DISCLAIMER: The characters are
Joss’, of course, and the chapter title comes from Shakespeare’s “Sonnet LII.”
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Buffy got hurt on patrol and asked to be taken to her mother’s, while Xander has taken Havi to stay at the Summers’ house…
Given the choice, Xander would’ve preferred just a few more minutes to try and come to grips with what exactly had just happened between him and Havi. She hadn’t made any sort of overture all day, and then, to have her practically throwing herself at him? It didn’t make sense. Well, it did make sense, kind of like how he could hear his parents doing the unspeakable in their bedroom sometimes after they’d had a big fight. His dad was always just a little bit easier to get along with the days after that happened. If that was the kind of relationship Havi had had with Tattoo Boy, then Xander was even more glad than he had been that she was now out of it.
The other part that surprised the hell out of him was that he’d turned her down. Xander Harris, saying no to a hot girl offering him sex with no strings attached? That apocalypse he’d thought was coming when he’d first sat down with her at the Espresso Pump seemed even more imminent now.
It was Buffy’s voice that drew him from the bedroom. Ignoring the fact that his cock was still rock-hard, and that he could still taste Havi on his lips, Xander hurried from the room to see Havi poised in the middle of the stairwell, gazing down at a furious Buffy at the bottom. He skidded to a halt when Buffy’s eyes jumped to him, widening slightly in surprise to see him standing there, too.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
Behind her, Spike smirked. “Looks like the boy decided to take Summers hospitality just a small step further,” he said.
Xander’s cheeks flamed, memory of what had just happened in the spare bedroom burning bright, but he was saved from answering when Joyce emerged from the dining room.
“What’s with all the shouting?” she asked in mild annoyance. She took a sharp intake of breath, closing the gap between her and Buffy to take her daughter’s elbow in a light grasp. “What happened?”
For the first time, Xander noticed the awkward angle at which Buffy was holding her arm, and the bruises that mottled her tanned skin. “If Spike---,” he started.
“Vamp,” Buffy interrupted. “On patrol.” She shot Xander a grim look. “Spike saved me.”
“Let’s get this taken care of.” There was no arguing with Joyce’s tone, or with the commanding grip of her daughter’s shoulders as she guided Buffy to the dining room. “I’ll explain everything while we’re wrapping you up.”
The absence of the two Summers’ women left Havi, Xander, and Spike standing around awkwardly, and the vampire’s eyes narrowed slightly as he regarded her.
“You’re the bird from the other night,” he commented. “When Red went all firestarter.”
“Yes.” Her voice was clipped, more so than usual, and Xander could see the newly sprung rigidity in her shoulders as her fingers tightened around the banister. Spike made her nervous, which wasn’t all that unusual considering it was Spike. Spike made everybody nervous. However, this just seemed like…more.
“How do I know you?”
Havi shook her head. Her voice had fled in light of whatever fear Spike was inspiring.
Spike, on the other hand, wasn’t moving at all. In fact, Spike was currently frowning, his eyes dark as he took a step toward Havi, features tight as he seemed to be scrutinizing her more closely.
Havi retreated up a stair. Xander could see the pulse hammering in her neck.
Spike closed his eyes, inhaling deeply. When they opened again, gold flecks sparkled in the blue, and his lips curled back into a snarl.
“Baltozar…” he hissed, and launched himself upward.
Havi started moving just seconds before Spike did, knocking Xander over as she tried to flee back to the bedroom. Spike’s hand grabbed her ankle, and she lashed back, slamming her free heel into his face. The vamp bellowed in pain, his grip loosening, and Xander scooped Havi beneath her arms, trying to help her get away.
At the bottom of the stairs, Buffy appeared with half-wrapped bandages dangling from her arm. Her eyes widened in alarm, and she bolted up the stairs, two at a time, to pull at Spike with her free hand.
“Stop it!” she shouted. “I don’t care what kind of macho crap this is, drop it right now!”
Leaping gracefully to her feet, Havi squared her shoulders while she maximized the distance between her and Spike. “This does not concern Xander,” she said. Her voice was frighteningly calm, considering the scuffle that had just taken place.
“No, it bloody well doesn’t!” Spike barked. He jabbed a finger at Havi. “You’ve got his smell all over you, bitch. You were the one who was there, weren’t you?”
Xander leapt forward to stand between them, while Buffy took a similar position in front of Spike. “What the hell is your problem?” he demanded of the vampire. “Havi’s been with me all day, so yeah, she probably does smell like me.” And god, he hoped that was all Spike could smell.
Spike wasn’t listening to him, though. “That was what was bugging me the other night,” he continued. He was straining to attack again, but Buffy’s firm palm against his chest held him back. “That’s what I couldn’t place. It wasn’t as strong then, but now…” His nostrils flared as he sniffed determinedly at the air. “No bloody way he hasn’t been rubbing up on you some time in the past few hours. Don’t think I could forget the smell of the bastard that easily.”
“Will someone tell me what exactly is going on here?” Buffy said, exasperated.
“Harris’ little friend,” Spike sneered. “Been playin’ footsie with the wanker who killed Rose. Probably held her down while he did the job.”
Xander felt the muscles in Havi’s arm twitch beneath his hand. “I did no such thing,” she said viciously. “I loved Rose. I---.”
“Set her up, most likely,” he finished for her. “I was there, you daft chit. You can’t pull the wool over my eyes. And you’re wearing Baltozar’s scent like those cheap fags he was always smokin’. There is no way in hell you’re not involved in this.”
At the mention of her boyfriend’s name, Xander’s head whipped around, drinking in Havi’s pale countenance. There was some truth in whatever crazy talk Spike was babbling about, and it dawned on him that he’d known this detail about her boyfriend somewhere in the back of his brain. That was the name Giles had tested Havi with during his interrogation of her. Xander just hadn’t put the two together until now.
For a moment, he hesitated. Had he been wrong about Havi? Had all his good intentions from the day been one massive set-up on her part?
No. Impossible. She hadn’t faked the bruises on her neck, and she’d been genuinely surprised to see Xander that morning. He had been the one to approach her. There was no way she was on the wrong side of whatever it was that was bugging Spike.
Buffy was frowning, pulling away from Havi as her eyes darted around. “Is that true?” she asked carefully. “You knew Rose?”
“Yes,” Havi admitted.
“She was her Protector,” Xander chimed in.
Everyone looked surprised at his contribution to the conversation. “Right,” Spike drawled. “And I’m the Queen of soddin’ Sheba. Stop lettin’ her lead you around by the short and curlies, Harris. My money is that you’ll lose ‘em.”
“Look,” he said, “I don’t know anything about this Rose---.”
“That’s who helped us this summer,” Buffy said tightly. “She was killed last week.”
“And I’m sorry to hear that. But Havi is telling you the truth here. She had proof for Giles and everything---.”
Buffy’s eyes widened. “Giles knows about this?”
Spike snorted. “This just gets better an’ better. Let’s just toss the bitch and be done with it, yeah?”
“There will be no tossing!”
All heads turned to see Joyce standing on the stairs. Her face was solemn, her mouth thin.
“Buffy, back to the dining room,” she instructed. “Spike, finish wrapping her arm. Havi, you come with me.”
Xander was left standing in confusion as first Buffy and then Spike obeyed Joyce’s commands. Havi hesitated at the top of the stairs, glancing back at him, and he was struck by the bleak despair in her eyes. “Can I come with you, too, Mrs. Summers?” he asked, his gaze never leaving Havi’s.
After a moment, Joyce nodded. “But I want to hear what Havi has to say, not you this time,” she warned. “I think too many people have been talking for her tonight already.”
Havi’s small sigh was the only indication of her pleasure with the decision, and Xander followed after them, carefully keeping his eyes averted from the sight of Buffy and Spike at the dining room table. He felt their gazes on him heavily as he wound his way to the back porch with Havi and Mrs. Summers, but set aside the question of their interest in Havi’s boyfriend.
Xander had seen the jerk with his own two eyes. Regardless of what might have happened in the past, there was no way he was going to believe that Havi had faked the anger or hurt Baltozar had caused.
She needed a friend now, more than ever.
It was only when Buffy winced as he tightened a bandage that Spike realized his anger at finding the woman who’d been in Rose’s home here in Sunnydale was translating into unwanted aggression in his first aid treatment. “Sorry ‘bout that,” he mumbled, and eased the tension in the elastic gauze, taping down the edge so that it wouldn’t come loose.
Buffy’s eyes were turned toward the closed back door. “I don’t suppose you’ve been using that super vampire hearing of yours to eavesdrop,” she commented casually.
Bugger. He hadn’t even thought of that.
“Been a little distracted here, in case you didn’t notice.” He said it with a quick flash of a smile, and was glad when she looked back to him, her eyes softening.
“Yeah, kind of did,” she replied. She paused. “What do you think is going on here?”
“Dunno. Didn’t even know that Harris knew the bird.”
“Yeah, that’s a little weird. Do you think it’s some kind of rivalry thing with Xander? I mean, you attack Havi so he automatically has to defend her?”
Spike shook his head. “According to him, he spent the whole day with her. I knew something was off with the bint the other night, but I couldn’t put my nose to it ‘til just now. Harris couldn’t have known how I felt.”
“And you’re sure? About her seeing the guy who killed Rose part.”
“Would stake my life on it. Hell, I’d stake the baby’s life on it, that’s how sure I am, luv.”
With a heavy sigh, Buffy leaned back in her seat, angling her body so that she could lift her legs and rest them on Spike’s lap. Her hands rubbed absently over her stomach, a small moue making her so delectable that he forgot momentarily about the business outside.
“What kind of life am I going to be able to give this baby, Spike?” she asked softly. “I can’t get through one night without some kind of ER melodrama. How am I going to be around for all the little things, like midnight feedings and her first tooth and---?”
“Stop right there.” Pulling her shoes off, Spike began rubbing Buffy’s feet, strong fingers loosening the tension in the arches. “Buggy before the horse, pet. First off, you’re not alone in this so nothin’s going to be missed. You’ve got me, and your mum, and Rupert when he gets his head out of his ass ‘bout me bein’ the father. Then there’s Red and Oz and---.”
She cut him off with a wave of his hand, a small chuckle escaping her lips. “OK, I get the idea.”
Spike chewed at the inside of his cheek. Buffy was lost in her ruminations, probably dwelling on what had happened back at the cemetery as well as the drama outside. After what she’d admitted to, he desperately wanted to bring up the issue of her patrols, but he was still half-convinced that she’d automatically take it the wrong way and brush him off. Next time, she might not be so lucky. He might not be there to stop some nasty from having their one good day.
His heart twisted. He didn’t want to think about that.
“You’re goin’ to let me do what I came here to do, right?” Not asking the question was impossible, and when she looked at him with a tiny frown, he elaborated, “Watchin’ your back. ‘Specially now. It’s why I’m here, after all.”
Something darkened in her eyes, and Buffy shifted her feet off his lap, curling into a tiny ball on the chair. “Do I have to watch those kind of displays every time?” she joked feebly.
“You know why---.”
“Yeah, but it’s definitely not of the fun to see.” She picked at the edges of the gauze. “Maybe…we should just make it a permanent thing anyway.”
“Patrolling together.” She was deliberately avoiding his eyes. “Between school, and the baby, and Willow, and this vigilante business, and now Havi…wow, it’s no wonder I’m all stressy. When I put it like that, I don’t know how I’m doing it, either.”
She was actually bringing up the issue herself. It was more than Spike would’ve wished for. “No reason you can’t even start taking some nights off,” he said eagerly. “Let me take some of the pressure off.”
But she was already shaking her head. “I don’t want anybody to baby me,” Buffy argued.
“It’s not you---,” he started, but at her sharp look, he amended, “OK, it’s not just you. Got a fair interest in keeping the little one safe, you know. You think I like the idea of something happening to either one of you? It bloody tears me apart, Buffy. I’ve got just as much right to want to do what it takes to protect it as you do.”
“I didn’t say you didn’t.”
“No, but your actions are shouting at me, loud and clear.”
“I asked you to go with me tonight, didn’t I?”
“And tomorrow? And the night after that? You can’t tell me you were planning on me bein’ at your side every time you get an itch for a spot of violence, pet. That’s not your style.”
Her lips tightened, her gaze falling again. Before either of them could say anything else, however, the back door opened, and a subdued Xander ambled inside, Havi on his heels. Spike frowned when he saw the way Harris was holding the young woman’s hand, but his mouth snapped shut when he caught the stern look on Joyce’s face.
“Well?” Buffy asked, rising to her feet.
“Havi’s staying,” Joyce said firmly. “And the two of you are going to have a long talk about what exactly is going on.”
“Now wait a bloody minute,” Spike said, jumping to join the fray. His ill temper returned when he saw the proud jut of Havi’s chin. “There’s certain things you don’t know about---.”
“I know enough.” Joyce nodded toward the living room. “Why don’t you girls go get comfortable? Xander’s going to wait for the pizza, and I’d like to have a word with Spike in private.”
Maybe it was the fact that she hadn’t smiled at him once since he’d shown up on her doorstep that put Spike on edge about Joyce’s intentions. Watching the others disperse according to her instructions, he had no choice but to follow after the elder Summers when she headed back to the kitchen, hopping up onto the counter to try and hide his sudden nervousness about speaking with her.
“I haven’t seen you since Monday,” she said, reaching up into the cupboard to pull out two mugs. Putting them down with the three others that were already next to the stove, she added, “How are you doing?”
Somehow, he didn’t think this little chitchat was really about his health. “Not that I don’t appreciate the niceties,” he said, “but don’t s’pose you could just cut to the chase here, could you? Been a bit of a tryin’ day.”
Joyce’s mouth curled into a small smile. “Wait until the baby gets here. All of this is just the pre-show.”
He couldn’t help but chuckle as she turned away to finish up the hot chocolate preparation she’d been interrupted in. “S’pose you’ve got a point there.”
“There’s actually two things I wanted to talk to you about,” she said as she worked. “I’ve heard Havi’s side of the story. Now I want to hear yours.”
Mention of the other woman raised Spike’s hackles. “What did that bitch tell you?” he growled.
Joyce turned a stern look at him. “As long as Havi’s a guest here, Spike, I’d prefer if you didn’t refer to her like that in my presence, understand? I’ve asked the same of her and Xander, so don’t think this has anything to do with you. It’s just a courtesy I’d like to expect from everyone. There’s enough stress going around as it is.” She waited for him to nod. “Now. Tell me why it is you thought it was OK to attack someone who’s a guest in my home.”
There was that maternal condescension in her tone as she spoke, shaming Spike in ways that hadn’t happened since he’d been human, and he dropped his voice respectfully as he related the tale. She already knew the history of it from when he and Buffy had told the story of their summer, so he just skimmed over those details, jumping ahead to his search for Rose after Buffy had left London and how he’d eventually found the seer.
“Never really liked that Baltozar, but since he was Lydia’s contact, I didn’t question it,” Spike said. “But there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s the one who offed Rose, or that that Havi chit has seen him in the last few hours. That means he’s in Sunnydale, and if you think I’m goin’ to just take a back seat while there’s a potential threat to Buffy out there, you don’t know me at all, Joyce.”
“Yes, I think I’m beginning to see that.” Her gaze turned to the doorway, through which the low murmur of Buffy and Havi’s voices could be heard. “She doesn’t deny being with this Baltozar, so you know.”
Spike snorted. “’Course not. She knows she’d be found out in two ticks if she lied about it.”
“Did you see the bruises on her neck?”
He frowned, thrown by the question, and stretched his memory back. “Can’t say that I did.”
“Baltozar caused them. Xander personally witnessed him attacking Havi. He brought her here because she needed someplace safe to stay.”
“Red herring. Likely, she’s settin’ the lot of us up for something, waitin’ until our guard is down.”
“So, because she’s got a questionable history, you think I should just dismiss any claims she has that she means us no harm now?”
The question was ingenuous, and Spike caught her angle within seconds of her finishing. “Oi,” he said, straightening. “That’s not the same thing.”
“No, it’s not. For one thing, me and Buffy---.”
“Were trying to kill each other less than a year ago, if I remember correctly. And yet, now you’re vowing to be a father to her baby. Supposedly.”
Spike scowled. He had a feeling she would have something to throw at just about anything he might say in his defense. “It’s not the same,” he repeated, petulantly.
Joyce poured the hot chocolate into the mugs, leaving the room quiet for a few minutes while she did so. “I’m not going into this completely blind,” she finally said, handing him a steaming mug. She crossed to the pantry to pull out a bag of mini marshmallows. “First thing tomorrow morning, Havi and I will go see Rupert. Xander claims that he has more evidence that will support Havi’s side of the story.”
“Good to see my word means something ‘round here,” he muttered, staring into the filmy surface of his drink.
He watched her drop a small handful of marshmallows into his mug. “Spike,” she said, and the gentle tone in her voice dragged his gaze away to meet hers. “I haven’t thanked you yet for helping Buffy tonight. What you did…that says a lot. So, thank you.”
Suddenly uncomfortable, he shrugged. “I love her,” he said simply. “If she’d let me take the patrols completely just so that I knew she was safe, I’d do it. No question.”
“I believe you. Are you still staying at the hotel?”
“Hotels cost money.”
“That, they do.”
“Do you have plans for a job, or for a real place to live?”
He should’ve known Joyce would corner him on this sooner or later. Was he good enough to help provide for her daughter? Was he there just to pursue a physical relationship with Buffy? Mama Summers was ready to divine the truth, it would seem.
“Still gettin’ myself sorted,” he said. “Haven’t even had much of a chance to breathe, if you can pardon the figure of speech. But I will,” he hastened to add. “Just as soon---.”
“How would you like to live here?”
He could only gape at her in shock as she went on.
“The basement needs a good cleaning, but there are only windows at the one end, and it would be big enough for you to make into your own space without feeling like you’re just a guest. I’m sure Buffy would feel more comfortable knowing you’re somewhere she knows is safe, and when the baby comes, having you around means I’ll get to see my grandbaby more.”
“What…? Are you serious?”
“As long as you’re not going to poke fun at me for suggesting it,” she said with a smile.
“No, it’s just…” He shook his head, still awed by the fact that she’d proposed it. “Why?”
“Because I’m selfish.” It was said simply, with complete sincerity. “Buffy’s in college now, and the fact that I only found out about the two of you a couple of days ago just shows how much she’s growing up. This is a way for me to make sure I don’t miss out on too much of it.”
His gaze was fixed by the white fluff starting to melt across the surface of his hot chocolate, and Spike stuck his finger into the fluid, stirring it up before lifting it to his mouth and sucking it clean. Buffy’d already been talking around the issue of his getting a place, bringing up the possibility of the Watcher and most likely nursing other ideas to pull out in case Wesley didn’t pan. How would she feel about this arrangement?
“You don’t have to answer me now,” Joyce said, edging away to start putting the mugs of chocolate on a tray. “But there’s something else in it that works in your favor.”
“Yeah? What’s that?”
“If you don’t trust Havi, this is the best place for you to keep an eye on her.” Shooting him a small smile, Joyce picked up the tray and exited the room.
He felt like crap, and he’d been in and out of consciousness all day, but Graham could tell by how the older British guy was so careful with him that he probably looked a hell of a lot worse than he really was. After the last aborted attempt at interrogation, the man---Giles, he remembered them saying his name was---returned with a first aid kit, seeing to the superficial bleeding that had occurred when Graham had passed out again. He’d stayed silent, but the compassion in those weary eyes had spoken volumes, leaving Graham more than a little perplexed when the chains that bound him were loosened slightly.
Giles didn’t consider him a threat. After all the precautions he’d taken, Giles seemed to be of the opinion that Graham was more incapacitated than he actually was.
This was Graham’s chance.
He didn’t say a word. Speaking would likely reveal how much strength he really had. He just watched through heavy lids, struggling to keep his appearance sluggish, while Giles went about his nightly ritual. It was telling that Graham’s presence didn’t seem to bother him too much any more, even more reason Graham had to risk the odds. He just had to time it correctly.
The moment came when Giles bent over the sink to splash water over his face.
Graham’s foot shot out, all his energy focused on the limited range of motion he had with it, and slammed into Giles’ shoulder. The Brit’s head jerked to the side, cracking against the porcelain, and he slumped to the ground, already out cold from the blow to his brow. Quickly, Graham rolled out of the tub and crawled over to the prone form, fumbling in his pockets for the keys he’d seen Giles secret away earlier. Within a minute, he was free.
He hesitated when he stepped outside, inhaling the cool night air with a wondrous delight before glancing back at the door. Against his better judgment, he darted back in, hurrying to the bathroom and double-checking Giles’ vitals. Stable. He’d survive. Probably wake up with a hell of a headache, though.
There was no more time left to linger. With his concern appeased, Graham disappeared again into the night. There was only one place he could go after being gone for so long. He only hoped that Dr. Walsh didn’t have a court martial in mind when she saw him.
To be continued in Chapter 30: All Bonds Do Tie…