Chapter 3: Ancient Cinders
“Whoever loved as we did? Let us hunt/for the ancient cinders of a heart that burned/and make our kisses fall one by one,/till that empty flower rises again./Let us love the love that consumed its fruit and went/down, its image and its power, into the earth:/you and I are the light that endures,/its irrevocable delicate thorn./Bring to that love, entombed by so much cold time,/by snow and spring, by oblivion and autumn,/the light of a new apple, light/of a freshness opened by a new wound,/like that ancient love that passes in silence/through an eternity of buried mouths.” ~Pablo Neruda, “Sonnet XCV”
Spike was afraid to move. Sometime during the course of the night, Buffy had moved closer, until her head was resting on his shoulder, one arm across his middle, with one leg in between his own, golden tan bright against his black denim and pale skin.
It was a precarious position, to say the least, because he was having a very hard time believing that Buffy wasn’t going to stake him when she woke up.
And yet, the smell of her was intoxicating—the faint floral scent of her shampoo, the soft scent of lotion, and the distinct aroma of her arousal.
Spike felt strange being in this very feminine room, with the lacy curtains, the white eyelet spread, the light pink sheets. He was an interloper here, the contrasts between the two of them were too great.
“Spike.” She wriggled closer, pulling him from his thoughts, and Spike stiffened. He couldn’t figure out where his hands were supposed to go. “Don’t leave.”
He realized that she was still asleep, dreaming, and calling his name. “Not goin’ anywhere,” he murmured. It was the only thing he could say under the circumstances.
Buffy’s next words were unintelligible, mumbled into the fabric of his t-shirt, and he could feel the damp spot her drool had created. It shouldn’t have been attractive in the least, and yet it was.
Three years, he thought. Three years, two months, and eleven days. No, ten days. Today didn’t count, nor did the day before. He’d found her again.
Rather, Dawn had found him, and just in the nick of time. Spike had no doubt that he’d be dust now if she hadn’t yanked him into this dimension.
And wasn’t that something? An entirely different dimension where he was the one who was dead, and Buffy had been resurrected.
Now that some of the shock had worn off, Spike wasn’t sure how to feel. He was in Buffy’s arms, but he’d done nothing to get there. At least his counterpart had kept his promise, had been there for Buffy after she’d returned from heaven, and had died to save the world.
He had failed her time and again. He didn’t belong here; she wasn’t in love with him.
With that bitter thought, Spike began to gently extricate himself from her embrace. It was unlikely that he would be able to go back to sleep now anyway.
Spike slipped out to the kitchen, padding across light brown tiles, knowing that Buffy had stocked up on blood for him. As his blood was heating in the microwave, he heard the door open and close, and Dawn soon joined him. “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen that.”
“Blood heating up in the microwave. I used to do that for you.”
“The summer Buffy was—gone.”
“We were close?”
“We weren’t where you were?”
“No, not really.” Spike pulled his mug out of the microwave.
Dawn swung herself up to sit on the counter. “How come?”
“Told you. I was a bad influence.”
Dawn snorted. “And I told you that I don’t buy it. You were like my babysitter.”
His anger rose. “And maybe I fucked up,” Spike shot back. “Maybe the Spike you knew was a soddin’ saint compared to me. I’m not who you think I am! I was—am evil!”
Dawn gave him a pitying look. “It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that.”
He bit back a snarl, suddenly wishing that Dawn had left him where he’d been, whether he would have dusted or not.
He turned to see Buffy staring at him, her eyes haunted. “Buffy.”
She fiddled with the bottom of her pale blue tank top. “When you weren’t there…” She trailed off. “Never mind.”
“I was hungry.”
Dawn cleared her throat, breaking into the silence that had cloaked them. “I’m going to take a shower,” she announced.
Spike realized that the Slayer had just heard what he’d said to Dawn. “Slayer, I—”
“What did you do, Spike?” she asked.
He didn’t want to tell her; it was too much of a risk. Instead, he focused on his mug. “No one died,” he finally said.
“That’s not the impression that you’re giving me,” she shot back.
Spike had no idea what she might have said then, but the phone rang, sparing him from having to give more details.
“Hi, Giles.” Buffy’s voice was cool, surprising him. Spike had thought that the Slayer and her Watcher were thick as thieves.
Spike could hear the Watcher’s response, and he sounded almost diffident. “How are you, Buffy?”
“I’m fine, Giles.” She turned her back to Spike, as though to preserve some semblance of privacy. “Really.”
The Watcher cleared his throat. “I’m glad to hear it. I just—I realize that we haven’t spoken for a while, and I understand that you’re still upset.”
“How am I supposed to trust you, Giles? You knew that Spike was back, and you didn’t tell me. You knew how I felt about him.”
Spike felt like he was intruding on a private conversation. She wasn’t talking about anyone he knew, even if she was using his name.
But he couldn’t tear himself away. When had he ever respected Buffy’s privacy anyway?
“I had good information that he was working with an evil law firm, Buffy,” Giles said, sounding disgruntled. “Knowing how you felt about him, I thought it might be better if you didn’t know.”
“Well, I guess you’re going to be disappointed in me yet again, because now I’ve got Spike here, and he doesn’t have a soul. And for the record, I plan on keeping him around.” Buffy gave the end-button a vicious poke.
When she turned to face him again, Spike braced himself. It looked like she was about ready to give him what-for.
“Look.” Buffy stopped herself, taking a deep breath. “I didn’t ask Dawn to do this,” she began again. “But you’re here now, and I think we should make the best of it.”
“How?” There was a part of Spike that wanted to be what she needed, that wanted to be her Spike. But he couldn’t. He wasn’t that man—that vampire. “I don’t think you understand.”
“Then explain it to me, Spike.” Her green eyes blazed, and she moved to stand nose to nose with him. Spike was now on familiar ground. He understood how to fight with Buffy, and even how to be her ally—to a certain extent. Spike didn’t know what to do with her friendship or her affection.
“The last time I saw you, I promised that I would take care of Dawn. I told you ‘til the end of the world.”
Her face softened slightly. “I remember.” The phone rang again, but this time Buffy ignored it. “Keep going.”
Spike found the noise a little more distracting, but it soon stopped, and he continued. “I tried. I bloody well tried all summer long, then Dawn started school, and they had dusted off that sodding robot.”
She nodded jerkily, and he took that as a sign to go on. “So, school’s started, and from what I understand that’s about the time when Glinda the good witch talked Red out of bringing you back, and your friends decided they didn’t need me. I was a bad influence on the Bit, an’ all.”
Buffy took a step back, busying herself by looking through cupboards blindly. “Let me guess,” she said quietly. “You got the chip out.”
“I tried,” he admitted. “Couldn’t find anybody to do it, but I did find some demons who didn’t seem to mind so much.”
“Did you kill anybody?”
Buffy’s voice was even, showing little more than mild interest, and Spike felt his anger rising once again. “No, but that’s not the point, is it? I’m still evil, even if I can’t so much as punch anyone without my head exploding.”
Her laugh, when it came, was bitter—and a complete surprise. “Weren’t you listening yesterday, Spike? I know exactly what you’re capable of.”
He’d listened, but there was one crucial difference that Buffy seemed to be ignoring. “That was different. Your Spike went and got his soul. I didn’t, an’ I have no intention to.”
“I don’t know if you could get it anyway,” Buffy pointed out, finally turning back to face him after filling her coffee cup, the green ceramic showing through her fingers. “I mean, if there’s one soul per person, per dimension, yours is already taken.” She raised an eyebrow. “I guess we’ll both have to do without it.”
Dawn had been listening in as much as possible, and she didn’t like what she was hearing. She had been so sure that as soon Spike showed up, everything would be fine. He and Buffy would fall into each other’s arms, and life would be good.
Unfortunately, they were both being stupid.
She heard the phone ring for the second time, and when it became obvious that Buffy wasn’t going to answer it, Dawn picked up in her bedroom. “Yeah?”
“What did Buffy mean when she said Spike was back?”
Dawn winced at the sharpness in Giles’ voice. “Uh, that was my fault. I pulled him from another dimension.”
“You what?” Giles voice rose. “You could have ended the world, Dawn!”
“I was careful!” she protested. “Why doesn’t anybody believe me?”
“Think about that for a moment,” Giles responded drily. “She also said that Spike didn’t have his soul.”
Dawn hesitated. “He’s from a different dimension, one where Willow and the others didn’t resurrect Buffy, so he didn’t get his soul.”
“And he’s there with you now.”
“Technically, he’s with Buffy.”
“She’s in danger.”
“She’s the Slayer.” Dawn let out a breath. “This is why she’s not talking to you, Giles. Just let her be. She and Spike will work it out or they won’t, but it’s none of your business.”
“Isn’t it?” he demanded. “You don’t know what opening a dimensional door does, Dawn. It weakens all the walls, makes it easier for things to pass back and forth.”
She swallowed. “I just wanted her to be happy.”
“What did you use as the key ingredient?”
From the strangled noise that Giles made, Dawn knew that wasn’t a good thing. “Giles—”
“I need to make some inquiries,” he said, interrupting her. “I’ll let you know if there’s anything that needs to be done. I trust you’ll tell your sister about this?”
Dawn knew that tone, and it meant that if she didn’t tell Buffy, he would—and it would be that much worse. “Yes.”
“Very well. I’ll be in touch.”
She heard the dial tone in her ear and fell back on her bed, then rolled over to bury her nose in a bright blue polka-dot. “Shit.”
In the darkness of a Roman night, Angelus lit a cigarette, deciding that he liked this new turn of events quite a bit. Although he had no idea how he’d arrived in Rome, or why, he had managed to ferret out the fact that there was no longer just one Slayer, or even two, but hundreds.
A slow smile tilted his lips as he thought of the hunts he could have. With so many Slayers, no one would mind if he turned a couple, maybe even started his own harem. Turning Dru had been fun because he’d corrupted a true innocent.
Turning Slayers would be even better.
Of course, there might be some truth to the idea that it was bad luck to turn one, mostly because she was just as likely to stake her Sire when she rose as anything else.
But he’d lived long enough to take a few risks.
He watched as a girl passed him, long legs looking even longer in her red stilettos and black mini-skirt. She made slow, mincing steps, on the lookout for something. Angelus thought he might be able to provide that something.
Schooling his expression into one of innocent confusion, he called out in Italian, “Excuse me! Could you help me? I think I’m lost.”
Alarm showed on her face briefly before she got a good look at him, and then she gave him a welcoming smile. “Of course. Where is it that you desire to go?”
Angelus smiled and dropped the pretense. He was too hungry for mind games; that would come later. Right now, he wanted the thrill of the hunt.
The girl screamed as his face shifted, and he laughed as she began running, kicking off her heels after three stumbling steps.
He gave her a head start, then began the chase.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/330903.html