DISCLAIMER: The characters are
Joss’, of course, and the chapter title comes from Shakespeare’s “Sonnet CXLI.”
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Giles and Spike are reaching a temporary understanding regarding Buffy, Baltozar found Havi and discovered she rented a room elsewhere, and Buffy shared a stressful moment with Spike about how she is being forced to be tutored for psych class…
It was an unexpected turn of events, to say the least. Spike had only meant to give Buffy the words of support she needed to hear, to convince her that that bitch psych prof was wrong. He hadn’t expected this glorious display, the tangible proof of her feeling for him put before the witness of her most trusted advisor.
After he’d spoken, she’d frozen within his touch. And she’d looked into his eyes with an understanding that he hadn’t seen in over a century. She saw him, and it left Spike struggling not to burst into free verse on bended knee for the acknowledgment only Buffy had ever given him. And then she was kissing him, not the gentle caress of gratitude but a true, lustful, get him hard as a rock kiss. How could he not respond?
He hated the thought of letting her go. With her supple flesh pressed against him, her body warm and oh so inviting, Spike wanted nothing more than to take the invitation Buffy was extending and make love to her right then and there, regardless of the fact that they were on her Watcher’s couch or that the Watcher in question was only in the next room. But he had to, knew she would be embarrassed by anything more, though it certainly appeared that they were well on the way to overcoming that particular peccadillo in just a short amount of time.
So when Rupert and Oz came back into the room, Spike pulled away from Buffy’s mouth, curling his hands around her hips to nestle her against his side. “Soldier Boy wake up from his nap, yet?” he asked them, relishing the soft feel of her cheek when she laid it against his chest.
“Up and out again,” Oz replied. “We had a little talk.”
Spike’s brows shot up. “Yeah?”
“Got a few things off my chest. It felt good.”
“That why he’s out for the count again?” Spike asked with a grin.
Though he shook his head, Oz sported a small smile as he did so. “It looks like it was a hangover. I don’t think he’s the kind of guy who can hold his magic.” He turned to Giles. “Speaking of magic, I’m heading out to see how Willow’s doing. We’re done here, right?”
Giles nodded. “I think we’ve got as much out of Mr. Miller as we’re going to today,” he said. “Thank you for your help.”
Oz was halfway to the door when he stopped and turned back to Spike and Buffy. “There was one thing, though,” he said contemplatively. “I asked him about Riley’s involvement in all this. He said it wasn’t typical, that Riley was usually on Slayer watch.”
Spike wasn’t the only one to stiffen at the mention of the Slayer. Buffy sat up and faced Oz, while Giles peered at him in disbelief.
“Why did you mention Buffy?” Giles asked, his voice stern. “I distinctly told everyone to keep Buffy’s involvement out of this. We didn’t want her presence to be known.”
“That’s just it,” Oz said. “I didn’t. He brought her up all on his own.”
“Right,” Spike said, hopping to his feet and marching for the bathroom. “Time to have a few words with the bloke---.”
He was stopped by Giles blocking the hall. “He’s out cold,” he reminded Spike. “You’re wasting your time.”
“Yeah, well, maybe it’ll just be for my own satisfaction, then.”
Buffy’s hand brushed against his arm, effectively cutting off his intent. “We’re not making this worse,” she said to him when he looked down at her. She glanced over at Oz. “What else did he say about me?”
“Nothing. That was when he passed out again.”
Giles’ frown deepened. “That must be one of the subjects that trigger the magic,” he mused. “Interesting.”
“But Buffy’s not a demon,” Spike argued. “What would that lot want with her? Doesn’t make sense.”
“Which would be why I said it was an interesting dilemma,” Giles said dryly.
“Great,” Buffy muttered. “Someone else out to make my life miserable. Just what I need right now.”
The way she pulled from him and headed for the door made Spike wonder if he was being lumped into that particular category, but the doubt was cast aside when she turned back to look at him.
“I need to get out of here,” she said. It was directed to Spike, her eyes uncharacteristically dark. “Feel like finding something to beat up?”
He didn’t have to be asked twice. With a jaunty step, Spike grabbed his coat and headed for her side. “We can pretend it’s your psych teach,” he teased.
Buffy grinned, though she quickly stifled it when Giles shot her a stern look. Grabbing Spike’s hand, she pulled him out the door with a quick goodbye to her Watcher, barely giving Spike the time to get his coat over his head. Didn’t matter. He’d go through a hell of a lot worse than a little sunburn to be at Buffy’s side. He’d go through hell itself.
They argued about Havi’s decision the entire way to the apartment.
“It’s not that I think you can’t take care of yourself,” Xander said. “It’s that I think if this guy is such bad news, you should go in with as much back-up as possible.”
“I refuse to let you get even more involved,” she said stiffly. Though she had relaxed more and more throughout the day, as soon as her search was done and she realized she would have to go back to Baltozar’s to fetch her belongings, Havi’s agitation had returned. She didn’t want to have to face Baltozar again. The confrontation would not be a pleasant one.
“Did I say it would be me?” He was grinning as he said it, and though she’d learned too quickly that he used his humor to hide his true feelings, Havi could also see the genuine concern in his eyes. “Let’s go get Buffy. Nothing says back off better than having a Slayer on your side. Trust me.”
“She has no reason to help me.”
“Well, yeah, she does. You’re one of the good guys, remember?”
The other thing that had thrown Havi over and over again was Xander’s unexpected lumping of her with his friends. He had been wary of her at the Watcher’s house, and still wary when he’d first walked up to her table in front of the coffee shop, but all too soon, that wariness had vanished, to be replaced by an affability that was difficult not to warm to. She liked him, which, in her experience, just didn’t happen. It was yet another reason she didn’t want him to witness a scene with Baltozar. Not only did she believe that Xander would get hurt in any fight that might ensue, a small, argumentative part of her wanted to keep each man compartmentalized from the other.
Baltozar was a part of her old life.
She wanted Xander to be a part of her new.
Clean break. That’s what she wanted now. It’s what Rose would’ve wanted for her.
Her dark eyes scanned the road as Xander turned the last corner toward the apartment. There was no sign of Baltozar’s car; now was going to be the best time for her to do this. His absence meant no confrontation. It would make this infinitely easier.
“He’s not here,” Havi said as Xander coasted to a stop at the curb. She turned to face him and was mildly surprised at the certainty of his gaze. Behind the joviality was a young man who’d learned how to take strength from adversity; it was understandable that the Slayer would count him among her friends. “There’s no reason for you to be concerned.”
Xander’s eyes jumped from her to the building behind her. “I still don’t like it,” he said.
“I’m not asking you to like it. I’m asking you to stay here.”
He nodded, albeit reluctantly. “I’ll give you ten minutes,” he said. “Any longer and I’m coming in, got it?”
“I suppose it’s a good thing I don’t have many belongings, then,” she said with a small smile.
“You’re the first girl I’ve ever met who’s said that. Knew you were one of a kind.”
Turning away from the appraising grin he shot her, Havi hid her flush from him as she climbed out of the car, not even looking back as she walked quickly up the path. There had been a few comments that day that made her suspect his interest in her was more than just a polite concern. It was nothing she could put a finger on, though. She had never been frightfully good at reading the opposite sex.
The apartment was dark when she pushed open the front door, and she stepped inside with a relieved sigh. This would be quick, without conflict. She would grab her things and leave. Maybe write Baltozar a note.
She froze when the bedroom door opened and his dark shadow unexpectedly emerged. He didn’t approach. He merely leaned against the jamb, blocking the way to her clothes, watching her with hooded eyes.
“I’d ask where you’ve been, but that never seems to turn out too good for me,” Baltozar said.
His tone was almost too casual, and goosebumps erupted along Havi’s arms. Restraint was not one of Baltozar’s stronger suits; the fact that he was being so calm could not bode well for her.
“I didn’t think you were home,” she said carefully. “The car’s not out front.”
“Is that your way of telling me you wouldn’t have come in if you had thought I was here?”
She frowned. His cagy question implied he knew more than he was telling, but what it could be, she had no idea. “What have you been doing all day?” It was a safer query for her, and she walked to the kitchen presumably to get a drink. She had to draw him away from the bedroom; all her weapons were in there.
“Looking for you,” came the blunt reply. “You didn’t come home last night.”
Guilt stabbed through her at the use of his word “home.” “You were drunk. You weren’t rational.”
“I thought you’d been hurt.” She felt him approach her at the sink, but he still kept himself between her and the bedroom door. “But you’re not, are you?”
Havi flinched when his fingers began stroking her right bicep, unexpectedly gentle. Thank god standing behind her meant he couldn’t see her face. “The fact that you don’t trust me hurt,” she admitted.
“I don’t trust anyone,” Baltozar said softly. “You know that.”
Her resolve was wavering. His proximity, this tender side that he so rarely displayed…it always undid her. It was so easy to forget how violent he’d been the night before, how violent he could be. Though he had yet to say…
“You know I’m sorry, right?” Baltozar murmured into her ear. His breath was warm against her neck. “It’s just that I love you so damn much. You make me crazy sometimes.”
The sigh escaped her. “That’s not an excuse.”
But part of her didn’t really mean it.
Slowly, Baltozar reached to wrap his fingers around hers where they held the glass, guiding it down to the sink and forcing her to set it down. He turned her around so that she faced him, keeping her ass pressed to the edge of the counter. “It’s all I’ve got,” he said. “Isn’t it enough?”
Xander didn’t wait well. He got bored. Fidgety. More than one teacher had commented on it throughout his scholastic career. More than one pencil had gotten stuck in an acoustic ceiling tile because of it. Nobody had been able to fix it, though. He just didn’t like to sit still for that long without doing something.
However, sitting was his only current option. The ten minutes he’d given Havi were now stretching into fifteen, and while he’d only been kidding about going in after her if she took longer, Xander was starting to seriously wonder if something might be wrong. A light had come on in the apartment she’d entered, but the road remained silent, devoid of life and disturbance.
He wanted to trust her. It had been a surprisingly good day until they’d started heading back to her old place. Havi had even been smiling at most of his jokes by the time they walked out of the Sunnydale Arms. Xander was beginning to feel less like an imposer and more of a real friend at that point.
OK, a friend who wanted to have hot and crazy monkey sex with her, but for Xander, that really wasn’t all that unusual for how his friendships with girls started. He was sure he’d get over it in time.
For now, though, he wasn’t sure what to think. He just knew he couldn’t sit behind his steering wheel, listening to the local radio station run their eighties night. If anything was guaranteed to drive him around the bend, it was Cyndi Lauper on repeat.
He grabbed the crossbow out of his back seat without thinking. It didn’t get used that often, and there was a Milky Way wrapper stuck on the end of one of the arrows, but it was the one weapon he knew he could count on for just about anything. Stakes were definitely more portable, but they only worked on vamps. The crossbow let him take a shot before whatever he faced decided he was a nummy treat.
And the bigger and harder to miss it was, the better.
He approached the apartment quietly, stepping from the path to peer through the open curtain. He spotted Havi right away, but it was the other person in the room that made him tighten his grip on the weapon.
She’d only talked about what had happened briefly, when Xander screwed up his nerve to ask about the bruises. He knew the guy’s name---Baltozar---and he knew they’d come to Sunnydale together. But hearing those sparse details and seeing the man who was now pinning Havi to the kitchen counter were two entirely different matters.
For one thing, he was bigger than Xander had imagined. An easy six-three and two hundred pounds, he sported muscles that would’ve made Arnie jealous. Not the early, too big to be real Arnie, but the more compactly muscled Arnie from his comedy phase. It was Kindergarten Cop meets Vincent Vega.
Tattoos adorned his bare arms, and the fact that one was a sword dripping with blood came as no surprise to Xander. Neither did the fact that his hair was longer than Havi’s. His dark hair was long and shaggy, slicked back away from his face to expose the thick sideburns that ran down to his jaw. It also revealed him talking to Havi, though Xander couldn’t hear a word of it.
He could, however, see Havi’s face. And he could see the way Baltozar’s hands kept running over her body, possessive and knowing.
And Xander saw red.
She knew what he was saying was wrong. She knew the way he was touching her was wrong. It had been less than twenty-four hours earlier that he’d attacked her in the very next room, but still, Havi was transfixed by what he professed, by the solicitude in his embrace.
“We didn’t come all this way to lose each other,” Baltozar was whispering. “Say the word, and we’ll leave. Get out of here. We don’t need the Hellmouth, Havi. I don’t need anything. Just you.”
“Don’t,” she said, but there was no conviction in her voice.
“You don’t mean that.”
“I think the lady does.”
She hadn’t even heard the door open, and her head jerked toward it, stiffening when she saw Xander there with a drawn crossbow. Something in Baltozar shifted, hardened even before he glanced back, and she saw a crack form in the gentle mask he’d been wearing.
“I was wondering if you were going to show up,” he said.
It was his choice of words rather than his tone that snapped her out of the fugue he’d made in her head. “What’re you talking about?” Havi demanded. She braced her hands against his chest and pushed, taking him by surprise.
Baltozar stumbled back, his eyes jumping between the two. When he took a step closer to Havi, Xander lifted the crossbow a little higher.
“I think even I’d have a problem missing from this close,” Xander said. “Leave her alone.” His gaze flickered to Havi. “You OK? He didn’t hurt you again, did he?”
She shook her head, inching along the counter toward the bedroom. “I’m sorry,” she said, but she wasn’t entirely sure to which man she was apologizing.
“Is this the way it ends, then?” Baltozar snarled. “He’s a fucking kid, Havi! Don’t tell me you’re leaving me for a fucking kid. You’ll chew him up and be starving for more before breakfast, mark my word.”
“Nobody’s chewing anything,” Xander said. “I’m her friend. I’m just trying to help here.”
Baltozar’s eyes flickered over him with disdain. “Do you really think I’m that stupid? Look her in the eye and tell her you haven’t thought about fucking her into next Tuesday. Go on. Do it.”
Though it wasn’t entirely a surprise when Xander blushed, Havi still took a step away, from both of them at that point. But Baltozar wasn’t finished.
“That’s right.” His voice was lower, more seductive, power glittering in his eyes. “You can’t. Hasn’t stopped you thinking about it, though, has it? Wondering how tight she is? What if I told you she gives the most amazing head? My girl could suck you dry if she wanted to. Can’t think herself out of an open box, but she’s got the hottest little mouth I’ve ever---.”
“Stop it!” Her foot lashed out at the same time, slamming into the back of his knee and sending Baltozar crumpling to the floor. Shame coursed through her for having almost succumbed to his words again, and she whirled toward the bedroom, blinded by her tears.
“Don’t even think about getting up,” she heard Xander threaten. “No, wait a minute. On second thought, go ahead. I’m dying for a reason to shoot you.”
Grabbing her duffle from the closet, Havi didn’t even bother getting her clothes before returning to the outer room. Those were replaceable; other things were not.
“Let’s go,” she said, not stopping or looking up as she rushed past Xander to the open door.
The pleading tone of Baltozar’s voice made her falter, but she held her ground, refusing to even glance back. She couldn’t. If she saw him, Havi wasn’t sure she wouldn’t end up falling prey to the doubt again.
She’d made her choice. She just had to stick with it this time.
Xander didn’t stick around. With Havi no longer in the apartment, his bravado vanished with her, and he scuttled back toward the door as quickly as he could without losing his aim on Baltozar. Then, it was out into the encroaching darkness and a dead run to his car. He’d never been so glad to see the old girl in his whole life.
They didn’t say a word until he’d pulled away, and then Xander only risked a quick glance at the woman at his side. “You did the right thing,” he said. “I know you were thinking about staying, but trust me. You did the right thing.”
Her head was turned away from him, but he saw the reflection of her tears in the window. “This is my life,” she said quietly. There was no trace of her crying in her voice. It was almost as if she was trying to convince herself of her own words. “I do the right thing. Even when I think it is wrong.”
“It doesn’t have to be so bad. And look at the fresh start you’ve got. New friends, new apartment---.”
Her head whipped around. “I can’t take the apartment, Xander,” Havi said. “Baltozar knows. He has to. He had to have seen us together when he was looking for me today. That’s how he recognized you.”
He hadn’t thought of that. He’d just been concentrating on not letting the bastard lay another hand on Havi.
“But you can’t go back there,” he said, jerking his head toward the dark street behind them.
She deflated before his eyes. “I know.”
They drove in silence, aimed mindlessly through the Sunnydale streets. He didn’t know where he was going, and she wasn’t volunteering any more suggestions, the two of them floating together on a river of indecision. He knew how tough it was for her to just walk out; he’d been witness to that kind of destructive relationship his entire life. But he didn’t know how else to convince her of the power of what she’d done.
They were stopped at the light near the movie theater when he got the idea. When it turned green, Xander braved the honks of the cars behind him to cut across two lanes, making the left to go around the block. Havi turned to him with a frown darkening her face.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“I want to make a phone call.” He pulled up to the curb, fishing around for the change in the ashtray he used for a coin catcher. “You don’t want to spend the night in front of the Espresso Pump again, do you?”
Hesitantly, she shook her head.
“I didn’t think so.” Leaving the engine running, Xander slid out of the car and had taken two steps toward the phone when she called out to him.
“Yeah?” he said, ducking his head back into the window.
Her eyes were luminous as she looked at him, and he saw her throat work as she tried to find the right words. “Thank you,” Havi finally said, and nodded, an odd gesture that would’ve looked wrong on anybody else in Sunnydale. On her, though, it was just…right.
Xander smiled. “You’re welcome.” In that moment, all the fear that had been burning the back of his throat at what exactly he’d done---standing up to bullies had never been his strong suit---dissipated in a wash of soothing heat. “I’ll be right back.”
It was Wesley’s threat to send her back to England that finally made Esme speak.
“I wanted to know how the original spell was cast,” she admitted. “I thought I’d have a clue from her blood.”
His lips thinned, and his eyes narrowed behind his spectacles. “That isn’t of your concern,” he said. “If it was, you would’ve been informed of that back in England.”
She disagreed with him, but held her tongue, waiting to see how he would act now that she’d complied with his order to explain herself. She couldn’t return to England now. She’d only just deciphered how to get her magic back, once and for all.
“Rupert is of the mind to discontinue your sessions with Willow,” Wesley said
“But you’re not?”
“On the contrary, I think it’s an excellent idea. And I’m sure Mr. Travers would agree that your behavior thus far has been less than exemplary.”
There was a but coming. It took everything in Esme not to smile as she waited for it.
“However…” Ah, Watcher-speak for but. Just as effective. “…we agreed to defer the decision to Willow. And…she wishes to continue.”
This time, she did smile, though it was just a little one. “Willow is a smart girl,” Esme said. “She understands that I’m the only one who can help her.”
“Actually, she told Rupert she’s no longer afraid that she won’t be able to defend herself against you,” Wesley countered. “She believes that the incident last night was all the proof she needed.”
It rankled, but Esme nodded in agreement anyway. It wouldn’t do to ruffle feathers at this point by arguing what would soon be a moot point. She waited until he left her alone again before wiping the deferential smile from her face, picking up the phone and dialing the number she’d already committed to memory.
He picked it up on the first ring. “Havi?”
Esme frowned at the weakness in Baltozar’s voice. “What’s wrong?” she demanded.
A heavy sigh. The sound of glass clinking. Liquid sloshing as he poured something. “Havi left me.”
“Because we had a fucking fight, that’s why!” The pain in his voice was raw, and she listened to him try to soothe it with the liquor she knew he was consuming. “What do you want?”
“I have a job for you.”
“Fuck off. I’m done with this. I’m out of here in the morning.”
Panic threatened to make her overreact. “Don’t be ridiculous,” Esme scolded, keeping her tone firm. “You’ve come too far to give up now.”
“There’s no point in doing any of this without Havi,” Baltozar retorted. “So, you just take your magic, and your mythical Slayer artifacts, and shove ‘em up your---.”
“I can give her back to you.”
His sharp intake of breath cut through the phone line, spurring Esme to continue before she lost him again.
“Do this thing for me, and I’ll have my magic back. I can make it that Havi never leaves you again, Baltozar. All it takes is this one thing.”
She waited for him to digest her words, watching the red display on the clock switch over.
“What is it?” he finally said.
Esme smiled. “Nothing you haven’t done before,” she said. “One little kill. A girl. She’ll never see it coming.”
To be continued in Chapter 28: Tomb’d with Thee…