DISCLAIMER: The characters are
Joss’, of course, and the chapter title comes from Shakespeare’s “Sonnet CXLII.”
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Spike had a few words with Giles, ending in a physical altercation when he learned that Giles wanted Buffy to have an abortion, so he’s gone to see Buffy and explain his side before she hears the story elsewhere…
It was something about his eyes.
She would forever remember the gentle tone of William’s body, would always remember the soft cadences of his voice as they whispered to each other in the grass. And she had seen how the last century had altered those muscles, made him harder, leaner, like he’d been one of those unfinished Michelangelo sculptures finally released from its stone bondage. The accent was different, too, a forced shield behind which he hid the truth of his human existence. The changes were there, like a costume he’d forgotten he wore.
But when Spike turned his head to see Buffy at the end of the hall, when their gazes met and his fingers paused in their nervous manipulation of his lighter, she didn’t see any of that.
Those were William’s eyes. They would always be William’s eyes. And no amount of pretense would ever convince her otherwise.
Her heart was pounding in her throat as she found the use of her feet again, slowly stepping toward him with her books clutched to her chest. She felt like something out of one of those old movies her mom always made her watch, one of those melodramatic romances with way-old men and young girls of dubious talent. This wasn’t the Buffy Summers she knew. Taking a deep breath, she quickened her pace, pulling out her keys as she reached her door.
“I thought you were going back to the hotel,” she said casually as she tried to get the key to go into the lock.
“Change of plans,” Spike replied. His hand disappeared momentarily into his duster pocket, emerging free of the lighter. “I was hoping you and me could have a little talk.”
“You’re not talked out? Guess that makes only one of us then.”
The key wasn’t working. She could get it in, but then it refused to turn, and Buffy’s attempts for nonchalance were quickly vanishing as her frustration rose.
“All that was for your audience,” he said. “What I’m interested in right now is some of that between the two of us. There’s things that need to be said, Buffy.”
“So say them. I’m not stopping you.” The lock, however, was, and her grumbles of annoyance rose in volume as she struggled with it.
Cool fingers wrapped around hers, calming the jiggling to turn the key smoothly against the latch. She couldn’t risk looking at him, the color high on her cheeks, and instead mumbled a quick thank you before pushing the door open.
She was a few feet inside her room when she realized she was alone. Turning, Buffy saw him lounging in the entrance, his head tilted as he watched her expectantly. “Come in, Spike,” she said, without even thinking to consider the consequences. It wasn’t until he’d crossed the threshold and closed the door behind him that she realized just how automatic the invitation into her life had been.
Spike was busy looking anywhere but at her, examining the poster on the back of the door before unerringly going to her side of the room. He didn’t touch anything, but instead let his hand skim over the surfaces, as if the near contact was all he needed to assure himself that it was hers.
“Did Oz show you where I live now?” she asked, desperate to break the quiet that had settled between them.
“All he did was drive me here,” Spike replied. He was standing next to her bed, his head tilted as he tried to peer underneath it. “I’ve had your address etched on my brain for weeks now, remember?”
“Oh. Right.” Dumb Buffy, she scolded. But her thoughts were scattering in his presence, all the theories and all the what-ifs she’d been playing out in her head since leaving Giles’ returning to confuse her into submission.
All of a sudden, Spike bent to pull out the chest she kept beneath her bed, flicking the latch and opening it before she could breathe.
“What’re you doing?” Buffy demanded, grateful for the distraction. “Does the term ‘personal property’ mean nothing to you?”
He didn’t reply, but instead pushed the weapons aside to extract the topmost shoebox. She wanted to stop him---really, she did---but it was playing out in excruciating torment before her. The way he pulled up the corner of the lid. The slight hesitation as a sudden scent made him inhale deeply. The tremble of a finger when he cast the lid aside to peer into the well-ordered contents.
“Always wondered what you did with them,” Spike murmured. His fingers skated over the harsh ridges of the envelopes, as if he was taking inventory. “I thought…wanted to think that you’d keep ‘em like this, but…”
“Yeah, well, now you know.” She crouched at his side to take them away, but froze when their hands met on the letters. His fingers weren’t the only ones that were shaking, she realized.
“Did you like them?”
Just as he couldn’t look at her as he asked, she couldn’t look at him while she answered.
“I loved them.”
Slowly, Spike put the box back into the chest, and then entwined her fingers in his, tugging gently as he straightened again. Stumbling slightly, Buffy caught herself with the wall of his chest, memories of the previous night asleep in his arms and before in the shower suffusing her skin with heat.
“What…what did you want to talk about?” she managed to say.
“’Bout what happened at Rupert’s.” When he released his grip on her, she almost complained at the loss of contact, but then watched as he shrugged off his coat and draped it over the end of the bed. “We had a few words after you scarpered off.”
“Well, as long as none of those words were ‘I’m going to kill you,’ I don’t see what the big is.” She was joking but the way he ducked his head told her that maybe it wasn’t such a joke after all. “Spike! What did you do?”
The sharp tone of her voice jerked his head up. “Why is this my fault?” he demanded. “Why not ask what he did?” His lips curled into a sneer, his eyes narrowing in growing anger. “Oh, that’s right. Because he’s your Watcher and I’m just the unfortunate vamp who loves you. Wait, mustn’t forget bein’ the father of your baby, too, though considering you could barely say two words to me, let alone look me in the eye when we were there, I’m beginning to think that doesn’t mean two licks to you in the grand scheme of things.”
“You weren’t even supposed to be there. Willow should never have interfered. I told her---.”
“I know what you told her. You were wrong.”
Blue flashed with glints of amber as he squared off with her, danger seeping from his pores. Buffy’s Slayer senses kicked into overdrive, and she had to fight not to pull her fist back and wipe that self-righteous fury off his face. “What. Happened,” she said through gritted teeth.
“I found out what he said to you about gettin’ rid of the baby,” Spike bit back. “What do you think happened?”
Her mouth opened in sharp retort, but then the memory of how vehement he’d gotten the night before when the issue of abortion had come up made her hesitate. “Giles is just worried about me,” she said. “He just wants me to consider all the options.”
“Bollocks. He’s pissin’ his pants, worrying ‘bout how his precious Council’s goin’ to react to their Slayer gettin’ herself knocked up. By a vampire, no less. They haven’t changed, Buffy. They’re still hellbent on bein’ the masters of their domain, and their domain is you. And by the way, since when are you back under their control? I thought you’d had your fill of them this summer.”
“What? Who said I was under their control?”
“Rupert. Said he was still in their employ, as well. That true?”
“Didn’t you learn anything from that wanker, Richard? If memory serves, you had the stones to walk out on him when he tried tellin’ you not to see me. Where are those stones now?”
“Those stones are the reason I was there in the first place. Do you think it was easy for me to tell my mom and Giles about this baby? But I did it. Because…because, this means something to me, Spike.”
All of a sudden, his hands were cupping her face, and her words were choked in her throat as his lips crashed to hers. The kiss was urgent, probing, and over all too quickly, leaving Buffy breathless and staring at Spike as if he’d been possessed.
“That’s what happened,” he said, his voice husky. His eyes were dark, almost black, devouring her as his thumbs stroked her cheeks. “Told him this was your baby, your decision, and that he’d have to go through me first if he thought he was goin’ to change that. That’s all, luv. Nothin’ more.”
“Then why did you have to come and tell me now about it?” She knew there was more; she even had a feeling what it was. She just needed him to be the one to say it. “If it was so innocent, why are you here?”
His eyes ducked guiltily. “Does it matter?”
Determined, Buffy reached up and removed his hands from her face, stepping back so that it forced him to look at her. “If you have to ask that, this is the least of what we’re going to have to discuss, Spike.”
She saw him eye the door ever so briefly, and panicked in that split second when she thought he was going to walk out. And then…
“He’s not hurt, which is what matters, right? I just…I saw red when I heard what he’d said to you. I might’ve shook him up a bit.” Stiffening, Spike raised a warning finger at Buffy. “But I backed off, got it? I let him go, and I walked away. I did everything right, and don’t you try and tell me I didn’t.”
“So, this is damage control? Is that it? You think you can show up at my door, with the William eyes and the incredible kissage, and you think that’s going to make it all better?”
“That’s not---.” He stopped, his head tilting as a single brow lifted. “Incredible, huh?”
Collapsing onto her bed, Buffy squeezed her eyes shut in an attempt to gain some sense of balance again. “That is so not what this is about.”
Her world shifted as she felt his weight settle at her side, evening out when he laid down next to her. Though he made no direct move to touch her, Buffy was all too aware of the nearness of his flesh, the scent that emanated from his skin. It was oddly soothing, and she found herself breathing it in deep inhalations,
“Why’d you skip out of there?” Spike asked. His voice was soft, halting, but when she opened her eyes to look at him, he wasn’t even watching her. Instead, his gaze was fixed on the ceiling overhead, the muscles in his face tight.
“I just…needed some space,” she said, just as quietly. “Plus, you know, there is that college thing I’m trying out.”
“You mad I showed?”
She actually had to stop and consider that one. “No,” Buffy finally said. “I think…I think it helped. Having you there.” She paused. There was more she wanted to tell him, more she thought he should hear, but saying it out loud would be confirming her belief that he was just as much William as anything else, that the fact that he was a vamp now didn’t matter to her.
But did it? Would she have gone with him so willingly last night if it did? And what about the issue with his soul? The more time she spent with Spike, the more convinced she got that he didn’t need it, even if it would make things easier for her mom and Giles to accept. Except…her mom hadn’t really liked Angel either way, not really, so would a soul on Spike make a difference?
She thought not. Willow thought not. The decision was made then. She wouldn’t bring it up.
Which made saying the next just a little bit easier.
“I’m stronger when you’re there,” Buffy whispered.
She was still watching him as she said it, and slowly, Spike’s head turned to meet her gaze. There was no mirth in his eyes, no sardonic twist of his mouth. The blue gleamed with gratitude, perhaps an unshed tear or two. And he waited, as if he knew she wasn’t done speaking yet.
“Mark this day on your calendar,” she said. “But…I was wrong. I thought…I forgot for a minute that this baby wasn’t just mine. I thought I could deal with telling everyone on my own. But, when you showed up, and you started telling them about what happened, about…everything, you reminded me of the best thing I got from this summer. When you’re around, I remember what I can do, I remember what I deserve, and things just get clearer, for some reason. When I left, it wasn’t to get away from you. It was to get away from everybody. It’s been a pretty dramatic twenty-four hours, don’t you think?”
“You don’t ever have to run from me, Buffy,” Spike said solemnly.
“And you know they’re all safe, don’t you?” he continued. “As long as none of them hurt you or the baby, you know I’d never do anything to your mum or your friends, right?”
The corner of her mouth lifted. “I’m beginning to get that idea.”
The mattress dipped as he rolled onto his side to face her, his right hand propping his head up. “So, what happens next? What is it you want me to do?”
“I’m not your keeper, Spike. Some of this, you’re going to have to figure out on your own.”
“What about…sussing out where exactly we stand?”
Her mouth went dry. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, you know why I’m here. I haven’t made any secret ‘bout wanting to keep my promise to you. And that’s extra-firm now that there’s a little one involved. But, you said last night and then again in your note this morning about us bein’ friends.” He paused, his lashes lowering as he suddenly seemed fascinated by the threads in her comforter. “Is that how you’re seein’ us? It’s not that I’m askin’ for more here, but a bloke’s gotta know. It just…makes expectations a tad easier to deal with if I do.”
“We are friends. Having a baby isn’t going to change that.”
“Oh. ‘Course not. Didn’t think it would.” But there was a definite sag in his shoulders when he made the assertion, and Spike still refused to meet her eyes.
She did what she’d been wanting to, ever since seeing him in the hall.
Slowly, Buffy leaned forward and pressed her mouth to his. The kiss was chaste, and tender, a promise of young summers and younger love. Though it was the direct opposite of the passionate hunger he’d displayed in their earlier caress, it carried with it emotions that ran just as deep.
They were both trembling when they finally parted.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t have expectations, too,” Buffy confessed. “But I need time to process all this. It’s so much, and so fast, and I’ve never been big with the thinking, remember? All I know right now is that I’m glad you’re here. I want you here, Spike. I need you.”
He wanted to hear more. She knew that; she even had a good idea what it was that would settle those frown lines once and for all. Frankly, she’d been surprised when he hadn’t bragged about her loving him when they were at Giles’. But he hadn’t, and she suspected that in spite of his smug declarations in the bathroom the previous night, Spike was still unsure what her feelings were. But she just wasn’t ready to take that extra step right now. Not with everything. Not with the news about the baby.
She hoped that what she could give him was enough for now.
“We’re more than friends, you know,” Buffy said when she felt him start to pull away.
“Because of the baby,” Spike murmured.
“No, because of this summer.” She inched her body toward his until their torsos were touching, and his arm came automatically around her waist to draw her closer. “Because of what we have.”
Her use of the present tense captured his attention, and his stormy eyes lifted back to hers. “So, what I did---.”
“---is still under consideration,” Buffy finished, but her lips were soft in a smile as she did so. “I know you don’t like him, but Giles is still a huge part of my life. You two are going to have to learn to play nice.”
“It’s not that I don’t like Rupert,” Spike argued. “For what he is, I like him just fine. What bugs me is his messin’ with what isn’t his business.”
“Protecting me from the Council is his business.”
“Then he better find a way of doin’ it that won’t hurt you or the baby. That’s all I have to say.”
“As long as we don’t have a repeat of this morning, I’ll be good.” She groaned as the sudden realization hit her, grimacing in distaste. “Except we’re going to have at least one curtain call, because I still have to tell Xander. That’s so not going to be of the fun.”
Spike brightened. “Here’s an idea,” he said. “Let me show up at his door with a box of cigars. Think that’ll get the message across quick enough.”
“Um…no. I think this might be one I really do have to handle without you. Xander and vamps…not exactly the best history there. And I mean it, Spike. No surprise entrances this time.”
“Do me a favor, then?”
“Make sure you’ve got either Red or Oz with you when you tell him. Be nice to have a bit of a voice in this, even if I can’t show my face until after.”
Buffy nodded. “That’s good. Xander’s soft spot has always been Willow, and Oz has that whole calming effect going for him. It will help.”
His thumb began making lazy circles where it made brief contact with the skin exposed at her waistband. “You’re not goin’ to run off and do this now, are you?” he asked.
“Can’t. The homework monster awaits to be slain.” Pause. “You can stay and help, if you want. It’s just psych stuff, and probably boring as hell---.”
“Love to, pet.” His lips brushed across her temple. “Thanks for asking.”
During most of the…well, Wesley could only call it a presentation, really. A performance on the part of Buffy and Spike as they confessed the depths of what had actually happened that summer. It was riveting to watch, even if Spike had dismissed him as being superfluous and unimportant to the proceedings. In truth, he was. He hadn’t been there in London as Lydia had, and he had no emotional connection with Buffy other than as her former Watcher. Still, it didn’t stop his questions regarding the magic that had been used during the entire escapade, and it didn’t stop him from stepping forward once Mrs. Summers was gone. It was really too remarkable not to get involved.
“It won’t be some hybrid child, do you think?” he asked, as he watched Giles put a fresh pot of water on to boil.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Giles scolded. “William was just as human as Buffy was when this child was conceived. It’ll be perfectly normal.”
“Well, as normal as can be expected for a child with a Slayer mother and a vampire father,” Lydia observed from kitchen entrance. “Buffy certainly is rather insistent on providing more fodder for the Council’s annals, don’t you think?”
“They won’t find out,” Giles said tightly. His knuckles were white as he gripped the kettle. “I plan on keeping them in the dark on this for as long as it’s conceivably possible. Which means, neither of you are to say a word to them or to anyone back in England about any of what you heard this morning. If I find out you have, I’ll…I’ll tell Spike.”
Wesley gulped, remembering the vicious snarl on the vampire’s face when he’d pinned Rupert to the wall. As furious and dangerous as Giles could be, there was no doubt that Spike would be doubly brutal. It was the most frightening threat Giles could use in their current situation.
“Do you think she’ll abandon her studies?” he asked, desperate to divert the conversation from the subject of the Council.
For a moment, Giles frowned. It was obvious he was doing the calculation in his head, and finally shook his head. “She shouldn’t be due until the spring. There’s no reason for her to not complete this term.”
“Mrs. Summers seems as if she’ll be supportive of Buffy,” Lydia observed. “And William will likely insist on taking over her patrolling duties---.”
“You can’t be serious,” Giles said.
“Of course, I am. You saw him, Rupert. He’s utterly devoted to her. Just as he was with Drusilla. It’s William’s nature to protect those he loves, and if you doubt the veracity of his feelings for your Slayer, then perhaps you aren’t as alert to this situation as you’d like us to believe.”
“I do wish you’d stop calling him that.”
“It’s his name.”
“His name is Spike. Calling him William is…a travesty.”
“You saw his letters, Rupert. He even signed those as William. Spike is just the name he chose when he attempted to remake himself as a vampire.”
Before the conversation could degenerate into another argument, Wesley cleared his throat. “Regardless of what we choose to call him,” he said, “shouldn’t we be concerned with how this might impact our efforts here on the Hellmouth? For instance, how on earth are we going to keep this from Esme? She’s going to be working directly with Willow. It’s inevitable she’ll have contact with Buffy, and if she does, she’s very likely to tell Mr. Travers. Anything to incur favor with him, I’d imagine.”
Lydia frowned. “Esme never struck me as the sort to kowtow to Mr. Travers,” she said.
“Things have changed since she lost her powers,” Wesley said. “She has no choice now but to yield to his superiority.”
“We’ll have to tell Mr. Travers that Willow refuses to work with her then,” Giles replied.
“He’ll only send another from the coven. And the next one he sends will have full use of her powers. She’ll be able to divine the truth more easily than Esme.”
“Wesley’s right,” Lydia said. “Esme is the least dangerous to both Buffy and Willow at this point. We’ll have to sever her contact with the Council. It’s the only solution.”
Both men looked at her quizzically. “We?” Giles asked.
She lifted her chin. “If you think I’m returning to London now, you’re quite mistaken. I’m involved in this as much as either of you. My expertise will be a valuable resource for you.”
“Then perhaps you should be the one assigned to control Esme,” Wesley said. “We’ll convince Willow as to the efficacy of having Esme here, and you can become her bodyguard, so to speak.”
“That works well,” Giles said, interrupting when Lydia opened her mouth to speak. “That leaves Spike for you, Wesley.”
Giles began pouring out the tea. “Clearly, Spike intends to stay in Sunnydale, and it’s highly unlikely he’ll continue on in the hotel. It’s also unlikely that Buffy will be able to stay away from him, as egregious as that might seem. If Spike were to be ensconced somewhere…civilized, it would both give us the opportunity to keep an eye on him should he err in some way and provide a safe haven for Buffy to see him. Under your supervision, of course.”
He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “You want me to get a flat. Here in Sunnydale. With William the Bloody?”
“Well, yes. Was I not clear on that?”
“That’s ludicrous. For one thing, I sincerely doubt Spike would agree to such an arrangement---.”
“Actually, I think he would.” Lydia blew across the top of her steaming tea, oblivious to his discomfiture. “William seems quite determined to prove himself to Mrs. Summers. I think if he was approached correctly, he might see this as a chance for him to establish his sincerity regarding his feelings for Buffy and the baby.”
“By living with me.” How could either of them see any logic in this scenario? It seemed like utter nonsense to Wesley.
“We can always trade,” Lydia said. “You harbor Esme while I continue on with William.”
Giles shook his head. “I might not like Buffy’s feelings for Spike, but I’m not so foolish to endorse that arrangement,” he said. “Buffy hates you, Lydia, and Spike took the first opening he had to leave you behind. Suggesting you cohabitate with him is tantamount to suicide. For all of us.”
“That settles it then,” Giles continued. “Lydia will watch Esme, while Wesley watches Spike, and we do what we must to protect Buffy from the Council.” He sighed, his face suddenly weary, and set down his cup. “I find myself in need of something much stronger than tea,” he said, exiting the kitchen and heading toward his liquor cabinet.
“Make that two,” Wesley said automatically.
This entire plan was completely mad. How had he thought coming to Sunnydale to help Willow would help him atone for his errors the previous year? He should’ve remembered how Gordian the Hellmouth made its inhabitants. And now he was one of them, and he would soon be living with one of the most notorious vampires in recent history, and using every means to foil the Council yet again.
Wesley wilted. “And make mine a double.”
There was a private waiting for her as soon as she stepped from the elevator. “The report you requested from Riley Finn’s comms last night,” he said, handing over a manila folder.
“Thank you,” Maggie replied, and dismissed him as she opened it up to read. It wasn’t long, primarily a transcript from the brief logs Finn had recorded prior to being killed, but one detail immediately stood out from the rest.
The werewolf hadn’t been alone. Finn’s body was found separate from the others because he’d been attempting to convince the girl who was with the HST to vacate the premises.
That meant Riley knew her. She had to be a student.
It couldn’t be Buffy Summers. Riley and his team had been killed by vampires. If the Slayer had been present, she would never have allowed such an event to occur.
But the werewolf was a friend of the Slayer’s, though she was likely unaware of his demon existence or else he’d be dead by now. It was conceivable the mysterious girlfriend of the werewolf was a friend as well.
Mid-step, Maggie smiled.
She knew who the werewolf was.
And tonight was the first night of the full moon. She could get the HST after all.
And perhaps…a small taste of vengeance.
To be continued in Chapter 16: When Clouds Do Blot the Heaven…