By Nan Dibble
Sequel to Old Blood
SECTION VI: INTO THE LIGHT
Chapter Twenty Two: The Law of Unintended Consequences
Dawn was sitting in the yard talking with Kim, Rona, and Mike--just hanging out, in the bright moonlight, not talking about anything in particular--when Willow came through the break in the hedge and waved her to come.
“What?” Dawn asked.
“Spike wants you to sit in.”
“On the Scooby council session?” Dawn was surprised and excited. She was never allowed to even lurk and eavesdrop in the hall. Having her presence requested was unheard of.
Willow dropped a kind of crummy necklace with two beads over Dawn’s head. Her expression suggested that working the string clear of Dawn’s hair was an operation that took serious concentration. When that odd chore was done, Willow just stood.
“OK, am I in trouble or something?” Dawn asked warily.
“No, nothing like that. It’s…” Willow’s serious expression became a tight, grim frown. “I’ll break it down. Spike’s gonna talk about something and he says he only wants to do it once. He wants you there so he doesn’t have to repeat it, or have you hear about it from somebody else and maybe wrong. That’s the immediate situation. The context for this is that he seems to have made up his mind to take that amulet into the Hellmouth in daylight. If he does that, chances are that no matter what else happens, he’s gonna die. He claims he’s responsible for opening the Hellmouth and should therefore be the one to try to close it. That’s what he’s been told to explain. Be prepared for the fact that a number of people in there are having a major Technicolor wiggins. I’m one of them. So: I’ve told you. Come on.”
Dawn gulped and followed.
From the tight, clamped-down silence of everybody in the front room, the wiggins had progressed to the point that nobody was speaking to anybody else and they were now waiting for Dawn to get settled as the signal to start yelling again. Except Angel, sitting in the big chair like a negative picture of Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial, dark instead of floodlit marble. And except Spike, sprawled with his head leaned back on the couch, legs outstretched with crossed ankles, an arm across his eyes--the general effect was somebody laid out on a diagonal plank.
When Willow and Dawn came in, Spike lifted the arm and looked around. No blindfold. Dawn thought that despite appearances, it probably wasn’t his eyes he was identifying her with, so she went straight to him and did The Greeting: touched his hand and said Hi.
“Find something to sit yourself on,” Spike said, flipping a hand.
Looking around, Dawn found that Willow had taken the only vacant chair. “I’m fine here,” she responded and dropped down comfortably crosslegged next to his ankles, facing him.
She’d expected the suspended argument to relaunch, but everybody stayed still, waiting for some other signal. Waiting, apparently, for Spike.
Bending at the waist, Spike became a bit more upright than diagonal and folded his hands. That wouldn’t last long, Dawn thought: he was an incorrigible gesturer.
“Well, it was like this, Bit,” Spike began, and Dawn knew at once Willow had been wrong. Dawn wasn’t there to listen--she was there so Spike could say it at all. Only turning it into another story for her made it tolerable. “When the Bringers came and took me that time, I didn’t have much sense of what was goin’ on for, I guess, some while. My demon had come on me like it was doin’ then, an’ I’d just have flashes an’ try to begin to make things out and then lose it all again. Dunno how much time I lost that way. Seemed to me Buffy was talking to me quite a lot, an’ she was real put out with me, what I’d done, what I’d not done, layin’ into me quite harsh…. Thought I was here, for the longest time, not where I really was….”
Sure enough, the hands unfolded. But instead of gesturing, Spike held his left hand out to her. Dawn grabbed it hard in both her own and wasn’t at all surprised to feel it shaking. She’d been anchor for him before when he wasn’t sure what was real and what wasn’t, and knew that was what he needed her for now.
“And then there were other people round about,” Spike continued, a little quieter, a little more distant. “Some I could see and some just voices. Couldn’t see any too well by then, I’d got hurt some way in one of the lost times. Couldn’t move, neither. Strung up to something, I expect. But I didn’t know that then, it none of it made sense, and the people, they were all telling me what I’d done stupid or wrong, how I was a total waste of the space…. And that went on awhile, by bits and patches, like I said. Pretty much like it’d been before, in the school, before Buffy changed her mind and took me out, made me stay with Harris for awhile.”
Dawn shot a look at Buffy: sitting next to Spike like total strangers on adjoining bus seats. Like Spike was some wino muttering scary nonsense Buffy didn’t want to let on that she heard. But she was listening, because she said, “I didn’t change my mind.”
Spike stopped and sighed. “Well, you weren’t you all the time, pet. But I wasn’t hardly able to distinguish on account of all the voices and the masks. An’ how do you expect me to explain it when I don’t understand to begin with and you’re already telling me how I’m wrong?”
Before Buffy could say anything, Dawn shook his hand a little and prompted, “Spike--topic drift. After the Bringers took you. That’s after the school and Xander’s closet. That’s after you were here.”
“All right,” Spike said, and considered, with his blank face and his near-blind eyes. Brisk again, he continued, “Wonderful thing about pain, it focuses your attention something amazing. It all got real clear when they started hurtin’ me as a regular thing. Whole hours at a time, I’d know I wasn’t here and quite a lot of what I was seeing and hearing wasn’t no way real. Didn’t know what it was, but I was pretty sure of what it wasn’t. It was Bringers hurting me, some ways actually pretty silly. Tried to drown me at least one time. Think they’d know you can’t very well drown what don’t need to breathe to begin with. But they done it anyway, and that was real and actually happening because it was so fucking dumb. So after I made out it was Bringers, I had a pretty fair idea what was happening even if I didn’t know why or what it meant. How to sort the masks from the faces. At least some of the time. Know it wasn’t all of it more craziness but somebody actually there. Regardless of, of what it…looked like.”
Spike ran out of words, or air, or endurance. When he hung up at that point, it seemed to be a signal for intermission. Willow got up and left. Xander started talking, low, to Anya. Giles rose, getting his flask out of his jacket pocket and unscrewing the cap. Meanwhile passenger Buffy had decided the muttering wino needed support and comforting and thrust her arm behind him, around his back, and butted her forehead against his shoulder, which prevented either of them noticing the flask Giles was trying to offer. So Dawn let go one hand of her two-handed grip to accept the flask and stick it under Spike’s nose. And even at that, it took him a whole minute minimally to notice. Then he disengaged his hand from hers to take and upend the flask. By the time he’d emptied it and was just sitting, holding it, Willow came back with a large glass of water, seeming at a loss what to do with it. Again, Dawn arranged things: took the flask and passed it back to Giles, who didn’t even look annoyed to find it emptied, then accepted the glass from Willow.
“Spike, there’s some water here. Spike?”
“Not just now.”
Dawn set the glass on the floor so she could take his hand again as he reached out to her. The shaking had steadied a little, but Spike’s grip was just short of painful. He blinked hard a few times. “All right, now about the seal. Like the biggest sewer cover in the world. Sections, points to it--”
“Spike,” Buffy told him softly, “we know what the Seal of Danzalthar looks like. You can skip that part.”
“All right,” Spike responded, but predictably stopped again, losing his focus, vaguely frowning. Hunting a different place to catch hold of the account. “All right, then. So the Bringers, they cut me. Never did see it properly. But a circle of symbols--” His pointing finger described a oval that took in his entire torso.
Again, he didn’t really need to describe it: everybody but the newest SITs, Angel, and perhaps Giles had seen those symbols in all their gory, mutilated glory. Some of the scars still hadn’t faded. But this time, nobody interrupted him, so he went on describing how the symbols had been carved into his flesh, again mentioning what a useful aid pain was in clearing the mind and helping to distinguish between illusion and hallucination, on the one hand, and reality on the other, so that he really was quite confident what he described had actually happened.
The scars apparently weren’t enough verification, or he’d forgotten about them and nobody wanted to throw him off again by reminding him. He was way inside his own head and nobody appeared eager to join him there.
Only Angel seemed able to accept Spike’s obviously sincere testimonial to torture and its beneficial effects on the victim with equanimity and unchanged attention. Major Ewww showing everyplace else: wincing, squirming, squinting, grimacing, and assorted face-making that Spike of course didn’t notice.
After the cuts had been made, or maybe before (he wasn’t sure of the exact sequence and got briefly lost trying to work it out), he’d been fastened spread-eagle to a suitably sized wheel-shaped armature. After the cuts, the wheel had been suspended horizontally over the seal, positioned so he could bleed on it conveniently. After he’d bled on it enough, the seal had opened its triangular leaves and the first of the Turok-han, plainly the one Buffy’d had so much trouble with, had emerged: greeted and announced with suitably apocalyptic speechifying by what was obviously the First, whoever it had been pretending to be and showing its captive at the time.
It was very important to Spike to establish that this had happened. It seemed one of three markers he used to contain the experience: that he’d been taken; that his blood had opened the seal and the Hellmouth, permitting the intrusion of the first Turok-han into this dimension; and that Buffy had come for him finally and taken him away. Except for those three points, all the rest was a horrible agonized surreal confusion Dawn knew she couldn’t imagine and could barely stand to hear described, and Spike could only with extreme difficulty bear to remember.
She could understand his wanting to limit his account of it to this single recital.
Spike reached down and Dawn passed him the glass of water. And still the argument hung waiting, suspended like a wave in a Japanese painting.
“So it’s all been set up,” Spike said presently. He sounded like a guy noting with satisfaction the provisions of an insurance policy. “I’m fit to use this amulet, and the amulet is fit to be used for this mission. It lines up right: like five ball in the side pocket.” He mimed doing the shot, striking the ball home. “When I close the Hellmouth, it will all make sense.” He leaned back, shut his eyes, and laid an arm across them.
After a moment, those not resident at Casa Summers stirred and began making preparations to leave. The expected and immanent argument dispersed like fog. Apparently after Spike’s harrowing recital, nobody could find anything to say.
Which left Dawn looking at her sandals that showed her precisely ten human toes, thinking that it would be churlish, selfish, and mean-spirited of her to mention or even think (although it was too late for that) how since her existence on this plane was locked onto a tiny borrowed fraction of his soul, if Spike went, Dawn went.
“He can’t do this!” Buffy exclaimed, thumping the porch.
“Actually, he can,” Anya responded, taking the cool, rational approach to Spike’s manifest insanity. “Assuming Angel will surrender the amulet and the impressive bragging rights of self-immolation. And I imagine he will. After all, how much bragging is Spike apt to do, afterward? And Angel can do the humble benevolent praising-the-fallen-hero thing, which is almost as good, especially when not contrasted with actual bragging.”
Willow said fiercely, “Sense isn’t worth it. Sure, it’s important. Sure, it’s better when what you do means something and you actually know what that meaning is. But it’s not worth going up in flames for, just to make a point!”
Holding her knees and rocking, Dawn muttered, “He was set up. They’ve set him up. She’s set him up. Because he was handy, and willing. Just like last time except this time, he knows. And he’s gonna do it anyway. Because She noticed him: because of me. So She went ahead and decided to use him and then set him up. And is gonna fucking use him up! Fuck up his entire unlife because we annoyed Them. Because he’s crazy and convenient and She doesn’t care!”
Of course nobody paid any attention to what Dawn muttered.
As if by accident the Women’s Chapter of the Spike Is Crazy And This Is Wrong Association found itself convened on the front porch in the bright moonlight. The Men’s Chapter had all piled into Angel’s convertible in furtherance of Giles’ expressed intention of getting Spike as drunk as possible as quickly as possible, and of course Spike hadn’t said no and had let himself be dragged along. Which of course wasn’t going to change anything except temporarily because tomorrow they’d all be sober and Spike would still be crazy and wouldn’t even have the grace to have a hangover because he never did.
Of course the Women’s Chapter hadn’t come up with any better answers, still stuck at the bitching and moaning phase, each from her individual perspective.
“I mean, he just got his eyes back!” Buffy flung her hands. “I haven’t seen his eyes in nearly a month and do you have any idea how important that is? When your main backup and your lover is blind and you have to do all the seeing for both of you? I don’t think he can even see much yet, he was just showing off, and how can he think of doing something like that when he can’t even hardly see?”
Anya remarked, “After all, it’s not as if Angel can use the amulet himself although he’s the designated Champion. He has the soul and all, but it didn’t hum for him. And not a single solitary spark. It’s attached itself to Spike, probably because of the aura and because the soul has worn him out, into stupid altruism. Demons shouldn’t have souls. It only confuses them. With the demon soul, that makes two, and who can listen to two souls at once? It’s just bicker, bicker, bicker. Once you lose sight of the personal profit motive there’s no valid basis for choice and you’re at the mercy of any wind that blows. You have to keep a firm grip on yourself and your own priorities. If you don’t, who are you? Nothing, that’s what. Nobody. Just an empty shell. On fire. Admittedly spectacular but burning up isn’t an answer, it’s only another way of avoiding the question.”
Willow reflected, “Can’t make him forget about it. That’s not allowed. Can’t spell him inside the house, that’s personal freedom too. Goddam personal freedom, personal choice, they ruin everything, nobody sees clearly enough to make really good choices for themselves, just pick the nearest thing that looks like a solution which it almost never is and you can’t tell ‘em, they won’t listen, and you can’t make ‘em because that’s the personal freedom issue again, right there. Even when you see it so plain and they don’t, you can’t just solve it for ‘em by fiat because it’s not allowed. And they won’t accept it anyway because they didn’t get to choose it, as if that was the most important thing. And what the hell use is power if you can’t goddam do anything?”
Dawn thought miserably, It’s because he opened up to Buffy. And to me. And then opened more when she was gone: to find something to hold onto. Mostly me then but the Scoobys too, trying to hold onto them but they wouldn’t let him, patrolling, trying to continue so it would make sense, but there wasn’t any real satisfaction for him in that or not enough, just killing things isn’t enough. Just letting yourself be used and going through the motions isn’t enough. It wasn’t enough for Buffy, when they brought her back, and she’s the fucking Slayer, after all. So how could it have been enough for him, who’s basically just another vamp, just wants things simple, fucking and feeding and a little fun now and again, the three F’s of vampire existence? No Chosen One, no Sacred Duty, no Champion--just trying to get on with it and have things make some kind of sense. And because he was open, and empty, They latched onto him and used him, even though there was nothing in it for him, nothing that would make sense to a vamp.
And when the Scoobys brought her back, They let ‘em, it was more convenient that way, the genuine article, after all. And then They didn’t need him anymore so They just gave him the push, left him adrift, and he tried to hold onto Buffy again but she wouldn’t really let him, didn’t want the Mission even for herself and wouldn’t share it with him, wouldn’t share anything with him that was real or made sense that a vamp would understand. So he went and got the soul, hoping that would help him make sense of it but it only made everything worse; except by that time, Buffy was desperate enough to let him have a little part of the Mission. Rescued him from the school basement and from the First so he could take some of the weight of the Mission off her. The Slayer versus the incorporeal origin of all the Evil in the world--a major mismatch, after all. No way she could handle that all by herself, so she needed him and admitted it. Giving him the SITs. Patrolling again. Not caring about him, or me, or what we had invested in each other as long as the damn Mission was being seen to and she didn’t have to do it all herself. Because that part of her that might have cared, They’d given that to me, to bind people to me. To make me mean something to them. So they’d goddam protect me. Like he protected me, and They used him for that while Buffy was gone. Because he was convenient and willing and because he’d promised. And loved me because he didn’t have anything else to love and he always has to do that, that’s how he is. And then They took me away and he used everything he’d opened up for, everything he had, wrote my name in poetry into his body even, to get me back. And I let him. Because I loved him and I thought I was helping and didn’t trust anybody else to love him and help him make sense of things.
Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I should have stayed scattered because now there’s nothing left in Them or in Her that loves him and doesn’t want him hurt. Now his priorities are all screwed up and he’s been so banged around, so hurt, that the Mission is the only thing left, it’s Priority One, Two, Three, and Last. All four sticks. And They’re letting him, They’re pushing him, They’re setting him up to do Their goddam dirty work again promising that it will finally make sense if he’s willing to die for it. They always promise that, and it never does. And it’s all my fault, well not all--Buffy’s fault, too, because the Mission is really hers and maybe she loves him now, so she’s willing to share it with him like everything else. But he’s just a vamp, he’s not made for that although he tries to be. He might even do it, They’re pushing him so and giving him the weapon he needs, and he thinks if he does it Buffy won’t have to, and I’m sure he doesn’t realize I’ll be gone too, and he wanted so badly to take the hurt on himself so it couldn’t get at Buffy and he thinks that’s what he’s doing. What it would mean. And it’s all my fault. Because if he hadn’t come for me, played chicken poker with Lady Gates with me as the stakes, They never would have given him the slightest notice. What’s one vamp more or less to the Powers, for crap sake?
Anya tugged at Dawn’s arm again. “Dawn, I don’t want to be indiscreet or bring up anything awkward. But I really don’t like the present options. Admittedly there are significant commercial advantages to closing the Hellmouth. True, you lose a major tourist attraction, but casual demon traffic is hardly without its downside. Property damage, potential customers killed or eaten, decrease in nighttime foot traffic. Demons don’t even tip particularly well. Not your desirable tourist dollar in the long term. Moreover, if the Hellmouth isn’t shut down and the First wins, there is no long term. The Magic Box and Sunnydale and minimally most of North America is down the toilet.” Anya blew an expressive raspberry by way of illustration. “However, I’m not prepared to accept the price. It’s definitely a very bad bargain for Spike. Prestige, status, achievement, altruism, they’re all intangibles: nothing you can count or take to the bank. And not a whole lot of use when you’re dead. It’s not as if Spike’s the love of my life or anything remotely as melodramatic as that. But when you have sex with a person, even under circumstances of mutual misery, even if it’s a vamp, there’s a connection. Always. You can’t just ignore the prospect of his turning into a flaming pile of ash while doing something stupidly noble. So having given it serious consideration, I’ve decided that I want to call in my favor now. You know: what you promised me, a couple of months ago in return for teleporting you into your basement, when Spike was hurt that time.” Anya regarded Dawn searchingly with a gathering frown. “Surely you can’t have forgotten: an open-ended marker for services rendered, against the Powers That Be, that isn’t something you just forget.”
But the fact was that Dawn had. Forgotten completely. She puffed out her cheeks and said, “Ohboy.” Lady Gates wasn’t going to be pleased. Not pleased at all.
If Spike looked very hard he could see the flame of his lighter. It fascinated him. Couldn’t make out the coal of his cigarette yet but that was coming. When it came time, he’d be able to see the light he’d dreamed about. The light that was everywhere, everything. The light he’d been ducking, fleeing, hiding from for a century and more, yet glancing at from careful angles and distances lately. Looking at it from shaded porches, out of windows. Yearning toward it more than he’d realized until the dreams started coming with him at the center and the light all around like a shoreless ocean. Burning without pain. Just brightness and himself finally part of it.
He wanted that.
Angel pushed the lighter shut. “It’s hot, Will, and you’re drunk. Don’t want to anticipate the event here.”
True. All true. The body of the lighter was hot from keeping the flame so long. Now that he bothered to notice, his fingers did hurt a bit, holding it. Spike pushed the hot lighter into his pocket and licked his singed fingers until they quit hurting. Tried instead to make out the duller coal of the fag, but his eyes wouldn’t do that yet, weren’t ready to take in the smaller illuminations.
Angel’s hand closing on the back of Spike’s neck, the way he knew Spike never had liked, too heavy and too strong from behind, rocking him not quite to the point of shaking him like a dog with a rat (although he did that sometimes too and that was the grip he used for it), saying fondly, “How many fires is it I’ve pulled you out of?”
Obediently Spike tried to think back. “Four. Counting China.”
“Five,” Angel said, pleased at correcting him. “I bet you’re forgetting Amsterdam.”
Spike had counted Amsterdam and the two in London but it wasn’t worth arguing about. Let Angel be right. He was less inclined to hit you when he was right and pleased about it. Or pleased about anything, actually. Though you could never depend on that. Sometimes he hit you because he was pleased and just felt like hitting something and you were handy. So you couldn’t always go by that.
“You want to see something bright,” Angel added, “you take a look at this.” He went off somewhere in the suite, past where Spike could make him out, and pulled open a long, long zipper. Of his Acme Rental Champion costume, Spike thought, grinning. No harm to grin if he didn’t explain. Nobody could know what he was grinning at, could be anything, with Red’s fine new charm around his neck. Head shut entirely. Nobody in there but him. He could be really certain of that. So everything he saw or felt or heard was actually there, actually real. Amazing how good that was to know.
“What is it, Angel?” Giles asked, getting up, coming closer. And that Harris somewhere about the place too but Spike had momentarily lost track of him, couldn’t locate him except for knowing he hadn’t left.
Spike didn’t like being in a place he’d never seen, like Angel’s hotel suite. Didn’t know where the walls were or where the windows were placed where the sun might shine in except it wasn’t anywhere near sunup yet, a long way from that still. Didn’t know how the furniture was aligned or what furniture there was, that might become a weapon at need in his hands or someone else’s, couldn’t reach to grab it quick because he didn’t know where it was.
Actually didn’t like Angel’s suite much at all. Full of faint smells of past, absent people, like vague drifting ghosts, overlaid with strong chemical smells of commercial cleaning agents. He wondered that Angel could stand it and then, thinking back, realized Angel could have spent next to no time here because he’d had to attend to the Supplice d’Allégance. Likely hadn’t slept here more than a daytime or two because he’d been with Spike all that while….
Spike was trying to make out how long ago it’d been since it had ended and couldn’t, he’d lost too many days into the dark, when Giles said his name and wanted his attention, asking, “Can you see this at all?’
“What Angel has here. Come look at it. Or--”
While the Watcher tried to fumble around with the way English relied on words like looking and seeing as the only way of knowing about a thing, Angel took the more direct approach. Hauled Spike up (by the scruff of his neck again) off the bed where he’d been sitting, all peaceable and not bothering anybody, dragged him ahead and then crooked a few paces, then grabbed his hand and set it on something that screamed.
Spike backed away so hard and fast, the bed caught the back of his knees. He went over backward, spilling his drink and losing his cigarette, and everybody around him dealing with that, Angel cursing and cuffing him, so he ducked and rolled away.
His hand still tingled with whatever it’d made contact with; and having made contact, he could still feel it, sense it. Like a huge waterfall when you were out of sight of it: you could still hear it and feel the vibration in the rock, smell the spray in the air, feel the updraft coming off it. Even without sight, you knew it was there.
And after the first shock of contact, it drew him. Drew his demon: he felt himself going to game face, reaching out and moving toward the thing. When he touched it again, his body knew it. It was part of the utter confusion he’d made himself remember earlier because that account had been required of him. There all the time, the background to everything that had happened then. What had caught and held him, so even unbound he probably couldn’t have left it except that Buffy had come and given him something else to focus on and made him move in a different direction that was away. It was utterly terrifying. Yet he couldn’t will himself away from it. Even touching it wasn’t enough. It still drew, wanting more of him. Deeper contact. It wanted to devour him and he wanted to let it.
Behind him, Angel laughed and yanked him away. Broke the contact. Took the thing away, remarking, “Even unamplified and from this distance, that’s a lot of power. Imagine what it will do when it’s set within a couple of hundred yards of the source and has some major witch mojo behind it. You want vampires, Giles? I assure you, we’ll have vampires. Probably including every Turok-han above ground and in range, though that hasn’t been tested yet. The biggest vampire brawl ever--complete melee: the all against the all. On our timetable, not the First’s.”
Harris asked, “OK, so what has it got going for it besides major ugly, that’s presumably not a big factor with blind bleach boy here? What is it?”
Spike didn’t hear the answer because he was out in the hall and remembering his way to the elevator. Finding the cool metal doors told him where the buttons would be: to the right because everything was set for the convenience of the right-handed, so he always knew to reach the least convenient way for himself. When the doors opened, no trouble with those buttons, the bottom one would be down. And from the lobby, no trouble finding the street.
He hadn’t needed to hear Angel’s answer because he knew it. His circle of scars knew it. His bones knew it. Hellmouth. The essence of it stored somehow like a battery in a jar.
Out in the open, he could still feel it. Anywhere within a hundred miles of Sunnydale, a vamp could feel it. But not compelling, with so many other things around. Simply attractive. Pleasant to the demon. Like the prospect of a really wild fight. Excellent feeding. Fucking and coming all night.
He checked, touching fingertips to forehead, but he’d had the sense to shed game face somewhere between the suite and the street. He wasn’t making any kind of scary exhibition of himself to the few people still abroad. Having been at rigid attention, his demon had settled back into its accustomed vague boredom with nothing much to interest it, so that was all right.
He got another cigarette lit but didn’t play around with the lighter because he had better lights now. He could see the double lines of streetlights and therefore knew where the street was, and dimly the parked cars though not the make or model or color very well. In front of the hotel, he knew where he was and therefore knew how everything was laid out around him. After nearly seven damn years in Sunnyhell, not counting the occasional absence in South America or Africa, he certainly ought to know.
Hearing Harris’ voice, Spike started walking quite fast, head bent because he knew his hair was conspicuous, taking the first corner. Finding that all quiet, he ran. Didn’t mean to be caught, taken back to that hotel suite where the thing was, even if that was where Angel wanted him. Angel couldn’t command what he couldn’t catch, and Spike had had about all of Angel he wanted for a single night.
After a few blocks, Spike figured he was beyond all likely pursuit and slowed to a stroll. He didn’t want to go back to Casa Summers, Buffy was all upset with him over the amulet and would want to argue with him about it. Casa Spike and Casa Mike were too close and too predictable. Somebody might look for him there. Spike decided what he really wanted was to go home.
By the time he’d left the last of the streetlights that surrounded the cemetery, he found that the moonlight was bright enough for him to see by reasonably well. He could see the headstones and the shadows they cast on the ground. He could even distinguish between the shadows and the occasional open grave, though the warning was mostly the smell of fresh-turned earth. Anyway, he didn’t fall into any of them. He’d noticed some other vamps abroad but none close and he’d waited until they’d passed out of range without noticing him in return. He didn’t particularly feel like a fight or like killing anything and drunk and unarmed, it was probably better to just stay out of the way of trouble.
His old crypt was a mess, of course. He hadn’t expected anything else. First it’d been blown up, and when he’d left it he hadn’t been much more popular with the cousins than he was now, so it’d come in for quite a bit of deliberate trashing in his absence. Nothing Clem, that he’d left as a sort of caretaker, could have done to prevent it. No blame coming to Clem over it. Just how it was.
He heaved out the bodies of some dead cats someone had slung in and piled some of the lighter debris onto the remains of one of the tapestries he’d had hung against drafts, clearing the floor enough, at least, to let him move around between the central sarcophagus and the walls. Decent fighting space, nothing major to trip over.
Of course looters had picked the ground level clean of anything worth selling or using and trashed the rest. But he’d never kept anything he much cared about topside anyway. He figured there was a good chance some of his caches belowground might have been missed. When he had the ground level space mostly clear and smelling habitable, he dropped down to the lower level and started checking there.
He found a candle by stepping on it, and it was still intact enough to be lit.
His bed was gone. Must have been a bitch to take apart and transport because it’d been a bitch to get there in the first place. He didn’t envy whatever scavenger had taken on that chore. Of course there were so many abandoned houses in Sunnydale now, nobody would go to that much trouble with easier pickings to be had. The TV was gone too, naturally.
One of his caches, back in the tunnels, yielded some of his weapons. In poor condition from rust, and the leather hilts mildewed, but none beyond recovery with a little care and patience. They were good weapons, well made and well balanced and familiar to his hand. He thought the children might care to see them since some were quite old, many times antique; and he didn’t think they’d mind helping bring them back to good serviceable condition.
He laid them out below the topside opening, by the foot of the damaged ladder nobody had bothered to steal. Then he went back into the tunnels, farther in, to check the cache he’d left for last, fearing to find it empty: the S-curved niche where he’d hidden his treasure box. He sighed when his hand found it, still all waterproofed and safe. He patted it and left it there, returning to the job of transferring the weapons topside a few at a time. But when that was done he found he’d changed his mind. He dropped to the lower level and retrieved the box and carried the candle back with him.
The sarcophagus had served him well enough for a bed before Slayer visits had required something less rigid and narrow. After that it’d been a table and something to lean against, talking, besides a barrier and defense in case of intrusion. Now it was a clear place where he could sit, unwrap the paraffin-sealed edges of the oilcloth, open his tin box, and examine the contents by candlelight.
A cameo pierced as a pendant and rubbed nearly flat. Two packets of letters, each bound with a ribbon. Some tintypes, a little clouded but still holding the faces--some beloved, some less so--against change and forgetfulness. The daguerreotypes Angelus had had done in Marseilles Spike set aside quickly, having had all the recent reminders of that he wanted. A doll’s head, bald, with its eyes poked out with sharp scissors: the first Miss Edith. A black garter, slightly moth-eaten. A plastic bag of yellowed newspaper clippings.
Spike began sorting the objects into two piles. Some he decided he was ready to be rid of. The others would go back into the box.
Aware of a presence, Spike said, “Slayer.”
Just inside the door, Buffy said, “I saw the light.”
“Giles called. I knew pretty well where you weren’t. So I thought maybe I knew where you might be.”
When she didn’t move, Spike said, “You can come in. Nothing much here anymore. The reavers have been through. An’ quite a lot of dead leaves.”
Maybe because he hadn’t looked at her, she circled around behind him and leaned her elbows on the sarcophagus, which was a good height for that. Spike turned the Marseilles pictures face-down.
When Buffy didn’t try to touch or examine any of his things, Spike picked up the cameo and showed it to her in his palm. “My mother. Her name was Anne.”
With hesitance that asked permission, Buffy took the cameo in two fingers and moved it nearer the candle’s light.
“Don’t be polite,” Spike said. “It’s not very like her anyway. Such things were cheaply had then and not many proper artists employed in the making of them. Like three-for-a-quarter pictures in a booth in the five and dime. An’ there’s not even five and dimes anymore, they were gone before you were born.”
Buffy handed the cameo back carefully and Spike returned it to the box. She asked, “Nostalgia pangs?”
“Just a few things I’d as soon not lose.” It wasn’t a good time for sorting. Spike scooped everything back into the box and shut the lid. “Did you walk, or come in the van?”
“Then maybe you’d lend me a hand with some of these weapons. I think maybe the children, the Potentials, would help me get them back in proper condition.”
Between the two of them, they gathered up all the weapons. Spike tipped his stack over his right shoulder with his box under his arm. Buffy carried her stack like a bundle of sticks, across both arms, blades laid carefully flat.
Walking the way they’d walked so often before, from his crypt to Casa Summers, Spike was waiting for Buffy to bring up the matter of the amulet. Waiting for her to start arguing. When she didn’t, his wariness drained off. They fell into step. The distance between them diminished and they drifted together, shoulder against shoulder, hip against hip.
Buffy shot him a sideways glance but didn’t say anything.
“What is it, pet?”
“Only your eyes. I’ve missed them.”
“Not gonna tell me how much better I look?”
“Good, because I’m sick of that, truth be told. Only time anybody says how much better you look, it’s because you look so much worse than you’d like. Seen a starved vamp a time or two. Know it’s not a pretty sight. Much sooner none of you lot had seen me like that.”
“I like you better this way, that’s true. When there’s something to get hold of. But I still love you, regardless.”
As it had each time she’d said it, that comment struck him like a hard blow to the chest. He bent his head and didn’t reply.
They’d come to Revello, but Buffy kept walking on past the house.
“Where you headed, love?”
“Casa Spike. You said you wanted the SITs to work on the weaponry. And I don’t care to try getting a two-handed broadsword through a little gap in the hedge.”
“Yeah.” Spike caught up in a couple of strides, then matched pace again.
As they turned the corner Buffy added, as if casually, “Anyway, it’s quieter there.”
“You don’t have try being subtle about it, love. I know you’re not pleased with me. Know perfectly well I’m being humored. Managed.”
She looked around again. “D’you mind?”
“S’pose not. Just don’t fancy spending the time fighting with you, is all.”
“Don’t want to fight with you either. I can think of several better ways of spending the time. Since our supply of sometimes seems less infinite that we’d thought.”
Spike took a very sharp interest in that. “Meaning…sometime is now?”
“At least soon,” Buffy responded. Before disappointment could set in, she added, “I’d rather get indoors first. Your crypt was very nice in its way, very atmospheric. Cozy. Fine for a couple of old formerly dead people to hang out. Talk. Have the occasional brawl. Good fighting space there. Not so much on the comfort.”
Spike quoted Marvell: “‘The grave’s a fine and private place / But none I think do there embrace.’”
“Not without a whole lot of aches and pains the next morning. As I recall. I prefer a bed.”
“Ahuh. All right.”
“You can manage that?”
“Thought you could. Watch the axe, it’s gonna hit-- Never mind.”
Continued in Chapter Twenty Three: The Chaos Stone