Sequel to Voices in the Dark; part of The Voicesverse
Summary: Months after his return from Africa, Spike takes in a stray and tries to consolidate what was with what is...
Spoilers: Season 7-ish, takes place after the fic, Voices in the Dark
Distribution: Just talk to me, I'm easy. Fanfiction.net (if it ever comes up again) and, thankfully, at Chris' site "Amare, Dare, Pardonare"
Disclaimers: All Joss, all ME, all the time...
Feedback: You betta, you betta, you bet!
For this chapter, I give a round of thanks to the folks of Ruby Tuesday's, who did not freak when I bit through the bowl of the spoon while writing Xander (just kidding...), much love to Chris, and to Colleen, both for their excellent beta skills and friendship.
Spike nodded in approval, at the successful clean-up job and the well-worn sweats. "Clem took good care of you, then."
Daniel's eyes lit up. "Clem's a cool guy. Kind of funny lookin', but... And, yeah, he took care of me. We watched a movie, too. Or he did, anyway. I was thinking too much to concentrate on it."
"Hardly think Clem's taste in movies would stretch you in any way, shape, or form," he commented dryly.
"I asked him about her," Daniel said, nodding toward the door. "About the Slayer. He said she kills vampires."
"That she does," Spike nodded in agreement. "S'in the job description. Good at it, too. Best I've ever seen and I've seen some."
The fledgling nodded thoughtfully. "She kills vampires, but she hangs out with you."
"Hangs out? S'pose she does, a bit." Spike almost sounded pleased. "Well," he said shrugging, "she's an odd duck. Hero types usually are."
Daniel was trying to understand. "So she's a hero type, kills vampires..."
"Slays vampires, Daniel. Hard to kill somethin' that's already dead."
Daniel corrected himself. "Slays vampires... But you don't look dead to me."
A wry laugh rang the walls of the crypt. "Daniel, not only do *I* look dead, *you* look dead!"
"Uh, I meant, 'undead.' I think."
Spike took a long look at Daniel. "You do realize that you're a creature of the night, right? An impure bloodsucker - the kind they make movies about. Or did you get hit in the head one too many times since you were made?"
"Oh, yeah, I *know* I'm a vampire. I just ... forget."
"Well, you're all Normal Boy, aren't you? Guess that's why the Slayer gets all sunshiny in your presence. You're like the gits she went to school with. Look a bit like that Parker ponce, now that I think of it."
Daniel looked at him quizzically. Spike let out a frustrated breath.
"It's not you," he said in apology. "It's her. And me. Not to worry, Daniel. The Slayer and I have... an interesting relationship. Known each other quite a while now. I'd like to say it's based on mutual respect, but..."
"But that wouldn't be true."
"So you two have ... like a history, or something?" The boy seized on part of the vague explanation. Spike didn't feel like he was saying too much if he continued explaining.
Spike grudgingly answered the question. "Something." At the boy's curious look, he relented. "The Slayer and I have *several* histories, Daniel," he explained patiently. "Each one seemingly worse - and more complicated - than the last. The first time I met her, I decided she was going to be my third slayer. I've killed two. And, Daniel, that's not something just any vampire can say. Circumstances caused us to become allies once - well, more than once. And here we are."
"Well, where are you? I mean, where is 'here?'"
"Damned if I know," Spike laughed.
Daniel looked at Spike as if trying to decide how to ask a question.
"Well? Out with it! Go ahead. I won't bite. Well, I will, but... go ahead," Spike said, pulling a container of blood out of the refrigerator and pouring the contents into a new mug.
"So she knows you're a vampire and she's with you, right? So that happens? A vampire with..."
Spike slammed the microwave door and turned to Daniel in shock. "No! No, that doesn't happen! It never happens. For a vampire, a human is a victim. Or a potential vampire. That's it. Two ways it can go, Daniel. Vampires are killers. S'what we do."
Spike remembered what Buffy had said about Daniel watching his old girlfriend. He had to be very careful. "The Slayer and I are even less normal than the usual. There is no normal in the Hellmouth."
Daniel looked down at his feet, chewing his lip.
"And if it's some bird - " Spike sighed as Daniel's eyes went blank. "Some ... girl you're thinkin' about, remember this, Daniel. You. Are. Dead. Your heart doesn't beat. You don't have a soul. You only exist as a nightmare or a horror story."
The beep of the microwave cut through the silence. Spike turned and reached in, handing Daniel the mug. The boy looked into the mug and quietly put it on the table. Spike watched him disappear down the stairs.
"Well," Spike muttered, picking up the untouched mug. "Buggered that right up."
Every time she thought there might be a shot, something else reared its ugly head and struck at her. This time it had gone straight into her.
The coat. The coat was a slayer's coat. *The* slayer - just like Buffy was. She'd cried into that coat for months now. Months that she'd watched him take baby steps, dragging his new soul behind him. Nights and nights that she'd let the lining that reeked of booze and smoke absorb her tears.
She'd slept on that coat, never minding that it was stained and cracked in places. Because it was his coat - and the closest she could get to him right now.
Her coat. But there was nothing of 'her' left in it. All him. It was *his* coat now - moving with him like some live thing, snapping away at his heels.
She did the math. She remembered that much. 27 years. That damn coat had been on his back longer than she'd been alive. Her eyes filled with unwanted tears. She'd loved that damned coat. Now all she wanted to do was build a fire in the backyard and let the sparks rise from it like some ancient funeral pyre.
Hearing the scrape of glass across concrete, her eyes darted to the dark lump sitting on her front steps. The half-empty beer bottle seemed to wink at her with light reflected from the street.
"So how serious are you about this whole chip thing?" he asked casually.
Something in Xander's voice made a chill crawl across her shoulders and down into her belly. "What's wrong?" she asked quickly.
"Just needed to talk." He looked her over, as if trying to figure out where she'd been and suspecting he already knew. "You're home late," he probed.
It was a comment, not a question, Buffy told herself. Running a hand through her hair, stalling for time, she reached into her pocket for the house key and tried to figure out what Xander could be doing sitting on her porch at 2 am. After Spike's little confession, she really wanted to be alone and think, not listen to Xander zing away at him, which is what she expected. So not telling him about the leather duster. Ever.
"Where have you been? You left hours ago," she asked noncommittally.
Xander shrugged. "Went home. Made a phone call. Came back out." He dragged the bottle toward his body as he carefully stood. Buffy winced at the grating sound of glass on the rough step.
"So..." she said, more calmly than she felt. "What's up?"
"Ah, the mystery of the night, Lone Ranger." He looked behind her pointedly. "Where's Tonto?"
"'Spike' is at home. Where you should be. Obviously," she said sarcastically.
Xander made a grand gesture, almost stumbling on the low step. "Aw, c'mon, there's absolutely nowhere I have to be tomorrow."
"I do," she grumbled, digging in her back pocket, almost ready to rip it off and listen for the tinkle of the key on the pavement.
"Whatever happened to honesty, Buff? And the big cry face? He's back and you play nursemaid for two months without tellin' the big, funny, best friend guy?"
"We've been over this," she said through gritted teeth. Snagging at the key and missing, she sighed, wishing she wore looser jeans. "And there's nothing to tell. Spike and I are so G-rated right now, Disney is bringing a film crew."
Xander let out a harsh breath. "Really? Then how come I feel like a fifth wheel every time I'm around you two? Huh? And don't tell me it's just him."
"Let it go. Please."
"So I'm just paranoid. Paranoid Xander," he said in disbelief.
"You'll have to ask yourself that. I'd try it sober though if I were you."
Xander laughed a very unpretty laugh. "Well, that's cold. Okay, riddle me this, Batman, without 'Robin' around to help you out: if you could make Spike's chip go away, would you do it?"
In the silence that followed, the click of the unlocking door sounded like a pistol shot.
He laughed again. "C'mon, Buff, the clock is ticking. Decision needed. Should be an easy one for you."
She caught her breath. "What are you talking about?"
"We're doing all this 'testing,' and getting nowhere. I make one phone call and discover the road to somewhere. Keeblerville."
"Home of the Keebler Elf and the not-so-chipped chocolate Spike. 'Not so' as in 'chipless,' Buff. I can so see the bracelets now."
"Bracelets?" Buffy had never had as much trouble understanding Xander in their entire relationship as she was having right now.
"You know. Bracelets. Pins. Necklaces. 'What Would Spike Do?' Just how saintly is the ex-Big Bad? Is the Soul Man a good poster child for the 'free choice' gig?"
"Xander, go home. You're not making any sense."
"The big prize rests on the other side of one of these three doors," he prodded unmercifully. "Can you trust Spike without the chip?"
Buffy drew herself up straight. "I'd trust Spike with my life."
"How about everyone else's?"
Pushing the door open, she jerked her head toward Xander and back to the darkened house. He moved inside - swallowed by the dark. Flipping on lights, she noticed that Xander's 'big funny' bit had deserted him. He looked tired and heavy on his feet, like someone's father instead of a twenty-one year old boy. Of course, none of them looked twenty-one anymore.
She took pity on him. "Sit down before you fall down."
With a cheery little salute, he sat on the sofa, as she remained standing.
"Now, I don't know who you've been talking to," Buffy began warningly, "but it better not be Riley."
Xander shook his head silently. Waiting. She sighed.
"Xander, I know you hate Spike. The whole thing with Anya would be reason enough for you - *anything* would be enough for you. But if you know something that can help, and I mean really know something, I want you to spill."
The boy continued to look at her out of flat eyes.
"I sent up a warning shot - an email to Riley - weeks ago. I expected to get back a denial, or some kind of government doublespeak. Do you know what I get back?
"Nothing. Less than nothing. Now I know you're a charter member of the Riley Fan Club, but..."
Xander spoke then, in a cruel voice. "Maybe he's dead."
"And maybe he's not," she shot back, a twinge of a headache starting behind her eyes. "Because a couple of weeks ago, my Spidey senses started tingling. I know what the Initiative smells like - feels like. Call me crazy, but I feel something crawling around Sunnydale - and it's non-demony and all about soldier boys. I'm going have to tell Spike, but I wanted to have a plan first. Any plan. Because he can't face them down. If they come after him, he'll have to leave Sunnydale."
Xander rubbed his hands together and opened his mouth to support Buffy's last statement. Her next words closed his mouth with a snap.
"I don't want him to leave." She sat down in front of Xander. "Not now. Maybe not ever. I hated it when I thought he was gone, even though I wanted to kick his ass into next week. The only thing that made it okay was *knowing* that he'd be back."
"And then he shows up with that new soul. Convenient. Didn't even get that ass-kickin', did he? Just a great big honking 'get out of jail free' card with his name on it in gold," Xander finally said angrily.
"He doesn't feel that way," she retorted.
"Right," he nodded. "He's Mr. Remorse."
"I never asked you to stop seeing Anya, even when I didn't get it. She seemed to make you happy. Me and Spike? Well, I don't expect you to understand it. I just need for you to accept it."
As he dropped his eyes to the floor, he muttered, "I can understand it a helluva lot sooner than I can accept it."
"Look, Xander," she said, frustrated at the tone of the conversation. "I can't protect him alone. I need him to be able to protect himself! *He* needs to be able to protect himself. If the chip was just modified some way..."
"That's not one of the choices. It's all or nothing." He raised his head to look at her searchingly. "I mean in - or 'out.' Gone. History. Like it never was."
She stared at him. Then sighed, "Maybe you should ask Spike that," she said grudgingly.
"Nope. Dead Boy don't get a choice at this stage of the game. I'm asking you, 'Slayer.' Since you're probably the only one who could take him down if he starts foaming at the mouth. Do you trust him enough to let him off his leash?"
He got up. "Just tellin' you it's possible. You trust Mr. Holy Souly enough to make it go away? Sleep on it. Let me know."
"Xander..." she said warningly.
"Toodles, Buff. I'll just let myself out."
She continued to stare at the door long after she heard the click.
Buffy ducked her head inside the door of the crypt. The light from the television flickered in the room.
Feeling her eyes on him, Spike turned toward the door, getting up in the same smooth motion. Daniel's eyes followed him to the Slayer. She smiled at him in greeting, and returned her eyes to Spike.
He approached her warily, wondering at the strained look on her face that showed even through the smile.
"Not comin' in, pet?" He frowned. "Gonna stand on the stoop?"
She shook her head. "Can you leave for awhile?"
"What's wrong, Buffy?" It had been almost a day since he'd seen her. That never happened anymore. He'd missed her. Sighing, he thought about the fact that once he would have been grateful for the sight of her face once a week. "Is this about the coat?"
"The coat? No. And yes. It's about a lot of things."
Spike grimaced. "Not really up to drama tonight, love."
"Well, sorry, Spike. Drama we got," she laughed ruefully.
"Is this going to involve yelling or...?"
She shook her head decisively. "No. No yelling."
"Go downstairs then?" He nodded toward the trap door.
She looked behind her nervously and thought about what they might run into out there. Then, she smiled - the first real smile he'd seen. "If Daniel won't mind our using his room," she said coquettishly.
At the sun breaking across her face, Spike relaxed and put a hand under her elbow. "S'okay. I know his landlord. C'mon." As he walked by Daniel, he raised his eyebrows. "Don't go drinkin' all the blood now," he warned teasingly. "We'll be right down here."
Buffy went down the stairs and walked over to the only seating there. The bed. It was made, of course. Daniel would do that. She took a deep breath. "Okay, you need to sit down. I almost *fell* down when he told me."
Looking at her curiously, he sat on the edge. "Summers, you're beginning to scare me."
"Xander came to see me last night. Now before I say anything else, he'd been drinking, but he wasn't drunk. I've seen drunk. This was not it."
"Right. Whelp. Not sober, but not drunk."
She grinned quickly. "Check. He came over to ask me a question. Now I'm asking you."
"Sounds bloody serious."
She nodded. "I think it is. I've been thinking about it since last night. I know my answer, but it's really up to you."
"Hell, out with it then," he said loudly, beginning to get very nervous.
"If you could have the chip taken out, would you do it?"
Spike jumped off the bed and began pacing. "What kind of question is that?" He stopped and looked at Buffy suspiciously. "This isn't rhetorical, is it?"
Her smile didn't reach her eyes. "No. He knows something. He's talked to someone and he believes it can be removed."
"Removed. Not changed. Just 'out.'" He turned the concept over in his mind.
"That's what he said. Wanted to know if I trusted you that much." And that was more than she'd meant to say when she rehearsed this at home.
At her words, Spike walked over to the bed and looked down at Buffy. "Do you?" he asked softly.
She looked down at her hands. In a breath, he was squatting in front of her, trying to catch her eyes. "Do you, Slayer?" He deliberately used her title and not her name.
Bravely, she impaled herself on his eyes. "Buffy does. The Slayer? I think so."
Spike handed himself up beside her on the bed. "Fair enough. Hate it when you lie to yourself more than I hate you lying to me. Being honest with both of us is better."
"Wonderful," he said, rolling his eyes. "It's a good thing my heart stopped years ago."
Uncharacteristically, Buffy giggled. "Well, at least it's the evil we know."
"Soldier boys," he said quietly.
Her eyes opened wide. "You knew?"
"Well, love," he began, picking her hand up off her lap and looking at it, turning it over, and then back again. "The way you were pushing the testing. I can fight demons. This meant a human menace. Thought you might have had a hunch, or knew more than you were tellin'." He looked at her from under his lashes, not raising his head. "Decided to wait until you were ready to talk."
She laughed in release. "Because *forcing* me to talk before I'm ready has always worked so well in the past."
Grinning, he nodded. "Right."
"I'm telling Xander 'yes.'" She said in relief.
"Yes, 'you want it out', or 'yes, you trust me?'"
"Uh, both?" She giggled.
"I don't know," Spike growled. "It ought to scare you that I'll be able to bite the whelp's head off if he gets me pissed."
Now fully laughing, she threw herself back on the bed. "Oh, this is such a relief! I was dreading this. Telling you about the chip, about the Initiative. About Xander."
He followed her down on bent elbow. "Why?" he asked quietly, studying her face.
"This is big stuff! So tired of the big stuff. I'd really rather worry about bills, or Dawn's homework, or work-work." He raised an eyebrow. "No," she protested. "Really. I need a break from the big bad. I need...a vacation!" she announced firmly as she started to get up.
In a flash, he'd knocked her elbow out from under her and had locked his lips on hers. Buffy stiffened as her Slayer reactions kicked in, then relaxed, moaning slightly in his mouth. After a long moment, he pulled back, eyes sparkling. "That's all the vacation I can spare right now. We're in the guest room, after all."
"You're a tease," she grumbled. Realizing that he was telling the truth, she struggled up to a sitting position, looking back at him as he still reclined on the bed behind her.
"And I hate it when you do that."
"Really? Couldn't tell."
She grinned. "Okay, okay. Look, I need to find Xander."
He got up and extended his hand to her, hauling her off the bed and toward the stairs in one motion. "Find Harris then. Although that wasn't quite the reaction I expected from kissing you..."
She headed up the stairs. "I think that's exactly the reaction you wanted though. I don't know what this is going to involve. Xander was very vague. But I believed him, Spike." Looking back over her shoulder, she topped the stairs, waiting for him to reach her. "Once we get that chip out, we can make some real plans. Do some reconnaissance."
"We might need to do that now, Slayer. With or without the bloody chip in my head."
Daniel's head swung around, mouth open. "Chip? A chip in your head?" he echoed.
Spike laughed. "Yeah, Daniel. Silicon, wires, sod all wormin' round in there. Keeps me from harming humans."
Daniel stood up. "Oh, shit."
Buffy frowned. "Daniel. It's not that bad. Spike..."
"I've heard about you. I just didn't..."
Spike crossed the room and backed Daniel toward the wall. "Didn't what?" he said coolly.
"Didn't know you were him." Daniel said in confusion.
"Him who?" Spike prodded in a hard voice.
Continued in Part 9