Not My Beautiful House
Previous parts here.
They were equally blindsided. She still gripped his arm, and it was like 50,000 volts arced between them.
Of all that was astonishing and incredible here, this was the apex. It had never occurred to Spike that the one whose reality this was hadn’t also returned successful from a harrowing soul quest.
Because how could she be Buffy, and accept him as he used to be? It made no sense.
Since she’d returned to the house, he’d relaxed into believing that all this really was what it seemed. But now his suspicion came piling back. The Buffy he knew wouldn’t love a soulless demon whose only restraint was a chip in his head. In what way was she the ever-righteous slayer he adored if she could do that?
Before either of them could speak, Giles walked in the kitchen door. Buffy yanked her hand back, and spun around, gesturing big and loud.
“Giles! I’m so glad to see you! I hope you’ve got an assortment of solutions to this problem in that bag of yours.”
The bag, which he swung up onto the counter island, was a leather knapsack bulging with books.
“Perhaps. I’ve been on to the Devon witches, who were already aware of an anomaly in space-time occurring at the hour that—” He focused now on Spike, did a double-take, and seemed unsure how to go on. “That Spike here—if he is Spike—claims to have come on the scene.”
“Not claimin’. Telling the truth.”
“We’ll proceed on that assumption, yes.”
Seeing Giles again—even this other version—reminded Spike of how much he didn’t like the man. Instinctually didn’t want to trust him. Though it was a mistake to trust anything here—pseudo!Buffy was right, he’d been thinking with his dick far too long, wasting time.
Now it was dark out, maybe he should get out of this house, and go find solutions on his own. Maybe the right place to go was Los Angeles. Seek out Angel and his people. He was supposed to be with them anyway.
Giles’ cell phone rang. Buffy took advantage of this diversion to pluck at his sleeve. He followed her into the living room.
“About the … is it really true?”
“Sure it’s true. Vampire wouldn’t joke about a thing like that.”
She squinted at him like she could see it if she focused hard enough. “How did you get a soul, anyway? I thought Angel was supposed to be the only one, and his is a curse on him. I thought that was the way it worked.”
“There’s nothin’ in this world or any on ’em that only works one way, Slayer. There’s places in Africa, ancient places, where you can get what you’re willin’ to fight for.”
“But why? What made you want …”
He could see that the whole concept of Spike-with-a-soul made her writhe with discomfort. Was it because her old beau Angel was supposed to be sole proprietor? Or did it make her feel dirty, that she’d put herself in the hands of a Spike without one? That made sense—it made his Buffy feel plenty dirty enough.
Well, he wouldn’t spare her. “Tried to rape you. Right here in this house.”
She flinched at the word rape, but the revulsion he expected to see wasn’t there; she looked more confused than anything.
“… just … that’s so out of character for you.”
This response was mind-reeling. Who was this woman? “S’not like you to pretend you don’t know what I am.”
“I know. Spike, I know. What you were. Before. I also know what you’re like with me. Since you started to love me, you’ve never come remotely close—”
There was something in this, and the way she said it, and how her eyes shone, that mortified him. He didn’t want to look at her; her confidence in him felt like an abomination. “Yeah, well, guess this is what separates the real Spike from the milquetoast knock-off you’ve got in your bed. Big Bad, here! Mad bad an’ dangerous to know. Every bit of it. Out of conrol. Needed to be fixed. No other way.”
She put a hand to her mouth. Was she laughing at him? “I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”
He couldn’t think of anything to say. The clock on the desk was very interesting. He studied its face.
When she spoke again, there was no hint of laughter in her voice. “I don’t know what the circumstances were, for you and her. But it’s funny—not funny ha-ha, though—because I assaulted you too. Not a beating, like you said the other me did,” she winced, “I—I raped you. After they brought me back, while I was sort of crazy. I hurt you badly, and humiliated you—repeatedly—and … and you forgave me.”
His mind’s eye snapped back to that trunkful of toys upstairs—the well-used strap-on he’d seen there—was she talking about that? Wielding the cock for a bit of rough sex? She couldn’t really mean rape? It wasn’t like her, he couldn’t imagine her trying on him what he’d done to her upstairs …. He flashed back on the night she’d pulped his face. She had that kind of violence in her, sure, but the other?
No. Wasn’t the same. Besides, one way or another he’d deserved every blow she ever gave him.
“Spike—” Her touch on his arm was soft, polite. “Did I forgive you? When you came back with your soul? For what you … what you say you didn’t actually do? I must’ve done, if you stayed, if you—”
“Hey! So, what’s going on here?” Xander came through the front-door, almost bouncing, looking peeved.
Again Buffy sprang apart from him. This time, she met his eye, her back to Xander, and mouthed something. Don’t tell. About the soul.
Spike smiled. “So, did you ask her yet?”
Buffy said, “What?”
Xander’s peeve darkened. He grabbed for Spike’s shirt-front; Buffy stepped between them. “Stop it! What are you doing?”
“This—fake—got me to tell him all my—”
“Got you? Didn’t get you to do anythin’—!”
“Why didn’t you say you’re not Spike?”
“You wouldn’t shut up long enough, would you? Anyway, I am Spike.”
The next thing Spike knew, he was flat on the floor, his cheekbone ground into the rug. “Hey! You try it on with him, you deal with me.”
“You should just say yes, love. S’clear enough how you feel about him.”
Faith’s eyes blazed up; she punched him.
Buffy tugged Faith away; Spike sat up and pretended to dust himself off. “Feelin’ more like home here every minute.”
Giles’ voice called them to order. “Spike, the ladies of the coven want to know what you recall about the dimensional shift. Did a portal open?”
“Why’re we dealin’ with long distance? Where’s Willow? Thought she’d be all over this like white on rice.”
“Willow … is away.” Giles held out his cell phone; after a hesitation, Spike took it.
While he described the battle against the Circle of the Black Thorn to the calm English woman on the other end, he watched them all listening—Buffy in particular. She grew more and more tense as the details unfolded. When he got to Illyria, her mouth dropped open. “Think maybe she did it. Was part of the god’s power, yeah, freezin’ time, manipulatin’ it, movin’ in and out of dimensions. Angel’s people powered her down some, but she could still do plenty. Only maybe not control it so well as she could before.”
He answered a few questions, then handed the phone back. Faith and Xander were still watching him like he was going to swipe the silver. It was sort of hilarious, that they were suspicious of him, souled Spike, who was—though they didn’t know it—safe as houses. And were good friends instead with a Spike who was less highly evolved. He still didn’t get it—they seemed like the same people he knew, the ones who’d always held him at arm’s length. So, why?
Giles ended the call. “They’re working on pinpointing the right location, and then they’ll open a portal. It may take a little while.”
“So meanwhile, what? Gonna sling me in irons?”
Giles, Faith and Xander looked like maybe they thought this was a concept, but Buffy waved it away. “Of course not. We’ll just … we’ll just wait.” She glanced at the others. “You guys don’t have to stay. Spike can hang out here.”
“I’d rather like to chat with Spike during the remaining time,” Giles said. “His story of the battle he was engaged in may end up being instructive. And—”
“Y’know,” Buffy said, getting firmly to her feet, “I can ask him about that, and take notes. Copious notes. So why don’t you guys head out, and do whatever you were gonna do this evening, and when we know when our portal is scheduled for, we can reconvene. Yes?”
What was she so anxious to get rid of them for? Still, come to think of it, he wasn’t overeager to be quizzed by Giles, or to go on suffering the gazes of the other two, so he kept schtum.
Xander glanced at Faith. “Well … we could still head out to that—”
She dropped her eyes. Was it Spike’s imagination, or did she blush? “Yeahallrightlet’sgo.”
“But Buffy, this is a very unusual opportunity to—”
“Giles. Don’t you think Anya and Jemmie are wondering?”
“Really Buffy, I’m sure they’re having a fine time on their own, and—”
She crowded him towards the door, and onto the porch. “We’ll see you later. Thanks, Giles.”
When she came back inside, Spike didn’t move from where he was slumped loungily in a chair.
“That wasn’t what I expected.”
She looked grim. “I want to talk to you, and I didn’t think you’d want them to listen.”
“True. Not sure I want you to listen either.”
“I am getting this vibe off you … what is it? You don’t respect me because I love you without a soul?”
He was surprised to hear her say it; he didn’t think she was that intuitive, and certainly she had no reason to be particularly tuned in to him.
“I don’t know what the differences are that made things turn out so badly for you. Why your Buffy wouldn’t ….”
“I bloody well know. Didn’t have so much to do with what went on between her an’ me. I was chipped up, an’ I fell for her, and I tried to do like she’d want me to do, but I didn’t really feel it, because I was a demon. Loved her, loved the sweet bit, but that didn’t change what I’d done, what I was. She never could care for me—for that. An’ when it came down to it, couldn’t overcome my nature, an’ savaged her.”
She sank into a chair opposite. “How was she treating you, leading up to this savaging?”
Buffy’s eyes closed; her face took on a look of patient disdain, he wasn’t sure who for. “Oh,” she murmured, “it’s important. Takes two to tango, remember?”
“You’re talking nonsense. I—”
“What, you think things here haven’t been rough? We’re talkin’ rough. I’m a slayer. You’re a vampire. It’s not like we’re regular people. It took me a long time to get that—you know me, I always wanted to be Miss Normal Girl. I’m mostly over that now … You should see what goes on in this house, what’s normal for us. A lot of it wouldn’t be right for other people.”
Spike shrugged. He didn’t like hearing this.
Buffy sat forward, arms crossed on her knees. “Okay … but after this attempted rape … you were, what? Disgusted with yourself? And you decided you needed a soul.”
“You decided. She didn’t tell you to get one?”
“She told me to get the fuck out, that’s all.”
“So you decided, and you went on a very long journey, and you fought for it. I wonder why a demon would do that, if all he was was evil to his core.”
Spike had no good answer to this. Whatever conscience he might’ve developed under the Scoobies’ influence clearly hadn’t been enough, which was why he needed a soul in the first place if he wasn’t going to just go immolate himself and be done.
Buffy sighed. “Look, I know what Spike is. I know that the good he does now can’t really balance out his past. But I know there’s more to him than just pretending to be good so he can get in my pants, even if that’s what started him on a new road. He loves us, so passionately—it outweighs his other impulses. It rules him. And I learned to respect that. To be … a little awed at how love runs him, to be a little envious, even. Anyway, he was there for me when I needed him, he didn’t try to make me act happy like my other friends did. He has something I need. He satisfies me. We satisfy each other. I stopped feeling ashamed of that a long time ago.”
This speech of hers rocked him; his Buffy had seldom been so articulate, and of course she’d never said anything remotely like this to him. She was ashamed of her desire, ashamed of its consummation, and she’d never let herself get anywhere close to admitting that she cared about him—at least, not before he got the soul. And afterwards—well, she took care of him, all right, over and over. He’d always be grateful for that. But she held everyone off that last year. The more people piled into her house, the more on her own Buffy became. He’d known by then that they were never going to have a shot at anything. It wasn’t what she wanted. He had to just accept that. He’d had his bit of happiness, his all-that-might-ve-been, that one night she let him hold her, in the stranger’s house.
Hearing this Buffy say she wasn’t ashamed—that almost wiped his small triumphs away. He couldn’t look at her, her bright earnest face. Instead he scooped up a toy from the floor near his chair; a pink plastic puppy that squeaked when he squeezed it.
“If there’s so much goin’ on here that’s not for normal people, what about the kiddie?”
“Jemmie’s fine. She’s got to be the most adored child in the whole state of California. She’s got a huge entourage of worshippers. You head it up.”
Turning the silly toy in his hand, he couldn’t bring himself to believe it. Children were once a prefered snack, and since the soul he wanted nothing to do with them.
“You named her Jemima.”
“Your favorite sister, of course.”
“Where’d you get those photos I saw upstairs?”
“They’re yours. Aren’t they?”
He shook his head. “I don’t know. They must be, only … I have trouble remembering.” He still didn’t want to think about it—his mind shied from the whole subject, as if he was under some kind of spell that made it obscurely painful to look straight at what lingered in the corners of his consciousness.
Buffy made a face. Then she was on her feet, and standing in front of him, her hand resting lightly on his shoulder.
“Yeah.” He still didn’t want to look at her, didn’t want to be this close to her. Fucking hell, he could still go. Plenty of time to get to LA before daybreak.
“I’m so worried about my Spike, but I’m worried about you too. That seeing this is making you unhappy. It must be so hard.”
He shot up, moved away from her.
“And it makes me sad that there’s another Buffy who doesn’t have you in her life. Who’s alone. I can’t imagine not being with Spike.”
“Who said she’s alone?”
“… I don’t know.”
“It feels wrong, that you’re far away from each other. That you’re fighting this huge army and she isn’t there.”
“Think I like the unsentimental you better.”
“I’m not being sentimental! Huh. The other Buffy must be kind of a bitch. I mean—I’m kind of a bitch, but she’s got to be—”
“Shut up! You don’t know her! She always did what was right.” This time he made it to the door, but couldn’t resist glancing back.
She regarded him through narrowed eyes. “Uh. Huh. Well … would you tell me the rest of what happened? You got a soul, you came back here, and eventually you died—almost—in a battle. But in between?”
In between. Crazy. Then controlled by The First. That was when Buffy rose to it, though, wasn’t it? He was for a swift staking, but no, she wanted to find out what was going on. She no longer suspected him of every nefarious thing.
Suddenly it seemed important to explain all that to this Buffy, who, it seemed to him, was passing a lot of bloody offensive judgements on him and the woman he loved, based on insufficient information. He had to make her understand that her counterpart had done her absolute best, and that she wasn’t to blame for not fulfilling his dodgy romantic fantasies. Reeling back to the sofa, he sat and told her. Everything he could remember.
Except the very end. What Buffy said at the very end. He wasn’t going to tell this one, who scribbled mushy notes and bought lingerie just for Spike, how his Buffy had lied. He preferred to leave that out of the whole equation.
“So she just left you there.”
“Had to. The amulet’s magic wouldn’t have worked if I’d tried to escape. Anyway, I was ready to go.”
“And you never let her know you were still around? Do you really think that’s fair?”
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for her.”
A dry look; a little stunned, contemplative, was the only answer to this. Buffy sat with her hands on her knees, and seemed to be holding her breath.
Then she leapt up, muttered something through her hand to her mouth, and rushed out of the room.
It took Spike a second to realize what she’d said. I’m so lucky—I never knew how much!
To be continued. Friend to be sure not to miss future installments.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/73075.html