Sequel to Who Am I?; part of The Bittersweets Series
She had to find him, give him back his box. Because she wasn’t cruel, and she wouldn’t rob him of his keepsakes, all the things he’d faithfully held onto, this creature who’d claimed to spend his whole un-life in the present tense. The box held obscene things, images of the slain, blood-stained relics, stolen lives. But it wasn’t for her, Buffy who was Buffy again, to commandeer it. Buffy wouldn’t do that, not to Spike who’d defied his nature to be good to her sister, to her mother.
Hefting it under her arm, she went out the way she’d come in. Carried it first to Willie’s, where she went up to the bar, a humble supplicant, and asked if Spike had been seen there, or was expected. “Tell him I want to give him back his box.” She glanced down the bar, at the skittish vamps and demons sitting there slouched over their drinks, and pitched her voice to them as well. “If any of you see Spike tonight, tell him—“
Went to the other bars where demons hung out. Looked in on Spike’s regular poker game, spoke to the players who gaped at her out of their misshapen faces as they stuffed kittens up their sleeves and under the table. Went to the Bronze. The box dug into her hip as she carried it, but she ignored the dent it made in her skin. Knocked on Tara’s door again, told her. Spike’s box was his, and she would give it back. As soon as she could find him. Oh, where was he? Told the clerk at the stores where Spike got his smokes, at the liquor store. Told the laundromat attendant. Went to his crypt, saw the door yawing open, the inside a shambles of broken odds and ends, and the remnants of the bonfire, a heap of char still smoking a little despite yesterday’s rain. All her anger at her friends for what they’d done here came back afresh, and her eyes stung as she looked the scene over. Evil as he’d been, he’d not deserved that. He’d not deserved any of it.
But then, they were only trying to look out for her, the Scoobies. Like they always did. So many mistakes, but all from love. Love that cut so many ways.
She rested there for a few minutes, hoping he might be watching her from the shadows; she said her little speech out loud for his ears, but the whole cemetery was quiet, the trees whispering to each other in the night breeze. They whispered in every cemetery in Sunnydale, as she traversed them all, softly calling his name.
It was the deadest part of night when she walked back up Revello Drive, clutching the box now to her chest, so she could smell its odor of fire and rust and drying paper. She was tired out from her rounds, and from crying, but most of all from bearing the weight of his accusation.
Buffy was a nice girl, before. Not cruel.
Come back wrong.
As she walked up the path to the front door, Spike stepped out from behind the tree, the one he always hid behind to watch for her. A cigarette bobbed on his lip; he didn’t remove it before speaking.
“Got the message. Give it over then, and I’ll be on my way.”
She tried to meet his eyes, but he wasn’t going to allow that now. He dragged on the cigarette.
“There’s . . . there’s something I took out of it. It’s in the house. Wait while I get it.”
He shrugged, followed her to the porch, and sat on the steps. He’d never looked at her.
When she came down again she saw him through the screen. The box was open beside him, and he was holding some object in both hands, looking at it in the yellow light that spilled out of the front door. She couldn’t see what it was, but he held it quite still, and seemed to be concentrating on it, as if some truth about it would come to him through his fingers.
She opened the screen door with a scree, but he didn’t glance up. Now she was standing at his shoulder, she saw it was the oval picture of the three girls.
For a moment that felt far too long, she thought he wasn’t going to acknowledge her at all, and her throat tightened into a hard ache.
Then he sat up a little straighter and sighed. “Yes. My sisters.” He touched a fingertip to each in turn behind the shattered glass. “Here’s Arabella. Sophronia. Jemima.”
“You killed them.”
“No. I was the oldest, at twenty-seven, and the last of mamma’s children to die.”
He pronounced the word, so odd coming from Spike, with the emphasis on the second syllable.
Still looking at the picture, he said “Bella and Sophie had the consumption for so long, it was almost a blessing when they went. Sophie in February, and Bella in July of ’78. Sophie was at the seaside, papa’d sent her there hoping she’d rally, although there really wasn’t the money for such stuff. I didn’t get to say goodbye to her. And Jem . . . my little Jem. We lost her early in ’79, she was just seventeen. The traffic in London, the fog, you can’t imagine what it was like in those days. No order to it at all. They told mamma that Jem never knew what hit her, never suffered. I don’t know if I believe that, though. It’s what people liked to say. A hackney cab, it was, coming sharpish round a corner on Oxford Street. The wheel caught her skirt. After that it was just mother and me. My father had taken a chill, the previous spring, after sitting up all night with a sick parishioner. He was gone in three days.”
Now Spike looked up at her. Distant, hard, the glitter of his eyes in the dim light. “You have this notion, Slayer, I don’t know where you got it, that the vampire is not the person. It’s not true.”
“It is true. Giles says so. All the books say so.”
“It’s comfortable for you lot to think so. Just like its comfortable to say my sis didn’t know anything when she was dashed against the pavement. But ask a real vamp, get the real story. I’m not merely a demon who took over William’s body, his memories. I’m William turned into a demon. What I was when I was alive, I still am, and Spike’s layered on top of that. So it’s quite a different thing. Quite a more complicated one. It’s the same for every one of us.” He paused. “Your Angel too, of course.”
She closed her eyes as tight as she could, trying by main force of will to deny his words, to deny those poses she’d seen, Angelus and William the Bloody, flaunting their lascivious connection before the camera’s unblinking eye one night in a Paris photographer’s garret. Their depraved faces the same ones she’d looked into, confided in, covered in kisses.
But she’d never been able to stop loving Angel. Nothing she ever heard about him, even from his own lips, could stop her.
She knelt beside Spike. Put a hand on his shoulder. He flinched away, and then she remembered—how had she forgotten?—the bites she’d inflicted there.
“Was Jem your special one?”
“Of course.” Spike’s voice was thick. Still wouldn’t look at her, eyes fixed on the wooden oval in his hands. “Little Bird.”
She noticed then that his accent was different: smoother, softer. It had changed, she realized, when he first pronounced those three mellifluous, old-fashioned names. She moved out of her crouch, swinging her legs around to sit beside him on the steps. Half-expected him to jump up and depart, but he only tucked the picture back into the box and felt around in it for something else.
“I’m sorry I tried to take all this away from you.”
“Did you read her letters? She wrote me such pretty prattling letters, when I was away at school, and up in Cambridge. I was the alpha and omega for her. Never lasted long enough for it to be anybody else.” He took out one of the bundles she’d not examined. Held them for a moment up to his nose. Extracted from the middle of it another photograph, showed it to her. A serious-faced little girl of seven or eight, framed in her long fairish hair, wearing a white pinafore over a dark dress.
“I’m sorry I got between you and Dawn. I know you mean a lot to each other . . . things I wasn’t around to know about. I shouldn’t have tried to interfere with that.”
He dropped the packet of letters and stared into the open box for a short time, then shifted and felt in his pocket for cigarettes. Buffy noticed the quick grimace he made when he moved; sitting was painful.
He opened the velvet-covered box that held the delicate cabinet daguerreotype.
“Their engagement portrait. They were married in 1852. Papa held a small living at a suburban church that was never very well attended. He was too High for the neighborhood.”
“I have no idea what that means. I assume not that he was stoned all the time.”
“No. It’s not important anymore.”
“And your mother?”
“She was unlucky. Lost everyone she had. After I met Dru, I never saw her again. She was expecting me, that evening . . . and I did not come.” He paused, and for a moment his lips moved, but she couldn’t make out what the word might be. “I was afraid I’d lead Angelus to her. I knew what he’d done to Dru’s people. But then Darla wanted us to go to the Continent, and I was able to sneak back on a Sunday evening when my mother was at church, and steal away my things. Got her little maid of all work to let me in, and then didn’t have the heart to kill her. God knows what she told mamma when she came back. I don’t know when my mother died, or where or how.”
“Oh Spike. I . . . I’m so sorry.”
Spike tossed the picture into the box and slapped his hands down on his thighs. “Yeah, well, I’m not. Because had I not been vamped by Drusilla, I’d have had a miserable, shabby genteel life, and coughed my lungs out like my sisters before I was much older. I’d certainly never have traveled the world. Never had any good balls-out fun in the night air. Never would’ve even lost my bleeding cherry, I was such a saddo.
“Whereas instead of that grim fate, I’m immortal, I’m strong, I’m bloody good-looking, and I’m smart—I’ve outfoxed all your attempts to finish me off, right?—and I’ve experienced the ecstasy of a consuming, unreasonable passion with a ravishing, engrossing, unreasonable woman who never bored me, not once. I’m the luckiest bloke out, I am. Can’t no one touch me.” He tossed his spent cigarette away and lit another. “So, Slayer. Where’s the last bit you went inside for? I’ll have it now.”
All along she’d had them tightly squeezed in her fist. She held her hand out to him. “Here.”
Spike looked at the golden hoops, linked together, and made no move to take them. She moved her hand a little nearer. “Go on, Spike. They belong in your box just as much as Jem’s picture, and Drusilla’s stocking, and—“
“And?” He lit the cigarette, and in the flare of the Zippo she saw his eyes were still closed to her.
So she said it. “And Wu Xia’s hair.”
He took a long drag of the cigarette, and then picked the earrings off her palm. His fingertips icy against her sweaty skin. He turned them between his fingers, so that the yellow light sent glints and gleams off their surface.
“You an’ Rupert take custody of that. Do what’s fitting with it.” Putting down the cigarette, he unhooked the hoops from one another, and turning to her, fixed them into her lobes. His touch was sure, and calm, and very cool. “Never thought,” he murmured, “they’d get to go back where they belong.”
While they’d been talking, the air had changed. The chill of night starting to give way to the softer air of encroaching daybreak. Buffy got to her feet. “Spike. Come in to bed now.”
Again there was a moment when she thought he’d refuse her, and the back of her eyes burned. But he closed the box, hefted it as he rose, and took the hand she held out to him. She was careful, as she started to pass through the door ahead of him, to turn at just the right moment and repeat her invitation, so he could pass smoothly in.
Continued in Six