That’s funny. She could have sworn that Spike was still in bed with her.
Had to be a hallucination. She closed her eyes again, pinched herself surreptitiously on the leg, and sneaked another peek at the pillow next to hers.
Still occupied. What’s more, he was awake, and staring straight at her.
“Morning,” she started to say, but he shook his head. There was an odd look on his face, a look she’d never seen before.
Hope, and fear, and disbelief.
“Look,” he said, his eyes flicking to where his arm lay exposed on top of the sheets. Buffy followed his gaze.
He seemed unable to move. “The sun,” he said. “Look.”
In his hurry to put her to bed, to sleep himself, he hadn’t closed the blinds. Now, the bed was striped with sunlight – the bed, and his lean, bare arm. Buffy’s eyes flew up to his, and saw the glimmer of unshed tears.
“It’s nine o’ clock,” he said, in that same hushed tone. “The sun’s been up for hours. I’ve been lying here, watching it move.”
She reached out and touched one of the bright warm bands on his forearm. “Does it hurt?”
He shook his head. “I’ve been waiting for you to wake up,” he said, after a pause. “I thought I was dreaming. Every so often, I have a dream like this.”
“No dream,” she said, and watched the first tear spill. He blinked it back. Pushed back the comforter. Stood up, naked and perfect as a Michelangelo nude, and crossed to the window.
“Spike –“ she started to say, not knowing if what would come out would be encouragement or warning. It didn’t matter. He wasn’t hearing her now.
He hesitated for a moment, then yanked up the blinds. Morning sun poured into the room. Defiantly, he stuck his hand into the shaft of golden light, then closed his eyes as if to deny his own recklessness.
He withdrew his hand back into the shadow, staring at it blindly, turning it over and over, drawing it across his face. Another moment of hesitation, then he stepped resolutely into the light.
“Oh, God,” he said without turning around. “Oh, God, Buffy.”
And then he was on her.
She’d never been kissed so thoroughly, so completely, with such simultaneous tenderness and force and sheer uncontained emotion. He ripped the comforter off her body, off the bed, dragged her up by the shoulders without breaking the kiss. Pulled her down on the floor in the pool of sunlight.
“I can’t describe it,” he gasped, in between kisses. “I can’t take it. It’s like having your body all over me.”
His hands went over her body in a way they never had before. Not smooth, not practiced, not calculated. Just hungry.
“I’m sorry,” he panted. “Can’t … have to … oh, GOD …”
He bore her down to the floor. The moment he was inside her, he began to weep.
She held him against her, cradled his hard body inside her own. Cuddled that bright blond head in the curve of her shoulder. Whispered and patted, rocked and soothed. “Shhh,” she whispered. “Shhhh, it’s okay.”
His eyes, that bright, drenched blue. His face, wet with tears and soft with wonder. His mouth, irresistible and trembling.
“I love you,” she said, and felt ready to cry herself as the words lit him from within.
“Buffy,” he said, brokenly, and they began to move together.
They had moved back to the bed. He had a big question in his eyes, but he hadn’t asked it yet. She stroked his shoulder and waited.
“Tell me the truth,” he said.
“Am I still a vampire?”
She bit her lip. “I don’t know. I think so.” She ran her hand down to his elbow. “Still strong, really strong. Still cool.” She frowned. “Are you hungry?”
“Can you vamp?”
He concentrated for a minute, then shifted into game face. A moment later, his human features were back, looking troubled. “I don’t understand,” he said.
“Is it a problem?”
He shook his head. “God, no. It’s a gift.”
By the time they’d eaten breakfast, the rest of the house was up.
Anya was clearly impatient. “Can we turn him back now?” she demanded, the moment her juice glass was empty. “The French guy’s a pig in bed. And his personal hygiene leaves a lot to be desired.”
XandePierre himself was looking gray and tired, as if he were used to getting more sleep. Buffy figured that two hundred years of hanging out in a diamond didn’t prepare you for three nights with an ex-vengeance demon.
She kinda felt for him.
The Sac of Amaru Muru was still lying on the living room floor, where it’d fallen out of Buffy’s pocket; Tara picked it up, muttered an incantation, and emptied it onto the coffee table. A handful of small flattish stones fell out. Willow picked one up curiously and studied the symbol on one side.
“These are the hieroglyphs?”
Tara nodded. “Runes, actually. It’s a tricky process,” she said. “Not only do we have to translate, but we also have to decode the message.” Buffy frowned.
“What do you mean? It’s just Jonathan’s thoughts, right?”
Willow shook her head. “Not that simple,” she said. “We questioned Jonathan last night, and he says the demon who gave him the original spell didn’t bother to give him the antidote. He never knew it in the first place.” She patted Buffy on the shoulder. “But we still might get an answer. That’s the good news.”
“How? I mean, if it’s just supposed to pull information out of his head, and it’s something he didn’t know?”
Tara was still examining the stones. “The Sac of Amaru Muru is a multi-use object,” she said. “Sort of like an ancient search engine. It’ll still give us an answer – it just won’t be the simple one that would have been inside Jonathan’s head. It’ll be more cryptic, like a riddle we have to figure out.”
“But we can do that, right?” Anya was hovering over Tara’s shoulder.
“Maybe. We’re gonna try, anyway.”
Spike was still sitting out on the deck, where he’d gone to drink his breakfast. Willow followed Buffy’s gaze and raised her eyebrows. Buffy shrugged.
“He woke up this morning, and the sun didn’t burn him,” she said. “We really don’t know why.”
“Wow.” Willow was quiet for a minute. “Something to do with the Tollbooth, maybe. Think we should call Giles?”
Buffy gave her a look. “And say what, exactly?”
Willow’s lips curved. “Something difficult but necessary,” she said. “Come on, Buffy. You’re not in the clear yet. It’s one thing to tell us girls about Spike. Dawn adores him. Anya’s too self-involved to care one way or the other, Tara doesn’t believe evil of anyone, and me …” She laughed. “I’m a sucker for a happy ending. But Giles and Xander …”
“Will be harder to convince.” Buffy groaned.
“Well, yeah. Giles has that whole father thing going, and Xan –“ Willow shrugged eloquently. “You know he’d probably rather have you than anybody else. Even now.”
She grinned. “But look on the bright side. No more flaming blankets, right?”
Buffy rubbed her hands over her eyes. “He would have stayed there, last night,” she said quietly. “He would have been trapped. Would have died. He wouldn’t let me do it again.” She blew out a pent-up breath. “Not even Angel ever went that far.”
“You saying you’re in love?”
Buffy nodded, sighed. “Yeah.”
She opened the door and went out to sit with him.
“Whatcha doing?” she asked. He slung an arm around her, but didn’t speak for a while. He was wearing a blue shirt, rolled up to his elbows, and his customary black jeans. His feet were bare.
“Thinking about the Gem of Amarra,” he said.
“What about it?”
He let out a little snort of a laugh. “I was just thinking,” he said. “That I owned that thing, and wore it, and was out in the sun for at least a couple of hours before I found you and fought you and you took it from me. And I never, in all that time, took a minute to sit down and feel the sun.”
She didn’t know what to say, so she just laced her fingers through his.
They sat there until Tara called them back in.
She’d translated the runes. They all crowded around the piece of notebook paper where she’d written down the translation in neat, schoolteacher script.
On the way you may want to look back, or not,
but if you can say "There's nothing ahead", there will be nothing there.
Stretch your arms and take hold the cloth of your clothes
with both hands. The cure for pain is in the pain.
Good and bad are mixed. If you don't have both, you don't belong with us.
When one of us gets lost, is not here, he must be inside us.
There's no place like that anywhere in the world.
“Huh,” Willow said. “That sounds so familiar …”
Spike leaned closer, frowned as he scanned the page again. “Yeah,” he said. “I’ve read this too. Translation of a poem. Can’t remember who.”
Willow dove for the laptop. A few moments later, they heard her whoop of triumph.
“Spike, you’re amazing,” she said. “It’s written by Rumí. Originally in Farsi.”
“Never mind who wrote it,” Anya snapped. “What the hell does it mean?”
Continued in Chapter Fourteen