Sequel to Voices in the Dark; part of The Voicesverse
Summary: Months after his return from Africa, Spike begins to take his unlife in hand. It's not quite the life that Buffy expected...
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!
And speaking of betas, thanks, Chris, you wonderful brainstorming buddy, you; and Colleen, who never lets me split an infinitive if she can help it. Thanks for the superfast final read through!
As he reached up to take her hand, she jerked it back, doubling over into fresh gales of laughter - and was suddenly sitting on her backside in the grass.
"Hey!" She looked a little stunned at where she found herself.
Spike looked at her with a wicked glint in his eye. "Hey yourself," he said mildly.
He reached over and quickly pushed her hair away from her face, then leaned back on his hands with a smirk. Once, a move like that would have been a step away from a caress. One of those heart-stopping moments that made her stomach clench - almost like foreplay. In fact, she thought it might have *been* foreplay more than once.
She wondered what it was to him now, since his return from Africa with his shiny new soul - just a way to get her hair out of her face?
"You know, your timing is way off," she complained. "With the vamp, I mean. And what kind of move was that anyway?" She reached over and slapped the front of his t-shirt. Dust flew into the air, sending her off into a fresh fit of giggles, interspersed with racking coughs.
Waving the dust away, Spike gave her an amused look. "Not creative enough for you?"
"Oh. Like you meant to do that," she said condescendingly.
Buffy almost caught her breath at the old Spike. Reluctant to let him go, she tossed her hair. "Didn't."
Dusting off his t-shirt, Spike grimaced slightly. "Well, not quite like that, no. But I got the job done."
"He almost took the stake away from you! I never thought I'd say this to you, but..."
Spike gave her a disgusted look. "It was just a ploy."
Nodding her head, she said in disbelief, "A ploy."
"Well. Yeah. Give us a chance to kick back, luv. Smell the flowers," he said, indicating the fresh funeral sprays nearby. "Take a load off," he chuckled.
It was the most relaxed she'd seen Spike in months - a little off guard, eyes clear and light. Since his return, those eyes had been like clouded glass. If the eyes truly were the 'windows to the soul,' something must have gone wrong, because Spike's eyes had been a lot more expressive before, when he was an evil soulless thing. Gazing at him fondly and a little off guard herself, she mused aloud, "We should bring stuff for a picnic next time."
Appraisingly, he gazed at her from half-lidded eyes. "Patrolling *and* a picnic? How romantic," he said dryly, looking as if the shutters would close on those windows of the soul at any second.
"Not so much," she said defensively. This new Spike was so moody - not that he hadn't always been moody, but...jeez! "We used to bring chips and stuff. Well, Xander and Will did. I mostly saved the world. They did share, though. Sometimes. If the snacks held out." She tried to keep it light.
"Nothin' new under the sun then, I reckon," Spike said, relaxing again as he absently looked up at the night sky. "Or the moon."
Buffy didn't follow his eyes up, even as he sat back, continuing to look at the stars. She was looking at him - in the closest thing to natural light there was for someone like him. Sighing, she thought how it suited him: he was almost glowing against the shadows.
This was the third time they'd been on patrol this week, and she was a little worried. Oh, sure, he got the job done, but not with the old flair. He used to love to patrol with her, push it to the edges of the envelope. Show off a little. Well, a lot. Now, it was more like ... work. And 'work' that he didn't seem to care much about. She frowned.
Spike slowly shifted his attention from the sky to his partner, as if sensing a change in her. "No rest for the weary, pet."
Groaning at the reminder, she threw herself back on the grass in frustration.
Spike stood up and put a hand out. Suspiciously, she caught his eye and with a determined nod, took the offered hand, putting all her weight on it. At the last minute, she jerked him down. He landed on her hard, driving a small woof out of her body. In a flash, she was straddling him, hard, green eyes filling his vision.
"Now look what you let me do," she said, taunting him in a deceptively soft voice. "There's a change, since Africa, and if you don't start paying attention, you're gonna get staked. You need to be training with me, getting your moves back, not sitting in front of the TV."
His eyes turned a dark, stormy blue, narrowing in anger, embarrassment, and a touch of desire. Now that was more like it. She held her breath, not wanting to disturb the moment.
Then it was over, like she'd imagined the whole thing.
He threw her off gently. "Pfft," he said with none of the heat she'd just seen in his eyes. Rolling to one side, he put some distance between the slayer and himself. "Just a bit off, luv. Nothin' a little practice won't make right."
"So? Train with me." She said, pulling her elbow up under her, so she was in a half-reclining position. Considering her next words carefully she went for a humorously worded challenge. "I need a sparring partner, and I can so kick your ass right now. It'll be fun!"
Spike came off the ground in a fluid motion, eyes flashing. "I am not fighting with you."
Eyes widening, Buffy stared. "I said 'sparring!'"
"Fine. I'm not 'sparring' with you," he said with a shrug, reining in his temper. He turned to go. "Think we're done for tonight, Slayer. But we do need to check out some not-so-likely nesting spots tomorrow night."
Leaving Buffy sitting on the ground, Spike headed off toward his crypt. She realized her mouth was hanging open and shut it with a snap.
What in the world was she going to do with him? Everything set him off. One minute, they'd been laughing and maybe headed toward who knew what else, and the next, he was back behind that wall of his.
Now, they'd knocked down walls before - been pretty good at it. But that really hadn't turned out so well, had it? Buffy got up, brushed herself off and headed home, frowning all the way.
Buffy was right, and Spike knew it. He was off-balance, out of kilter. Not up to the usual slash and burn standards that kept his Slayer alive and him undusted. He decided a little solo work might do some good - put him back on the front lines. And that nest he had mentioned might be just the place to start. He could at least go check it out - with no one and nothing distracting him.
As he moved alone through the dark, the night began to whisper to him, telling its tale. He slipped through the trees, using short cuts he doubted even the slayer knew about. His movements became more his own, more under his control. Obviously, the time had come to take back his life - or at least begin fitting it into the new parameters his recent acquisition had caused him to 'suss' out over the last months.
He was nearing the caves, wondering just what types had set up housekeeping there since his departure last spring. He never patrolled there regularly, preferring to save it for those times he needed more of a challenge. Never brought Buffy there. It was his place - a place where the odds were usually against him. Many times it was a mob mentality of hatred and fear, the kind of thing that had challenged him in humans when he'd first been made. This was as close to it as a vampire who could fight only demons could get. It was enough.
The caverns were cool and quiet, the soft drip of water and the chink of falling pebbles here and there the only sound. Spike was beginning to despair of any action at all until he neared the fork that followed the outline of the old Initiative underground installation.
Being in this place always caused a bout of usually unwelcome introspection. Maybe it was the reason he patrolled there so seldom. But tonight, he was almost eager. The insertion of the chip had started him on the road that had led from 'there' to 'here.' He smiled ruefully - interesting road that. More like an undiscovered path he had blazed on his own. Who could have known that the quest for The Gem of Amarra would lead him to another quest - for a soul, this time - after almost a hundred and a half years of joyfully ignorant vampiric existence?
He slowed his silent progress to cock his head, catching a hint of sounds that didn't fit. Lengthening his stride, he headed for the nest.
Buffy closed the front door to her house with a loud slam and stalked into the kitchen. It was late, she was hungry, and something else was wrong, but she wasn't quite sure what it was.
Okay, that was a lie. She knew exactly what else was wrong. A long time ago, she'd told Spike she could never love an evil soulless thing like him.
Fine time to wonder if she might have been wrong, what with the new, re-souled model just a few blocks and headstones away. What they'd had - that complicated mix of attraction and repulsion, fire and ice, wrong and right - seemed painlessly simple compared to what was going on right now.
Earlier, it had taken everything she had not to kiss him when she saw that angry look in his eye. Kiss him and scream 'welcome back' at the top of her lungs.
She was sorry she had ever pushed him back into patrol. The problem was that attempting to return to the old routine had taken their new dynamic and tossed it right back into its old context. Suddenly, she was comparing 'old' Spike with 'new' Spike - often finding that she preferred the borderline 'evil' she'd known, to the 'good' that she didn't always understand.
First, he was so quiet. That was just plain weird. The snarky, running commentary was mostly a thing of the past now. She laughed ruefully in silence. The very thing that used to make her insane - had made her want to knock the hell out of him - was one of the things she missed!
And he kept his own counsel. Once he'd run ideas across her like he had his hands - impatiently, restlessly, incessantly. These days? Not big on the communication. You could almost see him mentally filing things away for future reference, like he needed more information before he could talk about it.
He was becoming...something more than he was before.
Opening the refrigerator door, she stared at the contents without seeing any of the pizza boxes or Styrofoam containers.
'Spike' was a subject she tried to avoid thinking about, preferring to take it a day at a time. But days had stretched into weeks, and now months, and she was no closer to any answers. While he seemed perfectly content with letting the chip fall where it may.
If it hadn't been for the chip, he'd have been dust years ago, right? Surely, she'd have gotten lucky sooner or later. And that way she'd never have known what she was missing.
Which was 'him'.
Oh, sure, he walked like Spike (sometimes) - even talked like Spike (when he talked) - but there was another level to him now. As if there hadn't been enough of those already!
He was trying to deal with all these new feelings and ideas, and she was totally in over her head, unable to help - and even worse, more than a little impatient with it all. Which was really horrible. Gee, evil demon goes off, faces unthinkable trials, wins a soul, returns triumphant, and the damsel turns her perky little nose up? How self-absorbed was that? He'd been a lot more understanding of her after her resurrection, and he'd been an undead evil fiend.
Closing the refrigerator without getting dinner, she sighed and headed toward the stairs. She was beginning to think she wasn't a very nice person.
Spike rounded a corner and almost wound up smack in the middle of the nest. He raised an eyebrow in disgust. It looked - and smelled - like a locker room. A locker room complete with rotting meat. What a bloody mess!
Three vamps were sitting around a makeshift table playing poker. He couldn't tell what was in the 'pot,' and he didn't particularly care. Two more were fighting over what CD they were going to put in the boom box that was sitting on an old skeleton of a sofa. The last vamp seemed to be chained to the wall, unconscious. A large heavy wooden paddle lay nearby. He felt a surge of anger.
God, how he hated frat rats! Rugby shirts and polos. Bright colors and khaki pants. Fashion victims, each and every one. And each one of them sitting around in gameface - bunch of lazy gits!
Smirking evilly, Spike sauntered into the room, twirling a stake in one hand. His hair had gotten longer. Long enough that it curled at the white blond tips. His long sleeved black tee-shirt was tight, outlining hard muscle from the 'massing up' he'd done from his Buffy-induced force-feed diet. Oh, and he had been exercising. A bit. He looked dangerous. He *was* dangerous - and extremely brassed-off.
The effect was lost on the preoccupied vampires. Spike let out a disgusted breath. Where was the challenge, the excitement? Executions just weren't his cuppa. Needed to stir things up a bit.
"Well, bloody hell! Wake up, you wankers!" he said in frustration. "What is SunnyD comin' to, that you lot could still be undead and kickin'? Slayer's gonna hear about this." He pointedly looked around. "And you call this a nest? I know slugs live better!"
Belatedly, the five vamps guiltily rounded on the Big Bad, mouths open in shock at their discovery. Seeing that the odds were on their side, they relaxed. Five to one was a chip shot.
Spike swaggered deeper into the den. The three around the table backed off slightly at his approach, deciding that he was either crazy or completely insane. Spike walked over to the table. "What's this, then? Poker?" he asked, leaning over to turn over one of the hands. "Hmmph. Good thing I showed up. Playin' this soddin' hand would 'a been a real nutter."
Two of the rugby boys began to look uncomfortable. Five to one and their visitor had an air about him that made them think they might just get their asses kicked. Covertly, they started looking for a way out.
"Hey, grandpa, get the hell out! You don't belong here," the largest one said with a blustery laugh.
Spike looked up, eyes glittering. "Oh. And you think you do? Well, let me tell you something, boy. None of us belongs here - not in this world or any other. And certainly not," Spike looked him up and down with a curled lip, "some nancied-up, smart-ass, bleedin' pathetic former college whelp like you."
The bigger vampire threw himself over the table with a roar as Spike stashed the stake. He caught the boy out of the air and body slammed him to the floor. "Oooh. That hurt, dinnit?" Wiggling his fingers, he motioned the boy to get up. "God, it's bullies like you that give vampires a bad name. Well, bullies like you and 'bads' like me, anyway."
And then, it was a free-for-all of flying bodies and blows, as the others entered the fray. Spike caught a few punches and doled out many more - as well as kicks, and assorted body slams into the walls and the floor. Cards flew into the air as the table shattered beneath a particularly brightly-dressed vampire.
"Bugger this," Spike said, tiring of the one-sided fight. They weren't worth the effort. He pulled out the stake and dusted everything within reach.
Finally, it was down to one of the boom box boys, who took off past the older vampire as if hell were on his heels. The stake, that seemed to magically sail through the air, into his back, and through his heart, proved he was right. Hell? Yes.
Spike walked over to the pile of dust and recovered the sharpened piece of wood, as he spun on his heel to grab the tangled hair of the chained-up vamp. Yanking the filthy head back, he saw an emaciated face attached to a thin neck, which disappeared into a stained and torn shirt. The shirt seemed much too large for his skinny frame. And unlike the others, he wasn't vamped out. Spike sniffed disdainfully, and wrinkled his nose as he recognized the sickening smell.
"Well, well, Frat Boys and Rat Boys... Got to love old Sunnyhell." He put the stake to the boy's heart as the reddened eyes opened. They were a soft, deep green, full of pain.
"Don't feed, d'you?" Spike growled as he lowered the stake.
The boy looked at Spike, seeing him through the haze of delirium as some white angel of death. "Just rats," he said with effort. He laughed weakly, trying to gather his next words. "Got scarce. Came here. Big mistake."
"Won't hunt, eh?" Spike raised the stake again. "Used to kill the likes o' you..."
"Good," the boy whispered as he passed out again.
Continued in Part 5