Whispers in a Dead Man’s Ear (2/8) (Part 2)

This entry is part 3 of 10 in the series Whispers in a Dead Man's Ear
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Continuation:

Set post-Sanctuary (season 1 of AtS, coinciding with season 4 of BtVS).

Buffy’s just been sent from Los Angeles by Angel in the wake of Faith’s reawakening, attempts at revenge, and baby steps towards redemption.  Being dismissed isn’t high on the list of things that makes for a happy Buffy, but fortunately there’s always patrol for getting rid of tension.

Whispers in a Dead Man’s Ear (2/8) (Part 2)

They strode through the cemetery, Buffy watchful, Spike sullen but shooting smug glares in her direction whenever he thought she might notice.  He liked the way it kept her on edge, particularly when she flipped up the collar of her jacket; that little gesture put a good share of spring back into his step.

He watched apathetically as she took on a small cluster of fledglings who had all burst from the ground in the same spot; it seemed impossible to find anyone on the Hellmouth who knew how to arrange a decent awakening, and so he couldn’t really find it within himself to feel bad as he watched a half-dozen of his newly-risen brethren fulfill their dust-to-dust destiny a few centuries earlier than he figured they’d hoped.  It did, however, make for amusingly brief fights when the newcomers demonstrated less skill than a basket of blind kittens in either fighting or escaping and were thus neatly arranged for supremely efficient deaths.

The arrival of the recently-departed’s sire through the dust of his creations, however, brought an opportunity to watch Buffy fight someone with more skill than a karate-belted kindergartener, and that was something Spike didn’t let escape.  All too often, it had been him fighting her, something that had forced him to surrender his study of her technique in favor of planning combat strategy, his offense and defense and the occasional strategic withdrawal.  But to watch her, really watch and appreciate her talent, was something rare and still new.

As was watching her get pummeled, which somehow seemed to be how the tide had turned.  Two blows to the stomach, then one to the jaw; a kick was ducked, and her compensatory thrown punch was caught and used to spin her in against her opponent.  The vampire snarled, baring his fangs as he fisted his hand in her hair, tugging her head to the side.

“He’s got your hair, Slayer.  Might want to see to that.”

“Thanks,” she coughed out wryly as she doubled over, flipping her opponent off her back and onto the ground in front of her.  His hold worked against him, forming a restraint of sorts on his arms that he couldn’t quite break before her stake descended into his chest.

“Well, that seemed bracing,” Spike observed.

Buffy gave him a disgusted look as she stood, gasping with the effort to regain her breath.  “And thank you for the stellar no help there, by the way.  So nice to have you along.”

“Thought I was the proverbial three monkeys on this little excursion; if I can’t do evil or speak evil, I sure as hell ain’t doin’ good.  Besides, I just did my nails.”  He gave her an unrepentant smile.  “Squeaky wheel gets the grease, Slayer.  All you had to do was say ‘help,’ and I would’ve—well, done exactly what I did, except with more pointing and laughing, an’ the committing of the whole scene to memory as a treasure.  So feel free to ask for help in future, yeah?”

Buffy glowered at him.  “I’ve dealt with enough squeaky wheels for a while, thanks.  I don’t need to become one.”

“This wouldn’t be you talkin’ about chasin’ brunette Buffy to LA, now would it?”

The stormy look darkened another shade.  “She’s so not brunette Buffy.  She’s different.  Much different.  Skankier.”  Buffy turned and hopped up onto a headstone, then jumped from there to the top of a mausoleum.  “And squeakier,” she grumbled as an afterthought.

“Ahhh… now I get it,” he mused as he watched her climb, then leapt to the top of the mausoleum in a single vertical jump.  He shrugged nonchalantly when her eyes widened questioningly at the move, then took a seat on the edge of the roof.  “So you found her squeakin’ with your lambykins, then.  Not surprised, though I do wonder if it’s all Slayers that have a dead meat fetish, or just the newer generations.”

“What?  Ewww, Spike,” Buffy grimaced, sitting as well.  “And no, there was no squeaking.”

“Groaning then?  Grunting?  Screaming, even?” he continued to taunt, enjoying the dawning look of horror on her face.

“Stop!  Agh—no!  It was nothing like that, not really,” she said, voice softening a bit.  “It’s just… he sent me away.”

Spike gave her a sidelong glance.  “Yeah, you said.  Don’t see how it’s that big of a deal, really; not like you could shuffle off from here and stay anyway.”

She sighed deeply, pulling her knees up to her chest.  “It’s not that.  He sent me away, Spike.  I get scolded like a puppy and sent back here, and she’s still there.”  The last was barely a whisper, but Spike heard nonetheless.

“He just let her go?”  The elevated brows spoke to his surprise.

“No, she’s in jail.”  At his look, she shifted uncomfortably.  “But still—“

“She’s there, you’re not.  Got it.  Makes sense,” he said casually.

“Glad it does to somebody.”

“What, you want a window into Angelus’ head?”

“Angel.”

“Whichever.  Not always different, you know.”  He raised his hands to ward off the attack that was clearly pending when she released her legs and turned angry eyes on him.  “Regardless—that what you’re after?”

“It just doesn’t make sense.”

“To you.  Perfectly logical to me,” Spike retorted.  “As logical as such a thing can be, anyway.  Fact of the matter is, I happen to know a thing or two about Angelus, an’ it doesn’t take much of a stretch to bring it around to Angel, too.  Angelus, bastard that he was, was a bit of a patron saint of lost causes. Maybe because Darla pulled him out of the gutters that would’ve been his grave elsewise, I don’t know.”  He paused, clearly thinking.  “Anyway, Penn and me come from that, I think; he took us under his wing, taught us the ropes.”

“So you were a lost cause?” Buffy asked, mildly intrigued.

“Few could be more so,” he answered, giving her a rakish leer.  “Anyway, yeah.  Lost causes—Angelus had a thing for them.  Liked makin’ something out of the ones he found, but liked creating them, too; that’s what he did with Dru.  Broke her down bit by bit, until—”

“I know all about that,” Buffy interrupted.  “What does any of this have to do with anything?”

“Are you being this obtuse on purpose, or did you really not pay attention to your evil twin when she was gadding about?  If I had to guess, she’s his newest project.”

“Project,” she repeated flatly.

“Project.  I’m willin’ to bet that, for him, every broken girl he can take in is one more chance to make up for Dru an’ a hundred others.  Another chink in the soul’s wall of pain.  From what little I heard about her, that Faith chit’s trouble enough to mean atonement for at least fifty, especially since it seems like he’s already got her payin’ for her sins.”

Buffy was silent, surveying the cemetery, expression carefully veiled.  After a long, quiet moment, she asked, “And what, there are no lost causes in Sunnydale?”

Spike, for a reason he couldn’t quite fathom, bit back the retort that had sprung automatically to his lips; he turned towards her, noting the determination in the set of her jaw, the little upturn of her chin.  He rolled his eyes at himself as he sighed inwardly and turned his face back towards the night.  “If you’re talkin’ about yourself, pet, no.  Afraid you don’t count, not hardly.  He’s been gone what, months now?  And you’re still standing—that’s proof enough that you’re too strong for his special brand of savior.  You might need him, but not so badly that you’ll break without, an’ that’s the difference.”

He ignored what sounded suspiciously like a sniffle, rattling the contents of his duster pocket to cover any other noises from her.

“Being strong gets old,” she grumbled, loudly enough for him to hear over his noisemaking.

“That it does.  Cross we bear, though.  It’s not all bad, you know; what keeps us from greetin’ the sunrise or the,” he paused for a moment, then waved his hand dismissively, “whatever the big melodramatic human suicide gesture might be once they’ve moved on.”

“I guess,” she muttered, knees curling back into her chest and arms wrapping around them again.  “Still sucks.”

“World’s a crap place, Slayer, an’ not all the nasties are physical.  Price of livin’ with your heart on your sleeve is that somebody can come along and brush it right onto the ground at a moment’s notice.  Believe I warned you that was risky, too, in that long and very insightful tirade you apparently saw fit to ignore.”  He met her exasperated stare with one of his own, then lowered his voice almost infinitesimally.  “Just cause they’re gone, doesn’t mean the love stops.  On either end.  You can love someone from half a world away,” Spike said quietly, drumming his heels against the stone behind them.

“Yeah, but… Wait.  Are you comforting me?”  Buffy asked, fixing him with a quizzical look.

“What?  No,” Spike scoffed.  “Not comforting anyone.  Musing aloud, putting my thoughts together.  You’re just hanging about, robbing a bloke of his peace of mind.”

“You’re still mooning over Dru.”  The accusation was spoken bluntly.

He may have been found out, but he certainly wasn’t willing to let on.  “What?  No.  It’s you who’s bemoaning the fate what befell you an’ your lovepuppy Angel.”  He tapped another cigarette from the pack before offering it to her and chuckling as she made a face and waved it away.

“Right.”  Silence reigned for a moment, and then she spoke again.  “But just… say that we were talking about Drusilla, too, since I’m talking about Angel.”

“Which we’re not.”

“Obviously.  But if we were, would it make us pathetic?” she mused.  “The loving them from afar, wishing they were here thing?”

Spike took a deep breath before answering.  “If we were talkin’ about how we felt—which we’re not—I think I’d prefer stalwart as a description, thanks ever so.”  His disgusted sidelong glance in her direction was sufficient to convey what he thought of the ‘pathetic’ designation.

“I wouldn’t.  Yuck,” she groused.  “What kind of word is that, anyway?”

“Do you even go to the classes at that university of yours, or are you there for the firsthand spectator’s view of today’s hottest fashions?  Because if that’s the case, I’m sure a handful of those bird-centric frippery glossies are probably better for your mum’s wallet.”

“I go to class,” Buffy shot back defensively.  “I know lots of stuff.”

“Right.”  He drawled, sounding far from convinced.

“I do.”

“Prove it.  Who wrote, ‘the lady doth protest too much, methinks’?”  When no answer came, he prodded further, “how about ‘my only love sprung from my only hate’?  It’s the same answer for both.”

Buffy’s brow furrowed.  “I’m not an English major.”

“Alright, then.  You’re spending all your time with the amazing analytical soldier; explain Freud’s dream theory.”  The look he gave her was a combination of mirth and mischief, glee dancing in his eyes as her face grew steadily stormier, more befuddled.

“Shut up!” Buffy muttered after a moment’s silence, shooting him a sidelong glare.  “I’m only a freshman.  Besides, I don’t see what any of this has to do with me not liking the word ‘stalwart’.”

“What would you prefer?  ‘We that are true lovers’?  That’s a Shakespeare bit like the others, on the off chance you’re payin’ attention to something that might prove educational.”

She kicked her foot out to the side, hitting his ankle and smirking when he yelped and reached down to rub the offended area.  “I don’t care where it’s from, but yes, I like that much better.”

“Thought you might.  You’re kind of a sap.”

“One of us knew all those quotes by heart,” Buffy said drolly.  “It wasn’t me.”

Spike said nothing, merely exhaled a slow stream of smoke in her direction and beamed as she coughed and fanned.

“I guess it could be Harmony,” she said as waved away the wispy cloud.

“What are you on about?”

“Well, you’re clearly all mopey over somebody.  Maybe it’s Harmony.  She seems like the type who could inspire poetry.”  A mischievous grin lit up her face.

“That would be limericks,” Spike rejoined, laughing despite himself at the thought of Harmony-inspired verse.  “And I’m not mooning, any more than you are.”

“I’m not mooning.  I’m just… venting,” she countered defensively.

“Exactly,” he answered, raising a brow.

“Fine,” she agreed, standing.  “Nobody’s thinking about anybody else.  We’re just getting it off our chests.”  She picked her way back across the roof of the mausoleum, swinging down onto the gravestone and then jumping to the ground.  “And Spike?”

“Yeah, yeah,” he answered, laughing at the startled jump she gave when he leapt, landing in the spot just next to her.  “Not a word to anybody.  Think I want it getting around that I mope with the Slayer over exes?  Hell, I didn’t even want to do it this time around.  Next step would be mixin’ up multicolored drinks an’ varnishing our nails together, an’ I’m already gettin’ my ass kicked in alleys over you quite enough.”

“You’re insufferable.”

“Likewise.”

Buffy sucked in her cheeks, not nearly quick enough to hide the hint of a smile, and turned away, retracing her steps back towards the cemetery gate.

“I still hate you,” Spike called after her, ignoring the amusement threatening his features, instead schooling them into Big Bad annoyance.

Buffy tossed him a backwards glance.  “I can’t imagine it any other way,” she promised, disappearing around the corner.

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/49523.html

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