Buffy agreed and Willow didn't offer any argument. She'd been very quiet since they'd left the warehouse and Buffy could only guess what thoughts must be going through her head. She'd stood back while Kennedy was settled, almost as if she was afraid to touch her. Only when Kennedy asked for her in a sleepy voice did she leave her place against the wall and come forward to take the girl's hand.
Buffy started to leave with Fred and Lorne, eager for a chance to grab some sleep, but stopped at Willow's panicked expression. Willow talked to Kennedy for a moment longer, and then assured her she would be back in just a minute.
Pulling Buffy into the hall, the smile she'd worn for Kennedy disappeared from Willow's face. "You don't know how close I came to losing it. When I saw him with his fangs in her throat, I was ready to destroy him. I didn't care that we were trying to capture him. Buffy, it's dangerous for me to use my powers."
Buffy didn't want to have this conversation with Willow. She'd have to have it soon, but not now. Now she was tired and Willow was panicking, which meant anything Buffy might say could get derailed all too easily. "If you hadn’t used your power, what would have happened to Kennedy?"
Willow shuddered, her arms wrapped tightly about her chest. "I don't want to think about that. It was just...he had her and he was going to kill her, so I was going to kill him." She looked at Buffy with wide scared eyes. "I almost killed Angel.
"You almost killed Angelus," Buffy insisted. "Whatever makes him Angel is trapped somewhere. You want to feel better about almost killing him? Help me find that soul and put it back."
The idea seemed to appeal to Willow (and was far more useful than endless supplies of chocolate chip cookies), but there was still some hesitation. "But what about the big stuff -- the make-my-eyes-go-black, throw-major-beasties-across-the-room stuff?"
That was exactly the stuff Buffy needed in the weeks ahead -- and if Willow stopped using her powers in a panic, they were in big trouble. "We're careful," she said, doing her best to be reassuring. "You didn't blow Angel up like you wanted to and we managed to stop the Beast. Well, Angelus stopped the Beast, but he wouldn't have gotten pissed off and stabbed him if you hadn't blown him backwards. Look, stay with Kennedy, get some rest. We can't move until after sunset anyway. Wind down."
She patted Willow on the shoulder and shooed her back inside. The conversation wasn't over, merely paused and Buffy sensed Willow knew it. Another worry to add to her list.
Spike was sitting on the bed when she returned to their room, a towel draped around his middle and another in his hands to rub his hair dry. "Girl all settled? Sorry to slip out, but I didn't think they needed another body in the room and I wanted to wash away the smoke smell.
Watching his movements, she realized his hands were a bit pink, as if he'd been scalded. Moving to stand in front of him, she slid her fingers under his chin and tilted his head back slightly. His skin was a bit flushed from the warmth of the shower but even so, she could see where the sun had touched his face and neck. Gently, she ran her hand over the damage. "I have some lotion that might help."
He smiled up at her and then turned his head slightly to kiss her palm. "I'll be fine in a few hours," he assured her. "Didn't even get a good burn going."
The words didn't provide the comfort he intended as Buffy's mind turned to all the times she'd seen him make a smoking entrance and simply assumed he'd suffered no damage. The reality was that every time he danced with the sun, she faced the possibility of losing him.
"Hey, what's this?" Spike tossed the towel he held aside and pulled her onto his lap. "I know that look; what's making you tear up?"
She didn't say anything, just held on tight. So much time wasted and no way to get it back. The thought threatened to choke her and she couldn't afford to break down, couldn't lose that much control. Not for the first time, Buffy wished she wasn't the Slayer, that she didn't have a nameless evil to fight or a house full of potentials looking to her for guidance or the need to be here in Los Angeles trying to restore the soul of her ex-lover. She wanted to take Dawn and Spike and leave all of it behind, find a place where they could live in peace.
But she was the Slayer. If she wasn't, Spike would never have fallen in love with her, merely seen her as lunch. And she wouldn't have Dawn. And she might not have known Willow or Xander or Anya and Tara certainly wouldn't have come to the notice of the shallow cheerleader from Hemery. So much of her life, so much of what was dear to her was tied up in her calling.
Spike cradled her on his lap, letting her breathing calm and her heart slow. When she thought she could control herself, she lifted her head from where she'd hidden it in the crook of his neck and did her best to smile. "I love you."
"I love you, too, but you're starting to worry me, Buffy."
She sniffed a little, caressing his cheek. "Just...well, I'm allowed to get sniffy sometimes, aren't I?"
She could tell the answer didn't satisfy him, but he didn't push, just kissed her gently. "Of course you are. If you need to let it out, I'm here."
Sex with Spike was great, better now than in those dark, destructive days of last year, but this was the good part, the moments when they just sat, no words necessary. This renewed her strength, made her feel she could go out and deal with what the world was about to throw at her.
They sat there for some time and would have sat longer except for the knock on the door. Reluctantly, Buffy slid from Spike's lap, figuring she should answer since she was the more dressed of the two. Somehow, she wasn't surprised to see Wesley standing in the hall. "Please tell me it's not another disaster.
Wesley offered a weak smile. "Not at the moment. Everyone else seems to be enjoying the sunshine, so I thought this might be a good moment for some personal business. Actually, I was hoping to speak with Spike."
That earned him a raised eyebrow but Buffy stood aside so he could enter. Once inside, though, words seemed to fail him. "Should I leave you two alone?" she asked. "I was thinking of grabbing a shower." The sensible part of her insisted she shouldn't leave them alone, that she couldn't fully trust any of these people, but there was something in Wesley's manner that told her he meant no harm.
"No," he said with a sigh. "You should probably hear this as it may impact your plans for this evening. When Angelus escaped, there was one other person staying in the hotel. Her name was Lilah Morgan."
Spike frowned. "I know that name. Dru mentioned her. Wasn't she...?"
"A member of Wolfram and Hart? Yes. One of their senior members, in fact." He groped for a chair, as if the weight of what he was saying was too much. "She was one of the few survivors, if not the only survivor, of the Beast's attack on the firm."
"What was she doing here?" Buffy settled on the edge of the bed and Spike moved to sit next to her, one arm slipping around her waist.
"She'd been hiding in the sewers since the attack, afraid the Beast might be looking to finish the job. She'd also managed to acquire a book on the trans-dimensional black market that contained a considerable amount of information on the Beast, information which had somehow been removed from any volume one might find in this dimension."
If Buffy had had any doubt that what they were facing here was apocalyptic stuff, it vanished. She didn't even want to think about the type of power required to pull off such a feat. "Unfortunately," Wesley continued, "when Angelus escaped, he caught Lilah and..."
Wesley's voice trailed off, the pain in his face betraying a connection he hadn't admitted to. "Did he sire her or just kill her?" Spike asked.
Again that rueful smile that was beginning to become all too familiar. "That was the difficulty. She was dead when we found her. He'd been feeding, but there was blood on her lips..."
"So you didn't know if she'd swallowed any of his," Spike finished.
"And according to what I've read, Angelus can be somewhat...promiscuous in making new vampires."
Spike didn't offer an answer to that, but Buffy felt his grip tighten slightly at her waist and she found herself sliding closer, wanting the comfort his nearness provided. "The idea that Angelus might have turned her did occur to us and I volunteered to make certain she didn't rise."
"Where is she now?" Buffy barely whispered the words.
"In the meat locker of the hotel kitchen. It is functional and seemed the best place to keep her until..." He took a deep breath. "Since the immediate problem of perpetual night has been solved, I believe the time has come to make a final disposition."
"And that's what you need my help for. Why me? Why not one of your mates downstairs?" Spike asked.
"Because..." Wesley's voice cracked slightly and he cleared his throat before continuing. "Because they all despised her. I'm afraid I didn't treat Lilah as well as I should have while she was alive; the least I can do is provide her with some respect and courtesy in death. The others won't be willing to do that; they're all too glad she's gone. I was thinking that, since you didn't know her, you might be able to give me the help I need. We wouldn't be able to do it until after dark."
After a moment's hesitation, Spike nodded. "Just let me know when and where."
"Thank you." The words seemed heartfelt. "I'll leave you to get some rest."
Spike was very quiet when Wesley had gone, almost pensive. "Why don't you take a shower, pet?" he said at last. "Wouldn't hurt to clean out those scratches again."
A shower that didn't have a dozen other people waiting outside the door was a luxury Buffy hadn't known in some time, but she didn't linger. When she emerged, Spike had pulled on his jeans, leaning against the wall near the windows, once again dancing with the sun as he caught glimpses of the world passing by outside. She didn't speak but went to him, laying one hand on his shoulder. Without looking down, his arm snaked around her, pulling her close. "It's going to be a long before he stops hating himself because of this," he said, his voice sad. "He couldn't save her and he'll spend his nights thinking of a hundred ways he might have. That's the worst; the 'if onlys'."
She knew he was speaking from experience, probably remembering those days she'd been dead and buried. One hundred and forty-seven days, he'd told her the night she'd come back, smiling as he'd realized the one hundred and forty-eighth day didn't count. "Do you think he loved her?" she asked.
"Yes, though I don't think he admitted it until she was gone. Maybe not even then."
Buffy closed her eyes. God, she knew that feeling. Had Wesley hated himself for wanting to be with her, wondering how he could sink so low? Even just thinking of those feelings in another brought a bad taste to her mouth.
She felt Spike's touch on her cheek and opened her eyes to find him staring down at her with an intensity that was frightening. "We're not there anymore," he whispered, as if he knew her thoughts.
"I was, not long ago. I couldn't..."
"But not now," he insisted.
"No, not now," she admitted with a smile and reached up to draw his head down to her.
They were supposed to resting, preparing themselves for the fight that awaited them. At this moment, all she wanted to do was reassure herself he was here and real and they were together. It was everything their first tumble into her bed hadn't been: slow and gentle with no sense of urgency. She took time to explore, stroking her hands along the planes of pale cool muscle as if to commit them to memory, smiling as she discovered some new spot that brought a small noise of pleasure. There were entire minutes where they did nothing but kiss, arms wrapped around each other and bodies close. There was laughter, too, when Spike's foot got caught in his jeans as he tried to pull them off, toppling most ungracefully back onto the bed. He glared at her, male dignity wounded at her laughter until she distracted him.
Somewhere in the process, they slid under the sheets, feet tangling together. She took the lead this time, wanting to show him the depth of her feelings as he'd always tried to show her his. There were moments when she felt clumsy and awkward, finding it hard to resist the temptation to just sink into his touch and let him take control, but she'd see herself reflected in blue eyes filled with happiness and her fears disappeared. Then she lost of track of who was touching whom and nothing mattered except the connection between them.
He held onto her afterwards, cuddling her close with one hand lazily stroking her hair. "Slow enough for you?" he asked, a smirk decorating his face.
Buffy stretched, letting one foot trail along his calf. "Mmmm. I think it will do...for the moment, at least."
Spike laughed, rubbing his nose against hers before kissing her again. "When it's all done," he told her, "I am going to take you away for a weekend, just the two of us. We'll find a little place somewhere along the coast and we'll hole up, make love the whole time. No interruptions, no prophecies, just you and me."
"That sounds wonderful." It did, it really did. She was going to focus on that, not think about the possibility they might not both make it or what the First had in store for them or how they were going find Angel's soul...
It was that thought which brought her back to the present and the world outside their warm cocoon. They were under Angel's roof, in one of his beds. Buffy sat up abruptly, sheet clutched tightly to her chest as the realization came crashing down.
Spike sat up as well, one hand rubbing along her back. "Buffy? What is it?"
"Where are we?" she asked, the words coming out stiff and tight.
"We're at the Hyperion, of course, Angel's place...oh."
He pulled his hand away and she felt the mattress shift as he rolled off the bed. "Better go downstairs and ask Fred if they have another spot where I can stretch out."
It was moving too fast, slipping from her control even as she reached out to him. "Spike..."
He didn't flinch away, but he stepped back, out of her reach. "I should have thought. Just respectful, it is, not to shag Grandad's girl under his roof."
"Spike, stop being an idiot. I'm not Angel's girl; I'm yours."
The words came out far harsher than she intended, but they stopped him from pulling on his jeans. "I'm your girl," she repeated softly.
Spike dropped to his knees next to the bed, reaching out to take the hand he'd just pulled back from. "Do you mean it?" he asked.
She was about to casually reply that of course she did when she caught the disbelief in his eyes. It hurt...as did the knowledge she'd given him plenty of reasons in the past for that disbelief. "I mean it," she told him, squeezing his hand. "It just hit me that I'm here with you and it feels right. A year ago -- six months ago, less -- I would have worried what Angel thought even when he wasn't here. I probably wouldn't have brought you along because not having to deal with his reaction would have been more important than your help."
He gave her a skeptical look. "You're telling me you're not worried what he's going to think when we get him back together in one piece?"
Honesty time. But then, the walls were crumbling rapidly, weren't they, all the defenses she'd built up against him over the years turning into dust. "I'm absolutely terrified. He's not going to like it. No, that's too mild. He's going to disapprove and he's going to have all sorts of reasons why it's wrong."
Buffy stretched out on her stomach across the bed so they were face to face once more. "I'm going to get twitchy and nervous and all the old reactions are going to come back and please forgive me in advance if I start acting like a bitch."
"Start?" The warmth was returning to his eyes even as she watched his shoulders relax."
"Pig," she said fondly and kissed him. When they parted, she took a deep breath before continuing. "Angel's been so much a part of my life, even after he left. He was the one I...it's a little frightening to realize after all this time that you're the one I'm going to turn to, not him. It just hit me like a ton of bricks, made me realize it's really, really over with him."
Spike reached out to run his hand over her hair, fingers twining through the strands. "If you can deal with the fact there's still some lingering affection on my part for Dru, I can deal with you having some for Angel. They're part of our past, luv; there are memories and good times associated with them...even if there's a hell of a lot of pain and suffering as well. One thing I've learned over the last few months is that if you try to just push memories aside, they have a way of coming back and biting you in the ass."
Another kiss. "Okay, 'biting you in the ass' so not Dr. Phil."
He snorted. "Wanker. Doesn't look like he ever has any fun. I may be a bit rough about the edges, luv, but..."
They got some rest. Eventually.
Continued in Chapter Thirteen