Sequel to Armor
Summary: "Soul or no soul, it still came down to just the two of them. She found she really preferred it that way."
Spoilers/Continuity: Set a week or three following Armor, which took an AU turn following "Get It Done." Third in a series starting with Something Other Than Dead. More of the same: light on the angst and heavy on the hope.
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon is the master of the Buffyverse. I'm a mere ME wannabe.
Feedback: Makes my day, but I tend to be slow about answering.
Archiving: Please let me know first. And not without the rest of the series.
A/N: Thanks to Enkeli for the beta and adjrun for the handholding. And to the usual suspects for the encouragement. Yes, I used lines from the fic in the summary. Shut up. ;-)
The title of this installment is from Somewhere by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein, which itself is from West Side Story. I was specifically listening to the Tom Waits cover when I decided to use them. There is going to be at least one more installment to this series, but probably not for a while yet. And possibly not at all if the show happens to make me so happy I don't feel the need to write it, but I'm not holding my breath for that to happen.
…you can make me feel like it isn't so…
She buried her smile against his neck, kissed his skin, felt it warm to her touch. She caught herself wondering what he'd look like in actual sunlight. Like a big, fiery ball of death, her more practical side reminded her. She pushed that image out of her head as she pulled his face to hers for a hungry kiss. "I love you," she whispered against his lips.
He said her name like a prayer. Yet she was the one who closed her eyes, bowed her head against his in supplication, her hands kneading his chest as she pleaded, "There, Spike … oh, oh God, you're almost … Spike, please …"
In answer his lips slid down her throat and floated over her collarbone as his hand slipped down to the sweet spot where they joined. Buffy gasped as bursts of color exploded against her eyelids. As her chin tilted up he caught it in his other hand and forced it back down so he could kiss her, drink her ecstasy as he continued to rock against her, inside her, until his own head rolled back and something between a moan and a growl erupted from him. Buffy watched his face contort. His mouth went slack and his eyes squeezed shut as he shuddered against her.
She felt a surge of pride at being able to do that to him. That this dangerous creature became so vulnerable, so utterly human in her arms made her feel powerful. Beautiful. As beautiful as him. His eyes still closed, she reached up and brushed her thumb against his lashes. He looked at her then, an eyebrow quirked in bemusement.
"Soft," she said.
His other eyebrow shot up as well. "Yeah? How's this, then?" He lowered his lips to her shoulder and trailed a lazy string of kisses up her neck and across her cheek, meeting her lips in a tender kiss.
"That's good too," she said as he pulled away. He hovered over her, his hand sweeping her hair away from her face. She didn't think she'd ever get used to the awe in his eyes after they made love, or that she'd ever quite understand it. Didn't he know she was a little bit in awe of him, too?
"I love you so much." He always said it with such conviction, like part of him feared that she still wouldn't believe him. Not that she'd never given him reason to doubt. Buffy winced inside. She couldn't even claim that he'd been something else then, that he only really loved her now because of the soul. She knew that wasn't true. The only difference the soul made in that regard was that it removed her excuse for not loving him back … and gave her all the excuse she needed to finish falling in love with him. He never tried to pin his crimes on some convenient alternate personality. That made it kind of impossible for her to rationalize that it had been some other Spike she'd treated so horribly last year. But that was fair. After all, she couldn't exactly push her sins against him onto some evil, soulless version of Buffy. Soul or no soul, it still came down to just the two of them.
She found she really preferred it that way.
"I love you," she answered. The smile that lit up his face made her breath catch. He ducked his head somewhat bashfully -- she loved that she could make him bashful -- and rested it against her breast. Her fingers threaded and twisted through his hair, coaxing his curls loose from the gel he used to tame them. Her other hand traced lazy, nothing patterns on his shoulder. "I love you, Spike," she said again, matching his conviction, suddenly afraid he might be the one to not believe.
He planted a kiss on her skin. "Works out nicely then, Love." He sounded sleepy.
Spike raised his head. "What?"
She waved him off and shook her head. "Nothing. It's just … I suddenly pictured us getting into a pissing contest over who loves who more."
"I'd win." He didn't miss a beat.
She mimicked his patented eyebrow raise. "Is that so?"
He chewed on his lip a moment, brow furrowed in concentration. Then he smiled. "'I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach.'"
"Damn," said Buffy, tracing the scar that cut through his eyebrow. "It's a tie." She stuck out her bottom lip in a mock pout. Spike growled low in his throat and sprung, catching her lip in his teeth and making her giggle some more.
As enthusiastic as his kiss was, she knew he hadn't slept yet, and even if she had the day off from school she still had things to do. So she rolled over in his arms and lay on her side, inviting him to spoon against her. When she was sure he'd fallen asleep, she started to squirm out of his embrace. His arm tightened around her waist. "Spike, come on."
Buffy sighed. Really, she wanted nothing more. "But I have to get some stuff done around the house while the girls are all out … doing whatever it is Giles and Anya took them to do. Do you know how long it's been since I've had a chance to do my own laundry?"
"They'll be gone a while yet. Come on, Pet, just a few more minutes."
"Fine." Buffy wrapped her arms around his. "Five more minutes." She could feel him smile against her shoulder as he buried his face in her hair.
Spike finished drying himself off and dropped his towel. Then, thinking better of it, he picked it up and flung it at the towel rack. It hit its mark, but only haphazardly, then slid off and puddled on the floor. Well, at least he could say he tried.
He padded into Buffy's bedroom -- their bedroom, he amended with a smile -- found a clean pair of jeans, and pulled them on. Then he retrieved his mug and shuffled over to the bed, making a half-hearted attempt at smoothing out the covers as he sipped his blood. He grimaced and spit it back in the cup. It had started to coagulate. The boy had been in the kitchen when he'd gone down to fetch it, and as Spike was neither in the mood to help refine the Big Board nor to hear how his own tale of redemption paralleled that of Prince Veggie-whatsis, he hadn't stayed long enough to heat it up.
With a sigh, Spike plunked the mug down on the nightstand and ran a hand through his damp hair, wondering where Buffy had got to. He couldn't hear her in the house, and when he'd gone downstairs none of the steady stream of people filing back into the house could tell him where she'd gone.
Faint music came from the next room. Spike knocked on the door connecting their room to Dawn's, and stuck his head in when he got no reply. She lay the wrong way on her bed, belly-down, bare feet kicking in the air as she flipped through a magazine. Obviously enjoying having the room to herself for a bit. Her Walkman was up full blast, rendering her oblivious to the world. Or at least allowing her to pretend to be. Spike rapped harder on the door. Dawn glanced up and pulled back one of her earphones. "What?"
"You seen your sis?"
"Not since I got home, sorry." She re-covered her ear and stuck her nose back in the glossy.
Turning back to his own room, he let the door fall shut. His eyes fell on his coat, draped over the back of a chair. He picked it up and rummaged through it till he found his cigarettes. He hadn't been too worried about smoking in the house lately, despite the Bit's protestations, but even so he didn't fancy making the only remotely private place Buffy had left in the house smell like an ashtray. Fortunately, this time of day the window facing the side yard was well shielded from direct sunlight. It also afforded him a splendid view of the garden.
He opened the curtains and smiled. There she was. He should've known. His golden goddess looked right at home in the late afternoon sun, watering the shrubs and coaxing the bulbs that had sprung up to bloom.He felt only the tiniest pang of sorrow over not being able to join her down there. After all, this was what he'd meant it for -- so she'd have a place in the sun that was just hers, but where he'd still be with her in spirit. So she could get her hands dirty with mud and fertilizer and the stuff of life instead of having them covered with vampire dust and demon gore.
The garden itself was looking lovely. He opened the window and, settling on the sill, surveyed their handiwork as he lit his cigarette. The pond had finally been filled. Spike had gone down himself a few nights ago and lined the outside of it with brick. It looked right nice from this angle, if he did say so himself. Buffy still hadn't decided whether she wanted to fill it with Koi or install a fountain, or both. She'd added a couple of rose and lilac bushes, and a small pear tree, all of them too new yet to yield anything in the way of flowers or fruit.
She hadn't noticed him watching her, and he felt torn between calling attention to himself and striking up a conversation, or leaving her be to enjoy her time alone. He took a final drag on his cigarette and dashed it out on the side of the house. Deciding on the latter option, he got up and turned to close the window when he froze. Buffy sat on her knees in the middle of the garden, face buried in hands, her shoulders shaking as sobs ripped out of her gut.
He opened his mouth to call out to her, but decided better of it. Instead he finished dressing as fast he could, then he rummaged through his things until he found his old blanket.
Buffy took off her gardening gloves and wiped her eyes with one hand, then her nose with the other. For a minute she just sat there, feeling drained and making sure she'd gotten it under control. Finally, she got up, wiped her hands on her sweatpants, and brushed the dirt off her knees. Straightening up and turning around, she let out a startled yip as she almost bumped into Spike.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
Buffy stared at him in disbelief. The blanket he held over his head was beginning to smolder, but he seemed completely oblivious to it as his concerned eyes examined her face.
"Are you nuts?" She looked around for a shaded spot and shoved him underneath the arbor in the shadow of the house. "You do realize it's still spontaneous combustion o'clock out here?"
"Yeah," he said, looking irritated. "Hence, blanket." Realizing he didn't need it for the moment, he dropped it on a bench. He jerked his chin toward the bedroom window. "I saw you just now."
Buffy sighed. "You didn't have to rush out here."
Spike cast his eyes down and gave a little shrug. "You know I can't just leave you hurting." His eyes met hers again, searching. "What is it?"
"Didn't look like nothing."
"No, I mean it. Nothing's wrong."
Spike's lips tightened, and he gave her a curt little nod. "If you don't want to talk to me--"
"No, it's not that. It's …" She sighed. He waited, patience throwing down with irritation and insecurity for supreme dominance on his face. God, she could read him like a giant print Reader's Digest. He wasn't going to let it go. At least not without slinking off, feeling all worthless because she wouldn't open up to him.
But to tell him what?
As she searched for the right words, she looked at him, standing there backlit by the day, the sulfuric stench of burnt hair and blanket still lingering in the air between them. She had to smile. She made it a point never to compare them, Spike and Angel. Aside from the fact that they were both vampires -- both with souls, even -- the two men couldn't be more different. Apples and oranges. Night and day. Stripes and plaids. Drawing comparisons just wouldn't be fair, to either of them. Even so, Buffy found herself trying to imagine Angel defying the sun just because he saw her crying. Trying … and coming up blank. Her smile widening, she sat down. "I'm happy, Spike. Really. Really, really happy."
He raised an unconvinced eyebrow. "Really?" He sat next to her. "Didn't look like happy tears."
"Okay. Color me flummoxed."
She began to fiddle with his blanket. "Can you remember the last time I felt this content? Because I sure can't. I mean, I'm not thrilled with the whole being responsible for the lives of a couple dozen teenage girls when it was all I could do to take care of the one. And I could sure do without the source of everything that's evil going all 'this means war' on us. Not to mention the fact that practically every single person I know is living in my house, which is getting so far beyond old that it's progressing from adult diapers to the newborn kind."
"That's some lovely imagery, Pet. Thanks for that."
Spike leaned back. "So it's 'really, really happy' with about a dozen or so qualifiers then, is it?"
Buffy gave him a sheepish smile. "I guess. But take all that away … the Potentials and the First and the scary Übervamp army of death … and I actually like my life."
"Yeah." She grabbed his hand and held it in her lap, palm up, tracing the lines there. His lifeline seemed to go on forever. She couldn't decide whether that was accurate or proof that palm reading was a bunch of hooey. Realizing he wanted her to continue, she shrugged off that train of thought and went on. "I enjoy my job, I'm getting along great with my sister, none of my friends are homicidal -- at least, not for the moment. And I'm in love." She looked at him. "I really never thought that last part would happen again. Not like this."
The corners of his mouth angled up as he threaded his fingers through hers. "Happy to help." He brought her hand to his lips for a moment. "Still don't get why the tears, though."
Buffy shrugged. "Buffy Summers is happy. I mean, really, that's gotta be a sign of the big A apocalypse."
Spike's eyes narrowed. "Buffy …"
She knew he didn't want to hear this. And she didn't really want to say it. How could she make him understand when she didn't get it herself? It was so stupid, anyway. She'd been watering, and saw that some of the bulbs had bloomed. She wanted to pick them and take them inside. But that would just kill them. But they would die anyway, she realized. And it hit her, how much she didn't want them to. How much she didn't want to lose any of this.
God, when was the last time she'd been this afraid for her own sake? Was it the Master? When she'd first heard that he was destined to kill her? She was just a kid then. Dawn's age. She'd had her whole future ahead of her, and it shone so bright, and the thought of it being ripped away -- of her being torn out of the picture -- it made her sick.
She looked at her lover. Thought about everything he'd gone through to be with her. She didn't know what kind of future they could have together, if they had a future. Maybe Giles was right. Maybe she had no business trying to build any kind of life with a vampire. But she wanted to try. Spike deserved at least that much. They both deserved that chance; but the way things were going, it was a chance they might never get.
"Of losing. I don't want to die, Spike."
"Makes two of us."
"I don't want to lose you. Any of you. I haven't wanted to win this badly, to keep everything I've got. Not since … I feel like, if I want it so much, I can't win."
He didn't say anything. Didn't promise her they'd get through it or offer her any empty platitudes or comforting lies. Spike never said anything that he didn't believe himself, not even to make her feel better. She'd always appreciated that, the way he always expected her to be able to handle the truth. Even though at times she'd hated him for it; even when he'd used his brutal honesty as a weapon, she'd always liked that he never felt the need to handle her with kid gloves. She was glad that hadn't changed about him. Though, at the moment, she didn't think she'd mind if he'd lie to her just a little.
But instead they sat in silence. As the sun crept closer, Spike scooted closer and closer, until finally they ran out of room and he pulled her onto his lap. Then he just held her for a while, arms around her waist, chin hooked over her shoulder.
"This is the best I've ever had it, you know."
Buffy turned so she could see him. "This what?"
"Us. You." He looked down for a moment, and Buffy was relieved. Sometimes when he got this way his eyes were so intense she thought she might go blind if she stared into them for too long. Yet she could never look away. "Dru and I, we had some good times. Loved each other the best we knew how. But it was nothing like this." He looked back up at her and smiled wistfully as he tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. "Sometimes, though, I'll be lying next to you, watching you sleep, and I just know that it's too good to be true. That I'm gonna wake up and find myself back in that sodding school basement, or that the First'll get its hooks in me and you'll have to put me down for good. Before I can put you down. And I get so scared it makes me sick to my gut. I start to think I should just take off, get gone before I do more damage that I've already done."
Buffy stared at him. Idiot. He knew why not. Because she loved him. Needed him. Couldn't face what's coming without him. Because if she lost him so soon there really would be no point. But his suggestion that he might leave left her so thrown that she couldn't form words. She had to look away, but he hooked a finger under her chin and brought her back to face him.
"I'll tell you. Because this is worth it, Buffy." He tilted his head a little, biting his bottom lip as he looked her over, and her panic melted along with her gooey insides. "When you look at me the way you are now… when, whenever I kiss you or hear you say you love me…. Everything we've come through to get here, everything we'll have to go through. It's worth it. Even if this is all the time we ever get, it's all been worth it."
She felt an uncontrollable need to kiss him just then, so she went with it. Then she laid her head against his shoulder, spreading her fingers over his chest.
He kissed the top of her head. "You make this a world worth fighting for, Love."
Buffy smiled, but then raised up to look at him. "I thought soccer and dog racing made this a world worth fighting for."
"Uh… well, yeah. Those are good too."
With a laugh, she nestled back against him and closed her eyes, determined to enjoy the moment. After all, moments were really all they had. But then Spike hollered and jumped, practically dumping her out of his lap as he got to his feet. "Bloody hell!" He clutched his elbow and backed up against the trellis, away from the invading sun.
"Guess that means our time's up," Buffy sighed, retrieving his blanket.
"For the moment," he said, giving her a meaningful look.
"Right." She handed him the blanket. "I'll go open the door, then you run for it."
He smiled. "Hell of a team, you and me."
"Got that right." She started for the house.
"Buffy?" She turned to see him shaking out his blanket. He glanced at her. "That's why the odds are with us."
She frowned, confused. "Odds?"
"On us winning. You'll see."
Buffy opened her mouth to argue, but then shut it, realizing she was about to argue impossibilities with a vampire with a self-inflicted soul as he got ready to run a race against one of the surefire vampire killers of all time. For Spike, there was no such thing as impossible.
She turned away and headed for the back door, deciding to let him be right this time.