“Love dragged its tail of pain,/its train of static thorns behind it,/and we closed our eyes so that nothing,/so that no wound could divide us./This crying, it’s not your eyes’ fault;/your hands didn’t plunge that sword;/your feet didn’t seek this path;/this somber honey found its own way to your heart./When love like a huge wave/carried us, crashed us against the boulder,/it milled us to a single flour;/this sorrow fell into another, sweeter, face:/so in an open season of the light/this wounded springtime was blessed.” ~Pablo Neruda, “Sonnet LXI”
Geoffrey stared at the blood in front of him with an expression of distaste. Spike knew just what was bothering him; he didn’t much like pigs’ blood either. “You’ll get used to it.”
“How?” The fangs distorted his voice. “I didn’t ask for this.”
“You think I did?”
“I hadn’t thought about it.”
“Drink up fast, mate. Otherwise, it’ll congeal.”
For a moment, Spike thought that the other vampire was going to gag, which was likely the only amusement he was going to get out of the situation. In a perfect world, Spike would have been taking him hunting for his first victim, to learn the sport and pleasure of drinking directly from the jugular, of inducing the maximum amount of fear to sweeten the blood.
Spike gave himself a mental shake. Scratch that. In a perfect world, Spike wouldn’t have turned him to begin with. Chances were, Angelus had thought he could avoid Buffy long enough to use a now-vamped Geoffrey to get close, maybe even bringing Dawn’s drained body to them.
He couldn’t bear the thought.
Geoffrey slammed back the blood, swallowing convulsively. As soon as he’d finished it off, Spike handed him the next mug. “Keep going.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Best way to prevent yourself from getting out of control now is to stay on the other side of being satiated. Trust me.”
“Did you have to do this?”
“Didn’t have to worry about it. I had somethin’ besides a soul holding me back.”
Geoffrey drank the next mug just as quickly. “And what was it?”
“A chip,” Spike said briefly. “It gives me a hell of a headache if I so much as threaten a human.”
Spike watched as Geoffrey’s face shift back to his human mask—and it was just a mask now. He supposed it was just as well he was the one guiding the fledgling; Angel would have mucked it up in the worst way. Soul or no soul, being a vampire wasn’t something that just went away. It was what you were.
He thought that the Watcher might have an easier time of it, since he’d been cursed right away, but then again, Geoffrey was supposed to be a Watcher, someone who helped kill exactly what he’d just become.
And he was going to be put in charge of Slayers, who were trained to kill things like him.
This was going to get very interesting.
Dawn felt Lucia’s arm around her shoulders, and she leaned into her friend. “I’m sorry you got dragged into this.”
“I signed up for this when I decided to help you,” Lucia reminded her. “And when I brought the Orb. I had hoped that there would have been a little more time.”
“That was my fault,” Dawn confessed. “This whole thing—”
“Assigning blame will not help.” Lucia gave her a little shake. “I think your sister would have said this, yes?”
“And when Angelus came here, he came without his soul, correct?”
Dawn nodded. “Yeah, but I don’t see—”
“So, he would have been killing people in another dimension, yes? Perhaps even people that you cared about.”
Dawn hadn’t thought about it from that angle. “I guess so.”
“There you are,” Lucia said triumphantly. “What happened here was likely no better or worse than what happened there.”
She took a deep breath. “I guess. But Geoffrey—”
There wasn’t anything Lucia could say to make that pain go away. Dawn couldn’t get the sight of Angelus draining Geoffrey out of her mind, and she knew that nothing would ever be the same.
After a brief knock on the door, Willow stuck her head in. “Can I come in?”
“Yeah, sure.” Dawn wiped her sweaty palms on her grimy jeans. “How is he?”
“Spike is looking after him,” Willow responded. “I think he’ll be fine. Geoffrey’s the same person he always was, Dawnie.”
“Except that he drinks blood and can’t go out in the sunlight.” Dawn leaned into Lucia’s shoulder when her friend pulled her close again. “And every Slayer is going to be fighting the urge to stake him.”
“Your sister doesn’t seem to be fighting the same urge with Spike,” Willow pointed out with a smile.
“No, I guess not.”
Willow turned her attention to Lucia. “Okay, how did you know we needed an Orb?”
“I told her,” Dawn said, quick to step in to shelter her friend. “I asked her to find it.”
The witch crossed her arms over her chest. “Maybe I should ask why she knew.”
Dawn gulped. “Lucia helped me research the spell. She knows about everything.”
Dawn stiffened. “Almost. Some stuff wasn’t mine to tell.” She shot Lucia an apologetic look.
“There were things I asked not to know,” Lucia corrected gently. “And you should know, in the spirit of full disclosure, my mother works at Wolfram and Hart.”
Willow gave Dawn a sharp look. “Dawn!”
“Not everyone who works for Wolfram and Hart is evil!” she protested. “Look at Angel and Spike.”
“I have said nothing to my mother,” Lucia said, “and I have cut ties as much as possible. What they represent is not who I am.” She rose. “I should go.”
“I’ll call you later,” Dawn promised a little desperately. She didn’t want to lose the one friend she had in Rome.
Lucia smiled. “Of course, Dawn. I will look forward to it.”
“Buffy isn’t going to be happy about this,” Willow observed as soon as the other girl had gone.
Dawn glared at her. “She’s my friend. Buffy had her friends, and I have mine. Okay, I have a friend, but I don’t think it’s fair that just because I have a screwed up background, I can’t have someone I tell things to.”
“Fair, no, but sometimes that’s the way it goes, Dawn.” Willow sighed. “But what’s done is done. We’ll just have to hope that Lucia’s loyalties aren’t put to the test.” She turned to leave. “You might want to talk to Geoffrey. I think Spike and Buffy are going to catch a few hours of sleep. He can’t go home until the sun goes down.”
“And you want to sleep?” Dawn smiled. “I’ll get out of here. I don’t think I could sleep anyway.”
When she rose, Willow pulled her into a tight hug. “I get it, Dawn. You just—have to be careful, you know? We worry about you.”
“I know.” She really did, it was just that Dawn didn’t always want to be the one worried over.
“How is he?” Buffy was numbed by the day’s events, unable to shake the feeling that Giles had betrayed her. He had insisted that she couldn’t trust Spike, even after he’d sought and gained his soul, and now he’d done this.
Spike laid back on the bed, his arm over his eyes. “Doin’ better than you might expect. I suppose that comes from getting cursed right away, and not havin’ time to eat anybody.”
“He seemed the same,” she ventured.
Spike sighed. “I don’t know what you want to hear, Buffy.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The soul.” He lowered his arm, fixing her with weary blue eyes. “Do you want to hear that it’s everything or nothing?”
“Can’t it be both?” When he stared at her, perplexed, Buffy stretched out next to him. “I’ve got a theory.”
“Let’s hear it.”
“You don’t have to sound so excited.”
Spike grunted, pulling her closer and burying his face in her hair. “I’m listening.”
“That’s better.” She squirmed to get comfortable, ending up with one arm thrown over Spike’s waist, and a leg trapped between his. “I didn’t know Angel before he was turned, but—”
“He was a wanker.”
“You didn’t know him either,” Buffy shot back, lifting her head to glare at him. “Hush.”
He mimed zipping his lips.
“Like I was saying, I didn’t know Angel before he was turned, but from what I’ve gathered, he wasn’t very nice. You, on the other hand, were a perfectly nice guy.” She felt him draw breath to protest and cut him off. “I like nice guys, by the way.”
When Spike remained silent, she continued. “So, I think it’s all about the material that the demon has to work with. If Angel didn’t have a soul, he’d never even be a half-decent person, but you—you just needed a reason.”
“I’ve always been love’s bitch,” he murmured in her ear.
“Yeah, exactly. I think Geoffrey’s going to be okay, but if he loses his soul, things could get really ugly.”
“We’ll just have to figure out how to close that loophole.” There was a pause, and Buffy could feel him thinking. She marveled at how easy it had been to fall back into a partnership, almost like it had been when she’d returned from the dead.
“What, Spike?” she asked gently.
“Would you prefer it if I had my soul, luv?”
Buffy pushed herself up so that she could look him directly in the eyes, searching his face. She could see the lines that were only visible upon close inspection, the dark lashes, the curl in his hair he tried to hide. “No,” she finally said, as honestly as she knew how, willing him to believe her. “I love you with your soul or without.”
His smile was all the answer she needed.
Geoffrey turned to see Dawn watching him warily. “Hello.”
“How—how are you?”
He considered the question. “You know, I feel surprisingly good for a dead man.” Geoffrey realized he’d said the wrong thing as soon as the words came out of his mouth. “Dawn, I didn’t mean it that way.”
“Yes, you did. It was my idea to go after Angelus.”
“And I could have refused,” he said gently. “It’s not your fault.”
“How can you say that?” Dawn demanded. “This is my fault.”
Geoffrey raised an eyebrow. “Fine. You’re absolutely right. It is most definitely your fault. Now, do you feel better?”
“No.” Dawn plopped down in one of the kitchen chairs. “I really am sorry.”
“I know you are,” he replied, sitting down across from her.
When she looked up from the wood grain she’d been studying, he could see the tears in her blue eyes, and it occurred to him—not for the first time—how beautiful she was. And now, of course, she was completely out of his reach.
Dawn managed the ghost of a smile. “So, you don’t hate me?”
Geoffrey smiled and wished he couldn’t hear the blood rushing through her veins. “Never.”
Spike sat down next to Buffy on the couch, looking across the coffee table at Willow. Now that the emergency had been dealt with, there was the small matter of what they were going to do. Geoffrey had gone back to his apartment, and Dawn had taken Willow’s spot in her bed.
“Giles wants me to stick around, at least until I can anchor Geoffrey’s soul,” Willow began. “And he wants Faith and Vi to stay for right now.”
Buffy took a deep breath. “Am I crazy, or is Giles setting us up to be another Bath?”
“Another what?” Spike broke in. “You talking about the one with water, or the one in England?”
“England.” Buffy smiled. “That’s where the Council has its primary training center.”
Willow nodded. “You do have some vampire activity here, and Italy makes a pretty decent jumping off point, at least as far as the Mediterranean and Middle East are concerned. We’re still having trouble getting into some of those countries.”
She hesitated, then added, “Two vampires can get in and out easier than humans can.”
“Bloody hell,” Spike muttered.
Buffy put her hand over his. “You don’t have to do this, Spike. No one’s going to fault you for not being—whatever it is you’d be.”
“I’d basically be his sire,” Spike responded. “An’ this is why I don’t like turning people. Too much bloody responsibility.”
“What about Ford?” Buffy asked, suddenly curious.
He shrugged. “I let one of the minions do that. Think I was going to take that git on for all eternity?”
Buffy tried to hide a wince. That definitely sounded like Spike—and not the souled version, either.
“Sorry,” he muttered, obviously sensing her discomfort.
“No, it’s okay.”
Willow cleared her throat. “Are you guys both on board with what Giles decides to do?”
Buffy glanced at Spike, and when he nodded, she took a deep breath. “I guess so. It’s time to get back in the game.”
Spike pulled the red t-shirt over his head and tossed it onto the chair beside the bed. Willow was bedded down on the couch, and although he and Buffy had caught a couple of hours earlier, it hadn’t been enough.
He wondered how long it had been since he’d had more than a couple of hours at a time. Months? Years?
“How does that work?”
Spike paused in the process of unbuckling his belt. “How does what work?”
“Well, I can see your shirt in the mirror now, but you’re still invisible.” Buffy lounged on the bed, already in her pajamas. “Unfortunately, the pants are not.”
Spike smirked and slid his jeans off. “Better?”
“And yet you’re wearin’ clothes. I can’t help but think that something isn’t right here,” he teased.
“Maybe I know how much you like taking them off,” was her rejoinder.
In spite of his weariness, Spike pounced on her, listening to her swiftly stifled squeal of laughter. “Spike! Willow’s on the couch!”
“You started it,” he pointed out.
“And I’ll finish it.” Her mouth closed over his, and her hands went south. Spike seized her wrists, firmly but gently.
He shook his head. “Let me?”
Buffy paused, then relaxed under him. “Okay.”
Spike felt her surrender to him completely, and he began to believe that whatever challenges this dimension might offer—from fledgling Watchers to angsting Keys—it would be worth every minute.
“Are you my girl?”
He asked because he had to know, because he wanted to hear the words. Spike asked because he knew that he was already hers.
Buffy gave him a bright smile while blinking back tears. “Oh, Spike. Always.”