Sequel to Voices in the Dark; part of The Voicesverse
Summary: After Spike's return from Africa, he and Buffy begin to deal with their past...and everyone else's, too!
Spoilers: Season 7-ish, takes place after the fic, Voices in the Dark
Distribution: Just talk to me, I'm easy. Fanfiction.net and at Chris' site "Amare, Dare, Pardonare"
Disclaimers: All Joss, all ME, all the time...
Feedback: You betta, you betta, you bet!
God, Chris, thanks. Best online beta around!
As he'd begun to come around, Xander had cursed Spike, thumped, and even punched him in the back a few times - kidney punches at that. Spike had told him to shut his soddin' mouth or he'd hit him again. Xander dared him to. He had also tried to trip him up by slamming his fist into the back of Spike's knee.
Spike had thought about dropping him on his head. But suddenly, they were at Xander's apartment.
Once there, the problem of unseen barriers reared its head. He really hadn't thought about it - could have sworn he'd been inside there before - but he'd ended up just putting Xander down and shoving him toward the door. Xander had calmed down, opened up the apartment, invited Spike to come in and have a beer (again), and passed out in his overstuffed chair.
Spike had pulled off Xander's shoes, thrown a blanket over him, looked around the trashed apartment, checked the level of alcohol, and left.
"You are soooo late." A half-frustrated, half-teasing voice greeted him on his arrival. Spike ran his hand through his hair, wondering how he was going to tell Buffy about Xander - and about the chip not working.
"You better have a good explanation. Dawn stayed so she could be here when you got back. And I was beginning to get a little worried."
He grinned sheepishly at the Slayer and Dawn, but he was more than a little distracted. He looked down at his shoes, trying to think of a way to start.
Buffy missed the body language. Putting one hand on her hip, really beginning to warm to the subject, she drawled, "In fact, if you were my -"
In surprise, Spike looked up at Buffy. Her eyes widened, as her mouth dropped open. Brows knit with a frown, she sat down heavily in the chair.
He cleared his throat. Dawn looked from one to the other of them and jumped up, heading down the steps. "I'll be - downstairs, okay?"
No one answered - or even looked at her. She fled with a held breath, not knowing if this was a bad thing - or a very bad thing. Nothing about it had looked good. She just knew that this was one conversation she didn't want to witness.
Overhearing, however, would have been of the good. It was so quiet upstairs, you could hear a pin drop. Dawn strained her ears and finally heard footsteps. Someone - Spike - was on his way down.
He looked subdued as he reached the foot of the stairs. "Hey, Nibblet," he said weakly. "Show me - oh."
Spike looked at the bed, saw the two tables on either side, the lamp. His lips tightened. Dawn was sitting on the bed, looking at him expectantly. He looked at her searchingly, a little concerned.
"We already had it. Had all of it," she said quickly, now seeing it through his eyes. "This," she touched the comforter, "was Mom and Dad's. I found it." She was jabbering, because suddenly everything had gone all weird again, just like it always was when Buffy got between her and Spike.
Walking over to the bed, he sat down, running his hand over the comforter, just as Buffy had. "Dawn..."
"There might be a chair or somethin'..."
"This is fine for now," he said firmly, squeezing her arm in thanks. "What you did is - well, too much. Thank you."
"I'm leaving now, right?"
"Yep. Big Sis and I need to talk. Saw Harris tonight, and it wasn't pretty. And - well, other things to talk about. I'm takin' you home. Give Buffy time to uh, think."
Dawn nodded her head. "I know what she was gonna say."
"But she didn't say it." His eyes locked onto hers. "And she shouldn't. It's complicated."
"Seems pretty simple to me," Dawn grumbled.
"Right. To you anyway. Now, home - or Janice's?"
Dawn thought for a moment. "Um, Janice's?"
"Are you gonna talk to her about - um, what she *didn't* say?"
"Dunno. Can't believe I'm sayin' it, but Harris is my real worry at the moment. C'mon, let's go."
They walked up the steps in silence. Dawn looked over at Buffy, who was moving things around in the 'kitchen,' trying to look busy.
"Night, Buff. Headed to Janice's, okay?" Dawn's voice was deceptively light.
"Good," Buffy said absently, biting her lip. "Janice's is good."
Dawn shot a concerned look at Spike. He shook his head quickly, forestalling any discussion of Buffy's change of heart where Janice was concerned.
"Be back in a moment, pet. We'll talk then," he said in a normal tone.
Vampire and bit walked out into the shadowy night.
"So, what, Spike?"
"Does this mean..."
"What it means," he said slowly and carefully, making certain that Dawn understood, "is that neither Buffy nor I have been payin' attention lately."
"You don't sound very happy about it," she said accusingly. "I mean, she was gonna say..."
"Something bloody stupid. There's too much up in the air to add more to it right now. I don't need it and neither does she," he snapped.
Dawn closed her mouth.
Well, fine then.
Buffy wasn't upstairs when Spike returned from dropping Dawn off at Janice's. He made a rude noise and slammed open the refrigerator door, grabbing a container of blood and pouring it into a cappacino-sized mug.
She wasn't going to make this easy.
Impatiently waiting for the microwave to finish, he thought about how the evening had wound itself out. The beep was more than welcome when it came.
Taking a healthy slug, Spike looked longingly at the television and started toward the chair. That way lay sanity. Blowing out a breath and straightening his shoulders, he changed direction, going downstairs to the lower level.
Because of course, that's where she was.
Buffy looked up from her perch on the edge of the bed with a timid smile. "Okay, that was, um, well ... Did Dawn get there okay?"
Not what she wanted to say - and not what he wanted her to say either. He nodded and waited. She ran her hand over the comforter nervously.
"Clem thought this was pretty." She looked up. "I do, too."
Spike nodded again. "It is. But Buffy, this is - not right."
Her eyes got huge. "What?"
"Well, pet, we're just floatin' along here, right? You tell me when you're off work, I expect you by. You know more about what's in my refrigerator than I do. And now this - we're playin' house, Buffy. Driftin' into - what?"
"I just thought you could use some privacy," she said defensively.
"Buffy, I'm a vampire. S'very basic, really. Somewhere dark - doesn't matter where - to sleep during the day. Blood to eat. Not a lot of room for variation there."
"Okay, okay. I thought *we* could use some privacy. And you had - things. This was your bed!"
"The things weren't for me, they were for you. Make me a little less a monster in your eyes, little more like a man." He thought a moment. "Well, maybe for me, too, yeah."
He felt a twinge of pain as her eyes filled up with tears. Mercilessly, he went on, or he wouldn't be able to finish saying the things he needed to say.
"Furniture upstairs? For Nibblet. For when she would come by. The telly?" Spike chuckled, caught out. "Right, well, that *is* for me." He shrugged. "But this?"
Her chin quivered.
"Tried to tell you I wasn't sure about stayin' here. But you were all hellbent on cleanin' it up. And I let you do it. Dragged my feet, didn't say anythin', 'cause I was driftin', too.
"No matter what you do - what I *did* -- this is still a crypt. It'll never be a condo in a fashionable neighborhood. Never be a white picket fence outside."
The tears rolling freely down her face were more than he could take. He sat down on the edge of the bed and gingerly took her hand, trying to figure out how to make it easier.
"Buffy love, don't cry. Please. It's just - "
With a tiny sound she threw herself against his shoulder and shuddered with silent sobs. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "So, so sorry."
"Nothin' to be sorry for. Just takin' baby steps here, right?" he said as he smoothed her hair.
She pulled back and looked at him with swimming eyes. "I miss you, Spike."
"I miss me, too, pet." He smiled sadly. "S'gonna take some time is all."
She held him a little tighter and laughed wryly. "And I miss - this." Through still-wet eyes, she looked at him with a little bit of her old mischievousness. "Can you tell me why we're not doing - this?"
"Because it worked out so well for us the first time?" he said with a hint of bitterness.
Sighing, he went on. "Buffy, there's nothing I'd rather do than crawl into bed with you right now and stay there until one of us starves to death. I'm not a bloody saint, even if I do have the equipment for it now."
"You sound like it's a bad thing," she said cuttingly.
"It is when you use it to hide away - like you did. I don't trust myself enough right now not to do just that."
"You're hiding now! You hide in this place! What happened to patrolling? What happened to poker night?"
"Patrol?" he echoed. He caught her stubborn chin in his hand. "You want me? To patrol with you?" His eyes searched hers for an answer.
"Spike! You are so stupid! Of course, I do!"
He smiled. "Ah. Well." He sat back. "That's one thing settled."
"Well, what about the bed then? You'll sleep here? Like you used to, before I - blew it up."
Chuckling at her, he considered, then nodded. "Yeah, alright. S'long as it doesn't make me soft."
She smiled wickedly. "Don't think there's much chance of that."
Still chuckling, he leaned over and kissed her softly on the lips. "I love you, Slayer. God help me. Now. To business. Harris. And the bloody chip."
"I don't see any other way to do it."
"He's not gonna like this. And I don't know if *I* like it."
"Well, I do. And I'm the Slayer. He just needs to be needed, Spike."
Spike chortled. "Oh, right. And all we need is love."
Buffy stuck her chin out. "Keep it up, and we won't need him. I'll just put you out of *my* misery myself." She looked at him thoughtfully. "But, really, do you think that might be it?"
Xander trudged heavily down the stairs to Buffy's basement. "Uh, Buff, not really in the mood for bein' the plumber's friend. And my head is - " He saw Spike and stopped. "Whoa! Déjà vu. Demon in the basement!"
Smirking, Spike took a step forward. "Hello, Harris. Head a tad bit large?"
Xander looked puzzled. "Hey. You - hey, you hit me last night!" He rubbed his jaw. "Hard."
"Yep. Thought you might let me do it again."
Looking wildly at Buffy, he said quickly, inching back toward the stairs, "Well, let me go get a beer and - "
Spike reached out with a smile and pulled Xander in close. "And *that's* the magic phrase, mate. S'for your own good." He slung Xander away from the stairwell and into the far wall.
Xander gaped at him, as he grabbed at the wall behind him.
"Anything?" Buffy asked Spike, crossing her arms across her chest.
With another, even more self-satisfied smirk, he shook his head. "Not a twinge, pet. But I don't see what good this is gonna do."
"Holey socks, Buffy! What's goin' on around here?"
Buffy smiled sweetly at Xander. "Just a little experiment. Well, several experiments. You remember that old padded suit you used to wear when we trained?"
He nodded, eyes wide.
"Well, we need your help. Spike can do a few things without the chip firing and we need to see just how far he can go. We need to define 'intent to harm'. Since the chip doesn't work on me, or Clem, you're elected."
"This is *research*? Bring on the books then. Cause I'm not big with the bodily harm."
"Oh, there'll be plenty of research. We're gonna need your help, Xander. Not just as a punching bag, but your little military backstory, too. And remember, Spike can't really hurt you." She grinned. "Much."
"So this is a big? Like really important?"
"Yeah, monkeyboy. Need your help."
Xander absently stroked his jaw. "Just body shots, right?"
Twin nods answered him.
"Wait!" Xander reviewed the conversation. "Wait just a minute. The chip doesn't work on you?"
Buffy shook her head.
"Hasn't since Willow brought her back." Spike looked at Buffy. "You didn't tell him?"
She looked embarrassed. "Thought you might get staked."
"Bloody hell, Buffy. Don't you tell anybody anythin'? And - vampire. I can take care of myself."
Disgusted, she looked at him. "And we're doing this why?"
"Oh." Spike had the grace to look embarrassed. "Well, right then. But Harris?"
"Hey! Standing right here!" Xander's face reddened. "Okay, I'll do it. I swear I don't know why - probably the hangover - but I'll do it."
Both Spike and Buffy whirled around to stare at Xander.
"Well, it's not like I'm - you know - Mr. Popular right now with the chicks. Or work. Or well, anyone or anything. Anyway, this could be kinda fun. Cause I get to hit you, right?"
Spike shook his head as Buffy nodded yes. He slowly turned his head to look at her, saw the affirmative and groaned loudly.
"Yes, Spike, he does. He's got to. We've got to see if self-defense is acceptable to the chip. You know, disarmey kind of stuff." She looked at Xander. "We think it might be a soul thing, Xan."
Xander rubbed his hands together. "Ho-kay! Zoot suit! I'll be right back and we'll start, Mr. Sun Challenged."
Looking at Spike for his nod, Buffy carefully broached the next topic. "And Xander, no drinking."
Stopping on his way up the stairs, the man turned and looked at Buffy strangely.
"You've got Spike all worried about you," Buffy heard Spike's snort and disregarded it, "and that could mess with the experiment. If you're, like, drinking. So no drinking while we're working."
Xander walked back down the stairs and up to Spike. "You think I can't handle it." His voice carried a hard twinge of anger. Spike held his eyes, not backing down.
"Well, I'll be damned." Xander shook his head. "Of all my friends, the undead thing is the one that noticed."
Continued in Part 4