Tara had gone pale at the sight of Willow, but hadn’t said anything. The two of them were carefully arranged at exact opposite sides of the table, heads buried in books. Xander was reading the paper. Anya was looking at fabric swatches. Dawn had a suspiciously nice-looking leather-bound volume of Taming of the Shrew open in front of her, most likely liberated from Giles’ stash of readables. Buffy didn’t say anything. She had literary worries of her own.
She’d woken up to another poem, this one written out in Spike’s nineteenth- century copperplate. Leaves of Grass. She dug the scrap of paper out of her jacket pocket and studied it blearily.
All goes onward and outward ... and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.
I pass death with the dying, and birth with the new-washed babe.
....and am not contained between my hat and my boots,
And peruse manifold objects, no two alike, and every one good,
The earth good, and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good.
...Who need be afraid of the merge?
Undrape ... you are not guilty to me, nor stale nor discarded,
I see through the broadcloth and the gingham whether or no,
And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless ... and can never be shaken away.
Well, he had that right, Buffy thought. Tenacious, acquisitive, tireless. The top three words on her list of Adjectives Describing Spike.
It was bizarre, though. Not really love poetry at all. It sounded more like he was trying to ... explain himself. Her hand went unconsciously to the side of her neck.
“Huh. Wouldja look at that.” Xander’s voice teleported her back to reality, and she stuffed the poem back into her pocket. “That’s weird.”
Xander tapped the newspaper. “They’ve released some details from that frozen-guy case. At the museum.”
“Really?” Tara’s head came out of her book. “What does it say?”
Xander’s forefinger found a line of text. “They ran a couple of chemical tests on the display case that held the diamond. Looks like somebody used a methane torch to cut the hole.” He scanned down to the next paragraph. “Plus, they left behind some equipment. One of those cool James Bond harness thingies that comes down from the ceiling.”
Buffy frowned. “What about the frozen guy?”
“That’s the weird thing,” Xander said. “Apparently he’s conscious now – told the police that there were three men, and that one of them shot him with a freeze-ray gun.”
“Doesn’t sound very monster-y, does it?”
Anya stopped comparing the silk brocade with the iridescent taffeta and looked up. “Could be vampires,” she said. “They can look human.”
“But –“ Tara and Willow started at the same time, then broke off. “Go ahead,” Willow said, and Tara shook her head, directing her eyes at the table.
“Um .. okay. Thanks.” Willow looked rattled. “The thing is, a vampire would just bite the guard, right? Or any other demon too. Why would they go to all the trouble to sneak in? Why wouldn’t they just kill the guard at the front entrance, waltz in, and smash the case?”
“Good point,” Buffy said. “So. Humans. Next question: who do we know that could build a freeze-ray gun?”
Spike materialized out of the shadows. “I bet I know,” he said, and grinned at her. “Morning, all. Hey, Niblet.”
Buffy gaped at him. He’d seen her reading his poem. Shit. “How long have you been standing there? Didn’t anyone ever tell you you shouldn’t sneak up on people?”
His smile didn’t falter. “Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed, didn’t they? My, my, my.” He spun a chair around and straddled it, tilting his head as if to show off the violent patch of purple underneath his left ear. Damn that English skin of his. “Anyone going to eat that chocolate cruller?” Anya wordlessly passed him the box. “Thanks, pet.”
“Well, don’t keep us hanging, Bleach Boy,” Xander snapped. “In your estimable opinion. Was it Professor Plum, in the library, with the rope? Spit it out, already.”
“Temper, temper.” Spike finished off the cruller, took his time chewing, and smirked at the upturned circle of faces swiveled toward him. “Y’ask me, it’s those three geeks hanging out over at Robot Guy’s place. You know, what’s-his-name. Warren.”
They all stared at each other. “Warren,” Xander and Willow said together, and for the first time since the accident, shared a look full of the old connection.
“Warren,” Willow repeated. “Spike, you’re a genius.”
“Who’s with him, I wonder?” Buffy mused. “Well, wouldn’t hurt to swing by and take a look. Trekkies sleep just about as late as demons.” She glanced at Spike. “You know the address, I presume?”
“Same place he was before,” Spike said. His attention shifted to Dawn. “Shakespeare, Niblet? What happened to The Unauthorized Biography of the Backstreet Boys?”
“Um.” Dawn turned red. “School play. Auditions Monday. I’m trying out for,” she shot a look of pure evil Buffy’s way, “Bianca.”
“Made for you,” Spike said cheerfully. “Bet you’ve been the nice one all your life, haven’t you, luv?”
Buffy would have scowled at that, if Dawn hadn’t looked so happy.
“Tell you what,” Spike went on. “Why don’t you and me hang out here and practice your lines, while your big sis takes the Scoobies off to play Nancy Drew?” He shot a sideways look at Buffy. “I’ll get the report ... later.”
“Hey,” Xander said. “Since when did he start giving orders?” Buffy shrugged.
“A plan’s a plan,” she said. “Who’s with me?”
“Um ...” Tara bit her lip. “I think I may be onto something here with the ... um ... with the Doorkeeper demon. Maybe I should stay behind and keep going on that?”
“I’ll stay with you,” Willow said. “My problem, I should help figure it out. If it’s okay with you, that is.”
“S-sure. Fine.” The witches exchanged an uneasy moment of eye contact, then dived back into their books.
“I’d better keep an eye on the shop,” Anya said, not looking up from her swatches.
“Right.” Xander pushed off from the table. “You and me, Buff. Let’s go get ‘em.”
Across town, the Trio were already awake and plotting.
“So, you’re saying it can’t be Spike after all,” Warren said, frowning. Jonathan nodded.
“Right. You can’t transfer an existing soul into a body that doesn’t already have one. You have to have this Orb thing and know, like, Hungarian or something.” He shrugged. “But that’s O.K. Buffy’s a better pick for a henchman anyway, because she can pick up crosses and go out in sunlight and stuff.”
“Plus, she’s hot,” Andrew said.
“Well, duh.” Jonathan studied his notes. “It’s really simple, actually. I’m the one who performed the spell, so I’m immune. All I have to do is pick up the diamond and give it to her.”
“Yeah. And I quote: ‘The first souled being to touch the stone, after the spell is cast, shall be imbued with its essence’.” Jonathan looked up. “Here’s the important part, guys. After she touches it, we have to get it back. Whoever has the diamond, controls Robespierre. Got it?”
“Dude.” Warren had been looking out the window. “Did you say you had everything ready?”
“Because, dude. It’s like ... serendipity or something. She’s coming down the street.”
It played like a Three Stooges outtake. Buffy dropped the door from its hinges with a well-placed kick, bringing up her hand to catch something blue and shiny that came whizzing toward her head a second later. “What the hell?” she said. “You’re trying to take me out with the diamond? What a loser.” She tossed the stone to Xander. “Here. Hold onto this while I kick his ass.”
Andrew and Warren scattered as she advanced on Jonathan. He made a satisfying squishy sound as she pushed him up against the wall. “You,” she said, shook him once, hard, and let him fall. “Haven’t you caused enough trouble in this town?”
“Um, Jonathan ...” Warren was staring at Xander. Buffy made a threatening gesture in his direction, and he shut up. She turned back to Jonathan, hauled him up by the arm, and poked a finger into his chest.
“What’s wrong with you? Didn’t I save your suicidal ass in high school? Didn’t we rescue you from your pathetic delusions of grandeur and kill that monster thingy you created? Didn’t I buy your stupid autobiography? Why the fuck would you team up with these ... these losers ... and try to pull off another lame stunt like this?” She strode back across the kitchen, dragging the cringing Jonathan with her, and tapped Xander, who had slumped into one of the leather chairs, on the shoulder. “Give me the diamond,” she demanded. “I’m going to beat him over the head with it.”
She took the Blue Tavernier out of his unresisting hand, then bent to look a little closer, barely noticing when Jonathan tugged himself free and escaped to the far side of the room. “Xander? You okay? I didn’t throw it too hard, did I?”
“Jonathan,” Warren hissed. “This is not good, dude. Buffy is still Buffy. And this other guy is looking kinda funny.”
Jonathan finally found his voice. “You,” he accused Buffy. “You don’t have a soul, do you?”
Xander’s head came off the table. “Alors,” he croaked. “La loi est l’expression libre et solennelle de la volonte du peuple. La loi doit être égale pour tous. ”
Buffy stared at him, horrified. Xander still looked like Xander. Except for the weird fanatical gleam in his eyes, maybe. “You took Spanish in high school, Xan,” she said. “Come on. You don’t even like French toast.” She turned on Andrew, who was closest. “Get me the phone.”
Andrew hesitated. “Jonathan ...”
“Get me the fucking phone, I said!”
“She never used to swear this much,” Warren murmured to Jonathan. Jonathan was still in shock.
“She’s the Slayer,” he said numbly. “She’s supposed to have a soul. This should have worked.” Warren rolled his eyes.
“Anya,” Buffy said into the telephone. “Send Tara and Willow over here, wouldja? We’ve got a little problem.” She paused. “Yeah. Thanks. We’re fine. I just need a translator. Xander picked up the diamond and now he’s speaking French.” Another long pause; Buffy held the receiver slightly away from her ear. “Okay, you come too. Good. See you then.”
Dawn frowned. “I don’t get it. This is supposed to be funny?”
“Yeah, well, it was four hundred years before my time, too,” Spike said. “With Shakespeare, though, it’s all rhythm and word emphasis. You can’t just read it off the page like it’s a nursery rhyme.”
“Okay. Gotcha. But I don’t understand this part.” Dawn bit her lower lip. “I mean, the part with Katharina in the beginning, that’s easy. She wants to know who I like, and I’m being all nicey-nice but not telling her.”
“I mean, because she’s such a total bitch and all.”
“But this part with the two guys – I don’t get it.”
“Okay. So let’s decode it a little.” Spike scanned the page. “Right. So these two are fighting over her, right? Hortensio and Lucentio.”
“I got that far,” Dawn said sulkily. Spike sent her a sideways look. “Oh. Sorry. Go on.”
“So they’re both there to ‘tutor’ her in something. One in Latin, one in music. Except that they’re not really her tutors, but these blokes who want to marry her. Fighting over who gets to go first. And she breaks up the fight, right here. See?” He stabbed at the page with his forefinger. “’Why, gentlemen, you do me double wrong, To strive for that which resteth in my choice: I am no breeching scholar in the schools; I'll not be tied to hours nor 'pointed times, But learn my lessons as I please myself. And, to cut off all strife, here sit we down: Take you your instrument, play you the whiles; His lecture will be done ere you have tuned.’”
“I get it,” Dawn said. “It’s, like, a smackdown. She’s telling them to back off. But in a nice way.”
“Okay.” She kept reading. “So the Latin guy gets to go first, right? While the other guy is tuning his lute. Which is like, what, a guitar?”
“Cool. Do you know how to pronounce Latin?”
“Had to learn it in school,” Spike said. “We’ll get to that later. Just get the English bits for now.”
“Hah!” Dawn smirked happily. “This is awesome. ‘In time I may believe, yet I mistrust.’ She’s, like, all suspicious and stuff.” She snapped the book shut and tossed it on the table. “Love triangles are totally fascinating.”
Be very afraid of where this conversation is headed. “Wouldn’t know, pet. Kind of a one-woman vampire myself.”
She just narrowed her eyes at him. Gleefully. “Where’d you get the hickey, Spike?”
“Um. Well, you see. The thing is. That may look like a hickey, but ...”
“You and Buffy are totally doing it, aren’t you?”
Bloody hell. “Slayer, vampire. Not gonna happen, luv.”
“Oh, like it never did before,” she snarked. “Hello, Angel? I am so not ten years old anymore, Spike. Are you boinking my sister, or not?”
He closed his eyes. Some battles were over before they began. Like any conversation he’d ever had with any one of the three Summers women. “Sort of.”
“Cool.” She grinned at him. “Did she bite you anywhere else? Can I see?”
Teenagers, thought Spike. Who bloody knew?
The Trio were tied up and duct-taped together against the wall. Anya was pacing the kitchen. Buffy, Willow and Tara were grouped around Xander worriedly.
“Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” he muttered resentfully, and shot them a baleful glance. “Qui êtes-vous? Que voulez-vous?” Everyone looked at Tara expectantly.
“Um,” she said. “’Liberty, equality, brotherhood.’ That’s the first part. Then he said, ‘Who are you, and what do you want?’”
“Oh, that’s a bad sign,” Willow said. “Political slogans and non- recognition. Trés foreboding.”
Tara looked like she wanted to laugh, but just swallowed hard. “Vos amis,” she said to Xander, indicating the cluster of faces around the table, then pointed at Anya. “Votre fiancée.” She looked quickly at Buffy. “Should I ask him who he is?”
Buffy nodded, and Tara turned back to Xander. “Et vous, monsieur? Quel est votre nom?”
Xander glared at her. “Maximilien Robespierre. Ils m'appellent 'l'Incorruptible '.”
Tara opened her mouth, then shut it again and shook her head. “What?” Buffy asked. “What?”
Willow sat down hard. “No need to translate,” she said. “I remember that name from Western Civ class.” She rubbed a hand over her eyes. “He says his name is Robespierre, and he’s known as ‘The Incorruptible.’ Which would make him a kind of scary populist dictator guy who sent, like, twenty thousand people to the guillotine, and who’s been dead for two hundred years.”
“Oh, for God’s sake,” Buffy said, and fingered the diamond in her pocket. “Whoever he is, can’t he just speak English?”
Xander’s head snapped toward her, and she noticed that his eyes had changed from their normal puppy-dog brown to an eerie light gray-blue. Creepy. “Désolé, comrade,” he said. “ Je ne parle pas anglais.”
“That’s odd,” Tara said. “He just said he didn’t speak English. But if that’s the case, how did he understand you?”
Buffy brought the diamond out into the light. It drew Anya over to the table like a homing device. “Here’s what I think,” she said. “Jonathan threw me the diamond first, and I tossed it to Xander. Somehow, the diamond must have been holding Robespierre inside, and Xander touching it caused a transfer.”
“So Xander has this French guy’s soul?” Anya was less than pleased. “Where did Xander’s soul go? Is it inside the diamond?”
“Not sure,” Buffy said. Anya rounded on her.
“And why didn’t this Robes .. Robes .. this person, why didn’t he take your soul instead, if you were the first one to touch the diamond?”
Buffy stared down into the sea-blue mysteries of the diamond, then looked up at the circle of questioning faces around her. “Well, because,” she said heavily. “I don’t think I have one anymore. But that’s kind of beside the point.” She tapped the diamond meaningfully. “I think that whoever’s holding this is sort of in control of the soul. That’s why he responded to me.”
“Wait, wait. Rewind,” Willow said. “You don’t have a soul?”
Xander struggled to his feet. “Sit down,” Buffy said, and obediently he sank back into his chair, muttering. “Le droit de propriété est borné comme tous les autres par l'obligation de respecter les droits d'autrui,” he snapped. “Tout trafic qui viole ce principe est essentiellement illicite et immoral.”
Tara, looking shaken, translated. “The right of ownership is limited, like all the others, by the obligation to respect the rights of others. Any traffic which violates this principle is primarily illicit and immoral.” She frowned. “That sounds so familiar.”
“Rights of Man?” Willow suggested.
“Something like that, yeah. It’d make sense, anyway.”
“Know what I think?” Buffy said. “I think it’s time to call Giles.”
Continued in Chapter Six