Chapter 15, in which Spike makes a wish.
Yes, marriage is hateful, detestable. A kind of ineffable, sickening disgust seizes my mind when I think of this most despotic, most unrequited fetter which prejudice has forged to confine its energies.
The witch and the vengeance demon stared at Spike in bewildered shock. “Excuse me?” Tara asked.
“My soul,” Spike said. “Are you thick? You must have heard me!”
“Spike, what makes you think Willow can even do that?”
“Um...” Willow looked over to Tara in the candlelight. The power was still out all over campus. “I can, actually.” She looked back at Spike. “But I won’t.”
“Damn right, you won’t!” Tara said. She came up to Spike. “Spike, I-I know you’re hurting, but... th-that... that won’t make everything right again.”
Spike shoved Tara gently aside and addressed Willow again. “Buffy said you did for Angel. Said it was you the second time. I need it. Do it, I need it.”
“Spike, why do you even want such a thing?” Tara asked.
Spike glared at Tara. “For Buffy!” he snapped. “I can’t live like this, she deserves better!” He looked down, trembling, tears in the corners of his eyes. “She deserves better.”
“Spike, what happened tonight?” Tara asked. “Buffy freed you? You look hurt.”
Spike looked up with a demonic snarl, and Tara backed off. It was instinctive. “I don’t want a sodding psychotherapy session,” he growled. “I want a god damned soul!”
“It would be,” Tara said evenly. “Damned. You get that, don’t you? Your soul’s clean right now, wherever it is. You were a victim, you are an empty corpse. You bring it back, and all your sins will belong to... whatever you’ll become. Angel’s soul is black as sin. I c- I can’t imagine why you’d even want... to live like that, I... how could living as you are be worse?”
Spike glared. “Nothing could be worse than this,” he snarled.
“You’re wrong,” Tara said. “Believe me. You’re wrong.”
“It’s not just that,” Willow said. “You don’t get it, Spike, it was a mistake. I mean, I know Buffy dumped you–”
“It’s not about that!” Spike growled.
“Isn’t it?” Tara asked. “I know you love her. You’d do anything for her, but punishing yourself–”
“Gah!” Spike roared, lurching up from the chair. He staggered immediately, and caught himself on the table, went down to a knee. He gasped, panting, trembling. “Just give me what I need,” he said quietly.
“I won’t,” Willow said. “And before you get all Spiky again, listen to what I’m saying. That spell – the spell that gave Angel his soul. I thought I was curing him. I wasn’t. That spell was a curse,” Willow said. “It was a curse, not a gift. Not even for Buffy. If I’d known as much about curses then as I do now, I wouldn’t have done it.”
Spike glared at her. “What are you driving at?”
“Willow means, that if she gives you what you want, it won’t be,” Tara said. “Maybe she can give you a soul,” she looked at Willow a little askance, as if surprised by her power even as a witch, “but it won’t make you happy. That’s the point. Angel’s aura is... heavy. I’ve seen it. That soul itself is cursed. It’s not just a vampire cursed with a soul, it’s a vampire with a cursed soul. If he’s ever happy, he loses it.”
“You won’t be able to be Buffy’s husband with that curse,” Willow said. “Angel can’t sleep with Buffy. I mean... from what I understand, that’s pretty much all you guys do.”
“That was not all we did,” he said stiffly.
“Yeah, but it’s kind of important for marriage,” Tara said. “And if you can’t... um... make love, then...”
“You think that’s all I want from her?” Spike said. “You think that’s what this is about? That’s not what makes me happy!”
“Yeah, but Spike, I’m trying to tell you. If I curse you like that, you won’t be happy, and neither will she, no matter, what you do,” Willow said. “Whether you’re sleeping together or not. I know. She’s my best friend. Angel never made her happy. Not even from the beginning. He’s been nothing but pain for her, even in all that love. I’m really serious – I should never have done it. If he hadn’t gotten his soul again, Buffy would have killed him, he would have gone down to hell, and she could have put the whole thing behind her. Instead, killing him became torture for her – a betrayal on her part, wounding her soul more than if she’d just killed him as evil. And then he came back just to make everything terrible all over again. I shouldn’t have done it then. I won’t do it now.”
“But that soul... I’d be okay with not.... If she even wanted, we could find a way around that.”
“I could endure that!” Spike snapped. “I can’t endure this.”
“This what?” Tara asked, but Willow was still talking.
“That’s not the point,” Willow said. “Buffy was okay with not being able to sleep with Angel, too, but there was always this weight that dragged them both down. You must have seen it.”
Spike had. It sucked Buffy’s energy and vitality away every time Angel was in the room. The only time it didn’t had been on their wedding day, when they’d been so hot under that spell.... The spell had shielded her from that baleful influence. “And you’re telling me it’s this curse.”
“Yes,” Tara said. “Good or bad, evil or not, Angel’s soul is cursed. Anyone close to him is going to be tainted by it, eventually. And any curse that Willow puts on you as a vengeance demon – it would be cursed, too. Because that would be punishment for something. If you wanted to be with Buffy, and you want her to be happy, you’d need a pure soul.”
Now Spike felt as if he’d been punched. “Pure.”
“I don’t mean untainted with past evil deeds,” Tara said quickly. “I just mean it would have to be... clean. It couldn’t be saddled with punishment, or have a clause about happiness, or be because anyone did something wrong. Angel’s soul belongs partly to the curse. If it’s for Buffy... the soul would... just have to be... yours.”
Spike felt his world fading to grey again. He’d found this moment of hope, this glimmer of light within the darkness, a maybe, a crumb. And it had just been snatched away by the reality of it all. He couldn’t help it. What were his options? He didn’t like any of them. Tears escaped, and he turned away.
“Oh, Spike,” Tara said. She came up to him, and only then saw the crater in his skull. It was already healing, his demonic blood smoothing the worst of the burns away, and she understood. She came up to him anyway, no more frightened of him than she had been with the chip.
“Tara?” Willow asked. Willow didn’t understand, but Tara put her hand on him.
“I’m so sorry, Spike.”
Spike hated himself for showing weakness. ‘Least it was only in front of a couple of birds. What had happened to him? What had become of him! Where the hell was Spike in all this mess? “And we can’t even go back to just being under a god damned spell,” he muttered.
“I offered. Actually,” Willow said softly. Spike looked at her. “She was crying so hard. She missed the spell badly, so I offered. She missed you. But she said it was too late. Now that she knew it would be there without the magic, she couldn’t let herself.”
Spike glared at the ceiling, his wife not there to glare at. “She should have let the soldiers kill me,” he said. “She should have just let them have me. It would be better than... argh! Why do none of these women ever have the respect to just stake me!”
“I know it doesn’t seem fair,” Tara said.
“Damn right, it doesn’t seem fair!” Spike said. “This whole damn thing wasn’t fair! It should never have happened in the first place! If I had my way, I’d take the whole damn marriage, and send it down to bloody hell itself! Forget the stupid spell, forget the sodding vengeance demon matchmaker.” He glared at Willow. “I should kill you, you demon bitch! I wish you’d never been born!”
Willow stopped, and her eyes opened wide. “That’s it!” she said. She looked at Tara. “That might be the way around both our problems.”
Spike looked at her. “What do you mean?”
“Not having never been born,” Willow said. “But a wish, Spike. D’Hoffryn has... well, a really strict severance policy. If you take the power, you have to take the job, and since it hasn’t been my hundred years since I took the power, I can’t be let loose from the job of vengeance demon until my contract is up. He let Anya go because she’d screwed up, but she’d been a demon for like a thousand years. She– ”
“Skip to the point, Red.”
“The point is, I’m bound to be a vengeance demon and... well... I don’t want to anymore. It’s really bloody, and he won’t let me do just little vengeances. It’s gotta be the big all-out turning princes to frogs routine.”
“And let me guess. The punishment for poor work performance is eternal torment.”
“Pretty much,” Willow said.
“Can’t say I really feel sorry for you, bitch,” Spike said. Then he laughed. “Nope. Nope, can’t say that at all.”
“Just listen, Spike.” Willow said. “Those spells I did, they wronged all of you. So you have a right to invoke vengeance on me.”
“But I thought the vengeance had to be for something personal,” Tara said. “A true personal wrong. And you and Spike have never been close.” She stopped. “H-have you?”
“No,” Willow said. “But Buffy was my best friend, and I roped her to a blood sucking demon who wanted to kill her. No offence.”
“None taken,” Spike said.
“Don’t you see? That’s a complete betrayal. Of my best friend.”
“Oh,” Tara said.
“I’m not getting it,” Spike said. “How does that mean you wronged me?”
“It doesn’t,” Tara said. “You’re allowed to invoke vengeance for a loved one. Particularly family.”
“Particularly if you think your child or wife or something won’t, or can’t,” Willow said.
“But taking vengeance on yourself?” Tara asked Willow. “Wouldn’t that be a little risky?”
“No, I know what I’m doing,” Willow said. “All you have to do, Spike, is to wish that the whole thing had never happened, and everything goes back to normal. It’ll be perfect!”
“So... wait... I make a wish, and the whole thing goes away?”
“Well, probably not the whole thing,” Willow said, “because I can’t change things from before I became a vengeance demon. It’s a time-lock thing. My powers only extend as far as my time as a demon. But I could change things as I became a vengeance demon. I have powers over time – Anya changed it so Buffy didn’t come to Sunnydale, for instance – but I only have it for so long as my demon powers have been manifest. So... I’d still have done the spell and stuff, you’d still want to get married, but I’d be able to take it off like in a few hours. You won’t have gotten so used to each other that you’d – um – still be all lovey-dovey. When the spell broke, you’d go back to hating each other.”
Tara was staring at Willow. “But you wouldn’t have been made a vengeance demon,” Tara said.
“Right!” Willow looked at Spike, kind of excited. “You can do it, Spike. All you have to do is make a wish!”
“Wish... what, exactly?”
“Just wish I’d never been made a vengeance demon. I’ve wronged all of you – Xander, Giles, Buffy. And because I wronged them, even if the wish is on me, it should take! I’ll be out of my contract to D’Hoffryn without a blood-pact out on me, you and Buffy wouldn’t both be ripped up and tormented, and Xander won’t even have to endure his rakish scars! It’ll be great!”
“But... you and me,” Tara said. “We’ll hardly know each other again.”
“I wouldn’t worry about that,” Willow said. “Weren’t you already interested in me?”
Tara blushed and looked down.
“And I’d noticed you a few times. Here, check an oracle. Even a rune should do.” She grabbed a small velvet bag and held it out to Tara.
Tara took a deep breath and pulled out a small marked stone. She smiled. “Pertho,” she said. “Female. D-destiny.”
She and Willow grinned happily at each other. “See?” Willow said. “One or two more wicca club meetings and I think you’d have learned I was into spells. You came to find me as a demon because you knew I’d been a witch. Wouldn’t you come to find me as a witch, too?”
“Of course I would,” Tara said.
Willow smiled. “I told you. We’d meet. It’d be great. It’s just, I’d be just human which...”
“Would be... easier,” Tara admitted.
Willow turned back to Spike. “See? Just one little I wish! That’s all it would take. No more vengeance demon, no more demon magnet, no more Giles blind, and no more heart ache for you and Buffy. Just one little wish. I wish you’d cared enough not to become a vengeance demon. See? Easy!”
Spike stared at her. “One little wish, and it all goes away?” he said. All the pain. All the torment. All the heartache. All the fights. All the wrong. All the mistakes. And the taste of blood in his mouth, which tasted so right, and felt so wrong. The twisted maelstrom of emotion and torment that his life had become. Two weeks of torture. Three weeks – three weeks without Buffy. That had been torture in itself. To live the rest of his unlife without Buffy, without her life, her soul. Barren. Broken. It wasn’t like being without Dru – that was just lonely. This was like being disemboweled. He’d never felt so empty. And now... now... with what he had done.... To have all that, gone. Just gone. What would he be, without that? He’d still have the chip in his head – yeah, that sucked, but he’d rather have that chip, and not want Buffy, than not have the chip and need her the way he did. And he wouldn’t... he would not have hurt the woman he loved. He’d be free of it. That sin, the only sin he’d ever felt. The only sin he hadn't meant to commit. He’d be free.
“Yes!” Willow looked really excited. “Come on, Spike. One wish, and none of it happened. Please! One wish, and it’ll save all of us.”
“Save you,” Spike said. Save the rage. Save the heartache. Save the pain. And Buffy, injured, wounded, and all his fault. All the... dear god, was that guilt?
It didn’t make sense. It didn’t match his demonic self, he couldn’t understand it. He didn’t have the soul to understand it. It felt like going mad, a crater in his self, like the one in his head, like the hole in his heart. It hurt like burning, like he’d swallowed the sun. How could he endure this? How did human beings endure this every day? How the hell did Angel...? One wish, and it would all be over.
“I wish,” Spike whispered. “I wish....”
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