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!
Can't thank Chris and Colleen enough for putting up with me! I'm a real pain when I get going.
Buffy's voice was a little shaky, but she'd had a really bad dream - and the aftereffects still hadn't completely worn off. One minute she had been lying across her bed thinking about the differences between Spike then and now, and the next, she was waking from a nightmare.
The dream wasn't about Spike though. It had been about Faith, or more precisely, the time Faith had switched bodies with her. Now, hours later, what she remembered most vividly was the image of her own face, twisted with hatred and rage, as she shrilly told herself that she was disgusting, over and over again. That, and the fists - her fists - coming at her again and again as they cracked against facial muscle and bone.
Buffy had come off the bed in a cold sweat, face wet with tears. It was at that moment that she remembered that she wasn't hitting herself, screaming at herself, but that Faith in her body was doing it to her. Or to Faith. She still wasn't clear on that.
It had been a bad way to wake up at 3 am.
Frantically, she had moved off the bed, grabbing clothes and shoes - dressing as quickly as her shaking hands would allow. Needed to get out of the room, out of the house.
She checked on Dawn. Sleeping soundly - hair twined around her fingers - the Key was at peace. Leaving for a little while should be okay. Her sister wasn't a kid anymore - just ask her. She'd tell you. Loudly.
Buffy was thinking she might go out and...what? Kill something? Take her frustration and put it where it would do some World Good? Her mind returned to the surreal images. Why that dream? Why now, after so long? She'd gone to bed thinking about Spike, not Faith.
And then she made the connection between her dream and Spike. Sitting down on the front step, she put her head in her hands. A crazy person wearing her face, screaming in disgust, hands hitting and hitting to punish, not defend.
Spike had seen that. The night they'd found Katrina dead.
Stunned, she slowly got up and started off in the direction of the cemetery. Didn't know what she could say to him after all this time. Surely, it wasn't too late for 'I'm sorry.' Maybe lame, considering, but not too late. Never too late for 'sorry.'
Buffy had gone into the crypt, calling for Spike, but somehow she knew when she entered that he wasn't there. She was prepared to wait - til sunrise if that's what it took.
Then, she remembered that he had been headed home hours ago. Walking down the stairs, she checked to make sure he wasn't in the lower level. Nothing. The room still had the same unlived-in look that it had the night she and Dawn furnished it. The table was clean, pillows still perfectly placed. And most of all, the room just didn't feel like Spike.
So where was he? Buffy went over Spike's options - not 'Classic' Spike, but 'new and improved' Spike. The list of his usual haunts was extremely short since his return from Africa: upstairs or downstairs. And by the way things looked, downstairs didn't look like much of an option either.
What if he'd been waylaid by a bunch of vamps on the way back? Spike wasn't exactly Mr. Popular Guy with the locals. They'd love to catch him out. Or maybe it was some demon who'd just blown into town?
Just about the time she started to feel real fear, she heard the upstairs door swing open and bang loudly against the wall. Pulling out a stake, she flew up the steps.
Spike was carrying something, someone, over to the sarcophagus in the corner.
"Oh, God! What happened?"
Spike almost dropped his burden. "Buffy! What the bloody hell...?" Recovering quickly, he carefully laid the still form on the slab. "Get some blankets," he said tensely. "Downstairs. Somethin' to get him warm."
She backed toward the steps. "But what...?"
"Nest. Bunch of vamps playin' reindeer games." He saw her staring, frozen. "Well, go on!"
Buffy took the stairs two at a time, wondering why Spike had brought anyone to his crypt. Must be bad. Real bad. She grabbed the comforter off the bed and ran back up. "Shouldn't we be at the hospital? The emergency room?" Handing Spike the tangle of bedding, she took a good look at their patient. "The morgue? This is a *vampire*, Spike!"
He grabbed the bedclothes and started tucking them tight around the cold, thin body. "Yeah," he said dryly. "Bloody brilliant, Slayer." He spared her a glance. "What are you doin' here anyway?"
"Thought we needed to talk," Buffy explained as she noticed a huge bruise on the young vampire's cheek from a blow that had actually crushed bone. "Obviously, I was right. Are you nuts? Do you even know what you're doing right now?"
His fingers slid through his hair. "God, Buffy, I hope so. Got to get some blood in 'im."
His eyes snapped in frustration. "Buffy, for pity's sake..."
"Fine. I'll get the damn blood!" she snapped, sure that she wasn't going to get anything out of him until he calmed down.
"And make it warm. He..."
"I *know* how to do it," she said, exasperated. "Just don't know *why*," she muttered under her breath. Pulling a jar from the refrigerator, she poured the blood in a large mug and put it in the microwave, setting the timer in almost the same movement. "Now, it's in. What's this all about? And you better make it good, 'cause right now, I'm ready to stake and ask questions later."
"Found him in the caves. He doesn't feed. He..."
Buffy's head snapped around. "Couldn't you just bring home a stray kitten like everybody else? He's a vampire."
"Well, yeah, he is, but he's been livin' on rats since he was made. Or was, until Clem went into pest control."
The timer interrupted their conversation. Buffy reached in, pulled out the mug, and handed it to Spike. She held it for a moment, as he put his arm around the boy's neck and tried to raise him up to drink. Green eyes opened slowly as his head lolled back.
"Why are you doing this?" she asked curiously.
"I dunno, Buffy. I dunno." Spike's voice was impatient. He couldn't seem to get the boy positioned. His head kept slipping back, or over, or forward, or... Spike's frustration mounted.
Buffy leaned over to get a closer look. "Hey, he's just a kid."
"Yeah." His voice was tight.
"Spike, what are you gonna do with him?" she asked - suddenly the Voice of Rationality.
"Wish I knew," he muttered, getting the errant head close to his shoulder.
Spike reached for the mug and put it to the boy's lips. The starving vampire tried to swallow as the warm fluid entered his mouth, but gagged instead. Spike jerked the mug back as the coughing went on and tried to prop him higher on his shoulder. The boy's head fell forward. Spike let out a breath.
"Slayer, give us a hand here, alright?" he snapped, voice a little shrill.
Buffy looked at Spike in utter amazement. He was asking her to help him keep a vampire alive? Her? The Slayer? Then, she really looked - at the frantic expression on his face, the worried frown that had gathered in a furrow between his eyes. Her eyes traveled down, to the battered young face. She sighed in resignation to the inevitable.
Taking the mug from his hand, she freed Spike up to get a firmer grip on the fledgling vampire. "I need to have my head examined," she complained. "Wait. No. You need to have *your* head examined. Oh, and by the way, if he doesn't behave, I'm stakin' him."
Leaning over, she put the mug to the boy's lips.
Spike was headed upstairs to check the blood supply when the knock on the door came. With Buffy's help, he'd been pushing the blood down the boy's throat steadily. He hoped Clem was coming by soon so he could send him to the butcher's for more.
Pulling the door open with a sense of relief, he fully expected to see Clem's smiling face. Instead, he found Xander Harris. Wondering how he could get rid of him, he flashed a trademark smirk. Wouldn't do to make him suspicious.
"Tasty Freeze is around the corner, whelp," he said, closing the door in the man's face.
Xander caught it with his foot, and pushed it open. He looked around. "Got company or something?" he said suspiciously.
"In or out?" Spike said curtly, then realized it was still light outside. And Xander obviously wasn't leaving until he had done what he came to do.
"In, I think," Xander said as he stepped just inside the door. "Though 'out' might be better for everybody involved. Can't believe I'm here. I think I need my head examined."
"May be." Spike kept his face blank, but inwardly he smiled at the echo of Buffy's sentiments. He'd heard it many different times and in many different contexts during the previous night. "C'mon then," he said grudgingly. "But make it quick."
Xander continued to stand there. "You can leave the door open if you're lookin' for a fast getaway," Spike said sarcastically. Eyes narrowing, he took a closer look. "Wait. You drunk?" Spike hadn't forgotten the other night at the Bronze.
Xander laughed uncomfortably. "Nope. What have you got?" he asked rhetorically.
"Blood, blood and blood." He watched Xander sit down in the chair. Spike quietly shut the door. "So talk," Spike said impatiently.
Xander looked up at him. "Why'd you do it, Spike?"
The vampire cocked an eyebrow.
"Any of it. All of it." Letting out a deep breath, Xander ran his hand through his hair. "Anya."
"Ah." Spike considered his answer. "Let's see. What answer will make this right? How about hurt? No? Drunk? You ought to understand that. Alone? Well how about this? There was a beautiful woman sitting there with tears in her eyes, heart broken into jagged pieces. Pick one. Any of those do?"
Xander's nodded as he stared off into space, eyes full of self-pity. Spike's temper flared.
"Oh, come off it, Harris! She loved you and you hurt her. Left her! Know what it feels like. Been there."
"I didn't want to hurt her more, later," Xander said quietly.
"Oh, right. You left her for her own good. Heard that one, too." Spike stepped closer. Xander looked up. "You love her?"
"Yeah," he sighed, almost forgetting who he was talking to. "More than anything. More than..."
"Yourself?" Spike broke into Xander's reverie. "You talked down to her. Treated her second-class. Acted ashamed of her in front of the Scoobies. Know what that feels like, too. It's not nice, Harris, oh, you of the aching heart and wounded soul."
Xander shook his head. "I didn't..."
"You bloody well did! Be honest with yourself just one soddin' time!"
Xander stared at him. When Spike's eyes stayed hard and cold, Xander looked down at his hands.
"Good." Spike took a calming breath. "Next?"
"You're treadin' in quicksand, whelp," he warned. "Try again."
Eyes widening slightly at the bitter look on Spike's face, he shook his head. "Forget it," he murmured.
"Smart lad. Anythin' else, then?"
"The simple question last of all. The soul. Well, it couldn't go on the way it was, right? Had to change. So I did." Spike's words had the touch of finality. Even Xander could hear it.
Xander smiled a little. "Okay. I guess I gets what I gets." He got up. "Leaving now. I know I'm not real welcome here, but you did rescue me from a night in jail. I came by to tell you we can do that thing any time you say. Those tests. Just let me know."
"Right then," Spike turned toward the refrigerator in dismissal.
"Hey. Wait a minute. You in a hurry to get rid of me?" Xander said with a touch of wry humor.
"No more than usual," Spike's reply was nonchalant.
Xander opened the door to let himself out. "Hey, Spike?" he said, turning back with a rueful grin.
"Yeah?" Spike looked back over his shoulder, questioningly.
"Really looking forward to hitting you." Xander punctuated his words with a one-two air punch.
Spike snorted. "Lookin' forward to seeing you try, wanker," he said with a smirk.
On the heels of his words, a shout came from downstairs.
"Spike! Spike, get down here!"
Spike's eyes flew to Xander, whose shocked expression was rapidly turning to one of betrayal. "Oh, bloody hell!"
"What's she doin' here?" Xander said angrily, looking at his watch. "Shouldn't she be at work? Or anywhere - *else*?"
Spike winced. "Harris..."
"Spike! Now! Move your ass!"
The alarm in Buffy's voice drove any kind of explanation out of Spike's mind. He disappeared down the stairs in a flash - Scooby stumbling along behind.
Xander's eyes had barely adjusted to the dark when he saw Buffy struggling to restrain a wildly flailing...something. He reached for a stake and came up empty-handed. He cursed his stupidity for coming to see Spike without a stake, or an ax, or.... His eyes darted around the room trying to focus on a weapon - any weapon.
"Xander, no!" Buffy's command stopped him cold as he grasped the wicked-looking knife he saw lying on a rocky out-cropping.
He turned back toward her voice and saw Spike over by the bed, talking softly as he gently pushed the...thing...back down on the bed. It whimpered and turned its...head? to the wall.
A soft hand guided Xander's arm down, slipping the knife out of his fingers. He nearly jumped at the touch. The whole scene was like a bad movie. And he was in it.
"Buffy! What...?" His voice trailed off as he watched Spike straighten the twisted bedding, still murmuring to the slowly-quieting form.
The slayer followed his eyes to the bed, and locked him in her level gaze as he turned back to her, incredulous.
"Daniel," she said softly. "His name is Daniel."
They sat in silence upstairs, almost as if waiting for Spike to join them before addressing any of it. Xander shook his head periodically as if trying - and failing - to make sense of the scene downstairs. His hands were clasped tightly between his knees. Buffy looked up with concern as Spike appeared.
"He's quiet." Spike shot a look at Xander. "Sleeping maybe," he said, fastening his eyes on Buffy. "Can't tell." He let out a shaky breath. "I think that was the first lucid moment he's had."
Xander's head shot up as he fixed Spike with an astonished look. "*That* was lucid? Well, 'lucid' looked like a crazy-ass vampire to me!"
"That's right, monkey boy," Spike said, without anger. "Another evil undead thing. Except that this one has *never* fed on a human. Never hunted once in his short, but tortured existence. Except for rats - and sewer rats at that!"
"Lack of opportunity?" Xander asked flippantly. "Or is it drive and ambition he's short on?"
Buffy gave Xander a disgusted look. He gave her one in return, and sat back.
"Hey," he said, spreading his hands in mock-surrender. "Just asking. Slayer," he added, voice dripping with sarcasm.
She sighed in acceptance of the accusation. "Spike found him last night on patrol. *Private* patrol," she said in explanation, shooting the blond vampire a look that clearly stated that the discussion was far from over. "Well, rescued him really."
Xander looked in amazement at Spike, who had found something very interesting about the toes of his boots.
"Gee, couldn't you just pick up a kitten or something?" Xander blurted out.
In answer, Spike's shoulders started shaking. Xander saw him look up, raising an eyebrow at Buffy as he - what? Laughed? He was laughing? As he stared at Spike, trying to figure out what was so damn funny, he heard a second chorus - of giggles this time - from the slayer. With wide eyes, he turned to Buffy, who was pointing a long finger at Spike. A finger that was shaking with uncontrollable laughter. "I...told...you!" She began gasping for breath.
It was like the two of them were alone in the room. Buffy's eyes were on Spike, whose own eyes were brimming with mirth as he tried to hold himself erect by hanging on to the table with white-knuckled fingers. Their slightly hysterical laughter echoed off the walls.
Buffy wiped her eyes, and looked down at her hands, finding them wet with tears. Giggling, she held out her fingers for Spike to see. She was laughing so hard she was crying.
The vampire wiped his own eyes, finding the same wetness.
That bit of business sent both of them off into new and even more unrestrained gales of laughter. As Xander watched them, all of the pieces finally fell into place. He shook his head in wonder at the insanity of life in the Hellmouth.
Those two crazy kids just might make it.
Continued in Part 6
Note: Part 6 is rated R. If you are under 17, please go straight to Part 7. You do not have to read Part 6 to enjoy the PG version of Reminders.