Title: Brand New Day
Rating: PG-13 (Be afraid! Or, you know, don't be.)
Notes: Thank you to kcarolj65 for the beta! It was her first time beta-ing and she did a great job. :D
Summary: Solutions aren't always answers.
Warnings: Death/grief, consent/agency issues (non-sexual)
Brand New Day.
A girl was screaming; God, so loudly.
Then there was silence.
His eyes opened to Buffy; smiling, beatific, less bony and more blonde than he remembered. The soft, golden light of the ceiling lamp limned her hair like a halo and she was perfect. Of course, he’d always been a romantic in sleep, in falling to and waking from, so whether that was the truth or not he couldn’t say, but then, he didn’t care.
“I can’t believe it’s you,” she said, the words whole and round, a little bit too much like a soap opera. She’d either waited too long to say them or they were lies, he wasn’t sure. It didn’t matter though, just as long as he could rest for a little while longer, and let his molten bones finish setting.
Still she looked at him, bringing a hand to his face, close enough to touch. With a chill in his own heart he expected her to be cold. But no, her fingers were warm, and he was relieved.
“Where am I?” His voice was for shite and he needed to cough, but he didn’t want his chest cavity to explode. Not just yet, anyway. The blood would get everywhere and it belonged on the inside.
“Currently?” Her eyes drifted momentarily to the side before she looked down. “My bedroom.” Her blush was the colour of pale roses, which was pretty incongruous considering their history.
More than that, it was wrong, because: “Your room’s got leaves on the wallpaper.”
“My room’s also under fifty feet of dirt and rubble,” she said, smiling again. He wondered just how many different smiles she was going to gift him with. This one was wry, and nostalgic, and proud, and to him, ever the fervent naturalist, it was like a new species. “Along with the rest of the town.”
He could see it, Sunnydale, in his mind, the town that became a crater. In the dark and lonely desert, with nothing extant but the curling breeze, he could see it through the glassy eyes of a drunken stupor, the failing warmth of which made him one with the wind.
That was a dream, he knew it was, but it felt almost as if it were real.
“Where are we now, then? Rome or something?”
“You smelled the bolognaise, didn’t you?” she said, embarrassed. He hadn’t, but now he did. “Dawn made, like, a cauldron of it last week.”
Dawn. He’d forgotten other people existed. Was it not to be expected, when on death and waking he saw only her? Her big, plaintive eyes and her searing skin?
But then, she hadn’t been searing the last he’d seen her. He remembered it, ice white hair whipping back and forth beneath blue light, back and forth, bright and mesmerising, the pounding beat of music like that missing of his heart. He could see it, and he could feel it, the hope frozen in humid air, the need for her eyes to fix on his the way they did now.
But that wasn’t right either.
“Where are we?” he asked again. He felt weak, so very weak.
“Rome. Like your crazy vampire senses told you.”
That had been a guess. “Wh –” He gave up. She could choose the interrogative. Hell, she could choose the question, and the answer. He didn’t care. He just wanted to rest, for once.
Her face fell towards his and she kissed him on the forehead, edging his hair with her fingertips. Her hands were as soft now as they had been that night, giving him the amulet fresh from the Guardian, the mist of whose aged skin he could still feel on the silver. She’d chosen him then, and told him she loved him.
Why did it feel so long ago?
“You’ve been gone a year, Spike.” Her head rose, but not to the heights it had sat in before. “Well, a year and four days, ‘cause Sunnydale fell on the seventeenth.” She frowned slightly. “A leap year still counts as a year, right?
Then he wanted to ask more, to ask why he felt so displaced, so separate from her. She brushed his temple again with a hand, and he couldn’t stand to feel the break between their skins. He closed his eyes.
“Get some rest,” she said, soft and intimate and so very far away. It felt like he was in a dream. And soon he was.
On waking again, he could feel the bolognaise. Tomatoes were bursting around him, overripe and going sour with the smell of air freshener. The garlic that had seeped into the sheets was itching his skin like a low-frequency buzz, digging down to his bones.
Throwing back the duvet he turned his legs to the floor. His clothes felt foul, but there was nothing to be done. At least his coat had made it back with him. He picked it up off the back of its chair and shrugged it on.
It felt different from how he remembered. Probably just the reconstitution, he decided – fixed all the tears or something.
In the living room he met Buffy, walking from the kitchen with a bowl of popcorn. Her eyes widened fractionally, and he was almost certain that she’d been expecting to have to play nursemaid for a while longer. She said nothing, and the constant stare of her eyes made him uneasy.
He looked around, at the cheery collection of photos on the bureau, at the back of Dawn and Andrew’s heads as they studiously watched a television that spewed rapid Italian.
“Are you going out?” she finally asked.
A glance to the busy curtains. It was all too bright and it was all too loud. He couldn’t be doing with it.
“Yeah.” He looked back to her.
“Oh.” Her tiny grin, that he only noticed then, faded. “Are you…”
“Sure I’m up to it?” He bit the words out, “I’m not an invalid, Buffy.”
“Coming back, I was gonna say,” she finished after he had, her gaze skittering away.
He paused for a moment, then said, “Where else have I got to go?” She ate some popcorn, concentrating on her fingers. His hostility began to seem misplaced, and he floundered a little.
“Look, Buffy,” he glanced back at Dawn and Andrew, “I just think that, wherever I was, I got used to my own company.” That was a joke – but the words felt right, like cold, painted bricks by a basement door.
“Spike…” She looked up, eyes flashing with attempted sympathy.
“No, it’s all right.” On his left a woman screeched from the TV screen. “I’ll just get out on my own for a bit, see the sights and all that.”
She nodded, and tucked another piece of popcorn between her lips. After seven chews she swallowed. “OK,” she said, her voice very small. “You’ll, uh, need a key.” She went back to the kitchen, the half-bun of her hair bobbing as she walked. He could feel the space expand between them.
He watched as her hand darted into a white bowl, as quick as if there had been a pike inside, and then as she came back to him, one arm cradling the popcorn like a child, the other held out to him. He took the silver key carefully from her and tucked it into a pocket.
Then, for a moment, he stared at her, wondering why she looked so scared. Averting her gaze, she ducked past him and he left soon after, taking the landing in long, swift strides.
He’d got to the stairwell and gone down a single flight before he turned around and went back up. The little key slotted neatly into the lock and the door opened on a single turn. Buffy stood just behind it, still clutching the popcorn. He stepped in close and smoothed some hair behind an ear.
“I’m coming back later, yeah?”
She nodded, and he nodded, and then he turned back out the door, feeling slightly less like a traitor.
The night was cold for May and a chill wind blew, pitching round corners with abandon. As he walked, Spike dug his hands deep in his pockets and turned his shoulder to it.
The raw light of the streetlamps felt softer, almost, than the yellow glow of the flat, falling as it did in molten pools upon the pavement. He could even escape it if he wanted, and settle, for a while, in the comforting shadows of an alley, before walking on again.
Spike walked, but he didn’t know where he was going.
At the back of his mind he could feel the way back to the apartment. He wasn’t sure, though, that that was where he was meant to go. It was warm and it was comfortable, but it was too much so, and waking from death he was sure it wasn’t where he belonged. He preferred the solid, steadfast chill of the night outside, where he knew just what he was.
Walking, he rounded a corner sharply, and his coat snapped in the wind. He could suddenly hear the beat of rain, drumming in his ears, even though there was none. It continued, a thrumming tattoo, as the wind held up, and an edge of panic tore him straight from the Italian night to somewhere else, where flames burned the sky and the leather of a sword handle had calloused his palm.
His mind closed and he kept moving. At last the wind fell, dropping him back in a different street from where he’d started.
He paused a moment to reorientate himself. He wanted to know just exactly what was going on. It was as if he was still under the effect of Giles’ Stone of Utter Uselessness, or having an acid flashback – though he hadn’t realised vampires got those. It was as if rebelling memories wanted more from him than he was prepared to give.
Bastards. They weren’t even his. Couldn’t be.
God knew how much time had passed when he reached the Colosseum. The night was old now, and the brash floodlights were stark enough to turn him away.
The way back seemed too easy to remember. Still, he followed it, and as he did he wondered whether anyone would have waited for him. It was a ridiculous thought; he’d left no hole when he’d left; he belonged, he fitted somewhere else he didn’t know and always had. Yet he wondered, and hope was like a hearth’s warm fire.
Two roads away from the apartment he turned down a side street, jaywalking by a bank of Vespas. A car came by and he stepped among them to let it pass, resting a hand on a handlebar.
He remembered clutching harder, white-hot fury sparking down his bones as a flush of jilted hope settled in his stomach. He remembered being distracted by the realisation that he’d actually got used to flat, American roads. The wind rushed up his sleeves and the thrill was overshadowed by thick, meaty palms digging into his ribs – Angel’s thick, meaty palms digging into his ribs.
The vision faltered, the car long gone, and he began to laugh, though it sounded sour. He laughed with sharp and biting tears and it seemed the only thing to do.
This was enough. Angel appearing on a Vespa was just about enough.
More dead than ever he pushed the door open, to meet Dawn, who inhaled sharply as she retreated, eyes widening as water slopped from the glass in her hand.
“Sorry, pet.” His response was an empty reflex.
“Yeah, well,” she hissed back, recovering quickly, “try a little less with the stealth.”
She took a sip of water and looked away from him. Had she always seemed so young and obscure? “Buffy’s on the couch,” she said, letting go of the last traces of irritation. “She woke up a couple hours ago and got kinda worried.” Her eyes flicked back to his and he was shocked to realise he knew the blue emotion that filled them. “Don’t be a jerk, Spike.”
He watched her go back to her room, wondering how anyone could look dignified in purple duck pyjamas. He could accept it from her, though, and did.
He moved lightly round to the sofa, where, waiting for him, lay a huddle of quilt and a mop of hair spread over the armrest. From it came Buffy’s groggy but smiling voice. “I thought I heard you.”
His mouth twitched. “Said I’d be back, didn’t I?” He cocked his head, trying to find her face. “You know, your neck’s going to crick if you sleep there.”
Indolently she raised and arm and swept her hair back, gazing up at him with dewy eyes. “I guess you’d better take me to bed then.”
He paused, transfixed by the expectant arch of her body. The soul, it had to be the soul, was making him feel like a prig. He kicked it back, and bending to one awkward knee he scooped her up into his arms.
He didn’t register her squeak of delight. The folds of the quilt were billowing now about her feet, frothy and white as a wedding dress, and he couldn’t tear his eyes away. He took a step, but beyond her feet he could see her bedroom. With a glance at her open face he had to shift his hold.
Buffy’s arms lolled around his neck. With her face now turned to his chest she was fully dependent on him.
He crossed into her room with the slightest hesitation and placed her on the bed, not bothering to flick on the light-switch. She rolled to the far side, letting the covers splay flat before she folded half back across herself in invitation.
“You’re letting the cold in,” she groused.
The soul was still irritating him. He couldn’t work out why. It had been, what, less than a week to him since they’d last shared a bed? And on that last night they’d done far more; he remembered her face, perfect as a poem – and, strangely, just as intangible.
Unlacing his boots and climbing into the bed the feeling remained. He felt so removed, removed from the sensation of sleeping in sheets warmer than he was and removed from her like she was that distant memory.
Worse, when she turned to him and closed her eyes, brow clear and mouth smiling, he barely recognised her.
In his dreams, some horror lay hidden behind the corner of a wall. The smell of blood was ripe in the air, and dread itched along his bones. He did not want to round that corner, but nor could he round it fast enough. A heart, not his, was pumping, over and over, slowing with each beat, wrenching his own life from his throat as it faded, faded…
He rolled over, easing his weight from one shoulder to another. His bleary eyes met hers, open and still. He started, driving back a foot across the bed. She reached out a hand to pull the covers over herself again and he shifted to let her, still quite awake.
Her eyes remained on his.
Then her mouth opened the barest fraction and, after an age, she breathed, “I longed for you to come back, you know.” He could see her, and he could sense her tiny, sighing whispers on his own lips, but the darkness seemed stronger. “Even just for a little while.” She reached out a hand. Pure gratitude seemed so foreign, but he couldn’t help but be entranced as she continued, “And you have, so I guess I can’t ask for any more, but –” Her voice dropped lower, until he was surprised he could still hear her. “Is it so bad that I want you to stay?”
He could do nothing but respond. “Where –” He was talking too loudly though. He shuffled closer, her hand now almost to his cheek, and whispered, “Where exactly am I s’posed to be going?”
“I… don’t know.” She searched for the answer in him. “Away.”
“Not going anywhere, love.” The words glided from his tongue, an easy truth he hadn’t really known.
“But you will.” She sounded as lost as he felt. “I can see it; you’re so…” In the dim her eyes glistened. “You’re so grim.”
“Give me a couple of days, pet, to...”
“No.” She shook her head, and her hair rustled on the pillow. “I can see it when you sleep. Something’s happened, something I’m not a part of.”
Somehow then he knew, knew for certain, that she was a part of it, though he would not remember how.
So he edged even closer, until their knees touched. Denim to flannel it was hardly scintillating but he valued it nonetheless. He took a breath, pulling her air into him. “There’re these dreams,” he confessed.
“Dreams?” she whispered back, with an edge of surprise.
“Yeah,” he replied. “Weird ones.”
“Weird ones?” A soft frown accompanied her echo.
“Well, Angel’s in them. Sometimes.”
“Huh.” And that was it.
He raised an eyebrow. “Love?”
“Not exactly helping.”
He felt immediately like he shouldn’t have said it. But she apologised, “Sorry,” and didn’t hide her smile as she buried herself in his chest. “Funky Angel dreams, huh?” He could feel her voice with a deep thrum behind his lungs. “We can call him tomorrow.”
She dug deeper and he let his eyes drift closed. His cold arms felt awkward for a time against her warm back, but soon her heat diffused, bringing them to the same temperature as he relaxed into sleep.
He awoke to soft, sweeping hands and a kiss. He was ready for her and drew her chest closer, rolling them over and relishing her breathy giggle.
The dawn spilled under the curtains. It washed the room in rosy light and with it her moans sounded as warm and pure as honey. He remembered a cup, bathed in light, that held the promise of absolution. It seemed so meaningless.
He woke to a guilt he couldn’t explain, and so let the morning happen around him, venturing into the kitchen only after breakfast had ended and merely accepting Buffy’s peck before she and Dawn left laughing for their classes. He read the paper, not looking up as Andrew bustled about, nor as he stared, nor even as he passed close by on the way to the shower.
When hunger stirred Spike managed to find some blood, as always, in the bottom right-hand drawer of the fridge. Automatically he made himself a mug of it and drifted to the sofa, where he dug the remote out from between the cushions and turned the TV to some programme about squid.
He took nothing of the programme in. But then he didn’t mean to, and it didn’t matter anyway, since after the Discovery Channel’s Squid Weekend two – no, three – no, two years ago he knew it all already. No, he just meant to be able to think without interruption.
This, it seemed, was going to be his life: quick shag and a kiss before a day full of tedium; nothing hanging over him, nothing breaking the churn of routine. It seemed a little disappointing, though that was probably because he’d only just come back from the very dead, the thought of which bothered him less than he thought it should.
Still, he had Buffy, in the sense that she hadn’t yet kicked him out of bed, and there were worse anticlimaxes to be had than that. He thought he still loved her at least, dearth of burning passion aside, and he was sure he would grow used to this light version. It was like what people said about light beer, even if it seemed like a load of bollocks. She was still made of the same stuff, and she still tasted the same – and in her case that was actually true. She just… affected him less.
This comparison to beer was ridiculous.
He was restless, that was his problem. He didn’t expect things to go his way without a fight, and now they had he didn’t know what to do with himself.
They’d go out that night, kick up some dust. Bring things back to the primal and that would sort them out, one way or the other.
“Why so on edge?”
He snapped his head over his shoulder. Andrew stood there, dressed, with a towel round his neck and more steel in his eyes than Spike remembered.
“Why so on edge?” Andrew repeated, rubbing some hair with his towel. “You walk around like, I don’t know, like something’s lurking behind every corner.”
“I do not.” Spike narrowed his eyes.
“You do too!” Andrew pointed. “You’re even sitting on the edge of the couch.”
He looked down involuntarily. He wasn’t, not completely anyway. He was just sitting forward.
Andrew crossed in front of him, slouching back into the other corner. “Buffy and Dawn think you’re gonna leave, you know.” Spike decided it was time to tune back into the squid, but Andrew kept going. “Yeah, kinda dumb, huh? I tried telling them… it’s pretty obvious you’re on the run.”
“From what?” Spike snarled, despite himself.
Andrew shrugged. “There are a number of possibilities. Currently I’m guessing either the government or some kind of demon crime syndicate, just because they had enough power to remove your memories.”
“No one has removed my memories.” And if they’d tried, they hadn’t done a very good job.
“Uh, it’s not like you’d know, Longshot.”
Squid apparently lived in the sea, or something. He should really gen up on some marine vocab.
“It makes sense if you think about it.” Andrew seemed to be ignoring the fact that he was ignoring him. Or, well, trying to. “You go out in a heroic blaze of glory. Everyone you know, everyone you love, thinks you’re dead and as far as the world is concerned, you don’t exist. So, someone brings you back. You’re the perfect assassin – fast, strong and untraceable, because, duh, there’s nothing to trace.
“So you kill.” Andrew paused. For some unfathomable reason Spike found himself listening. “But then, one day, their hold on your consciousness breaks. Horrified by what you’ve been made to do you escape, and haunted by the blood on your hands you lie low, looking over your shoulder with every move you make. Months pass – until, at last, inevitably, they track you down.” Andrew was intense. “But your mental guards are too high now for them to ever take you back, so they don’t have an option. They have to remove your memories of the past year, and leave you somewhere you feel safe, so that one day, when it’s the last thing on your mind, they can come for you again.”
He finished and Spike raised an eyebrow, chastising himself for his slight twinge of fear. “You’ve got to be bloody joking.”
Andrew shrugged. “OK, but don’t try and tell me nothing’s happened to you.
Spike had no reply to that. Andrew got up, pulling the towel from his neck and heading to the bathroom. “You’re different, Spike,” he called back. “Anyone can see it.”
And that, Spike supposed, made it official.
He and Buffy went out that evening, after a dinner that had been dominated by Dawn’s commentary on the way light fell around pepper pots.
It was not yet fully dark, and the sky was still almost blue. They weaved their way along the busy streets until, at last, the people thinned out and the flickering light of the few working streetlights became menacing.
“This the dodgy bit of town, then?” Spike kicked a can along the gutter, enjoying the echo of its clanking scrapes along the ground.
“Yeah,” Buffy replied, dropping down to pull a knife from her boot. They moved off, him assuming his usual position of half a stride back from her side. “We usually send the girls to the cemeteries,” she continued, “and then Vi or I take here.” He tried to place the name, but a sea of scowling teenage faces appeared instead. “This is where all the real demons hang out.”
“You know – growl, rampage, try and slaughter the PQR.” She glanced at a drain cover.
“The Q means ‘and’,” he replied distractedly, peering down a side road.
“Whatever. Oh, hey, look – behind the garbage cans!” She pointed with her knife and he quickly saw what she had. The creature looked like a wolf, snuffling around, but it had long, rabbit-like ears that draped down the back of its body.
He didn’t take his eyes off it, but came closer and dropped his voice. “It’s a Lufraggi.” Her head turned slightly to his. “Buggers can hear you half a mile away. Watch out for its ears – the wax is like acid and it gets all over their sodding fur.”
“It’s an earwax demon?” Buffy’s hushed indignation made him smirk. “Eww.”
They began to approach. Three steps in the demon set, its head up from its newspapered meal and its ears jutting straight out the back of its head. Its eyes fixed eyes on theirs, some preternatural intelligence cataloguing their stature and their stance. A moment of communication, understanding, and then, with long, bounding strides it ran at them, black fur rippling, mouth open and intent.
They were ready, but a sudden shot rang out. The demon yelped, then fell. Its eyes closed and dark blood pooled from its neck, soaking into its ears that splayed crookedly behind it.
Anticipation had Spike on the balls of his feet. His eyes flicked from corner to corner and at last he saw a car parked across the end of the street, one window closing as he watched.
“Oh come on!” Buffy shouted at the same moment he felt his own well of frustration. She started towards the car and he followed, passing the body with a glance at its down-turned mouth. The bullet hole in its neck was hidden by clotted fur, and it seemed an injustice.
When they reached the car Buffy rapped on the back window, repeatedly, until it rolled smoothly down.
“How many times do I have to tell you to leave me alone?” she demanded.
Spike hung back slightly, feeling a twist of disassociation. He watched though, as a hand emerged from the window to tap some cigarette ash to the ground. “But, my darling,” some bloke’s voice came. “It is good for my interests to keep you safe.” He had a sleazy Italian accent that Spike almost thought he recognised.
“I am not your darling!” Looking on, Spike decided Buffy was more annoyed now than she had ever been with him. Just went to show they were meant to be.
As if she’d heard his thoughts he turned to look at him, smiling for a moment before returning her attention to the other man. “Hey, guess what? You know the boyfriend I told you burned to death saving the world?” The hand tapped more ash, and he remembered the feeling of it in the base of his throat as she’d kissed him that afternoon. “You know, the reason I didn’t want to date anybody new? Yeah, well, see, he came back from the dead.” She paused to let her words sink in, then continued, “So, see, there really isn’t any point you following me around anymore.” She raised a hand, fingers waving. “Ciao!” Then she span abruptly, grabbing Spike’s hand and taking him with her.
“This is your friend?” Behind them, the man laughed. “But he is so small! I had expected Hercules! No, no, no, no, Buffy, he is no good for you.”
Buffy rounded them back, her face red and her heels scraping violently on the tarmac. “Will you just go away!” She raked her fingers through her hair, pushing it back from her face. “And for your information, Spike is…”
“Spike?” A head came out of the window and Spike went rigid. “William the Bloody?”
“What of it?” he replied. Buffy stilled, clutching his hand tighter.
“But I had not recognised you!” A sneer, thinly disguised as a smile, revealed a set of perfect white teeth. “Your hair, your soul… it is like you are a new person, ah? I remember; Drusilla was such pleasant company.”
He tightened his own grip on Buffy’s hand. The pissing Immortal. It made sense. It made so much sense, him sniffing after Buffy like a dog.
Of course, he’d always known Buffy had more class than to fall for his parlour tricks (he was choosing to ignore the odd, lingering sense of betrayal he felt). After all, the only reason the ponce had been able to get Dru into bed was the fact that she didn’t know what she was doing half the time. Darla, whore that she was, probably hadn’t helped much either.
A couple more seconds of strained silence and Spike spoke. “Well, now that we’ve caught up, we'll be on our way.” He sneered. “I’d ask how you were, but I can’t say I give a flying Gilgron tentacle.
It was as if he had never spoken. “I am deeply sorry, Buffy, that you are engaged in such a match, so unworthy of yourself.”
Buffy’s hand dug deeper into his, her expression one of fury as The Immortal retreated, as the window closed and as the car drove serenely away.
Then she dropped his hand and wheeled from him, yelling “Gaah!” as she looked to the sky and back to him. This was obviously not The Immortal’s first intervention. “He gets on my nerves so much!” She raised her half-clenched hands. “I mean, sure, he’s attractive, and his charisma is like off the chart, but why can’t he just let it go?”
She wanted an answer, but through his small bubble of jealousy he could never hope to give her one. “Not the person you should be talking to, love.”
“Sorry.” She stepped back into his space and repeated, “Sorry,” softer. She placed a shaking hand against his temple and focussed on it, frowning.
“D’you fancy a fight?” he asked at last, still feeling energy murmur up his spine.
Her eyes moved to his, their expression more familiar than he thought possible, and she admitted, “Yes.”
“Good,” he replied, hooking a leg between hers with a bounce and jerking her to the ground.
She pulled him with her as she fell, rolling him under her as they thudded against the tarmac. With only the slightest hesitation he punched her in the face, snapping himself up as she tumbled to one side. Turning he met her boot with his chest, bending to absorb the impact and taking hold of her ankle to spin her back to the ground. With a howl he leapt on her and they scrapped in earnest.
It wasn’t the fight itself he loved so much, but the brazen light in her eyes, the way he could feel her muscles move with his. It was like dancing without the need for music, sex without the need for concentration, pain without the need for fear. It, she was glorious, and the blue titan he suddenly remembered was nothing in comparison.
Now he loved her, so much so that it hurt, but still that didn’t reassure him. It was only after, lying on the road, when she curled into him and they rested beneath his coat, when with the slightest touch he felt hot enough to be alive, it was only after that that he was at last at peace.
“It’s me.” Spike didn’t know why he said that. It implied that the Great Poof should recognise him, and never had he wanted such familiarity.
“Spike.” Well, that was odd. “I thought you might call.” That was even odder – he didn’t even sound irritated. The small spark of fear in Spike’s stomach flickered sharply, growing.
There was a creak of leather, as if Angel was sitting back on a chair. Spike took the cordless to the sofa, mirroring him.
“What time is it over there, anyway?” Angel asked. “I thought you’d call in the morning, but it’s, what, six o’clock now?”
“It’s late,” Spike replied. He wasn’t about to engage in small talk, and, besides, Angel would probably prefer not to hear about how he and Buffy had got distracted.
“OK.” Angel seemed resigned. “What do you want to know?”
And then the words stalled in his throat. They were burning alive, dying quickly, and he could no longer distinguish their forms. “You tell me,” he said shortly instead. He realised now just how uncomfortable he was with revealing to Angel any semblance of a weakness. That wasn’t strange, but what was was that he felt he should be able to.
Angel, however, sighed. As if he understood. “Things seem too good to be true, right?” He sounded wistful; but at the same time satisfied, like an old entrepreneur gazing on his fat, spoiled grandchildren from his deathbed.
Spike couldn’t stand it. “No,” he said, drawing out the word. “Things seem bloody confusing.”
“Well, trust me, Spike,” Angel bit back. “Things are too good to be true.” He sounded angrier than Spike thought was reasonable.
“And why is that?”
Angel paused, audibly sucking in a breath. “You don’t want to know,” he said.
Sanctimonious prat. “Don’t talk in riddles.”
“I mean it literally.” And there was the Angel he recognised: irritated by his very presence and condescending to boot. “As in there are things that you don’t want yourself to know.”
“And I take it you’ve got yourself under no such restrictions.” Spike couldn’t remember why he’d bothered phoning.
“I do have some experience with this.” Spike bet he did. “And, hey, it was your decision. You’re the one who thought you couldn’t cope with remembering…” He trailed off. There was something there, Spike realised, some defensiveness, the source of which should help him.
“You mean this last year, right?” At the back of his mind, Andrew’s story surfaced from nowhere. Unsettling, that. “You saying I forgot everything? Voluntarily?”
“What I’m saying is that that year doesn’t even exist. Well, ” Angel’s voice twisted with something Spike knew only he realised was cruelty, “not to you anyway. You’ve just been dead. Would’ve stayed if I hadn’t activated the amulet last week.”
“You mean the amulet the Guardian gave Buffy?”
“Before Caleb killed her, yeah.” There was a possessiveness in Angel’s voice that Spike didn’t like. Not about Buffy, and not about his amulet.
“And how the hell would you know about that?” Spike didn’t need to ask; he could see him, standing in a crypt: the golden hero back from years at sea, clutching the amulet in his greasy hands.
Angel’s pause before he spoke at least sounded a little embarrassed. “You don’t want to know.”
Spike seethed. “Why not?”
“Because I’m assuming you and Buffy got together before you died.” There, in that glib, nothing-to-do-with-me-guv presumption of his place in Buffy’s life, there was everything Spike hated about Angel.
Bastard, Spike thought. Buffy lay mere metres away, separated from him by a mere wall, yet he still half expected to hear a muffled laugh in California and to see his guts spilled out before him on the carpet. He remembered exactly how they’d looked on cold, hard stone, and how the First had crowed over them. Bastard.
“So you’re saying my life’s a sodding lie.”
Angel didn’t even bother to deny it, just oozed gross piety. “Your life is better than it ever should’ve been.” Spike wished he wasn’t still desperate for answers, so that he could hang up. “If you hadn’t decided to forget you’d know that we made some mistakes – that couldn’t be fixed. And then, after…” Angel’s voice dropped, darkening, and just for a moment they were brothers-at-arms. Spike thought he could hear the failing beat of a distant heart. “After… something else happened, you’d know that then we decided to take an option that we’d previously disregarded.”
“What, change time?” To Spike, changing anxiety into sarcasm wasn’t hard. It was just a habit.
They were brothers no longer, but Angel hadn’t yet remembered his hate. “No. Illyria –” The blue titan; with a jolt Spike knew her. It felt right that she should have a name again.
For a single second he mourned, and for another he mourned those others he had known; whoever they had been. He could only remember their memories.
Angel continued, “didn’t have enough power for that. We could only live some years again.”
Angel at last snapped back to the present, and Spike was once again not worth his precious time. “Thanks to a certain time-travelling, dimension-hopping, one-presence-in-all-of-time-and-space demon now being dead, yeah, it was.” There was the sigh of a champion. “Of course, destiny kept some things the same.”
“Well,” Spike said. He couldn’t be bothered with this. “Cheers. You’ve made everything clear as crystal.”
Angel’s hero’s façade cracked and fell. “Look, Spike,” he spat. “It’s not my fault you decided you couldn’t live with seeing Buffy –” Spike’s heart stopped. No, that was impossible, it couldn’t be his…
“Daddy?” A child’s voice sounded through the receiver, some small distance behind Angel’s. “’s dark now. Can we play?”
“Sure, Connor, I’ll be out in a second; why don’t you go get Cordy?” Angel’s voice lost all its venom, and Spike knew his one real chance for answers had escaped him.
“Angel,” he demanded, going for one last salvo. “What the bleeding hell were you about to say about Buffy?”
Three seconds, then Angel spoke, cold and harsh. “You didn’t want to know, Spike. You wanted me to shoulder the burden, as usual, and I have done.” Spike could hear his sneer. “Don’t call me again.”
The line went dead.
Spike stared at the phone for a long time, trying to work out who’d betrayed whom. He sat, and stared, and was surprised as Buffy came to his side and put her arms around his shoulders. He’d forgotten she lived.
He soon stopped remembering, but he didn’t really forget.
Time went on. He had to start begging translations off Giles to stop him climbing the walls, but it wasn’t too bad. It was something to talk about with Dawn at least. Buffy even said she thought Latin was sexy, but he was pretty sure that that was only because of its association with the desk in their room. And all the times she made him multitask before a deadline.
As the days grew shorter he found he could walk Buffy home from her classes, and that they could stroll through piazzas, as if part of the real world, for a little while before patrol. Dawn, when she wasn’t too cool to associate with them, could even take them to galleries sometimes, before they closed. Winter came, and he was taken shopping.
In fact, Winter came hard, until it was really too cold for them to keep eating at the gelateria owned by Andrew’s girlfriend’s family. But Filipetto took to bringing out the rum, and, each time he did, Spike laughed a little more.
It took till after Christmas for him to admit that he was happy, but he did. And he was.