Title: Stitched Up
Era: BTVS s2
Rating: NC-17 eventually
Summary: Something goes horribly, horribly awry with Willow’s ensoulment spell, and Angel’s soul finds an unexpected home – in his dirty laundry. Read now the tale of a Sock with a Soul; it’s on a mission to help the helpless, and it’s starting with Spike and Buffy.
Departs canon forever during Becoming Part Two. Has about the nuanced characterization one should expect from an Ensouled Sock AU. As seems to be my preferred genre now, this is a shameless smutty Spuffy farce, once I get that pesky canon drama out of the way.
Warnings: By the laws of California, Buffy is still under the age of consent (18) at the beginning of this fic, and will be for many more months. Spike doesn’t care (he’s evil) and Buffy doesn’t care (she’s a teenager who wants to be treated like an adult) and since Spike has the emotional development of a teen (or even tween) himself, we’ll call it good. She’ll be 18 before they get TOO far, anyhow. There will be sexual situations, bad language, character death (or characters-sucked-into-a-demon-dimension, which is close enough), and plain old explicit sex. Also an ensouled sock. If you keep reading, don’t blame me.
Temporary Spike/Drusilla & Buffy/Angel – nothing explicit, but given where this fic veers off, some mooning is inevitable.
Chapter 2: A Sock with a Soul
It came to awareness slowly.
I think, it thought laboriously.
It quivered with profundity. I am, it thought again, more firmly.
Then, What am I?
It had senses, though it didn’t understand how or what they were, but around it was the light of a new day, it knew that, so it could see, and it felt a light summer breeze across it, so it could feel, and there was a faint sound of traffic in the distance, the barking of a dog, so it could hear, and that was a pretty decent set of senses, at least fifty percent of the usual complement, so it was content.
(Later, it would learn that it was fortunate indeed not to be able to smell…)
Somehow, though, the feeling part… it felt wrong. It stretched out its senses, trying to determine what it was, and finally realized that it was expecting the stretch and pull of muscle and bone responding to its will. What it felt instead was… well, not muscle, that was certain. It felt like – it searched its vocabulary for the word – it felt like cotton.
Oh, wow. It felt out its shape, its texture, the limits of its existence, and suddenly was filled with knowledge.
It had a word in its surprisingly-large vocabulary for itself now.
That word was: SOCK.
The sock had no memory of what had come before its sockness; for all it knew it had always been a sock, but even so it quivered with strangeness, because just as it knew that it was a sock, it also knew that socks were not generally sentient, nor – it twitched as a test, feeling the ribbing of its cuff expand – animate. Which was a pretty puzzle indeed.
The sock thought about that for a moment, but thinking hard about philosophy and sockness felt an awful lot like work, and while it knew very little about itself, the sock was starting to get the feeling that work was not something it enjoyed.
So anyhow, it was pretty certain it was a sock, and as it coiled around itself, testing its size and texture, it felt very much like a male sock. Both in the sense that it was huge and shapeless and no-nonsense – it had a vision in its consciousness of ladies’ socks being somehow more shapely, possibly adorned with pom-poms – and in the sense that it just felt male. A man-sock. A sock with the mind of a man.
And as it tested the limits of its consciousness, it realized that it was more than just a sock with a mind, a sock that could think and feel and move.
It was a sock with a soul.
As a matter of fact, from the overwhelming amount of guilt that flooded the sock when it noticed that it was a bit on the grimy side, it was pretty certain its soul was Catholic.
Not a good Catholic, it determined, swishing its guilt around for a judicious mental taste. It didn’t feel any strong urge to actually remedy its griminess, or to seek out a priest for absolution. But definitely not a freewheeling Episcopalian sock.
It was pretty sure Episcopalian socks would have stripes. Or even polka dots.
It was surrounded by more socks, dozens of them scattered along the dusty floor, and the Sock with a Soul suddenly felt lonely, because it was the only one that was moving, and though it could not speak, it somehow knew that any word it could utter would just be echoed back to it, here in this vast empty hall.
Even that sexy shoe over there, wantonly flashing its red sole at him, didn’t seem especially soulful. Just soleful. The sock laughed at its own joke, because it was really very funny.
For a sock.
In its loneliness, the sock suddenly felt a pull, something calling to it from a distance. Could it be… could it be the sock had a soulmate? Perhaps it was not destined to be alone forever.
Socks came in pairs, after all. Perhaps souls did, too.
Like an inchworm, the sock began its journey out into the brand new day.
Buffy watched the door close behind Xander and Giles and sighed. That was not the way she had hoped things would go. As it turned out, broken fingers made the fixing of tea difficult, and while Giles had made a move to hug her when he saw her face at his door, his joy at her survival was quickly tempered by the sight of the unconscious vampire over her shoulder, and Buffy’s demand that he invite Spike in. Giles had rather enjoyed the chaining-in-the-bathtub part – vicariously, since he couldn’t work the manacles himself – but when Buffy had finally gotten her hug, she could tell it was hesitant, not to mention painful for him, and she had forced a reassuring smile to her face and insisted that Xander take her watcher to the hospital to get his fingers set and other injuries treated, while she stayed to watch over Spike, assuring Giles that she would explain the unconscious vampire later.
Giles had looked at her closely. “Are you sure you’re all right? Angel…”
“Is in hell now,” Buffy had said shortly. “Him and Drusilla both.”
His face had been a blend of relief and compassion, with a hint of grim victory. “Good.” When Buffy remained silent, he had looked at her pointedly again. “And how are you taking it?” he had asked gently.
“Fine,” Buffy lied. “I’m… I’m fine.” She had shrugged, trying to make it look nonchalant. “I got the job done.”
Giles had looked as if he didn’t believe her one bit, but his face had blanched then at the onset of another wave of pain, and Buffy had shooed him and Xander out the door, and so here she was now.
With no tea. And no shoulder to cry on.
She looked at the couch, thinking one out of three was better than nothing, but she was still too wired to even think about sleeping, and so she drifted around the apartment, running her hands over the spines of books, peeking into the drawers of the little spice cabinet, finding a smidgen of comfort in the Giles-ness of it all. She made it halfway through reading the antique document on the wall – what is ‘indenture’ anyhow? she wondered halfheartedly – before she realized it was the most boring thing she had ever read in her entire life, and then she heard a groan from the bathroom and went to check on Spike.
He was still mostly unconscious, so she put down the lid of the toilet and sat, watching him twitch. The fluorescent lights made him look like a corpse – which he was, she reminded herself, but he didn’t seem like it when he was awake – his hands white and pale against the black iron manacles, and his face seamed with grief.
His eyes finally blinked open, and for a moment he looked lost and surprised, like a little boy, but then his flickering glance rested on her, and his eyebrows knit and his eyes narrowed and he was comfortingly evil again. “You.”
“Me,” Buffy agreed, crossing her legs.
He started to lunge for her, but was caught short by the chains. He looked at his chained wrists and ankles, shook his head disbelievingly, and started to laugh. “I knew it,” he muttered darkly. “I sodding knew you’d find an excuse to take me down.”
“If I wanted to take you down, you’d be a pile of dust,” Buffy replied, though she suddenly realized she didn’t know why she had brought Spike home with her. She had just… not been able to leave him there alone. It had felt wrong. Inhumane.
“Wish I were,” Spike said in a low voice, looking down and off to the side, laughter gone. “Not much point in going on now, is there?”
Buffy closed her eyes for a moment, remembering yellow, and a voice gone wrong. “Of course there is,” she said quietly, but she could hear in her own voice that she didn’t really feel it. She shook herself, because that was a dark path she didn’t want to start down, and tried again. “There’s always a point.”
Spike glared at her sidelong, tears brimming up in his eyes. “Easy for you. You had your precious Angel for, what, a year?” He sniffled. “Dru and I were forever. More than a century together, and…”
Buffy interrupted, furious. “And she dumped you in a nonexistent heartbeat the second Angel crooked his finger.” How dare he put down her forever love just because it had been brand-new? Forever had to start sometime, right?
Spike snarled at her, lunging fruitlessly again. “Fuck you,” he hissed.
“Yeah, you wish,” Buffy sniffed.
Spike raked her with a disdainful glare. “Not much for Angel’s sloppy seconds, love.”
“Funny, that’s what I was going to say about your hobag girlfriend!” Buffy was on her feet now, hands on her hips.
Spike’s mouth was gaping like a goldfish at that, and then he crumpled visibly, tears coursing down his face. “You can’t talk about my Dru that way,” he sobbed. “Not when she’s…” He broke down completely.
Buffy tried not to give in to evil peer pressure, but the tears were already coursing down her cheeks; she managed to mumble out something about Angel and punching Spike in the nose before she fell to her knees beside the tub and started weeping again, hot forehead pressed against the cool porcelain rim of the tub, crying not just for Angel but for Kendra and Miss Calendar and Giles’s poor fingers and everything. Everything. She let it all rush through her. The guilt and the pain. Her mom kicking her out. Snyder’s nasty grin when he expelled her. All of it, all of this horrible, miserable year, and especially the horrible, miserable fact that the only person who could witness her grief wasn’t even a person at all, that a soulless monster was the only one who could come close to understanding it all. She hated him, she hated him, but she heard an echo in her head of his snarky words from earlier: And I’m all you’ve got.
Somewhere in there, between one bout of sobs and another, she found herself grasping desperately until she found Spike’s hand with hers; they clasped tightly enough to grind bones together, and the pain was good, it gave her something to hold on to besides the grief, and gradually their weeping died down from wracking wails to petulant sniffles, and finally she lifted her head to look Spike in the face.
“Let me go,” Spike said softly, looking longingly at the sunlit window.
“I can’t,” Buffy whispered back. “You’ll just burn up. I can’t just let you do that.”
“Oh, but you can stake me?” Spike bit out resentfully.
“I didn’t stake you, did I?” Buffy said quietly.
Spike looked away, then lifted his head again, eyes wild and imploring. “I won’t do anything. Promise. I feel much better now.”
Buffy rolled her eyes at that. “You are such a liar.” He looked disgusted, and she gripped his hand tightly again. “Don’t go,” she said, voice hard. “We’re still allies, right? We saved the world. So now it’s time to save ourselves.”
Spike favored her with a sardonic look. “What, plan on getting thee to a nunnery?”
“I… don’t even know what that means,” Buffy said impatiently. “Look, I need a partner. I have an idea, and you’re the only one that can help me. You’re the only one who will want to help me. And, well, I don’t think I can open a dimensional portal all on my own.”
“You mean…” Spike’s face lit up with uncertain hope.
“We’re going to find a way to get them back,” Buffy vowed. “You and me. Willow can be on standby to put Angel’s soul back, I know she’ll help me when it comes down to that, and then everything will be all right. Right?”
Spike set his jaw. “Get them back. Right. Then I’ll take Dru and leave…”
“…And I’ll stay here with Angel. And we will never have to see each other, ever again.”
Buffy could tell by the look in Spike’s eyes that he liked that last idea just as much as she did. Even though holding his hand felt kinda nice, now that they weren’t all desperate and crunchy. Cool and soothing. She dropped it before it started feeling too nice.
Buffy rose to her feet again, wiping her cheeks off briskly. “You still have to stay chained most of the time. I can’t trust you not to murder us in our sleep.”
“Fair enough,” Spike muttered, with a curses, foiled again look on his face. “Long as you promise not to stake me while I’m chained in this sodding tub. Not how I want to go.”
Spike shifted in the tub. “Can I at least have a cushion?” he pouted.
“I think I can swing that,” Buffy shrugged.
“And a television, perhaps?” Spike wheedled.
“God, give it a rest,” Buffy grumbled, heading for the door. “I’ll get you a pillow and you can take a nap first. We can discuss time-sharing Giles’s Cro-Magnon electronics when he gets back from the hospital.”
Spike muttered something under his breath that sounded uncomplimentary, but Buffy let it go. It wasn’t like he was going to be around very long anyhow. She started towards the hall, then hesitated in the doorway. “Spike?”
“What now, Slayer?” he grumbled.
She looked back at him, feeling suddenly soft. “We’ll get them back. There has to be a way.”
Even though he was evil and she hated him, the look of camaraderie and hope in his eyes made her smile as she went to find him a cushion. Though she saved the fluffiest one for herself. Giles’s couch was practically a rock.
As she curled up on the hard couch, she repeated her own words to herself, like a prayer. There has to be a way.
“I’m afraid there’s no possible way to do what you are asking.”
Buffy valiantly ignored Spike’s glare of wounded betrayal, sinking down in a chair opposite Giles with an encouraging, hopeful smile on her face. “Are you sure? I mean, you still have a lot of books that we haven’t looked at yet. I can totally help.” She hated research, but she would gladly read a million fusty boring books if it meant getting Angel back.
Giles gave her a withering look that spoke volumes of his regard for Buffy’s research skills relative to his own. “I am quite certain,” he said shortly. “Every one of my sources that so much as mentions Acathla confirms that the ritual is a one-time opportunity, and the ritual has now been completed. I have also examined the statue of Acathla myself, and I assure you that it is completely dormant. In addition, both of the swords involved in the ritual have been consumed, or transported, and are no longer here.”
“Yes, but… You know how when those kids went to Narnia, they got there a different way every time? Like, there was a wardrobe, and then, um, not a wardrobe? Anyhow, there might be another way to get to that demon dimension besides the Acathla thing, right?”
Giles removed his glasses, rubbing the back of his hand across his forehead. “Buffy, you are not seriously suggesting that we go on a Grand Tour of demon dimensions, on the off chance that we will successfully find this – by all accounts particularly unpleasant – one location? Forget the needle in the haystack, it would be like trying to find a particular grain of sand in the Sahara Desert.”
She actually was suggesting exactly that – a million demon dimensions were tons better than a million fusty books – but she decided this might be a bad time to push the matter, with Giles’s fingers still splinted and new bruises still popping up every so often on his skin. Not that her Angel was responsible for that, not good Angel, but she knew how hard it was to tell the two apart, and of course there was Drusilla. She hadn’t even mentioned that part to Giles, because he so wouldn’t understand. She met Spike’s pissed-off eyes for a moment.
…Yeah, she didn’t understand it either. But a promise was a promise, and Spike had managed to keep Giles alive – Giles wasn’t happy with his methods, but they had worked – and furthermore he had been pretty well-behaved for the past few days, at least in the sense of not actively trying to kill anyone else or himself. He was still an asshole, and he still went off into crying jags at the most ridiculous provocation (she also was crying a lot, but she of course totally had Good Reasons), but he was sort of bearable once in a while.
Giles turned away from his books with an air of finality. “In any case, there are more pressing matters to deal with. Your mother…”
“I don’t want to talk to her,” Buffy said quickly.
Giles continued, unrelenting. “Your mother called again this morning, and I think it would be in your best interest to call her back today.”
Buffy jumped to her feet. “She kicked me out, Giles!” she said, starting to pace.
“She said something terrible in the heat of the moment which she deeply regretted just seconds later. She wants you to come back home. She wants to make amends.” Giles looked vaguely off into the distance. “She even says you can bring Spike with you.”
“Oh. Oh. I see what this is all about. You just want Spike out of your bathtub.”
“I want out of his sodding bathtub,” Spike grumbled from the couch.
Buffy glared at Giles, ignoring Spike. “Do you want my mother to get eaten?” Buffy folded her arms.
“I wouldn’t eat Joyce,” Spike assured her. “She’s a lovely lady.”
“I will, of course, assist you in installing appropriate restraints for Spike,” Giles said with a bit of an eye roll – that subtle British-y one that he didn’t think Buffy had caught on to yet, but she totally had. “However, there is no denying that your mother’s house has significantly more room for both you and Spike. You will have your own bed, rather than the couch you complain so vociferously about. And, I should point out, you are still a minor, and will be for many months to come. Like it or not, your mother is the most appropriate guardian for you.”
Buffy pouted. “She should have thought about that before she kicked me out.”
With a sigh, Giles continued. “I understand your feelings about your mother are… complicated at the moment. But returning to your home is the logical thing to do. Especially since you have your appeal to the school board coming up so soon.”
“Yeah. That.” Buffy sat down on her chair again. “How important is a high school diploma anyhow? I’m going to die one of these days, and then I’ll be sorry about all the things I missed out on while trying to graduate.” She frowned. “Well, I won’t be sorry, I’ll be dead, but someone will feel sorry for me and my truncated youth, misspent on Geometry and Civics.”
“I won’t,” Spike volunteered with a shark-like grin, though he had a funny look in his eyes when he said it.
“We know, Spike,” Buffy huffed. “You’re gonna bathe in my blood, dance on my grave, and desecrate my corpse, and if I’m very lucky you’ll do it in that order.” She put a little extra bite in her voice because seriously, Spike could show a little concern for the girl who had patted his back and made comforting noises every time he had turned on the faucets over his stupid girlfriend. Well, okay, he had shown concern at the time, because she might have gotten a little teary too, and he had done a bit of awkward back-patting himself, but you’d think after days of mutual Patting of the Backs, he’d at least stop reveling in the thought of her death. Jerk.
Giles frowned. “Buffy, time spent on your education is not misspent.”
“I am so glad that you have such a finely-tuned sense of priorities, Giles. Semantics over desecration.” Buffy was getting a good head of steam going on her outrage now.
“I think you are vastly misinterpreting my concerns, here.” Giles removed his glasses, inspecting them self-consciously. “I completely understand that an early death would render the need for an education moot.” He replaced his glasses, giving Buffy a wry smile. “However, spending two years as your watcher has filled me with faith that you have a good chance of being the longest-lived Slayer ever on the books. If I did not believe that you would live long enough to need your education, I would be a rotter and a fool to insist on it.”
“Oh.” Buffy sniffled a bit at that, deflating, then rushed over to hug Giles. Gingerly, because he didn’t need more pain. “That is so sweet!” She stepped back, face earnest. “But you know, if I didn’t go to school, I could totally spend some of that extra time training. Then I’d probably live even longer! So…”
Giles cut her off with a reproving look, though he was half-smiling. “However, since I do expect you to live long enough to eventually be a self-sufficient adult, I am afraid I must insist that you at the very least graduate high school.”
“So. Call your mother.” Giles handed her the phone. “Because while I am both pleased and proud that you are so strong and capable, I would like your long life as a slayer to not be spent sleeping on my couch. Contrary to popular belief, I do have something of a life of my own.” He looked pointedly at Spike, who was now flipping through the TV channels, finally settling on the WB and some newish teen drama. “I would very much like it back.”
There was really no arguing with that double-whammy combination of compliments and guilt-tripping; Buffy sullenly dialed her home number.
The sock was close, it could feel it; the pull was so strong now it was like a fishing line, reeling the sock in. For a moment it wished it were a boot, just for the iconic symbolism, but it had had several days to come to terms with its sockitude, and other than the fact that its epic trip across town had taken days and involved multiple close calls with dogs and one very close encounter with a car – being run over was not pleasant, but the sock had nothing to break, so it was just a little dirtier – it was feeling pretty good about itself. Whatever the magic animating it was, it gave the sock some decent power relative to its size; it could move small objects, climb curbs and steps, and even leap a few feet (this discovery had been courtesy of a very curious, very drooly Rottweiler). It wasn’t sure how many days and nights it had traveled, but it felt much like an epic knight of old, enduring wild beasts and the elements (though the California summer was actually very pleasant, there was always the chance of rain, and the sock had no umbrella) and grave, grave danger to come at last to its final destination.
Just half a block away, the sock saw a trio of figures stepping up from a sunken courtyard. The two men were unimportant; it was the athletic girl with a swirl of honey-blonde hair, gleaming in the light of the streetlamps, who caught at the sock’s soul. She was what it had been seeking all along! Its princess, its Holy Grail, its raison d’etre.
The sock fell in love at first sight. No, it had always loved her.
It inched faster and faster, hugging the edge of the sidewalk to remain unseen. The girl and the men were getting into a little yellow car – a cheap, crappy one, if the sock’s instinctive feeling of disdain was to be believed – and arguing about something, though it couldn’t hear the words.
It was so close now. So close. The sock’s ribbing tensed in anticipation.
Ten feet. The car doors slammed.
Five. The crappy car puttered to life.
And then, just as the sock was close enough to see the blonde girl’s profile – she looked unhappy, and the sock’s tender heart broke at the sight – the car pulled away from the curb. The sock watched in dismay as the taillights receded into the darkness, the pull of the girl, its one true love, getting farther and farther away.
The sock had many epithets and curses in its vocabulary, but only one felt right for this exact moment of weary disappointment.
It laughed bitterly to itself and began making its slow, tortuous way in the direction the car had gone.
Spike glared resentfully around the basement, taking in the washing machine, the shelves of boxed storage, the bare concrete floor. And he had thought sleeping in a sodding wheelchair while Angel boisterously fucked Dru in the next room was degrading. It wasn’t the dust, or the faint smell of bleach, or even the looming, vaguely disorganized shelves.
It was the fact that this dank cave of suburban mediocrity belonged to the slayer.
She probably thought keeping him from the immolation that was his goddamn right was a kindness, some sort of mercy, but making him live in her basement, dependent on her charity deliveries of pig’s blood, forced to sit in solitude while his mind replayed his devastating loss over and over – ah, that was a torture worthy of Angel at his peak. He glowered at her as she set up a camp cot against the wall, flaunting her juicy ass right in his face, as if he weren’t any more threatening than a sodding hamster.
He wondered what she would do if he walked up behind her, cupped that sweet ass, maybe pulled her hips right up against him, so she could feel just how big his Big Bad was. Would she finally, mercifully stake him? Or just beat the crap out of him and make him go on unliving his hell of an unlife? He suspected the latter. Bitch had some sort of bug up her ass about their alliance, like it made her somehow responsible for him, which in her twisted brain required her to turn him into her pet.
There was a momentary flash in his head of a third option, a third way she might react to his hands and his cock, but it was just too sick to contemplate, even if it had been months since he had gotten off. Disgusting. He waved it away.
“Are you sure he wouldn’t be more comfortable in the guest room?” Joyce was standing on the stairs, arms piled high with fluffy pillows and blankets. She had been awkward when they arrived at the house, but she was a true lady, hospitality ingrained in her very soul, and she had managed to greet him politely, even share a little inane small talk, and now here she was to try and make his cave of despair cozy, even while Giles was impatiently clanking Spike’s heavy chains right next to her.
“Walls aren’t sturdy enough,” Buffy said shortly. “He’d pull the chains right out. And I don’t think we can cover up the windows well enough.”
Joyce shifted from one foot to another. “We could always bring the guest room bed downstairs,” she suggested.
“Mom, he’s not going to be staying here long enough to rearrange the furniture. There’s just something we need to take care of, super quick. Then he’ll be out of our hair.” She stepped back from the cot, looking earnestly at Spike, as if she actually cared what he thought. “This will be okay, right?”
He glared at her. Did she really think he was going to be pleased with this little arrangement? Buffy met him glare for glare, eyes intense.
Joyce sighed and slipped past them, dropping the blankets and pillows on the cot. “Let me go make some hot chocolate. Or did you want tea?” She smiled tentatively.
“Hot chocolate would be just lovely,” Spike purred, eyes still locked on Buffy’s. “Do you have any of those little marshmallows?”
Buffy looked like she was torn between wanting to roll her eyes and wanting to win their little staring contest, but the contest won. “Sure, Mom. Thanks.”
Joyce gave Spike a little awkward smile and bustled up the stairs.
With an annoyed harrumph, Giles started the process of bolting chains to the cinderblock wall; Spike immediately ceded the contest, glancing away from Buffy in favor of watching Giles’s hands to see if he made any mistakes that could be exploited for an escape once the sun was up. Buffy made a little huff, of either victory or exasperation.
Tragically, it looked like Giles really knew his way around chain installation; it didn’t take long before the manacles were hanging securely from the wall. The chains were long enough that Spike would be able to lie down and walk around some, but just too short for him to get to the storage shelves. Spike would have wondered how Giles knew so much about bondage, if he hadn’t looked in that box under Giles’s bed one of the times he snuck upstairs to steal the good whiskey.
He would have to stop by and pick up a few toys once he had Dru back. He thought she would be particularly fond of that one, might spend hours employing it on Spike.
Now that would be something worth living for.
Buffy was still watching him when Giles made his tweedy way back up the stairs, her eyes full of concern and compassion. It made Spike want to heave, and he lashed out. “Got a fucking problem, Slayer?”
“Is that a real question?” Buffy said back, face shifting into a much-more-welcome look of annoyance. “Because I know you know exactly what my problem is.”
He wanted to punch her, wipe that bitchy look right off her face, and then it occurred to him that he could punch her, that he wasn’t chained or restrained in any way, so he decided to go with the flow and let his fist fly.
She blocked it easily. “What the hell, Spike?”
“You pissed me off,” Spike shrugged, trying a backhand.
Buffy blocked again, and let loose a kick of her own, sweeping Spike’s feet out from under him; he bit his tongue, tasting blood in his mouth, and grinned, lunging into battle. It felt wonderful, letting go at last.
Or at least it felt wonderful until Buffy seized him by the throat and pinned him against the wall, right next to the chains, and it was just like Drusilla, just like that last fight, and he found himself staring at Buffy and seeing Dru, and then he couldn’t see anything because he was sodding crying again, pinned like a sniveling bug and feeling the absence of his beautiful dark princess like a black hole, and then Buffy let him fall to his new, pathetic bed and sat beside him, wrapping her arms around him. It didn’t take long before she was shaking with tears, too, because that was what they did now, they cried together because it was better than crying alone.
They had a silent treaty, built by the habit of days now, that these moments were somehow not part of their usual enmity, that their mutual grief was a flag of truce; he nuzzled into the comfort of her pulse now without even thinking about biting her, and she held him close without fear, both knowing that any moment now, they would push each other away and things would be back to normal, as if nothing at all had happened, and they would once again be reluctant, temporary allies who hated each other with a fiery passion. Nothing they did in these stolen seconds counted, not the glide of her hands across his back, not the press of her hip against his as they sat side by side, not the way his open mouth slid up her tear-damp throat, blindly seeking out her soft lips…
She gasped against him, but she didn’t pull away, and her lips tasted like salt and despair, just what he needed most, and he drank it all in, pressing her back among the heaped blankets, and her arms pulled him closer, and with his eyes closed he could pretend that he was pretending he was kissing Drusilla, though every sense screamed Buffy at him, because he should only want to kiss Drusilla, he shouldn’t want this, and besides he knew she had to be pretending she was kissing Angel, and the thought made him jealous, because it wasn’t right, kissing someone else using Spike’s lips as a proxy, who did she think she was? So he kissed her more urgently and ran his hands up her sides to cup her breasts, rolling her hard nipples in his palms, and she whimpered against his mouth, arching upwards…
“Hot chocolate’s ready!” Joyce said from the top of the stairs with forced cheeriness, and even though she couldn’t see the cot from there, it brought Spike back to himself and his eyes flew open to meet Buffy’s, and then they were shoving away from each other, until they were sitting on opposite ends of the cot, looking at the heaped shelves. Or at least that’s what Spike was looking at, and he didn’t want to know if Buffy was looking at him, so he resisted the urge to check.
“That didn’t happen,” Spike said finally, scrubbing the tears off his cheeks with his fist. He felt like he should scrub off his mouth, too, but he inexplicably didn’t want to. He could still taste her.
“No,” Buffy agreed in a quiet voice. “No, it didn’t.” Spike turned just enough that he could watch her out of the corner of his eye as she pulled up the hem of her shirt to dab at her cheeks.
“I hate you, Slayer,” he said suddenly, just in case she was getting ideas.
Buffy laughed with what sounded like genuine amusement. “I hate you too, Spike.”
They headed up for their hot chocolate.
The sock made its way up the sunny sidewalk of 1630 Revello Drive, relief coursing through its every fiber. It had taken several more days of dodging traffic and animals and inquisitive demons, but it was finally here. It could feel her inside, like a beacon of hope, and it couldn’t help but wriggle in excitement as it slunk up the stairs to the porch.
It was so excited that it took a huge chance in the hope of getting inside, gathering itself for a leap and aiming for the doorbell. It took a couple of tries, but when it finally slithered up onto the porch railing and launched itself like a cannon, it was able to press hard enough to ring the bell; when it fell back to the porch floor, it huddled against the wall, pressing itself behind the doorframe, so she couldn’t see it.
The door opened. “Hello?”
Her voice! It was like angels singing! The sock wanted to bask in her presence, but it knew it didn’t have time; it quickly inched around the edge of the door, hiding under a little table in the foyer. Once it finally thought it was well camouflaged, it turned its attention to her.
She was peering outside, squinting a little to see in the sunlight, and the sock swelled with adoration, because even looking confused and annoyed, she was a vision of perfection, glowing in a red halter top and jeans. When she finally shrugged and closed the door, the sock followed her back into the living room, creeping cautiously behind the couch when she sat on it. It settled in, giddy at the thought that it was finally here, it had finally found her.
It frowned to itself. Now what was it supposed to do?
“Who was that?” said a chirpy female voice.
“Must have been a prank,” she said dismissively. “If it were a couple hours later I’d blame vampires, but sun won’t set for a while.” The couch squeaked a bit, as if she were settling into a more comfortable position. “Anyhow, you were telling me about, um, something?”
“Oh,” the other voice said sheepishly. “I forgot. It was something about school.”
“In that case, don’t bother,” she said wryly. “Lucky me, Giles pulled some strings behind the scenes, so I get to be back in class first thing Monday morning, completely reinstated just in time for finals.”
“Ooh, I bet Snyder was mad.”
“He was livid. Even had a note from the mayor, who apparently has strong opinions about troublemakers in the school system. But we won. I guess the Watcher’s Council is good for something other than drinking tea and sending out stuffy memos.”
“Well, I’ve missed you. It was weird getting out of the hospital and then having to go to a no-Buffy school.”
His true love said something in reply, but the sock didn’t hear it, because it was too thrilled. It knew her name. Buffy. Buffy. It took a moment to treasure its new knowledge.
Though it was kind of a silly name for a goddess. Hmmm. It shrugged and went back to eavesdropping.
“…I can’t believe he told you I said to kick Angel’s ass!” The other, less-important voice dropped on that last word, like it didn’t feel comfortable saying a bad word out loud.
“I know, right?” Buffy sighed. “Still, it’s probably just as well that the spell didn’t work. It was bad enough stabbing Angel and sending him to hell when he was evil. I can’t imagine how awful it would’ve been if he’d gotten his soul back after it was already too late.”
“Awww.” There was a sound of rustling fabric that the sock assumed was some sort of hugging. Which was not very exciting to eavesdrop on.
There was some sniffling, too. Then some flat-out sniffing. “Willow, do you smell something gross?”
“Sorry, I have a bit of a cold. Can’t smell anything.”
The hugging recommenced.
Suddenly the sock was overwhelmed with sadness. Buffy would never hug a sock, no matter how much fabric softener had been used in the laundry. It loved her completely, but she could never love it back. They were – the sock would have sniffled if it had a nose – yarn-crossed lovers.
It knew then what it had to do. It had found its soulmate, and now it had to dedicate itself to making her happy. Because as long as Buffy was happy somewhere in the world, the sock would be content. For a moment the sock pictured itself always by her side, flicking pebbles out of her path so she did not stumble, flinging itself into puddles so that her feet would never get wet, offering itself up as sacrifice to any dogs that might menace her… The more the sock thought about it, the more it seemed like always being by his true love’s side was going to be a lot of work. Ugh. It didn’t need to waste time with all those little things, anyhow. What it needed was a big grand gesture, something dramatic and impressive, so he could get all the happiness-making done right away, maybe go off and take a vacation after. That seemed like the best plan.
Secure in its newfound mission, the sock curled up and listened more.
“…so you’re doing okay?”
“Define ‘okay,’” Buffy said sadly, and the sock sighed at how miserable she sounded. “I mean, look at my life, Willow. Or, well, you can’t because there’s not even enough of a life to look at. School is awful, slaying is awful and deadly, and I can’t even trust my mom now.”
Willow made a comforting noise.
“I mean, the only thing I have going for me now is my friends. You guys are it.” She was silent for a few moments before going on. “And now Angel’s gone, and I’m thinking, is it even worth it?”
“Buffy, you can’t be too hard on yourself. Sure, your boyfriend turned evil, and tried to destroy the world, and you had to kill him yourself before that happened, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ever find love!”
“Yes, but… but I’ve tried dating guys at school, and you saw how that worked out. I mean, I feel like I should come with a warning label or something. Plus, maybe there’s something wrong in my brain. Maybe I’ve got my wires crossed somehow.”
“Buffy, of course not!”
“I mean, just look at my life so far. I feel like I need to be on one of those lame daytime tell-all shows.” She laughed bitterly. “’Oh, hi, I’m Buffy! Normal guys aren’t good enough for me, oh no, I can only fall in love with evil vampires, because that’s totally the way to a fairy tale happy ending!’”
Behind the couch, the sock quivered in joy. This was its chance! Buffy had given it the recipe to her perfect happiness, and now all it had to do was find her someone she could fall in love with so she could live happily ever after.
It pondered her words carefully. So. No normal guys. That narrowed down the field a lot, because by definition, most guys were basically normal, or it wouldn’t be the norm. No, Buffy had been very clear: she could only fall in love with evil vampires.
The sock would have to find her one.
It just hoped it wouldn’t be too much work.
There was a metallic clanging from downstairs; the sock and Willow both jumped in shock. It peered around the corner at Buffy, who was just rolling her eyes.
“Speaking of evil vampires…” she said drily.
“You’ve got vampires in the basement?” Willow’s eyes were as round as moons. The sock perked up its (figurative) ears. In the basement! How convenient!
“Not vampires, plural. Vampire, singular. It’s just Spike.”
“Spike’s in your basement?” Willow squealed.
“Long story,” Buffy shrugged. “The short version is, he’s chained up and spends all his time crying, so not a big deal.” She stood. “He’s probably hungry. We ran out of blood this morning, I had to run to the butcher’s.” She went into the kitchen and opened the fridge; the sock heard the beeping of microwave buttons a moment later. “You don’t have to stick around for feeding time, Willow,” Buffy said over the hum of the microwave. “It’s kind of gross to watch.”
“I bet.” Willow made a disgusted sound; the sock watched as she gathered up her backpack and walked over to the kitchen doorway. “So, see you at the Bronze tonight?”
“Not tonight,” Buffy sighed. “Mom has an opening at the gallery, and I promised her I wouldn’t leave Spike in the house alone. He was really depressed yesterday, and she’s afraid he’ll stake himself on one of her wooden spoons.”
“…Can you stake a vampire with a spoon? I’d think they were too, you know, spoony.”
“He’s probably smart enough to break off the handle, Will.”
“Oh. Oh, yeah, I guess that would work then.” Willow had a frustrated sheepish tone to her voice, the sound of someone who usually didn’t miss the obvious.
“Don’t worry. I’ve got the Spike situation under control.”
Willow headed for the door then; the sock waited until the door closed behind her, then inched out along the wall, watching carefully for Buffy. The microwave dinged, and Buffy muttered something about how it better be good enough because she wasn’t getting her mom’s meat thermometer all blood-contaminated and came out of the kitchen, a coffee mug in her hand.
She opened a door in the wall, right past where the sock was huddled, and cheekily called down the stairs, “You rang?”
From the basement, the sock heard a grumpy male voice with an English accent – East London? “Bloody right, I rang! You want me to waste away to a sodding skeleton down here?”
As Buffy headed down the stairs, the sock crept after her, finding a spot at the top where it could watch through the railing as she handed the mug of blood to the bleach-blond vampire who was pacing at the limits of long black iron chains attached to his wrists and ankles with heavy manacles. “Yes, I have been taking care of you for more than a week just so that I can eventually have your shriveled corpse in my basement,” Buffy said sarcastically, handing Spike his mug. They both sat on the cot, stiffly, as he drank.
Finally, Buffy sighed. “How are you feeling today?”
“Loads better,” the vampire said in a tone of cheer so false it was practically plastic. “I think I’m good to be on my own now.”
“God, Spike, learn how to lie some time,” Buffy said, rolling her eyes.
They sat silently, taking turns stealing sidelong glances at each other, occasionally shifting minutely on the edge of the cot. The sock watched them carefully; if it had possessed eyes, it would have narrowed them in speculation. Each of their shifts brought them a tiny bit closer together, until eventually their knees touched. Both of them studiously looked anywhere but at each other, but their knees stayed in contact.
“Want to watch a movie?” Buffy said after a bit.
“Fuck, no,” Spike growled sullenly, subtly pressing his knee against hers. “Not if you’re picking.”
“You can pick,” Buffy grudgingly conceded. “But I have veto power.”
Spike took another drink of his blood, looking off at the washing machine. “Well, okay then.”
The sock wished it had eyes so that it could roll them, because there was so much sexual tension in the air even a sock – a sock, with no sexuality of its own whatsoever, not to mention a mouth – was practically salivating, and they were wasting their time with small talk.
Buffy wanted a fairy-tale happy ending. She needed an evil vampire to fall in love with. And here she had an evil vampire, that she apparently was attracted to, chained in her basement, all primed for the loving. The sock had vowed to make Buffy happy by whatever means necessary, but it definitely preferred expending as little effort as possible, and as it looked Spike up and down, it came to one inevitable conclusion:
End Chapter 2