Title: I Thrice Presented Him a Kingly Crown
Word Count: 11,314
Summary: Spike and Buffy get stuck in ancient history.
Author’s Notes: Part 1 is here!
Warnings: Graphic violence, consent/agency issues
He spent the rest of the day on his own, hanging around in the kitchens in the hope that something vaguely bloody would turn up. Nothing did, but he was enough of a novelty that they slaves were happy to keep him entertained, asking stilted, overly-enunciated questions as they prepared a banquet for Cotta and his imminent guests. It was odd to realise that he was the sideshow. At one point they gave him some bread, covered in fish sauce, and it was awful, but it still felt good going down his throat.
Evening fell. Buffy found him as he left the kitchen and asked in a quiet voice, “Can we patrol?”
He nodded, and followed her into the gloom. He didn’t trust himself to say anything, if only because he was so hungry, and he wasn’t sure that she did either.
There was a group of cocky vampires, just as there always was, in a backstreet. It was dark and confined, and the vampires’ ancient form of streetfighting was foreign enough to make the battle last at least a short while. He and Buffy fought in tandem, spinning over uneven cobbles until only they were left, spinning still until Buffy had him up against the wall and was inevitably, it seemed, kissing him senseless.
It had been too long since his aborted hump of Harmony, when he’d rutted like a dog because it was just too good to feel softness again, and far, far too long since Buffy had been like this with him: open, grasping, filling his mouth with her taste and moulding perfectly around him.
It was supposed to remind him of the bathroom, make him sick, but that memory had long been leached of anything but fear and broken glass; despair and cheap alcohol; white, white porcelain. None of which was here.
She was soft and sharp and wonderful, and it had to have been mere seconds before reverent cantrips were spilling past his lips. “Oh, love, let’s just be here.” He rolled them round, pushing her up the wall, but after a moment’s perfect friction it wasn’t enough. “Sod the lot of them.” He pushed harder, making her moan. “Christ, I love you.” Her ankle was high around his calf, grinding in a way that was worse, somehow. “None of it matters.” He had to get a hand between them. “ Please.”
There he was, begging again. It stopped him, just like the night before, and she didn’t seem to like it either, which he was grateful for. They drew apart as synchronised as they had come together.
Neither of them looked away, and Spike swallowed, trying to keep his heart down where it was supposed to be. Buffy’s hand lay on his chest, and as she too swallowed it clenched, momentarily a claw.
She breathed, and then she was talking. He didn’t hear the words, not at first. Whether it was trying to listen to Latin all day or what he didn’t know, but the words weren’t what he focussed on and suddenly he realised he could understand her, in ways he hadn’t in years. He could hear what she meant, and a thousand little fears and worries sparkled like diamond dust on the air between them.
She knew how weak she was to the pressures of her friends, knew that however much her heart wanted something, however much it burned, her trust in it had long been broken. And she was scared she’d let him down.
“I would have a holiday fling with you, Spike.” Her eyes shone. “God, in a second I would. But for us to have so little, then end it between us after we got back, after everything?” Her hand clenched again, and she pulled it back. “It would break my –” Finally she looked down, away. “Me.”
She could do it, that was the thing. If they decided enough was enough when they got back then she could let him go; she’d learned how to do that, after all these years. It would be better to wait, and build on what they had, keep the energy zinging between them so they could use it to fight, rather than diffuse it into inevitable weirdness.
“Well…” Sod that. He wanted to say it. More than a century of iconoclasm made the words more natural than breathing.
But her eyes were back, and so wide, begging him even as the set of her chin denied the horrid word ‘please’. He knew the more they did now, the more she would have to explain, and the more likely she would break things off – it would be a simple, tactical move, pure instinct and over before she even thought about it. Decrease stress; fight better. He needed to keep himself on the right side of the effort-reward ratio.
There was a breath of wind, that blew her hair just so, and he remembered why he was a poet, not an economist.
Luckily the street they were in was deserted, and the night was as black as hell, so he didn’t have to remember whether anything was unacceptable in Ancient Rome. He was kissing her again, and her face seemed even softer beneath his hands. She tuned him like a harp, winding every cord of his body to perfect tension as her hands clutched at his shirt and tears spilled onto the tips of his fingers.
He pulled his mouth away, though he covered her warm hands with his own and refused to tip his forehead back too far. He spoke, using the breath that was heaving out of her, “No more, all right? No more than this till we get back.” He shut his eyes, gathering more of her breath in his lungs, his mind already full of all the ways her sweat-soaked skin could slide over his. She would taste so different in this city, exotic and perfect, old as time and sin. Maybe he wanted a little bit of that age in her, maybe he did. Every six months she seemed infinitely more rich in her depths; the thought of the future made his mind white-out with ecstasy…
He trembled, once, then forced himself to open his eyes and carry on. “We’ll do it the old fashioned way, yeah? Lay it all out nice and clear before we retire to the bridal suite and shag like fucking bunnies.”
She laughed, she actually laughed, and then she was crying hard, collapsing into him with all the force of a waterfall and smashing her nose against his as she seized up, the spasms in her arms as violent as any of her punches. There was nothing he could do but hold her, grateful, in part, for the new lease he had to touch her hair and get in close (so close) to try and sooth her.
Far away there was the sound of horses. Shouts and cartwheels, rumbling beneath the sounds of her sobs and the growling hunger back again in his stomach.
He thought the next morning would be better than the last. Buffy still wasn’t there when he woke up, but then she never was, so that was to be expected.
“A woman’s here, with her husband,” she said when she came back in, straightening the bedclothes as he continued to wash. “I think she’s a relative of Cotta’s, but, obviously, I can’t understand a word they’re saying.”
“Right,” he replied, without a clue as to where they stood.
“And he acted like he was gonna try a spell.”
“Could be useful.”
He sat down on the end of the bed to put on his boots, but as soon as he bowed his head she said, “I, uh, I guess I’ll go help him with that.”
It took a moment, but then he immediately stood up, dropping untied laces as she fled out the doorway. “Buffy!” he called after her.
She turned, halfway out of the bedroom, and he had no idea what to say. He hadn’t expected her to stop.
“I can’t deal,” she said quietly, “with people running away from me. So I won’t. But damn it, Spike, I don’t know what to say to you.”
“Well, don’t say anything then.” He sat back down on the bed, trying not to look at her too much. “But don’t just piss off into sunshine to get away from me.”
She came back into the room, brightness into dark, and stood as though she was waiting to be interrupted. “I’ll start again, huh?” She wrapped her arms around herself, still talking quietly. “OK, I guess I’m a little freaked out, or confused maybe. I mean, are we…” She stalled, and then continued as quickly as possible, “I mean, are we, you know, properly dating now because I can’t figure if we actually decided or if it was all just heat-of-the-moment stuff and really you want to go back and fight hellbeasts with Blue what’s-her-name…”
It was the moment when he was supposed to stand up and kiss her, sweep her off her feet in time to the rising music. As it was, with morning light shining in through the doorway, all he could do was sit there and unabashedly stare, watching her face turn red.
“Er.” He swallowed. “Well.” He swallowed again, and Buffy fiddled with her hands. “I… Do you want us to be?” He didn’t care that he was putting them in her hands again; anything to have the issue out of his.
“I guess, I…” She looked up fully and caught his gaze. “I mean yes. That word with the Y in it.”
“All right then,” he replied, feeling himself start to smile.
She smiled back, coming to sit down close to him on the bed. “I think Cotta actually is expecting me, you know. I made gestures earlier.”
He took her hand in his, holding her closer. “Maybe you shouldn’t get up so early.”
She saw through him. “You know it’s midday, right? We can’t all sleep as long as you do.”
Midday? It didn’t feel like midday, nor anything like it. It never had, when he woke up. Was that what it was?
They sat in silence, and time didn’t seem to pass until Buffy spoke again. “I feel like I should crack a joke, like say that I don’t kiss guys I’m dating before we’ve been on an actual date, but, uh, that wouldn’t be funny, would it?”
“Could be, if you got the timing right.” It really wouldn’t be.
She turned slightly, touching their knees together. “We’ve been on dates, right?”
He thought back. “Well, there was that time at the warehouse, you know, when –” Dru was in town. He decided not to finish that sentence.
She clearly knew what he hadn’t said and was grinning at him, waiting for him to carry on.
He resisted. “Shouldn’t you be doing your spell?”
She shrugged. “I guess.” They sat for a few more moments, and this time the silence grew strained. There was more to say – so much more – but he wasn’t sure he had the words yet.
Accepting it Buffy rose to her feet. “I’ll see you later?” she said. He nodded, then watched as she walked away.
Spike walked, later, through the cloisters of the courtyard in the direction of the kitchen. Thinking about Buffy had staved off his hunger for a little while, but now it threatened to take him over.
A woman he didn’t recognise, possibly the visiting relative, appeared from one of the doorways. He nodded to her, and realised how bored he was of speaking Latin. “Salve…”
She replied, “Hello, vampire.”
He stopped, just long enough for her to breathe black dust over him. His legs gave way beneath him, and he wondered whether he and Buffy hadn’t left everything just a bit too late.
He woke groggily into gloomy darkness, and wondered whether he’d been dreaming. It was so strange to have morning a second time, especially one this dark. But then his morning hadn’t been going as expected.
When he tried to sit up he found himself bound to the bed. He realised he felt weaker than he should, and the more he awoke the more something growled inside him. He tried to clench his hands, but his skin was dry, husky. The hot night air would erode him, crush him into dust. He needed blood.
There was movement to his right, a bright beacon of life in the dark. He took a breath; his nose was filled with the scent of family, of old familiarity. Someone was there for him this morning, but it wasn’t Buffy, so it wasn’t any better.
“Who the hell are you?” he tried to growl, but it came out weak past his parched throat. What the hell was going on?
She replied, “My mother’s daughter,” too rich and warm. He knew he shouldn’t understand what she was saying, but in the warm haze of his dying she was making a lot of sense.
Her blood would make him whole again. That much he knew. He needed blood, and she was life.
The rational part of his mind tried to shut his bloodlust down. “Mother’s daughter? What’s that mean?” It wouldn’t go far, still spinning his head. “You bints take your father’s name here, I remember.”
“My father can fellate a thousand demons. I find my own way.”
She walked closer, pulsing warm life nearer to him and tempting him to tear his bonds and drink.
“I apologise for my delay. My mother told me of her plans, but I was not here to put them into effect.” A laugh, or at least something like it. It rushed through him harder than the air and he could feel it breaking bones. “I’m not sure she expected you, though.”
She stood by the bed now, bright and vivid and so alive while he was but a shell. It shouldn’t be; that wasn’t the way things worked. She was mortal, transient. She would die so he could live, and she would taste of life and glory and warmth…
“Odd to think that Brutus would try killing one of us again.” Her voice continued, spoiled with health. He didn’t understand; why hadn’t he paid more attention? “I would have thought he’d work it out. No matter.”
Was it wrong to take life? It wasn’t, not so that he could live, and he was so terribly hungry. If she could just come closer, mere inches closer…
She did, and with the snap of instinct he lunged for her neck.
The chains held firm, scoring into his wrists and ankles, but he barely felt them. The woman, the life, laughed fully and scuttled backwards, drawing a dagger from her dress as she moved to a vessel on a pedestal. The moon, from somewhere, seemed to hit it, ghosting its curves with a terrifying silver.
Where was Buffy? He needed her here, and she wasn’t.
The woman held the dagger at her wrist, sharp metal stealing blood from him. “Through you, vampire, we shall live forever, Aurelian in an unbroken circle of golden blood.”
And then she cut, and Spike watched as his life was fed to clay. A howl sounded in his throat, and in dying the woman laughed again.
Unholy time was passing, and then the woman came back, their lifeblood slopping inside the figured bowl. “You don’t drink from humans, do you? Pathetic scion.” She laughed and it was delirious, as heady as the scent flooding from her wrist. “And yet you’ll drink this.”
Glazed clay smacked roughly against his chin, and a warm body slumped on top of his. Thick, hot blood began to pour against his mouth, and he swallowed convulsively, sending half into his dead lungs and half to where it could be used, burning from the inside as he came alive again. Laughter echoed in his ears, but he didn’t care, supping at the bleed as it slowed, craving wholeness again, not caring what all of this was about.
There was a sharp pain in his shoulder, but that didn’t matter. He continued to drink, desperate to fill himself.
The stolen blood began to flow through his veins, and with it came the shame, the upset and the worry. His face reverted and he could see the moonlit room, the tawny hair spread beneath his chin. The woman was silent and cold.
With a thread of cold panic, the sort only a soul could provide, he tried to shake her away from him. She slipped, finally, falling from the bed and landing with a sickening thud onto the floor.
There was blood on his shoulder, and blood on her mouth, staining her smile. He could barely believe what had happened. He stared at the body, fighting his as it shut down. Her whole life was gone, and yet its blood was not even enough to keep him awake.
“This’ll work.” Darkness; a voice. “Sanguis sanat omnia, right?” Morning again. “Come on, Spike…”
Buffy was trying to wake him up. He blinked, squinted and gazed into her worried eyes. Maybe it had been another dream.
But it hadn’t been. This couldn’t be morning, the third one though it seemed. He couldn’t trust the light coming in through the door, because she was there.
A bowl of blood rested on his lip, but she wouldn’t tip it forward. “You need to sit up, Spike, or it’s going to get everywhere.”
He reacted to her voice before he remembered the chains, but they were gone, and the Buffy-and-him scented bed he now sat in was different to that of before.
Gentle warmth sluiced his throat, mild and almost tasteless. Goat’s, maybe? It was enough to drink it with her in front of him, enough because it made him strong again.
“What happened to the woman?” he asked at last, switching eyes back to blue and meeting hers. Drowning all over again.
“There was a woman?” She looked confused. “A woman attacked you?”
“She was a bloody psycho.” Who was she? “Kept gabbing on about her mother, and the Aurelians…” Oh, bloody hell, he’d sired her.
“What?” Buffy asked. “No.” “She looked aghast. “You don’t mean Julia?”
With a new sense of urgency he sat up straight, taking the bowl from Buffy with a kiss to her knuckles in thanks. “How long was I out? How long?”
She shook her head. “A couple days? Things went to hell with the sacrifices; I – ”
“It’s all right,” he cut her off (a couple of days?), and clambered to his feet. With a couple of days there was a chance of tracking her down – she had to have an accomplice. “We need to get out of here, try and find her.”
Buffy sprang up next to him, her hand darting towards the poulticed wound on his shoulder. “Spike, tell me what’s going on; you didn’t – ”
And then the world changed again, dropping them on a tarmac road and bruising his backside. Day became night. The clay bowl was still in his hand. They weren’t back where they’d started, but the bruising sound of cars made it pretty clear they were back in modern times.
“Bugger, no!” Somehow he knew, he knew that the woman had risen, that she’d fulfilled her mad plan. She had started the Aurelian line, famed for blood purity over two millennia, family of the Master and of the Scourge, killers of more Slayers than any other demon clan. Bought on the back of Brutus’ immortality and his convenient Aurelian status.
He was sick, blood of centuries gushing up his throat and staining him. Soft feminine fingers smoothed over his back, but it didn’t matter.
It was all him. His fault.
The shaking eventually subsided. He sat, still, on the ground and looked at all the blood beneath him.
The worst thing was that part of him had always known. He had to have known. The past was the past, after all. You couldn’t change it, only remember what you’d once forgotten. In truth it had always been this way.
He would cope. He knew he would cope. Maybe not right now, but someday, when he actually understood what had just happened.
They returned to Buffy’s house in almost silence, polite murmurs as they went through doorways the only thing that passed their lips.
He glanced at her as he sat on the sofa and almost winced as he saw the knowledge in her eyes. Somehow she seemed to have worked out what had happened, what he’d done. She couldn’t know the bit about the Aurelians, that it was all him, but she knew that woman was changed. They must have found the body, or seen his shoulder. Something.
“This is a bad thought,” Buffy said at last, cutting through his shame. “A really bad thought, but somehow…” She laughed incredulously, shaking her head. “I feel like we could actually work now.”
He froze, disbelieving. After everything, after everything, she still wanted to talk about them?
“Now?” he managed to reply. “What happened before? The blood on my hands get too dry for you?” This was the last thing he wanted to talk about, and it should have been for her as well.
Her smile fell, at least. “I said it was bad.”
“Bad? It’s bloody frightening.” He couldn’t stay sitting, so stood, spinning to face her. “What d’you want me for? The lives I’ve taken?” The thought came from nowhere, but suddenly it terrified him more than anything else.
She stood as well. “I didn’t mean that!” It didn’t bring him any relief, even as she balled her hands to fists. “What I meant – what I should have said – I’m sick of us going through this stuff – you being in Hell, me losing half my Slayers, ancient vengeance spells screwing us both up – I’m sick of going through it and not being together for it.” Tears welled in her eyes. He didn’t know what to do. “I don’t want to do it alone anymore. Years is too long to wait.”
A door slammed; Dawn was home.
Neither of them looked away, and Spike forced his lungs to work again, consciously working every muscle. He felt blank; lost in shock. He’d managed to catch up with the beginning of the conversation, but all that left him with was the realisation that this felt like it. This was the turning point, after all the stops and starts. Utterly the wrong moment, but a moment all the same. “All right,” he said at last, damning the inappropriateness. “Yeah.”
She crossed the two steps between them and kissed him, holding her hands to his cheeks. He was too distracted to make it worth her while, but for once he wasn’t sure it mattered. It didn’t feel like the start of an implosion, and that was enough. There were other things to fix.
The clomp of platform heels and a cough made Buffy pull away. She gave him a small smile, which he just about returned, before turning to the doorway. Dawn was leaning on the frame, arms crossed over her chest, clearly unimpressed.
“Dawn,” Buffy said, utterly forthright. “Spike and I are together, OK?”
“Wow.” Dawn replied, filling her voice with sarcasm. “I never saw that coming.” With that she shook her head and brushed past them to her room. “You guys are so dumb.”
They watched her go, and Spike was still at a loss of what to say.
Suddenly Dawn’s head appeared again. “Congrats, by the way.” Her voice was softer.
She was gone again, and Spike felt shaken. Buffy took his hand, leading them down on the sofa. “Sorry,” she said, looking earnestly into his eyes. “I’m sorry I yelled. I didn’t mean – I promised myself I’d fix things when you woke up.”
He wanted to say it was all right, but he wasn’t sure it was. He could still feel the imprint of her kiss on his lips and it confused him more than anything else.
“Tell me everything, Spike.” She smiled, a little grimly, but didn’t let go of his hand. “Tell me everything.”
This wasn’t following the proper order of things. He knew that, and yet he needed to tell her. And so he did.
They would work the rest out as they went.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/294202.html