Chapter 4: A Single Door
“By night, Love, tie your heart to mine, and the two/together in their sleep will defeat the darkness/like a double drum in the forest, pounding/against the thick wall of wet leaves./Night travel: black flame of sleep/that snips the threads of the earth’s grapes,/punctual as a headlong train that would haul/shadows and cold rocks, endlessly./Because of this, Love, tie me to a purer motion,/to the constancy that beats in your chest/with the wings of a swan underwater,/so that our sleep might answer all the sky’s/starry questions with a single key,/with a single door the shadows had closed.” ~Pablo Neruda, “Sonnet LXXIX”
Buffy never thought she would say that she was grateful to leave Spike behind, especially after missing him so much, but right now she wanted some distance.
And chocolate. She really needed chocolate.
Taking a bite of the pasticiotti, Buffy leaned back in her chair outside the café, soaking in the sun, letting the warmth of the cast iron chair soak into her back. It was strange to think that she might be going back to a life lived after dark. She knew Spike, and she knew that he needed violence.
And he didn’t have a soul.
She took another bite and spared a moment to wonder how Spike and Dawn were getting along. Buffy wasn’t sure they could renew their bond, given how much things had changed. Spike had essentially abandoned Dawn in his own dimension; Dawn had threatened to set Spike on fire, and their relationship had never really recovered.
It was probably good to leave them alone for a while; Dawn had been the one to bring him back, after all.
The crazy part was that Buffy still loved him. She’d loved him before he’d left to get his soul; it was why his betrayal had hurt so much, why she had been so surprised. Wasn’t it always a surprise when someone you loved hurt you?
Spike would disagree, of course. He would say that you always hurt the ones you loved, but then maybe he was just cynical, or trying to excuse her bad behavior. With Spike, it could go either way.
Buffy savored the last bite of her chocolate-filled pastry, knowing that her reprieve was over. She had to go home at some point and face him, to decide if it was worth it.
Not that there was any real question. She’d been missing Spike for well over a year now, and she wasn’t going to let a second chance pass her by, but they weren’t going to start where they’d left off. She had said “maybe when” and now it was when—and nothing that had happened in the last two years made any difference at all.
The phone rang and Buffy glanced at the number. When she saw that it was her land line, she picked up. “Yeah.”
“We’ve got a problem, Buffy.”
She sighed. “Of course we do. What’s going on, Dawn?”
“There were reports of vampire attacks last night. At least, it looks like vampire attacks.”
“Three or four. It’s hard to say at the moment.”
Buffy pushed back from the outdoor table. “I’ll be home as soon as I can.”
“So, what are we doing?”
“We are trying to find the vampire or vampires responsible for killing those people.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“It means we’re looking for a very discriminating sort of vampire.” Spike gave Buffy a sideways look. “Don’t think it’s your typical newly risen sort.”
She frowned. “That means we have a vampire who just got into town.” At his questioning look, Buffy added, “I might not be patrolling every night, but I keep my ear open for any news. The local Watcher keeps me up to date.”
In spite of their purpose, Spike was enjoying himself. Or perhaps he should say that it was because of their purpose. Back in Sunnydale, when Buffy had been alive, he’d enjoyed the violence that always followed her. Once he’d finally given in and admitted that he didn’t want her dead, he’d enjoyed helping her on the odd patrol.
So, it was almost like old times.
“I got the impression that you were retired,” Spike admitted.
“I took a break.” Buffy stared straight ahead. “It wasn’t the same without you. Without Spike. You know.”
“It’s a bit confusing.” A little too confusing for Spike’s taste, but unless he wanted to walk away, he didn’t have a choice. And Spike wasn’t ready to walk.
Buffy stopped, turning to face him. “Okay, can we both just acknowledge that this is really hard, and that we don’t really know each other as well as we think we do?”
“I have no problem with that.”
“Okay.” He heard her take a deep breath. “Okay. Then are you okay with helping me out for a while? We can get to know each other a little better.”
Spike raised his eyebrows. “I still love you.”
He heard her gulp. “Oh.”
“You should know that, luv. If it hasn’t changed in the last three years, you have to know it’s not going to.”
It sounded like a confession, and Spike prodded, “Nice?”
“That some things don’t change.” She smiled at him. “That’s what I meant.”
“Some things don’t,” Spike replied, looking around the city streets, the street lights making everything sepia toned. “Rome hasn’t changed much.”
Buffy moved just a little closer to him. “When was the last time you were in Rome?”
“Fifty years ago or so, with…” Spike trailed off.
“Yeah, with Dru.”
“I guess a city like Rome doesn’t change much.”
“Outlying districts mostly, but the core stays the same.”
“And Spike would know.”
He froze. Spike recognized the voice immediately.
“Angel?” Buffy whirled. Spike took his time, reluctant as he was to confirm what he already knew. He would have preferred never to see the other vampire again. “You died.”
“That’s generally the raison d’être of vampires.”
“Buffy…” Spike grabbed her arm, pulling her back. He had known the other vampire in all his incarnations, and something about the posture, the tone of voice—the leather pants—tipped him off. “That’s not Angel.”
“Gee, Spike, thanks for spoiling the surprise.” Angelus stepped out of the shadows.
The color drained from Buffy’s face, and she pressed closer to Spike. “How did you get here?”
“That’s an interesting question.” Angelus sauntered closer, moving to circle them. Spike kept his hand on Buffy’s arm, turning them both to face the other vampire. “One minute, I was torturing a dear old friend, and the next, I’m in Rome. Maybe you could explain.”
“Maybe you could go fuck yourself,” Spike suggested.
Angelus grinned. “You never could come up with a good response, Spike. Remember when I fucked Drusilla, and there was nothing you could do to stop it? That’s what it’s going to be like this time, too.”
Spike snarled, losing his temper with a hot rush of rage. Too much had happened recently for him to keep his cool. He flew at Angelus, going low, but the other vampire was ready for him. Angelus blocked his punch and then grabbed his shirt, ripping it and throwing him into a nearby wall.
Angelus hadn’t expected Buffy to move quite so quickly, however. The Slayer hit him across the back of his neck, stunning him for a moment, giving Spike time to scramble to his feet.
“I am so tired of you,” Buffy announced. “This time, I’m not going to be so nice. You can either come quietly, and we’ll stuff your soul back in, or you get dusty. Your choice.”
Spike saw the move coming, but Buffy didn’t, and Angelus grabbed her, tossing her into Spike and sending both of them tumbling, while he ran off.
“This is not good,” Buffy muttered, pushing herself up and offering Spike a helping hand.
He took it, trying to hide his surprise at her gesture. “No, it’s not. He’s going to mess with you, Slayer.”
“You mean he’s going to mess with us,” she corrected, looking grim. “I’ll call Giles. This must be what he meant by more things coming through the dimensional walls. We’re going to need extra Slayers.”
Spike smirked at the thought. “You think Angelus knows about the fact that you’re not the only one?”
Buffy shook her head. “I don’t know, but I’m not going to take anything for granted.” She appeared to notice his torn shirt for the first time. “You’re going to need new clothes.”
Glancing down, Spike grimaced. “Yeah. That was my only shirt.”
“We can go shopping tomorrow.”
“Great,” Spike responded without enthusiasm.
Although having Angelus in town had thrown Buffy for a loop, it was somehow easier knowing that he wasn’t Angel, not her Angel, anyway. Her first love had died in that alley in Los Angeles, and she had mourned him. This Angelus was a stranger.
Buffy could sense that Spike was having a harder time with it, however.
“I’m sorry, Buffy,” Dawn repeated for the hundredth time. “Really.”
She sighed. “We’ll work it out, Dawn. If nothing else, Willow can shove his soul back in.”
“Thought you said that wouldn’t work,” Spike muttered.
“I said I didn’t know if it would work for you,” she replied patiently. “Angel’s situation was different.”
“You asked for the soul; he didn’t. Can we get back to the point?”
“What is the point?” Spike asked. “Other than the fact that we’re going to have to kill the bastard before he gets one of us.”
Buffy saw the discomfort on Dawn’s face, and she could sympathize. She’d felt guilty for Angelus’ crimes, too, when he’d lost his soul the first time. “Okay, let’s get something straight,” she said. “I’m not in love with Angel anymore, and I don’t have any problem staking Angelus’ sorry ass. But we don’t have to be anywhere near him to curse him again, whereas a fight might get one or more of us killed.”
She gave Spike a hard look. “But I’m open to suggestions if you have one.”
He shook his head. “No. You’ve got a point.”
“I’m glad you think so. Giles said that he was looking into options, but he’s definitely sending backup. He thought that we’d have company in a few days, so things are likely to get kind of crowded again.”
“Great,” Dawn muttered.
Buffy gave her sister a sweet smile. “I’m glad you’re excited about it, since they will be sharing your room.”
Dawn sighed, pushing herself up out of the overstuffed chair. “I’ve got homework to do.”
Buffy waited until they were alone before saying, “What’s wrong, Spike?”
“Angel’s the love of your life, right? Is this going to be too hard for you?”
Somehow, Buffy knew that’s where this was going. “Let’s get something straight. Angel was the guy I fell in love with when I was sixteen, and he died in that alley with you. Angel is dead.”
“And so is the Spike you knew.”
“Yeah, but the difference is that I was in love with you. I wasn’t in love with Angel. And you’re not trying to kill me, are you?”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Good. Now that we have that straight, I think I’m going to get some sleep.” Neither of them had been to bed yet. After Angelus had run off, they had tried to find him, knowing how much havoc he could cause. They had been forced to go back to the apartment before sunrise, and had immediately called Giles to let him know that his fears had been realized.
Then there had been more phone calls, waiting to see if Willow could do a locator spell from wherever it was she was now living. Buffy had spoken to Giles multiple times, assuring him that she would be careful and wouldn’t take any chances.
Buffy had sensed that Giles had wanted to tell her to kick Spike out on the street, but that wasn’t going to happen any time soon.
She made it as far as her bedroom door before turning to look at Spike over her shoulder. “Are you coming?”
Spike raised an eyebrow. “I could if given the right incentive.”
Buffy couldn’t prevent the giggle that escaped. “That was bad, Spike.”
“You left yourself open for it.”
“I did.” Their eyes met, and he smiled, a sweet, shy smile that Buffy remembered seeing on rare occasions.
He scratched the back of his head. “You sure you don’t mind sharing?”
“The bed felt empty without you.”
Spike’s smile faded, and he seemed to be searching her face for any hint of joking. “You said we never really shared a bed.”
“Regret isn’t something I like sharing space with.”
He nodded. “Right then. It’s past time for me to be sleepin’ anyway.”
The first person Willow had thought of when Giles told her the news was Tara. She might have thought of Xander, but in the months since Anya’s death, he had grieved and moved on. She could still see regret in his eyes whenever the ex-demon’s name was mentioned, but Africa had been good for him.
Strangely enough, Xander had found himself on the other side of the world.
But Willow had thought of Tara when Giles told her that Spike and Angel had been brought into their dimension from another. If Dawn could bring over two vampires—or even just the one—surely one witch wouldn’t be too much trouble.
That’s what she wanted to believe, and if Angelus hadn’t reared his ugly head, she might have looked into it. For now, however, she had been tasked with helping Buffy round up Angelus—or killing him.
Willow climbed the stairs to Buffy’s apartment, moving along the narrow hallway past heavy wooden doors that were a warm golden brown. It was an inviting sort of building, and she could understand why Buffy and Dawn would make their home here in Rome.
Knocking briskly on the door, Willow set her suitcase down on the floor next to her. She could hear muffled voices from inside, and although she knew that Spike was there, it was still something of a shock to actually see him when the door swung open.
Spike, for his part, appeared wary. “Red.”
“Spike!” Now over her shock, Willow gave him a quick hug, then quickly realized that she’d probably overstepped her bounds. “Sorry. It’s just a surprise to see you non-dusty.”
He looked almost embarrassed. “Yeah. Come on in. Buffy’s in the shower.”
“How have you been?”
“I’ve been worse.”
He didn’t seem inclined to talk, so Willow turned her attention to the apartment. It was big, much bigger than her new place in London. The colors were warm and earthy, and although the curtains on the windows were drawn against the sunlight, when open the apartment would be flooded with light.
“This is a nice place,” she offered, attempting to make small talk.
“Nicer than the one I left.”
“Giles said that Buffy was still dead where you were.”
“Was it bad?”
Spike turned to look at her, the color of his eyes intensified by the blue shirt he was wearing. “That would depend on who you asked.”
Any further questions were interrupted by Buffy’s entrance, her hair still damp from the shower. “Willow!”
They hugged tightly, and Willow pulled back to get a better look at her friend. “You look good.”
Buffy snorted. “Right. I’ve been up for the last three nights straight looking for Angel. I look like crap.”
Willow just laughed.
“Tell me you have good news, Will,” Buffy said. “I want this done as soon as possible.”
Willow grimaced. “Do you want the good news or the bad news?”
“The bad news.” Buffy crossed her arms over her chest, as though to protect herself.
“Giles hasn’t been able to find an Orb of Thessula yet.”
“What’s the good news?” Buffy asked, sounding rather apprehensive.
“I know exactly why Angelus came into this dimension, and I can tell you that nothing else is coming through with him.” Willow winced. “Assuming I haven’t just jinxed us.”
Judging from the expressions on Spike and Buffy’s faces, they thought that was small comfort, and Willow didn’t blame them. Angelus was a menace, and she had a feeling that things were going to get a lot worse before they got better.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/331185.html