Chapter 5: The Trembling of Time
“It’s today: all of yesterday dropped away/among the fingers of the light and the sleeping eyes./Tomorrow will come on its green footsteps;/no one can stop the river of the dawn./No one can stop the river of your hands,/your eyes and their sleepiness, my dearest./You are the trembling of time, which passes between the vertical light and the darkening sky./The sky folds its wings over you,/lifting you, carrying you to my arms/with its punctual, mysterious courtesy./That’s why I sing to the day and to the moon,/to the sea, to time, to all the planets,/to your daily voice, to your nocturnal skin.” ~Pablo Neruda, “Sonnet XLIX”
Spike tried to follow the conversation. Willow was trying to explain the effects of dimensional travel, and how when you pulled one person or thing through, you often pulled along the thing or person most closely related.
Unfortunately, as far as Spike was concerned, that happened to be Angel. Their counterparts had died together in this dimension, and they were from the same bloodline in both. It seemed that Spike couldn’t escape Angel no matter where, or when, he went.
When Buffy and Dawn started asking about the Slayers that were supposedly on their way, and other mutual friends, Spike drifted off, remembering the shopping trip from the previous day.
Not that he’d been able to go because of the sun, of course. Buffy hadn’t even asked what sizes he normally wore; apparently she already knew. When she’d returned after a few hours it had been with several new pairs of trousers—not all of them jeans, and not all of them black—and half a dozen shirts. There hadn’t been a black t-shirt in the mix.
He still remembered the expression on her face when he’d asked, more harshly than he’d intended, “Is this how the other Spike dressed?”
“No.” She’d said no more than that, but there was naked regret on her face, and Spike let it pass.
So, here he was, dressed in new clothes wholly unlike what he normally wore, trying to fill the shoes of another man.
The way Buffy said his name indicated that it wasn’t the first time she had tried to get his attention. “Yeah? Sorry.”
“It’s okay. We’ve got a few hours before the Slayers get here if you want to get some sleep.”
“Are you?” he couldn’t help but ask.
“I’m going to catch up with Willow,” Buffy replied. “But I figured you might get bored.”
Spike wasn’t sure if that was a dismissal or if she was sincere in wanting to give him a chance to catch up on sleep. In the next moment, he’d decided that it didn’t matter. He was still a vampire; he was still evil. He did what he wanted, when he wanted, and if Buffy wanted to jaw with her friends, he could do his own thing.
“Think I’ll get a smoke.”
“Okay.” She smiled uncertainly, and Spike ducked out of the apartment, grabbing his jacket with the smokes and lighter in the pocket.
It wasn’t his duster, of course, which was irreplaceable, but it was serviceable. Spike felt the lack keenly, however, as just one more example of his loss of identity.
The sun was on the other side of the building in the late morning, so Spike found a shaded spot and leaned against the rough, tan stone. Pulling out his old lighter, Spike lit his fag in a practiced motion and took a deep drag.
At least the lighter he’d had since the ‘60’s—or had it been later than that—had come through with him. Spike had carried a small piece of himself, one he had no desire to lose.
For a moment, Spike eyed the sunny street wistfully, wondering how quickly he would immolate. It would be fast, he thought, only a matter of seconds. The pain would be over, and he would be—where?
Spike gave himself a quick, impatient mental shake. This wasn’t him. None of it was. Wallowing in self-doubt, next to sun-warmed brick when Buffy was upstairs, grateful for his presence, was the height of idiocy.
It was, in fact, something that Angel would do.
“Bugger it,” he snarled. Maybe he wasn’t the same man that Buffy had fallen in love with in this dimension, but that didn’t change anything. It just meant that he was faced with a Slayer who didn’t have the same hang-ups about the need for a soul and his bloody sainted grandsire.
Spike flicked his cigarette butt into the street, filled with a new determination. He had a second chance; it was time for him to take advantage of it.
“So?” Willow asked, as soon as the door had closed behind Spike.
“Come on, Buffy,” Willow said. “Spike being back—it’s a dream come true, right?”
Buffy shook her head. “We don’t have the same history, Will.”
“But he’s still Spike.”
“He is.” Buffy managed a smile. “We’re making progress.” And they were, but Buffy didn’t particularly want to talk about it. Before Spike had gone up in flames in the Hellmouth, he had held her tightly, as though he never wanted to let go; now he held her gingerly, as though she was a bomb that might go off at any moment.
At least he no longer seemed shocked whenever she said or did something nice.
“Have you asked him about me and Tara?” Willow asked tentatively, staring at her hands. Buffy knew that expression, and she knew why Willow was asking.
“You guys are still together,” Dawn broke in. “And happy, as far as he can tell. Before you ask, there’s no way, Willow.”
“But if there’s a dimension where—”
“If there’s a dimension where you’re dead, and Tara’s alive, there’s a chance that Tara is happy.” Buffy tried to be gentle, but the last thing they needed was Dawn opening up more dimensional doors. “Besides, Angelus, remember?”
“So, you would have preferred that Dawn left Spike where he was?” Willow demanded.
Dawn cleared her throat. “Spike would have been killed if I hadn’t pulled him out when I did,” she pointed out. “And I wouldn’t have done it if I’d known that Angelus was going to show up, too.”
Buffy could tell that Willow was trying to calm herself, and she couldn’t blame the other woman. She knew all too well what it was like to be unable to move on from someone’s death. “Dawn had no business opening up dimensional portals.” She shot her sister a look. “Even with the best of intentions. Now we have to deal with the consequences, and that includes a homicidal vampire who wants to make me miserable.”
Buffy shot Willow and Dawn both a look. “I’m done with apocalypses, so let’s not invite one, okay?”
“No more apocalypses,” Dawn promised. “And no more pulling people across dimensions.”
Buffy saw Willow’s disappointment, but she didn’t remark on it. In Willow’s shoes, she would probably feel the same way. If Buffy thought there was even a chance to get Spike back…
“I’m sorry, Will.”
Willow shook her head. “I lost Tara a long time ago. I guess I thought…” She trailed off. “You know, I’m kind of jet lagged. If I could—”
“Take my bed,” Dawn suggested. “I won’t be using it, but Buffy and Spike will probably take a nap as soon as he comes back inside.”
“She’s right,” Buffy acknowledged.
Willow managed a smile. “Three days with no sleep, right?”
“Yeah.” Buffy watched as Willow disappeared into Dawn’s room. “Do you think she’ll try something?”
Dawn shrugged. “I don’t think so. Willow’s learned her lesson. Right?”
Buffy rubbed her forehead. “I hope so.” She thought for a moment. “How did you know which Spike to grab? There had to be more dimensions.”
“There are.” Dawn’s expression was clearly guilty. “I just—I pulled. There wasn’t any way to pinpoint a particular dimension with a particular Spike.”
“So, it was luck of the draw?”
“Luck of the draw for what?”
Buffy hadn’t heard Spike come in. “Luck that Dawn found you, instead of a Spike who was living happily ever after with a Buffy of his own.” She knew that her tone was bitter, but she was seeing the ramifications years down the line.
Buffy knew herself. If Spike disappeared through some dimensional portal, she would turn over heaven and earth to bring him back again.
She didn’t even want to think about the possibility of a Spike who was still very evil, and very intent on killing her having come through.
Spike looked as though he was about to say something, but he shut his mouth, shaking his head. “That’s the first time in a long time luck has worked in my favor.” He met Buffy’s eyes. “Think I’ll kip for a few hours.”
Buffy could see something different in Spike’s eyes. It reminded her of the change she had wrought when she had essentially told him to pull his head out of his ass and stop moping back in Sunnydale. She suspected that this had nothing to do with Spike putting on an act, or pulling on a mask, but rather stepping up to take the challenge.
And she suspected that it meant he would challenge her as well.
Dawn had been avoiding Lucia for the last few days, knowing that she would have to admit her success, and come up with some explanation for why she’d been successful. Lucia was well aware that Dawn wasn’t a powerful witch, and Dawn didn’t think she’d be satisfied with some half-assed explanation, like she’d just been lucky.
And she had been. Buffy’s point had been well taken.
So, when her cell phone rang and Lucia’s name came up on the caller I.D., Dawn nearly didn’t answer, but she realized that there wasn’t much of a choice. Unless she wanted to lose the one close friend she had in Rome, she was going to have to tell Lucia the truth.
“Hello,” Lucia said. “I’ve been worried about you. When you didn’t call, I thought perhaps the spell had gone wrong.”
Dawn hesitated. “No, it went right. I got Spike back, but another vampire, a really bad one, came through as well. We’ve been trying to find him.”
“A vampire you know?”
“Have you ever heard of Angelus?”
Lucia was silent for a moment. “This is not good.”
“No, it’s really not.” Dawn waited for her friend to continue, and when she didn’t, she asked, “I should probably go. Unless you know how to get your hands on an Orb of Thessula, we’re probably going to be pretty busy.”
“I will see what I can do,” Lucia promised. “And I do not think I will ask how you made the portal work. There is no one I have lost I would want returned that way, not when the risk is so great.”
Although the other girl couldn’t see it, Dawn felt the heat rising to her cheeks, knowing that this was one of those things she should have thought about. “Thanks.”
Dawn hung up the phone and tried not to think about the fact that every person Angelus killed would be her responsibility, her fault. She could think of only one way to make it right.
She sat in the living room of their apartment, looking at her closed bedroom door, knowing that Willow was probably asleep by now. Dawn could hear movement from Buffy’s bedroom, although it wasn’t the sort of noise she’d been expecting ever since Spike’s arrival. Either her sister was being incredibly discreet, or she hadn’t jumped Spike’s bones yet, which seemed a little odd to Dawn.
There was no way that Buffy was going to allow her to participate in the hunt, but someone else might.
They hadn’t called the local Watcher yet; Geoffrey had been on a retreat when Dawn had performed the spell—and with good reason. Although Geoff might have been making googly eyes at her sister, Dawn had a rather large crush on him, and the last thing she’d wanted was a lecture from a guy she liked about how stupid she’d been.
Now, it appeared as though she’d have to brave it, because she thought that Geoffrey might help her out.
After all, Buffy had taught her to clean up her own messes; Dawn was going to do exactly that.
Spike stood at the bedroom window, enjoying the view. “How long did you say we had before the Slayers arrived?”
“A couple of hours.” There was a pause, and he knew that she was looking at the clock on the bedside table. “They’re supposed to be here around six, before sundown.”
He turned to face her. Buffy was sitting on the bed, hands clasped between her knees, her expression uncertain. She looked as though she was waiting for something—waiting for him. “Do you think we’ll find him tonight?” he asked, attempting to keep his voice even.
“I don’t know. Angelus is pretty good at not being found, and it’s a big city.”
They had followed all rumors of him, in what seemed like a hunt from one side of the city to the other, but Buffy was right. Rome was a big place, and there was always vampire activity. Unless or until Angelus decided to attack them, their only option was to keep hunting.
“We could set up a trap,” he suggested.
“With who or what as the bait?” Buffy countered. “We’ve been over this.”
They had, and the result was always the same: neither of them was willing to risk the other, or anyone else. And Buffy, Spike knew, wasn’t quite ready to kill the other vampire, not when there was a chance at re-ensouling him.
“You still want to try the curse,” Spike said.
“I promised Faith that we would.”
Spike had never actually met Faith, but he’d been around when the other Slayer had come out of her coma and switched bodies with Buffy. He’d mentioned that to Buffy, but she had just smiled and shook her head. “We’ve been through a lot since then,” was all she’d say.
Spike thought it was probably a lot like so many things that he had experienced after Buffy’s death—like the Scoobies asking him to watch Dawn night after night until they’d decided he was a bad influence.
It had been a self-fulfilling prophecy, he realized now. Without regular contact with Dawn, the reason for his promise to Buffy, the promise itself had seemed meaningless, and he’d attempted to go back to what he had been before.
He’d learned the hard way that he couldn’t.
That one word broke him out of his reverie, and he stared at her, at the hope in her eyes, and he dared to do something he hadn’t even had the strength to dream of doing—not for years now.
His lips met hers in a tentative kiss, and her hands came up to frame his face and pull him closer. Buffy fell backwards onto the bed, bringing him with her, the intensity ratcheting up several notches.
Spike covered her body with his, resting his weight on his elbows, trying not to push too hard, to give her a chance to change her mind, but she pulled him closer. He wasn’t sure that he would ever get enough of her, her taste filling a part of him that had been hollow since her death.
He was a little surprised when she flipped them over, straddling his waist, her hands fumbling with the hem of his t-shirt. “Buffy…”
“I want to taste you,” she mumbled against his lips, nibbling her way down his neck.
Spike feared that he would lose all control when her lips moved to his chest, teeth and tongue teasing the sensitive skin around a nipple. He suddenly realized that Buffy knew his body; this was old territory for her, and her knowledge and his longing threatened to undo him.
She sat up, her eyes meeting his, and Spike could see the satisfied gleam in her eye, the pleasure she took in her power over him. No matter what she’d told him, Spike knew that it was still true—he would still take whatever crumbs she deigned to throw him.
“I love you.”
Spike began to shake his head. “You don’t know me,” he protested.
“I know you better than you might think.” Her smile grew tender. “You’re mine.”
There was a hint of a question, and Spike was powerless to do anything other than agree. “Always.”
“I’ll make it worth your while,” she promised.
He didn’t have the strength to tell her that there was no need for that, that she already had.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/331277.html