All About Spike - Print Version
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Spike found himself frequently accused of many things. Being contemplative
wasn’t often one of them.
Why that was, he wasn’t sure. Possibly it was his haircut. Or his accent. Or
the fact that surviving as an undead antihero for over a century required you
to be more agile than your garden-variety philosopher.
Then again, maybe it was just the leather coat.
In any case, here he was, having another conversation with himself. This was a
habit he’d had ever since his bad-poetry days; he’d square the two sides of his
brain off in opposite corners, lob in the question at hand, and send his head
into a silent ping-pong match. The effort involved in this internal debate made
him look faintly befuddled. Dru, bless her black heart, had referred to the
process as “monkey chatter.” Spike preferred to think of it as his own method
of scientific inquiry.
Presently he was sitting cross-legged on the top of his crypt. Passions
was on, but he wasn’t watching. He had Things On His Mind.
Buffy again, mostly.
“A man can change,” he’d told her, and wanted to believe it himself, even
though the moment the words were out of his mouth he’d braced himself for her
smackdown. The fact that he’d seen it coming hadn’t lessened the sting. Then
again, considering the events of the past seventy-two hours, maybe he had to
start taking those insults of hers with a grain of salt.
If he was, in fact, an “evil, disgusting thing,” she hadn’t been running the
other way. She’d looked the monster full in the face … and everywhere else …
and hadn’t so much as flinched.
What did that make her? That’s what Spike wanted to know. He hadn’t given it
much thought until now – he’d been too intent on his chosen battle, on stepping
on her heels until she couldn’t walk away anymore and forcing her to show her
hand. And he’d got what he wanted, hadn’t he?
He’d gotten in at least one good lick of his own, to pay her back for that
“thing” comment. You came back wrong. He’d expected her rage. He’d
gotten horror instead, horror and a kind of big-eyed hopelessness. He hadn’t
meant it, really, not that way, but she’d believed him. All he’d done was put
words to her deepest fears. “You’re wrong,” she’d said, over and over, but her
face was full of despair.
That had panicked him. He’d wanted her angry, not sad. He’d hit her again to
snap her out of that wounded empty place, and then she’d set her little jaw and
started whaling on him in earnest. That was good. He liked fighting with her.
Honestly, he thought it would end there, like it usually did – they’d hold each
other off for a while, eventually she’d get pissed and he’d drop his guard and
she’d kick his ass, and she’d stomp off in righteous fury, trailing Slayer
pheromones behind her that he could smell in his sleep. He’d gotten lucky with
that comment. He’d hit a nerve.
You haven’t come close to hurting me, she’d spat.
Afraid to give me the chance? Afraid I’m gonna –
And then, the Plot Twist, the Big Shocker.
He’d kissed a bunch of different Buffys before. Sad Buffy. Pissed-off Buffy.
Engaged Under-a-Spell Buffy. Singing Buffy. He’d never tasted
Desperate-to-Shut-Him-Up Buffy before, however, and she was a whole new Slayer.
For a minute, he just basked in the memory of the kiss, the memory of her
plastered against him, diving into him. Shoving him away, sending him careening
across the room hard enough to crack plaster when he hit the opposite wall. Up
against him the next second, on his mouth and in his brain and using her knees
around his hips to literally crawl up his body. Never in a million years would
he have imagined it happening like that, and yet there she went, a little
blonde Roman candle of a girl, bottled-up repression walking around on two legs
until he, the lucky idiot, finally said the one thing to pop her cork and set
He couldn’t remember how his pants came down, how her skirt came apart. But he
could still see her face as she came down on him, and it gave him chills – an
open-mouthed, dropped-jaw, glazed-eyes look of sheer disbelief and awe.
The moment he’d never thought would happen. And the funny thing, the best
thing, the thing he was sure Little Miss Summers hadn’t thought to consider in
the three days she’d been avoiding him: she’d offered him her neck, and he’d
never shifted into game face.
All that blood, beating so near to the surface, rising and falling under the
satin skin like the leaping river of life itself. Calling to him, to the
monster in him: taste me, take me. Spike, the slayer of Slayers, had
waged a brief mental war with William the Bloody Awful Poet, who’d never won so
much as a game of chess in his brief, doomed life.
And William had triumphed. Amazing. Bloody terrifying. He’d taken his
disdainful Cecily in his arms and fallen through the floor with her, strong
enough to kiss that silky neck from ear to pulse to collarbone and bury himself
in the Slayer’s velvet crossroads without venturing so much as a pointy tooth
in her direction.
Did that mean he was more man than monster? Spike had no idea.
But it wasn’t himself he was worried about. He was what he was. The question of
the day, again, was: what was she?
And why did he feel so bad for her?
He watched her for two days and discovered the following: nobody in that house
ate anything but peanut butter and ramen noodles, the washing machine was
broken, Willow was apparently under house arrest. Dawn was using the broken
wrist as an excuse to skip school and spent the better part of her days on the
deck, looking sulky and doodling aimlessly on an art pad with her good hand and
a red pen. Buffy herself went grocery shopping, hauled clothes to and from the
Laundromat, went into a cleaning frenzy that made Spike tired just watching, and
spent a lot of time being grim and silent. Tara arrived with chicken soup and
teen magazines for Dawn, but couldn’t be coaxed inside. Small sisterly
arguments about sweater ownership and bathroom rights were conducted
periodically. Dawn, the more vehement of the two, generally won.
Buffy had rows and rows of braided garlic hung inside her windows. That made
him laugh. She’d be better off cooking with it. Smelly vegetables weren’t going
to keep him out of her life, not if he wanted to be there.
And he did – oh, he did. But he wasn’t making the first move, not again. She
could bloody well come to him.
She missed Giles. He could tell. Whether she missed him or not, he couldn’t
Amy Madison showed up late on the third day, asking for Willow. Buffy didn’t
let her in. There was a brief altercation, consisting of magical threats on
Amy’s part and mild physical violence on Buffy’s. The witch didn’t look good,
Spike thought. Thinner than she’d been – drawn and strung-out looking, with
lank hair and shaking hands. Another one of Rack’s specials. Willow was lucky
she had real friends.
Spike saw her at the window during Amy’s argument with Buffy, small and
white-faced. Poor Red. Hard not to feel for her, even considering the
circumstances … until he looked at the cast on the Niblet’s wrist. Then he had
to wonder why Buffy hadn’t thrown her into the street. Not like she and Willow
were all snug like they used to be. Probably that wide, wide streak of Slayerly
duty shining through. They all had it, Slayers, but Buffy’d gotten more than
her fair share.
Duty. Valor. Honor. Three of the best things about her. If he was honest with
himself, he’d admit that he didn’t want anything to be wrong with Buffy.
He wanted her to love him. But he wanted her.
She showed up at the crypt early that evening, looking as sullen and imperious
and ready for a fight as she ever had. Spike could think of four or five snarky
things to say, but he kept them in reserve and merely shot her a questioning
eyebrow. She wouldn’t meet his eyes.
“I need a favor,” she said, rather sulkily if you asked him. “There’s Chinese
food in it for you.”
Spike, enjoying himself, elevated his other eyebrow and said nothing. Buffy
“Dawn and Tara are going to the movies tonight,” she said. “I have to patrol.
And Willow …”
“Is home alone,” Spike supplied. “You want me to witch-sit?”
“It’s not like you’ll have to do anything,” she said. “Mostly she’s been in her
room. Normally I wouldn’t even ask, but –“
“Afraid that Rat Girl might come back?” he said, then mentally kicked himself.
Her eyes sharpened.
“Can’t help what I see when I’m passing through,” he shot back. “You want me to
keep an eye on Red or not? Where’re the Butt Monkey and his demon bride,
anyway? Too busy picking out flowers to baby-sit?”
“I’m asking you, not them.” That temper was sparking, he could tell. “But now
that you mention it …”
“Don’t get your knickers in a twist,” he said lazily, and watched her eyes
flash. “I’ll play a few rounds of gin with the witchlet, I don’t mind. General
Gau and I have had a good thing going for a long time now.” Deliberately, he
turned his back on her and started for the door. “Don’t stay out all night,
pet. I’d hate to be stuck at your place all day with the sun up.”
Was that sound he heard as he closed the door behind him Buffy grinding her
teeth? Oh, he hoped so.
“Hey, Red,” he called up the stairs, but didn’t get a response. Shrugging, he
headed for the cartons on the kitchen counter. No blood in the fridge,
naturally. No booze, either. He should have brought his own. Next time, he’d
Forty-five minutes later, he remained unconvinced that anyone was in the house
with him. He headed up the stairs and paused at the landing. “Willow?”
She was in her room, but she didn’t answer him. “Hey there,” he said. She
turned around and flicked him a glance. She looked awful.
“Spike,” she said, and turned away again.
“There’s food downstairs.”
He gave her thin frame a quick glance. “How long since you ate?”
“What do you care?”
“I don’t, much,” he said. “Just curious. Not filling out that sweater like you
used to.” Did that get a smile from her? Her face was in shadow, and he
“I haven’t been eating,” she said finally, after a long silence. “I haven’t
wanted to. Haven’t needed to.”
He didn’t say anything. After another long pause, she spoke again.
“I can’t taste anything,” she said. “I can’t smell anything. I can’t feel hot
“That magic,” he said awkwardly. “Rough stuff.”
“It’s the best thing.” Her voice was dreamy. “Makes everything so much
brighter. Warmer. Better.”
“Until you look like your friend the rat,” Spike said. “See her this afternoon?
She’s a wreck. Runny nose, shaky hands, dirty clothes. Used to be a pretty
girl.” She didn’t answer him, and finally he backed out of the doorway.
“Chinese food downstairs if you want to say hello to the General,” he said, and
closed the door behind him.
Buffy’s door was ajar. Glancing back to make sure Willow wasn’t watching, he
slipped in and flicked on the bedside table lamp.
His Slayer was a tidy soul at heart, he decided, scanning the spare, pale
little room. Or maybe she just wasn’t into decorating these days. He seemed to
remember more stuff, more pillows and teddy bears and clutter, back in
the Time of Riley. Now, there was just the bed, its linens in military order,
with a framed print behind the headboard and a couple of Joyce’s floppy straw
hats on another wall. He’d bet cold hard cash that the witchlets had decorated
this room, and that Buffy hadn’t changed a thing since Resurrection Day.
Another indication that things were way wrong … was no one seeing this but him?
There were photographs tacked up all over a bulletin board by the desk. He
walked over to study them, mostly snaps of a happier, younger Buffy and Co.
You’d be hard-pressed to recognize the finely drawn bundle of angst she was now
as one and the same with the smiling, apple-cheeked innocent in the photos.
Without wanting to, he thought of that first post-Resurrection night. Haunted
eyes and bloody hands. He’d had nightmares about his coffin for more than
twenty years – the stuffy space, the darkness, the smell of death, the poisoned
air. Was Buffy still waking up underground? No wonder Xander and Willow
couldn’t look her in the face.
His gaze fell to the open notebook on the desk. The sheet was blank but scored
with heavy grooves from whatever she’d written on the previous page. Curious,
Spike fished a ball of paper out of the wastebasket by the desk and smoothed it
Dear Mom, Buffy had written.
When you and Dad split up, you told Dawn and me that you didn’t love each
other any more, but you still loved us. Then you stayed and Dad left. I used to
lie awake and wonder: if he really did love us, why wouldn’t he stick around?
But then Angel left for L.A., and I started to think maybe Dad was telling the
truth after all. After Riley, I was sure of it – that men can love you and
leave you in the same breath, and mean both things just as much.
I miss you so much. I need you so much. You’re gone and Giles is gone and I’ve
got this big question I can’t ask anyone that’s driving me crazy: What do you
do when you think it’s wrong but you hope it’s right, and you can’t just put it
off because he’s throwing around that word you associate with leaving, but he
isn’t going anywhere?
I don’t know what I’m going to do. No matter what, it feels like the wrong
thing, and I’m so lonely I could die. Sometimes I think even the wrong thing is
better than feeling so goddamned cold all the time.
Most of the time, I just wish they’d left me in the ground. One of the only
things that keeps me going is knowing that you must be in that place I left. No
more migraines, ever.
I used to wish I could bring you back. Now I just hope you’re watching over me.
Love always, Buffy
Spike started to crumple the paper up again, then stopped himself, folding it
neatly and tucking it into an inside pocket of his jacket. For a second or two
he just stood there, staring at the happy photos of that earlier Buffy. Then he
jammed his hands grimly into his pockets and started downstairs.
He and the Slayer had to talk.
He was on his fourth cup of hot chocolate when Buffy finally came through the
door, hollow-eyed with fatigue. There was a smear of something blue and slimy
on the front of her skirt. He handed her a paper towel and pulled out a chair.
She took the cup he handed her but set it down without drinking. “Thanks.”
“Rough night?” He gestured to the blue smear, and she rubbed absently at it
with the paper towel.
“Don’t know what it was. Horns. Crusty eyes. It killed easy.”
“Good to know.” He nudged the cocoa a little closer to her. “Drink up, pet.”
“What’s in it?” She sniffed it suspiciously. He sighed and rolled his eyes.
“Cynical little bit, aren’t you? Here.” He took a gulp and handed her back the
“You’re still in the house, aren’t you?”
That was better, just part of her standard nastiness, something she’d said
without thinking. Spike bit back the retort he was dying to sling at her.
“Buffy,” he said. “Why haven’t you been to see me? I’ve missed you.”
She looked up, startled. Being straightforward wasn’t part of his standard MO.
“Why would I willingly seek you out, Spike? Didn’t we already have this
discussion? Like, a million times?”
He didn’t drop his gaze. “Can we drop the usual bullshit, please? I’m trying to
say something here.”
She blinked. Pass up two golden opportunities to bite back at her? This wasn’t
the Spike she knew and … well, anyway. “Okay,” she said. “Say it, then. But
hurry up. I’m tired.”
“I know you don’t love me,” he said. “That’s old territory. But I do love you,
and I’m worried about you. You aren’t taking care of yourself. You’re not
She stared at him, suddenly glassy-eyed. More rattled than he’d care to admit,
Spike plowed ahead.
“You’re not talking to anyone,” he said. “Not Xander, not Willow, not Anya, not
Dawn. They’re all part of the problem you can’t discuss. And you’re not talking
to me anymore, either.”
She was still frozen. He figured he’d better hurry up and say his piece before
she went for his liver. “Listen,” he said urgently. “You don’t have to promise
me anything. You don’t owe me anything. But I want to take you to bed again.”
That got her attention, he thought with savage satisfaction as her eyes jerked
up to his. “Even if it’s only to take your mind off everything else,” he said.
“Even if you really do hate me. I don’t want you to be alone.”
She stiffened, swept her hair out of her face, glared at him. “Are you offering
to fuck me out of pity, Spike? Because you know what you can do with that kind
of … generosity.”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” he said, quietly enough that she had to lean
forward to hear him. He was looking straight into her eyes. “I want to be with
you. Not out of pity, not out of sympathy, but out of the love I have to give.
They sat and stared at each other across the little table for a long time,
neither one moving, the cocoa congealing in the cups between them. Buffy’s
stubborn little chin was high, her eyes flinty. But then her lip trembled –
once, twice – and the stone set of her face began to crumple. “Oh, God,” she
managed to gasp, and then the tears came.
Once before, he’d held the Slayer while she cried, folding her little body into
his and absorbing into himself the hot salt of her grief. The first time, he’d
been angry, angry enough to kill her, and she’d completely disarmed him. Now,
he picked her up – she was so small! – and carried her into the quiet dark
living room, over to the recliner where he used to sit and drink tea with
Joyce. The chair swallowed them both into its soft dark womb. He gathered Buffy
closer and smoothed the hair back from her face. “You’re so beautiful,” he
whispered. “You’re so bloody strong. You cry for everybody else but you. You
break my heart.”
She pulled back from him for a minute, studied him with those big liquid eyes,
shook her head. “William,” she said shakily. “Just when I think I’ve got you
figured, you break out the poetry. What am I going to do about you?”
He touched her mouth with his. Soft, soft, so soft, like snowflakes melting
over cinders, one by one by cool silent one. Brush, brush, brush, sip. No
pressure. Okay, well, maybe a little.
She was moist and flushed from weeping, and the vampire part of his brain
couldn’t help but think – blood, blood, blood. The rest of him was
marveling at her heat against him, a human coal against the body he had to warm
with borrowed life. It was as if the tears had melted her a little, as if she
were not a solid form at all but some slow-moving liquid like glass. Not glass,
though. Bloody stainless steel, more like.
He smoothed her up and down with his hands, as if sculpting her. She burned
against his palms. Holy Christ, she was hot. Dru had been cool … Harmony, too.
Until Buffy, he’d never been this close to a human woman. He ran his hands up
under her shirt and took her gasp with his mouth.
“Upstairs,” she said. “Upstairs. Hurry.”
He squeezed everything he could reach, one last time, and scooped her up. He
could have floated up the stairs.
“Quick,” she ordered once they were on the bed. “Quick, come here, hurry …”
“Hurry?” He grinned down at her. “Not a chance.”
Oh, God, it was happening again. Thirty minutes ago, anyone who insinuated to
Buffy that she’d be shagging Spike again tonight would have gotten either
laughed at or pounded on. Wasn’t going to happen, EVER again, no way, no how,
and certainly not because he’d offered her cocoa and told her she looked
And. Yet. Here they were, in the bedroom she’d slept in since moving to
Sunnydale, sprawled over the top of one of Grandma Summers’ knitted afghans.
The afghan had some stories to tell, Buffy reflected. It had probably seen more
action than Grandma herself.
If tonight was anything like her last sexcapade with Spike, the afghan would be
pretty damn shocked. As Buffy herself had been. Her night with Angel had been
pretty touchy-feely; not what Buffy would call exactly kinky. And it was a sure
thing that Riley had never done any of that stuff.
Congratulations, Buffy Summers, she thought to herself. Somewhere
along the line, you’ve acquired a sexual imagination. And then Spike put
his hand between her legs, and she didn’t think any more after that.
He felt so good, like the cool side of the pillow in the middle of a bad dream.
One muscled arm was under her neck; his leg was thrown over one of hers, and he
was studying her with a thoughtful little half-frown as he touched her, as if
he’d never seen a woman quite like her before. His long artist’s fingers were
slow and sure and felt as if he’d just dipped them in cool water. Against them,
she could feel her own heat lapping and building and sucking at itself. A big
part of her wanted to grab him and take him and get the waiting over with.
Another big part of her liked the wait.
He kept touching her, his fingers like salve soothing away a burn that keeps
coming back stronger. His lips were traveling over her forehead, her cheeks,
her eyelids. He bent his head and licked the perspiration from her neck. “God,
you’re burning up,” he muttered. “I can feel you – there’s a furnace beneath
your skin. How can you live with so much heat?”
“Please,” she gasped, because it was too much – the burn between her thighs,
the soft sexy words, the all-too-experienced nibbling just beneath her ear.
“Just do it, okay?”
He laughed against her skin. “Patience, Slayer,” he said, and slid two fingers
inside her. “We never stopped for breath the other night. I want to take my
“What are you talking about?” she snapped irritably, arching into his hand.
“You don’t breathe, you idiot. And are you forgetting that it took all night?”
“More than one road to Rome, princess,” he said, and drove another finger into
her. “Why start the trip all over again, when you can just keep driving
She snarled at him, but her heart wasn’t in it. She was almost there, almost to
the top of the hill, and if he kept doing that … thing … with his thumb …
“Oh, God,” she said, and took the jump with her eyes open, staring straight
into his. “Oh, Jesus, Spike.”
“Keep going,” he urged her, and before she could blink he’d dragged her up the
hard muscled length of him and slid her effortlessly onto his lap, replacing
his fingers with his cock before she’d registered the loss. His hands clamped
around her hips, lifting and settling her until she took up the rhythm herself.
“There you go. Oh, bloody hell.”
It’s not size with a vampire, she thought fuzzily, still in free fall
and only dimly aware of his hands on her breasts. It’s … endurance. Oh,
“There you go,” he was murmuring. “There you go, Buffy, there you go. You’re
going to cut me in half, you’re so bloody tight. Oh, fuck. Fuckin’ A.”
“Kiss me,” she gasped. “Kiss me again. Please?” And then she was underneath
him, and everybody stopped talking in favor of the Big Body Slam, the brutal
strain and yearn and grind of raw elemental sex that didn’t change the fact
that his lips on hers were unbearably tender.
Eventually, he shifted his weight to one side, for which she was grateful –
even if he didn’t need to breathe, she did. Buffy reached down and flipped
Grandma’s afghan over the two of them, and they lay companionably for a few
minutes, listening to the light rain that had started sometime in the middle of
their own personal storm. Finally, Spike broke the silence.
“Willow’s in the house,” he said. “Might be hard to explain in the morning. Do
you want me to leave?”
Silence hung heavy in the room. Buffy felt him shift, as if he were about to
get up. Oh, for God’s sake, Buffy, have some balls about this, she
thought, suddenly irritable with herself, and grabbed his arm.
“No, of course not,” she said, and kept hanging on even though it was hard to
meet his eyes. “Stay. Please. I want you to.”
“Right, then,” he said, and swept her back against him. In seconds, she was
In her dreams, she was patrolling through Sunnydale, walking soft through the
cul-de-sacs and alleyways and stepping carefully around the puddles on the
ground from the recent rain. Shouldn’t have worn suede shoes on a night like
this, Sleeping-Buffy told Dream-Buffy, and the two of them grimaced
together over the issue of footwear upkeep.
Footsteps behind her, big clumsy careless stomp-stomp-shuffle-stomps. The demon
from Willow’s hallucination, snarling at her like a mad Ewok. She kicked him
hard in the face, and instead of falling backwards he turned into a man. The
man had wild eyes and dreadlocks and what looked like massive acne scars. He
Go ahead and fight, little girl. You can’t keep her.
I can’t keep who? Dream-Buffy scowled, making Sleeping-Buffy murmur
angrily to herself. Talk sense, Pustule Boy, or get out of my nightmare.
Make room for something that can really put up a fight.
You can’t keep her, Pustule Boy repeated, and began to laugh. Because
she doesn’t want to stay. His eyes dilated, and his features changed.
Dream- Buffy’s eyes narrowed.
Willow was flickering. Even with big black alien pupils, she looked sad. Buffy,
listen. You aren’t like me. He’s not like this.
Dream-Buffy frowned. Willow was fading around the edges. The dreadlocks were
coming back. Willow, don’t go. Don’t go, Willow.
Pustule Boy grinned at her. Mine, he said, and as Dream-Buffy started
for him, hawked up a gob of something purple and sticky and spat it at her. It
landed on her shoes.
Asshole, Sleeping-Buffy commiserated. Not like they’ll wash, either.
You couldn’t have worn the Reeboks tonight?
By the time they looked up, the alley was empty.
Buffy sat up in bed and looked at the clock. Three a.m. Not exactly the
witching hour, but close enough. She swung her feet out of bed.
“Going somewhere, love?”
She glanced back over her shoulder at Spike. Trust him not to be sleeping when
he should be. “Go back to sleep,” she said. “It’s nothing.”
“Can’t sleep,” he said cheerfully. “It’s the garlic. Gives me insomnia.”
She wrinkled her nose at him. “That’s all it does? What a waste of twelve
Not her best comeback, but he rewarded it with one of those sexy little
half-laughs that never quite made it out of his throat. “Dracula’s allergic,”
he said. “But he was allergic when he was human, too. Doesn’t affect me one way
or the other ... except that the smell’s a little strong in here. I keep thinking
about Italian food.” He yawned. “You’ve been tossing and turning a bit, too.
Buffy sighed and swung her feet back into bed. Just her luck – he was in the
mood to talk. “Weird dream,” she confirmed. “Willow. And the Ewok demon. And
some guy with really bad skin.”
“That’d be Rack.” She looked at him sharply, and he shrugged. “Funny he made it
into your head, but then that’s sort of his thing.”
“Meaning --?” Buffy didn’t like the sound of this.
Spike pushed himself up on some pillows and crossed his ankles under the
covers. “Odd sort of wanker, Rack,” he said. “Been at the black magic so long
that he’s sort of burned himself out from the inside. Got a lot of power, not
much else. Soul is damaged, emotions aren’t working right, long- term memory is
pretty much gone. That’s why he’s in the business. Reels in the magical
dilettante crowd, the wannabes, and deals them a little bit of temporary power
for a chunk of their insides. Figure he got lucky with Willow – she’s the real
deal. Probably got your name from her head.”
Buffy hugged her knees. “You mean he has a chunk of Willow?” Spike
“Had, anyway. He’s probably burned his way through most of it by now. He’s as
big a junkie as anyone he deals to.”
“So part of her is ... just ... gone?”
“Mm. I figure he took her olfactories, this last trip,” Spike said. “Can’t
smell, can’t taste, can’t detect hot or cold.” At Buffy’s aghast look, he
shrugged. “She’ll get them back, at least partially. Those kind of things have
a certain ability to regenerate. As long as she doesn’t go back.”
“What’ll happen if she does?”
Spike laced his fingers behind his head and leaned back against the wall. “For
a while, he’ll just nip away at her,” he said. “Memories, emotions, goals,
morals. That sort of thing. Sort of clean her out from the inside, bit by bit.
Then, when there’s nothing else left of value, he’ll start on the brain. Sooner
or later, he’ll take something crucial ... and after that, no more Teen Witch.”
Buffy shuddered. “Can I kick his ass?”
“Probably. Wanna get some more sleep first?”
She sighed and lay back down. “I guess.” He was still watching her, she could
tell. The light from the window silhouetted one sharp cheekbone and made him
look all film-noir, a sulky black-and-white James Dean. “Spit it out,” she said,
and he half-laughed again.
“Just wondering, Blondie,” he said. “How things are gonna play in the morning.”
He half-turned so she couldn’t see his face anymore. “Not that it matters,
really. But if you’re planning to pull another ‘what-was-I- ever-thinking’, why
don’t you just tell me? That way I can split now and avoid the scene.”
Oh, God. Here we go. She flipped around and found herself facing his
back. “What do you want, Spike? Hearts and flowers?”
“Nothing wrong with that if you can manage it.” He twisted back around and
glowered down at her, somehow managing to look more weary than menacing. “But
it’s not necessary. I’d be happy with a cease-fire.”
She snorted. “Who are you kidding? You love duking it out with me.”
“Pot. Kettle.” The covers had slipped down, and he could see one of her
breasts, a sweet little handful of marzipan with a pale pink crown. He traced
its outline with one finger and felt her shudder. “Truce, Slayer?”
She was melting. “I suppose.” His mouth replaced his hand, and she kicked the
covers to the foot of the bed. “Spike?”
“Uh-huh.” His mouth was full, and he already had that glazed look in his eyes.
She yanked him up by the hair for a second.
“She’s going to be okay, right? I mean, we can dust this Rack guy?”
His eyes went cobalt with intensity. “Since when has there ever been anything,
or anyone, that you couldn’t handle?”
Her lip trembled. “She’s my best friend. There’s a lot on the line.”
He sighed, and slithered back up her body until they were eye to eye. “Ever
read Matthew Arnold?”
“Um. Random much? No. Who’s he?”
He rolled onto his back, pulling her with him so she was sprawled over his
body. “British poet. World War One era.” She scowled down at him.
“And your point?”
He grinned up at her, then sobered. “Ah, love/Let us be true to one another!”
She rolled her eyes, but he kept going. “For the world, which seems/To lie
before us like a land of dreams/So various, so beautiful, so new/Hath neither
really joy, nor love, nor light, nor certitude/Nor help for pain.”
Her face had changed. She looked like she might cry. He finished softly. “And
we are here as on a darkling plain/Swept by confused alarms of struggle and
might/As ignorant armies clash by night.”
“That’s cheery,” she said, pretty brow furrowed. “What was he trying to say?”
“Basically that life sucks,” Spike said. “But at least you’ve got company. Can
I kiss you now?”
“If you must,” Buffy said, and went liquid in his arms.
When she woke up, dawn was just beginning to filter through her curtains. There
was a dent in the pillow that smelled faintly like cigarettes, but Spike was
For the best, Buffy thought, tamping down the Jell-O part of her that
had gone all wiggly during last night’s Poetry Jam and had been looking forward
to waking up with him. Shower, dress, go figure out how to kill Rack. Have a
She had intended to wear the suede shoes from last night’s dream, but she
couldn’t find them. Padding downstairs in her bare feet, she threw some
cinnamon bread into the toaster and was buttering her second slice when Tara
and Dawn came through the door.
“Hi, guys. How was the flick?”
“Grooving,” Dawn said, deadpan, and snatched the toast from Buffy’s hand with a
quick leggo-my-eggo flick of her wrist perfected by years of experience. Buffy
shot her an evil look, pondered getting the bread out again, and decided to
settle for OJ.
“Tara? Juice?” She brandished the carton at Tara, who backed away nervously.
“N-no. I should be going. Really.” She shot a sideways glance up the stairs.
“She hasn’t been out of her room for a week.” Dawn rolled her eyes. “Good
“Well, hell-ooo. It’s not her with a lame-o cast, is it? It’s not
her who’s going to have to audition for Bianca on Monday with only one
“You?” Buffy started to laugh. “You’re auditioning for Bianca?”
Dawn put on her best prim-little-girl face. “I’m the good sister,” she
said from around the last bite of cinnamon toast, and flounced away toward the
stairs. “Bye, Tara.”
“Bye, Dawnie.” Tara gave Buffy an apologetic smile and turned toward the door.
Then she stopped. “Buffy?”
“What exactly did you kill last night? There’s stuff all over your shoes.”
“My shoes?” Buffy drained her juice and frowned. “I don’t remember getting anything
... hey, hang on. Is it purple?”
Tara nodded. “And ... sort of ... yucky ..”
“That does it,” Buffy said grimly. “Research time. I paid a fortune for
The Magic Box was overrun with customers – the Saturday Crowd, Anya called them
smugly – and she was in her element. Buffy, remembering her own disastrous
brush with the world of retail, flopped into a chair at the research table and
eyed her wonderingly.
“Set a date, Xander?” she asked.
“Um. Merciful Zeus. No.” Xander turned pasty underneath his construction-
worker tan. “Don’t talk so loud.”
Buffy shrugged and propped her elbows on the table. “Whatever. So. Rack. Mad
Ewok demon. Purple goo. Willow, looking all witchy. That was the dream.”
Tara nodded earnestly. “But you never actually saw Rack while you were on
“Right. Nor,” Buffy said frowning, “was I wearing those particular shoes. I
would never wear suede shoes patrolling. That was the first weird thing
about the dream.” She sighed. “So. The Ewok turns into Rack, turns into Willow,
turns back into Rack. Who spits purple gunk on my shoes, in the dream, and says
I can’t have her back, because she doesn’t want to be here.”
“Weird.” Xander munched his donut thoughtfully. “Did Willow say anything?”
“Yeah. She said ... um ... let me think ... okay. ‘You’re not like me. He’s not like
this.’ Then she got all dreadlocky again.”
“You’re not like me.” Tara tucked her hair behind her ears. “That’s easy
enough. You, Buffy, aren’t like me, Willow. And ‘this’ must be her addiction.
The witchcraft. But who’s ‘he’?”
“Um. Dunno. Rack, maybe?” Buffy pretended sudden interest in the nearest book
Xander shook his head. “Mmmph,” he said, swallowing the last of the donut. “No.
That doesn’t make sense. Rack’s the cause of the addiction, so he’s gotta be
linked, right? The ‘he’ must have something to do with Buffy, not Willow.”
Tara picked up the goo-covered shoe, which held pride of place in the middle of
the table, and studied it gingerly. “Did the dream wake you up, Buffy?”
“Mm. Yeah. I was going to go check on Willow. And then ... I ... well, and then I
didn’t.” Buffy bit her lip. Don’t panic. Don’t panic. “Back in a minute.
Bathroom,” she said, and bolted for the back of the shop.
“Wow.” Dawn had wandered over and was perched on the edge of the table. “My big
sister. Queen of the Weirdos.”
Xander, still studying the pointy end of his cruller, looked up. “Yeah,” he
said. “What’s up with that?”
By the time Buffy came back, Xander had been drafted to cash-register duty by a
harassed-looking Anya, Dawn was fingering something sparkly on the crystals
table, and Tara was scraping the purple goo from the shoe into a little jar,
using a disposable plastic glove and what looked like a chopstick. “I’ve got a
friend in the university chemistry lab,” she said to Buffy. “I’ll have her run
an analysis on it. I mean, the dream and everything kinda points to magic, but
it could just be a prank, too. Maybe. And I’ll look in my books at home.”
“Sounds good.” Buffy surveyed the ruined shoes sadly. “Thanks, Tara.”
“Sure, anytime. Hey, Buffy?”
“Thanks for taking care of Willow.” She looked troubled. “If there’s anything I
can do, let me know. I just can’t ... be there ... right now. That’s all.”
“Yeah.” On a sudden impulse, Buffy squeezed Tara’s shoulder. “I understand.”
Home again, minus Dawn, who was helping Anya wrap peacock skulls in tissue
paper and had finagled a lunch-and-mini-golf invitation from Xander. Buffy
peeked into Willow’s room, saw her friend curled up with her back to the door,
and tiptoed out again. She hadn’t made her bed yet. She’d do that, then maybe
catch a quick nap. Hot sex during the midnight hours was hell on the old Slayer
Under her pillow was a book she hadn’t noticed earlier that morning, an old,
peeling little paperback. Duino Elegies. Had to be one of Spike’s
specials. One page was folded down; a glance at her desk told her that he’d
highlighted the passage with her own marker. She closed her eyes for a moment,
undecided, then opened the book. The page was worn, and old underlines scored
the words he’d highlighted:
Of course it is odd to live no more on the earth/
To abandon customs you’ve just begun to get used to/
Not to give meaning to roses and other such/
Promising things in terms of a human future/
To be held no more by hands that can never relax/
For fear they will drop you and even to put your name to one side/
Like a broken toy. Strange to wish wishes no longer./
Strange to see things that seemed to/
Belong together floating in every direction./
It’s very hard to be dead, and you try to make up for lost time/
Till slowly you start to get whiffs of eternity./
But the living are wrong in the sharp distinctions they make./
Angels, it seems, don’t always know if they’re moving among/
The living or the dead. The drift of eternity drags all the ages of man/
Through both of those spheres and its sound rises over them both./
Those who have died young finally need us no longer – you can be weaned/
From things of this world as gently as a child outgrows its mother’s breast./
But we who have need of those huge mysteries, we who can sometimes/
Draw up from wellsprings of sadness rejoicing and progress/
How could we exist without them? Is the old tale pointless/
That tells how music began in the midst of the mourning for Linos/
Piercing the arid numbness and, in that stunned/
Space, where an almost godlike youth/
Had suddenly stopped existing, made emptiness vibrate in ways/
That thrill us, comfort us, help us now?
Huh, Buffy thought, and turned the little book over and over in her
hands. Too tired to think about that one. But it’s pretty.
This time, when she slept, she didn’t dream.
When she woke up, there was a message from Tara on the machine. Hi, Buffy,
Dawn. Um, Willow. Buffy, can you call me when you get a chance?
Buffy dialed the number. Three rings, no answer. Four. She was just about to
hang up when –
“Oh, hi. Tara?”
“No, sorry. She’s not in right now.” The voice was young and female and a
little too perky to suit Buffy’s present mood. “She said something about going
over to the university. Um, the lab, maybe?”
“OK. Thanks.” Buffy replaced the receiver and considered her options.
She could patrol over to the university and see if she ran into Tara. She could
wait until tomorrow and call her then.
Or she could get a ride from Spike.
Jell-O Sex Addict Buffy was feeling very good about the prospect of Spike.
Cynic Buffy was less convinced, and a bit weirded out about the poetry thing. I
mean, who could even tell what he meant by it? Wellsprings of sadness? Whiffs
of eternity? Angels?
Color her stupid, but they hadn’t covered all this imagery stuff in Western Lit
I. And what exactly did he expect from her now? Was he hoping to discuss it?
Would there be a quiz or something?
The last thing she needed right now in her life was a boyfriend who was smarter
than her. Leaving out the whole Evil Dead thing, of course. And the fact that
somehow, some way, he could hit her and not send himself into Migraine Land.
The fact that there weren’t human Happy Meal wrappers strewn around Sunnydale
made her think that he must have been right. God, she hated those words in his
voice. You came back wrong.
Well, of course she had. She’d known it before he said it. Known it the minute
her eyes popped open in the coffin. Something was gone, and it wasn’t just the
Heaven thing, either. For weeks, she’d felt like a too-full closet behind a
flimsy door, just waiting to explode. And yet it hadn’t happened.
Giles had left. She’d let him. Her friends had yet to really, truly apologize
for the whole Resurrection thing. She’d let it slide. Willow, overnight, had
turned into an addict, crashed a stolen car running from some magic junkie
demon she’d summoned herself, and nearly killed Dawn, and what had Buffy done
about it? Patted her head and tucked her into bed.
Nothing was getting through. Except for maybe Spike. Hitting him felt good.
Fucking him felt better. The whole Evil Dead thing was about to be a non-issue,
because she didn’t care anymore. Screw the railroad spikes, screw the centuries
of mayhem, screw the fact that he was still an evil killer. When he was around,
she had nerve endings again.
Not a good sign, Buff. You’re supposed to be a White Hat. No room for shades
of grey in the Slayer Universe.
Oh, bugger off.
Jesus. She even sounded like him.
She started off walking toward UC Sunnydale, but she ended up at the crypt. It
wasn’t yet sunset, but she could hear music as she rapped at his door and
slipped inside. Very un-Spike-like it was, too. Sweet, sweepy piano and a
soprano voice clear and lush enough to bring the hair up on Buffy’s arms.
Sure on this shining night/With star-made shadows round/
Kindness must watch for me/This side the ground./
The late year lies down the north./All is healed, all is health./
High summer holds the earth. Hearts all whole./
He turned and saw her, and they stood staring at each other as the piano
pounded away at some heartfelt chords and the soprano started up again
Sure on this shining night/I weep for wonder/
Wandering far alone/With shadows on the stars.
“Y’know,” she said as the piano died away into nothingness. “I had you more
pegged as a ‘Hits Of The ‘80’s’ guy. What is this stuff?”
“Samuel Barber,” he said. “British poof. Dead for thirty years, at least. I
must be going all period these days.”
“Wild.” Buffy took two steps toward him, then decided not to get too close just
yet. “Tell me something: how much work does the whole Sid Vicious thing really
take to hang together? William?”
He laughed unpleasantly. “Don’t fool yourself, precious. Just because I got
laid and started feeling poetic doesn’t mean I’m not a badass.” He showed her
his fangs, and looked disgruntled when she only laughed.
“What?” he snapped. “Hello, dead for two hundred years, right? I’m going to
acquire some layers. Not like I walked around without opinions until the Disco
Age hit full flower. Give me some credit.”
“Point.” Buffy put her hands in her pockets. “I’m going over to the chemistry
lab to meet Tara. Wanna come?”
He studied her under lowered brows for a moment, as if expecting a trick.
“Yeah, all right,” he said finally. “If we can stop at the morgue on the way.
I’m all out of B positive.”
“A world of ‘Ew’,” Buffy said, but didn’t protest when he took her arm.
They headed out into a Sunnydale night. Together.
Another night in Sunnydale. The Trio sank a little deeper into their
ergonomically correct, black leather office chairs and gazed into the depths of
the stolen blue diamond. The theme song from “Deep Space Nine” swirled mystically
from an unwatched DVD behind them. Sleek halogen torchières cast soft yellow
light throughout a room resplendent with technology, a den of software pirates,
the wet dream of every little boy who’d ever owned a chemistry set in
elementary school and gone out for chess instead of soccer.
No woman had ever set foot in this shiny black-and-silver lair, and at the rate
they were going, no woman ever would. On a certain level, the Trio were
depressed by this. On another, they were relieved ... it implied that the Slayer
wasn’t going to come kick their asses anytime soon.
“Okay, Jonathan,” Warren said, finally breaking the silence without taking his
eyes off the diamond. “You’re the one who researched this whole thing. What are
we supposed to do with it again?”
Jonathan frowned. “I’ve explained it before. Weren’t you paying attention?”
“It’s confusing,” Warren said, and Andrew nodded agreement. “I mean, the whole
history bit and all. I can’t keep track of anything that predates Windows 95.”
Jonathan rolled his eyes.
“First of all, this is no ordinary diamond,” he said. “It has great historical
significance.” His eyebrows raised pointedly. Andrew squirmed. “It first
appeared in England in 1895, fully faceted and polished. Historians so far
haven’t been able to trace it back to its origins, but I ...” – he puffed up his
chest beneath its striped rugby shirt – “I have a very reliable source who says
that it’s part of a famous lost diamond known as the Blue Tavernier.”
Warren and Andrew looked blank. “So, yeah, I get that,” Warren said. “But
what’s the big deal?”
“The deal,” Jonathan snapped, “is that the Blue Tavernier belonged to Louis
Quatorze. It was stolen in 1792, along with a bunch of other jewelry, smack in
the middle of the French Revolution. But it was a lot bigger then; that’s why
no one recognized it when it turned up in England a hundred years later.” He
cracked his neck thoughtfully. “They think that the Tavernier was cut down into
what’s known as the Hope Diamond,” he said. “But the Hope Diamond is only half
of the original Tavernier, according to my source. The rest of it –“ he
indicated the cool blue gem on the table – “is this.”
“Okay. Rewind.” Andrew ran his hands through his hair. “Why would they cut it
“Remind me,” Jonathan said through his teeth, “never to tell you guys anything
important, EVER AGAIN, during Enterprise reruns. Honestly.” He sighed for
dramatic effect. “OK. This is the story I got from my source.”
“Who is – who again?”
Jonathan glared at Warren. “Hello? Magical world? Not your area?”
“Sor-ree.” Warren curled his lip. “So you found it out from some creepy
magic demon dude. Excuse me.”
“Can I continue?”
Warren rolled his eyes. “Okay, whatever. Yeah.”
Jonathan cleared his throat. “According to my source, the Blue Tavernier was
stolen from Louis the Sixteenth by a French political group called the Commune
of Paris. Which is how it fell into the hands of Maximilien Robespierre. Who,
if you remember anything I tell you, ever, is the sorcerer that we’re trying to
resurrect. Got it?”
The Duo nodded vacantly at him. Jonathan sighed and went on.
“The gem carried – carries – a lot of power, but also a lot of bad luck,” he
said. “Robespierre thought he was powerful enough to control it, and for a
while he was. Reign of Terror and all that. Really made the heads roll.”
“You mean, like Marie Antoinette,” Andrew volunteered.
“Among others,” Jonathan said wearily. “Anyway. Robespierre lost control of the
gem, and it turned on him. He died on the guillotine in 1794, and no one saw
the Blue Tavernier intact after that. My source says it was magically divided
into two pieces in an attempt to diminish its power. Half of it showed up in
1830 – that’s the half that they call the Hope Diamond – and it’s brought
nothing but financial ruin and death to anyone who’s owned it. In a museum
now.” He beamed at the diamond on the table. “This is the other half – the half
we’re going to use to bring back Robespierre.”
“But, Jonathan.” Warren’s eyebrows were so close together they looked like a caterpillar
on his forehead. “Robespierre’s not a demon, right? He’s a sorcerer.”
“So, he’s dead. He died, like, a million years ago. Got his head chopped off.”
“Yeah,” Jonathan said. “But.” He gave the diamond another fond glance. “The
Blue Tavernier is an Indian diamond originally. You know, reincarnation, don’t
step on ants, you can’t eat food with a soul?” He didn’t wait for a response.
“The Indians believed that human souls could inhabit gemstones,” he said, and
looked expectantly at the Duo for a response. They stared back at him.
“Don’t you get it? When Robespierre died, his soul went into the diamond,” he
said. “According to what I’ve been told, whoever cut the diamond up made one
big mistake – they performed the spell before Robespierre went to the
guillotine. So instead of half of him being in the Smithsonian and half here,
we’ve got all of him. All we have to do is bring him back.”
“Hello, evil madman?” Andrew’s lip was curled skeptically. “Plus, even if his
soul’s in that – that thing –“ he regarded the diamond with caution –
“he still doesn’t have a body, right?” He perked up suddenly. “Is that your
plan? Is Warren supposed to build him a body?”
Jonathan looked beatific. “He’s not gonna have to,” he said. “We’ve got a
couple of possibilities walking around town already. Who do we know who’s
really, really strong and really, really fast?”
“Well, duh. Buffy.”
“Yeah. Who else?”
Andrew shot a worried glance at the Boba Fett figurine. “Well, there’s always
Jonathan beamed. “Now you’re catching on,” he said. “Plan A and Plan B. Either
way, one seriously kick-butt evil henchman. And then....” He paused for effect.
“Sunnydale’s as good as ours.”
The Slayer, completely unaware that the Hellmouth was being potentially
threatened from beyond the grave by an overzealous French republican by way of
a nerd triumverate, was strolling arm-in-arm through her friendly local
cemetery with a Way Sexy Guy Who Just Happened To Be Dead And Evil. And trying
not to examine it too much. She had just finished telling the purple goo story,
leaving out Willow’s cryptic little you’re-not-like-me statement. Spike looked
annoyed. In Buffy’s experience, that meant he was thinking.
“That’s bleeding strange,” he said finally. “I mean, weird things happen in
dreams in this town, God knows, but Rack shouldn’t have been able to do that.
And even if he could, he wouldn’t waste the energy on you.”
Buffy bristled. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Compliment, luv.” Spike removed his arm from hers to unlock the passenger door
of the DeSoto. “You’re too bloody strong. Wank you off, you’ll just break into
his little haunt, guns blazing, and shut him down. Make more sense if he went
after the witchlet herself. Or her friend Glinda.” He turned the key, and the
DeSoto roared to life.
“You mean Tara?”
Spike shrugged. “Pretty powerful in her own right, our little White Witch. But
then, he’d really have to work at it to get his hands on her, and that just
doesn’t fly. He’s a loser. Running on empty. Not gonna waste energy or power
harassing the Slayer or a witch who doesn’t want anything to do with him.” He
manouevered the big car into a parking space in front of the science building,
shut off the motor, and frowned over at Buffy. “He goes for the easy sell,” he
said. “And the two of you are anything but that. So why would he bother?”
“Good question,” Buffy said. “But the goo on the shoes doesn’t lie. I’m still
bitter about that.”
“I like you better barefoot.”
“Pardon?” Her head swiveled sharply in his direction. Spike grinned at her.
“You heard me,” he said. “Come on, let’s go find Tara.”
According to the T.A. on duty in the chemistry lab, someone who looked a lot
like Tara had left ten minutes prior. Buffy sighed in exasperation.
“Can’t we look her up at home?”
Buffy shook her head. “Never gave me her address,” she said. “It’s okay – I can
call her in the morning.” She glanced at Spike. “We could always go break into
Rack’s place and beat him up.”
“Or we could pay a call on Rat Girl.” Spike leaned against a telephone pole and
studied his fingernails. “Much faster. Find her, shake her down for clues, and
still have an hour or two to make the Beast With Two Backs, back at my place.”
He sent Buffy a sultry look from under his lashes. “I mean, your bed’s more
comfortable, I’ll give you that. But I’ve got more privacy ... you can scream all
you want, without bringing the Scoobies and Little Sis running to the rescue.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “You are so taking the Sex Thing for granted.” Spike
“Not at all, luv. You want to scurry back to your chaste little princess room
and your lonely little dreams, you go right ahead. You want to sleep alone,
feel free. I’m just making sure you know about your ... alternatives.” He vaulted
over the DeSoto’s hood and leered at her. “How about it, Slayer? We gonna talk
all night, or do you wanna go kick Miss Mousie’s ass?”
Gritting her teeth, Buffy got into the car. She hated it when he made
They caught Amy a block from her house, walking fast towards downtown and
keeping to the shadows. She looked even more wrecked than she had the day
before: pasty skin, chattering teeth, darting beady eyes that reminded Buffy of
nothing so much as the rat she’d been. When she saw them step out in front of
her, she started to shake.
“Amy,” Buffy said flatly. “We need to talk.”
“N-not now. I c-c-c-can’t. I have to be somewhere.”
“Not anymore you don’t.”
“Buffy, I’m s-s-serious.” Amy widened her eyes in an effort to look pleading.
“I h-have to meet someone. Like, five minutes ago.”
“You’re not going anywhere until you talk to us.” Buffy’s hand clamped down on
her shoulder, and Amy started to twist and struggle.
“You don’t understand! I have an appointment!”
“Bet you do, luv,” Spike said, looking uncharacteristically humorless. Amy shrank
back from him, terrified, and Buffy could see why. A muscle was jumping in his
jaw, and his eyes were flinty. “But your little fix can wait. Best you tell the
Slayer here what she wants to hear, then you can toddle on your merry way.” He
jerked his head toward the DeSoto. “Or we can put her in the car.”
“No! No,” Amy repeated, and tried again, without success, to break Buffy’s grip
on her arm. “I’m going to be l-late,” she said miserably, and started to cry.
“He won’t see me if I’m late.” She was noticeably thinner than she’d been just
days before, and shaking with fine tremors. Buffy would have felt sorry for
her, if she hadn’t been responsible for most of this mess. She steered Amy
firmly toward the DeSoto and pushed her into the front seat, sliding in after
“We need to talk,” she said again. “We won’t keep you long.”
“Wh-what do you want to know?” Amy sniffled and wiped at her eyes. Buffy shot a
meaningful look at Spike that said, Do something – I didn’t think this far
ahead. Spike smirked at her.
“Been a while since I talked to old Rack,” he said. “Bet he’s wondering where
Red’s been, eh? Imagine he doesn’t see something like her waltz in every
day.” He knew he was on the right track when Amy’s eyes lit with resentment.
“He keeps asking about her,” she muttered. “Willow this, Willow that, where’s
Willow, why didn’t I bring Willow?” Her gaze darted around the car. “I’m
supposed to bring her. I’m not supposed to c-come back without her.”
Buffy’s fists clenched, but Spike didn’t seem fazed. “Red had a little
accident,” he said smoothly. “Wasn’t thinking clearly for a day or so. Cracked
up a car. Broke the Little Bit’s wrist. ‘Fraid she’s sworn off the old
hocus-pocus. You might want to tell your dealer there to find himself a Simon
and Garfunkel record and have a good cry, ‘cause she won’t be back to break his
heart in person.” He dug a cigarette out of the inside pocket of his duster and
lit it lazily. “Now, Blondie here and I” – he indicated Buffy with a sweep of
his cigarette hand, causing Amy to shrink away from him – “we’re clearing up
some of the witchlet’s affairs, while she’s having herself a little R and R.
And, while I’m inclined to let bygones be bygones, the Slayer’s not feeling so
generous. Seeing as it’s her little sis who’s walking around with a double
fracture and all.” He nodded at Buffy, who grabbed Amy’s shoulder and swung her
“The monster,” she said, her nose an inch from Amy’s. “Tell us about that hairy
gorilla thing. Do you have one? Is Willow’s still around? And why was it
Amy shook her head wildly. “I can’t ... I can’t – I mean I don’t know ... Ow!”
She grabbed the side of her face and bent double, weeping into her lap. Buffy
glared at Spike.
“Was that really necessary?”
Spike flexed his fingers and shot Buffy a what-can-you-do look. His eyes were
glittering yellow with barely-suppressed violence. “Little experiment,” he
said. “She’s so far gone that she doesn’t activate the chip.” He grabbed a
handful of lank hair and yanked Amy’s head up again. “Lucky break for me, Rat
Face,” he snarled, and showed her his fangs. “You’ve let that wanker suck your
soul right out of your body. You’ve still got your blood, though. You want to
keep that, you’ll tell Buffy everything she wants to know, and fast.”
Amy gave him a last terrified glance, then turned her attention to Buffy. “It’s
the Doorholder,” she said, lips trembling. “It opens the door to the Other
World. But then it comes after you. Follows you. Rack says that’s the p-p-price
of admission. Mine doesn’t look like Willow’s. It’s blue, and it has these teeth.”
She swallowed hard. “First Rack brings it,” she said. “Then he keeps it away ...
for a little while. I don’t know how to kill it. I don’t know if you can.” She
was shaking visibly now. “I don’t know anything else, I swear to you.”
Buffy nodded to Spike, who let go of his handful of Amy’s hair and slid out of
Game Face as easily as he’d put it on. “Don’t come near Willow again,” she
warned. Amy nodded numbly.
“I won’t. I promise.” Buffy opened the car door, and Amy streaked past her,
stumbling into the darkness of quiet residential Sunnydale. Buffy slid back
into the car, and for a moment neither she nor Spike said anything. Finally she
turned to look at him.
“My place,” she said softly. “If Rack wants her that badly, he’s going to have
to come through us first.”
They made a quick stop at the hospital; Spike slunk through the back door to
the morgue while Buffy stayed in the car, and was back in a matter of moments,
carrying a plastic grocery bag and looking self-satisfied. “Any Weetabix at
your place?” he asked. Buffy shook her head.
“We have graham crackers, though,” she guaranteed. “And Triscuits. Triscuits
would work, wouldn’t they? God. I can’t believe I’m talking about this.”
“Any relationship is an adjustment. Dr. Ruth says so.”
Buffy ground her teeth. “Normal people adjust to things like ... like different
tastes in music. Or decorating. Or where you squeeze the toothpaste. Not what
kind of crackers your ... um, lover ... likes to crumble into his stolen blood!
“I’m willing to try the Triscuits,” Spike said reasonably. “I’m flexible.” He
shot her a sly glance. “Very flexible, as a matter of fact.”
“Just. Stop. Talking,” she said. “I’m already having to have a serious word
with my digestive system.”
He smiled to himself and kept driving. She’d called him her lover.
There was an empty can and a dirty bowl and spoon on the kitchen counter when
they walked in; someone had made herself tomato soup, and Buffy was guessing it
wasn’t Dawn, who threatened to projectile-vomit every time it appeared on the
table. Willow’d had dinner. Good sign. She found the box of Triscuits in the
cupboard and pressed it into Spike’s hands. “Knock yourself out,” she said.
“This is one culinary experiment I’m determined to miss. I’m going to go talk
He was already rummaging for a coffee mug. “Take your time.” Buffy heard the
microwave switch on and shuddered.
Willow’s light was on, for a change. Buffy knocked and cracked the door open.
“Will? You up?”
“Sort of.” Willow was sitting cross-legged in the middle of the bed, looking
shaky but still more alive than Buffy’d seen her in days. “Come on in,” she
invited. “Have a seat. What’s up?”
“We sort of need to talk,” Buffy said, and there was an awkward silence. God,
she hated this. Missed the days when she and Willow could have dove headfirst
into any topic at all and come up hugging. “I need to ask you a question.”
Willow looked wary. “Okay, shoot.”
“We ran into Amy tonight,” Buffy said. “She doesn’t look good.”
Willow dropped her eyes. “And?”
“She told us about the Doorkeeper.” Buffy scooted a little closer to Willow on
the bed. “Will, I need to know. Has it come after you again?”
Willow shook her head. “Why do you think I haven’t left the house?” Her eyes shot
up to Buffy’s again. “It’s outside – I saw it the other night out my window.
Oh, God, Buffy, I’m so scared for Dawnie. The way it looked at her ...” Big tears
shimmered just below the surface. “I totally fucked up. I’m such a loser.”
“Shh.” Buffy slung her arm around Willow’s shoulder, surprised at how thin her
friend felt. “It’s you the thing’s after, not Dawn. Amy said so.” She turned
Willow’s head gently to face her own. “Will, tell me how to kill it.”
“I’m not sure. He said that he’s the only one who can stop it.”
“But that’s not true,” Buffy said. “You made the thing dissolve. I saw you. Is
it gone for good?”
Willow shook her head. “I don’t know.”
“Okay.” Buffy raked her hair back behind her ears. “So, research time then. At
the Magic Box? Tomorrow?” Willow nodded, sniffled one more time, reached for a
“I need to apologize to Dawnie,” she said quietly. “Is she around?”
Buffy shook her head. “Mini-golf with Xander this afternoon. Not back yet.
She’s not much into me these days, either.”
“Is she still mad at me?”
God. Willow looked so miserable. Buffy hesitated. “Yeah,” she said
finally. “But she’ll get over it. Hey, get this,” she said brightly. “The
Sunnydale High drama club is putting on Taming of the Shrew this year.
And Dawn’s trying out for Bianca.”
Willow chuckled weakly. “Every casting director’s nightmare.”
That’s my girl, Buffy thought. “Will, there’s one other thing,” she
said. “I mean, I ... well, I ... I’ve met someone,” she finished lamely. “I mean,
I’ve known him for a while, it’s just, well ...”
Willow, sensing non-addiction-related gossip, perked up a little. “Is this a
sex thing? Do I know him?” Buffy groaned inwardly.
“Um, yeah. Listen ... I don’t know how to tell you this, but the fact is ...”
“Buffy?” Spike poked his head around the doorjamb. There were Triscuit crumbs
on the front of his shirt. “Anya called. Niblet’s staying with them tonight.
Hey, Red,” he said. Willow’s eyes went wide.
“Spike,” she said, then turned to Buffy. “Spike?” Buffy nodded. Time for
a mental forehead smack.
“I – oh. Okay. And this is a good thing?”
“Apparently,” Buffy said drily. “Look, I just thought you should know, in case
you guys run into each other in the bathroom or something. He may be over now
“Uh-huh. Sure.” Willow was still wide-eyed. “Does Dawnie know?”
“Not yet. You’re the first.”
“Oh.” She cleared her throat. “Well. Um, congratulations.” There was an awkward
pause, then, “Well, I was gonna see if you wanted to pop in a video, but I can
see you’re busy, so ...”
“What video?” Spike asked. Willow shot him a startled look.
“Um, it doesn’t matter. I hadn’t really decided.” She frowned at him. “You want
“Anything but sodding science fiction,” Spike said, and half-turned into the
hallway again. “Slayer, you pick. I’ll fetch the popcorn.”
“Wow,” Willow said, staring open-mouthed at his departing back. “Wow, Buffy.
Spike? How did that happen?”
“Long story,” Buffy said, and started to sort through the stack of
videocassettes on Willow’s nightstand. “Let’s just say that I’m full up on
romantic comedy these days, and go for something nice and straightforward,
“Sure,” Willow said. “Like what?”
By the time Spike was back with the popcorn, they had vetoed every movie in the
house and were stretched out on their stomachs on Willow’s bed, watching a
National Geographic special entitled “America’s House Cats”. Spike rolled his
eyes, then set the popcorn down in front of Willow and kicked off his shoes.
“Join you ladies?”
Buffy crossed her legs behind her, dug into the popcorn, and felt better than
she had in ages. Willow was cooing over the kittens and matching her
handful-for-handful with the salt and cholesterol. Spike had shed his leather
duster and attitude and was stretched out beside her like a cool, solid boulder,
his chin resting on his crossed forearms. She hadn’t felt this safe since ... oh,
She closed her eyes, hard. She hadn’t felt this safe since the night before
Angel woke up Angelus.
She could still remember that night, if she let herself think about it. Rain
and wet and running, then arms and sheets and lips and bed and love. Everything
so new. Her whole life, balled up into a big knot of trust and adoration that
he was unraveling with his fingers, inch by slippery inch.
The trouble was that she couldn’t stop the clock with the nice parts – her
thoughts always bled over into the morning after. And the night after that. And
the night after that. Stalkings. And dead goldfish. And the blank, destroyed
look on Giles’ face in the police lights. Kissing Angel at the same time she
drew back her arm for the killing blow. The strange ease with which the sword
had slid into him; the look on his face while he reached out for her. No,
nothing good about those memories.
She’d say this for Spike. She’d slept with him twice now and he hadn’t gone
psycho, dumped her, hired a hooker to bite him, killed her Watcher’s
girlfriend, or left town. In her experience, those were a handful of big red
smiley faces in the Plus column.
It was too hard to open her eyes again. In the Slayer’s book, safety usually
She was asleep.
Which was both a very good and a very awkward thing, because it meant he and
Red were the only conscious people in the room. They’d long since stopped
pretending to watch TV, and were lying on either side of Buffy, staring
straight ahead. Spike decided to let her break the silence.
“Do you love her?” Willow asked finally.
He tilted his chin sideways. “Red, you know the answer to that. It’s been a
long time since I didn’t.”
“Yeah.” More silence, then, “I believe you.”
“Big of you.” He smiled a little, to take away the sting of the sarcasm. She
rolled her eyes apologetically.
“Sorry. It’s just that, well, you know. Love isn’t my thing these days.” She
took a deep breath. “People say they ... love ... other people, and then
‘poof’! They’re gone.” She threw out a hand to illustrate her point; they both
stared at the brief shower of gold sparks that trailed out of her fingers.
“Sorry,” she said again, and tucked her hand beneath her.
Spike jerked his chin again. “No need.” He paused to formulate words; what he
was about to say was a hell of a lot more important than any poem he’d ever
write. “Willow. I’ve loved two other women in my life. One was a soulless
demon, and the other one ...” He tried to find a phrase that fit Cecily. “Well,
the other one was, too. Just hadn’t stopped breathing yet.” He laughed
humorlessly. “Doesn’t quite equip me to deal with the Slayer, now, does it? I’m
a bit at sea.”
Willow studied him intently. There was a bit of the old perceptive sweetness in
her gaze. “Tell me this, Spike,” she said. “If there was no chip in your head,
what would you do?”
“Are you asking me if I’m a White Hat, Red?” He closed his eyes. “’Cause I
“No,” she said. “It’s not that. I just want to know ... what you feel for Buffy.
Is it the electricity talking? Or is this forever?”
“Bloody hell.” He shook his head at her in frustration. “How am I supposed to
figure that out? This is all I know: every day she was dead was hell for me.
And I’ll bloody well stake myself before I’ll swan off to L.A., or jump a
sodding helicopter to bleedin’ Brazil, just because she doesn’t love me back.
She’s in my arms, and I’m gonna run with that. I’m not going anywhere.” He
blinked at Willow. There were tears in her eyes. “Oh, come on, Red,” he said.
“Don’t get weepy on me, now.”
“I miss Tara.” Just saying the words made Willow well up again. “Spike?”
“Did you ever feel like you’d screwed up your whole life for good?”
He raised his eyebrows. “Come on, witchlet. Look who you’re talking to. Have
you ever been tied up in Rupert Giles’ bathtub, forced to drink pig blood
through a straw?” He snorted. “You’ve got a ways to go before you hit bottom.”
“Doesn’t feel like it.”
“Yeah.” He thought for a minute. “But it’s amazing how much you can fix, just
by wanting to.”
Buffy didn’t budge as he carted her off to her own room and tipped her
carefully onto the bed. “Come on, luv,” he murmured, and shook her gently.
“Gotta get you out of the leather pants, at least to sleep.”
“Mm. What time is it?”
“Time to sit up and let me peel this off you,” he said. “Blondie, how do you
move in this stuff?”
“Bitch, moan,” she said sleepily, and obligingly tilted her hips so he could
slide the pants down and off. “Like you’re complaining. You’ve been checking
out my ass for years.”
“Slayer occupational hazard, luv.” He shrugged her out of her jacket, keeping
her torso upright with one arm around her waist. “Can’t blame the evil undead
for getting their jollies off a fresh little morsel like you.” He hooked a
fingernail accidentally in the fabric of her tank top and swore under his
breath. “’Specially when they’ve got so little time to enjoy the view.
Generally speaking.” He let her go, and she sank back onto the bed with a
little sigh of pleasure that went straight to his gut. Bloody hell, he had it
bad. He sat down beside her and started to unlace his boots.
“Spike?” She couldn’t believe she was about to ask this, but there it was. “You
really loved Dru, right?” Yep, she’d really opened a can of worms now – the
minute his shirt was off, he did a Linda Blair in her direction.
“Yeah. So?” He stepped out of his jeans.
She swallowed hard, glad the room was dark. Personal questions were easier to
ask when you couldn’t see the other naked person and they couldn’t see you. “So
– tell me about her,” she said. “I’ve only seen the evil psycho bits. Why did
you love her?”
“There’s a question,” Spike said, and flopped down next to her on his back.
“Well, first of all she turned me, and so there was a sort of Mum thing going
on. Knew a lot more than I did. Older, wiser, that whole bit. And then, she was
always sort of ... breakable. Or seemed it, anyway. Moody. A bit off.” He paused.
“’Course, she was evil,” he said, trying for matter- of-fact. “We all were. But
she could be sweet, too. And like a little girl. Easy to please.”
“When she wasn’t killing people, you mean.”
“Well, yeah. And the bipolar thing kept things fresh, I guess.”
She rolled to face him, looking absurdly young and open in the faint light from
the window. “You keep saying you love me,” she said. “Why do you, Spike?”
“What is this, a whole night of sodding Twenty Questions?”
“I’m just asking, that’s all.”
He sighed. “Well, then.” He put his hand over his eyes, then, because it seemed
like an evasion not to look at her, brought it back to his side. “This is hard
to explain. When I was a man, I was just a man. Not good, not evil. Decent
sort, but not particularly strong or noble. But if I’d chosen those things, I
could have become them. With me so far?”
“Mm-hmm.” There was a faint crease between her eyebrows. He wanted to smooth it
away, but he didn’t dare move .
“Then I became a monster,” he said. “A process I didn’t ask for, or understand,
or even really want at first, but it’s not like you can say ‘Stop, don’t, go
back’ once it’s done, right?” He shook his head. “And once you’re not a man any
more, there’s suddenly a whole list of adjectives that can never apply to you.
‘Noble’ and ‘good’ are pretty much at the top of that list.”
“So. Why did I start to love you?” His lips curled sardonically. “Maybe because
you were what I couldn’t be anymore. Had friends I could never have. A family I
wasn’t supposed to want. So bloody heroic and beautiful and ... blessed ... that
when you’re something like me, it hurts to look at you.” His hand started
toward hers, then paused on the comforter between them. “But now,” he said.
“Now, it’s a million times worse. You went away, I thought forever, and you
don’t know how many times I thought about just walking out into the next
sunrise and leaving bloody California for the vultures to pick over. And now
you’re back, and the gilding’s off your armor, Blondie. Something dark behind
those pretty eyes that goes straight to my gut.” He looked suddenly angry. “Who
the fuck knows what makes a connection, anyway? Half the time I want to beat
your head against the wall.” He smirked at her, but his eyes were bleak and
intense. “There it is, Goldilocks. Take away the poetry, and I don’t even have
words for what I feel for you.”
It was so quiet in the room that Buffy could hear the next-door-neighbor’s
radio. Tuned to light rock, as always, currently playing Chris DeBergh’s
solitary, long-ago Top Ten single. I have never had such a feeling/Such a
feeling of complete and utter love/As I do tonight./Lady in red/Is dancing with
me/Cheek to cheek ...
“What is it about 80’s pop?” she said aloud. “You were alive in 1880 – was it
the same? Kinda syrupy, too dressed-up, but sweet anyway?”
He looked surprised, then smiled at her. Flash of William. “The Victorian Age
was all about sweet, pet,” he said. “Skirts on the piano legs, corsets, the
kind of rhyme-y metered poetry I was no good at. The people, though – that’s
another story. Mean as poison under all those ruffles. Every smile you saw
could cut you in half.”
“Hm.” His hand was still lying between them, and Buffy laced her fingers
through his without knowing quite why. “You were wrong about one thing,” she
“What’s that, pet?” Lazy tone, a sneer playing at the corner of his mouth.
Ready to be tough at a moment’s notice. Buffy felt something tear loose in the
middle of her chest.
“You said a vampire couldn’t be noble,” she said. “And I know one who is.”
“Well, yeah. Bloody Angel. Soul and all that. He’s kind of an exception, luv.”
“I’m not talking about Angel.”
He tried to yank his hand free. “What the sod are you talking about, then?”
She wouldn’t let him go. “You protected my sister with your life,” she said.
“You stood up to Glory. You patrolled with my friends all summer. You saved
“From Sweet?” He wouldn’t meet her eyes. “Someone else would have, if I
“No one else tried. You did.”
His senses were screaming, Danger, danger! So much on the line here –
this night, this room, this bed – the three inches of space between their
bodies like a fault line. Would it shift together, or apart? Depended on what
he said, what he did. The big monster part of him wanted to fight. The man
wanted to run. He closed his eyes, then opened them again. She was looking
straight at him, seeing right through him. He squeezed her hand helplessly.
“I don’t want your gratitude,” he said.
“Too bad. You’ve got it.” She inched closer to him. He recoiled.
“And I don’t want sympathy from you. You think I feel regret? You think I’m
toothless?” The air was electric enough to make his hair stand on end. If she
came any closer, he might start to cry.
“Spike.” She seized his forearms, hiked herself across that last two inches of
empty space. “I can’t give you words like you give me, okay? There’s only one
poet on this bed.”
“Then what are you doing here?”
“Taking what I want,” she said, and crushed her mouth over his.
Their first night together had been wild and mad. Their second had been slow
and sweet. Now, here they were on the Tilt-a-Whirl again, using up their third
ticket, and Spike felt his world drop out from beneath him.
He’d had no idea what the Slayer was capable of. Until now.
She rolled him onto his back and pinned him with his arms over his head. “Don’t
move,” she warned, and set her mouth on the inside of his elbow. He felt her
hot little tongue, the silky sweep of her hair all around, and groaned as she
raked up his arm to his shoulder. “You like my neck, right?” she demanded.
“Give me yours.” Those blunt, even little teeth – every orthodontist’s dream –
dug in just below his ear. If her hand hadn’t come up to cover his mouth, he
would have howled.
“Yeah, go ahead and struggle,” she said into his ear. “I like that. Big, bad
vampire with his big, bad cock. I’m going to take you for a ride. Don’t you
dare move your hands, goddamnit,” she snapped, and sank her teeth into his
earlobe. “You wanna know what I feel like doing? What I want? What I’ve been
thinking about for the last year and a half? Well, sit back and enjoy the
show.” She was straddling him, squeezing him, the only barrier between them a
pair of high-rise white cotton bikini briefs. “Fuck this,” she said, and ripped
them off. The next second, he was inside her.
“God,” she said, pulling herself up to her knees and rolling her head around on
her neck. “Oh, God, you feel so good going in.” Her eyes were glittering, her
hair a mess around her face. She collapsed back over him, kissed him hard,
rubbed her little belly and breasts over his, kept that stripper rhythm going
with her hips. “I remember,” she whispered. “The summer the A/C went off. I was
fourteen. Used to sneak ice cubes out of the freezer.” She jackknifed up again
and let her body bend back toward her ankles, graceful as a calla lily. “Ran
them all over my body. Felt so good. You make me feel like that, like there
ought to be steam coming up between us.” Back down on top of him again, running
her fingers lightly from his wrists to his shoulders, teasing his sides, twisting
his nipples. Back into the backbend, her hair brushing the soles of his feet,
her hands gripping his knees as she rode him. She felt so long and wet and
tight that he thought he’d pass out There were sounds coming out of him that he
didn’t recognize, sounds he’d never heard before.
She sank even further into her bend, grabbing at his ankles to steady herself.
The moonlight illuminated her from thighs to pussy to flatly- stretched
abdomen, throwing her upper body into shadow. He could see her body grasping at
his, rolling him around, squirming and arching and opening and clutching. He
couldn’t keep still. It was all he could do to keep his fangs sheathed.
She came up for air, panting, wild-eyed, drawing great shuddering breaths that
he could feel in his cock. Their eyes met. Time stopped.
“Okay,” she whispered after what seemed like a very long time. “Okay.” His sex
machine was melting around him like ice cream in August, Spike thought. Even
her insides seemed softer. “You can let go now.”
They met kneeling on the center of the bed, without ever having come apart. He
could have tucked the top of her head under his chin, but he tipped her head
back so he could keep looking at her. “Shh,” he whispered, and they sank into
So soft. So slow. So quiet. Buffy could hardly breathe. Were they moving? Did
they need to? She couldn’t look away from those blue eyes, so quietly electric.
In thrall. He’s got you in thrall.
“Here,” she breathed, and tipped her head to the side. Blonde hair shimmered
over her right shoulder. Beneath the bare skin she offered him, the most
powerful life force he’d ever known tried to hammer its way out. She smiled at
him. “Go ahead.” Her eyes fluttered closed.
Bloody, fucking hell. Spike stared at that porcelain neck as if it itself
had grown fangs. What the fuck do I do now?
The air was heavy and silent. Buffy’s nightstand clock seemed barely to tick.
Her fingers were linked behind his neck, her body continued its lazy,
barely-perceptible suction against his, and that bare length of throat gleamed
out of the darkness like an invitation that had come to the wrong address.
The monster inside him was jubilant. He could feel his eyes flickering yellow.
Even William was tempted – if you looked closely enough, there were two tiny pearl-colored
imperfections, about an inch apart, already marring her skin. Dracula. No,
Angel. How easy it’d be to obliterate that hated brand with his own. And he
was so hard he was in physical pain.
He bent toward her. Brushed his lips over her pulse. “Easy,” he whispered. “Not
tonight. Easy now.”
He closed his eyes and fell over the edge with her, feeling more like a human
man than he had in centuries. The last thing he felt was Buffy’s fingers linked
Sunday morning. The Magic Box, blessedly customer-free. The Scoobies, looking
mostly hung over, slumped around the research table, eyeing the box of donuts
Xander had brought as if they were explosives.
Tara had gone pale at the sight of Willow, but hadn’t said anything. The two of
them were carefully arranged at exact opposite sides of the table, heads buried
in books. Xander was reading the paper. Anya was looking at fabric swatches.
Dawn had a suspiciously nice-looking leather-bound volume of Taming of the
Shrew open in front of her, most likely liberated from Giles’ stash of
readables. Buffy didn’t say anything. She had literary worries of her own.
She’d woken up to another poem, this one written out in Spike’s nineteenth-
century copperplate. Leaves of Grass. She dug the scrap of paper out of her
jacket pocket and studied it blearily.
All goes onward and outward ... and nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
Has any one supposed it lucky to be born?
I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.
I pass death with the dying, and birth with the new-washed babe.
....and am not contained between my hat and my boots,
And peruse manifold objects, no two alike, and every one good,
The earth good, and the stars good, and their adjuncts all good.
...Who need be afraid of the merge?
Undrape ... you are not guilty to me, nor stale nor discarded,
I see through the broadcloth and the gingham whether or no,
And am around, tenacious, acquisitive, tireless ... and can never be shaken away.
Well, he had that right, Buffy thought. Tenacious, acquisitive, tireless.
The top three words on her list of Adjectives Describing Spike.
It was bizarre, though. Not really love poetry at all. It sounded more like he
was trying to ... explain himself. Her hand went unconsciously to the side of her
“Huh. Wouldja look at that.” Xander’s voice teleported her back to reality, and
she stuffed the poem back into her pocket. “That’s weird.”
Xander tapped the newspaper. “They’ve released some details from that
frozen-guy case. At the museum.”
“Really?” Tara’s head came out of her book. “What does it say?”
Xander’s forefinger found a line of text. “They ran a couple of chemical tests
on the display case that held the diamond. Looks like somebody used a methane
torch to cut the hole.” He scanned down to the next paragraph. “Plus, they left
behind some equipment. One of those cool James Bond harness thingies that comes
down from the ceiling.”
Buffy frowned. “What about the frozen guy?”
“That’s the weird thing,” Xander said. “Apparently he’s conscious now – told
the police that there were three men, and that one of them shot him with a
“Doesn’t sound very monster-y, does it?”
Anya stopped comparing the silk brocade with the iridescent taffeta and looked
up. “Could be vampires,” she said. “They can look human.”
“But –“ Tara and Willow started at the same time, then broke off. “Go ahead,”
Willow said, and Tara shook her head, directing her eyes at the table.
“Um .. okay. Thanks.” Willow looked rattled. “The thing is, a vampire would
just bite the guard, right? Or any other demon too. Why would they go to all
the trouble to sneak in? Why wouldn’t they just kill the guard at the front
entrance, waltz in, and smash the case?”
“Good point,” Buffy said. “So. Humans. Next question: who do we know that could
build a freeze-ray gun?”
Spike materialized out of the shadows. “I bet I know,” he said, and grinned at
her. “Morning, all. Hey, Niblet.”
Buffy gaped at him. He’d seen her reading his poem. Shit. “How long have
you been standing there? Didn’t anyone ever tell you you shouldn’t sneak up on
His smile didn’t falter. “Someone got up on the wrong side of the bed,
didn’t they? My, my, my.” He spun a chair around and straddled it, tilting his
head as if to show off the violent patch of purple underneath his left ear. Damn
that English skin of his. “Anyone going to eat that chocolate cruller?”
Anya wordlessly passed him the box. “Thanks, pet.”
“Well, don’t keep us hanging, Bleach Boy,” Xander snapped. “In your estimable
opinion. Was it Professor Plum, in the library, with the rope? Spit it out,
“Temper, temper.” Spike finished off the cruller, took his time chewing, and
smirked at the upturned circle of faces swiveled toward him. “Y’ask me, it’s
those three geeks hanging out over at Robot Guy’s place. You know,
They all stared at each other. “Warren,” Xander and Willow said together, and
for the first time since the accident, shared a look full of the old
“Warren,” Willow repeated. “Spike, you’re a genius.”
“Who’s with him, I wonder?” Buffy mused. “Well, wouldn’t hurt to swing by and
take a look. Trekkies sleep just about as late as demons.” She glanced at
Spike. “You know the address, I presume?”
“Same place he was before,” Spike said. His attention shifted to Dawn.
“Shakespeare, Niblet? What happened to The Unauthorized Biography of the
“Um.” Dawn turned red. “School play. Auditions Monday. I’m trying out for,” she
shot a look of pure evil Buffy’s way, “Bianca.”
“Made for you,” Spike said cheerfully. “Bet you’ve been the nice one all your
life, haven’t you, luv?”
Buffy would have scowled at that, if Dawn hadn’t looked so happy.
“Tell you what,” Spike went on. “Why don’t you and me hang out here and
practice your lines, while your big sis takes the Scoobies off to play Nancy
Drew?” He shot a sideways look at Buffy. “I’ll get the report ... later.”
“Hey,” Xander said. “Since when did he start giving orders?” Buffy shrugged.
“A plan’s a plan,” she said. “Who’s with me?”
“Um ...” Tara bit her lip. “I think I may be onto something here with the ... um ...
with the Doorkeeper demon. Maybe I should stay behind and keep going on that?”
“I’ll stay with you,” Willow said. “My problem, I should help figure it out. If
it’s okay with you, that is.”
“S-sure. Fine.” The witches exchanged an uneasy moment of eye contact, then
dived back into their books.
“I’d better keep an eye on the shop,” Anya said, not looking up from her
“Right.” Xander pushed off from the table. “You and me, Buff. Let’s go get
Across town, the Trio were already awake and plotting.
“So, you’re saying it can’t be Spike after all,” Warren said, frowning.
“Right. You can’t transfer an existing soul into a body that doesn’t already
have one. You have to have this Orb thing and know, like, Hungarian or
something.” He shrugged. “But that’s O.K. Buffy’s a better pick for a henchman
anyway, because she can pick up crosses and go out in sunlight and stuff.”
“Plus, she’s hot,” Andrew said.
“Well, duh.” Jonathan studied his notes. “It’s really simple, actually. I’m the
one who performed the spell, so I’m immune. All I have to do is pick up the
diamond and give it to her.”
“Yeah. And I quote: ‘The first souled being to touch the stone, after the spell
is cast, shall be imbued with its essence’.” Jonathan looked up. “Here’s the
important part, guys. After she touches it, we have to get it back. Whoever has
the diamond, controls Robespierre. Got it?”
“Dude.” Warren had been looking out the window. “Did you say you had everything
“Because, dude. It’s like ... serendipity or something. She’s coming down the
It played like a Three Stooges outtake. Buffy dropped the door from its hinges
with a well-placed kick, bringing up her hand to catch something blue and shiny
that came whizzing toward her head a second later. “What the hell?” she said.
“You’re trying to take me out with the diamond? What a loser.” She tossed the
stone to Xander. “Here. Hold onto this while I kick his ass.”
Andrew and Warren scattered as she advanced on Jonathan. He made a satisfying
squishy sound as she pushed him up against the wall. “You,” she said, shook him
once, hard, and let him fall. “Haven’t you caused enough trouble in this town?”
“Um, Jonathan ...” Warren was staring at Xander. Buffy made a threatening gesture
in his direction, and he shut up. She turned back to Jonathan, hauled him up by
the arm, and poked a finger into his chest.
“What’s wrong with you? Didn’t I save your suicidal ass in high school? Didn’t
we rescue you from your pathetic delusions of grandeur and kill that monster
thingy you created? Didn’t I buy your stupid autobiography? Why the fuck would
you team up with these ... these losers ... and try to pull off another lame
stunt like this?” She strode back across the kitchen, dragging the cringing
Jonathan with her, and tapped Xander, who had slumped into one of the leather
chairs, on the shoulder. “Give me the diamond,” she demanded. “I’m going to
beat him over the head with it.”
She took the Blue Tavernier out of his unresisting hand, then bent to look a
little closer, barely noticing when Jonathan tugged himself free and escaped to
the far side of the room. “Xander? You okay? I didn’t throw it too hard, did
“Jonathan,” Warren hissed. “This is not good, dude. Buffy is still Buffy. And
this other guy is looking kinda funny.”
Jonathan finally found his voice. “You,” he accused Buffy. “You don’t have a
soul, do you?”
Xander’s head came off the table. “Alors,” he croaked. “La loi est
l’expression libre et solennelle de la volonte du peuple. La loi doit être
égale pour tous. ”
Buffy stared at him, horrified. Xander still looked like Xander. Except for the
weird fanatical gleam in his eyes, maybe. “You took Spanish in high school,
Xan,” she said. “Come on. You don’t even like French toast.” She turned
on Andrew, who was closest. “Get me the phone.”
Andrew hesitated. “Jonathan ...”
“Get me the fucking phone, I said!”
“She never used to swear this much,” Warren murmured to Jonathan. Jonathan was
still in shock.
“She’s the Slayer,” he said numbly. “She’s supposed to have a soul. This should
have worked.” Warren rolled his eyes.
“Anya,” Buffy said into the telephone. “Send Tara and Willow over here,
wouldja? We’ve got a little problem.” She paused. “Yeah. Thanks. We’re fine. I
just need a translator. Xander picked up the diamond and now he’s speaking
French.” Another long pause; Buffy held the receiver slightly away from her
ear. “Okay, you come too. Good. See you then.”
Dawn frowned. “I don’t get it. This is supposed to be funny?”
“Yeah, well, it was four hundred years before my time, too,” Spike said. “With
Shakespeare, though, it’s all rhythm and word emphasis. You can’t just read it
off the page like it’s a nursery rhyme.”
“Okay. Gotcha. But I don’t understand this part.” Dawn bit her lower lip. “I
mean, the part with Katharina in the beginning, that’s easy. She wants to know
who I like, and I’m being all nicey-nice but not telling her.”
“I mean, because she’s such a total bitch and all.”
“But this part with the two guys – I don’t get it.”
“Okay. So let’s decode it a little.” Spike scanned the page. “Right. So these
two are fighting over her, right? Hortensio and Lucentio.”
“I got that far,” Dawn said sulkily. Spike sent her a sideways look. “Oh.
Sorry. Go on.”
“So they’re both there to ‘tutor’ her in something. One in Latin, one in music.
Except that they’re not really her tutors, but these blokes who want to marry
her. Fighting over who gets to go first. And she breaks up the fight, right
here. See?” He stabbed at the page with his forefinger. “’Why, gentlemen,
you do me double wrong, To strive for that which resteth in my choice: I am no
breeching scholar in the schools; I'll not be tied to hours nor 'pointed times,
But learn my lessons as I please myself. And, to cut off all strife, here sit
we down: Take you your instrument, play you the whiles; His lecture will be
done ere you have tuned.’”
“I get it,” Dawn said. “It’s, like, a smackdown. She’s telling them to back
off. But in a nice way.”
“Okay.” She kept reading. “So the Latin guy gets to go first, right? While the
other guy is tuning his lute. Which is like, what, a guitar?”
“Cool. Do you know how to pronounce Latin?”
“Had to learn it in school,” Spike said. “We’ll get to that later. Just get the
English bits for now.”
“Hah!” Dawn smirked happily. “This is awesome. ‘In time I may believe, yet I
mistrust.’ She’s, like, all suspicious and stuff.” She snapped the book
shut and tossed it on the table. “Love triangles are totally fascinating.”
Be very afraid of where this conversation is headed. “Wouldn’t know,
pet. Kind of a one-woman vampire myself.”
She just narrowed her eyes at him. Gleefully. “Where’d you get the hickey,
“Um. Well, you see. The thing is. That may look like a hickey, but ...”
“You and Buffy are totally doing it, aren’t you?”
Bloody hell. “Slayer, vampire. Not gonna happen, luv.”
“Oh, like it never did before,” she snarked. “Hello, Angel? I am so not
ten years old anymore, Spike. Are you boinking my sister, or not?”
He closed his eyes. Some battles were over before they began. Like any
conversation he’d ever had with any one of the three Summers women. “Sort of.”
“Cool.” She grinned at him. “Did she bite you anywhere else? Can I see?”
Teenagers, thought Spike. Who bloody knew?
The Trio were tied up and duct-taped together against the wall. Anya was pacing
the kitchen. Buffy, Willow and Tara were grouped around Xander worriedly.
“Liberté, égalité, fraternité,” he muttered resentfully, and shot them a
baleful glance. “Qui êtes-vous? Que voulez-vous?” Everyone looked at
“Um,” she said. “’Liberty, equality, brotherhood.’ That’s the first part. Then
he said, ‘Who are you, and what do you want?’”
“Oh, that’s a bad sign,” Willow said. “Political slogans and non- recognition. Trés
Tara looked like she wanted to laugh, but just swallowed hard. “Vos amis,”
she said to Xander, indicating the cluster of faces around the table, then
pointed at Anya. “Votre fiancée.” She looked quickly at Buffy. “Should I
ask him who he is?”
Buffy nodded, and Tara turned back to Xander. “Et vous, monsieur? Quel est
Xander glared at her. “Maximilien Robespierre. Ils m'appellent
Tara opened her mouth, then shut it again and shook her head. “What?” Buffy
Willow sat down hard. “No need to translate,” she said. “I remember that name
from Western Civ class.” She rubbed a hand over her eyes. “He says his name is
Robespierre, and he’s known as ‘The Incorruptible.’ Which would make him a kind
of scary populist dictator guy who sent, like, twenty thousand people to the
guillotine, and who’s been dead for two hundred years.”
“Oh, for God’s sake,” Buffy said, and fingered the diamond in her pocket.
“Whoever he is, can’t he just speak English?”
Xander’s head snapped toward her, and she noticed that his eyes had changed
from their normal puppy-dog brown to an eerie light gray-blue. Creepy. “Désolé,
comrade,” he said. “ Je ne parle pas anglais.”
“That’s odd,” Tara said. “He just said he didn’t speak English. But if that’s
the case, how did he understand you?”
Buffy brought the diamond out into the light. It drew Anya over to the table
like a homing device. “Here’s what I think,” she said. “Jonathan threw me the
diamond first, and I tossed it to Xander. Somehow, the diamond must have been
holding Robespierre inside, and Xander touching it caused a transfer.”
“So Xander has this French guy’s soul?” Anya was less than pleased. “Where did
Xander’s soul go? Is it inside the diamond?”
“Not sure,” Buffy said. Anya rounded on her.
“And why didn’t this Robes .. Robes .. this person, why didn’t he take your soul
instead, if you were the first one to touch the diamond?”
Buffy stared down into the sea-blue mysteries of the diamond, then looked up at
the circle of questioning faces around her. “Well, because,” she said heavily.
“I don’t think I have one anymore. But that’s kind of beside the point.” She
tapped the diamond meaningfully. “I think that whoever’s holding this is sort
of in control of the soul. That’s why he responded to me.”
“Wait, wait. Rewind,” Willow said. “You don’t have a soul?”
Xander struggled to his feet. “Sit down,” Buffy said, and obediently he sank
back into his chair, muttering. “Le droit de propriété est borné comme tous
les autres par l'obligation de respecter les droits d'autrui,” he snapped.
“Tout trafic qui viole ce principe est essentiellement illicite et immoral.”
Tara, looking shaken, translated. “The right of ownership is limited, like all
the others, by the obligation to respect the rights of others. Any traffic
which violates this principle is primarily illicit and immoral.” She frowned.
“That sounds so familiar.”
“Rights of Man?” Willow suggested.
“Something like that, yeah. It’d make sense, anyway.”
“Know what I think?” Buffy said. “I think it’s time to call Giles.”
“So, what do we do with these guys?”
They were back at the Magic Box. Jonathan, Andrew and Warren had been tied more
securely, transferred in the back seat of the DeSoto under cover of darkness,
and were now propped like packages against the back wall of the training room.
XandePierre, as Willow was calling him, was perched glumly on a stool,
surveying the people and things around him with thinly veiled hostility.
“J'espère que c'est seulement un cauchemar,” he muttered to himself, and
Tara looked sympathetic.
“Poor thing. He thinks he’s having a nightmare.” She patted him kindly on the
shoulder. “Avez-vous faim, monsieur?” she queried. “Voulez-vous du
XandePierre scowled. “Je mourrais de faim avant que je vous laisse
m'empoisonner.” He shot the Magic Box another look of distaste. “Dites-
moi: où suis-je? Et quel est ce pays, si pas la France?”
Willow cocked an eyebrow. “Translation?” she requested, and Tara spread her
“I asked him if he wanted something to eat, or some tea, and he said he’d
rather starve than let me poison him. He wants to know where he is. What
“Look,” said Anya irritably. “Let me handle this, okay?” She nudged Tara out of
the way and glared at XandePierre. “C'est l'Amérique. Vous êtes à l'avenir.
Dans quelqu'un corps d'autre. Vous avez été mort pour pendant quelque temps.
Nous nous marions , et je dois savoir si vous préféreriez une rose ou une
tulipe pour votre boutonnière. Comprenez?”
“Didn’t catch that,” Buffy murmured into Tara’s ear. Tara grimaced.
“She told him he’s in America, in the future, in someone else’s body, that he’s
been dead awhile, and that they’re getting married. Then she asked him if he’d
rather have a rose or a tulip in his buttonhole.”
XandePierre was looking alarmed. “Excusez-moi, damoiselle,” he
sputtered, sounding apologetic and incensed in equal parts. “Mais je ne veux
pas une épouse. Je suis marié à la révolution.” He paused, then added as an
afterthought, “Et les fleurs me rendent malade.”
“Cochon!” Anya hissed, and slapped him, hard, across the face. “Je
souhaite que nous non jamais réuni!" She wheeled, stalked across the
shop, and disappeared down the stairs into the stockroom. Buffy cast her eyes
to the side, trying not to stare after her, and caught Spike’s gaze.
“Did you understand that?” she whispered. Spike grinned.
“Bloody entertaining, this,” he whispered back. “He said that he doesn’t want a
wife, that he’s married to the Revolution, and that flowers make him sneeze.
She called him a pig and said she wishes they’d never met.”
“Oh, good,” Buffy said. “Just what we need to spice things up – a lovers’
Dawn, who had been watching the whole thing from a safe distance, finally spoke
up. “Buff, are you and me the only two here who don’t speak French?”
“Oh, I don’t speak French,” Willow said quickly. “And neither does ... did ...
Xander.” They all looked at XandePierre, who was still staring in the direction
Anya had gone. He looked both put out and intrigued.
“Gross,” Dawn said. “He’s some creepy dead French guy with Xander’s face, and
he’s into girls who hit him. How disgusting is that?”
“New. Topic,” Buffy said firmly. “We’re not going to get to the bottom of this
until Giles gets here, and that’ll be late tomorrow. I’m thinking that the
Three Musketeers can stay locked in the training room tonight; if we take out
the weapons, they won’t be able to do any damage even if they manage to get
themselves untied. Everybody okay with that?” She scanned the group. “Fine.
Now. We need to figure out what we’re going to do with D’Artagnan here.” She
indicated XandePierre with a jerk of her head. “Dawn, go get Anya, would you?
Tell her we need her input on something.”
“I’m here,” Anya said sullenly, emerging from the root cellar. She’d been
crying. “What do you want to know? If I’ll take this ... this imposter home with
me tonight?” She shot XandePierre a poisonous glance. “The answer’s no. He’s
not the man I’m going to marry. I don’t want him sleeping in Xander’s bed.”
“Fine,” Buffy said. “Then he comes home with us. Unless someone has a better
“What about Spike’s crypt?” Willow offered. “Since he’s not ... um ...” Off Buffy’s
cue, she went into a fit of coughing. Tara frowned and patted her on the back.
“Spike’s not what?”
He and Buffy shared glances. What the hell, Buffy thought. This day’s
been the ultimate in surreal, anyway. Why not come clean? She slung her arm
around his waist, and felt a tremor of surprise snake through his lean body.
“Spike’s not using his crypt these days,” she said flatly. “He’s staying with
“Oh!” Anya nodded brightly. “You mean you’re having sex.”
“That’s the one,” Buffy said. “Just to clear things up for anyone who hadn’t
figured it out yet: Spike and I are having sex. And plan to continue.
Therefore, his crypt is currently empty.”
“Thing is,” Spike interjected, “Crypt’s right on the sewer line. His soul may
be French,” he nodded toward XandePierre, “but his body still belongs to
Harris. If something nasty were to crawl through, middle of the night, might
not be much left of your honey in the morning,” he said to Anya. “Even if we do
get his soul back.” Anya paled.
“You okay there, Tara? ‘Cause you look a little shell-shocked.” Willow patted
her on the arm. Tara jumped.
“Um. Yeah. Lots of information at once.” She sent XandePierre a considering
look. “I guess the best thing to do is to send him home with you guys.” She
paused. “I can put a binding spell on the training room door, just for
“Is that necessary, do you think?” Buffy asked. Tara frowned.
“Well, they must know something about magic. One of them, at least. It would
have taken a spell to activate the diamond.” She made a face. “If they got
loose in the Magic Box, they’d have a lot of ... supplies ... at their disposal.
Maybe it’s not such a good idea to keep them here ...”
Buffy rubbed her eyes wearily. “Okay, how’s this? We put them in my basement
for the night. We’ve got some old camping equipment down there – army blankets
and stuff. Xander can sleep on the couch downstairs, I guess.”
Willow and Tara had been whispering to each other. Willow cleared her throat.
“Why don’t you ... um, why don’t you put him in my room for the night, Buffy?
You’ll be able to keep a closer eye on him.”
“Your room? But then, where would you ...” Buffy swallowed hard. “Oh. Okay.”
“No, you’ve got the wrong idea,” Tara said quickly. “We were just thinking that
I’d stay over and that the two of us would sleep downstairs in the living room.
So we’d hear anything coming from the basement, and also hear Xander if he
tried to go outside.”
“Oh. Okay.” Buffy tried not to look at Dawn, who was radiating happiness.
“So I’m the only one that’s going home by myself?” Anya, who hadn’t been what
you’d call happy for about six hours, had clearly been doing some heavy
thinking since her last outburst. “My future husband has just been
body-snatched by a dead guy! And one that doesn’t even believe in capitalism! I
don’t want to be alone right now.”
“So come home with us,” Dawn said. “But you’ll have to sleep with Xander –
Willow’s room has the only other double bed in the house.”
Anya thought for a minute. “I can live with that.”
Buffy sighed. “Guess we’d better order pizza.”
Buffy remembered her father’s old camping equipment as being outdated and
motheaten. A closer inspection proved it to be waterlogged and moldy as well.
As annoyed as she was with Jonathan and the pair of jokers he was hanging with,
she couldn’t wish that on them.
Willow was even more softhearted – Jonathan, after all, had been a fellow
outcast back in high school. So they were on the living room floor, outfitted
with spare blankets and some musty old pillows Dawn had found in the back of
the linen closet. They were still tied up, but Tara had fixed them each a plate
and stuck plastic straws in their soda cans. Lined up against the coffee table,
they looked like condemned prisoners eating their last meal.
XandePierre was looking wary but less mournful, and had tucked into the
cheese-and-pepperoni without so much as a sniff of Gallic distaste. “Guess they
didn’t feed him much in the Bastille,” Willow commented, watching him wolf down
a third slice. He wasn’t so happy about the Coca-Cola Tara offered him; one
cautious sip and he’d spat it, wide-eyed and grimacing, back into the glass.
“Can’t blame the poor bloke for that one,” Spike said. “How you Yanks can drink
that stuff is more than I can suss out.” He’d cracked another bag of B
positive, drunk it swiftly and in private, and was now sprawled on the couch
with a bottle of beer, Buffy curled up beside him.
If you thought about it, it was kind of cozy. Warm house, soft couch, all her
friends around her, cheek pillowed on her ... um, boyfriend’s, six-pack of abs.
Even if you factored in a little soul displacement and a few tied- up loser
villains on the floor, it was still a pretty good night.
Tara and Willow were having a low-voiced conversation in the kitchen; from
where she was sitting, Buffy could see Willow’s red cap of hair tossing as she
spoke and the occasional graceful white flash of Tara’s hands, gesturing.
“Okay,” Willow said finally, and poked her head into the living room. “Buffy?
Got a sec?”
“Well, we were thinking,” Tara said, frowning. “And I think that whoever did
the spell on the diamond – one of them,” this with a wave toward the living
room, “has the best chance of reversing it. So maybe we should ... question
“Good plan,” Buffy said, and fixed the Trio with an evil glare. “Okay. Who’s
responsible for the mojo?”
Sullen silence. Buffy cracked her knuckles threateningly and tried again.
“Look. Tell me how to undo this, the worst that can happen to you is jail. Dick
me around, and I really will throw you into my basement.” She dropped to
her knees and wrapped her hand around Jonathan’s throat. “You really don’t want
to piss me off, Jonathan, any more than you already have. This whole mess has
your name written all over it.”
Jonathan’s face was slowly going from red to purple. “Okay,” he gasped. “Okay!
It was me, okay?” Buffy loosened her grip, but didn’t let him go altogether.
“Can you reverse it?”
He nodded emphatically. “It’s easy. You gotta untie me, though.”
Buffy jerked him to his feet and dragged him into the kitchen. “Here’s our
wizard. Sit down, Gandalf,” she snapped, and threw him into a chair. “If it’s
so easy, why can’t you do it hands-free?”
His eyes darted sideways and back; obviously he didn’t have a good answer for
this. The look on his face gave him an eerie resemblance to Mr. Whiskers,
Buffy’s third-grade class guinea pig. “I have to touch the diamond,” he said
finally. “The spell won’t work otherwise.”
“Touching the diamond controls the spirit,” Tara said quickly. “I don’t think
...” Willow nodded agreement. Buffy scowled at Jonathan. He bit his lip.
“Okay, okay,” he said. “I don’t really need the diamond. But it’s hard for me
to concentrate when I’m all tied up.” He gave the living room a worried glance.
“What am I gonna do, honestly? You’re, like, a million times stronger than me,
and Spike’s sitting right out there.”
Buffy hesitated. “Any funny stuff, you won’t wake up until Tuesday. Got it?”
“Got it. I swear.”
XandePierre wandered into the kitchen. He had pizza grease on his chin, and
looked embarrassed. “J'ai besoin...” he began, then trailed off and
began again. “Où est...” He closed his eyes, clearly humiliated. “La
salle de bains,” he said grimly. “Où est-elle?”
“Oh!” Tara looked startled for a minute, then sympathetic. “Bathroom,” she
explained to Buffy and Willow, who were looking blank, and pointed down the hall.
“Spike, you’d better go with him. I don’t imagine he’s seen a flush toilet
Anya, who had been upstairs with Dawn, appeared at the top of the staircase.
“I’ll do it.”
“Thank God,” Spike said, and drained the rest of his beer. “A man’s got his
limits, and showing Harris how to take a piss is way beyond mine.”
Surreal. Buffy fought back a laugh and turned her attention back to
Jonathan. “Okay,” she said, and began to fumble with the knot around his
ankles. “I just want you to know this is WAY against my better judgment.”
“I’m not going to do anything, I swear.”
“Hmph.” Buffy unwound the rope and had just started on the knots holding his
wrists when the toilet flushed down the hall. They heard Xander yelp in
surprise, just before the door crashed open and he came plunging wild- eyed
into the hall, pants around his ankles. He was screaming in French. Anya was
hanging onto his arm.
“What’s he saying?” Willow was biting her lip, eyes dancing. Tara grinned.
Buffy grabbed the diamond from the table. “Calm down, Xander!” she yelled, and
immediately his eyes flashed that creepy gray-blue again, and he stopped in his
tracks. “That’s better,” she said, and turned back to Jonathan. “What the –“
He wasn’t there.
Their eyes all shot to the front door. It was ajar. Buffy flung it open and
raced out onto the sidewalk, the others at her heels. Jonathan was fleeing down
the street, hands still tied in front of him. “Shit,” Buffy muttered, then
clamped down on Willow’s shoulder, hard. “Oh, Jesus. Is that ...”
Fast on Jonathan’s heels was a hairy, shambling silhouette. As they watched in
horrified silence, it took him down by the ankles. Man and monster disappeared
into the shadow of a parked car, and they heard Jonathan cry out.
“Quick,” Spike said, already running for the street. “Red, get back in the
Even before they got there, Buffy knew they were too late. There wasn’t so much
as a grease spot on the pavement. No Jonathan, no Doorkeeper. Nothing. She
closed her eyes hard and let Spike take her arm. “Come on, love,” he murmured.
“Let’s get you inside. Nothing we can do now.”
“Is he ... is he dead?” Anya, as usual, said what everyone else was thinking. No
one looked at her.
They were all in the living room, except for Dawn, who’d been upstairs studying
for her audition and who was presumably now asleep. Willow was visibly shaken;
Tara looked concerned and helpless. Buffy herself wanted nothing more than to
close her eyes – they were gritty with fatigue, and she was pretty sure that
Spike’s arm was the only thing holding her up. XandePierre had picked up on the
tension, too, and was pacing the kitchen, muttering angrily to himself. Warren
and Andrew were beyond indignation at being tied up and well on their way to
full-fledged panic. Just another Sunday night in Sunnydale, Buffy thought with
resignation, and dug into her eye sockets with the heels of her hands.
“Um, maybe. But maybe not.” Tara was digging in her bag. “I brought the books
with me? The research books on the Doorkeeper?” She opened one and scanned the
page intently. “Okay. You want the long story or the short one?”
“Better give us the rundown,” Spike said, and Tara nodded.
“Okay. Well, it looks like Amy told you guys the truth,” she said. “The
Doorkeeper isn’t a certain kind of demon, it’s more like a job title. Those
psychedelic trips Rack’s sending people on? They’re really like these ...um,
astral visits to other dimensions. Whatever goes through, whether it’s your
body or just your brain, has to pass through a little window in the space/time
continuum. Just like Amy said, the Doorkeeper opens the window.” She swallowed
uneasily. “As payment, it gets to come through itself, and ... well, I guess the
human dimension is kind of like a demon snack bar. More or less.”
They all shuddered. Andrew looked ready to dry-heave; Buffy felt almost
sympathetic. Willow’s eyes were shining with tears.
“Poor Jonathan,” she murmured. Buffy nodded.
“He’s a pain in the ass, but I didn’t really want him ending up a demon
Twinkie.” She frowned. “But you said maybe he wasn’t ...?”
Tara brightened. “Oh! Yeah.” She flipped a page. “Okay, this is an icky
metaphor, but I’m going with it anyway. According to the book, a human with no
magical ability is the equivalent of a candy bar to this demon. Just a couple
of bites. But if the human is a witch or a warlock, or –“ here she glanced at
Buffy – “a Slayer, someone with special power or gifts, then they’re worth a
little more in demon currency. So it’s actually a good thing that we didn’t find
Jonathan’s body ... it means that instead of just eating him and leaving his ...um,
wrapper, behind, the Doorkeeper took him back home to save for a couple of
days.” She closed the book. “The demon won’t kill him until he’s been drained
of magical power.”
Willow shook her head. “Then we don’t have long to get him back, do we?”
Buffy stood up. “Okay. It’s past midnight, and I’ve got to get Dawn off to
school tomorrow. I’m declaring bedtime.” She glanced toward the kitchen, then
at Anya. “The diamond’s on the kitchen table,” she said. “If you’re holding
that, he’ll do anything you say. Have fun. Willow, Tara, you guys gonna be okay
down here?” They nodded.
“Good. Warren and Andrew can sleep on the floor. The sofa folds out.” Just
once, her lips trembled; then she was steady again. “I think we can skip patrol
just this one night. If there’s trouble in Sunnydale tonight, it’s already come
home with us.”
“You’re dead on your feet,” Spike said, and took her elbow. “Come on, luv.
Let’s get you horizontal.”
They ascended the stairs, cleared the threshold of the bedroom, closed the door
behind them, and undressed in silence. The bed felt like heaven. God, what a
Buffy heard Spike chuckle in the darkness and turned her head to face him.
“You, Goldilocks,” he said, and laughed low in his throat again. “You’ve been
reminding me of someone, and I just figured out who, just now, downstairs.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Elizabeth,” he said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “Even
the name fits. You’re Elizabeth I.”
Buffy shot him a sideways glance. “I hope that’s a compliment,” she said.
“Hitting you seems like way too much effort right now.”
“Oh, it is. A compliment, I mean.” He stretched his arms over his head and
sighed in satisfaction. “Your bed’s a lot more comfortable than mine. Think
I’ve mentioned that before.”
“Mm. I’ll say.” She frowned at him in the dark. “So, quit trying to change the
subject, and tell me why I’m like Elizabeth the First.”
He shifted, and she felt his arm slide under her shoulders. Nice. “Smart. One
tough cookie. Knew her own power. Wouldn’t let anybody take it away from her.
Had to make decisions, and she made them. Had to disagree with people, and she
did it. Tended to get violent when crossed.” He smoothed her hair back. “You’re
just like her. Especially now. You listen, and you judge, and you decide, and
when you speak, they all jump.”
“Huh. Well, so far so good, I guess.” Buffy was silent for a minute. “I miss
Giles,” she said. “I don’t really like being the one in charge.”
Spike shrugged. “Isn’t up to you, love,” he said. “No matter where you go,
you’re the strongest one in the room.”
“Flatterer,” Buffy murmured, and closed her eyes. “So, how’d you know Liz?”
He smothered a laugh. “Books, luv. She was dead three hundred years before I
was born. Had a crush on her, though.”
“Was she a hottie?”
“Gorgeous – in her pictures at least. Red hair. Pale as milk. Long white
fingers. They called her the Virgin Queen,” Spike mused, and laughed as her
eyes popped open in horror. “Wasn’t a virgin, of course, not really. Just never
married.” He pushed himself up on one elbow and met her eyes with his. “She had
a lover, you know. Robert, Earl of Leicester. Never made it legal, though.
Never acknowledged him.”
Buffy had a feeling she knew where this was going. “Good to know.” She faked an
elaborate yawn. “Are all you British guys history nuts, or are you and Giles
just weird that way?”
“Buffy.” He was suddenly very serious. “I never thought you’d tell them.”
“Oh. Well.” His steady regard made her nervous. “Not a big deal. Would have
been a lot harder if Xander weren’t ... elsewhere ... right now.”
“Still.” He brushed his lips over hers. “It meant something to me. Thank you.”
“Fortune favors the brave,” Buffy said sleepily, and, oddly enough, didn’t
think about Riley at all. “’Night, Spike.”
She was walking through Sunnydale Memorial, making soft squeaky sounds on the
waxy tiles. Nurse shoes. She was wearing nurse shoes. And opaque white tights.
And one of those sensible, starchy white cotton-polyester dresses. Buffy patted
her head wonderingly. No hat, at least. Thank God for that.
The corridor was dark, the lights at the reception desk dimmed. The solitary
nurse at the duty station was slumped over her desk, snoring lightly. Buffy
passed the station and turned left, pushing past the swinging double doors
leading to the morgue.
There was a figure in front of her, dressed in surgical scrubs. “Hurry up,” it
said, and pulled the face mask down to grin at her. Willow. “You’re
Willow, a doctor? Buffy lengthened her stride to catch up and followed
Willow into the morgue. Just like she remembered it. Chilly tile and metal.
Stale air. Banks and banks of blank-faced drawers. Some of the tables held sheet-draped
bodies. Willow was standing over the farthest table, regarding Buffy
“Hurry,” she said again. “It’s your turn. You’ve got to start now.” She pressed
a scalpel into Buffy’s hand and drew back the sheet.
Jonathan. Pale and still and looking more like Mr. Whiskers than ever. Buffy
took a step back. “I can’t,” she told Willow. “You’re the doctor, not me. I
haven’t even washed my hands!”
“You’ve got to do it,” Willow insisted. “Here. Here’s where you cut.” She
traced a finger down Jonathan’s sternum. “Hurry, Buffy,” she urged. Buffy bit
her lip, and cut.
There was no blood, where she’d expected blood. Just the clean edge of the cut.
And then ... oh, God, and then. His skin started to bubble, near the
edges, the skin rising and falling and making sizzling sounds like bacon. Oh
God oh God oh God. Buffy watched in horror as the incision she’d made began
to ooze purple, slowly at first and then faster and faster, until it was
running out of him in thick, slimy rivers. “Willow,” she said weakly. “Willow,
make it stop! Willow!”
“Too late,” Willow rasped, and when Buffy turned around, hands stained purple
from trying to hold Jonathan’s skin together, it wasn’t Willow under the scrubs
at all, but Rack.
“Too late,” he repeated, and started to laugh.
“No!” Buffy sat straight up in bed, clutching the blankets to her chest.
No Rack. No Willow. No rivers of purple goo. She looked at her hands. Clean.
She looked at Spike. Still asleep.
“Wake up,” she whispered, but he didn’t stir. Her heart was beating so fast she
thought she’d pass out. “Spike?”
Dead to the world. Buffy slowly sank down onto the bed again and stared blindly
at the ceiling, willing her heartbeat to slow. Jesus. How scary was that?
Spike murmured in his sleep and flung one arm out. It landed on her chest.
Buffy grabbed it and held on. God, he felt good. Cool and solid and reassuring
and there, most of all, there right beside her in the middle of the
nightmare. Something to wake up and touch. Something real.
She trailed her fingertips over the underside of his wrist, up to his elbow.
Soft, soft skin. Must be true, what they said about sun damage ... his skin
glowed like marble and felt like velvet. Her fingers ran up to his shoulder. He
sighed in his sleep and brought his arm back in a balletic curve over his head.
She didn’t want to go back to sleep. She wanted to touch him some more.
She hiked herself up on one elbow and leaned over him. So pretty. Knife-edge
cheekbones, eyelashes like mink, a mouth so soft it belonged on a girl. She
sculpted the air around his face with her hands, grazing the downy white-blond
hairs on his cheeks without really touching him.
Next. Shoulders. Jesus, look at the muscles. He wasn’t as built as Angel,
maybe, or even Riley, but he was rock-solid and swimmer-lean. Buffy imagined
him with a merman’s tail, streaking through jewel-blue waters, bursting up
through the sunlit surface in a flash of white and gold. It wasn’t too much of
a stretch. She trailed her hands down his chest, smiling as he hummed and
pressed up against her.
Nice to know that somebody was having good dreams tonight.
She dragged the comforter down his hips and let it tangle around his knees.
God, what a body. She laid her cheek on his thigh and breathed him in. Tobacco
and night air and leather and rain. In a word, pure sex.
His cock was as pale as the rest of him, surrounded by silky light brown curls.
When it was hard, it turned strawberry-gold, the color of sunrise, and made her
weak in the knees. Now, she wanted to protect it, baby it. She brushed it with
her cheek, shivering more at the intimacy than the satiny texture. Kissing him
seemed only natural.
He twitched and thickened under her lips. She gave him a little tongue, by way
of encouragement, and shook her head so that her hair pooled over his abdomen.
He wanted a good dream? She’d give him one.
Drifting. Warm touch on his skin. Gold behind his eyes. Smell of vanilla and
Was he William? No, no one touched William like that.
Spike? Not him either.
No blood, no pain, no dark. Just warm wet love and Roman candles in his brain.
For decades, he’d dreamed about sunlight. Great golden pools of it. Meadows,
flowers, fields, moving by slow. Lapping water underneath him, eyes closed
against the light. Floating downriver by inches, fingers trailing cool and wet.
Sunburn starting, sweet tight itch across the cheekbones. Girl in the boat with
him. Loving him.
Elizabeth. Queen Elizabeth.
Warm body, honey hair, fierce wet furnace of a mouth, over and on and around
him. Strong hands, holding him sweetly. Body moving up, yesyesyes, up
and over and down now, that’s right, slow. Don’t tip the boat.
Down the river, merrilymerrilymerrilymerrily. Rocking like a chair, like a
Don’t open your eyes and the sun won’t burn you.
Don’t say anything and it’ll last forever.
Feels so good. OhGodohGodohGod.
She’s whispering – what is she whispering?
Don’t hope for the words. Don’t ever hope for those words from her.
As long as you don’t wake up, you can keep your sunshine.
As long as you sleep, you can believe she really said them.
Life is but a dream.
He was gone when she woke up. Seemed to be a pattern.
She looked for the note – there had to be one – and found it folded crisply and
tucked under her pillow. Her morning poem. She was kind of looking forward to
seeing what he’d come up with this time.
It was T.S. Eliot, the note informed her. She read it twice.
Elizabeth and Leicester/
The stern was formed/
A gilded shell/
Red and gold/
The brisk swell/
Rippled both shores/
The peal of bells/
There was one sentence under the poem:
When you touch me, I remember what sunlight feels like.
Monday morning. Ten o’ clock.
Dawn was in school. Anya had dragged XandePierre, looking dazed but sated, off
to the Magic Box, after calling him in sick. The two remaining captives had
been given orange juice and Pop-Tarts, allowed to relieve themselves under
heavy guard, and were once again tied hand and foot and propped against the
sofa. One good thing about the Jonathan incident, Buffy reflected: Andrew and
Warren weren’t putting up a fuss. She imagined they were feeling pretty lucky
to be inside right now.
Spike was nowhere to be seen, but she figured she could find him if she wanted
him. In the meantime, Tara and Willow had been hitting the books over fruit and
coffee. Buffy pulled another chair up to the kitchen table, stole a slice of
apple from Willow’s plate, and looked from one worried face to the next.
“What’s the word?”
“Bad news,” Willow said gloomily.
Tara looked grim. “While you were dropping Dawn at school? We went over to
“No spells anywhere,” Willow said. “Not a book, not a scrap of paper, not a
diskette. We searched his hard drive – some interesting stuff there, believe me
– but I can’t find a copy of the spell he used anywhere. And it doesn’t seem to
be in any of our books.” She jerked a thumb at Andrew and Warren. “They don’t
know anything, either. Figures.”
Tara raked her hair back from her face. “We can take a chance on Giles being
able to locate it, but when I called him last night to tell him about … about
Jonathan, he thought that was pretty slim. He’s gone through all the Council’s
sources on mystical jewelry and historically significant gemstones, and there’s
nothing but speculation about the Blue Tavernier.” She sipped her coffee, made
a face, and took another, larger, slug. “So we’re thinking that Jonathan got
his material from an underground source.”
“God.” Buffy tipped her chair back. “So, let’s recap. Basically, Jonathan’s the
only one who can reverse the spell.”
“And Jonathan’s presently in some demon dimension, waiting to be made into
“So, if we want Xander back in his body, we’re going to have to rescue
Buffy blew her breath out through puffed cheeks. “Any idea how we’re gonna do
Willow shook her head. “Not so far.” She grimaced. “Hence, the bad news.” She
and Tara exchanged uneasy looks and went back to reading. Buffy fidgeted with
the hem of her sweater.
“Willow,” she said suddenly. “How do you summon the Doorkeeper?” Willow looked
“Um, you don’t. Well, I didn’t. H-he did. Rack.” She swallowed. “He’s got some
kind of deal going with it. It comes when he calls it.”
“Well, then. He’s the one we should talk to, right?”
The sudden quiet at the table was laced with tension. Willow fiddled nervously
with the lead of her automatic pencil until it snapped off in her fingers, then
looked up and shrugged. “Yeah. I guess so.”
“Wait,” Tara said. “You shouldn’t go back there. One of us should go. Me, maybe.”
Willow shook her head.
“Wouldn’t work. You’d get a different dimension, a different Doorkeeper.”
“Oh.” Tara hesitated, then set her jaw. “But I don’t like the idea of you going
“Why? Don’t you trust me?” Willow’s eyes flared. Tara shook her head.
“It’s not that. It’s just that it’s … dangerous. I’d worry.”
“You don’t have to worry.” Willow set her jaw. “You didn’t want to deal with
this in the first place. Didn’t want to deal with me. So, don’t. Don’t deal.
But don’t tell me what to do, either.”
Tara shoved her chair back. “That isn’t fair, Willow, and you know it. I didn’t
abandon you! I didn’t just decide, oh, Willow, what a basket case, and walk
out!” She wiped the back of her hand across her eyes. Her voice was full of
pain. “I left because you broke a promise. Betrayed a trust.”
“Um, guys?” Buffy sighed. They were way beyond listening to her. Where was
bloody Queen Elizabeth when you needed her?
“I’m promising now,” Willow said. Her eyes glittered with intensity. “Trust me
to keep this one. If you can.”
They glared at each other across the table, Willow stolid in her chair, arms
folded defiantly across her chest, Tara braced for flight. Buffy spread her
“Whoa! Heavy!” She put a hand on Tara’s shoulder. “Calm down, both of you. This
isn’t helping. Call truce, okay? You can pick this up when Xander’s Xander
again.” She waited until Tara relaxed back into her chair, then flashed them
her most reassuring smile. “Hear me out on this. I think I’ve got a plan.”
They both sat staring at her after she was finished. She frowned at them.
“Well, it plays to a certain point,” Willow said. “I mean, I’m pretty sure we
could get in the door. If what Amy said was true, and he really wants to see me
that badly. But I’m not sure that he’d buy the notion that you want to join his
club. Y’know? Being the Slayer and all. White Hat, evil-fighter and all that.”
“Look.” Buffy studied her fingernails for a second. Yikes. Manicure needed,
and yesterday. “He only has to buy it long enough for us to get in the
door. Then, I’m gonna kick his ass.” Off Willow’s apprehensive look, she
bristled. “What? Spike says he’s a loser, that he’s running on empty. Bound to
have a vulnerable side, don’t you think?”
“Great,” Willow muttered. “Not only am I a pathetic junkie, but my dealer’s
small-time. I can’t even make a splash when I rebel.”
“Get over yourself,” Tara snapped, and they both looked at her in astonishment.
Her voice was so low it sounded almost vicious. “You’re not pathetic, you’re
not a junkie, and you had us worried sick. You want to beat yourself up, do it
on your own time.” She turned her attention to Buffy, leaving Willow
open-mouthed in shock. “I think it’ll work,” she said. “Though I really wish I
knew what that purple stuff was. Especially since you had that second dream
“No results from the chemistry lab?”
“According to my friend, it’s not a known substance. So, definitely mystical.”
“When does Giles get here?”
Tara bit her lip. “Late tonight. Buffy, Willow was right about Jonathan – he
doesn’t have too much power in reserve. I’m afraid that if we wait for Giles,
we’ll be too late.”
“Oh.” Buffy was grateful when the phone rang. “I’ll get it.”
“No, I’m closer.” Willow picked up the receiver. “Hello?”
“Giles,” she said, and Buffy could hear the relief in her voice. “We were just
talking about you.” She laughed. “No, nothing bad. What’s up?”
Whatever he said, it wasn’t good. Willow paled and sank into her chair. “What?”
She covered the receiver and mouthed, He’s not coming. Tara groaned.
“No, I understand. Weather’s weather. Look, Tara needs to ask you some stuff.
I’m going to put her on.” She passed the cordless phone to Tara, who tucked it
between her shoulder and her ear and made a beeline for the books on the coffee
table. “Freak snowstorm in London,” Willow said. “Twelve-hour delays at
“Wonderful.” They sat in silence for a minute or two, watching Tara flip pages
and murmur into the phone.
“This is all my fault, isn’t it?”
“Actually, it’s mostly Jonathan’s.” Buffy squeezed her hand. “We’ll get him
back. Xander, I mean. One way or another.”
“Keep telling me that.”
Tara beeped the phone off and brought her notebook over to the table. “Okay.
Here’s something interesting.” She sat down heavily and put her hands over her
eyes. “Ready for some more bad news?”
“There’s no way to get him back?”
They all sighed in relief.
“The Apocalypse is coming?” Buffy asked.
“Not quite that bad.”
Willow perked up. “Xander’s real soul is stuck in a demon dimension populated
by evil clowns?”
Tara laughed, then covered her mouth quickly with her hand. “No.” She sobered.
“According to Giles, it’s possible to go through the door after Jonathan. He
gave me the spell that opens the portal and summons the Doorkeeper. We don’t
need Rack; we can do it ourselves. But only as many people can exit as enter.”
Buffy and Willow stared at her blankly. Tara sighed in exasperation.
“Don’t you get it? We can’t just waltz in and take him out of there. We’re
going to have to make a trade.”
They sat quietly, staring at the table, for a long time. Buffy decided to break
“Why? The demon won’t let us back through otherwise? ‘Cause I could …” She
trailed off as Tara shook her head.
“It’s not the Doorkeeper. It’s, like, some yin-yang thing, designed to keep
balance between the two worlds. Like the portal itself is a sort of cosmic
“But Jonathan had to go through that tollbooth, too,” Willow pointed out. “So,
there’s your extra body, right?” They all winced at the word ‘body’.
“Not the same thing, I guess,” Tara said. “Jonathan went through the portal not
as a human being, but as … well, groceries. We’d be going through on our own
power.” She paused. “So … if we take him out, somebody has to stay.”
Another long silence. They didn’t look at each other.
“I’m the one who screwed up and summoned it,” Willow said softly. Her lips were
trembling. “I’m the reason it was roaming Sunnydale, looking for a snack. I’m
the one it’s wanted all along. The one it was supposed to get.” She swallowed
hard. “If anyone stays, it should be me.” Buffy and Tara exchanged horrified
“Will, we can’t let you do that,” Buffy said. Willow shot her a watery smile.
“See another alternative?”
Change the subject, Buffy thought. Quick. “Um. Tara. The purple
goo. Did Giles know anything about that?”
“Oh! Yeah.” Tara consulted her notebook. “By-product of an energy transfer,”
she read. “Mildly toxic to human beings. Harmless but useless to demons.” She
looked at Willow, then quickly away. “Known to replace human blood, over
extended period of magical misuse. Giles called it ‘kuumfas’. Whatever that
Willow was looking decidedly green. “So, when Rack put his hands on me, he left
this stuff behind in place of what he took.”
Tara nodded, started to say something, then closed her mouth again. Willow was
“Well, time for a science experiment,” she said, and picked up the paring knife
she’d used to cut her apple with.
“Willow, no!” Tara grabbed for the knife handle, but it was too late. Willow
pressed the tip of the knife to her wrist and bore down.
A few dark crimson beads welled up and spilled over. Willow, her expression
unreadable, watched herself bleed for a few tense seconds. Then she shot Tara a
triumphant look. She was dry-eyed but shaking.
“Red,” she said. “It’s still red.”
Then she passed out.
“God!” Willow was still in the recliner where Buffy had put her, looking pale
and shaken. Tara, looming over her, had lost all trace of her innate diffidence
and was in full Rant Mode. “Are you nuts? Are you out of your mind? Why the
HELL would you do something so stupid?”
Two fat tears quivered on Willow’s lashes and slid down her cheeks. “I had to
do it,” she whispered. “Had to prove it to you. I’m still h-human. Still me.”
Tara dropped to her knees, looking as if Willow had slapped her. “I know that,”
she said, and looked as if she might cry herself. “Baby, I know that.
Why do you think I’m still here?”
Willow’s face crumpled. Tara grabbed her hands. Andrew and Warren, who had been
cringing on the sofa through the last twenty-five minutes of emotional trauma,
felt their Sex-Detection Antennae zing and opened their eyes in cautious hope …
being kidnapped and tied up on the Slayer’s couch might be worth it, if they
got to see the lesbians make up. Or make out. Or both.
Buffy, who knew when she wasn’t needed, let herself out the back door and sank
down on the patio steps.
Sundown, Tara had said. They’d do the spell at sundown.
That left her a couple of hours to think.
They needed a trade-in, and damned if she’d do it again, Heaven or no Heaven.
Damned if she’d let Willow, either, though the Existence of the Hairy Ewok was
mostly her fault. If Buffy had her way, no Scoobies would be Demon Chow today.
They did have two hostages, she thought. Who bore massive partial
responsibility for their current situation. She didn’t have a soul anymore,
right? What did she care if one of the losers bought it? Willow and Tara
wouldn’t like the idea, but they wouldn’t fight her on it. Not if it meant
saving Xander from having to wear a Trans-la-Tron for the rest of his natural
Buffy sighed. She couldn’t do it. Goddamn it, why couldn’t she be not-
quite-human when it’d be useful, for once?
She pulled Spike’s note out of her jacket pocket and traced her forefinger over
the elaborate script. When you touch me, I remember what sunlight feels like.
William the Poet. He had words for everything.
Maybe he’d have some for the Problem of the Week. It was worth a try, anyway.
Feeling a bit more cheerful, she tucked the note back in her pocket and headed
for the cemetery.
Spike felt uneasy, and it had nothing to do with the Xander/Jonathan
predicament. If you asked him, and it was pretty likely that no one would, it
was a situation best left alone. Hamster Boy deserved to be a midnight snack,
for pulling that stunt with the diamond, and Harris speaking French was
definitely an improvement over Harris speaking English.
Plus, he’d always had a certain amount of sympathy for the world’s
revolutionaries. Even crazy ones.
No, it wasn’t the current Scooby Crisis that had him repainting his nails in
the middle of the afternoon, on a weekday no less (always a sure sign that deep
thought of some sort was required). Nor was the Slayer twisting his knickers
about anything … in a bad way, at least.
Maybe that was part of the problem. Things were going too well.
He’d never thought she’d give him a second tumble. By his count, they were on
their fourth. He’d have laid down money that she’d never tell the Scoobies. As
of last night, he’d have lost it.
He was pretty sure that she’d whispered those proverbial Three Little Words in
his presumed-to-be-sleeping ear last night. Words that he’d given her a hundred
times, and never thought he’d hear in return. So maybe the unfamiliar flutter
in his chest was panic, and maybe it was hope.
Maybe it was just the memory of a heartbeat, pounding along in rhythm with
hers. Sod if he knew.
He did know this. After last night, he couldn’t go back to where he’d been
He’d stake himself first.
The door opened upstairs, and he smelled her before he saw her. “Afternoon,
princess,” he drawled, and carefully smudged the polish on his right pinkie
with the opposite thumb. Perfection wasn’t exactly what he was after.
“Spike.” She stood at the top of the ladder, watching him with amusement.
“What’s next on your agenda for the afternoon? Hot rollers? A pedicure?”
“Ritual shaving and a mud pack,” he said, not looking at her. “But if you’re in
the mood to repeat last night’s performance, I’d send the concubines away and
“I bet you would.” She clattered down the steps and plopped down on his bed. “I
Well, well, well. Would wonders never cease? He swiveled to face her.
“Things a bit heavy back at the old homestead?”
She filled him in, and he rewarded her exposition with a low whistle. “Red
“Yeah. I think.”
He sucked his teeth thoughtfully. “Not sure I can offer much in the way of help
here, luv. Unless you want to sacrifice one of the Jedi Knights –“
He gave her a swift sideways look of speculation. “Didn’t think so.”
“Yeah. And what the hell is up with that?” She kicked moodily at the rung of
his chair. “I’m supposed to be all No-Soul Girl, right? One of those guys
pisses me off, and the other one I don’t even know. Why am I even giving this a
second thought?” She stuck out her lower lip. “Having a conscience sucks.”
“You’ve got a soul,” Spike said, and her mouth dropped open.
“I don’t. You said I didn’t.”
“Never said any such thing. I said you came back wrong. Not the same.”
She thought hard. “The diamond thing didn’t affect me,” she said triumphantly,
wagging her little finger at him. “I caught it, and then I passed it to Xander,
and it mojoed him, not me.”
Spike shrugged. “Don’t ask me.” He hiked his chair a little closer to her.
“Slayer without a soul? Your little gal-pal Faith. Times ten. That’s not you,
sweet pea. Not even close.” He tipped his head to the side. “If you didn’t have
a soul, you wouldn’t even be trying to fix this. Dead French guy? Diamond?
Junkie witch? None of your business, is it, pet? I mean, really?”
He wished he could tell what she was thinking. “Whatever,” she finally said,
and frowned hard at her knee so she wouldn’t have to look at him. “Doesn’t
matter why. Just matters that I can’t do it. I need a different solution.” She
paused, then sent him a hopeful glance under her lashes. “This is your cue to
tell me that there’s a way around this portal thing. That we can cheat the toll
“Not that I know of.” He slid onto the bed and slipped his arm around her. She
tipped her head onto his shoulder. He could almost feel the wheels turning in
her impatient little brain.
“If we don’t do the spell as scheduled, it’ll be too late,” she said finally.
“Xander will never get his soul back. And that diamond’s supposed to be way
unlucky. Cursed, or something. God knows what kind of damage hanging onto it
will cause.” She paused. “But if we go ahead and do it, and we get through,
it’ll be useless. Either Willow will stay, like she’s already said she would,
or I will, to keep her from doing it.”
Her voice was muffled against his shoulder. “Can’t you guess the Hollywood
ending, Spike? Can’t you see the headline?” She laughed bitterly. “‘Slayer
Sacrifices Self for Friends.’ Isn’t that touching?”
He squeezed her tighter, not knowing what to say. She wasn’t making a sound,
but he could tell she was crying.
“I don’t want to die again,” she managed. Her voice was a ragged whisper.
“Goddamn you, Spike, this is your fault. A week ago I would have thrown myself
into that portal and never looked back.”
There were no words in him to answer that, so he just kissed her instead. Salt
and heat and a desperate kind of tenderness. She clutched at him, tore at him,
bore him back on the bed, and he went with her until he couldn’t stand the
buzzing in her brain anymore. “Stop,” he rasped. “Buffy. Stop it now.”
“I can’t,” she said, and the pretty tears were streaming down her cheeks like
silver. “I have to. Don’t you understand? It’s the only thing that feels good
He understood, and so he took her hands in his to still them. “Shhh,” he said,
and kissed the shiny tracks all the way up to her eyes. “Hold on a second, will
you? Let’s do this another way.”
Buffy let him guide her hands to her sides, let him roll her onto the bed and
arrange her head on a pillow. Why fight? What good did it do?
He had shoved himself off the bed and was fiddling with a CD player in the far
corner. Must run on batteries, Buffy thought. Or had he figured out how
to steal electricity, too?
The track started up, and she blinked in surprise. Not the Sex Pistols. Not
even that soprano and her wild, wistful piano. Buffy’d heard this before, a
long, long time ago. In the car with her dad. On the radio or something. How
old had she been? Six? Seven? She couldn’t remember.
Sweet, melancholy tenor voice and words that went straight to her tear ducts.
Who knows my secret broken bone?/
Who feels my flesh when I am gone?/
Who was a witness to the dream, who kissed my eyes and saw the scream?/
Spike was back on the bed now. Kissing her cheekbones, her jawline, the curve
of her neck. Buffy let her head fall back, let him do it. Kept listening.
Who is my reason to begin?/
Who plows the earth, who breaks the skin?/
Who took my two hands and made them four?/
Who is my heart, who is my door?/
She let him ruck her sweater up and worship the skin under it. Spread her legs
so he could pull down her jeans. Succumbed with an arch and a sigh to the
thumbs that spread her open, the mouth that fastened on her like she was
strawberries in season. At the taste of her, he groaned and drew back for a
minute. Drenched hazel eyes met glittering gold ones for the electric instant
before she pulled him closer and he dove back in.
Nobody but you, girl,/
Nobody but you./
Nobody in this whole wide world/
They were slow-dancing on the bed, she and he, in loose slow rhumba circles.
Up, down, around. He had her spread out like peanut butter on toast and she was
loving it, reveling in it, egging him on with gasps and grunts and fists in his
hair so tight that if he didn’t hurry up and finish her he’d go bald. She
tasted like pineapple, like fresh bread, like that little harbor bar in Boston
where he and Dru had started with the oysters and finished up with the
bartender. She screamed, she cursed, she prayed. He kept going.
Who makes the bed that can’t be made?/
Who is my mirror, who’s my blade?/
When I am rising like a flood, who feels the pounding in my blood?/
“I can’t,” she gasped. “Not again. I can’t.”
He ignored her. Gave her another rainbow. Pushed her off another cliff. She
closed her eyes in wonder, and fell like a stone.
When she crashed, it took her a long time to resurface. But he was still there
when she did.
“I have to tell you something,” she said. Paul Simon was still spinning that
cool, effortless melody in the background, but she’d stopped hearing it.
“Before tonight. Before I go. I have to tell you.”
“You don’t have to say it.”
“You already know?”
“Oh,” she said, feeling oddly deflated. “Well, okay then.”
They lay in companionable silence. At two-thirty, she sat up and reached for
“I have to get Dawn from school.”
He nodded again.
“I’ll see you later,” she said.
“We’re going to start the spell at sundown. My place, not the Magic Box.”
“I’ll be there.”
“You don’t have to be.”
She was almost to the top of the ladder when she turned around. Their eyes met.
“Spike? I’m going to come back this time.”
“You’d better,” he said.
Four p.m. Revello Drive.
Buffy shot a speculative glance at XandePierre, who had apparently gotten over
his eighteenth-century limitations long enough to embrace computer solitaire.
As she watched, he moved the king of hearts to the first space and gloated in
French under his breath. His eyes were maniacal. The tip of his tongue was
clenched between his teeth and protruding slightly from his mouth. Andrew and
Warren were watching him, wide-eyed, from their positions against the far wall.
“How long has he been doing that?”
Willow laughed. “Ever since lunch. If he gets fidgety, we’re gonna show him how
to play Minesweeper.”
“Good thinking,” Buffy said. “Where’s Dawn?”
“She took the phone up to her room. I figure we’ll be done and over with this
whole thing before she and Janice decide what they’re wearing tomorrow.”
“Did she get the part? Did she say?”
“She doesn’t know yet.”
“Oh.” Buffy nodded. “Okay. So. New research? Anything leap out at you from the
“Not much,” Tara said, looking guilty. She and Willow were cozied up together
on the couch. Buffy figured that research hadn’t been their first priority this
afternoon. Not that she was anyone to talk. “I mean, we did find this one
thing.” She glanced meaningfully at Willow.
“Web site,” Willow chimed in. “Written by a guy who claims to be descended from
an Incan high priest. I forget his name. Something Ponce de Leon Something.”
She rolled her head around on her neck. “Anyway, this is the deal. He’s a
member of a group called the Solar Brotherhood. Sun worshippers. They claim
that their society was begun by … don’t laugh … giant androgynous serpents from
Venus, called the Kumaras.”
Buffy laughed. “You’re kidding. Right?”
“No,” Willow said earnestly. “I’m dead serious. Really. You should see this
“Go on. I’m not buying it, but go on.”
“Okay. So supposedly, these Venusian serpent guys, the Kumaras, were in control
of all these mystical power objects, and they came to earth and passed some of
them on to the Inca guys, the Solar Brotherhood, to use in their sacred
“Missionary snakes,” Anya said helpfully from her chair in the corner. Buffy
jumped. She hadn’t seen her sitting there.
Willow was on a roll. “So, um, these missionary Venusians. Known to the Incas
as the Queztlcoatls. They passed on all this stuff, and about three hundred
years ago some of it went missing. Stolen. There’s this one thing in particular
that still has the Solar Brotherhood all steamed. They had a drawing of it on
their web site.” She flipped through some computer printouts. “Yeah. Right
here. It’s called the Sac of Amaru Muru, and …”
“Hold it.” Buffy rubbed her eyes. “Not that the mumbo-jumbo isn’t fascinating,
Will, but can we locate a point? We’re kinda short on time.”
“Oh. Yeah. Sure. Sorry.” Willow passed her the papers. “The thing is, we saw
this drawing, and kind of flipped out.”
Buffy stared at it. Little canvas sack. Dirty taupe-gray, if the color
resolution on Willow’s printer could be believed. Funny little rune scrawled on
one side, in what looked like black crayon. “Yeah, it’s thrilling, all right.”
“We’ve got it in the shop,” Anya said. “It came in about six months ago. By
mistake. It was supposed to be a shipment of Mayan salt crystals.” Her lips
tightened in disapproval. “We still haven’t gotten those. And they’re very trendy.
Anyway,” she said more brightly, “since Giles and I didn’t know what it was, we
stored it upstairs in the Adept section.”
“Okay.” Buffy took another look. “What does it do?”
“You won’t believe it,” Tara said, leaning forward. “We just tested it out.
It’s amazing.” She took a deep breath. “It’s a spirit-matter bag,” she said. “I
never thought I’d actually see one. Makes the intangible tangible.”
Buffy frowned. “Color me thrilled.”
“Buff.” Willow sounded amused. “You can’t believe this thing. It turns
information into something you can touch. Like, information in your head.”
“I still don’t get it.”
“Too many orgasms lately,” Anya muttered. “That Spike. I’ll bet he’s got a
ten-inch penis and screws with his eyes open.” She ignored the witches’ wide
eyes and spun around to face Buffy. “You can think of a number,” she said
fiercely. “Any number. One to infinity. You can think of a name, of a place, of
a Swiss bank account, of a memory. Something you’ve never told anyone.
Something you’ve never thought before. And if someone holding the bag
touches you, that thought gets sucked right out of your head and into the bag.
Open the bag, and it’s written down for the world to see.”
She paused. “Of course, it’s in hieroglyphics. Egypt led the world in written
communication, back when this thing was made. But we can get around that. The
point is. It’s a secret-stealer.”
“Oh.” Buffy shook her head, slightly dazed. “You guys had better keep talking.
You’ve been thinking more than I have this afternoon.”
“Obviously,” Anya murmured. Willow shot her a dirty look.
“This isn’t perfect, Buffy, but it’s what we’ve come up with,” she said. “Last
we heard, you weren’t sure you had a soul, right?”
Buffy frowned. “Yeah. Jury’s still out on that one, though.”
“Okay. Well, what we were thinking is this. Maybe this phantom tollbooth thing
doesn’t count bodies, but souls. Maybe, if it doesn’t recognize you as a …
well, as a human being,” – she winced – “we can open the portal and sneak
Jonathan out of there with no one the wiser.”
“Or maybe not.”
“Well, yeah. That’s the thing. It might not work. It might be a body thing. In
which case …”
“Oh.” Buffy’s eyes grew wide. “Oh. I get it now. You’re thinking that if we
can’t take him out, we can at least suck his brain for the spell info, and
carry it out in the bag.”
“Wow.” She considered her friend narrowly. “Damn, Willow. That’s heavy.”
Tara bit her lip. “I know it’s risky,” she said. “But it’s all we can think
Buffy nodded. “Fair enough,” she said. “More than we had before.”
The door banged open, and Spike stalked in, tossing his smoldering blanket into
“Slayer. Scoobies.” He looked dangerous and unpredictable, with his
firmly-in-place scowl and stray wisps of smoke rising from his clothing. Buffy
felt her internal suspension begin to defibrillate. “You’ve got company.”
Christ. She’d been so wrapped up in his particular brand of Platinum Sex that
she hadn’t noticed the girl he was dragging with him by the back of her shirt.
He gave her a little shove, and she collapsed at the edge of the living-room
“Willow,” she croaked. “God, Willow, you’ve got to help me.”
Buffy wasn’t a big Alice in Wonderland fan – she saw enough of the surreal
every day; she didn’t need to go looking for it in her fiction. But she
possessed a deep understanding of that phrase, “curiouser and curiouser.”
Today, for instance. Classic example. Why couldn’t it have begun and ended with
the oral sex?
Things to ask the Powers that Be, if she was ever given the chance. She allowed
herself one last sidelong glance at the way William the Bloody filled his 401s,
and pulled herself reluctantly back to reality.
Amy, according to Spike, had been discovered lurking in the hydrangeas by the
side of the house. Since her ignoble entrance, she had been plied with herbal
tea and installed in one of the recliners, and was trembling so violently that
the cup rattled in its saucer. Whether it was withdrawal or just a
Spike-induced scare, Buffy couldn’t say. Regardless, she had the attention of
the room. Every head was turned her way, with the exception of XandePierre.
If Microsoft had come out with desktop pinball in 1775, there’d never have been
“He shut me off,” Amy was quavering. “He said if I didn’t bring you with me, I
couldn’t come back.”
Willow looked sympathetic, but guarded. “That’s why you were hanging around
outside? To try to convince me to go back?”
“Yes. No.” Amy looked rattled. “Partly. But there’s the other thing, too.”
“What other thing?” Willow might be soft-hearted, but Buffy intended to be a
hard-ass where Ms. Madison was concerned. Her voice came out louder than she’d
intended, and Amy flinched.
“The Doorkeeper,” she said. “It’s chasing me. Mine, I mean, not Willow’s.” Her
lip trembled. “For good this time, Willow. He won’t keep it away.”
Amy’s face crumpled. “He says I’m no use to him anymore,” she said, and despite
herself Buffy felt a tug of sympathy. Beneath the wrecked shell, the twitching
and the pasty skin and the paranoia, she still caught glimpses of the Amy she’d
known and liked. Plucky. Wry. Lousy cheerleader, and proud of it.
God, she thought. What a mess this is.
“He says there’s nothing left for him,” Amy was sobbing. “That the Doorkeeper’s
the only one who’ll ever want me.” Willow frowned.
“I wonder why that is?”
“Oh, I can tell you that,” Anya said brightly. “It’s the kuumfas.”
Four heads turned toward her in one motion. “You … know … about
kuumfas?” Tara asked, puzzled.
“The question is, exactly WHAT do you know about kuumfas?”
Anya looked at Buffy, surprised.
“The stuff inside her,” she said, gesturing to Amy. “The purple stuff. You
know.” Amy blanched. Buffy took a step closer to Anya.
“We know about the purple stuff,” she said. “But why does the demon want it?”
Anya gave her an aren’t-you-dim-today toss of the head. “Demon aphrodisiac,”
she said. “Very powerful. Only one source.”
“W-wait,” Tara said urgently. “Giles never said anything about kuumfas being an
Anya looked contemptuous. “Of course he didn’t,” she said. “How would he know?”
She took in the roomful of dropped jaws and raised her eyebrows. “Well,
honestly,” she said. “Why do you think those Doorkeeper positions are so
prestigious? For the free parking?”
“Oh, God,” Amy moaned. Anya frowned at her.
“Cheer up,” she said. “It’s not like he wants to EAT you, after all. He’s in
“Um, guys?” Tara scanned the room worriedly. “Maybe this isn’t the best time,
but I think it’s kind of now or never. The sun’s been down for half an hour.”
Now or never, Buffy thought. The story of my life. She forced herself to smile.
“Okay,” she said. “Just tell me what to do.”
“You’re going to have to go by yourself.”
Buffy felt the first premonition of Very Bad Things to Come nibble at the back
of her neck. “Oh. Why?”
Willow’s eyes were downcast. “To cast the circle takes two people.” She didn’t
look at Buffy. “I have to help Tara. I’m sorry.”
God. This is so, SO familiar.
“Hey, no big.” Buffy forced a smile. She didn’t dare look at Spike. “One-
person job anyway, right?”
“Y-yeah. It’s pretty straightforward,” Tara said. She looked cautiously
relieved. “Willow and I will open the portal, right about where the coffee
table is. Giles said it’s going to look like a circle of light. He saw an
engraving in one of his books.” She shrugged. “To move between dimensions, all
you have to do is step into the circle.”
Buffy frowned. “Not that I’m complaining,” she said. “But this sounds way too
easy. Why couldn’t Glory have used this last spring, to get where she was
A moment of silence, during which Willow and Tara exchanged a number of
meaningful glances. Finally, Willow bit her lip. “It’s only going to work
because of me,” she said. “Because the Doorkeeper’s already been summoned.”
“When Rack summoned the Doorkeeper for Willow, he threw off the balance between
this dimension and the other one,” she said. “You’re going to find yourself not
in the demon dimension itself, but in a kind of holding area. A pocket in time
and space that was created by his spell. Limbo.” She paused. “We would have
eventually done this spell anyway, Buffy,” she said. “It’s really intended to
destroy the holding area, close the walkway from one world to the next so that
the Doorkeeper can’t pass freely anymore.”
“Oh.” Buffy thought for a minute. “So, when I step into the circle, Jonathan
will be right there? I won’t have to go looking for him?”
“Right.” Willow nodded eagerly. “The spell does two things – it opens the
portal, and it’s also a summoning spell. He should be almost within touching
distance, the minute you’re … well, um, there.”
Buffy briefly considered catatonia, then decided against it. “So. I step into
this circle of light, I’m immediately transported to Demon Limbo, I brain-suck
Jonathan, I try to leave with him. Right?”
“Uh-huh.” Tara leaned forward in her chair. “Probably the best thing to do is
try to carry him out. If it doesn’t work, you know that the Tollbooth is only
going to let one of you back through.” Her eyes clouded. “In which case, I
guess you’ll have to leave him there. We won’t close the circle until you’re
“What about the Ewok? He isn’t going to be happy about this, is he?”
Spike pushed away from the doorway where he’d been leaning, making an angry
little sound in his throat that made all eyes snap his way. “This is bollocks,”
he said. “You’re expecting her to just waltz into one of Hell’s holding cells
and waltz out again? You’re all mad. Slayer or no Slayer, a little extra muscle
Buffy, startled and touched in equal parts, caught his eyes with hers. “You
A muscle jumped in his jaw. “You know it, baby.”
He was steaming mad. The Teen Witches couldn’t look him in the eye, and small
They were bustling around, getting ready to mumbo their jumbo. Buffy had
retreated to the far side of the room. She was holding the Sac of Amaru Muru as
if it were Mr. Gordo, and standing very straight and very still.
Almost as if she didn’t trust herself to move. Spike felt something twist
inside his rib cage. He walked over to her.
“When we get there,” he said. “You get Jonathan. I’ll handle the demon. Hold
him off for you, till you get through.”
“Okay.” She threaded her small, cold hand into his. “Spike?”
They might as well have been alone. Tara and Willow were holding hands,
chanting, and a circular column of violet-white light was rising from the floor
to the ceiling. Celestial dust bunnies. “Listen to me,” she said, soft but
fierce, almost in his ear. “I should have told you this a long time ago.”
“I already told you, you don’t have –“
“Fuck that.” Her eyes were wet. “Once you know, you should never stop saying
it. Mom taught me that.” She squeezed his hand, hard enough to crack bone. He
never felt it. “I’m crazy in love with you.”
His mouth tightened. “This isn’t like last time,” he managed to croak. “This
time, I’ll save you.”
The chanting was louder. His hand was cold but reassuring in hers. Buffy was
blinded; she told herself it was the violet light. “Come on,” she said. “It’s
They walked into the circle of light. And vanished.
After all that talk about pockets and holding cells, Buffy had expected a stone
room. A dungeon. An oubliette.
What she saw was a starry night – miles and miles of prairie grass sloping away
from her, and not one, but two full moons, hanging in space like a giant pair
of fuzzy dice. The Tollbooth glimmered violet behind her. A hundred yards away,
a stocky little figure lay like a broken doll. Buffy hurried over to it.
The figure stirred feebly. “Jonathan!” she repeated, and shook him by the
“Buffy,” he breathed. “How are you here?”
“Came to get you,” she said. “Feeling up to a trip?”
“We have to hurry,” he said fearfully. “It’ll be back for me. It said tonight
was the night.” He clutched at her hands. “It’s been pulling things out of me,
Buffy. It’s left a bunch of holes where there used to be stuff.”
That reminded her. The spell. “Jonathan, we’re going to get you out of here,”
she promised, hating herself because it was possibly a lie. God, this whole
thing felt bad. “But you’ve gotta tell me. What’s the spell you used on the
She saw his face pause in remembrance, closed her hand around the bag in her
pocket, and grabbed his arm, just below the sleeve of his T-shirt. They both
shook with a quick, cold frisson of energy. Buffy felt the bag grow suddenly
heavier. Creepy. Jonathan stared at her, puzzled, but didn’t shake her
hand off. “What was that about?”
“I’ll tell you later,” she said. “Come on.”
She pulled him up, and they turned around. Against the white light of the
Tollbooth, Spike and the Doorkeeper grappled. “Spike, go!” Buffy yelled. He
shoved the demon back and risked a glance at her.
“Go yourself,” he ordered her. “Get him through, then go yourself. I’ll be
right behind you.”
“No! He’s got to go last, don’t you remember? The Tollbooth –“ She broke off
This was bad. This was VERY bad.
She’d taken her eyes off Jonathan for a moment, and now what she saw made her
blood freeze. He’d glimpsed the Tollbooth and was sprinting for it.
“No,” she said softly, and went after him. But it was too late. He’d jumped.
Dizzy with foreboding, she turned back around, saw Spike still battling with
the increasingly enraged Doorkeeper. She got into the mix, delivered a couple
of good kicks of her own. The demon hit the ground hard and was still. Not
dead, probably, but maybe it’d be under for a while.
They stepped away from it and stared at each other.
“Go,” she said, chin trembling, and he shook his head slowly. His eyes had
never looked so blue.
“Not a chance, Blondie,” he said. “Ladies first.”
“You don’t understand,” she insisted. “You might not get back through. We don’t
“You think I could live down there again, without you?” He brushed a strand of
hair from her cheek. “You think I’d want to?”
“Spike …” Her eyes were wet. Why were her eyes wet?
“You go,” he said. “Go back to your friends, to your little sis, to your life.
There’s nothing there for me, except for you, and I’ve had my day in the sun
anyway.” She shook her head, and in desperation he shoved her away from him.
“I’ll be along if I can,” he said. “Don’t fight me on this, Buffy. This is the
right thing. The right choice. You’ve got to let me make it.”
She stumbled forward again, and he couldn’t bring himself to back away. “I love
you,” she said desperately.
“Knowing that,” he said, “makes this possible. Buffy, you’re my world.”
He closed his eyes and pushed her into the column of light.
Buffy opened her eyes. The living room. She was in the living room. On the
The Tollbooth was still open. Thank God.
“Spike,” she said. “Where’s Spike?”
The look on Willow’s face told her everything she needed to know.
“Oh God,” she said, and the words sounded broken. “How long since I came
“Ten minutes,” Tara said unhappily. “At least.”
Jonathan was tied up again, over by the wall. Buffy couldn’t look at him.
“What happened?” Anya asked. Buffy closed her eyes.
“He wouldn’t go,” she said. “Jonathan got through, and then I tried to make him
go, and he … wouldn’t.” Her face crumpled. “How long does the Tollbooth stay
“We’ve been keeping it open,” Willow said, and Buffy could see now the lines of
strain on their faces. “But we’re getting tired, Buff. I don’t think it’ll last
“And after it closes? There’s no way to …”
“I’m afraid not.”
Silence in the room. Buffy fought for composure. Failed.
“You guys should have told me,” she said finally. “What it felt like.”
Anya squeezed her hand. “What do you mean?”
Buffy shook her head dully. “It’s so much easier to jump yourself,” she said.
“So much harder to be the one who’s left behind.”
More uneasy silence, as the column of light began to waver. “We have to stop,”
Tara gasped finally, and Buffy, exhausted beyond tears, raised her head to nod.
They all turned. Amy was standing at the end of the sofa. Holding the knife
Willow had left on the kitchen table. She looked pale. Grim. Determined.
“Just one minute more,” she said, and raised the knife. Buffy saw a thin line
of purple begin to snake down her arm.
“What are you doing?”
Amy smiled. Made a parallel cut on her other arm. Drew the knife across the
neckline of her shirt. Purple flowers blossomed on the white of her chest.
“Finishing what I started,” she said. “You’re gonna go out, might as well be
with a bang. Right?”
The kuumfas was running faster now. She was weakening. “I’m sorry, Willow,” she
said. “Not a good friend, was I? But here’s a start, at least.” She wiped her
eyes, leaving violet smudges on both cheeks. “Take care now.”
She took two uneasy steps and pitched forward into the wavering Tollbooth. A
couple of seconds later, Spike thudded onto the living room floor.
The Tollbooth faded. Spike sat up. Looked around until he saw her.
“Hello, luv,” he said. “Miss me?”
The world swayed, seemed to right itself, then fell on its ass. Buffy felt her
eyes roll up into her head, and surrendered herself gratefully to oblivion.
She hoped she slept for awhile.
Holy Christ, that had been scary.
Spike had had a lot of bad moments in his day. Live for a hundred years, you’re
bound to accumulate a couple of encounters you’d rather not relive.
Nothing was as bad as this.
Cecily’s rejection. The chip in his head. Getting hit by a flaming pipe organ.
That fucking wheelchair.
All the petty embarrassments and discomforts and inconveniences of a hundred
and fifty years fell away from him, the moment he put his hand to that
shimmering violet wall, and realized it wouldn’t yield to him.
She was lost to him, forever.
The Doorkeeper wasn’t happy with the trade he’d made; he’d been all set to
snack on Hamster Boy, and instead he’d ended up with Spike, who put up a hell
of a lot more fight and wasn’t nearly as edible. They’d done some snarling and
posturing, but the demon’s heart wasn’t in it, and neither was Spike’s.
Ironic, he’d thought, but strangely fitting as well. After all the poetry he’d
spouted, after he’d defied the fates and screamed his love to the skies, he’d
finally gotten to put his money where his mouth was. Make a grand, glorious
Be something more than the sum of his parts. Something more than a monster.
Not as satisfying as he’d thought it would be, though. Grand poetic gestures
paled next to this ugly cast-iron fact: she loved him, and he’d lost her.
No way out of this place, this godforsaken ghost land.
Just him and the demon here, and that only for as long as the witches could
The outline of the Tollbooth started to flicker, taking his dreams along with
Stupid. He’d still been hoping, against hope, that she’d figure out a way to
come back for him.
Stupid. Bloody idiotic.
He turned away.
He couldn’t have said what caught his eyes. What made him turn back around.
She was here. Again.
Girl-shaped silhouette in the light, black shadow against sputtering lavender.
Skin weeping, curling, peeling away. Hands clutched to the gouty purple
fountain of her chest.
Oh, God, Spike thought. What did she do to herself? He wanted to
go to her, but he couldn’t move. Might as well have sprouted bloody roots. Fat
lot of good he was. He watched her, helpless to tear his eyes away.
She swayed. Hesitated. Stumbled out of the Tollbooth, falling to her knees on
the prairie grass and doubling over an abdomen that wasn’t really there anymore.
Spike’s chest lurched in shock and horror and, God help him, sweet singing
Amy. Not Buffy.
“It’s closing,” she gasped. “You’ve only got a second.”
He only stared at her. Unbelieving. Shut down against wayward hope.
She’d done this for HIM?
Unthinkable. He frowned at her, mystified.
“Go!” she snapped, clenching her jaw against the weakness. Behind her, the
Doorkeeper was advancing. “Do you want it to be for nothing?”
It was true. It was really true.
Spike felt the hard knot in his chest disappear, clench with a new emotion he
was afraid to name.
He fell to his knees. Kissed her bloody hands, her white lips.
“Thank you,” he said, and dived for the portal.
He traveled through space with the last rays of the dying light.
Back to his love.
She was the first thing he saw. A quick three-sixty, a blurry scan of Things
That Were Not Buffy, and then she swam into view. Pale. Hollow- eyed. Dazed and
gaunt-looking and ten years older with grief.
He said something. Couldn’t remember what. Watched her face change, from that
deep-etched sorrow to a sort of shocked, disbelieving joy.
Even as she reached for him, she was collapsing. He barely caught her before
she hit the ground.
She fit into his arms like the last piece of a puzzle. He was probably holding
her too tightly, but he couldn’t help it.
Arms went around him from behind. He stiffened in surprise. “Willow?”
“Thank God,” she said, and he heard the ragged edge of exhaustion in her voice.
“We were so worried.”
“For me?” Keep it light, he told himself. “Red, I’m blushing. I didn’t
know you cared.”
Tara, teary-eyed but laughing, tackled him from the other side. “You idiot. You
have no idea.”
Funny little circus of four, Spike thought. The disheveled, the weary, the
unconscious. The triumphant.
He’d never had a group hug before. It wasn’t bad.
Maybe, just maybe, he’d get used to it.
Things after that were a blur.
“The reversal spell?” he’d heard Anya ask, and Tara shook her head.
Dawn, at the top of the stairs, looking astonished, portable phone in hand.
“What happened? Did I miss something?” Quick, panicked glance to the
unconscious girl in his arms. “Oh, my God. Is she okay?”
“Fine,” he said. He couldn’t seem to manage words of more than one syllable.
“Did you do the spell? Did it work?”
He blinked fuzzily for a moment, then nodded. “Yeah. It worked.”
She ran her eyes up and down him again, suddenly seeming to notice that he was
swaying on his feet. “You’re tired,” she said, and wrinkled her forehead in
pretty concern. It was cute when the Little Bit played Mum, he thought. “You
“Right.” He managed to reach out long enough to rub his knuckles over her
cheek. Such soft, new skin. And the trust in her eyes, like a hallucination.
Buffy wasn’t the only one he’d lost and gotten back again tonight.
He shot Dawn a tired smile and turned into Buffy’s room. The Slayer was dead
weight in his arms. Good thing she was so little.
He tumbled her onto the bed and kicked off his boots. He was asleep almost
before he lay down.
Buffy opened her eyes, shut them against the morning glare, and cracked them
open again, more cautiously.
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
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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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.
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
“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
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
“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?”
Late afternoon had turned into evening. Dawn, jubilant about making callbacks
for Bianca, had come home, dropped her books, and headed to Janice’s, throwing
over her shoulder something about ‘practicing her lines’. Presumably, she’d
return at some point. Tara had found some chicken breasts in the back of the
freezer, hacked off the worst of the freezer burn, and was making dinner.
The three captive members of the Troika, now out of what they considered to be
immediate danger, were beginning to show signs of dissatisfaction with their
imprisonment. Warren, in particular, had been muttering words like ‘litigation’
and ‘personal injury’ since three o’ clock; in frustration, Buffy had finally
gagged him with a pillowcase. Still, as Willow pointed out, they couldn’t keep
them tied up against the living room wall forever.
They needed to break the code, and fast. The Troika weren’t their only
complication – XandePierre was rapidly metamorphosing from a
more-or-less-agreeable blank slate to someone much less benign. He’d shouted at
Anya twice this afternoon, and once raised his hand as if to strike Tara, when
she reached over to remove his not-quite-empty juice glass.
That had done it. Buffy had the Blue Tavernier in her pocket now, and
XandePierre had his orders: sit, stay, and shut up.
He didn’t look happy, but so far it was working … should he show signs of
restlessness, Buffy had only to curl her fingers around the smooth shiny lump
in her pocket for him to lapse back into sullen, gray-eyed obedience.
Still. It was time to fix him for real.
Willow shook her head. “Some of this makes perfect sense,” she said. “And then
some of it’s … well, it’s just very random.”
Buffy raised an eyebrow. “I was thinking it was ALL random.”
“Well, this seems pretty self-explanatory. ‘When one of us is lost, is not
here, he must be inside us.’ The lost one has to be Xander, and we’re the ones
who have the information; we just don’t know what it is.”
Willow stabbed at the page with her forefinger. “And ‘There’s no place like
that anywhere in the world’ – I think that must mean that we don’t need to
travel to any particular place, or have any particular equipment, for the
reversal spell to work. We’ve got everything we need.”
“Some of it has to be metaphor, too,” Anya chimed in. “That business about not
looking back – you see that a lot. You know. In those motivational business
catalogs.” She didn’t appear to notice the rolled eyes that accompanied this
statement, just looked thoughtful. “And this part, about being able to say
‘it’s nothing’ and have it really BE nothing – well, that’s just literature.
Willow’s head came up like a napping cat who’s just heard the can opener.
“Anya,” she said. “What did you say?”
“Sartre,” Anya said. “French existentialist writer. Very influential.” She
sniffed. “Even vengeance demons read, you know.”
“You’re a genius,” Willow said, and pounded her forehead with the heel of her
hand. “Why didn’t I see it before? It’s Sartre’s mirror theory. Has to be.”
Buffy looked at her blankly. “What?”
“I don’t know, Red,” Spike said. “Ol’ Jean-Paul came along about a hundred
years too late for the French Revolution.” Willow shook her head.
“I don’t think it matters,” she said. “The idea was in the French school of
thought long before he codified it. It’s worth a try, anyway.”
“Will.” Buffy rolled her eyes. “Could you please, PLEASE speak English?”
“Oh. Sorry.” Willow bit her lip. “I really don’t know where to start.”
“Let me,” Spike said, and ran his tongue over his teeth. “Okay. Basically,
Sartre believed that one person’s reality is shaped by how other people view
Buffy looked blank.
He tried again. “That you become what is reflected back to you by your
society,” he said. “The people around you. Your mirror.”
Buffy frowned. “So we’re all just supposed to look at XandePierre and THINK him
into turning back into Xander?”
“No,” Willow said. “I don’t think it’s meant literally here. It’s just a clue.
We have to use a mirror for the spell.” She nodded emphatically. “It makes all
kinds of sense, Buffy. A mirror’s a very powerful symbol of reversal.”
“Okay,” Buffy said. “But then, that leaves the parts about the cloth and the
clothes and the pain. Which I’m assuming are pretty significant, too.”
Tara poked her head into the living room. “Dinner.”
They laid the papers aside, turned the lights out on the muffled protests of
the Troika, and trooped into the dining room. Buffy was just about to dig into
her rice pilaf when she heard a car drive up and stop.
“We expecting anyone?”
They all sat staring at each other. Had someone missed the Troika? Had they
left a clue?
Were they about to get busted? Buffy fingered the diamond in her pocket and
felt her heart sink.
Footsteps on the walk. A knock on the door. It opened.
“Hello?” Stamping feet on the mat. “Hello? Buffy? Willow? Anyone home?”
"Good Lord," Giles said again. Buffy rolled her eyes.
Dinner was over, she'd taken Giles out onto the deck for a little
Watcher-Slayer catch-up, and it had pretty much been a half hour of "Good
Lord," interspersed with an occasional "Dear God" and a
"Hmm" or two.
She stopped talking, and he raised his eyebrows at her.
"Is that everything?"
He took his glasses off, stared at them for a second, then put them back on.
"Mind if I summarize?"
She shook her head.
"All right then." Giles put his index finger in the air. "Feel
free to jump in and clarify any time here. You, feeling distanced from your
friends and your sister, turn to Spike, a
for-all-practical-intents-neutered-but-still-soulless demon, for ... ahem,
comfort. Despite the fact that he tells you that you've been ... damaged
... by your own resurrection."
He added another finger. "The diamond thieves, who are not, as you had
imagined, demons, but merely technologically advanced engineering-school
dropouts with a comic book fetish, place a spell on the diamond. Intending to
make you their evil ally, they instead manage to imbue Xander's body with the
soul of Maximilien Robespierre. The benefit of which remains to be seen, either
to them or to anyone else. Am I right so far?"
Buffy nodded tersely.
"Thirdly." Giles' ring finger shot up. "Willow manages to,
through the irresponsible use of Dark magic, unleash a powerful demon on
Sunnydale. This demon kidnaps one of the diamond thieves and escapes with him
to another dimension. Then, having sworn OFF magic," - here Giles' voice began
to shake slightly - "Willow joins with Tara in opening a portal and
sending you and Spike through it for purposes of reconnaissance and capture.
Which you do, somehow, despite all odds to the contrary."
"You gotta love me, Giles," Buffy murmured. "Always beating
"Yes, well." He looked tired. "In this case, you're fortunate.
The research I did on the portal you call the Tollbooth indicates six known
cases of successful opening. In the event that someone actually passed through,
they did not manage to return."
"You don't have me to thank for it," Buffy said quietly. "I
didn't ask Spike to come with me - he did that on his own. And he was prepared
to stay, knowing what that would mean for him." She set her jaw. "I
think you've got to take back that soulless-demon thing, Giles."
"Buffy -" he started, but she cut him off.
"No. Don't `Buffy' me." Her hands were fisted in her lap. "Don't
even look at me that way, Giles. You don't have the right." She faced him
down, eyes shimmering with tears she refused to shed. "You sit there and
list off everything that's happened since you left," she said fiercely,
"like we're some kind of stupid preschoolers. Like this is `Home Alone in
Sunnydale', and aren't we cute and brainless and oh-so-lucky that things worked
out. But it's not all our fault."
"No one's saying -"
"Just listen, goddammit," she snapped. "Spike was right. I did
come back wrong. Sad, and bitter, and empty. And carrying around a big old
death wish everywhere I went. It's not his fault that he's the only one who saw
it." Her chin quivered. "You were my Watcher. You should have seen it
too. But all you could think was that I wasn't strong enough on my own, adult
enough. Damn it, I was broken! I was barely getting up in the
She gritted her teeth. "What do you call moving back to England, Giles?
`Tough love'? Well, fuck you, if that's the case, and fuck you for telling me
I've screwed this up. Since when did a Slayer live through high school? Since
when did anyone, EVER, have to figure out the kind of stuff I've had to?"
She pushed herself to her feet. "They should have sprung Faith," she
said, more quietly. "They shouldn't have brought me back. You were right
about that. Because by the time I came back, they didn't really need me
"That's not true."
"Isn't it?" She whirled on him. "Explain, then. Explain the
distance, the disconnection, the guilt. Explain to me why the first two months
I was back, no one could look me in the eye, not even you. You knew I shouldn't
be here." She dashed at her eyes with the back of her hand. "But I
am, damn it. I'm here. And he saw that."
"Hole in one, Giles." She looked more fierce, more adult, more
beautiful than he'd ever remembered seeing her. "This isn't Angel. No soul
to lose. Not Riley. No weaknesses to excuse and pass over. This is the real
thing, the Real McCoy. If I'm damaged, I'm damaged. If I'm not quite right,
well, so be it. He's a little cracked himself. But I'm standing here and
telling you that I know him, Giles, I KNOW him, and that there's a man there
under all that black leather and bleach." She took a shuddering breath.
"A good man."
"Now. This is how it is." Buffy gripped the wooden railing of the
deck with white knuckles. "We still have half a problem left, because
Xander needs his soul back. And we'd kind of like to know how Spike got his
Get-Out-Of-The-Crypt-Free Card. He'd feel better knowing if it's temporary or
permanent, in case he feels the urge to get a suntan tomorrow. If you can help
us with that, we'll welcome your help." She shot him a tense, regal stare.
"But if all you have to offer is criticism of our methods and suspicion
toward my lover, you can just say your goodbyes now and get back in your rental
Please, please, let me say this without breaking down, she thought, and
dug her fingers harder into the railing. "We've gotten this far on our
own. We can do the rest, too."
His head was in his hands. "Oh, Buffy."
Her gaze softened. What was that in his eyes? Regret? Pain?
God, she loved him.
"I needed you," she whispered. "We all did. We still do."
He squared his shoulders, took off his glasses to clean them one more time.
"I'm sorry I wasn't here for you," he said, so quietly she had to
strain to hear him. "But I'm here now. Tell me what I can do."
Unseen in the shadows, Spike dropped his cigarette and jammed his hands in his
pockets, his heart too full for words.
There's a man there, she'd said.
A good man.
He was sort of beginning to believe it himself.
He woke up before she did, just as usual, and lay propped up
on pillows, looking around her tidy little bedroom, white and glowing like the inside
of a seashell in the first pale glimmer of dawn. Their clothes from the day
before lay in a hastily-discarded tangle on the hooked rug next to the bed;
Spike observed with an odd sort of detachment that one arm of Buffy’s pink
sweater was flung outward, as if still inhabited by an invisible arm, and that
the leg of his trousers lay possessively over the hem of her skirt.
Stretch out your arms and take hold of the cloth of your
clothes in both hands.
Good and bad are mixed – if you don’t have both, you
don’t belong with us.
The cure for pain is in the pain.
There were some things, Spike thought (not for the first
time), that even a century of existence couldn’t begin to prepare you for.
He slid out of bed, careful not to wake Buffy, and patted through
last night’s pockets for a pen. Scribbling a hasty note on the corner of an
envelope he’d found on her desk, he tucked it under her pillow and shrugged
himself into the shirt and jeans that lay neatly folded on top of the chair by
the door. They smelt of fabric softener instead of cigarettes, a sure sign
that someone – probably Tara – had sneaked them off the floor and put them
through the laundry.
He couldn’t remember the last time someone had washed his
clothes for him. The baby-powder scent of talc rose to his nostrils, sweet and
nostalgic and – as right as it seemed for this house of women – at the same
time utterly, utterly bizarre. For a moment, he pondered just taking them off
again and getting back into what he’d worn yesterday – then he shrugged, found
his wallet in the pocket of his duster, and looked back toward the sleeping
Slayer, now sprawled unconscious over his side of the bed as well as her own.
“Back in a flash, luv,” he murmured. “Got some things to
take care of.”
She didn’t stir.
The house was quiet.
He’d supposed that no one else would be awake, but he’d
forgotten that Giles was an early-morning man; the Watcher was sitting at the
dining-room table as Spike came down the stairs, wearing something that he
probably considered to be casual but still came off as stuffy, and writing
industriously in a leather-bound book. He looked up at Spike, opened his mouth
as if to say something, then – evidently thinking better of it – resolutely
shut it again and turned back to his writing.
“Morning,” Spike offered, and Giles grimaced.
“It is, rather, isn’t it?”
“Watcher’s journal?” Spike inquired, to break the tense
silence that followed. “Rather above and beyond the call of the duty at this
point, isn’t it, now?”
Giles made another face.
“Truth be told, it’s hard to break the habit,” he admitted.
Spike, who could have said any number of divinely ironic
things at that point, most of them along the
‘living-on-the-wild-side-are-we-mate?’ lines, took another surreptitious look
at the Watcher and decided to hold his peace. Giles had the look of a man torn
between tact and his better instincts.
Clearly, he had things he wanted to say, and just as
clearly, was determined to keep them to himself.
Personally, Spike figured that a little clearing-of-the-air
was probably for the best, given these particular circumstances. He cleared
his throat, and Giles looked up from his journal once again, forehead drawn
into an annoyed little ‘v’.
“Had your morning cuppa yet?”
Giles frowned. “No. No, I haven’t.” Unspoken: what’s
it to you? Spike, unfazed, jerked his thumb in the vague direction of the
“Thought I’d nip down to the corner,” he said; “pick up some
Krispy Kremes for when the others wake up.” He rolled his eyes toward the
ceiling. “French or not French, Harris can still put away the pastry; guess
there are some things magic just can’t change. And then, it’s still a bit of a
trip for me, being out and about in broad daylight.” He cut his eyes away,
deliberately offhanded. “Fancy a walk?”
“Dunno,” Spike said, casually cracking his neck. “Thought
maybe you could use the exercise. And –“ this quickly, as the Watcher’s
scowl deepened – “maybe that we could get a little man-to-man chat in before
the Slayer gets her morning mojo on.” He raised one eyebrow. “How about it,
Giles hesitated, then closed his book.
“Well,” he said slowly. “It was quite a long plane
ride, yesterday.” His eyes flicked to Spike’s and held. “And it’s not as if
they have any proper tea in the house, after all.”
“There you have it, then.”
They set off for the corner.
There wasn’t any proper English tea at Sunnydale Doughnuts (Ask
Us About Our Day!), either, as it turned out, which meant that Spike got to
watch Giles fuss about and mutter over a Lipton tea bag … a more entertaining
process than the telling of it would seem to suggest. He himself opted for
coffee, one of the ultra-sweet, elaborate bastardizations of the macchiato
that Californians seemed so fond of. This one boasted an inch of foam on the
top of the cup, and enough cinnamon and cocoa powder over that to make
Columbus want to discover America again.
Settling back in his trendy little white-pine Danish chair
at the window table, he took a sip, felt the caffeine buzz into his system,
closed his eyes against the buttery stream of sunlight pouring into the room,
and waited for Giles to make the first move.
He didn’t have long to wait.
“It’s really true,” Giles said quietly. “I thought Buffy
must have been mistaken about the … the sunlight issue. But it’s really
true.” His eyes seemed held against their will to the sight of Spike’s hand on
the light-striped table. “When did you first notice it?”
Spike shrugged and slurped some more foam off the top of his
cappucino. “The other morning,” he said guardedly. “After – well, after it
happened. After we came back. You know – I heard her tell you last night.”
He toyed with the empty sugar packet by his cup. “Must have been tired,” he
said. “It was a long night. I slept late. And when I woke up, there I was.
Walking on sunshine and all that.”
“Isn’t it just?” Spike’s eyes slid sideways to the
gold-streaked street outside the window. “Don’t suppose you’d have any
theories about it. Being Idea Man and all.”
“Not as such. Though …”
Giles peered irritably at his tea, curled his lip, and
pushed it away untouched. “Well, there’s no hard evidence to support this,” he
said; “it’s just a theory. Not even a theory – I suppose if one were to
categorise it, it’d fall more into the field of literature …” He
trailed off. “Oh, all right. It’s really only a hunch. But it certainly
seems as if you’ve been granted a … a cosmic forbearance, of a sort.”
“Once again,” Spike requested. “In the Queen’s English,
this time.” Giles scowled, then sighed.
“A wish, all right? Are those short enough words for you to
He made a production of capturing his sodden tea bag with
his spoon, then wrapping the string round it like a parcel and squeezing out
the excess water. “It’s a very common theme in mythology, in … in fairy
tales. You performed a selfless, heroic act for the benefit of someone other
than yourself, and in return you’re granted a … well, a gift. A wish. Your
“I didn’t do it to be heroic.”
“No.” Spike swallowed hard, looked the Watcher in the
eyes. “I went up there with her because no one else would. And I did what I
did because if I hadn’t, she would have. Again.”
An expression Spike couldn’t read swept Giles’ face. He cut
his eyes away.
“Ah,” he said finally. “For love, then?”
“Would you believe me if I agreed with you?” Spike took
another slug of his cappucino. “I’ve said it before, you know, and nobody
broke out the tickertape. Why should things change now?”
“Things always change.” Giles hesitated. “People too, I
“Big of you, Rupert.”
“Look, this isn’t easy for me.” Dragging his cup back
toward him, Giles took a gulp of his tea, closed his eyes, and shuddered as if
he’d just drunk battery acid. “I’ve got a veritable library of examples when
it comes to you being self-centred, unhealthily obsessed, and on the verge of
becoming unhinged where Buffy is concerned. I can’t think of too many
instances where you acted selflessly. To come back and find you painted the
Hero of the Day is, frankly, a bit hard to swallow.”
“How do you think I feel? My shirt smells like baby
powder.” Spike took a deep breath. “Look,” he said. “I may still not be
a man, and I realise that. There’s still a monster in there somewhere, and
he’s probably always going to be there, despite the fact that I never asked for
him. But now I’ve got a chance, a chance to be what I could have been
if it had never happened. Understand?”
Giles’ eyes went sharp behind his spectacles. “I think so,”
he said slowly.
“I never expected this.” Spike gestured toward the sunny
street. “I never expected her to look my way – not really. But damned if I’m
going to screw it up, now that I’ve got it. And damned if I’m going to let her
shoulder it alone, as long as I can be there too. Suss that?”
Another piercing glance. A slow nod.
“What you did in the Tollbooth,” Giles said after a moment
of silence. “I don’t know too many human men who would have done the same.”
He took another wincing sip of his tea, his eyes never leaving Spike’s.
“Whatever our differences, I must admit that. And that you’ve earned your
right to daylight.”
He hesitated, then offered Spike a tentative smile.
At peace with himself, Spike reached for his second
“So,” he said with his mouth full. “Think they’re up yet?”