked the little witch. Her nervous stutter reminded him of a long-dead poet who never knew what to say, either.

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