DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course. 
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY:  Wesley and Willow have consummated their relationship, while Buffy has tried to show Spike that she’s ready to be with him once they get him safe from whoever is after him…

*************

Chapter 18: What Men Will Do

The bed was uncomfortable, too soft with a definite squeak he hadn’t noticed when Buffy had been straddling him, but Spike didn’t care, not when her sinuous curves were pressed into his side, her knee draped over his legs, her head resting on his shoulder.  In the streetlight that streamed in from outside, her hair took on a silvery-orange cast, shimmering as he played absently with the strands, and his smile was wistful as he listened to her hum softly against his chest.

“What’s that?” he asked softly.

Buffy abruptly stopped, burrowing her face into his skin in embarrassment.  “I’m sorry,” she said quickly, her voice muffled.  “I do that when I’m in a good mood.”

“No need to apologize, luv,” he said.  “I liked it.  Just was wonderin’ what the tune was.  Didn’t mean for you to stop.”  Though she didn’t lift her head, he felt her smile against him, the humming almost immediately returning to resonate through his torso.  “Buffy…” 

“Hmmm?”

He was mildly worried about bringing it up, remembering how skittish every other mention of her past had made her, but his curiosity was eating him.  “Gotta ask, pet, ‘cause that was kind of a bombshell you dropped earlier.”

There was a hitch in her song, a mild tensing along her spine.  “Funny,” she said.  “I don’t remember breaking anything.”

Spike’s hand dropped to begin kneading away the knots in her back, wondering how just a few words could wind her up so thoroughly.  “The whole marriage bit,” he said quietly.  “You don’t have to be afraid to tell me anything, you know that, right?  I’m the last person to judge.  Hell, you saw firsthand what my life used to be like.  It’s not like I’m in any position to be tellin’ you what’s right and what’s wrong.”

She was silent now, the humming gone.  All he could hear was the soft sound of her breathing, feeling it fan gently down his stomach.  It was remarkable, really.  She was remarkable.  She carried around so much pain, from sources he could only imagine until she found the fortitude to share them with him, and yet, the majority of her time she soldiered on, bearing the load with a smile, a steady hand, and an angel’s voice.  And she wanted to be with him.  He was the luckiest bloke on the planet.

“If I tell you…”  Her voice was low, breaking slightly on the last word.  “…will you answer a question for me when I’m done?”

“’Course.”  His response was automatic.  “Not hidin’ any more.  Well, not from you, at least.”

“His name was Scott Hope.”  Pause.  “I was only fifteen when we met.  We were friends first, then sweethearts, I guess you’d say.  He was…simple.  Uncomplicated.  Which was exactly what I needed then.  I convinced myself I loved him, and I did, in a way.  It just wasn’t that toe-tapping, spine-tingling, bells-ringing kind of love that I always saw in the movies.”

“Why the need for simple?” Spike couldn’t help but ask.  Had her life always been so difficult?

“Things were…tense at home.  My dad took off with some chippy, and that left Mom alone to run the gallery.  She and I…well, we fought a lot.  And I mean a lot.  I really wanted to sing, and she wanted me to get an education.  The only thing we seemed to be able to agree on was Scott.  So when he asked me to marry him after we finished up school, I said yes.  It made things…easier.”

She wasn’t looking at him, but Spike could hear the pain as she spoke, the words faltering, hesitating to escape to tell the tale.  “So agreeing to marriages for the sake of everyone but you is an old habit of yours,” he joked.

Buffy slapped at his stomach in admonishment, but it was half-hearted.  “I really wanted it to work with him, thank you very much,” she said.  “And who knows?  Maybe it would’ve.”  She fell silent, though he knew the story wasn’t over.

“What happened?” he finally prompted.

“He was killed.  Less than a month after we got married.  Just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, the police said.  Nobody in the hold-up survived, not even the robbers.  I just…I went into a kind of shock, I suppose.  If Angel hadn’t suggested I go back to singing, I don’t know what I would’ve done.”

“Wait.”  Spike stiffened, two different red flags in her words setting his calm thoughts to race.  Easing out from under her, he rolled onto his side, propping his head up on his hand so that he could look directly at her, his brows knitting together in a dark line.  “When exactly did you meet Wilkins?”

“My last year in school,” she explained.  “That’s when I started singing around the clubs in Sunnydale.  He was…well, I guess you’d call him a fan, then.”

“What was he doin’ on that side of the country, anyway?”

Buffy shrugged.  “He only ever said he had some business there.  I never bugged him about what it was.”

“And you stopped singing at some point?”

“Right before Scott and I got married.”  The poor lighting in the room turned her eyes into limpid pools, the melancholy in their depths almost indiscernible.  “That was…Scott was a traditionalist.  He asked me to stop, so…I did.”

“That’s like askin’ you not to breathe, luv,” Spike murmured, tracing her quivering bottom lip with a feather caress.  “It’s part of who you are.”

“Scott never understood that.  He argued that he didn’t want to see me in such dives, that I was better than that.  So I decided I didn’t want to have to live with the fighting and quit.”

He didn’t say it out loud, but the realization that that Scott and Angel had more in common than she realized, neither man willing to let her stand on her own feet and be the woman she needed to be, didn’t escape Spike’s attention.  “Only to start up again,” he said instead.  “At your fan’s suggestion.”

“Yeah.  Mom wasn’t happy about it, but since I wasn’t living with her anymore, she couldn’t really say anything.  Well, except for the constant dropping by, and nagging, and setting Dawn on me to try and guilt me into quitting.  When Angel said I should try Los Angeles, I was more than a little ready to go.”  She rolled over onto her back, staring up at the ceiling.  “So that’s it.  Exciting, huh?  Buffy and her whirlwind one-month marriage.  Aren’t you glad you asked now?”  There was more than a hint of sarcasm in her voice, but she hadn’t closed herself off to him, and for that, he was grateful.  He didn’t need her running from him any more.

“Don’t regret it, if that’s what you’re wonderin’,” Spike said.  “Just…was Summers his name, then?”

“No.  I went back to my maiden name when I started performing again.  Angel said it was because I already had name recognition.  Nobody would know who Buffy Hope was.”  He saw her catch her lip between her teeth, worrying it before speaking again.  “So can I ask my question now?” she queried softly.

“Fire away.”

Though she stayed flat on her back, Buffy’s head turned to look at him.  “Why did you break it off with the Conti’s?” she said.  “Was it because of Drusilla?”

Spike snorted.  “Not bloody likely,” he retorted.  “We were over for a few months before I took it on the heel and toe.  Though, I s’pose, in a roundabout way, she could be blamed for it.”  He weighed that for a moment, and then nodded with a smug smile.  “Yeah.  Let’s blame Dru for everything that happened.  I like that.”

It was her turn to be the interrogator.  “What happened?”

There was no escaping the memories once the question was asked.  Spike gazed at Buffy, not seeing the golden beauty stretched out beside him, but instead feeling the murky shadows of his previous life washing over him, the tangle of crimson and black and gold blinding him to anything in the present.

“Dru was my savior,” he started.  “When I showed up at the Conti’s, I wasn’t worth a toss.  Lost in my own little book world ‘cause I didn’t know how to properly deal with my mum’s death.  Old Man Conti decided it’d be best to just throw me into the deep end.  See if I sunk or swam.  By the end of the first week, I had a broken arm, two fractured ribs, and I’d managed to rip the hell out of my knee.  Everyone wanted a piece of me, so it was fisticuffs ‘round the clock.  Until Dru decided she wanted to be my friend.  Soon as she took me under her wing, everyone scrammed out.  She made her old man teach me what it would take to survive as a member of the family.”  He sighed.  “So I learned.”

“It’s kind of hard to think of Drusilla Conti doing anything that actually helped anybody else,” Buffy commented dryly.  “Not that I’m not glad she did it for you, it’s just…she must’ve had some kind of angle, I would’ve expected.”

Her observation was enough to jar Spike from his trance.  “What do you know about Dru?” he asked curiously.

“I know she has a thing for Angel,” she replied.  “Or she did, a year or two ago.  I don’t know how many times I caught her making eyes at him, even after she knew he and I were seeing each other.  She’d show up at Heaven and act like she owned the joint, and Angel never really did anything about giving her the gate.”

He held his tongue, remembering Harris’ discovery about Angel’s liaisons with Darla, and felt a sad anger at his old flame for her poor judgment.  Could’ve done yourself a lot better, Dru, he thought.  Angel Wilkins is one tosser who’s not worth it.

“So what does Dru have to do with you blowing town?” Buffy asked, returning him from his reverie.

“We were together for most of my life, well, my life on this side of the pond anyway.  There was always talk about us gettin’ married but Dru wanted to wait.  I never bothered askin’ why, which is probably my own fault.  When I caught her in bed with another bloke, I about went off my box.  She said…”  He stopped, seeing her pale face rise before him, just as she’d appeared to him in so many dreams over the past five years.  “…she said, I wasn’t man enough for her.  That she needed more than what I could give her.  And that was it.  We were over just as if we hadn’t just spent the last fifteen years of our lives together.”

It still hurt.  Five years on, and remembering seeing her long limbs draped over the man whose name he’d never even bothered to learn still burned inside Spike’s stomach.  “I told her it didn’t matter,” he continued, but his voice was lost in the past, only a faint echo of the bravado he’d displayed earlier.  “And set out to prove it to her by gettin’ involved with any skirt that would have me.  Guess I hoped I could show her that I really was a man---.”

She didn’t want to interrupt him, but resisting touching him at this point was futile.  Rolling back onto her side, Buffy reached up to caress his face, watching as his lids flickered shut, his chest heaving deeply.  As difficult as it had been to tell him about Scott, listening to him relive his own pain was just as hard, and she was regretting letting Faith’s dare get the better of her curiosity.  Did it really matter what had happened? she wondered.  She was ready to forget about all the other parts of his history to be with him; this one story wasn’t going to change anything.

“I started drinking a lot more, takin’ riskier jobs.  Anything to not think.  And just when I thought I couldn’t sink any lower, that was when I met her,” Spike said.  He never opened his eyes.  Behind his lids, Buffy could see the faint movement as he saw what he was describing, almost as if he were in the middle of a dream.

“It was at a jazz club out in Harlem.  I’d just finished up a job for the old man, and I was lookin’ for a bit of distraction.  There was this place I’d heard was good for the ol’ rats and mice, so I figured…a bit of craps, a drink or two, some music…I’d done worse in finding ways to entertain myself.  ‘Cept I never made it to the game.  I walked in the joint and saw her dancin’ and that was pretty much it.”

A girl.  He’d given it all up for a girl.  Somehow, she wasn’t surprised.

“She was spectacular.  Legs that went on forever, a don’t-fuck-with-me attitude that was irresistible.  Got her to dance, and then didn’t let anyone else near her the rest of the night.  By the time I walked out of there, I was obsessed.”

She didn’t want to hear this.  She couldn’t lie here, naked, in the same bed with him, and listen to Spike go on about another woman.  Hearing about Drusilla was different for some reason; Buffy’s profound dislike for the other woman made dissociating from it actually easier.  But this…

“Stop,” she said.  “I don’t…I can’t…hear you tell me you loved this woman.”

His eyes opened then, dark and endless.  “Who said anything about love?” Spike challenged.  “The thing I had for Nikki Wood…that was pure obsession, pet.  Couldn’t get her out of my head.  Showed up there the next night, and the next, and the next, and then when I walked in and found her with someone else…”  Every word grew harsher and harsher, and she saw how his hands were clawing into the sheets.  “After Dru…I just…I was sick and tired of bein’ played for a sap.  So I did what I always did.  I got myself smoked, and then took off after her when she left.”

Her hands caught his, pulling them away from the stiff cotton and lacing their fingers together.  His palms were sweating, and as she leaned into him, Buffy saw the shimmer of the streetlight reflecting off the deep blue, the ache in her heart for bringing all this up in the first place fighting with the slight fear about what she was about to discover.  For some reason, she thought she knew, and the dread in waiting almost made her ill.

“Tailed her ‘til she got on the train,” he said.  “It was late, so nobody was around.  Just her and me.  She made some joke about her dance card bein’ full, laughing at me, and…I just saw red.”

“Spike…you don’t have to do this.” 

“No.  You need to know, Buffy.”  He was back now, stripped of the past as he abruptly sat up, pulling her with him.  He buried his face in her hair, hugging her tightly against his bare chest, and the pounding of his heart rivaled the beat it had carried when she had first arrived.

She knew it was coming, and as the seconds stretched, made her decision.  “You killed her, didn’t you?” she asked softly.

He didn’t deny it.  “I don’t even know what happened,” he said.  “We were arguing, and she tried to leave the car, and when I tried to stop her, she turned around and hit me.  Actually split my lip, she did.  And when I tasted the blood, I…I just…bugger…who knew this would still be so hard to talk about?”  He took in a ragged breath that seemed too loud so close to her ear.  When he spoke again, his voice was low but steady, control back in his hands.  “Broke her bloody neck when she fell.  She must’ve hit a seat or something.  I don’t know.  Next thing I do know is waking up the next morning with a hangover to beat all hangovers, and that afternoon, I was on a flight to California.  End of story.”

Resting her cheek against his shoulder, Buffy’s emotions were all over the place.  Anger, at herself, for asking him the question in the first place when its answer didn’t really matter.  Sorrow, for the angry and hurt man Spike had been, for the guilt-ridden man he now was.  Fear, just a little, for this dangerous man she was holding, one who was capable of such destruction.

And understanding.  Knowing exactly how he had felt.  That need to run when you’d crossed some line you never even knew existed.  When you’d destroyed the last thing you’d ever expected to destroy.

*************

Though he had a stack of files piled in his lap, Wesley’s gaze was nowhere near the loose pages they contained.  Instead, he was riveted by the display in front of the fireplace, his elbow on the arm of the couch, his head leaning against his knuckles as the small smile played on his lips. 

She looked so peaceful sleeping there, all age and seasoning stripped from her face to leave her shining in youthful grace.  The hem of the flannel shirt she had slipped back on after their lovemaking skimmed the bottom swell of her ass, her legs almost as pale as the rug they rested on, only the smattering of freckles across her skin marring her perfection.  Though she had struggled to stay awake afterward, the combination of the events of the day and her sated contentment had worked against Willow to draw her into slumber, leaving Wesley to return to the work they’d planned on his own.

It was pointless to deny it to himself.  He was absolutely nuts for her.  He had to be; how else could he explain his reckless behavior getting involved when he knew what he did about Rook?

And there it was.  The rub.  Where could this between them possibly go?  He’d deliberately asked for the assignment to infiltrate the Wilkins family in an attempt to nail the Mayor when all other attempts failed.  It had been his suggestion to bury himself there, turning his back on almost all of his government contacts when it looked like that would be the only he could gain any additional trust from the patriarch.  None of it had worked, though.  He’d been held at arm’s length, whether because Wilkins sensed something was off about him or for some other reason.  And now that he had the possibility of hooking another big fish, even if it wasn’t the one he’d originally been angling for, Wesley was faltering.

He didn’t want to hurt her.  More than anything, Willow believed in Spike.  Why, remained a mystery, but the fact was there that she did.  If Wes actively pursued putting Rook in jail, as was his job, he’d lose her.  He knew that.  He hadn’t been more sure of anything else in his entire life.

But he wanted to help.  Hell, he had access to resources that would aid in their search for whoever set Spike up.  It would mean involving Jenny, but his old friend was loyal.  She would do whatever he asked.  Would that force him to tell Willow, though?  And if she found out the truth about him, did she care enough about him, about their potential, to overlook it?

No answers would be forthcoming tonight.  Setting aside the files, Wesley rose from the couch and stepped the few feet to the rug, easing himself down to stretch out along the redhead’s side.

As soon as his bare leg touched hers, Willow’s eyes fluttered open to see him gazing down at her.  “I think I fell asleep,” she murmured with a small smile.  “Why did you let me fall asleep?”

“It’s been a long day,” he replied.  “You need your rest.”

Sighing, she nestled into the crook of his arm, letting her lids drift back closed.  “No rest for the wicked,” she said, her voice barely a whisper.  “Guess that means I’m one of the good guys.”

His hand came up to stroke her hair, feeling her breathing even out as she slipped back into slumber.  “Of course you are,” Wesley said softly.  “Of course you are.”

*************

He was exhausted.  Dropping the file into his top drawer, Riley stood up from his chair, stretching overhead as his back audibly cracked.  “You finally heading out?” he heard from the desk behind him.

He glanced back to see Blaisdale looking up at him over his magazine.  “Yeah,” Riley said.  “It’s all starting to blur together.  I figure that’s a sign that maybe I should get some sleep.”  He raised a hand in salute as he grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair.  “See you later, Larry,” he said as walked out of the room.

The precinct was quiet, the wee hours of the morning cloaking the building in a mask of calm.  He liked this time of night.  It reminded him of home.  It was about the only thing that did so these days.  Though he liked getting the high-profile cases---and the murder of Richard Wilkins definitely qualified as one of those---sometimes he missed the ease of the more mundane policework. 

He’d actually walked by her office before he realized that her light was still on.  Backing up, Riley frowned as he knocked at the glass on her door.  “It’s a little late for you, isn’t it?” he asked the blonde sitting behind the desk.

Kate Lockley looked up from the file she’d been reading and gave him a little smile.  “It’s not like I have anything to go home to,” she replied.  “And besides, I’m waiting on someone to come in to talk.”

He glanced at his watch with a frown.  “At this hour?”

“She’s a night owl.  What can I say?”

“I gave someone your name this afternoon,” he said.  “A dame by the name of Faith.  She’s the one hooked up with the Wilkins murder.  Has she called you yet?”

Kate shook her head.  “Do you think it’s important I see her?”

“This girl’s got a chip on her shoulder the size of Montana.  And I couldn’t get her to calm down when I tried questioning her.  I’d lay odds she got hit a lot harder with this than she lets on.”

“You want me to follow up with her then?”

He seemed to consider this for a moment, and then nodded.  “Her info’s in the file.  Just…let me know what you think.  She’s a real number, that one.” 

When he got her affirmation, he tossed her a little wave and continued down the hall, his thoughts now on the brunette who’d thwarted most of his attempts at interrogation.  For some reason, he got the suspicion she knew more than she was letting on, but whatever it was, she wasn’t telling.  The only thing he knew for certain was that she hated Rook.  He hadn’t seen anyone that adamant about catching a suspect in quite a while.

He breathed deeply as he stepped out onto the sidewalk.  It was good to be going home.  It would be better to get back into the precinct tomorrow and start fresh on catching William the Bloody.

*************

“You’re late.”

Trick smiled, his teeth shining white in the dark alley.  “You’re early.”

“You got my money?”

A soft thud as something hit the earth.  Trick watched the dark-haired cop hurriedly bend over to retrieve the leather satchel.  “Don’t be embarrassing both of us by counting it in front of me,” he said casually.  “It’s all there.  You held up your end of the bargain, so we hold up ours.  A deal’s a deal.”

Warren held the bag tight under his arm, as if he was afraid his visitor would suddenly change his mind and take it back.  “As long as you don’t show your mug in this neighborhood,” he said, “you should be safe.  They bought my story about not paying any attention to you leaving.”

“Good, good.  My boss will be glad to hear that.  Any word yet on Rook?”

Warren shook his head.  “Clean sneak.  He had to have help, but Finn hasn’t been able to figure out how yet.”  He leaned toward him conspiratorially.  “I don’t suppose you know who could’ve done it, do you?” he asked.

“Because getting knocked unconscious is just so much fun for me,” Trick drawled, and then rolled his eyes.  “I wouldn’t have called you to arrest him if my boss wanted him to get away.  You’re the ones who didn’t do your job there.”  He turned and headed back out the alley.  “I’ll be in touch if we need anything else done,” he said as he disappeared into the night.

For a moment, Warren just stood there, listening as the car that had been waiting in the street revved its engine before heading down the road.  He didn’t care about all his own police training; when it came to dealing with Trick, he felt like a rank amateur.  The only thing that made him feel better about any of it was that Trick’s boss didn’t fall under his jurisdiction.  Things might’ve gotten a little stickier for him then, even if it might’ve been more lucrative.

Clutching his bag to his side, Meers rushed out of the alley.

 

To be continued in Chapter 19: Guns, Girls, and Gangsters