She found Wesley downstairs in the kitchen, cell phone firmly planted against his ear. "No, we're going to do it today. Yes, I'll let you know what the results are as soon as we have any. How's it there? Too bad. Keep me posted on developments. Well, we haven't actually determined that he's here. Best for Willow to try the spell anyway. Yes, I'll call."
With that he closed the phone and dropped it back in his pocket. "As you can imagine, things are somewhat hectic in Los Angeles at the moment."
"I'm surprised they could spare you." Buffy managed to lace the words with only a hint of sarcasm.
He didn't wasn't wearing the glasses she was used to seeing him with, but even so, she swore he took them off before looking at her rather seriously. "Buffy, I know we didn't get along when I was last in Sunnydale and I'll be the first to admit I did little to help the situation..."
"No argument from this department."
Wesley gritted his teeth and continued. "However, there is some water under the bridge and since I believe we are working toward a common goal, I would like to think that we might make an effort to get along. I'm not the same person you knew when you were in high school, just as I can see you're not the same girl. Perhaps we can make a new start, put behind us some of the mistakes of the past?"
She had to admit he had a point...and she could see some changes. The language was still pompous, but this Wesley seemed far more comfortable in his skin, a bit more experienced in the ways of the world. "Okay, we'll make the attempt," she said. "Just...we've been under a bit of a strain and having the house packed to fuller than bursting with more on the way doesn't help the stress level."
"I can imagine. No, I can't, but I will do my best to make allowances."
"Great. Is that what you wanted to talk to me about?"
"Actually, I was hoping to speak with you about William...or does he prefer Spike?"
"Definitely Spike." She glanced around. The kitchen was quiet at the moment, but that would change any minute as the household gathered for breakfast. "Why don't we go out to the backyard? We can speak freely there."
The day was promising to be bright, perhaps even somewhat warm for the time of year. Settling on the bench at the far end of the backyard, Buffy realized they soon wouldn't need sweaters during the day and could probably wear lighter gear at night. Maybe Vi would forgo her knitted caps with the spring.
Wesley looked uneasy as he sat, waiting until they were settled before speaking. "Buffy, I know it's not my place and you will probably think I'm somewhat out of line, but I take it you are involved with Wil...Spike?"
"Is this personal or professional curiosity?" she asked, trying not to react defensively.
"Both," he admitted. "For a slayer to fall in love with a single vampire is highly unusual, to say the least. To fall in love with two...and for one to be the vampire who murdered two of her predecessors..." Wesley broke off with a chuckle. "Once again, you've proved you're hardly what one might define as a 'typical' slayer."
For the first time since Wesley had arrived, Buffy felt herself thaw slightly toward him. "Spike's not your typical vampire, either. Never has been, even before he got the soul. And, yes, we're involved."
Wesley considered and nodded. "I won't give you a tiresome lecture on the difficulties inherent in attempting a relationship with a vampire because, as I recall, you didn't pay particular attention the first time I gave it. Besides, in the years since I've left Sunnydale, I've learned that things are not quite as black and white as I once thought they were. It is your choice and I'm certain you've made a careful consideration of the potential difficulties."
Buffy laughed. "That is an understatement."
"In light of our current situation, however, the relationship presents a new problem. I can assume Angel doesn't know?"
She hadn't even thought of Angel as she and Spike had taken that final step, much less what -- or even if -- she was going to tell him about this development. "No. It's...rather new, Wesley."
"Really? Given what I saw last night, I assumed the two of you had been together some time."
Another example that everyone else had seen it before she'd been able to admit it to herself. "We've been working toward it a long time. It's tied up in a lot of personal things I don't want to discuss."
"I see. If Angel doesn't know, then that's for the best. I've noticed that he shares a trait with Angelus: he's very possessive of people he cares for and has no hesitation expressing his...displeasure if they do something he doesn't approve of. With Angelus, that displeasure is both a tool and a weapon."
"And the idea of Spike and me together wouldn't make him happy."
"Given some of the things Angel has said about him, no, it wouldn't. And I fear Angelus might take great offence at Spike moving in on what he might consider 'his' property."
Buffy vividly remembered Spike's complaints that Angel had taken Drusilla from him when Angelus had re-emerged; it was one of the reasons he'd come to her seeking an alliance in the first place. "But if Willow's able to do the spell, restore his soul, then we don't have to worry about that, right? I mean, if his soul's restored, it wouldn't matter if he knew about Spike and me. I'd have to do some explaining, but Spike's changed, so Angel would just have to accept...""
She stopped babbling when Wesley laid a hand on her arm. "Is there a reason Angelus might know?"
Taking a deep breath, Buffy did her best to center herself. "He was outside last night, out here. I was closing the curtains so the morning sun wouldn't come in and I saw someone in the yard. I couldn't see the face, but I could feel him."
Wesley didn't seem surprised. "Your slayer senses. I take it there was a possibility he might have seen you and Spike together." At Buffy's nod, he sighed. "Let's hope Willow can set it right.
Having managed to steal five minutes for a shower, Spike pulled on his shirt and wandered toward the window that looked out over the backyard. Buffy hadn't needed to worry about closing the curtains last night; the window faced north and no direct light spilled in. Pushing the curtains aside, he realized it was one of the things they'd have to adjust to. Didn't want her to feel she couldn't ever open the curtains just because he was there.
As he did up the buttons on his shirt, he caught sight of Buffy sitting in the backyard with Wesley. The conversation looked friendly enough, but Spike couldn't help the distrust he felt. The man was a watcher, for one thing, even if he had left the fold. Spike had no illusions regarding what the watchers thought of him...and he doubted the fact he now possessed William's soul would make little difference.
Worse than that, though, Wesley was a friend of Angel. He hadn't been present for the Gem of Amarra fiasco, but Spike wouldn't be surprised to discover he'd heard the tale. He'd also been in Sunnydale during Buffy's senior year; he'd seen the last days between Buffy and Angel.
Steady, mate. She's admitted she loved you; why should you worry what a friend of the Great Poof thinks?
Because part of you is terrified Angel could take her away and you wouldn't be able to stop him, came back the answer. Maybe he'd feel differently one day, but at the moment they were still new and fragile. Or maybe he just didn't have enough faith in himself.
Annoyed at thoughts that came perilously close to brooding, Spike made his way downstairs. They had far too much to do for him to waste time on self-pity. The potentials were going to have to be kept busy and away from Willow if she was going to prepare for the ritual. Specifically, Kennedy needed to be kept busy; didn't want the girl distracting Red with her innuendos and sly remarks.
The girls were gathered around the dining table, busy with breakfast as he passed through the room, a cheery round of "Good morning," ringing out. He responded casually, noting the giggles from some as he passed and headed for the kitchen to fix a morning cup of blood. Clearly, he and Buffy were going to serve as the day's gossip whether they liked it or not.
With his mug in the microwave, Spike peered out the window. Buffy was still talking with Wesley. Even if he could take a stroll in the sunshine without combusting (and his mind did plot where the shadows were), he'd let her be. She'd clearly taken the watcher out there for some private conversation and it wasn't his place to intrude.
"Wesley tells me you're a part of the team even though you're a vampire."
Spike turned to find Connor standing in the doorway to the basement. "I take it you don't particularly care for vampires," he said retrieving his mug as the microwave beeped. "Is it that you don't like vampires in general or your father in specific?"
"He's only my biological father. A man named Holtz was my real father, the one who raised me. He taught me to survive...and that vampires were evil."
My, wasn't the boy a spitting image of Angel, all righteous indignation burning inside? The chin was Darla's, though. "That we are," Spike agreed after taking a sip of blood. "I've heard of Holtz; never met the man, but I heard stories. He made quite an impression on Darla; ticked her off a good deal."
Connor moved further into the kitchen and Spike shifted, keeping the counter between them. The boy might have been told Spike was an ally, but there was something in his manner Spike didn't trust. "Wesley also told me you knew my father."
"More than 'know'; Angel made Drusilla, who made me. He's my grand-sire, you might say. Your mum...well, that gets a bit more confusing. She made Angel, which makes her great-grandmamma, a name she always hated. But then, when the evil law firm brought her back, Dru vamped her, so that makes her my sib. Which means you're either my great-uncle, my uncle, or my nephew, or any combination of the three."
A flash in the boy's warned he'd hit a sore spot. "I'm no relation to you."
"Let's just say I'm not pleased about the matter, either. But blood calls to blood, and, sad to say, we share some."
"And you have a soul too. I thought my father was the only one."
"He was...for a good hundred years."
"So you've managed to convince them you're reformed."
"Convinced? Hardly. Ask Harris. He'll be happy to tell you just how rotten I am."
"Ask me what?" Xander wandered into the kitchen a shade too casually.
Apparently vampires weren't the only ones Connor blessed with his glare because Xander received a full measure. "Nothing," Connor told him sullenly. I'm going to go talk to Wesley."
Both Xander and Spike watched as Connor had stormed outside. "Willow filled me in this morning," Xander said. "So he's really Angel's son?"
"Unfortunately. His father's eyes, his mother's chin and the pissy attitude of them both. God, I love my relatives."
"No argument from me. Look, Spike..."
Xander was shoved his hands in his pockets and stared at the linoleum. This didn't particularly look like a speech Spike was going to enjoy. "You know you're not my favorite person. You know I'd rather see you residing in an ashtray than anyplace else. But give a choice between you and Angel, I think I'd rather have you here...even if it means you and Buffy are together."
"Harris, I'm touched. That was almost a compliment." He took a sip of his blood. "I can assume, of course, that you're hoping Buffy will come to her senses."
"Every moment of every day."
"Good." Spike grinned. "Glad we understand each other."
The day passed faster than Buffy had thought was possible, the hours caught up in a blur of preparations. From the moment Connor interrupted her conversation with Wesley, Buffy barely had a moment to rest, much less contemplate what was going on.
Anya and Willow disappeared just after breakfast, returning at lunch time with the necessary supplies. After a quick conference, it was decided the living room would serve best for the spell. "Too many clompy feet overhead if we do it in the basement," Willow explained. "I kinda need some quiet.
"So we set up here and send everyone else downstairs," Buffy said. "Xander, do you think you can keep them quiet?"
"I'll help," Andrew volunteered from where he hung on the edge of the group. The Scoobies glared. Buffy didn't miss that Wesley glared as well.
"We could tie him up and leave him in the yard as bait," Xander suggested.
Before Buffy could object to the inappropriate humor, Spike shook his head. "Nah. Angelus is just evil enough to turn him. He'd make an annoying vampire. Have to stake him just to stop the noise."
Andrew uttered a strangled sound and fled the room. Willow glared at Spike and Xander. "That wasn't very nice."
"No," Xander offered, "but it was fun."
"Let's get back to work," Buffy insisted, noting that neither Xander nor Spike looked the least bit repentant. "You've got the supplies; is there anything else you need?"
"I'll need two people to help me. Anya's volunteered, but I need one more."
"I'd like to help," Wesley volunteered, "as long as I have a chance to study the incantation beforehand."
The look that passed between Willow and Anya was quick, but Buffy saw the small nod of agreement. "Great. I'll get you the print-out."
"Print out?" Wesley looked a bit surprised. "Isn't there a book?"
"The key to decipher the Rituals of the Undead was lost for generations," Willow told him. "Someone we knew managed to crack the code."
"And Angel killed her before she could do the restoration."
Xander's words brought silence to the room, bringing back unpleasant memories. Not want to dwell on it, Buffy asked, "Is there anything else we need to consider? Willow, how long will it take you to prepare?"
"Most of the afternoon. We need to do some meditations and other things. I know I didn't do that last time, but I think it'd go better if I did. We should be ready just after the sun goes down."
"No offense, Red, but I think it's best I'm not actually in the house when you do this." He reached out toward the Orb of Thessulah he'd been eyeing since Willow had placed it on the table. "Figure there's no danger, but I think me and the soul would feel more comfortable out of the line of fire.
He brushed his fingers across the crackle glass surface and the orb lighted briefly, emitting a slight hum. "I'll patrol outside, keep Angelus occupied if he shows up."
The light died as he withdrew his hand, a thoughtful expression on his face. "I'll join you," Buffy said. "Better the two of us than one."
"Make that three," Connor added. At their looks, he asked, "What? I'm not welcome?"
"It's not a stroll in the park, boy." There was an edge to Spike's voice.
"I didn't think it was. I've fought him before, you know."
That was information Buffy decided she didn't need to know. "Three is probably better than one. He can't get in the house, but I'd like to know if he's out there. We'll start soon as the sun goes down and it's safe for Spike."
Continued in Chapter Six