Sequel to Voices in the Dark; part of The Voicesverse
Summary: After Spike's return from Africa, he and Buffy begin to deal with the past...
Spoilers: Season 7-ish, takes place after the fic, Voices in the Dark
Distribution: Just talk to me, I'm easy. Fanfiction.net and at Chris' site "Amare, Dare, Pardonare"
Disclaimers: All Joss, all ME, all the time...
Feedback: You betta, you betta, you bet!
This fic was written specifically for Linda J. Thanks for my new ... thing! It looks good and makes me v. happy!
I do want to thank Chris and Colleen for being there for me, as always...Chris for the piece-meal betas as I stumble through pieces and parts that make up my fic (no, I don't plan anything) and her constant encouragement; and Colleen for the end of the line read-throughs that always yield a bumper crop of bo-bos and the best kind of feedback.
Buffy stomped upstairs from the lower level of the crypt holding a flashlight and wearing a distressed look that bordered on anger. Spike looked up briefly from the microwave and quickly ducked his head again to hide his sudden grin.
"I can't find anything down there," she grumbled, throwing herself into his 'comfy' chair, as Clem called it.
He smothered the grin and walked over with an innocent look on his face. "That's because there's nothing left, pet."
Ignoring him, she stared at the television screen, still wearing the same frown, and started flipping through the channels. Finding Lifetime at last, she looked up at him. "You still have cable, Mr. Shiny Soul," she said accusingly.
Spike raised an eyebrow and slowly turned his head to look the television screen. "Why, so I do," he said in surprise. "Hmm. Need to do something about that," he said, walking behind the TV.
"Don't even think about it." Buffy bit the words off in a way that brooked no argument.
Spike spread his hands, backing off and heading back to the refrigerator, allowing a silent chuckle to roll out once he was out of her sight.
The slayer wasn't finished. "You either need to move out, or we clean this place up. Starting with downstairs," she mumbled.
He stopped what he was doing and smirked at her stiff back and shoulders. "What?" he said innocently. "Don't like the little reminder of Cardy's visit last time 'round? Aw, luv, he'd be so hurt!"
"I hate it when you call him 'Cardy' or anything in the 'Captain' family. Or Whitebread. Frankly, I hate it when you bring him up. And don't try to change the subject! You wear this stuff like a hair shirt and then you're surprised when it starts rubbing off on me?"
"Buffy! Hair shirt? I'm impressed! You've been readin'."
"Have not," she snarked back at him. "History Channel."
"So when you wanna do it?" She asked sweetly.
"How 'bout ... never? Because the memory of my transgression is still too fresh," he said airily.
Buffy rounded on him, nearly snapping her spine in the process. Her eyes narrowed. "You like for me to feel guilty about this, don't you?"
"Luv, what do you have to be guilty about?" He looked at her even more innocently than before and threw a little 'apologetic' into the mix. "I'm the one that had possession of the, uh, illegals. A very bad man, I was. Bad."
Buffy opened her mouth to speak, closed it and then plunged on. "I've offered to help. Clem has. Dawn has. Although I'm a little worried about what Dawn might run across down there...?"
Spike thought for a moment. "Dawn needs to stay upstairs."
She shot him a very suspicious look. "I thought you said it was all gone."
"Well, the metal didn't melt, Slayer."
A sudden look of understanding appeared on her face as she remembered her encounter with a certain pair of handcuffs. "Oh."
"Staying or going?"
Spike looked at the image laid out before him in the bright doorway. There was Buffy, armed with a shovel and a huge box of industrial garbage bags. Dawn was holding a flat broom, a metal dustpan and a bucket full of cleaning products.
And behind her, Clem was wearing an uneasy look, very aware that he had come empty-handed. He stepped forward. "I brought the truck," he explained.
"Buffy...." Spike looked at her warningly.
"Stay or go. I don't care. But if you're going to keep living here, it's time to do something about this mess." She set her chin and charged downstairs, Dawn behind her like a baby chick.
Clem looked at Spike apologetically. "I was drafted."
Slapping Clem on the back, he smiled at him. "Half-expected her today anyway. Know how she is when she's bent her head around somethin'. Mix up some lemonade?"
"Yeah, sure, Spike," Clem said in relief. "That Slayer, she's a real go-getter, isn't she? One of a kind."
Spike shrugged. "Well, you know, Chosen One and all that."
Buffy had strung orange electrical cord from the rigged refrigerator outlet to the industrial light she'd brought. Spike sighed. Knowing that this time was coming since she'd mentioned it the night before, he'd gone down and cleared out the drawers by the bed - or what was left of the bed. Those items had been carefully put away as 'mementos.'
Relieved that he'd had the foresight to go down and clear out items that Dawn might have found curious, he began laying waste to the endless bags that Buffy kept hauling up the stairs. There really wasn't anything to keep, and even less that he wanted a reminder of. And frankly, he'd seen more than enough of what the explosives had done to the lower level.
"Because there was a problem. And it was down here. All these eggs hatched and went all Aliens and Attack of the Killer Bees - at the same time. So I had to take 'em out. That meant everything that was down here."
"Ooh, look how pretty this was!" Dawn turned a blackened pillow over and admired the design.
"I know, Dawn," Buffy said with a sigh, trying to keep her mind on the glass she was sweeping up. It was much worse with the light on. She almost wished she'd stayed with the flashlight. Or talked Spike into moving out completely. The high-watt bulb cast distorted shadows and revealed far too much of what the chamber had once been.
Everything blackened her hands. She wondered why she hadn't thought of gloves. The smell, now that the soot was being stirred around, was sickening.
Dawn walked over, dragged a mass of burnt fabric off of what was left of the bed, and stuffed it in a three-millimeter contractor's bag. Pursing her lips, she looked back at the battered mattress peeping through the fitted sheet. "So this is where you, uh..." Dawn got a little tongue-tied and didn't quite finish the sentence.
Buffy rocked back on her heels. "I knew this was a bad idea."
"It is not. I like to help."
Buffy raised an eyebrow.
"Well, Spike anyway. Like to help Spike. It must be horrible to come down here and see all this," she commiserated, deftly changing the subject.
Picking up the edge of a singed photograph, Buffy squinted and looked at a picture of herself at sixteen with her mom at Thanksgiving. Her eyes watered. She slipped the slightly damaged photo in her pocket.
"Uh, Buff, I don't think this can be saved." Dawn was looking at the mattress, now stripped of all its tattered accoutrements. "I think it's a wash." She tilted her head as she thought about her choice of words. "Okay, not. As in so not a wash. Uh, washable. I mean..."
Her older sister walked over and grabbed the mattress, easily sweeping it off the bed and over her head. "I'll get the rest in a minute. Let me just get this up in the truck. We put mom's old mattress and box springs in the basement when she got her queen. They'll do fine." Buffy walked up the stairs.
"Which means more training space for the Dawnster," Dawn said lightly. "Yes!" She reached down and lifted the box spring, pushing it to one side so she could get to it and walk it away from where she was working.
Underneath there was a dark-colored sack. She picked it up, opening the sack and peering in. There was a flash of pale blue. Puzzled at the color, she pulled the fabric out and held it up.
It was a sweater. A size extra-small sweater.
Buffy came back downstairs.
"Did Harmony ever live here?"
"Huh?" Buffy returned to her inspection of the trash on the floor. "Oh. Yeah, I think she did for a while. Pretty soon after Spike moved in here. Why?"
"Well, I didn't think you and Harmony had the same taste in clothes, but..."
Buffy glanced up, eyes widening as she snatched at the sweater. Seeing Dawn holding the suspicious-looking sack, she grabbed it away, too.
"We got the mattress on the truck. Still got room for the rest of it and...." Spike's jaw dropped as Buffy turned around with her now white face and her old blue cashmere sweater in a shaking hand.
Dawn looked at both of them and jumped up, heading upstairs. But brushing by Buffy, she found she couldn't resist a smart-ass remark.
"Told you I didn't take it."
Spike's face fell as he saw the look on Buffy's. She immediately started digging in the bag, looking back up into his eyes accusingly each time she recognized a garment.
Sighing, he took the bag and set it to one side, taking Buffy's shaking hands in his own. "Pet, if we're gonna go through this every time one of us gets reminded of somethin' bad, we may as well walk away," he said softly.
"Those are my clothes. Were my clothes. Those are *old* clothes. You..."
"Nicked 'em. Yeah, I did."
Buffy stared at him. Spike prepared himself for an old-fashioned punch in the nose. After all, he had it coming. Just had to be a man about it.
Instead, she squealed and pinched him. Then, laughed long and hard.
"Ow." He looked at her in astonishment. "What?"
"You went in my ... house," she gasped for breath, "and stole my ... clothes?"
Spike's expression went from understanding and caring, to sheepish and full on embarrassed. "What? It's a thing."
"It is not a thing!" She continued laughing, giggling like a girl. "Surely it's not a thing. Cause that would be like..."
"Buffy," he said reproachfully. "They smelled like you."
The slayer sobered and looked into his eyes. "Oh," she said weakly.
Buffy came in the door and threw Spike's duster at him. He caught it and looked guiltily at her.
"You left it."
He threw it back at her, eyes hardening. "Don't want it. No good in it."
She stalked over to him and held it under his nose. He wrinkled his face in distaste, then stopped, looking at her in surprise. Mixed in with the stale tobacco and the smell of liquor was a light, wholesome scent - her scent.
"It smelled like you," she said in explanation. "We'll finish up downstairs tomorrow. Good night, Spike."
He stared after her long after the door closed.
Spike craned his neck. "Where's the Bit?"
"Didn't want a repeat of yesterday. And today is the really grubby day anyway. And it's Monday."
"Yeah, school. As in whole new year and no skipped days yet."
He narrowed his eyes at her.
Nodding, she smiled. "It's okay. I've been checking. With the school."
He nodded in return. "Not the nicest way of bein' sure, but..."
Heading down the stairs, she called out over her shoulder, "But effective. Okay, your turn to help me today."
Spike took a deep breath that he didn't need and headed after her. He found her picking up the bag of clothes. "Upstairs please." He silently took the bag and headed up back to the upper level. Her voice startled him, coming so soon on his leaving.
"Uh, Spike. Spike."
He headed back down, wishing there were an elevator. It was going to be a long day.
"Bloody hell, Slayer. What..."
Buffy was kneeling on the crypt floor, holding a blackened eggshell in her hand. She sighed. "Okay, I never asked. I had other things on my mind that day, but will you please explain this?"
"Now's a soddin' fine time to ask. But I guess you were too busy breakin' up with me to worry about little things like the little killin' machines I was hatchin' up in my bedroom."
"So they were Suvolte demons. Just like Riley said."
"No. Not Suvoltes. Bezuines. They get no bigger than what you saw when they hatched."
She stared at him and started to protest. Thinking about his willingness to cop to anything and everything since his newly souled return, she closed her mouth with a snap.
"You can clean out a hefty length of sewer with a few of these. They're right hungry little buggers when they hatch. Would 'a headed straight out through there," he nodded, indicating the door where the sewers intersected with his crypt. "Place as full as this would clean out all the sewers in Sunnydale."
"Well, yeah. Sewer rats anyway. That's how their tastes run." He watched her begin to get a clue. "Pest control, Buffy. Clem has a contract with the city. Rats are real nasties in Sunnydale, what with all the demons, rottin' flesh and all. Bite more babies than the vamps ever did."
She stared at him, wanting to take her fingers and clean out her ears. "But you didn't..."
"Weren't really in much of a mood to hear explanations, were you, pet? And the last thing I expected to see in my crypt with you in my bed was that bleedin' wanker, Riley Finn." His voice grew hard. "Then, I wondered what was really goin' on. You comin' in like you did. Comin' on like you did."
"Nothing. Nothing going on." she said hastily, instantly on the defensive. "He even brought his wife and..."
Spike roared with laughter. "Wife! Never figured him for that. More the..."
Buffy slapped his arm, trying to find a dangerous glint to throw at him and failing miserably, only to giggle instead. Suddenly the giggle trailed off. "So this was a mistake?" She looked around and saw the damage that had been inflicted on his life for no reason.
He shrugged. "We live and learn, pet."
"But The Doctor?"
"Clem. The Doctor, Your Prescription for Pest Control in the Hellmouth," Spike recited. "Even has bloody business cards! Imported the little bastards straight from Belize. Told you I was just keepin' em for a friend. Didn't tell you when you first asked because I thought it was a bit of a lark. And then you..."
"I remember. I remember all of it. God, you must have hated me."
"Hated myself more. Should have been honest with you, luv. Should've, would've, could've. Somethin' like that."
Frowning, Buffy poked at the shell. "But Riley must have known," she muttered. Her eyes widened in remembrance.
Not noticing, Spike laughed again, but the sound was bitter. "Maybe not - just makin' the world safe for mum, apple pie and all that. Always was a stupid git. Look what he gave up." He smiled. "Anyway, we got another shipment of 'em. They didn't mind it down here - even with all the soot. And they're workin' out just fine, Clem says. Don't breed, so..."
Buffy jumped up and brushed off her pants. "Can we...uh, do this tomorrow? Or later? Or - "
Smiling sadly and a little hurt, Spike got up slowly. "Sure, Slayer. No rush."
Buffy slammed in the door of the house on Revello Drive. "Dawn! Dawn!"
Running downstairs at full-tilt, her sister slammed into her chest. "Ow. In the way much? What's wrong? Demons, vamps, Apocalypse?"
"Humans," Buffy said grimly. "Have you got Riley's email address?"
"Yeah. But Buffy, what is it?"
"He set Spike up. Set me up. Then asked me if I wanted him to kill Spike."
Dawn stared at Buffy.
"He gets fair warning right now. Riley or any of the soldier boys - or girls - come anywhere near Sunnydale, they've got me to take on."
At eleven a.m., Spike opened the door as he heard a large truck pulling up. Outside the door were Buffy, Clem and Xander. His eyes almost popped out of his head. Opening his mouth to speak, he saw Xander cut him off with a wave of his hand.
"Don't get any ideas, Spike," Xander said gruffly. "I'm still pissed." He hauled the nozzle and long hose attached to the pressure washer on the truck toward the stairs and started down to the lower level.
She gave her head tiny shake. He nodded as Clem followed Xander.
Clem turned back and looked at with a rueful grin. "See, I told you..."
"Right, Clem. Be down in a bit." Spike looked at Buffy. "What's this about then?"
"I talked to Xander last night for a long time." She nodded. "And he's right. He's still pissed. But we've got to stick together." Taking a deep breath, Buffy spit it out. "Spike, Riley told me he had orders to eliminate The Doctor."
Spike stared at her. Laughed. "What a drama queen!"
"This is not a joke. He asked me if I wanted him to - you know - you."
"Bugger that! Like to see him - " Running a hand through his hair, Spike frowned and looked back toward the stairs. "But Slayer, this is - Bloody hell! Clem!"
She nodded. "The Doctor. Now I've emailed Riley. Didn't explain much, but put him on notice. We see a glint of Kevlar in town, they're goin' down. I think it was just a one-shot deal, but we've got to be careful. Watch each other's backs. And you can't fight 'em, Spike." She looked at him speculatively. "Can you?"
Dumbfounded, Spike just stood there. Then he walked over the head of the steps.
"Harris! Harris," he bellowed.
Xander came up the stairs grumbling and walked over to Spike and Buffy. "What? Look, I'm doin' this for Buffy and I don't need..."
As Spike's punch to Xander's nose connected, Buffy heard twin cries of pain. Xander picked himself up off the floor and started toward Spike.
The vampire massaged his head even as he looked at Xander with a combative glint in his eye. "That's for leaving your bride at the bloody altar, you git."
Xander stopped dead in his tracks.
"And right, Slayer. Can't fight 'em," he said, swinging his head back around to look at Buffy thoughtfully.
Smiling encouragingly, she patted Spike's arm. "Hey. It probably was just a one shot deal, you know."
Xander and Clem had cleared out, Xander's nose still red from his contact with Spike's fist earlier in the day. He'd been toting the headboard to the bed like it was an albatross around his neck. Buffy and Spike were down in the lower level. Sniffing, she walked all around the now-huge room.
"Not bad. Xander did pretty good. And the water drained off just fine."
"Hello, luv. Sewers, remember? S'fine. Just don't know how I feel about startin' over down here. Upper's a'right for a flat."
"This is better," she said decisively. "I always liked it down here. Felt safe down here."
Spike sighed, as the wheels in Buffy's head began to turn. He could almost feel it. Sometimes, he imagined they squeaked a bit. He followed her upstairs.
Grabbing the sack of her clothes, she headed toward the door. "I'm gonna get rid of these."
He put a hand on her arm to stop her. "Don't just throw 'em out. Give 'em to...someone who could use 'em."
Her eyes twinkled. The soul thing was still a daily surprise. "They don't smell like soot or anything. Although I don't know why not!" She looked at him curiously. "You mean like Goodwill or something? "
"Yeah. Somethin' like that. And wait." Spike walked over and picked up the leather duster. "This, too."
Buffy gulped. "But Spike - "
"Buffy, the coat's got a bit of a history attached to it. Rather not have any reminders of it. Not here. Not ever." He took the bag and carefully placed the duster inside, handing it back to her.
Nodding, she took the bag and headed to the door. "Xander's gonna see if he can sandblast the headboard clean."
"Right. I got that. I also saw how he was tryin' not to touch it," Spike chuckled wryly.
Buffy grinned. "Dawn had a little to say about that, yesterday. Very little, matter of fact. See you tomorrow?" she asked hopefully.
"I'm not goin' anywhere."
"Better not," she threatened teasingly. Buffy walked outside and closed the door.
Thoughtfully, she opened the bag and took the coat out of it, throwing it over her arm. Then, she headed home.
Continued in Part 2