Chp 10 Two by Two
Three for a Secret
Chp Two by two
“This isn’t sunlight, is it?” Spike asked suddenly as they climbed through long grass up a steep slope. The jungle had been left far behind them and as the trees thinned out, he’d realised as the shade grew less and less and smoke didn’t start hissing from his skin that the light coming from the sky was not the sun.
Buffy stopped for a second to rest her aching legs. She gazed back down the hill to where the dark green trees of the jungle closed in, shutting off her view of the path that led back to The Magic Box. “No, that’s what we thought earlier. I don’t know what it is, but it isn’t sun.”
Spike pulled a face, brushing aside two big fat bees that were buzzing around his head. “Unless it’s just a trap for unwary vampires. You know, Slayer, every hour on the hour the grey skies vanish and bang, the sun pops out to wave hello to you and goodbye to us.”
“Then the sooner we get over this hill and find some proper shelter, the better,” she said dryly and pushing her hands against her thighs, forced her legs to move again.
Spike kept stride effortlessly at her side, reaching out to pull her up over steep parts that looked like Mount Everest. “Are you sure we’re going in the right direction?” she gasped at last.
Spike tilted back his head and scented the air. “Yup, Arabella came this way, not too long ago. She was in a hurry.”
“I bet,” Buffy muttered. irritated that his vampire cousin obviously didn’t find the steep climb a problem, then shot him a guilty look as she saw the expression of pain flash across his face again. “Still, I expect she was in a hurry to save Hope,” she went on, trying for bright and sounding like Dawn when she’d had far too much sugary popcorn.
“Come on, Buffy, let’s be sensible,” the vampire replied, the first signs of weariness beginning to sound in his voice. “I’m not completely doo-lally. Hope isn’t going to be alive. All I can expect is some sort of answers to my questions. How long she lived. How she died. I need to know that, as you would if Dawnie – ”
Buffy grabbed his arm and pulled him to a halt. She couldn’t listen to this. She flung herself down under an overhanging rock, shooing away two little furry creatures who tried to crawl onto her lap. The Disney type animals were becoming more and more insistent as the hours passed.
“Look, let’s take a break for ten minutes. I am so not a mountain goat! Getting exhausted isn’t going to help. We’ve been climbing for hours.”
Spike gazed down at the blonde head resting near his shoulder and a reluctant smile tweaked at his mouth. “Well, perhaps forty minutes, pet!”
“La di dah. Got a built in clock now have you?” she jeered and didn’t object when he tightened his arm round her and pulled her close to kiss.
“I know exactly how long it is since we made love!” he said as she broke the contact, gasping for air.
When they parted, she sighed and wriggled herself comfortably into the crook of his arm and stared back down the valley towards the jungle below them. The only sounds were the chirping of little pink and yellow birds and the wind rustling the long grass. She wondered where Anya and Div’vid were. She could no longer hear Div’vid’s mournful calling for his wife. Perhaps they’d caught up with Arabella. She didn’t fancy being in the vampire girl’s shoes when her demon husband found her, although knowing Arabella, she’d twist him round her little finger as usual.
“Have you remembered anything else about Hope?” she asked softly.
Spike sighed. “Not big on the memories of those days, pet. Stupid git that I was; ashamed of my illegitimate half sister. Afraid of what my so called friends would say if they found out about her. God, it makes me want to puke to think of it.”
“She wouldn’t have known that, though,” Buffy said. “Maybe she didn’t even know she had a big brother called William?”
Spike laughed and it was a bitter sound. “Oh, I think she knew, pet. Celeste, her mother, would have told her. I remember going round to the little house my sodding father bought for his mistress and his little daughter. Not sure why I went now. Probably from some pompous do-gooding idea that I could make Celeste pack her bags and leave London.”
He fell silent and Buffy was reluctant to speak, but she had to know. “And you met Hope? You said she had dark hair.”
“Very dark, long and shiny and big blue eyes. I can’t remember her face – ” he halted again, his hand clenching fiercely on her shoulder – “she curtsied and said hello and smiled up at me and I – I – just walked past her, not even bothering to look properly at her. God – I deserved to be eaten by Dru and Liam, not turned.”
Buffy shook her head impatiently. “You had no choice in that, Spike. Stop beating yourself up over it. And you didn’t have anything to do with killing Celeste. That was Darla, wasn’t it?”
Spike nodded. “I was busy taking out all the people who’d offended me over the years. I had no idea what Darla and Angel were up to. But Buffy, would I have stopped them if I had known? The rest of my family – cousins, aunts, uncles, everyone except Arabella. I killed them all. Why would Hope have been any different?”
“You’ve just said ‘except Arabella’. I think that’s your answer. You didn’t slaughter your whole family. You made a choice. OK, not a very big choice – one out of many ” And the wrong one probably, she said to herself, “but you didn’t kill Arabella, you turned her. You would have done the same for anyone you truly cared for.”
A memory of his mother pushed its way forward in Spike’s mind and he savagely crushed it. There was no way he could mention that to the Slayer. She would never understand.
“Bloody hell, Buffy. Your logic is weird. Most people would think being killed was the better option. Are you saying I’d have turned Hope as well if I’d had the chance? If I’d even bloody well have remembered that she and Celeste existed!”
Buffy frowned and watched intently as two candy-striped ants ran up and down her arm. “No, I’ve no idea, Spike. All I know is that she was your little sister who’d done you no harm. Something inside me tells me that you wouldn’t have hurt her or let Darla hurt her, either.”
“Why did you say earlier that you think Bella’s in love with me?” Spike asked suddenly changing the subject because he had no faith in her belief that he would have stopped Darla doing anything she wanted to do at that time. She’d only had to reach down and touch him - !
“You know she’s my cousin as well as my Childe. We’re family, pet. Not saying she doesn’t love me, but she hasn’t ‘fallen’ in love with me. Big difference.”
Buffy glanced down at the strong pale hand that lay idly on her thigh; thin fingers slightly splayed, the black nail polish long gone. She was careful not to look up into his face: she knew her expression would give too much away. He always seemed to know exactly what she was thinking, no matter what words came out of her mouth.
“I wonder why we always say ‘falling’ in love? Why do we fall and not zoom up or jump into or dive into or – ”
“Somersault backwards with a triple twist?”
Buffy grinned. That just about summed up how she felt whenever she saw him, much as she refused to admit it, even to herself.
“I suppose we fall because we’ve no idea where we’re going to bloody well land! You can’t choose the time or place or – ” Spike paused for a second and glanced down at her – “or the person. It just happens. One minute you’re walking along, minding your own business, ready for a piece of the action, your whole unlife mapped out before you, then – wallop – you fall down a friggin’ great hole into a completely new world!”
“Definitely wallop.” He could remember a dreadful, marvellous, vivid dream – remembered waking with Harmony at his side, but the strength and knowledge of what he’d stubbornly refused to admit to himself over the years had blotted out everything from his mind except the Slayer’s face and the fact that he had indeed fallen in love.
“You fell in love with Liam,” he added and cursed as he felt her body stiffen.
“And you fell for Dru!”
There was a long silence as one remembered the teenage angst love affair and the other the angst ridden thrall of loving his mad sire.
“We’d better get moving,“ Buffy said at last, easing herself out of his embrace and standing up.
A swirl of leather and he was at her side, his eyes darkening with itensity. “Sometimes you fall softly, other times it hurts when you land,” he said. “I’ll never, ever recover from falling for you, Slayer. You know that, don’t you?”
Buffy bit her lip. She wanted to tell him that she felt the same, but – well, this wasn’t the time or the place and anyway, love? Lust, maybe, and she certainly felt jealousy, but she refused to give her feelings the name of love.
She turned and started climbing the slope again. Somewhere ahead was Arabella and the other locket. And perhaps a clue as to what had happened to Hope. She would concentrate on that alone and not let herself worry about falling in love with a vampire.
Above her head two bright red and blue butterflies danced, their wings shimmering in the odd half light. Buffy went to swish them aside, then paused. “Spike, that’s weird, have you noticed, everywhere I go, there are animals or insects, birds and creepy crawly thingies surrounding me? And they always arrive in twos.”
A mile away on the other side of the hill, Anya and Div’vid were making slow progress in their hunt for his wife. He had stopped shouting Arabella‘s name – mainly because the noise made it rain and Anya was tired of getting wet. But the biggest obstacle in their way was that they were deep in a conversation about real estate values and whether you could prove ownership in an alternate universe.
“It’s too damp a world to promote for the leisure market,” Anya said, skipping over a large puddle. “But I suppose we could sell off plots of land to build houses.”
Puzzled, Div’vid stared down at the slim shape who was jumping over apparently perfectly flat pieces of grass. “Damp? – I haven’t seen any dampness so far. It seems good development potential to me.”
Anya sighed. She’d already worked out that everyone who arrived on this world saw it in a different way. She just didn’t understand why her way had to have so much – water – in it.
“So I see rain and puddles, you see bright sunshine and blue skies,” she said. “That’s a good selling point in itself, isn’t it? I could write a really cool brochure – Live Your Own Life in Your Own World. We have the Perfect Building Plot for you. What you see is What you Get.” Her eyes sparkled at the thought of how much money they could make.
She cast a glance a long way upwards towards the emerald cow-like head above her. She liked this demon. OK, she would never love anyone like she loved Xander. Div’vid wasn’t as handsome or strong, but – and she felt guilty in even thinking it – he had a better business brain. And looks weren’t everything. That was a fact Vengeance demons learnt when they were still developing the hag like lines and folds of skin.
Div’vid’s little cow ears twitched in appreciation as he stared down at her. He liked this ex-demon woman a lot. Oh, admittedly she wasn’t as beautiful or fragile as his dear wife, but – and he felt guilty in even mooing it – she had a better business brain. And looks weren’t everything. This was a fact seven feet high, bright green Regurgitating Frovlax demons learnt when they were just two feet six and eau-de-nil in colour.
Anya stopped suddenly, out of breath, as the hill grew steeper under their feet.
“Rest for a while,” Div’vid said anxiously. He always forgot that human beings had their little weaknesses. He watched as she perched on a flat boulder and gazed out towards the far horizon. He coughed deeply, then chewed thoughtfully on a mouthful of hay he’d saved in one of his stomachs since breakfast. He had to admit, Anya was also one of the few humans he’d ever met who didn’t seem to flinch at the odours on his breath.
Yes, he would never love anyone as much as he loved Bella, but there was nothing in his culture, come to think of it, that said he couldn’t have another partner. The three of them would make a nice little herd. Why hadn’t he ever thought of that before?
Many miles ahead of them all now – because just because you were female didn’t stop you being powerful when you were a vampire, although you had to be so careful of getting over developed leg and arm muscles, god she should write a book about it but only loosers bothered writing – Arabella realised that the gold locket clutched in her hand was now throbbing, burning almost painfully against her smooth skin.
She was nearly there – wherever there was. For the first time, a frizzon of unease crossed her mind. She didn’t believe Hope would still be alive, of course. That was just a fairy-story to get William to turn to her in his hour of need.
But this universe was weird. What if the little girl had survived and was now a very, very old woman? Or completely mad?
She winced as the locket sent a shaft of pain up her arm and she realised with a shriek that she was beginning to burn! Before she could stop herself, she flung it away and, nursing her blackened hand to her chest, watched in horror as it bounced sideways and was lost in a cluster of rocks!
To be continued
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