Beauty Effulgent

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La Dolce Morte

Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three
Chapter Four Chapter Five Conclusion


Description:                Post - “Chosen”  BTVS; Post- “Shells,” pre-

                                    "Underneath" Angel.

Continuation of my story “All that Ends Well”.   Shamelessly ‘shippy, and fairly smutless, Spuffy-in-Rome reunion story.  I apologize in advance for my soft-fades and dubious cultural allusions, but hey, I’m having fun with this, and if anyone else does, it’s just a bonus.  Just enough angst to keep things interesting.  Contains quotes or allusions to a ton of episodes including "Once More with Feeling," "Chosen," "Lover's Walk" and, I'm sure, others I'm forgetting.  The chipmunk metaphor comes from "Homicide: Life on the Street," albeit in a much different context -- however, whenever you can thank Daniel Baldwin in the headnotes, you should.  Thanks, Daniel.


Thanks:                      Also thanks to David Fury's DVD commentary to "Real Me” for the information that SMG hates the way she looks when she laughs, LaReina and Suestress for constructive comments, Eddie for crying, Jon Stewart for "I'm not a piece of meat," Keith for the Russell Crowe line, and Russell Crowe for helping us all (except maybe Spike) to get over him.


Pairing                        Spike/Buffy.  And seriously, what else do you need?


Disclaimers:             Shockingly enough, I don’t own these characters and
                                  am in no way affiliated with Mutant Enemy or Joss
                                  Whedon.  However, like Illyria, I’d like to keep Spike
                                   as my pet.


Some nights, she still patrolled by herself.  She didn’t need to.  Giles told her, the last day of Sunnydale.  S-Day, they called it now.   The man who would always be her watcher put a hand on each of her shoulders and blinked back tears as he said, “The slayer never has to be alone anymore.”


And for a while she thought, great.  Like old times.  Me and Giles, Xander and Willow and Dawn.  Plus a whole clubhouse of slayers and I don’t have to be in charge.  Of course, there was Faith.  And Principal Wood, and Andrew, and the whole clubhouse of slayers, which wasn’t always as great as it sounded.  Anya was gone, that was especially hard for Xander.  Angel was doing his own thing, Riley was Dark-Ops-Knew-Where, and she couldn’t even bring herself to think about Spike.  Or her mother.


Who was she kidding, it would never be old times?  They were needed all over the world, and the people with the expertise had to split up, to lead everywhere.  She bawled when she said good-bye to Willow, Xander, and Giles.   But Willow set up what she called a CrystalLink -- like the best fiber optic technology, she boasted in her modest Willow way, only it didn’t need a computer.  Or fiber.  Or optics.  “Her best trick yet,” beamed Kennedy, and with that light in the girl’s eyes when she looked at Willow, Buffy could even begin to like her a little.


Now every day -- at rotating hours, since everyone was in a different time zone, and somebody deserved to sleep once in a while -- Giles and Xander and Willow and Buffy powered up a four-way link.  Dawn or Kennedy would sometimes sit in, maybe even Andrew or Xander’s new slayer-partner-and-maybe-more, an East Indian girl named Sameena, who had joined them a few weeks after the Hellmouth -- but everyone understood that it was about the four of them.  They’d lost their way to each other before, and they all vowed it wouldn’t happen again.  Buffy always felt better after linking up with the others -- together, stronger.  She gradually realized that it wasn’t only their images and voices that Willow’s CrystalLink channeled, but something in the energy of all of them.  Once Buffy settled in Rome, there was Dawn of course.  There were also other slayers, and a young, newly-minted watcher -- Alessandro -- who gave Dawn the giggles.   Buffy never had to patrol alone.


But still.  There were nights like this one when she missed it.  Dawn was staying over with some friends from school, but Buffy told Alessandro she was staying home with Dawn.  She told Dawn she was out working with Alessandro and his charge, Francesca.  The lies gave Buffy a bit of a guilt pang.  This was the same game she used to play between her mother and Giles.   Shouldn’t she be over it?


Of course, it worried her that something might happen to her and leave Dawn alone.   But not that much.  She had fought alone for years, and for all she knew, depending on others to watch her back might be making her soft.  *And besides, love, you’re never alone.*  She tried hearing the voice in her ear, where it had rung for months after she watched Spike, and Sunnydale, dissolve.  But the truth was that it had left her.  She had worked through some things, convinced herself that she had come to rely on him too much.  In the last months before S-Day, she had shut everyone else out and leaned too completely on the one whose devotion she could count on.  However stupid that might be, Spike was devoted.  In the end, it turned out she’d been right to stand by him, but was she justified or just lucky?  Whatever it had been -- love, need, dependence -- that chapter in her life was over.


Which was why she didn’t need to be thinking about it, at that particular moment, as it was interfering, just slightly, with her ability to wail on this vampire.  “Just one of you?”  he sneered, flipping off the wall of the tomb, down into the catacomb.  “I thought slayers were hunting in packs these days.”


“Not one,” Buffy corrected, “The.  I’m the only real game in town.”  Or that was what she thought they were saying.  She’d been working through a course on audiotape, but her Italian was still rusty.   She kicked a stone toward him and flipped out of the way.


“What?”  The vamp suddenly stopped, and switched into English.  “Stupid tourist slayers.  You just said something about your uncle needing new cheese.”


“No, it was -- my brother.  A cow.  Maybe I -- and where do you come off whining about tourists?  Do you know how much the economy of this country?  Oh, never mind.”  She raised her stake to aim at the snooty vamp’s heart, and it had barely left her hand, when he dissolved to dust.


“Heh.”  Buffy rubbed her hands together.  “Parlais-vous that.  Or -- come se?  Hablo?  Crap.”  She stepped forward to retrieve the stake and frowned.  Her throw seemed to have come slightly wide of the mark, and in the middle of the dustpile rested a long wooden pole she had never seen before.  Her spine tingled and she straightened.  “Alessandro?  Francie?  Look, I’m sorry I went off on my own but --”  She turned and saw a tall figure in a trench coat, silhouetted in the entrance of the tomb.


Said the familiar voice: “Hello, cutie.”




Buffy stiffened and raised her stake.  “Nice try.”


“Nice try?” Spike repeated.  He had imagined a lot of possible receptions, but not that one.  “Hey now, I got him with one throw and -- from way across here and -- I know you’re not big on the damsel-saving bit, but I wasn’t thinking you needed my help, just a bit of fun --” He started toward her, and she feinted at him with the stake.  Spike backed up and raised his hands.  “Buffy?  Come on, Buffy, it’s me.”


 “And who is that?  You’re not the First, or you wouldn’t have been able to throw that stake, but what?  A doppleganger?  A robot?  Somebody screwing with my mind because, I don’t know, it’s fun?”


“Buffy --” He moved into a shaft of moonlight that leaked through the tomb’s crumbling roof.  “Don’t you know me?”  In the excitement of the kill, his face had shifted into its vampire form.  He shook his head and let it dissolve into his human features. “It’s Spike.”


“Spike,” she spit out, “Is dead.”  But her head tilted to look at him, showing the slightest bit of what he wanted to take for hope.


“Honestly, love --” Suddenly, uncontrollably, he started to laugh.  “Honestly, so are you.  But us heroic, world-saving martyr types have a little habit of not staying that way.”


“No.”  She kept the stake out, but moved cautiously toward him.  “No.  Spike’s gone.  He’s dead.  I buried that.  Him.  I --” He raised his arms and spread them, as if to let her frisk him.  She touched the point of the stake to his chest, and he stayed frozen as she raised a hand to explore his face.  “Spike,” she whispered, and her voice shook as she said, “Prove it.”


No music swelled behind this kiss, but she tasted none the worse for that, or for all the time that had passed.



Chapter Two - Spike    Top


They walked the dark streets in silence, Spike sneaking occasional glances at Buffy, trying to make her blonde California looks fit with the Old World surroundings. Ever since Andrew had told him that she was here, Spike had tried over and over to picture Buffy in Rome. Imagination always failed him. He knew the city well: ancient, haunted, appetizing and carnivorous at once. And far too thick with posers for his taste, both in the human and sub- terrestrial crowds. He hadn’t been able to visualize Buffy in one of those pulsing overcrowded clubs, packed tight with naively biteable Americans and willing Eurotrash victims.


If he concentrated, he could almost put her in motion scattering bread before pigeons in the Forum, loafing in a café or riding past Trevi Fountain on one of those dippy motor scooters. Daylight or twilight images, ones he couldn’t have seen himself. As schoolboy William, he had read “Childe Harolde’s Pilgrimage” (by then, shamefully out of fashion)behind his tutor’s back, and like every mad-bad-and-dangerous-to-know wannabe, had nourished youthful dreams of cutting a decadent Byronic swathe through the continent. But the state of the family finances after his father’s death had turned even the obligatory pre-University continental tour into an unpardonable extravagance. His mother had assured him that they would scrape the money together, but William had been the one to insist on responsibility, and with one thing and another he had never made it to Italy while there was breath in his body.


Oh, bloody hell.  Where was this ridiculous mental whine coming from? He could spend an eternity in the Eternal City, and he doubted if he would get to like it anymore. And he had seen Rome by day often enough, over the years. In the pictures. Not that Drusilla had ever understood his fascination with flickering images. She liked a good night at the movies as much as the next vamp -- darkness, confined space, no one outside listening for the screams. But she never cared much about what was on the screen, which was much less interesting, he supposed, than the spectral images floating around in her brain, pretty much all the time. But Spike didn’t have the vision thing, and he liked the occasional glimpse of the world under the sun. Besides, he figured that once a bloke had fed and shagged, he needed something to pass the time.


Of course, he’d gone cold turkey off of cinema raids back in 1980, after he and Dru had almost gotten burned to death in Sydney. There was an angry mob outside, and he’d gotten a bit caught up in the end of The Empire Strikes Back -- not normally his sort of thing, to be sure, but, “That walking garbage can thing is his father? Makes no bleeding sense!” To which Dru had replied with a withering glare, “If you send your goslings down the path of pins and needles, they will come home to nest in your eyeballs.” Or maybe that was what she’d said in ‘58, when he’d suggested skipping out of Havana before New Year’s Eve. And what a revolution they would have missed -- oh, those were some times.


Dru had always liked Rome, of course. Dark alleys, ruins, catacombs, plenty of people to eat. Hiding places and food, those were Dru’s standards. She’d even given him hell just for moving to a place called Sunnydale, though he’d tried to explain that it was one of those names that meant the opposite, like Greenland, or the People’s Republic of China. Dru didn’t have much interest in history, though, maybe because she had lived through a bit more of it than he had.


But Rome was definitely a Drusilla city, in his mind. Like Havana, or Shanghai, or Prague. Prague had tried to kill her, granted, but that made it the Dru-est city of all. It was easier to imagine Buffy in Florence or Paris. He wasn’t about to tell Buffy, but he had played this game quite a bit. Imagining the city, imagining the girl who would be with him. Edinburgh was Buffy; Glasgow Dru. Dru in Moscow, Buffy in Petersburg or Leningrad, or whatever the bloody hell they were calling it these days. Drusilla was the one for London, but oh, he could imagine Manchester with Buffy. He had no idea what any of this meant, except that over the years, he had seen so much of the world that he wanted to see it with someone else. And also, over the years, he’d clearly had too much spare time.


 “Are you coming in or aren’t you?”  Buffy stepped through a door off the narrow, cobbled alley, and shook the keys at him.  “Hello, undead boy?”


“Sorry?” He snapped out of daydream of sunrise in Budapest.  Months there’d been, to dream of her, and now his dreams were so mixed up with realities that he could look through the flesh and blood slayer in front of him.  And besides, sunrise?  That was peachy, getting burned to a bloody crisp.  Women made you soft in the head, no doubt about it.  But, at the moment, he couldn’t work up much in the way of righteous anger.


Moving to follow Buffy inside, Spike slammed into the invisible vertical plane of the threshold.  His head rang.  He would never get used to that.  “Um, love?”  Slapping the solid air with his palm.  “’Are you or aren’t you?’ apparently doesn’t add up to an invitation.”


“Oh, sorry.”  She scrunched her eyes shut and shook her head.  “Not so much hanging socially with the vampires lately.


“Yes?”  He moved his hand in an encouraging ‘and now -’ gesture.


“Fine, come --”    She backed against the wall, which was stucco, nicely sponge painted, and covered from floor to ceiling with an array of crosses.


“Oh bloody hell,” Spike sighed. “It’s me, Buffy.”


“All of you?”


“Whoever sent me back,” he said quietly.  “Did it in one piece.  Soul and all.”


“Right,” she said.  “Well, maybe you should just let me tie you up or --”


The instinct to wiggle an eyebrow was almost irresistible, but he settled for a smirk.


“Cute,” she said.  Her eyes disagreed.  She took a cross from the wall and held it out as she walked toward him.   “Put up your hands --”


“Sod it, Buffy, you knew me before I had a soul and it wasn’t such a bloody bad time.”  She froze in her tracks.  Spike squeezed his eyes shut and lowered his head, bit his tongue until it drew blood.  The things that could come out of his idiot mouth.  “I didn’t mean --  Look, I’ll go.”


“Come in.”


He looked up.  Blinked. Tilted his head to one side. “Sorry?”  Swatted his hand through the door, decided the opening was real, and stepped through it.


“You are sorry.  You couldn’t fake that look.“  She moved back from him, still, but said.  “We got past that.”


“Aye, that we did, love, and --.”  He moved forward, stepping as close as he dared to the wall of crosses, his eyes on them.  “I knew this bird in Dublin, right?  Vamp, she was, but a bit smitten with a Kahn-dai demon.  You know how those buggers are, all flowy hair and biceps when they’re trying to impress a girl, then they move in on her territory and it’s all about the evisceration.  How’s it go, something with the course of true love smoothing you over?  As it happens, the bird manages to get the bloke out of her crypt, he goes back and the bedroom is all done over in goat’s blood.  Which naturally for a Kahn-dai is like --”  He gestured at the wall.  “Well, like that.  He couldn’t get through the door without it was like his head would explode, and the way of it was, she wasn’t afraid of him coming in after her.  She was afraid of inviting him in.  See a girl with her inner sanctum all done up to fight the fangy nasties and you might think she was --”


“A vampire slayer?”


“That’s such a brutal word you know.  Slayer,” he said.  Rolling it around in his mouth, relishing the weight and flavor of it.


“Whereas vampire has the nice ring of Sundays in the park with kittens.”  She pointed at the wall behind him.  “I don’t know if those can hurt you, but you may want to look before you back into them.”  He turned, shuddered, and shied away from another wall of crosses.  And another Buffy, and  no one else in the room.  A wall-size mirror.


“Extra security,” she shrugged.  “Equipped by the council as a measure against double agents.”


“And don’t those funny buggers think of everything,” he said.  *Except  for how damn hot that could be.  In front of a mirror, watching me and her, except it’s just her.*  He knew better than to mention it, at least not yet.   Besides, from the sudden blush on her cheeks, he imagined she was thinking the same thing.


 She hastily turned to a window in the back and dropped the shade.  “In case we stay up talking all night, and get lost in the conversation.”


“So I don’t get all burnt up again so soon.  Girl hasn’t forgot how to entertain.  Not been talking to Angel then?”


“Excuse me, Sir Spike of the Dizzying Segues?”


“You said, you’ve not been social with the vampires lately, so I take it -- not all buddy with the Forehead Ranger.”


“Oh,” Buffy groaned.  “Spike, I so do not want to talk about Angel.  Worrying about what he’s up to is giving me such a load of grief and -- don’t smile.”




“This is serious.  I’ve always thought of him as the one I can really trust and it turns out -- have you heard of Wolfram and Hart?”


“You know what, pet?  This sounds like a long, boring story, and maybe the kind of thing we should be discussing over, a nice chianti, or a Guinness?”


Buffy shook her head.  “I’ve got Gatorade.  Kind of shopping with little sis in mind, these days -- she’s away tonight, we won’t wake her.  But you’re right.  Boring, depressing story, and obviously, you’ve got a better one.  Come on.  Where’ve you been?  Spill.  I want to get on the CrystalLink to Giles and Willow and the others.”


“Whoa, whoa!”  Spike held up his hands.  “Let’s leave this witch and watcher linkup out of it for a minute, OK?  I came here to talk to you.  I’ve been thinking about how to tell you this story.  I’ve sort of rehearsed it, and I’ve about got it down, so, you game?”


“All ears,” she said, with an appropriate gesture.  She sat on a divan lined up against a wall, to Spike’s relief, away from the crosses.


“OK, let me see if I have it --”  Spike tilted his head back, as if reciting, “I didn’t get burnt up, like you thought.  I was gone for a while and, a few months ago I got back, don’t know from where.  And since then, I’ve been around.  Found out you were here.  Came and saw you.”


Buffy stared at him.  “That’s your story?  You didn’t get burnt up, you were gone, you’re back.  That’s it?  And the past few months you’ve been --”


“Holed up in a basement?  Talking to invisible people?  No, and no.”  He knocked on his head.  “Sane as ever.”


They both said simultaneously.  “For what that’s worth.”


“Spike, I know the readjustment may be hard, but we really need to run this by Giles.  And Willow, and -- don’t you see, there’s so much that needs explaining.”


Spike nodded.  “Right.”  Suddenly weary and hungry, he slouched into a chair across from her and rolled his head back on the cushion.  “And I’m glad you didn’t get burnt up, too.”


“I --” Buffy blinked.  “I said that.  I did say that.”  He shook his head.  “Well, we were --”  She pointed at her lips.


“And here I thought that was just how you say hello to an old friend.”


“Stop.”  She ran a hand through her hair, sighed, and sank back on the sofa.  “Spike, I’m glad you didn’t get burnt up.  Enormously glad.  You --”  She swallowed, leaned forward, and looked at him.  “You’re happy about it?  Right?”


“You mean, did I spend my time away from earth rolling in green pastures, dreaming of puppies and apple pie, and listening to Velvet Underground bootlegs?”


“Don’t mock that.”


“Well, I di’nt.  OK?  I was here, and then I burnt, and then I wasn’t, then somehow I got unburnt, and I was here again.  Incorporeal for a while, but not so much of a heaven or hell type state.  Hate to say it, love, but I think that’s what ends up being there for most of us.  You might have hit the lottery the first time around, but --”


“Believe me,” she said.  “I thought of that.  It’s one of the things that kept me from -- .  After I was back, if I’d thought I could just get it over with here and go back where I was.  I wouldn’t have even had to work on it.  Just -- like you said one time, get careless and let some vamp slip in and have a good day.”


“And the other?”




“You said one reason.  The other would be, what?  All the joy life sends?  Family and friends?  Christmas and puppies and half-price sales at Bloomies?”




“My turn to say - Sorry?”


“Oh quit.”  She hugged her knees and pulled them close to her chest.  “You knew damn well that was what I meant.  And don’t smile.  I hated you most of that time, Spike.  At least, I believed I did.”


“You always did know how to make a bloke feel good about himself.”


“That’s the way it was, Spike, then.  It wasn’t just some game, either, whatever you thought.  I really hated you, and I hated what was happening.  But you gave me something that tied me to earth.  To life.  Let me feel something, whatever it was.  All my friends were trying so hard to be there for me, but I shut them out.  I hated them too in a way, more than I hated you sometimes.  But I’m grateful to them.  And to you.  Even if you had your own reasons, you helped me.”


“Buffy.”  He dipped his head and looked her in the eye.  “Buffy, you know the reason.”


“Say it, then.  If I have to say my part, you have to say yours.”


“I loved you, Buffy.  For years, I knew it.  And maybe before I knew it.  Maybe as long as I’ve known you.”  He shook his head.  “I actually was not aware that there was a problem with me not saying it enough.”


“Loved?” she repeated, like that was all she had heard.


“I don’t have any plans to stop.  Because believe me, Buffy, if I knew how --.  I loved you.  I love you.  I will love you.”


“OK, Spike, you don’t have to conjugate it.”


“Hey,” He jumped back and spread his hands.  “I didn’t even bring that up.”


“Conjugate, Spike.  Like a verb.”


“Well, I know it’s a verb.  I -- oh.”


“So Spike.”  Buffy turned onto her knees and moved closer.  “We get to the heart of things here.  Did you come here to conjugate me?”


“No!  Well, yeah.  I mean.  What I mean is --”  He went into reciting mode again, tongue racing ahead of his scared and baffled brain.  He didn’t even try to locate his heart. “Buffy, I don’t have a lot of friends.  I’m back on this earth, some powers that be somewhere might possibly know why, but I’m not holding my breath that they’re gonna get all share-y.  So where else am I going to turn except to a person who treated me like a man?  Always looked on me as a friend.”


“You worked on that little speech too, huh?”


“Not bad?”


“Very eloquent.  And total bullshit.  You said it yourself, Spike.  You weren’t talking about us.  It was me and someone else neither of us wants to mention.  But what you said was that we’ll never be friends.  We’ll fight and we’ll, what’s that nice word, shag, and we’ll hate each other until we quiver --”


“You liked that one?  I picked it up from a troubadour in Bucharest, before Dru and me ate him.  The part about “love’s bitch,” though,  I added that myself.”


“For God’s sake, Spike.  What else do I have to do?”  Buffy leaned over, grabbed his shoulder, and kissed him fiercely on the mouth.


She pulled away and stared him in the eyes.  Spike swallowed, “Well.  That’s a start.”  Buffy slid into his lap and started working on his belt.  He pushed his face into her chest and tore a button away with his teeth.  Buffy bent down and pressed lips to his, kissed the button out of his mouth and spit it across the room.


“Slayer,” he groaned, then gasped, “Sorry about the shirt.”


“What the hell,” she said.  “I need an excuse to go shopping.”


Chapter Three - Buffy    Top


Buffy had nothing that she could feed to a vampire.  She pulled the sash on her black kimono tighter and yanked open the refrigerator for the third time.    Nothing that would be in here anyway, nothing in the way of food.   Here was a carton of  meat product Dawn had picked up when Buffy gave her some euros for the café.  She poked a finger into the bottom of the container and reddish juice pooled around it.  Maybe there was blood in that?  He would eat anything of course.  For the texture, he said.  But he didn’t really taste food, and it wouldn’t fill him up.  She couldn’t go to a butcher for hours yet, and right now, she knew, he would be exhausted and ravenous, but far from ready to call it a night.


*Maybe, pet.  Or maybe that’s just you. *  Oh, this was too much.  Spike’s not dead, she thought.  At least not anymore.  I don’t need to have imaginary conversations with him.  If I want to have a conversation with Spike, I can walk back into that room, where he’s lying in my bed where he just -- She lost the words for a moment, her body happy and frightened and shivering at the memory of it.  *And maybe you aren’t ready to go back in there, because the voice in your head is easier to handle.  Maybe you don’t have to worry about whether it’s saying anything you don’t like.*  Well, duh.  Wasn’t that what talking to yourself was for?


Buffy knew one thing that she wanted.  That was a start, so she heaped a bowl full of strawberry gelati, stopping only a second to pinch the flesh of her thigh.  Too much pasta, too much sweet stuff, but this wasn’t the night to worry about it.  And the man -- or whatever the hell he was  -- in her bed had not exactly complained.  Had he even managed to see her, or feel her, in the business of touching and tasting her?  She let the tremor run through her body and allowed herself to smile.  They had gone so easily to a place that seemed familiar, and she had to force herself to remember that it was not a place they had been before.  In the past, he had spoken her name gently, and he had grabbed and gnawed and handled her wildly, but never all at once.  It felt so easy, tonight, and she didn’t hate him.  She didn’t know if this was love, either, but it was something new, something she had never felt.


She picked up the bowls.  Two things easier to understand than the human or inhuman heart.  Blood and ice cream.  They would do until morning.



Chapter Four - Chipmunk Heart    Top


“I am happy to report,” Buffy said, pushing the bedroom door closed with one hip.  “That the house still appears to be standing.”        


Spike shook his head.  “We’ll have to do better next time.”


Buffy lowered her chin as she walked toward him.  “Easy, stamina boy.  I have to renew my resources.”  She tilted one bowl at him.  “In the form of ice cream.  You --” She shoved the other at him apologetically.  “There’s a little - meat juice or something, do you think that’ll hold you?”           


“I’ll survive.  So to speak.“  He pretended to look at the bowl, instead sneaking a glance of her breasts inside the loose kimono.  He hadn’t thought it possible, but her body was better than he remembered.  She’d filled out since he last saw her; lost that wan look. It suited her.  There was a new roundness in her hips, and she had murmured an apology about pasta and gelati.  *Yeah, Slayer, you look like hell,* he had gasped out, between mouthfuls of her flesh.  He hoped she could grasp that he liked her taking care of herself.  Not having the weight of the world on her shoulders, that was good for a girl.  And it wasn’t just that.  It was so easy to forget how young she was.  She was still growing into a woman’s body.  And here he’d been sulking half a world away, afraid she wouldn’t take him back, letting all that time go by.


In the winter, before the false Doyle showed up at his door, Spike had been passing the time of his pointless existence, cutting a modest swathe through the L.A. Goth scene.  Flaky girls with black nail polish who thought they were deep because they could pronounce the names of a few philosophers incorrectly.  Most of them were so boring that, just for the sake of variety, he’d fantasized about feeding on them after he shagged them.  Sometimes even before.


*Of course, I’m not going to do that,* he would repeat silently, *because it’s wrong.*  He wondered if it was his soul talking.  Still, most humans seemed to have souls, and he doubted if they had to go around reminding themselves not to kill people.  Often, the warning came out in Buffy’s voice, and suggested something completely different, but it was enough to keep him in check.  He wondered whether a day would come when he didn’t need the voice and, if that ever happened, whether he would be sorry.


“Paging one-track mind.”  Buffy shook the bowl at him, like you would do for a dog.  He rolled his eyes at her and took it, “It’ll do.”  She stuck out her tongue, and then he noticed her eyes wandering to his chest, which was bare and smooth, as he sat up in bed.  “Young lady, I see that look in your eyes.  I am not a piece of meat.”  Buffy gave him the finger, and slid in beside him.   “Honestly, I’m not sure this is a piece of meat, either.”  He got his mouth half around it, before he gagged on the pungent taste and spit.  “Bloody hell!”


“What?” she asked around the edge of her spoon.


He pointed at his mouth.  “Feeding me garlic now?”


“Oh.”  She frowned.  “You always said that was an old wives’ tale.”


“Well, I’d sort of like you to kiss this mouth some time tonight.  I don’t know what old wives say about that.”


“They say, ‘Like it’s any worse than his nasty cigarettes.’”


Spike rolled his head back, looked at the ceiling, and said to no one in particular, “All the nights I snorted Eau de Doublemeat Palace off her knickers, and here she goes, claiming the olfactory high ground.”          


Buffy gagged and almost shot ice cream out of her nose, cackling, “Doublemeat Palace.”  It was fucking amazing, with all the miserable shit in the world, those few incredible times when you really could look back on it and laugh.   Spike lay back in the bed, let her shaking body vibrate against him, the echo of a laugh rippling through her thigh.  For the moment, he wasn’t going bloody anywhere.


"Don't stare at me like that."  Buffy shook her hair away from her neck and pressed hands to her reddening cheeks.  "I look hate the way I look when I laugh."


"Yeah,” Spike raised an eyebrow in disbelief.  "I hear Grace Kelly had the same problem.  She used to wear a bag over her head."


"God."  Buffy stretched out her long neck and raised her eyes to the ceiling. "When I used to have imaginary conversations with you, you weren't always such an asshole."


"That was a compliment!" He tilted his head and put velvet in his voice, a touch of "Masterpiece Theatre."  "Oh, darling, you look lovely when you laugh."  And throwing as much of the wrong side of London as he could into the next three words.  "That better, then?"


"No," she sulked, and went back to her ice cream, taking it in slowly so he had no choice but to stare at her mouth.  Oh, this one knew what she was doing, and…wait a second, something she'd said.  "You had imaginary conversations with me?"


"Only when you were dead.  Don't make a thing of it."  She shook her head to dismiss the subject, and he knew for the moment there was no point in digging.


She scraped the last of the ice cream from the dish, and he realized how starving he was.   Still, it served him right.  The Wolfram & Hart jet was well-supplied with sacrificial blood that, despite Angel’s protests, had a suspiciously biped bouquet to it.  Spike had left all that tasty hemoglobin goodness on board, making no plans for provisions in Rome.  Of course not, because he hadn’t allowed himself to hold out any real hope for the reunion.   “Say, just for curiosity, I noticed a lot of stray cats in the alleys around here.  Do you know if anybody picks them up?”


Buffy smacked the back of his head.




Around the last mouthful of gelati, she said, “You are not going to eat a cat.”


“Well, I don’t mean here in the apartment.  All’s I’m saying is, if we were back in the States, someone would be picking up these vagrants and putting ‘em out of their misery, so to speak, and if I was in a position to provide a comparable service --”


She smacked him again.  “Quit while you’re ahead.  Assuming you’re ever ahead, which I don’t really recall you ever being.   If you stick around, I’ll go to the butcher in the morning and get you some pig’s blood.”


“Right.”  He looked at the ceiling, anywhere but at her.  “And whose choice would that be?”


“The butcher’s, I guess.”  She licked her spoon and stuck it to the end of her nose.  “Is there really any difference between pig’s blood and pig’s blood?”


“Buffy,” He drew in a deep breath and let it out.  “I can’t have a serious conversation when you have silverware stuck to your face.”


“Just flatware,” she said.  “Not real silver.  And for someone who doesn’t actually need to breathe,” Buffy said, dropping the  spoon into the bowl, “You do that dramatic sigh thing really well.”  She leaned over him to put the empty dish on the nightstand, and he gasped at the warmth of her arm.  Their eyes met, and instead of pulling away, Buffy kneaded his shoulder, and leaned in to kiss his cheek.  “I would say that staying or not is your choice.  Except, we have to think about Dawn.”


“So the sun comes up, I get stuck here.”  He raised one scarred eyebrow.  “I can’t imagine what we’ll do all day.”


“Dawn my sister Dawn.”


Spike nodded.  “I know.  Bad joke.”  He swallowed.  “How is the Little Bit?”


“Not so little anymore.” Buffy bit her lip and looked at him.


“Might be nice to see her but…” He gauged Buffy’s look.  “I’m guessing not.”


“I’m just thinking that Hey look, Uncle Spike spent the night! wouldn’t go on the first page of Buffy’s Guide to Responsible Parenting.”


“Right,” he said, trying not to think about what this told him about the status of Buffy’s bed over the past year, regretting the months he’d wasted and every one of the poser Goth girls, and poor hot stupid bloody Harmony. “So it’s not particularly me.”


“Well, the fact that you are supposed to be dead does factor into the ‘disruption of Dawn’s stable home environment’ equation.”


“Because I’m thinking she wasn’t really in the Spike fan club there at the end.”


“Spike,” Buffy sighed.  “You’d be amazed what going down in a blaze of glory can do.  You know you had a memorial ceremony.  Andrew wrote a song about you.”  A whisper of mischief crept into her grin.  “In elvish.”


“Well, there are perks of being dead,” he said.  “By which I mean, missing that.”


“Oh, it was lovely.  The part I understood.  There was a lot about Spock and the Prime Directive, Obi-Wan giving himself up so he could guide Luke, and um, James Gandolfini?  No, wait --”


“Gandalf the White, in the pit of the Balrog,” Spike guessed, remembering  Andrew's words on their recent reunion.


“Yeah!”  Her eyes widened.  “How’d you --?”


“Old joke,” he said hastily, holding up a pair of crossed fingers.  “Me and Andy.  Like that.  You know how we both loved those -- short hairy men and the homoerotic Wagner ripoff.  Look, it was a long motorcycle ride, we had to talk about something.”  He wasn’t ready for Buffy to be thinking too hard about when he might have talked to Andrew, so he cast around for a change of subject.  “Speaking of bikes --”


“I think it’s kind of gone.  Along with the garage and the house.”


“No, I was going to say.  Have you been on a Vespa yet?  I always thought those things were bloody cool in the Fellini films.  We could rent one of those, ride around.  Be all, ‘La Dolce Vita.’  Or,” he frowned, “‘La Dolce Morte,’ as the case may be.”  Now where the hell did that come from? Spike wondered.  There was babbling to shift away from a tricky subject, and then there was just babbling.   He wouldn’t be caught alive on one of those damn motor scooters, and he doubted he'd even seen a movie in Italian, unless it  was dirty. The 200-plus  years of cultural detritus crashing around in his brain sometimes amazed even him.


And Buffy wasn't listening anyway.  Her gaze showed that she had gone somewhere else.  He reached over and took a soft handful of her hair.  He couldn’t believe it was there to touch, wasn’t sure, once he had done it, if it would be all right.  But her eyes came back to him.  “The memorial was nice really, you would have liked it.  We were in England, at -- this place Giles knows.  There was a breeze blowing and the sun was out.”


“Oh, definitely, my kind of scene.”


“Well, we wouldn’t have had it in the day if --” A smile spread on her face and she smacked his arm.  “Stupid.”


“Ouch,” he muttered, grasping the beginnings of a Slayer-strength bruise, the latest of so many.


Her eyes widened.  “Sorry.”


Spike looked at the ceiling again.  “April 7, 2004.  Aussie sensation Russell Crowe turns forty, and Buffy Summers apologizes for hitting me.”


“Really?  Russell Crowe is forty?”


“Saw it on CNN-Europe.”


Buffy rolled her eyes.  “I am so over him.”


“And I am so over  people being over Russell Crowe.  It’s suddenly all the thing to be  I-never-thought-he-was-so-great.  Well, ’Master and Commander’?   Bloody brilliant.”


“I never saw it.”  She swallowed.  “Xander was even sad, I think.”


“Well.”  Spike hesitated.  “I’m sure he can rent it.”


“At the memorial,” she said.  “Of course, it was hard to tell, poor Xander, he was so broken up about Anya.”


“Anya?” Spike repeated.  A jolt of unaccustomed pain hit him at the thought of all that beautiful annoying sulky insane energy being gone from the world.  He had managed to think of her as a friend from time to time, ever so briefly as a lover.  It wasn’t that he should have known, but he at least should have wondered.  Somehow, he had thought of his own sacrifice clearing the way for the others, hadn’t given himself room to consider casualties, and of course Andrew was too much of a berk to mention it.  Still, it seemed so hard to believe.   “I thought Anya was --”


“Mortal.  Almost everybody else got out,” she said quickly.  “Some of the potentials who I guess -- you didn’t really know.  Honestly, I didn’t know a lot of them.  Until later.  I’ve memorized all the names now, of course, but -- that day in England was a good day.  It was a time to heal.  A time to understand some things, the way we had lost each other.  Me and Giles, Xander and Willow.”


 “So to translate, ‘It’s just as bloody well, you weren’t there, Spike, to get everything in a muddle.”


“No!  No muddle but --”  She put a hand to her forehead.  “Maybe a little muddly. Right this minute.  They were all very nice about you.”


“Easy enough,” he said.  “Dead and all.  Not such the fan club when I was walking dead.”  He leveled a finger at Buffy.  “I’m not saying I give a rat’s bum, mind you, what people think about me but.”  He swallowed.  “I guess I gave ’em reason.  Time to time.”


Buffy rubbed a hand over his arm.  “It wasn’t you.”


“Well, that’s the thing, love.  A lot of it was.  You know as well as anybody how this soul thing works.  A vampire’s a nasty shotgun marriage of a man and a demon.  Without the soul, the demon’s in charge.  There’s nothing to stop him from going after what he wants, but -- there’s things he wants because he’s a demon and there’s things he wants because he’s a man.”


She turned her head.  “I don’t know that I like where this is going.”


“No,” he said, firmly.  “Hurting you, Buffy, that’s never something that I want.”


“I don’t think I understand what you’re saying, then.”


“Vampire or man, I’m not somebody that a lot of people are going to like.  And why that is, is because, in the case of the large percentage of humans or demons or what have you, I don’t really care if they like me.  And I can’t say that I really think much of them.  I’ve never needed a lot of people to like me.  Much less love me.”


“Just the ones you love.”




She lowered her eyes.  “But you don’t believe that I do.”


“Oh,” he winced and lowered his head.  “That.  You’ve been thinking on what I said that day.”


“Only, you know, since it happened.”  She sighed.  “Come on, Spike, everybody knows the next line.  ‘Empire Strikes Back’.  Han’s going to the carbon freezing chamber, and Leia finally says ‘I love you,’ and Han says…”


Spike nodded.  “I know.  I mean, he really says --”


“I know.”


“That’s a better line?  Oh come on, Buffy.  Harrison Ford is an all-out wanker.”  He stabbed a finger at her, “And you are much prettier than that Fisher bird.  Please forgive me.  I was sacrificing my un-life to save the world, I didn’t realize you were playing movie quotes.”


“I don’t mean that I was thinking of the movie,” she said.  “But everything we went through, the place that it took us at the end.  You were so sure all along, and it took me so long to get there, but Spike -- I got there.  I meant it, I wasn’t throwing you a bone.”


“You meant it,” he said, “Fine, and I’m just a dumb git who doesn’t have any better excuse besides that he was dying to save the world.”


“Remember who you’re talking to,” said Buffy.  “I’ve kind of been there.  But before I died, I managed to say something to my sister that wasn’t shitty.”


He felt the closeness of the evening slipping away from him, remembered once again the pain of having her body so close, while everything that was her floated out of reach.  “Any chance I can plead poor improv skills," he said, "and get out of here in time to eat a cat?”


“No!   I am not trying to get rid of you, but that’s the last thing you can plead.  You’ve as much as admitted to me, tonight, that you put a little rehearsal into your big moments.”


“Uh-oh.”  Spike closed his eyes.  “Here it comes.  Of course, Buffy, I didn’t know I was going to -- or that you would say --”


“And there’s no way you anticipated?  Dare I say, fantasized?”


“All right.”  Spike sighed.  “I admit that I might have imagined a hypothetical situation, some time in advance, in which you would tell me -- and I would say --”


“Say how far in advance?”


“Well,” he paused.  “It might actually be more instructive to count forward, from the time, a good -- bloody hell, was it only four years ago? -- when I realized I had the misfortune to be in love with you.  From that point, I’d estimate -- about fifteen minutes.”


“You asshole!” said Buffy, though Spike could barely make it out through her laughter.


“Actually, since you brought it up -- “Empire” was what?  1980?  I saw that in Melbourne with Dru, and we were walking out and I told her, you know what would have been a better line, is if Han said to Leia -- that is, if he weren’t such a wanker -- ‘No you don’t, but thanks for saying it.’  Of course, by that point, she was chowing down on an usher and -- Buffy, can you start to grasp, that maybe if I thought you did love me, it wouldn’t be any compliment to you?”


“Sorry, you lost me somewhere around Melbourne.”


“Shit town, by the way.  Drusilla kind of town, though you and me could really have some fun in Sydney.”


“So you think I love you, or you don’t?”


“OK, I worked out a way to explain this part too.  Help me out here.  My heart --”  He took her hand and clenched the fingers into a fist.  Buffy didn’t resist as he pressed it to his chest.


“I know how to find the heart on a vampire, Spike.”


“It’s not much bigger than this,” he said, squeezing her hand shut.  “A tiny, hungry little thing that doesn’t even do any work anymore.  Just sits there waiting for some stake to find it.  My heart’s got teeth, Buffy.  Like -- OK, see this is the part I had trouble with.  Like some animal that finds something it wants, grabs on, and it won’t let go.  What’s an animal like that?”








“No,” he shook his head, “I don’t think, chipmunk.”


“Weasel?” she said, with a thin-patience grin.


“Let’s go with chipmunk.  I’ve got this tough little chipmunk heart that finds the one thing it wants.  And digs in.  And holds on.  And shakes until it’s worried the life out of the thing.  Never sees anything else, never hears.  Never tastes anything, it’s so busy with it’s mouth around this -- what was it?”


“A nut of some kind?”


“Whatever chipmunks eat.  And for years now, that -- chipmunk food -- has been you.  Before that, it was Dru, and before that --”  He shook his head.  “I liked some girls when I was alive.  Not worth thinking about, they never liked me.”


“I would have liked you.”


“You would not.  I was a poncey wanker.” He pointed a finger at her.  “Take it back!”


“I would have seen beneath the poncey surface and discovered the inner badass.”


“No,” he said.  “I had no inner badass.  You would not have liked me.  If it turns out you would have liked me, then I can no longer like you.”


“Yes,” said Buffy.  “Because that’s gonna happen.  Tell me more about the chipmunk heart.”


 “That --”   He sighed.  “That is what love is to me, Buffy.  The thing this little chipmunk heart grabs and won’t let go.”


“From where I’m standing, Spike?  That doesn’t sound too bad.”


“Oh, but wait.  I have to do you.  Just lie down and --” He made a circle of his fingers and rested them on her breastbone.  “I promise you that this is not -- just -- an opportunity to cop a feel.”


“You’re unbelievable,” she said, but stayed in place, her eyes wandering down to watch his hands.


“This is your heart.  It has to be big enough for everyone in your life.  Friends, family.  The people you work with, the people you protect.”


“Because I’m the slayer?” she asked, and quickly corrected.  “A slayer?”


“Slayer, schmayer.  You think every one of these beady-eyed girls has a heart like this?”  He bent down to kiss her forehead.  “Because you’re Buffy.  Now come on.”  He spread his fingers as wide as they would go.  “Big open Buffy heart.”


She understood and slid her fist into the gap in his hands. “Gnawing little chipmunk heart.”


“Now, Buffy?  How is that little heart of mine ever going to fill up this great big heart of yours?  But if it doesn’t, if it never can, then what you mean when you say you love me.  It isn’t -- it can’t ever be -- ”


“The same thing you mean,” she said quietly.  “But Spike, that’s not fair.”


“No,” he said, and rolled abruptly away from her.  “No, love, it damn well ain’t.”


“But maybe, Spike.”  She lay beside him and reached down to clasp her small, strong fingers through his long ones.  “Maybe that’s not what I want.   I don’t want to have to think of everyone, everything, the whole world, all the time.  Maybe I want more of the chipmunk heart.”


He sat up.  “Well, you work on that, love.  And I’ll work on the other.”


“Really?” She frowned.


“Say I have something in my heart besides you, Buffy.  And I don’t mean another woman, because forget it.  I mean anything besides blooming onions and the telly and the Sex Pistols.  A mission.  A life’s work.”            “That would be -- well, depending on what it was.  That could be wonderful.”


“And it would hurt you a little.”


She swallowed.  “Yes.  Yes, I guess it would.”


“There you go.”  He rubbed the back of his hand softly against her cheek.  “There’s your little bit of chipmunk.  Now you’ve got something to work up from.   But I could be in this world a long time.  A heart’s always hungry when there’s only one thing in it.  Before, what I was, that was what I had.   Violence and death and -- still like a good spot of those, OK?  Don’t start to think old Spike’s going soft on you. But for a long time, Buffy, there was nothing in my heart but you.  At first I thought it was hate, but -- I’ll tell you a nasty little thing about the chipmunk heart.  Sometimes what you with your big heart call hating a bloke and using him, ain’t a lot different from what the chipmunk heart means by love.”


“So,” Buffy frowned.  “You’re doing something, now, that’s going to help you -- I’m sorry, I’ve completely lost the metaphor.  I’m better at these when there’s some sort of baking involved.”


“I have some work, Buffy.  I’ll be honest, it’s difficult for me to tell you about.  I wasn’t sure if I would, but you’ve a right to know.”


“Look,” she said, “Whatever it is you’re mixed up with, I can’t imagine it would piss me off more than the things I’m hearing about Angel’s new business partners.”


“Well, love.  It’s a bit of a funny story --”



Chapter Five - Wes    Top


You have a choice, he thought. You always have a choice. Keep your eyes closed and leave yourself in the power of vivid, random, and increasingly merciless visitations from your young, beautiful, and permanently dead lover. Or open them and face a pissed-off vampire.           


He knew which he preferred, so he pressed hands to his forehead, kept his elbows on the desk, and lay there, in his mind, with the soft calming radiance of Fred. This was beyond memory now. This was a summer afternoon in a park in Cambridge -- a mild afternoon with the birds chirping and sun out, and how many of those had there been? Quite aside from the obvious and indisputable truth that he had never been there with her. But they were there now. She sunk down in his arms, and the sun was warm on his skin, and her laugh played with the music of the birds, and if it was so real, so present, who was he to deny that it had happened? He was getting better with these images, learning to control and invent them, and if he could just bring it to a place where he never had to wake up, would that after all be such a terrible thing?


He wasn’t fooling anybody, least of all himself. It was no good. As tight as he wanted to close his eyes, he couldn’t drown out the voice that was coming at him, louder and louder, a very real voice in his very real office. He tried imagining, maybe I’ll open my eyes and he won’t be here, maybe out there and not just in here, there might a little bit of peace. There was just no way it was going to happen. And so slowly, with a muscular effort that felt like it should have been enough to push a small vehicle out of a deep ditch, Wesley Wyndham-Pryce opened his eyes. “I’m sorry, Angel. Were you saying something?”


“Was I --? Was I --?” Angel stammered and stared down at him. “Wes, you just let him go? With the firm’s jet, three days ago, and I’m just finding out now?”


Jealous vampire crap, Wesley thought. The barriers of the world are crashing in on me, the apocalypse may soon be upon us, and I’m here in a corner office at the devil’s law firm in this week’s edition of Dawson’s Undead Creek. “Need I remind you,” he sighed, “That this William-the-Bloody-as-roving-world-agent setup was your idea?”


“But just a couple weeks ago,” Angel sputtered, “he wanted to stay. He was all on about how we’ve got a mission, and the big fight’s coming, and now he’s run off to --what was it, Naples?”


“Pompeii,” Wesley repeated. “And if you cared so much where he was, I’d think you’d have asked before now. And no, I don’t know why he came to me instead of you. I assumed you were having one of your ridiculous arguments.”




“Wesley,” Angel groaned. “I’ve been very busy exploring possible new conduits to the Powers that be, which may prove to be extremely valuable to this big fight, and can it really not be obvious to anyone but me that Spike manipulated this trip so that he could see Buffy?”


Should it bother me, Wesley wondered, to lie to my boss and old friend about something so trivial? Somehow, once you’d shot your lover’s murderer in cold blood, in plain sight and in defiance of the same boss-and-old-friend’s orders, it became hard to care very much. And besides, the next part was true. “It really wasn’t any of my business. And just by coincidence, I believe that characterization would apply to you as well.”


“None of my business? It’s Buffy. And -- Spike.”


And how could you argue with that kind of logic? The old college try -- “True. The romantic lives of two individuals with whom you have no fixed personal or professional relationship is clearly your business. What was I thinking? Please, do carry on.”



“Dammit, Wesley, do you have to be so English?”


Watch it now, you bloody mick, he thought, but what was the point? Anyway, thinking about Spike didn’t exactly fill him with pride in Ye Olde Albion. Best to pick his battles. So he sighed. “Now, Angel. What is it, exactly, that worries you about Spike’s relationship to Buffy?”


Angel waved his hands in the air. “Spike’s obsessed with her. He has been for years. Totally hung up. He’s corporeal now, he doesn’t have a chip, who can tell what he’s capable of?”


“He has a soul, Angel, and he’s come a long way. Surely you don’t think he intends to harm her?”


“Harm her?” Angel repeated. “It’s not a question of harming. It’s just that -- Spike is completely incapable of rational behavior when Buffy is in the picture.”


“Yes.” Wesley suddenly wished he still wore glasses, so he could use an old Rupert Giles trick and start cleaning them. “Spike is clearly incapable of rational behavior when it comes to Buffy. That explains why, with all the serious problems and impending crises that we are charged with handling, he is in his colleague’s office at this very moment, ranting with wild speculations about Buffy’s love life --” And this would be the place to put the glasses back on. “No wait. That’s not Spike.”


He picked a file up from his desk, hoping to signal an end to the conversation. Angel could move without a sound, but Wesley knew he was still there, pacing, reluctant to let it go. Don’t look up, don’t look up. Now, whatever you do, don’t close your eyes. He let his lids drift shut, forcing his mind into a blank, allowing the image to surprise him and show him Fred wherever it would. And there, dammit all, the smile that blossomed over her face as he walked into the lab, back when he still had to wonder what it meant, and she stood there beside the ghost of a vampire that everyone else, secretly or not, hoped would simply fade away. Spike’s words before leaving came back to him, “…treated me like a man. Fred Burkle. Buffy Summers.” Don’t get involved, Wesley, don’t make it worse.


“Angel --” Wesley let out a breath and looked up, and even though he hadn’t heard a thing, Angel could hover like that. Of course the vampire, the colleague, the old friend still loomed there. “Angel, if I cared very much about my status at this firm right now. . . If, frankly, I cared about anything, I might not venture to ask such an outrageous question but -- Do you have any idea how Buffy feels about Spike?”


From the way Angel’s mouth hung open, this was clearly the last question he had expected. “How could she feel about him? He’s Spike. She’s Buffy and he’s just -- he’s just Spike.”


“Well. I’m not sure if that’s the teleological argument from design or the ontological argument from the very fact of existence, but you’re clearly working at such a dizzying level of philosophy that my poor human brain can’t follow it. So I have to keep it simple. Have you ever, and forgive me for advancing such a radical suggestion but it’s so crazy that it just might work, discussed the subject with Buffy?”


“Yes!” Angel held a finger in front of him and followed it with his eyes as though he were pointing at a clue. “Yes, we had exactly this conversation, not one year ago, in Sunnydale, and which point Buffy said to me that she -- wait, I’m getting this -- he’s in her heart and -- there aren’t any fat grandchildren in her future and -- something about, well,” he swallowed. “Cookie dough.”


Wesley could have driven Angel’s old convertible through the silence. “I’m sorry,” he finally said. “Cookie dough? You mean there was some kind of spell involved? Some baking material with magical properties?”


Angel shrugged. “No, I think it was actual cookie dough. Well, actual metaphorical cookie dough. Wes, I swear! That’s what she said, and -- I was listening very carefully but honestly --.” He swallowed. “It was an emotional time. And Buffy. She can kind of be hard to understand like that.”


“So I recall,” Wesley sighed. “So if the girl herself is a dead end -- barring that you might actually have picked up the phone at some point and asked her what she meant. Sometime before she got the idea that just because we’re working for the primary organizational front for the forces of evil since the beginning of recorded history, we might not be trustworthy. In that case, let me just venture a suggestion. Spike is a vampire. Buffy is a vampire slayer. Spike lived and worked near her, and fought by her side, for, dare I say, at least as long as you ever did. Don’t you suppose that if he were a real threat to Buffy, he’d be dust?”

“We keep coming back to this! Buffy has no judgment where Spike is concerned.”


Wesley spread his hands and looked at the ceiling, “No judgment where Spike is concerned. I wonder what that would sound like.”



As if on cue, the doors to Wesley’s office sprung open, and Spike stormed through. “Thanks a mil, Pryce!” He pointed at Wesley. “Happy to report, success on nearly all fronts. The vampires of Pompeii are no more and -- ‘ello, Angel.”


Angel whirled on Spike and stabbed a finger at him. “I’ll get the flightlogs from the jet. If you were in Rome, you’re peroxide on toast.”


“Pryce!” cried Spike. “You told him that I went to see Buffy?”


And this is what I get for intervening on behalf of the braindead undead. Wesley slammed a palm to his forehead. “No, you stupid git. But you just did.”


“So Spike,” Angel whirled on him. “On this little personal side trip that was so important. What did Buffy have to say?”


“Well, first of all.” He pointed a stern finger at Angel, shook his head and clucked with his tongue. “She’s not very happy with you.”


“Oh,” Angel gulped. “Um, you explained about the circumstances? The extenuating circumstances, because we do have circumstances.”


“And what --” Wesley said, remembering ‘nearly all fronts,’ and detecting something other than total triumph on the younger vampire’s face, “What about you?”


“Well the gist of it was --” Spike glanced at Wes, then Angel, and put a hand to his forehead. “Let me see if I can come up with the exact words. ‘Crawl into a hole. Curl up and die. Never come out, unless -- it’s a very sunny day, and you end up as a big pile of dust.” He spread his hands. “Happy?”


Angel rocked back on his heels, and a smirk crept onto his face. “Happy does not even begin to describe --”


Spike stepped forward and jabbed a finger at Angel. “It wasn’t a final settling of affairs, all right? Believe you me. There are gonna be more chapters in the story of Buffy and Spike before it’s set and done. But both of us,” He turned to Wes now, including him as he settled into a more legalistic explanation. “Me and the slayer, we thought that this was the time for a temporary hiatus or, as it were, a cooling off period. Considering all of the various emotions inevitably stirred up by such a momentous reunion as well as, in addition, certain concerns on her part, not entirely unjustified, that various pieces of information might have been withheld which, if presented to her knowledge at a certain time, might have affected her decisions to --”


“What the hell?” Angel demanded.



Spike shrugged. “Girl thought I should have told her I’d thrown my lot in with a bunch of demon lawyers before moving in for the smoochies.”


This was the first thing to actually pique Wesley’s interest. “Does this mean you’re serious about joining Wolfram and Hart?” he asked.


Angel grabbed Spike’s shoulder and pulled the other vampire to face him. “There were smoochies?”


Spike arched his eyebrows. “Now wouldn’t you just like to be a vampire bat on that wall?”


“I doubt I would’ve seen anything worth seeing.”


The blood pounded in Wesley’s ears.


“Oh, is that a fact?”


Wesley closed his eyes, sneaking the tiniest look. The shore at Brighton, where he had summered as a child. She was there, the wind teasing her long messy hair. Fred, give me strength.



“Not that you’d know a bloody fact about the Slayer if it grew fangs and bit you on your lazy deskbound ass but --”


Wesley opened his eyes and drew in a breath. Now or never. “Oh, for the bloody sodding love of every single Goddamn thing that is holy!”


The words came out louder than he intended, with such force that Spike and Angel stopped in mid-shout, backed away from each other and turned to him.


Room in this silence for Angel’s old car and a few of the new ones. “Pryce?” Spike ventured, at the same instant Angel said “Wes?”


“You’re fighting about a bloody girl. Do you get it? A bird, a bint, a piece of ass.”


“Hey!” said Angel.


“What’s your point?” said Spike.

“Granted, she’s a girl who could kick all the pieces of either of your asses to a bloody pulp on a bad day and who, save for loving either one of you, has more sense than both of you put together. The thing about this particular girl is that she is out there for the two of you to fight about, but she’s only going to keep being out there if the two of you can put this nonsense aside and focus on the mission.” The words pounded behind his

temple, “Whatever that may happen to be.”


“The mission,” murmured Angel. “And I guess it is pretty insensitive of us to be in here arguing about Buffy after you’ve lost --” Something in Wesley's eyes gave Angel the wisdom to stop.


“Right,” said Spike. “I can just present a bit of debriefing on the mess in Pompeii and --” He touched a finger to his lips and said to Angel, “With the smoochies, you understand I was just talking about saying hello to an old friend. Some of us use our lips for that.”



“A debriefing,” Angel repeated. “Absolutely. And Wes, I’m sorry for any unpleasantness this confrontation may have caused so --” He backed toward the door and, when he must have thought Wesley couldn’t see, mouthed “I’m not done with you” at Spike.


“Angel!” Wesley called after him, marveling, as he did, at the new veneer of moral authority brought on him by exactly the events that had kept him from caring if he had it.


As the door swung shut, Spike barked a brief burst of laughter. Wesley looked up at him and said, curtly, “Liar.”


Spike shrugged. “Well, yeah. You good as told me to lie about it. So, for that matter, did Buffy. And besides, you’re right. Soldier's pleasures can keep. The mission is what matters.”


Wesley leveled a cold gaze on him. “Assuming that we have a mission.”


Spike stared. “We - do - have one? Right? Fight for good in the name of evil? Infiltrate the dark side from the inside out? Ain’t that what we’re about? Ain’t I the man -- anyway, the animal, vegetable, or mineral -- for that kind of job? Because let me tell you I just walked away from a girl, and you would not believe what she can do with her -- um, stakes. Fighting evil, you know. Very good at it, that one is. But the thing you have to understand, Pryce, is, a bloke’s heart? It’s like a chipmunk. . .”


Chapter Six - Conclusion    Top


*I could be lying to my sister right now,* Buffy thought. *‘I’ve got important business, slayer business. Why don’t you stay over at Angelica’s again tonight? Go shoe-shopping then drink too much espresso, we’ll send the bill to the watcher’s council.’ I could be lying to Willow, and Xander, and Giles. ‘Sorry I missed the linkup. My cat broke the crystal.’ I’d have to get a cat, but it’s like Spike said, they’re everywhere. Maybe I should get a cat. Would I have to lie to the cat? I could be telling all of these lies, could be digging myself into another hole that just has room for me and Spike.*


But she wasn’t. She had sent him out the door, and she was slouched on the couch now, waiting for Dawn to come home. *I could have my legs wrapped around the hard body of a constantly horny vampire who loves me beyond reason and will never, ever get enough of me.* She rolled her head back against the couch and pressed her palms to her thighs. *Shit,* she thought, *Maturity sucks.*


Spike had been gone for twelve hours. A brief stop in Pompeii, he assured her, and he should be in L.A. by now. With Angel. Angel. Who the hell saw that one coming? All of the places that the mysterious powers that governed the universe could have chosen to dump her resurrected champion ensouled vampire lover, and they went for the lap -- and that was an unfortunate image, but it was the best she could do -- of her other resurrected champion ensouled vampire lover. “Dear Abby,” she mentally composed. “I’m sure you hear this one all the time.”




They had made love one last time before he left. Quiet, slow, face-to-face look-me-in-the-eye-while-we-do-this love. At first it felt ridiculous. At first, they traded nervous laughter. This wasn’t what Buffy and Spike did. Buffy and Spike threw each other across the room and left claw marks on skin, made shreds of clothing, groaned and cursed and knocked the other down, made the other beg for a breath, or a hand, or a taste. This was Riley Finn kind of love, lie-on-your-back-while-he-puts-his-ear-to-your-chest-and-listens-to-your-heart-beat love. Not that she could do the same with Spike, but heartbeats were just circulation, just biology, just another superstition that anyone who had died as many times as these two hungry lovers could surely live outside of.


Soon, they were not laughing. Soon, his weight was on her, and when she felt him with every inch of her, she tried to turn her eyes away, tried to close them, and he spread his long fingers under her chin and gasped, as though he really needed the breath, “Look,” gasp “please” groan “ I need you to see --oh God -- me.” And so she gave him her eyes, memorized every crease and shift and convulsion in the sharp lines of his face, because she knew that daylight was chasing them from the east, and he would have to flee before it.


And when he finally slid his hands away from her sides, she slipped easily from his grasp and fell silent into her bed. He stood, and she turned her eyes down, not to watch his back as he left. When her breath settled back to a saner, weekday pace, she gathered the kimono from between the sheets, pulled the sash around her, and followed him to the living room. He was already dressed, in a tight black T-shirt and leather pants that were truly redundant on that body. He had his foot on the veneer of the coffee table tightening the laces of his combat boots.


*Don’t leave me again, you fucker,* she thought, surprised by the violent suddenness of the emotion, and then by how quickly it was gone.


“You could call me sometime,” she said to his back, and he jumped, jarring the table with his foot, so that a blown-glass vase Dawn had bought in Venice fell to shards on the floor.


“Bloody hell, Slayer!” Spike choked out, then tilted his head at her. “I was ready to say good-bye. Except I just --” He looked away.


“Wasn’t ready?” Buffy smiled and stepped close to him. “You could call, that would be all right.”


“You don’t trust us,” he said flatly. “Wolfram & Hart.”


“Yes,” she said firmly, then shook her head. “No. I mean, I’m not sure.”


“And I’m not sure, either, but I can’t wait, right now, until I’m sure. The closest I can come to being sure is --” He looked up and with an edge in his voice said, “If you repeat this, I’ll kill you, and if I’m dead, I’ll haunt you. But Buffy - it’s Angel. If I’m on the lookout for a white hat, if I need someone to trust is doing his damn best to do the right thing.” Spike swallowed. “Why am I gonna look further than him? I don’t know all the reasons he has for being wrapped up with these ghouls, but I can’t doubt that he has reasons.”


She hesitated, her eyes running over the broken glass on the floor. “Any chance you can find out what they are?”


“And be your spy in the house of Wolfram?” he asked, then said firmly, “No. The phone thing?” He raised a hand to his ear. “That works with Angel too. You’ll get more out of him than I will, anyway, and for that matter - well, the invitation stands. We could use a slayer around the place, and I bet L.A. would even suit the Little Bit. She probably has a hundred little friends running around with made-up memories about what a swell kid she was. The offer’s not exactly mine to make, but I don’t imagine a lot of protests from the vamp upstairs.” He shrugged. “You wouldn’t even have to see me if you didn’t want. ’S not about you and me.”


Buffy coughed into her hand. “Bullshit.”


“Fine,” he shrugged. “Bullshit. If you want to come there and be with me, I’ll throw you a three-ring-circus. But any case, we’re a bit short in the female department, this minute. I don’t mean girls. Hell, it’s L.A. But women -- fighters. Planners. I wouldn’t have thought what a difference that could make, but when you lot aren’t there anymore. Keeping things shipshape. It’s like, well, there’s a bit of a hole in the world.” He knelt to brush the vase shards into his hands, as though he had just noticed them there. “There is one you know. A hole.”


“In the world?”


“I went underground, stood there and looked at it. Goes clear down and comes out the other side. I’ll take you someday. It’s not a pretty sight, but just to know it’s there. That’s quite a thing.”


“You stood there and looked at it?”


He nodded, then straightened and moved toward her, brushing the bits of glass into her hands, as if it were the most natural thing to do with them and she, as if she agreed, cup her palms to take them. She said, “I hope you spit. Into the hole.”


“Of course I spit.”


“Of course you did.” She closed her hand around the glass. A small piece bit into her skin. “Men always spit.”


He smiled. “Is that what I am?”


“Spike, it’s not my fight. If you just wait to talk to Giles, maybe we could set something up for you to do. In England or even -- you know. Here.”


“And that fight’s not mine.” He pulled the long black duster over his shoulders and nodded at the door. “Buffy, the sun -- I have to leave.”


“I know.”


She dropped the glass into a bowl on the coffee table. The smallest piece stabbed into her thumb, and she felt the warmth of blood pooling on her finger. Stepping toward him, she said, “Don’t tell Angel.” Then, “Oh God -- he’s not going to be able to do that thing where he smells me on you, is he? Because, you know,” she shuddered. “Gross.”


He shook his head. “Enough volcanic ash and dead vamp between me and L.A., even the Brooding One won’t know what he’s smelling.” Spike raised an eyebrow. “You’re sure you’re not up for Pompeii? Last days of and all, you and me, with the decadence.”


“Once again?" she said, with a smile that she hoped would soften the refusal.  "A world of no.”


Spike rocked back on his heels and looked at her. “He’ll figure out I was here. It’s his bloody plane.”


Not lying to Dawn and Willow and the others was one thing. Keeping the two vampires in her life from killing each other, that was something else. “Tell him -- you saw me and, well, I’m still not happy, but -- I don’t know, tell him I chased you off.”


“How about if I say you told me to crawl into a hole and die, and not come out --That would be easy, seeing as you did.”


“OK, I was a little upset. Your timing there was not so great.”


“You mean, I should have been more forthcoming? About the Angel situation.” He smiled. “It would have made a difference?”


“It -- I don’t know, possibly.”


He nodded. “I think my timing was OK.”


“Don’t come out unless it’s a very sunny day.”


He held up his hands in surrender. “I get it. Can I tell him about the kiss?”


“Which --?” she paused.


“The one you’re about to give me. He will be very suspicious if I try to deny that there was a kiss.”


“Nice try.”


He sulked. “I mean, he showed up out of the blue, got a kiss, just saying hello --”


“Right. With your lips.” She put her hands against his shoulders, leaned in, and kissed him. He tasted like garlic and cigarettes, an iron pungency that might have been blood, and a salt warmth that could only have been her.


I don’t know,” he panted when he pulled away, “If I should tell him about that particular kiss.”


She raised her right hand to his mouth, and he frowned at the trickle of red blossoming from one finger. “Whaz’ this?”


“Slayer blood,” she whispered. “Healing properties. Protection.”


“Buffy?” he said quietly.  He cradled her small hand in his palm and started to lift it to her lips, but met her eyes to know if he should go ahead. She nodded and he said, “Buffy, a kiss is just a kiss. A body’s just a body, but blood --”


“I’m giving it. Take it. Take some of me with you. Be safe.”

“Safe,” he repeated, then raised her finger to his mouth. He pressed the pad to his top front teeth, closed his wet lips around the finger, and drew out the blood like a nursing child. Cradling her hand, he rocked back and forth for what could only have been a minute, but felt so much longer. His eyes never left hers, until he lifted her hand from his mouth and whispered. “Enough. Now seeing as I don’t want my tight hot little body getting fried again. I’ll be on my way.”


She opened the door to the street and gave him a gentle shove out of it, “You and your chipmunk heart? Can bite me.”


Spike raised his eyebrows and whispered, “Rain check.” His coat waved in the breeze of the approaching dawn. She slipped inside, not allowing herself to watch him look back.



Twelve hours later, Buffy brushed the last of the glass into the garbage and settled down to wait for a much tardier Dawn. As she shifted on the cushion, something hard moved beneath it. She reached her hand down and came out with a silver lighter, just as her sister burst through the door. “Oh my God Buffy you are not gonna believe what Angelica and I found at the magic shop and I know I probably shouldn’t have taken her there but she just happened to see this pendant Willow sent me and -- What’s wrong, what are you staring at?”


*I could be lying to my sister,* she repeated and held up the lighter. “Dawn,” she said. “You’d better sit down. No, we’ll start up the link. We need to talk. All of us.”


                                                      ~ ** END ** ~


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