And now for the next installment. Spike is figuring things out, Buffy is still confused, and Angel is just grumpy. I love it when my characters cooperate.
Angel had to wait until the next evening to venture back out to the alley. If something had snagged Spike away, the mage he’d called would detect it. Illyria had followed along uninvited. The queen obviously felt she didn’t need an invitation. Even though she’d been the last one to see Spike, she wasn’t exactly what he’d call informative. Hence, the mage.
“It was right around here,” Angel told him.
“It was there,” Illyria pointed a few feet to the left.
“No,” Angel said, “It was over here.”
She pointed again.
Angel directed her over to the side with a hand to her shoulder, bending his head close in an attempt to keep his voice low. “I’m a vampire, remember? I have excellent night vision and I can smell things. Now you,” he said, “you didn’t want to help, remember? ‘He’s gone’, you said. Well, I intend to find him.”
“Then you should look in the right place,” she told him in full imperious mode.
He bent even closer to her. “And you should go–”
“Mr. Angel,” the mage interrupted.
Angel had forgotten all about him. “What is it?”
“She is correct. It was over there.”
“But I can smell him over here. His blood and that really rank leather.”
Illyria and the mage ignored him and moved farther down along the wall. Angel watched the turbaned man hold his hands out over the area Illyria had indicated. He chanted for a moment before falling into a deep silence.
Unsure of what else to do, Angel shoved his hands into his pockets and shuffled from foot to foot. He sniffed the air a few more times, trying to pick up on whatever the other two seemed to sense.
The wall began to glow with a low, amber light. It seemed to be coming from within. He could just make out the shape of hands and a body, splayed against the surface.
“What is that?” he asked.
“That is your friend,” the mage answered. “He was drawn in through here.”
“Drawn in? But what about over there?” Angel couldn’t disqualify what his senses told him.
The mage studied the spot, and then Angel. “He was there before he was here. There was a shift.”
“A dimensional shift,” Angel said.
The mage nodded. “What was there is not, and this portal that was is no longer.”
“But why?” Angel asked. “Why did it open and why Spike?”
“He bled,” Illyria said.
Blood. It was always blood.
Spike felt as if he’d been steamrolled. The giant cement leveler of fate had left him there in a flattened stupor, trying to not believe what he was thinking.
This Buffy, this sad, impertinent, tough Buffy was the girl who’d died on that tower built by Glory’s senseless blathering army. This was the girl who jumped into the rift and gave her life to close the gates of bloody hell while he lay broken on the ground below.
It made no sense that he was here. She was right; he didn’t belong in this place. But she did. She’d told him a bit about it, that day behind the Magic Shop. How she’d been happy and complete, until they’d dragged her out. Now he’d somehow shown up here and ruined her contentment all by his sodding self. Way to go. As if he hadn’t done enough to her in their twisted past. Oh, except she didn’t know all the ugliness there, because it hadn’t bleeding happened to her yet.
He drove his fist into the grass, because that was the only thing around this place to hit, and it wasn’t even a little satisfying. He felt foolish for even trying – except there wasn’t anyone around to see it. No, just him. And Buffy.
Buffy. He needed to find her.
He found her three days later. At least it felt like three days to Spike. Hard to tell, what with all the sun and no night. After waiting ages for her to return, he’d finally set out to find her. There really wasn’t anything to go by in this place, no footprints or smells to help him. Since all he seemed to have was time, he just walked until he spotted the small form in the distance. She seemed to be stretching and meditating. That infernal Tai-Chi mumbo jumbo that she and the ponce enjoyed so much.
She knew he was there, he could tell that much by the subtle shift in her posture and the wariness that cast its veil around her. It all told him to keep away. But he never was much good at giving into personal requests.
“I’m meditating,” she said.
“About what? The lovely grass and… well, I guess that’s about it. Shouldn’t take long.”
This, he could deal with. He dropped to the ground and lay back with his hands behind his neck.
Her pose wavered, but she kept pretending she was into the ridiculous exercise. “Look, love, I’ve got a bit more of my wits about me now, and I think we can talk.”
“Not interested, Spike.”
“You have someone else around here to stimulate you?”
She dropped her hands and gave up her simulated deliberation. “You’re still a pig.”
He grinned. “And if I recall, you have a soft spot for us little pink guys with our perky tails.”
She sat beside him. “Leave Mr. Gordo out of this. He’s twice the pig you’ll ever be.”
“Oh, now that one hurt.” Spike pretend to be wounded. That worked up a smile. Good girl.
“Spike, what are you doing here?”
He sat up. “Honestly, Slayer, I really don’t know.”
Her smile was gone now. “Did you die there – after you fell?”
This was going to be tricky. What could he tell her? He didn’t want to take the chance that she’d get back to her life and he’d mess it up for her. All her Scooby pals were going to do enough of that. Evasive truth ought to work. “No, not then. But later.”
Her eyes took on that calm, thoughtful gaze as she looked at him. “And you don’t want to remember.”
He thought back to the burning sensations in the Hellmouth; of how his entire being began to blaze as he held her hand. “Wasn’t all bad.”
“So why aren’t you burning in hell?” she asked.
“Don’t think that I haven’t wondered that,” he said.
She looked around her. “I thought this was heaven, but if you’re here…”
“Shh, don’t go there, love. This is heaven for you, and I’m just a trespasser who needs to find his way back out.”
She fixed her sights on him again, and this time he felt dissected under her scrutiny. “You’re different than you were.”
Whoa, maybe he’d gotten a little too comfortable. “Sure I am. Sitting in the sun and not getting toasty. Never really pulled that one off before, at least not without a ring.”
“You know I didn’t mean that.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I know.”
“Will you tell me how everyone is?”
He could deal with Buffy when she was snapping at him, or joking, or fighting. Her sincerity was hard. It was a side of her she seldom let him see. There was the time when she’d asked him to take care of her sister, and the time she’d kissed him for not betraying her and her little sis to Glory. There was also the time she’d told him she couldn’t love him, and then the time where she had told him that she did. And now there was this. “They’re all missing you. Every one of them. Nothing is like it was, and they don’t know how to fix it.”
“Oh.” Her voice was small and soft.
With that whispered word, all was tense again. He’d have given anything for some noise. The entire place was to damn quiet.
The ritual had been going on for hours now, and Angel’s head was aching from the constant repetition of the chant.
According to the mage, Spike’s disappearance had been caused by a combination of the dimensional portals that allowed the demons to flood the area, the unique mixture of blood and entrails, and Spike’s own words as his blood spread across the wall. “I’m going back in” could be taken as a translation of some old spell that requested sanctuary. At least, that’s what the old magic guy had told them. They were trying to recreate as many of the conditions as they could, only without the actual demons trying to kill everyone. If they’d just wait another day or two, the bad guys would regroup and attack again. Which was why he needed Spike.
“I weary of this,” Illyria said. “In my magnificence I could rend portals into any reality.”
“At this point I’d be happy with a few helpful pointers,” Angel said.
The mage cleared his throat.
Angel sighed and resumed repeating the syllables the mage had instructed him to chant. He hated chanting.
Buffy would never, ever admit it to him, but she was kind of enjoying Spike’s company. All this time here alone had lulled her into forgetting what it was like to have someone around to make her laugh and even to get under her skin. It seemed that weeks had passed and there was no sense that he would be leaving anytime soon. Still, she knew he was keeping something from her. There were too many times when he grew quiet, like he was contemplating what to say – or not say. Like the exact circumstances of his death, or why he really wasn’t full of the shariness over the new sort of nobility he had.
He never talked about how much he missed eating people.
He also never tried to force his feelings on her, not like he used to do, back in the days where most of their conversations ended with her fist smashing into his nose. Sometimes, just to get under his skin, she’d talk about Angel. It kept things interesting when they seemed to be getting too comfy with each other. Like right then, with his head in her lap and her fingers beginning to play in his hair.
“Did you know that Angel smashed the Gem of Amara because he didn’t want to risk forgetting he was a creature of night?” she said.
“Stupidest bloody thing I’ve ever heard.” Spike was up on his feet trampling around before the words were out of his mouth. Buffy bit at her lips to keep from smiling. “He’s so busy proving how bloody noble he is that he passes up everything that he really wants. And for what?”
Oh, this was going to be a good one. Spike was starting to throw his hands around.
“Just so he can brood some more about his sorry lot in un-life. Where’s the point in that?”
“Believe me, no matter what we do to ‘help humanity’…”
He made air quotes with his fingers. Buffy had never seen anyone actually do that before – not even Xander.
“It still won’t undo all the madness we’ve caused. There’s no cosmic scale, you know. There’s just us, trying to do a little good before some nasty catches up with us, and I for one don’t have any inclination to boo-bloody-hoo over whether I’m miserable enough.”
Buffy would have been laughing out loud over the entire tirade, except for something he was saying. It was “us”. Why was he using that word when he referred to Angel?
“Bleeding absurd, is what it is.”
She stood and faced him, scrutinizing his expression. “Why are you talking about fighting with Angel. What haven’t you told me?”
He was instantly guarded. She could see it all through him. She knew it! Something major was going on with him and he’d been hiding it.
“After I died that night, did you go to Angel?”
He scoffed at the idea. “No. Are you completely nutters?”
“You said ‘we’,” she told him. “You said ‘No matter what we do’. Tell me what you meant by that.”
“They were just words, Buffy. Let it go.”
“Oh no you don’t. Those weren’t words, and you’ve gotten all avoidy on me. Tell me. Tell me why you’re different, and tell me why you have such a keen understanding about fighting for the good guys.”
She watched as his mouth tightened and his throat tensed, and then she knew. Without a doubt she knew, and she was all kinds of stupid for not seeing it before. God, he had a soul. That’s how he could be here and why he didn’t miss all those other things he used to love.
“How did you get it?”
The struggle continued in him. He still didn’t want to admit it.
“Come on, Spike. Tell me. How did you get a soul?”
He didn’t answer, but she had eternity to wait.
She watched as his determination fell to what was unavoidable. He looked at her. “I won it,” he said.
She sensed pride.
“You wanted it,” she said.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because… because it changed things, and I don’t think it would be good for you to know more than that.”
“Why not?” she asked. “What would it hurt to tell me everything? That life is over and I’m here now. It doesn’t matter anymore.”
“It does matter. And I can’t tell you why. God, I wish I could.”
His words hurt. They only had each other here, and he didn’t trust her. He was keeping things from her, and she wanted to make him stop holding back. And yet, wasn’t that what she had been doing all this time?
She backed away from him. She’d let him have his space. For now. The soul had been a shock, but she’d figured it out. The rest would come – with time.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/226262.html