The second and last part of my fic, set in the gaps between episodes in early S7
Title: We’ll Go No More A-Roving
Rating: G So tame it’s scary
Timeline: During Lessons and “Beneath You”, going just a touch AU thereafter.
Pairing: Buffy/Spike – and Clem ‘cos he rocks!
Summary: How did Spike get that blue sweatshirt, and why did he go back to the school basement?
Author notes: Feedback? Yes please!
Disclaimer: No, not mine, not even Spike. But Joss said I could play with his toys.
As before, many, many thanks to bogwitch and talesofspikefor their careful and thorough beta work, and to spikes_heart for endless encouragement. All mistakes are entirely my fault, especially where I wantonly went in the face of (probably) good advice, while what virtues this has owe much to them. This is my very first time posting fic to a community, so feedback would be as oxygen.
The title and some of the inspiration come from a poem by Lord Byron, the original dark and broody antihero – hence some slightly self-indulgent musings of Giles in Part 2.
Clem slumped ever lower in the comfy armchair. The popcorn was more than half gone, Farscape was going well, all was nearly right with the world. Then the door slammed open in a way that could only mean one person.
“Hey, Buffy! Welcome! There’s popcorn – why’ncha pull up a chair?”
That was an opening that was going to fool no-one. She never entered without a reason.
“Clem, I need you. Now!”
There were times you could argue with Buffy. This was not one of them. “Right, yes, of course. Right with you, Buffy. Er – where?”
“Just come, OK?” There was a strange expression on her face. And was that a tear there? No way was he going to ask, though. Oh boy, no!
Clem had to put on a burst of speed, such as it was, even to stay level with her strides. A tiny thing like that could sure move fast. Across the cemetery, through the gap in the fence, across the road and – into a church? Even for Buffy, this was asking a little much, wasn’t it? Taking care not to touch anything – he might not be a vampire, but who knew what this stuff could do? – he followed the Slayer.
There was a strange, musty, smoky smell in the building. In the dim light which was all the coloured windows afforded, it was difficult to make out what was there – until something white moved into his peripheral vision.
“Spike?” Aghast, he looked more closely. All that care of a few hours previously, all those kitties, and what for? As crazy as when he’d started, Spike stalked around the room, not looking where he was going, his pale flesh marred by contusions and scorch marks. As he watched, Clem began to grasp why. The crazy man was paying no attention to where he was going, careering off walls, tombs, monuments. In a place like this it was the equivalent to putting a toddler to play with knives. Every second contact Spike made seemed to be with a cross, or holy water, or some relic. No wonder there was a stench of smouldering vampire flesh.
At that moment, Spike bounced off a nearby wall and half-spun towards his friend. Clem had seen a fair few unpleasant things in his life, up to and including eviscerations, but this made him suck in his breath from shock. The smooth, chiseled abdomen he had seen only hours before was a slab of raw meat, bloody, scorched traced across with line after line. The chest, the pectoral muscles, the biceps – all the same. Suddenly he realized why – this was a church. Near the altar was a large cross, slightly stained around the edges. There was a good reason for those stains.
Hugging himself, raw hands to rawer flesh, Spike cowered down into a corner.
Buffy turned to Clem; for a moment she looked helpless,. “Help me lift him, huh?”
“Help? That’s the problem, you know. I wanted to help. To be a man who helped, who could help, who could be good. “ Spike laughed – only he, alone in all the world, could see the joke. “Good for you, don’t you see. I can make it good for you, baby.” He twisted his head; on his face was an appalling mockery of a leer, the tongue touching the teeth, the eyes intensely focused on her. He lurched to his feet.
Buffy lunged towards him, catching him as he toppled towards the floor. “Clem! Use some help here?”
“I got it. Spike, fella, hang on to me.” Clem rammed his shoulder under the vampire’s armpit. There was an agonized scream. “Uh – I’m sorry, pal. Don’t wanna hurt ya. Can’t do it any other way, though. We’ll soon have you back in the crypt, safe in bed”
“Bed? I can’t sleep. They won’t let me sleep. The voices in the dark, they talk to me, they remind me, they tell me what I am. They hate me. You hate me too. So does God, but that’s a given. I’m a Bad Man, Buffy. A pathetic little bad man.”
Buffy gripped him firmly round the waist, ignoring his flinches, though wincing to herself as she did so. “C’mon, Spike. Time to go.”
“For the sword outwears its sheath and the soul wears out the breast. Bloody poet got it right. Original bleedin’ brooder from all accounts. But he knew. He knew.”
“That’s enough, Spike. Quiet now. Calm down now.”
Suddenly docile, he rested his gaunt frame on their shoulders and allowed himself to be half-led, half-carried from the building.
Somehow, the Slayer and her demon friend managed to manoeuvre the dead weight back to the crypt. Probably mercifully, Spike had lost consciousness not long after they entered the cemetery, and the tricky and potentially painful task of lowering him to the undercroft was achieved without his awareness or further suffering.
Once down there, Buffy looked around. Clem was clearly uncomfortable, fluttering around, pushing torn, stained and charred objects into corners. For a moment Buffy felt a twinge of guilt. Riley. What had that all been about? It seemed so very long ago now. Long ago and irrelevant.
Clem shifted from one foot to another. “Look, Buffy, I – I really gotta go. I have people to meet – guys I owe stuff to. You’ll be OK here, right? There’s soda in the fridge and snacks…” He tailed off. Not the most tactful of demons, even he grasped snacks were not quite the cure-all this time.
“I’ll be fine. Just throw down a rag or two, will ya?”
And then she was alone with him. She moved towards the ruined bed, unthinkingly pulling the throw to cover the worst of the blackened damage. She piled some pillows in the centre and dragged a rug (that rug) to cover them. That should be soft enough.
An almost inaudible moan attracted her attention. No longer unconscious, her companion was squatting, feet planted wide apart, head clutched in his hands, rocking back and forth. He looked up at the ceiling. He looked into the darkest corner. He was so obviously looking anywhere but at her.
Despite her original intentions, Buffy reached out to him. “Spike? What is it?”
Still avoiding eye contact, he twisted away.
Fingers could speak as much as eyes, though, and she rested her hand lightly on an unburnt patch of his shoulder. “Come now, Spike. Time to rest.” Gently she lifted him and laid him on the bed.
“No! Mustn’t touch. Touching is Bad. I’m Bad. Did bad things.” He pushed up, his face contorting as he did so.
“I have to touch, Spike. I have to clean you up. Just lie still.”
“Still? Be still my heart. Still as loving. Always still heart. Moon’s still as bright.”
“Are you nuts? What is this?”
“Told you, pet. Nuts here. Crazy and loopy and loony and potty. Nothing changed there.”
“Just shut up Spike. Make it easier for both of us, OK? And ‘potty’? So not going there.”
“Slayer, I may be crazy, but there’s times you’re more nuts than I am.”
At this point, exhausted by the strain of maintaining the banter and even an approximation of sanity, Spike lost consciousness. Just as well, Buffy thought grimly, continuing the gruesome task of removing the caked blood, the charcoaled flesh and wiping down the few patches of smooth skin. A silent vampire who couldn’t argue back had to be of the good. This once at least.
Whenever she could slink away from her friends Buffy visited Spike. The vampire was sick and miserable and needed her. That was all the justification she needed and all the explanation she was prepared to give even to herself. She took him blood in bags and beer in bottles, and held both to his mouth until his hands had healed enough for him to grip them. She mopped the oozing sores with tepid water and wrapped him in a soft blanket, though she could not for her very life have explained what good that would do someone with no internal body temperature.
Clem hovered, ineffectually, for most of this time. Presumably he slept somewhere in the crypt – she didn’t ask and he didn’t tell. When she needed him to help turn the recumbent form he was there; otherwise he was discreetly absent.
Initially, Buffy talked and Spike listened, when he was able to focus enough. Even as he drifted in and out of awareness he treasured the sound of her voice and the unaccustomed gentleness of her tone. In snatches, he pieced together the astonishing story of what had happened while he had been away. Tara, Willow, Dawn – the familiar names in the most unfamiliar situations. So, Red had finally gone totally doolally, had she? Couldn’t say he was surprised. Bob the Builder saving the day – now that was bizarre, even for Sunnyhell. Couldn’t say he was bothered about what happened to that bunch of losers; a soul couldn’t actually make you care for wastes of skin like that. But Tara, now – that was a shame. He’d not had a lot to do with her, but what he had seen had been good, decent, gentle.
This phase lasted only as long as he was forced to remain supine, however. As he recovered he became more taciturn. She visited less often, and asked him fewer questions. He spoke less and grunted more. The day he struggled up the ladder to greet her in the upper room was the last time she descended to the lower space.
The next day he was alert, waiting for the sound of the crash of the door. Right on schedule it came. Would that bint never learn to open the door quietly? Before he knew what he was doing he had surged up the ladder with a roar.
Caught in the act of opening the fridge, Buffy turned, an expression of surprise on her face.
Suddenly, all the wariness was back. Inwardly cursing his still-stiff muscles, he moved towards her. “Still playing Lady Bountiful, then?”
“Still visiting the sick and useless, yes. What do you want, Spike?”
“Oh, right. I get it. I’m your charity case, now. That it? Well, looky here. The useless vampire’s among the walking dead again. You can push off now if that’s what you want.”
“Big with the gratitude, huh?”
“Oh pardon me. Thank you, your worshipful Slayerness. I am not worthy to touch the dust beneath your feet. That good enough for you? Now you can push off. Don’t need you any more.”
Bewildered, Buffy turned big eyes towards him. Was this all? Rage boiled up, pushing hurt and confusion way to the back. “That’s it! You stupid, useless bleached excuse for a menace! I am so out of here!”
“I don’t need your pity, girl. Push off to your little Scooby-pals. I’ll be ready to help when I’m some use to you again. Now sodding well go!” He leant back against the wall, watching her storm away. So easy to rile, his girl. He’d be ready enough to be of value to her soon. Till then, she had better things to do with her time. Like having a life while she still could.
There was nothing quite so relaxing as good music, good whisky and good company, and just now Giles had all three. Willow was well into recovery mode, and her sharp intelligence and eclectic mind made her a good companion for a Watcher. There were few topics on which she had no opinion, and fewer still that didn’t interest and intrigue her. Just now she was browsing the internet on her beloved laptop, for all the world the shy teenager he had once known.
Rosie Lyon’s voice soared into the last track on the old college folk record he’d put on. Real vinyl, three decades old, the voices so full of youth and innocent enthusiasm, just like his current companion had once been.
So we’ll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart still be as loving,
And the moon still be as bright.
Oddly, the sleeve notes referred to the song as “traditional”. Giles knew better, and found it ironic. Byron had been the original bad boy, Mr Broody himself, so the irony of this sweet song of love and loss was not lost on him.
Idly he wondered if the broody poet had ever encountered the ultimate broody vampire. Angel must have been in Europe around then, and Byron and his pals had sown scandal across Europe for some memorable months. Come to think of it, Byron’s friend Polidori had written a vampire tale with some remarkably accurate details in it.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul outwears the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
Byron hadn’t really lived long enough to know that, had he? Unless it was simply a useful line for one of his many exes. Though to be fair he hadn’t usually been so subtle in giving them the push. Poor Caro Lamb, slashing her wrists in despair.
Giles shook himself out of his literary musings. Such speculation, however enjoyable, was more pointless than most activities. He sipped at the aged Laphroaig in his hand and allowed himself a touch of pride in the progress of his protégé since their arrival some weeks before. Her magic skills and control had improved remarkably, but far more important was the development in her moral understanding, her readiness to accept responsibility for the past and for the power she now realised she held in trust.
The ring of a telephone startled him out of his musings. “Rupert Giles. Hello?”
“Giles? I need help.”
“Buffy? What’s the matter?”
“Funny things are happening. I know you need time with Willow, but I really think we need you here. Something big is going on.”
“Calm down a moment. What’s the problem?”
“Where can I start? There’s something strange. All the demons seem to know it. I’m getting terrible Slayer dreams, and Spike’s back, even more bizarre than ever.”
“Spike?” Giles’s voice sharpened, “Buffy, are you taking care?”
“Yes, yes, of course I am. But he’s strange, Giles. Something’s really changed. He has a soul.”
Giles jerked almost out of his seat. “A soul? How? What? When…” He tailed off, incoherently.
“Giles, I really don’t know. He’s in a bad shape, though. And Anya confirms the soul, too. For what that’s worth. She’s up to some bad tricks again too. Giles, we need you. Badly.”
“Well, I was about to suggest Willow was ready to spend some time with you people. I can bring her back myself if you like?”
“I like? Oh boy do I like!”
Clem came back to the vault cheerfully, carrying a sack of salty cheesy snacks. The moment he entered the door, though, he realised that something was just – off. It was all just too quiet. Once again he had the crypt to himself, it seemed. He checked downstairs. No sign of anything undead there either.
Should he tell Buffy? She hadn’t been round lately. Perhaps later. Spike was old enough to cope, and of late possibly even sane enough.
There were snacks to store away and the Ti-Vo to install. Clem would let the Slayer know. Tomorrow.
There had been time to carry out his initial plan, but not enough time to do more when the crypt door slammed open in an all-too-familiar way.
“Buffy. Good to see ya. Spike’s not in, I’m afraid. Sit down, why don’t you?”
“No – he wasn’t here when I got in. I haven’t been around for a day or two, not seeing as you were spending so much time with him.”
A strangled noise came from the Slayer’s companion. “What?”
“Giles. I have no time for this. I cared for him while he was unwell. He threw me out. That’s all.”
“No doubt there was an excellent reason for telling me none of this too.”
“There was. It was my business. And Spike’s.”
“I rather think that since you called me half-way round the planet it might be considered mine too. Where is he now, then? “
“Gee, Buffy, how should I know? Where he was before he came here?”
Before he could offer alternatives, the Slayer and her Watcher had vanished. Clem dragged shut the door, now nearly detached from its hinges. However cool his current abode was, Slayer visitations were a distinct drawback at times.
In the school basement the rats had multiplied once more. A distinct absence of predators over a week or more had encouraged them to get careless. It was easy enough to snag three or four, drain them, throw away the carcases. So this was what Captain Forehead had seen in the tasty little delicacies. The total absence of anything tasty, to start with. A good metaphor for hitting the bottom of the heap for another. Rats were right for him just now. Back to the beginning, no difference to those weeks ago.
Weeks ago. A week ago? How long since he’d driven her off? Why hadn’t she come back? Worse than ever. As the sores on the outside healed, it just made those on the inside hurt more. And the heart fallen out of the whole game.
There were moments of lucidity, just long enough for him to realise how bad a state he was in. Then the pain crowded back in again and he lost it once more. At times he let go and talked to all his visitors, tell them about his love, his loss. Sometimes he even thought the visitors might really be there.
Buffy and Giles trod carefully down the steps. At his insistence he carried a crossbow and she a stake. Even after he had worked out the detail from her convoluted explanations, he had been unconvinced. A vampire seeking out a soul of his own volition? It had to be a trick. And even if he had? Vivid memories of Angelus, of Jenny and the rose were quite enough to haunt him. A souled vampire was an unstable vampire, and an unstable vampire was better off dust, for everyone’s sake.
The initial joy of Giles’s arrival had faded swiftly into this first argument. Willow had hung back, unsure of her welcome and seemingly afraid to hazard an opinion in the suddenly supercharged atmosphere, but Giles seemed to have forgotten entirely that reticence was supposed to be a key feature of an Englishman’s job description. His forthright opinions on Buffy’s care of the former Scourge of Europe had very nearly led to a breach. One serious enough to send him straight back to Wiltshire. Buffy’s training session had led to the destruction of several inoffensive pieces of equipment as a direct result. The heavy load of weaponry was the final compromise.
They heard him before they saw him. Not exactly unusual for Spike. “Spark. Got the spark now. Why didn’t anyone TELL ME? The night was made for loving. Creature of the night here. All dark and fangy. Made for lovin’, right? Made for love and hearts and flowers. Graveyard flowers. Rotting in a heap. Rue for you. Flowers and herbs and spices. Always liked the spices.”
Giles winced. The rambling was full of arcane allusions but the condition of the vampire was far from obscure. Anything with that level of threat and that level of sanity really ought not to be left in a school basement. Or anywhere else in this dimension, but that was a lost fight, for now at least.
“You win, Buffy.” A sigh and a pained look. “He really shouldn’t be here. I don’t suppose the proximity of the Hellmouth is doing him much good at all. Let’s go in and get him.”
To his surprise he felt his hand swiftly squeezed. “Thank you, Giles. This means a lot, you know. I understand the risks, but I just feel we’re going to need him. If we can find him in there, that is.”
“He’s a menace, Buffy. Let me go in first. If he tries anything…”
“If he tries anything I am quite certain I can cope. Hello, Slayer here, remember? Now is so not the time to go all Lancelot on me. I’ll call if I need you.”
Giles waited. The spectacles were there for just such a purpose. Cleaning them helped control his irritation, as it had done many times before.
Behind the scratched metal shelving Spike’s voice acted as a beacon. “She went away. She had to go, had to find the light. Day returns too soon, no good in the day. Don’t give up the day job. Where’s your authorization? Gotta hide. Not allowed in the halls. Not allowed in the light. Moonlight becomes me, it goes with my hair. Goes with your hair too, pet.”
Buffy jumped at the sudden coherence in his voice. Had he really recognised her? It seemed unlikely in view of the insano maunderings, but it was a start.
“Spike. What are you doing here?”
“Where I belong, luv. Not in the light. You glow, I lurk. Buried with the flowers.”
“I so do not have time for this.”
“Talking to me? Words. Words, words. Some rhyme. Gotta find a rhyme. If it doesn’t rhyme there’s no reason, you see, and no reason means no point. No point to me, no point for you.”
“Spike, listen to me. This is the wrong place for you. Come with me.”
The sudden intensity of his gaze disconcerted her. “Pity for the cellar dweller, luv? I don’t think so. It’s here, you know. Beneath you, here. This thing in me, it devours me, but this thing, beneath you – that’s worse.”
“It’s worse for you. You need to be somewhere safer.”
“And blue eyes meet green across a crowded room? Why do you care, huh? Why bother? Just leave me with the beasties, where I belong.”
“You’re better than that, Spike. I’m going to need your strength. You told me so, remember? “ Reaching forward, feather-light, she rested her fingertips on his arm.
He jumped back and threw his arms up to shield his face. “No, no good. You know what I did. You know too much. I’m no help, you know.”
There are times when an eye-roll is the only reply possible. That and a sigh. Buffy gave Spike the megawatt glare of both together. “That’s enough, Spike. You’re coming back with me, where I can watch you.” She’d argued this long and hard with Giles. No way was she taking the same stupid line from Spike too. More firmly this time, she rested her hand on his arm, tugged till he responded.
“Come on, Spike. Come home with me.”
And, to her surprise and his own, he rose, took the proffered hand, and followed her.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/85916.html