Part Nine of Ten
"Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in."
"I should have called it
Something you somehow haven't to deserve."
Robert Frost, The Death of the Hired Man, 1915
The acrid cigarette smoke streamed from his pursed lips into Spike's face. You are such an idiot boy, you're not even fun. You're just boring. What, did you really think I wasn't going to claim what's mine? She's mine. Everything you've ever wanted, or touched, or loved, or ever will, it's all mine forever.
Beyond the lowering bulk of Angelus, he glimpsed them, arrayed in the shadows. Johnny and Dru, growling like tiger cubs, licking at their fangs, at each other's red-stained fingers. Cradling their huge pregnant bellies in their bare bruised arms, Buffy and Jemima stared at him, contempt and hilarity in their dirty faces. Their ragged hair, ragged dresses, bare feet and legs were streaked with grime and blood. Dark blood was caked on their necks. He tried to catch their eyes, but Angelus moved to cut off his line of sight. The huge cold hand curled around his neck, lifted and shook his flaccid body. The chair rolled back a little as Angelus let him drop. He strained to fight, but he couldn't feel his limbs or move his mouth. He was a sack of bones propped in the chair. What should we do with him? Angelus grinned around at the others. His face was hideous, the bumps and ridges large and raw, thick saliva dripping from the long fangs. Jemima stepped forward, her eyes glowing crazily. Leave him. Play with me. I'm your new toy. Amidst the dark dried blood on her neck, a fresh line of red glistened. Angelus towered over her, twice her size. She stretched her slender arms up, like a child, a corrupted child who smiles at her tormenter. Angelus' laughing growl rolled through the whole factory, made Spike's numb spine awake to sing with pain. Snatching Jemima to him back to front, he sank his fangs into the open wound on her neck, and at the same time plunged the other hand up under her dress. Spike tried to cry out, tried to close his eyes so he wouldn't see. Then Buffy was there, blocking his view, leaning over him, her hands on the wheelchair armrests, breasts and great taut belly close to his face. In a confiding whisper, she said, He's going to eat hers when it's born, but mine will belong to him. She'll be his, when she's old enough. Like that She turned her body, so Spike could see them again, Jemima shaking and moaning in Angelus' jaws, squirming as his hand plundering her unseen sex. Buffy stank of dried blood and unwashed flesh. Grinning, she whispered, I can't wait to get this disgusting thing of yours out of me!
"You cunt, no! Let me go!"
Buffy sprang back, a hand to her cheek, big eyes glistening. "What was that for? Ouch."
He sat up. "Did I really hit you? I was dreaming." The fire was almost out, just a line of orange ember, the room nearly dark. He could see her though, huddled in her white pajamas, the hair pulled back from her face that was hot where he'd struck her. Yet she didn't seem as real as she did in the dream.
Buffy pouted. "You're all freaked." She took his face in her hands, pressed gentle kisses to his brow, his cheeks. "Was I in it?"
He wanted to lie. "Yeah. You, an' ... everyone." He didn't want to describe it. He still had the odor in his nostrils, of the dank dusty factory, the dirt and blood on her. The pimpish depravity in her face, the glee in her words. The dream was the truth of his life. He was always robbed of what he loved. He never really possessed Buffy's whole heart. How could his daughter, his little darling, how could she allow Angel to touch her?
"Why didn't you put anything about Jemima in that email weeks ago? If I'd known sooner"
"How could I write that in an email? I knew it would be too much for you. You were suffering already."
"Yeah, but ...."
"Is that what you were dreaming about just now?"
He couldn't say, but she seemed to derive her answer from his expression.
"It's not ... it's not like you think. It's not like I said last night. I shouldn't have told you that way. They"
"Let's talk about it later." Clearly she wanted to tell him all the details, but he couldn't bear for the idea of Jemima with Angel to be any more real than it was. Buffy had to come first now, and if he dwelt on this with his daughter, he wouldn't be able to think of anything else. Drawing her to him, he nuzzled her neck, taking animal comfort in her smell.
"Go ahead," she whispered.
"Do it, lover. Feed. I want you to."
In the dream her filthy neck bore a ring of scabby bite marks, none of them his. Shoving the picture from his mind, he kissed her there, and reaching around her, switched off the lamp. "Lay your head on my shoulder an' go back to sleep now."
"But don't you"
"Sssh. It's all right, Buffy. Holding you's food an' drink to me."
In the days that followed, they did the things they used to do, in happier times, Spike thought, the voice of some BBC narrator intoning in his head. During the brief daylight hours Buffy went out to do the shopping, met up with her two or three female acquaintances for saunas and swimming in the sun. After dark they went out together, made the rounds of the places they'd liked when they first came here on their honeymoon, the places where, as Buffy always said, they were just people together: the outdoor iceskating rink, the movie theaters, the nightclubs that had good dance music.
At bedtime they smooched, then slept spoon fashion. They didn't talk about desire. It was theresometimes in him, sometimes in herbut as if by mutual consent, they only acted on it separately. Yet when they were together, which was for at least nineteen out of each twenty-four hours, they touched almost all the time. Watching TV, she sat on his lap, rested her head against his. They held hands in the car, at the table, in the movies. Walking the streets arm in arm, people smiled at them for being such a handsome, tender pair of lovers.
They didn't talk about Jemima. He postponed facing up to the news, even as the bad dream recurred, over and over. He managed most of the time to awaken without violence or noise, and comfort himself back to sleep with Buffy's heat and heartbeat. On the nights when his thrashing awoke her, she looked at him sadly, and tried, as she had to the first time, to get him to talk. She offered her neck, which he wouldn't accept, and held him until he fell asleep again.
He knew, because she left it up on the screen for him to see, that Buffy had contacted her, told her they were together again here. If there was an answer she didn't draw his attention to it.
Each day he waited for her to tell him that tomorrow she was going for the abortion. When they cuddled together, he was aware of the third presence, steadily increasing, though it was still, as Buffy said the day she arrived, almost nothing. Yet in his experience, great things could come of almost nothing. Almost nothing was what Buffy felt for him, when their affair was new. Almost nothing was the size of her will to live when she'd first brought him to her bed. They'd built their whole life together, his whole profound shift from the dark towards the light, on almost nothing.
Not that long ago he'd sat with Jemima in the London apartment, communing in what way he could with the grandchild she'd elected to end. Regretting that decision, but with understanding. And glad too, because it meant she was leaving Milo, taking herself presumably, to something better.
The extent of the bitterness that slammed down on him when he remembered that day, and his hopes for her, surprised him. He'd learned to like Angel, to even ... almost ... consider him a friend. But the bastard couldn't change his ways. He couldn't not trick and betray and despoil.
One afternoon, in the long orange rays of the setting sun, he closed his book just as Buffy came into the house, calling out to him. He rose to go to her, then heard a second pair of feet on the mat, a low murmur as the door was shut. Buffy said something in a voice too soft to catch, and then the footsteps came forward, through the hall. He froze, the book slipping from his hand to land on the chair cushion.
A head, brown plait swinging down, peered around the door into the darkening room. Her cheeks were ruddy from the cold, eyes liquid and questioning.
"Papa. May I come in?"
She'd never felt afraid of him in her life, but Jemima was afraid now.
With the last of the sun in her eyes, Papa was just a dark silhouette. She waited, nearly breathless, for him to move or speak. Mamma had gone into the kitchen, leaving her alone, undefended.
Then he was in front of her, pulling her into his arms. "Jem! Bloody hell, you're a sight for"
She'd known it might happen, but even so she wasn't really ready for the sudden way he let go. As if he'd grabbed the wrong girl, a stranger he'd mistaken for her. The rejection stripped her bare, robbed her even of breath.
Spike drew away. "When I saw you there, I thought you'd really come back to us ... but no. Still in thrall to him."
Crushing, that he should, after all, treat her like this. Her heart hammered so hard she needed to cough to take a breath, so took no breath at all.
It was only when he caught her that she realized she'd begun to slide to the floor.
"Puddinghold upI've got you."
She clung to him, the air rushing in again through her open mouth. "Papa! You scared me!"
But her fear was already past. She was secure in his arms. "Don't listen to me, my Jem, my Jem. I'm a horrid wicked beast to talk to you like that."
Flushing with relief, she squeezed him back. "You're not. But Papa, you're so thin."
"Yes. You're ... you're not ...? But vampires don't get sick."
"They don't indeed. Let me look at you now."
The twilight was almost gone, so she couldn't discern his expression as he took her in. What did he see? He looked her over carefully, his eyes flashing a benign gold in the dark. Then he tweaked the braid that hung over her shoulder, and kissed her, his lips cool and dry against her fevered forehead.
"You've turned into a plump an' rosy little baggage."
"Hasn't she?" Buffy came in then, and switched on a lamp. In the sudden brightness, Jemima blinked. Glancing at her mother, she thought that description more aptly fitted her. Jemima couldn't remember when she'd looked so sleek and glowy. And yet she'd had the distinct impression, in the car on the way back from the airport, that Mamma was still far from happy.
"Did you plan this surprise, pet?"
"Noit was a sneak attack. Jem phoned me from the plane, two hours ago."
"Is that so?" Spike smiled. His initial anger wasn't exactly gone, she felt; it hovered in the atmosphere, ready to coalesce again if circumstances warranted. There was a tension too between her parents that perhaps had nothing to do with her presence, that pre-existed it.
Spike drew Buffy into their embrace. "Let me see you kiss your mum."
"I kissed her at the airport," she said, kissing her again. Buffy's cheek was round and glossy, she smelled faintly of sugar. Jem rested her head on Mamma's shoulder. "Tell me how you both are."
"We're fine," Buffy said. "Getting ... getting back to normal. Aren't we, Spike?"
"What've we got to feed this little one?" He prodded them gently towards the kitchen.
"I'm not little!" Jemima laughed, real pleasure flooding her cheeks with heat. This reunion was better than she'd dared imagine, though she sensed that there might be bad moments ahead. No one had said Angel's name yet, and he would have to come in for some mention. But at the moment she was overcome with the comfort of being in her parents' house, of seeing them together again.
"You're always our little girl," Buffy said. "Shouldn't that phrase just have a number? You know, like in that joke? Like, I say '88,' and you know it means 'you're always our little girl.'"
"Still, bears repeatin'," Spike said. "Good things do. You still like toasted cheese, don't you, Biscuit?"
" ... remembered that Johnny was gone two months that day, and ... it wasn't a good day for me. I was crying, I missed him so much, missed you both, and An well, I mean ... I decided it would be good for me to come and see you. So here I am." She smiled into their listening faces. "I didn't want to tell you I was coming because ...."
"Because you were afraid we'd say no?" Buffy reached across the table to caress her cheek. Spike was already sitting at right angles to her, her left hand wrapped in both of his. She had one hand free to negotiate the raft of toasted cheesetoasted cheese for daysthat smelled so good but which she couldn't quite eat. Her head was starting to swim. She'd had a lot of wine on the plane, and most of the big glass of white Spike poured for her when they sat down to eat. The timezones were crunching together, crunching her with them.
"It's so good to see you. I missed you both so much." She yawned, hard and wide. Papa and Mamma glanced at each other, in apparent amusement at her. She felt warm and safe and grateful. "Can we talk more tomorrow?"
"All day, sweet."
They delivered her to the guest room door. Buffy went in and fussed around with the bedding and the towels and the window coverings. Spike leaned against the wall outside and regarded her again up close, his eyes fond and mild.
"Are you all right, my Jem?"
"Why are we whispering?" But she whispered too. "Yes, I'm all right, really."
"I'm sorry I faffed off an' left you in the lurch. Missing the funeral, and ...."
"Sssh." She put a finger to his lips. "You don't have to apologize to me, Papa."
"I do, though." He smoothed a hand over her hair, caressed her face. "When you came in before, didn't know you for a sec'. You've changed since I saw you last."
"Yes. We all have." She pressed her cheek into his cool palm.
"Do the visions hurt you very much?"
"Didn't Mamma tell you? They don't hurt me at all."
"I ... I haven't let her tell me anything about you."
" ... oh."
"She wanted to. But it's not the only thing Buffy and I aren't talking about."
"Papa, if you're afraid for me, I wish you wouldn't be. I'm sometimes in dangernot from him, never from himbut I'm really alive now."
His sudden frown, the intense light in his gaze, like a reflection of the gold his demon eyes became, made her want to turn her head, to wriggle away. The pretty words she'd just said didn't mean anything, they were stupid, they hadn't anything to do with what he was thinking. What he hadn't stopped thinking from the moment she came into his sight. She felt a rush of shame, and another at being ashamed. In a fierce whisper, she said, "This isn't fair!"
His lip curled, just barely. "What isn't?"
"What do you expect me to do? You know I care too much what you think of me! You're taking advantage!"
"Too much? Anyway, don't see that it's made any difference. You've done what you like. You're all gleamin' with it." His gaze, which had been so soft two minutes ago, was a basilisk stare now, that made her gasp.
"The bed's turned down, Jemmie."
When Buffy appeared in the doorway, Spike pulled away, turning his back too fast. "Leave you two to say your goodnights, then. We've just had ours."
He moved soundlessly away and was gone.
Buffy pulled her close and kissed her, but Jemima felt that her mind was with Spike, that she wanted to hurry after him. "Sleep well, baby."
The guest rooms were on the ground floor, situated so that there was no possibility of any sound carrying to or from the master suite upstairs. When Buffy was gone, Jemima had an eerie sense of being alone in the isolated house. The wind racketed against her windows. Blinking back tears, she fished through her purse for her mobile. Angel would be waiting to hear from her.
Spike was just emerging from the bathroom. Despite everything, Buffy still found a bit of humor in the sight of William the Bloody in pajama trousers, even though they were black.
"What're you smilin' at?"
"I'm only gloating over your beauty. Spike, come here." She opened her arms, but he stayed where he was, half way between the bathroom and the bedside, squinting at her with his head on one side.
"Baby ... it kills me too."
"Does it?" He came nearer, studying her.
Buffy nodded. "When I found out ... I about lost my mind. After what happened to Johnny, the idea of her with ... it was too much. I was this close to staking him."
Spike's eyes widened.
"No, really. I went to the Hyperion, I confronted him"
"But you couldn't do it."
"Obviously." She shrugged.
"You're still fond of him."
"Spike! No. ... the world needs him. Your precious Powers you're so connected to ... he's important to them. ... Anyway, that you should accuse me of being fond of him! I haven't been with him since I was seventeen!"
"Don't say 'it's a vampire thing and you wouldn't understand'! I do understand. I wasn't going to throw it in your face." She took a deep breath. She'd tried so hard to shy away from the mental image of those two men she knew so intimately, loved so much, in bed together. It was one thing to know they'd fucked often when they were feral vampires, back in the days when everybody wore a hat, do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law, another to know they'd been together just a few weeks ago. She wondered if they kissed. Did they do it in game-face? Did they draw blood?
"Wasn't done to hurt you. You know that?"
"Do I? Yes."
"But did, an' so I'm sorry. Buffy, I'd undo it if I could."
She shied from this. "We'd undo the entire last year if we could! PleaseI can't bear these tit for tat apologiesI know you mean it, I really do, but they make me feel worse!"
They were both so wounded, could manage no conversation that wasn't a blow on a bruise.
Spike paced to the window, put his hands up to block the light, to see out over the moonlit expanse of uneven snow. "Bastard was so bloody needy. Never known him to be like that before. Lonely as an eskimo on an ice floe. Couldn't do enough for me, in bed an' out of it." He let out a bitter laugh. "Felt for him, I did! Told him he ought to take a mistress! No, no, sez he, can't do it, mate, wouldn't be proper. Fucking hell. Fucking hypocrite."
She moved to him, laid her face against his shoulder, nuzzling, though she was afraid he'd shrug her off. For a long moment he didn't move at all, then he lifted an arm for her to duck under.
"Think he started seducin' Jem before he was even done with me. Our thing opened up the bleedin' sluices, apparently." He ground the words out, bitter and bitten.
"She knows about that. That you and he ... she didn't seem to care. She didn't seem to care about anything I said to her. She claimed she knew all about himI suppose she does. Or thinks she does."
"Nothin' he likes better than a bit of wide-eyed innocence. S'why he went for you. Saw him do it over an' over, years I ran with him. Remember Fifine in Paris? There were others. He'd have 'em for a time, do a fine job of feignin' a gen'mun in love, an' all the while he was workin' up to eatin' the heart out of her broken ribcage in the end."
She didn't know she was going to, but all at once she was crying. Not violently, just the tears rolling freely down. She'd cried every single day since arriving hereusually more than once. Most of the time she hid it from him, because her distress was about her own inadequacy, her awareness that she was still hurting him, and she couldn't go to him for comfort about that. "I feel like we've lost her too. Johnny is dead and she's ... she's just gone, somehow. And Angel too. He was ... our ally. He was ... I thought we were friends. ... distant friends. You know. But now ...." Even as she spoke, her mind havered. Was this what she really believed? In what way was Jemima gone, when she'd come to them, looking, as always, for their affection, their approval? She thought of Angel, how he'd been sincerely willing to give Jemima all the time she needed, or to let her walk away altogether. She hated this, loathed it, but she couldn't teach herself that what Angel felt for her daughter wasn't genuine. She knew him too well for that.
It was hell that those two should ever have seen each other, that was all, but she couldn't quite go so far as to be sure it was altogether a bad thing. Yet this thought galled her, as if she'd been disloyal to Spike all over again.
Spike was looking at her now. He brought a hand to her face, lifting the sliding tears off with a finger. "Poor Buffy. S'tough to be you."
"Baby, listen ... I betrayed you, and then you betrayed me, and then Jemima did, and Angel ... all of us squirming around like pathetic little bugs ... but it's so stupid, because of course we still love each other and we love her and Angel isn't our enemy and we could just decide to stop."
On a flood of feeling, she pressed herself against him. It was all so unnecessary, this squabbling and struggling. What was the point of keeping score, of parsing who'd hurt whom more? It only got in the way of love, the love that was still there, still real. They couldn't control Jemima and Angel any more than the Scoobies could control them. Love shouldn't be interfered with. It was nearly the only good there was, the only thing that kept life from being just dingy and violent and dull. Gazing up into his face, she smiled, and in her mind's eye it was a rapturous smile, an epiphany of a smile that would make Spike grasp it all, grasp the truth she'd just understood so beautifully. "Couldn't we just let them be?"
He jerked back, as if she was on fire. "Oh, so I'm to hold my tongue now 'bout anything you think's all right!"
He'd said nothing at all for the last ten days about the abortion, hadn't even asked what her plans were. She'd shut him down so thoroughly from the entire subject, even as his suspense and mystification spiraled up. The question that was always with them, even as they lay in bed necking like virtuous teenagers. Maybe most especially then, when, she knew, he would be most aware of the life forming inside her, the aroma of blood and tissue that wasn't her.
It was that which kept them both from their desire.
How stupid she was! How could she tell him that everything was good, that all was love, when she was still so jealous of her self-sovereignty?
Sometimes when she was small, her mother had told her Buffy, feelings aren't facts. Which was, she supposed, something a child ought to learn. Even though it wasn't quite accurate. When they were large enough, hard enough, feelings were facts. Not to be swept away with a couple of silly words wafted on a cloud of sentimental reminiscence.
"Spike, I" She bit her lip. No. She couldn't say another sorry. They'd piled up so many, they were nearly worthless now, like inflated currencyheaps of bills you could haul in a wheelbarrow to buy one little loaf of bread.
"Come to bed, Slayer. This day's done, thank Christ."
Jemima understood why her parents liked Iceland in winter. But she found the lingering dark oppressive. She'd lain awake in it for a long time, jet-lagged but unable to fall asleep, her mind presenting her over and over with Papa's face, that curl of his lip, the reproachful words. Then she awakened in it too, hours before her mother might be up, with a sense of being unsituated. The effects of a sleeping pill she'd taken lingered, so when she began to move around, she kept yawning, her head so heavy she almost felt sick.
She'd ended up going to bed without phoning Angel. She'd sent him a text when she arrived. Before she left LA, they'd talked about what her likely reception would be. Even as he reassured her, Angel made her feel he was more in sympathy with her parents than with her. She was to be patient with them. She was to try to see their point of view. "It's because you've chosen something so close to their own lives, something they understand all the risks of, that they don't like it. They ... they don't trust me. They've both had reason not to." It was clear that, much as he treasured her, Angel regretted his stillborn friendship with her father, and the loss of his tenuous long-distance links to Buffy.
That conversation left her frustrated and mindful that he was ten times older than she was.
It was barely 4 a.m. here, and her body seemed stuck between yesterday and tomorrow. She padded out to the kitchen.
Spike was there, sitting in the dark with a drink in his hand.
"Come in. You can turn on the light." He started to rise. "What did you want?"
"Just some milk. I'll get it. Please don't move." She wanted to run out. He would be too much for her, in her addled state.
But he reached a hand towards her. "Come here a mo'."
She sidled closer.
"No need to be skittish. Not going to hurt you." He caught her hand, drew her to stand beside him. When he looked up at her she was struck again by how thin he was, the lines of his face in hard relief, eyes circled in grey.
"So ... how's he treating you, then?"
"Very well. Papa, I know you think"
"What? What do I think?"
She threw her head back, willing herself to firmness. "It's true he was interested in me first. For quite a while, apparently, before I even noticed. But if you think he manipulated me ... seduced me ... it's just not so. I made the first move. I made ... pretty much all the moves."
He took a long swallow of scotch, half turned away so she couldn't see his expression, then set the empty down on the glass table with a clatter. "Another way you're like your mum, then."
"We don't have to talk about that any more. I'd prefer not to. But I wanted to say that much. And also just this ... what happened between you two ... I honestly don't believe it had anything to do with what Angel was starting to feel about me. I don't think about it. We're all complex people, we all have ... different compartments in our lives, things that may be happening at almost the same time, but without intersecting. Do you see what I mean, Papa?"
He turned to her then, and smiled. It was a smile of pride, but with something sly in it, almost wicked. "An' you're my daughter as well, as if I needed reminding."
Jemima ducked her head. "Papa, I'm sorry you're so unhappy about me. I never thought ... I never thought I'd fall in love with him." She blushed once more. Just thinking about Angel filled her with naughty greed.
"He's a sexy bastard. As your mum an' I well know. An' ... I'm aware you've been deprived in that waynow, don't look at me like that. You've got to expect some embarrassing talk. But there's fellows, regular fellows with pulses, can deliver satisfaction to a girl."
She pulled her hands from his. "Now you're condescending to me. We both know it's about more than that."
"Do we? An' in twenty years? Not sure I feature Angel paired off with a 'Course, you may not live so long, if you're chasin' demons every night."
She decided to ignore the dig about her aging. "We can't know what will happen to any of us."
He leaned back in his chair, his bony face taking on that smoldering expression that he used on Mamma, that made her feel she was seeing something she shouldn't. "An' what about kiddies? Thought you wanted 'em."
She was afraid he'd bring up the abortion. "I still do. Just because I can't get pregnant with Angel doesn't mean I can't get pregnant."
"Talked about it with him, have you? Suppose he told you all about the child he had once."
"Papa, I don't like your tone right now. It's a little ... disingenuous of you, anyway, isn't it? I mean, c'mon. The vampire telling his daughter all about the disadvantages of loving another vampire? You just said I'm your daughteryours and Mamma'sthrough and through. Things that are strange to other peoplestrange and frightening and painfulare just regular life to me. This is my life."
"'Cept it's your mother's life, not yours. You're not a slayer. You're not immortal. The bloody miracle of you is that though we made you, you're a normal human girl. You an' your brother both, real human beings."
"How irksome of me, not to transcend my bringing up. Anyone would think you were channeling Milo."
"Johnny strayed off into worse-than-death just when he was gettin' started to live! An' now while we're still in the shock of that, you decide you want to chuck yourself into the heart of darkness! Your mother gave you life so you could have a life! A life leadin' to more life, not toto"
"Papa, stop this! I can't be something you and Mamma have made up in your heads! And I can't make up for what Johnny did! I have to be what I am."
He glowered, a lion in the long grass.
"I knew you would be furious, but I also knew that you, of all the people I care for, understood the imperative of passionate love. Understood that it's real, and so rare, and that you can't just expect a person to walk away from it. I feel that with Angel. And I have a purpose with him. What could be more important, than to have a role in his mission? The visions are a gift. I feel alive now."
"Glad you do. To me, looks like nothin' but death all around. ... got no power to make life. It's that I envy. Hate seeing it squandered. I'm jealous of that power, on your account. And on ... well, never mind."
He got to his feet.
Her self-absorption broke, and suddenly she saw him in a different light, saw him as Spike and not just as Papa. "Are youis there something else going on?"
"Goin' back to bed before your mum wakes up an' misses me."
"I do want to have children. If that's what you're really worried about. Not right this minute, true"
"Have your fling with Peaches. Have your passion, an' your funif you can get any fun out of old broody face. S'only right you should build yourself up again after bein' married to that ego-flattener Whidders. In a while I expect things'll look different to you, an' you'll move on to something more suitable. Angel'll be grateful to have had whatever you gave him."
He kissed her on the forehead and moved towards the door. She wanted to cry out against his arrogance, but her head was heavy and starting to ache, and if she protested, they'd only end up repeating everything they'd just said. He was sad, they all were, sad and disappointed, and it was better to err on the side of gentleness.
There was a little scotch left in bottle, left sitting out on the counter. She poured out a finger into his glass, and drank it down quickly, then went back to bed.
He opened his eyes to find Buffy smiling over him, warm from sleep, her hair dangling. Somehow, are you all right? had come to replace good morning and good night; they asked it of each other nearly every hour, like the chiming of a clock. It meant everything and nothing: Are you still content to be here with me? or Are you hungry/thirsty/tired/lonely/going to leave me? or Are you feeling too sad right now? or Forgive me for this silence or I'm doing the best I can.
It amazed him, when he stopped to think about it, that he'd started out wanting nothing from Buffy but her death. She wasn't even Buffy in the beginning, just the slayer, an annoying impediment to his plans for Drusilla's restoration and their further fun. And now all these years later here they were, inextricably entwined, so that when one was hurt, the other howled. Existence was fucking surreal, really.
"All right," Spike said, pulling her down for a kiss. He could tell she tasted the liquor still on his breath, but she said nothing about it. She settled against him, head on his chest.
"Aren't you glad Jemmie came?" she whispered.
"Very. You really didn't send for her?"
"No. I thought about it, but ... I didn't want to seem to be interrupting what she's doing with Angel." She pouted. "I wonder how long she'll stay."
Spike laughed. "Wishin' she'd go already?"
"No! No ... just ... I feel like if I ask her, she'll take it the wrong way."
"Let's give her a week before we start oversalting her food, yeah?" He wondered, as he did every single day, what Buffy's intentions were. It didn't seem likely that she'd have the abortion today, not with Jem just arrived. Would Buffy tell her about it? That seemed even less likely. She might want to wait until Jem was gone again. But it would have to be soon.
"What're you thinkin' about staying on here ourselves?"
"What do you mean?"
"You were up to your eyeballs with Council doings before. New slayer an' all. Wouldn't mind getting a look at her myself, see what she's made of. We could head back to London."
"You don't want to be here?"
"Want to be wherever you are. Just thought ... after you ... y'know, take care of ... might want to spring back into action."
A hunger, buried down so far he wasn't aware of it until now, surged up at the thought of a full-out battle with her. He didn't want to win itdidn't even particularly want to hurt her. But he wouldn't mind it if she beat him up. The sensation afterwards would be goodlike the kind of aching pleasure that comes from worrying at a sore tooth.
Her eyes lost focus. "Oh. I kind of wanted to be domesti-Buffy for a while. But if you think ... well, we can talk about it." She pushed off and wandered away, obviously not meaning to talk about it right then.
He knew her through and through, and yet still she could stymie him. If she really wanted to be done with the pregnancy, what was she waiting for?
He wondered if she would be angry at him for mourning it. Would she mourn it herself? Hateful it was, hateful and terrible, to be undead, and yet concerned with the world of the living. For a moment the room spun and he didn't know why he went on. Things just got more and more complicated, pain-wracked. Wouldn't it be better to complete his death? Free his soul into the aether?
"Are you going to stay in bed?"
Buffy was back, wrapped in a towel.
Spike sat up, reached for her.
She stepped closer, giving him a curious look. Her wet hair dripped. Without glancing into her face, he pulled the towel open. Her skin was flushed from the hot shower. Breasts swollen, the nipples taut and surprisingly brown. The barest start of a pooch to her pretty stomach, and beneath that, a soft light brown tangle of hair. Leaning forward, he kissed one breast, then the other, weighing them in his hands. Buffy sighed. He curled a palm around her moist mons, slipped lower to kiss her belly, lips against her navel, then down further, soft kisses pressed in a circle all around it. Her fingers were in his hair. She smelled delicious to him, like food and sex and life.
He couldn't leave her, not even for the release of death.
"Think I will stay here a bit."
"Oh. I could ..."
There was no release anywhere. He scooped the towel up from the floor and handed it to her. "Think Jemmie's stirrin' downstairs. You two should go out while the sun's shinin'."
He met her eyes then, saw her uncertainty, which gave him a little coil of mean satisfaction. To allay it, he drew her close again and kissed her mouth.
"Johnny never really lived with you here in Reykjavik, did he, so I guess that maybe makes it easier."
"Nothing makes it easier," Buffy said. "Believe me, I wish I had a room of his I could just go sit in, some days."
"But you shut up his London apartment. You didn't have to do that by yourself, you know. I'd have come and helped you."
She squinted at her daughter. The sun was at its brightest, as they walked slowly along Laugavegur in the center of the city, looking at the window displays. How could Jemima be so calm and measured? As if she herself hadn't had to slay him. Buffy wasn't even there, and yet she could see the scene in her mind's eye, her beautiful son going up in flames, she could feel the terror and finality of it. He might have had something rotten at the core of himselfsomething that was so much a part of him that even the restoration of his soul couldn't suppress itbut her accumulation of love for him was all still there. Piled up with nowhere to go, nothing to expend itself on. Mixed up now with shame, because it seemed shameful to be the mother of an unrepentent murderer. "I wanted to. Needed to. Do it. I gave everything away. I kept some pictures, some small things." Buffy shrugged. "Maybe I shouldn't have done that."
"Mamma! Of course you should!"
"If there's anything you want"
"I have some things. Gifts he's given me over the years. And I have a lot of pictures. If you want some of them"
Buffy stopped walking, grabbed her arm. "Jemmie, are you really all right?"
That's when Buffy saw a shadow cross her eyes. "Sometimes I am, and sometimes I'm not, and when I'm not, I cry. Just like you, I guess."
Buffy's stomach churned. "I thought, after the funeral, that we'd take care of each other for a while."
"We could have. I mean, if you hadn't ... never mind."
"If I hadn't gone off the deep end about you and Angel."
"Never mind that, Mamma. You had to. It would've been so odd if you hadn't. And I should have told you sooner, that I was interested in him."
Hearing her say this, with that gentle expression on her face, Buffy had a moment of wondering which of them was really doing the mothering. "I wanted to take care of you. It seems like I so seldom get to do that. You usually go to Spike instead."
Jemima blinked, her mouth opening. She would deny it, but it was true, and Buffy couldn't exactly blame her. She'd always been volatile, especially when Jemima was little, and the child often couldn't know what face of hers she'd show. Of course she'd formed a habit of caution.
Her realization of the night before came back to her: it was all so pointless, this angst. Grief, yes, there had to be grief, and fearshe never could entirely do without fear. But the bits that were just among them, the tension and uncertainty and withholding, it was so artificial and stupid, if they could just acknowledge that, and set it aside.
"Your father took the news better than you expected him to, I think," Buffy said. "You two had a talk didn't you, early this morning. I woke up at some point and he wasn't in bed."
"... yes. As for taking it well ... yes and no. He's showing terrific self-control. I hate knowing I've made both of you unhappy."
"He is unhappy about it. But Spike has other things on his mind besides you."
"I hope whatever rift you two had ... will be mended. What happened to Johnny makes everything differentI mean, it makes us look at our priorities, doesn't it?" When Buffy nodded, she said, "There didn't seem to be any real reason, after I kiafter Johnny was gone, not to be with Angel. Everything is so temporary and fragile, and you've got to do what you can, when you can. You can understand that, don't you? Why should any of us be aloof, alone, what good does it do? We must love one another or die."
As she looked at her daughter, who was lovely in a way she'd never been, as if some of her doomed brother's beauty was transferred to her account when he died, everyone Buffy had ever loved looked at her out of Jemima's mild querying eyes. She saw her own mother, and old Mrs Grieves who had been kind to her, and Spike's sisters lined up for their sepia portrait, and Johnny, and Dawn. She thought of Giles, who, when she confessed to him about loving Spike, had followed her in her leap of faith, like the best sort of father. She saw her friends who had helped raise Jemima, make her what she was. Angel, who had loved her enough to walk away from her when that was required, and Spike who never deserted her no matter how difficult she made it for him. Her own consciousness was suffused with light. The dark places in her gave way to it, fortifications silted up and calcified as if for centuries crumbled away against that onslaught of clarity.
She was free. The fear, like the Red Sea, was parted for her passage. At this moment she was in the clear, and nearly giddy with comprehension and purpose.
Buffy put an arm around her daughter's shoulders. "Let's go across the street there and get some coffee. I have something to tell you, something you can help me with."
Spike circled through the house like an animal in a cage, in the grip of an uneasy premonition. In each room, at each window, he paused to look out. In one direction, the water glittered weakly in the pale light. In the other, the uneven ripple of snow-covered tundra stretched away with no feature more definite than the blue and pink and orange reflections of the sun's rays.
That morning when, so intent on his own sorrowful ideas, he kissed her, what was Buffy thinking? She'd offered herself to him, and he'd put her aside. The whole thing done in a moment, in pantomime, almost without a glance. Another step in this new dance they were doing. The hesitation since his return wasn't a simple tit for tat over their core conflict. It came as much from her as from him. As if they'd forgotten what was once so natural between them. Holding back wasn't an exercise of power, one over the other, but an absence of power in each other them. A gap they couldn't bridge.
Her gesture earlier was a stab across the divide, perhaps no more considered than his in kissing her belly. He'd deflected her as if by rote. Noted her flash of disappointment, let her go. In their strange chaste state, they didn't even talk about what they weren't doing. Of course, talking was next to doing it, usually led to doing it. So that wasn't so surprising.
He'd made a bad mistake; shown her, without realizing it, what she'd been waiting all these days, perhaps, to know. His unconsidered rejection must have jogged Buffy from her holding pattern. Wandering through the still, airy rooms, he was certain now that right this moment, she was undergoing the abortion.
She wouldn't have taken Jemima into her confidence; she would've sent her off somewhere for the afternoon, with any sort of excuse, while she went in alone for the procedure. They'd return together in the late afternoon, Buffy, already healed, silent, no need to mention what she knew he could sense, certain that he wouldn't refer to it in front of their girl.
Every few minutes he fingered the phone in his pocket. He could just call her, and find out. Find out, in any event, whether she answered.
Except he didn't dare.
He'd have liked to talk to Xander. Orhe'd have liked to be with Xander, and not have to talk. But that wasn't possible, and Xander was going to be a father himself in a few months, a fact which, at this moment, was entirely unbearable.
Spike rested his forehead against the cool glass of the bedroom's west wall, the long orange rays full in his face. When he closed his eyes he saw Buffy, her confusion, her disillusionment. He should have taken her in his arms from the first and never let go.
The sun was nearly gone now. The snowfield was a deep orange-streaked grey in the dying light. He saw her then, his ghostly tail, casting a long distorted shadow, the wind tumbling her hair around her head. She wore a bright woolen dress and tights and clogs, but no coat, no hat and gloves. He stared at her, rage rising through him. She was put here to manipulate him, and he'd succumbed, like a great pillock, without a struggle. The Powers, or whoever it was that delighted in tormenting him, knew his susceptibilities through and through. How he would bend like a reed to a sweet little girlchild who seemed to know him and yet forgive him everything. How could he have considered an apparition, an enigma, alongside Buffy herself? As if they could be remotely comparable?
But he hadat least, she believed he had. Believing that, she'd gone out to get free, and would return scraped clean of everything, not just of the child but of his love, and any possible future with him. She'd leave him again and this time it would really be over.
The girl gazed up, her dress billowing around her legs, but he couldn't see her face, because of the tangle of hair that seemed to move of its own accord, as if it would seize her head and smother her.
He wanted to run out and gather her in from the harsh cold. Instead he vamped out and snarled. No more of this, no more! He wouldn't betray his true loyalties again.
"What are you roaring at?"
He spun around. Buffy hastened to him. "What is it, is there something out there?"
He couldn't reply, because he was caught up in her, her sudden appearance when he was at his lowest ebb like an answer to his outcry. Despite the cold still coming off her face, she gave off a rich melange of heated excitement and anxiety. The other was still there, undisturbed inside her, but that was merely a detail, and far from the most important. Pulling her close, he breathed her in, deep convulsive breaths, his face buried in her neck, her hair. Her arms went tight around him and held, as he lifted her off her feet. They vibrated together, bound up in a mutual resonant emotion.
She spoke first. "I think I know what you were growling at just now. Spike, is she still there? Look, and tell me."
Nothing outside but the undulant snow. "Gonegone now." He could barely stand to tear his eyes from her long enough to check. "Where's Jem?"
"She'll come home later, but she won't disturb us tonight. I came back by myself because I wanted to tell you something."
Her face took on a sweet almost uncanny lightness, an expression he couldn't remember seeing before. She took a deep breath, trembling against him. "Listen to me ... listen ... don't laugh ...."
He was stilled with wonder. She examined his face as if it was quite new to her, tracing the ridges of nose and forehead the way she'd touch something beautiful and rare. He started to shake off the bumps, but she caught him in her hands. "Please don't! Let me speak to this face. Listen. Something has happened. The Powers have done something wonderful. Because you were so brave, and ... and willing to sacrifice. No, sssh, don't say anything, let me finish ... they're entrusting us with another life. Not to make up for the son we lost, because no one could do that. But they're giving us another chance .... The next time we make love ... you'll come to life for just a few moments, and I'll ... I'll conceive a child. We'll conceive a child, together. Isn't that ... isn't that good?"
His initial flash of fear, that she'd gone do-lally, gave way to comprehension. He understood why there was so much pleading in her eyes, so much misgiving. Somehow, by some miracle, she'd changed her mind. Yet she needed this pretty pretense, a do-over that would erase the memory of how their bodies were seized apart from their will. With her eyes she begged him not to make her feel more foolish for speaking this fantasy, even as she blushed and blushed again.
The child, wonderful though it was, was nearly beside the point. Buffy had come back to him. With all of herself, she'd come back at last, confided herself to him, so that all difficulty, all doubt, was swept aside.
The yellow eyes, the cragged demon face, couldn't take on the nuanced expressions of his human visage. He did nothing but stare as the moments mounted up, and she couldn't tell what he was thinking.
Had she waited too long? Was it too late? She tried to laugh, as if she wasn't nearly frozen with dismay. "When are you ever speechless, Mr Mouth?"
When he moved, it was with the preternatural speed of the monster, zero to sixty in a fraction of a second. All at once she was caught back against the glass, opening to his ravenous kisses, thrilling to his low continuous growl. She'd been aroused all day, with a subcutaneous throbbing, beginning when she'd stood naked before him that morning; she was liquid now, her skin turned to quicksilver, the tension at her core opening into raw desire. She didn't see anything anymore, there was no distinct seeing, hearing, touching, the separate senses merged into a torrent, just as the separate moments of waiting and thinking and talking rushed together into the unstoppable action of love.
When she'd imagined this encounter, they were in bed, surrounded by hundreds of flickering candles, everything distinct and deliberate, Spike narrating every tender move when their mouths weren't fused together, and the part where he'd come to life happening in slo-mo, a transformation she'd be able to experience like one of those films of a blossom opening, and hold tight to in her memory for the rest of her life.
Instead it was more like their first time ever, physically at least: with her pinned against the glass wall and trying frantically to climb him at the same time, breathing hard into each other's mouths, her right hand and his left struggling underneath with skirts and fastenings. There was no time to arrange themselves gracefully, to disrobe and lie downthe world might end in a minute and they needed this now. As the last fly button gave way, his cock springing out taut and moist-tipped into her hand, Spike tore the wet crotch right out of her heavy tights. He hitched her up. Hanging from his shoulders, she sank down, gasping as he filled her.
"Oh Godoh SpikeI've missed youOh God"
"You're mine an' don't you fucking know it. Gonna make sure you know it. Show you how so you never forget it again."
"Oh God Oh God"
"Say it. Say it, Buffy."
"I'm yours. I'm all yours and no one else's, not ever."
He drove into her with force, harsh and tight, growling into her neck, jouncing her body hard up against the cold glass. Every thrust filled her to the very tip of her womb. She seemed to feel him as well in her throat, her heart. He met each shiver, grunt, gasp, with an answering growl that opened her more. Her voice pierced the house's awful silence, breaking its spell. "That's rightscream for me, bitchscream for your Spikegonna fuck you so you know who you areyou're mine like I'm yourslemme hear it."
This rough handling, his angry demand, felt truer, more tender, than any amount of gentleness and worship possibly could. "Fuck meoh GodfuckSpikeI need yougive me"
Without asking, without warning, he bit her. She shrieked, shaking, but he stopped the in-and-out and held her suspended, impaled, while he fed. Crushed between his body and the wall, her whole sex fluttering with her heart as he pulled at her neck, she whimpered in helpless pleasure. Her toes curled. She heard herself laughing, as if from far away, laughing like she was on ether. She belonged to him again, was servicing him in every way possible, and it was so good, so good that he'd taken her, taken everything. As he drank, his skin warmed, he expanded inside her, so when he resumed his thrusts she screamed again. He let her neck go with a low snarl she felt all down her spine. His eyes burned gold, she saw his red-stained fangs before she buried her face on his shoulder and came and came and came.
"Why you saucy little cunt. You'd do anything right now, wouldn't you?"
She showed him a blissed-out smile.
She'd surrendered to him, everything open, undefended. Years ago, when their affair was still new, he'd told her his fantasy of how, after a long hand-to-hand struggle, he would possess her, devour her, while she wept in grateful ecstasy. Later she'd spoken the words of the fantasy back to him: There's nothing of me you cannot have, in tears at the thought he might not believe her. With that capitulation, she'd conquered him utterly.
She was sobbing now, without tears, still throwing off little orgasms as she clung to him, like electrical pulses that fizzled the air. He was harder than ever, and thrust up slowly into her wet heat, so she'd feel it, the intensity of his arousal and control. She smelled of blood and pussy and adrenaline, her head rolling on the torn stem of her neck like a drunken woman's. He kissed her mouth, softly now, with his demon mouth, and as her tongue rolled across his, she purred.
"God, you're enormous. You're I want you to fuck me forever. Justforever."
"You want me who?"
He jounced her at a stately dignified pace, like a lady out for a Sunday ride in Rotten Row on her best mount. She grinned, her head lolling, eyes locked on his. "Spike. I want you, Spike. WillWilliam. My husband. Mymine. Oh fuckfuck"
"Sssh. You'll pleasure me now for long as I say. Not gonna let you come again so quick."
"No?" She made a defiant face, and wriggled, and went off, drenching him afresh. "I'm gonna make your eyes roll back in your head, Mr Grieves. What, you think you're the only one who's all steely and powerful and"
"I very much doubt you can even feel your legs, let alone stand on 'em, Slayer." They were still wrapped around him, her thighs tense as bows.
"Oh yeah? Let's see you walk, then."
He swung them both away from the wall, staggered with her towards the bed, and made it as far as the armchair. They landed hard; Buffy let out a squeal, then began at once to move on him. "I want to see you come. I want to see your face when you spring to life for those few seconds. I want to feel your heart beat and the heat of you all around me. Inside me."
He'd meant to keep this first cockstand going, to work her for a long time before he let himself go. But he was helpless against her stoned intensity, her encompassing inner grip, her little pink tongue darting in and out between her smiling lips. She yanked her sweater off, and there were her pretty breasts, round and full, slick with sweat. She offered them to his mouth, as if it wasn't a nest of fangs.
"I want to feel your heart beat," she repeated, and he almost believed that she would. Her blood made him feel immensely strong, it sang through him with all its mysterious power.
If anything could bring him to life for a second time, it was Buffy.
Her pale face hovered over him like the moon in a midnight sky. "Come for me, William." The tightly-wound cable of his self-control ran out, spinning faster and faster. He lost all sense of place, position, surroundingshe might have been floating in space, moored to nothing but her, the wet grip of her quim, its tight encompassing heat, her coaxing voice and her hands that were suddenly linked to his, the fingers interlaced, squeezing. "Come for me, come to life!"
Afterwards, when he regained his shattered senses, he thought he had. He seemed to feel the aftershock of it, not in sickness as the other time, but as if he was some spent galvanic force, emptied out in glory.
Collapsed against him, limp and soaked and breathing hard, Buffy looked as satisfied as she ever had.
He cupped her head in his hands. "Did you see what you expected, pet?"
"You were so beautiful, Spike." She raised her head, pressed gentle kisses on the corners of his mouth, his chin. It was only then he realized he was smooth-faced again. "You did it. You gave me a baby." She brought his hand, immense and heavy and lax, to rest on her belly. "Can you feel it yet? The little life?"
There was no need to fib, or take on faith anymore. "Feel it, yeah. Feel her. Think it's a her."
"I think so too."
He let his hand drop lower, to the curly hair slick with their spendings.
"Fucking hell, there's no other cunny than yours."
"Yours is the only real one." Her clit was still hard, and pulsing. He rubbed it softly, it was so wet it felt like a ball bearing spinning beneath the pad of his finger. Buffy sucked air in through her teeth, and wriggled. His cock was still inside her, half erect though he'd come so hard. She squeezed, tighter and tighter as it filled. "Keep it just for me, Mrs Grieves. Keep it for me, an' I'll make it worth your while."
"I will." She pressed her forehead to his. When she lifted her eyes again to his, hers were glistening. "Mr Grieves, I will."
"There," he said, kissing her swollen eyelids. "Spoken like a true friend."
"Not your queen anymore? No! Friend is betterit's so much better! My best, dearest, kindest friend."
"Who fucks you, an' bites you sometimes too, just to keep you payin' attention."
She fingered the wound, already scabbed. He surged forward to mouth it, lick it. She laughed and shuddered, clutching at him.
"An' so old Spike and the slayer are friends for keeps. Now hang on for the end of the whole bloody world."
Buffy laughed, as if he'd said something really witty. She was incredibly beautiful when she'd been fucked, flushed and disheveled, her mouth swollen, blushing in patches.
"We're going to be all right now," she said. "I know we are."
"We are, my girl." Gathering himself, he rose, and tumbled with her onto the bed. He would make her more beautiful still, before the night was through.
One of Buffy's hands was still wrapped around the sticky base of his cock, but she'd slayed it with her mouth so it was dead now, and would be dead, Spike thought, for a while. Maybe even as long as ten whole minutes. Dropping her head onto his belly, Buffy gazed across into his eyes. Hers were slightly out of focus; her lips swollen and pink. She was splayed beside him at an angle, her feet near his shoulder. The whole time she was giving him head, she'd ground herself against his hand, and come twice before he did. He held her sex now like a peach.
He squeezed her, pushing three fingers into her drenched folds. She bucked her hips. Her clit pulsed under his thumb. "You're an insatiable little cunt. Gonna fuck you ten times a day an' put you on your knees ten times more. You're gonna keep me happy."
She nodded. Even that little bit of friction, her wet cheek against his abs, was exquisite.
"An' I'm confiscating your knickers. You're gonna be naked an' wet for me all the time. Ready to be fucked. Your quim is mine."
She lifted her head, eyes sparkling. "You'd better be ready too. I just might get you first. Your ass is mine."
"It is. You should see yourself right this minute, Slayer, you're such a tigress. Could fuck that pretty mouth of yours all over again."
His cock stirred in her hand; she gave it an answering squeeze.
"I wanted this so much, to be back here with you. To be forgiven. To get back to our life together."
"I do forgive you, in case you didn't know it. With all my heart."
"Really? Are you sure? I promise you I will never hurt you like that again."
"Like that? But you reserve the right to hurt me other ways?"
For a moment she looked absolutely stricken. Then she took in the humor in his eyes. "It's only that I don't know what the future holdsI never want to hurt you again, not at all."
"I believe you. An' do you forgive me?"
"C'mon, Slayer. Plenty enough. For keepin' you in the cold so long, for one thing. An' before that, for ... for whatever I did to turn you off from me. Must've been something in me, made you need to go outside."
"No, not you. It's nice of you to say, but you know it wasn't you."
"Do I? Still a lot I don't seem to figure, pet." He wasn't sure he was ready to go back into this, but here they were on the threshold, and she looked ready to spill; her eyes were full of painful musing.
"I seduced Saleem because I felt trapped. By my life. Which felt like an infinite corridor with no turn-offs. Which isn't how a real human life is shaped at all. I kept thinking how the few people I care for would go on aging and dying and soon there'd be no one left who knew me when I was still relatively normal, except you. Then you might get tired of me because I'm too difficult, and I'd be alone, and still no end in sight. My life felt so unnatural, just going on and on fighting without change or death and I couldn't bear it."
Her eyes pleaded for reassurance.
"I guessed that's how it was."
"I talked to Angel about it, a couple of times. Him, and not you, because ... it occurred to me that nothing with a soul is supposed to have eternal youth, eternal life. He was the only one who knew what it was like, maintaining hope when there's no end ordained. I thought he could advise me how to cope ... but he didn't say what I needed to hear, because what I needed to hear ... I don't know what it was, exactly, but it would've been something wrong. I wanted a Get Out Of Jail Free Card, and Angel didn't have one for me." She pressed a kiss to his belly. "That hurts you too, I know. That even after all this time as my partner, I shut you out because you didn't have a soul."
"Hurt me then, yeah, but I understand now. Soul makes you look ahead, makes you need meaning. Never did any of that when I was evil. Loved, yeah, passionatelyas you knowbut before I met you, did it very much in the moment. We're like little children, vamps an' demons. All emotion an' appetite, like to make big plans, but don't really care about anythin' that's not the here an' now. I came closer to it, probably, than any other, but ... now I'm on the other side, I see how much I lacked before."
"Spike, I didn't perceive any lack in you. You know that, right? I don't want you to think, now you have a soul, that all that time without one was worthless."
"N-no. I don't think that. But listen, about this lookin' for answers. We're both in it now, yeah? Fighting a mission where there's no definitive win, but losin's too awful to contemplate."
"We must love one another or die."
"Eh? Since when do you read Auden?"
"Jemmie said it to me earlier. I didn't know it was a quote."
"Well, you wouldn't, my darlin' books-make-me-sleepy girl."
"Hey, I like books. Anyway, when you read to me."
"So, Jemmie quoted old Wystan Hugh, an' you"
"And I got it. The last missing piece locked into place, and I got what this is all about. I realized that even though I hate their methods, the Powers understand me more than I know. How alienated I can get. They gave me this pregnancy to keep me in the stream of life, not superior to it. Because they see I'm not a saint, it might be the whole world I save every time, but it's individual people I save it for. People close to me, people I love. I need more of them, not fewer." She kissed his belly again. Her eyes were humid with affection. "I understand why they did it the way they did, too. Because if they had offered it to us, a choice for us to make, I think ... I think we might've turned it down. We'd have thought we weren't ready, and maybe we'd have fought about it and wasted a lot of time and ended up partingwho knows? The Powers figured it was better to go phwoom. Like they phwoomed Dawn."
"Could be." He was half-afraid to say too much. She'd come farther faster than he'd dared imagine. Maybe if he agreed too stringently, she'd bounce back the other way. "Glad you're at peace with it, anyway. That's the important part."
"Hey, let's not go nuts here. At peace? No. I'm a world of scared. Our track record as parentsat best, it's checkered. We can't pretend we did our best with Johnny, either of us. He was so different from Jem, he had different needs. Maybe bigger needs. We failed him. Not just by leaving Drusilla loose out in the world. He had all kinds of issues we were oblivious to, and they destroyed him. Now another poor innocent unsuspecting baby is going to be at our mercy, and we must do better."
"We will, Buffy. Of course we will."
"Exceptwe're so unsuited to this! What we do best, you and I, we fight big evil and we have hot sex. This branching out into areas of endeavor outside our core of expertise ... it's chancey."
"You ask Jemmie if lovin' a child is outside our core of expertise. Did all right with her, let's not forget. Glass's still half full, pet."
"I'm a little surprised to hear you say that, since you're so angry at her for throwing herself away on Angel."
He was aware at once that she was testing him. "I'm angry, yeah. But doesn't change how I love her. Wouldn't be so angry if I didn't love her like I love you."
Buffy smiled. "Oh Spike, you don't have to pretend you don't love her more than you do me. I know you do."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because to Jemmie there was never a time when you weren't goodit never even occurred to her that you might not be. And she's the only person who ever saw you that waywho not only didn't know you evil, but couldn't even imagine it. And that reaches a part of you even I can't touch."
Surprises heaped on surprises. He'd never figured her for putting all that together, or expressing it so generously at last.
Before he could reply, she said, "Whereas Johnny ... somehow he lost his innocence so early. He didn't think either of us was good. I wish I'd figured that out a long time ago, but I don't know what I could've done about it."
"No. I don't either."
They were quiet for a while then. Buffy played with his cock, running the foreskin back and letting it go, until it filled in her hands, the rosy head once more uncovered.
" ... doesn't mean anything, you know, to say more or less 'bout how I love you an' Jem. You took me on though you knew me for the blackguard I was, an' raised me up by hand. Never had such scope for adoring a woman as I do with you. No one else could satisfy me the way you do."
She colored, and glanced away. "Aww, now you're just fishing for another blow-job."
"Only telling the truth. Know you'll give it a suck for the asking."
"You don't have to ask." She kissed the rampant head, tracing the slit with the tip of her tongue, so he gasped and arched. Sucking the whole knob into her mouth, her tongue swarmed across the underside, one hand tugging, just hard enough, on his balls. At the same time, her cunt contracted around his fingers, giving down a fresh wash of warm slick against his palm.
"Fuck! Yeahlike thatBuffy"
She let him go long enough to say "Who's the slave to whom here, Spikey?"
Somehow that remark, and the sight of her taking him in again, put him over. He came in her mouth with a long shudder. She held on through the after-shocks. When he was still again, she crawled up to offer him his own pungent taste in a kiss.
"Y'know," she whispered, lips by his ear, "No one satisfies me the way you do either."
"Guess you know that better now."
"Guess I do."
She settled against him. He breathed in her deep aroma of sweat and spunk. This reunion was providing him even more than he'd missed, or hoped for.
"So, speaking of Jem ... I guess it's not a coincidence either, that she met Angel just as Wesley died.... I think the Powers steered her into his world so she can keep him human too. "
"Let's not go too far with the All Is Love theories here."
"You're going to forgive her even this, Spike. You might as well get started now."
"Don't be so sure." The images of his recurrent dream came back to him, in all their filth. Should he tell her about it?
He might have been able to do so before. But not now she'd decided to go on with the baby. How could he describe how she appeared in the dream, the things she said?
It was all lies, anyway. Lies his demon told, the part of him that was black and fraught with rage and fear.
"Think about it though, okay? I've never seen her look so vibrant. That has to mean something good."
We must love one another or die. That's what Buffy wanted now.
"Just means she's finally bein' seen to regular," he grumbled.
"Oh God, don't talk that way about our daughter. I don't want to think about Jemmie doing that."
"Yeah, but we know she is. We've both inspected the merchandise, too, know exactly what she's getting. Would prefer not to contemplate it, yeah, but there it is."
"Okay, but let's not discuss it like that."
He laughed, and gave her a squeeze. "Still sore at me for my little fling with old sire?"
She twitched, but was silent.
"Can say it, if you are."
"I have no right to be."
"That's all bollocks. S'no right an' wrong to feelings. Still ... you'd have liked watchin' us, I reckon. Little cunny here would've been all a-flutter."
He brought a hand down to her thighs, which she parted for him even as she protested. "Oh GodSpikedon't."
"I fucked him, I did. Had him on his back with his feet up in the air. Never wished so much for a reflection in all my days as then. He gave up his bleedin' cherry to me, Slayer, like alike a angel. Had him speakin' in tongues, I did, 'fore I was through. An' when it was over, he thanked me."
Buffy's eyes were saucers. "No."
"I swear on my soul."
"Huh." She blinked, and blushed, her nipples going hard, cunt twitching against his hand. Seemingly without noticing, she drew up one knee to give him better access. "Well, I guess that must've been something. I guess you've waited a long time for any chance of that."
"Too true. An' it was bloody unforgettable."
"I can imagine." She tweaked his nipple, smiling. This sudden capricious willingness to enter into sympathy with him, meant more than any amount of exuberant head, or passionate words. Showing as it did that beneath it all, Buffy understood him perfectly, when she chose, and approved of him, though she chose, even more rarely, to show it.
Engaging her gaze, not letting her look away even as she blushed hotter, he strummed the tight plumpness of her clit with his thumb. Squirming, she gasped, "I could probably imagine it more vividly if I, y'know, heard more of the details."
" ... so, this child you've been seeing ... do you really think it's this? she asked, touching her belly. From needing so wildly to deny the reality of the apparition, Buffy found herself now overtaken with curiosity.
"Can't really say, can I?" He wouldn't quite look at her.
"C'mon, Spike. You can be frank with me now. My claws are all retracted."
"Then, sweetness, I do."
"Tell me about her."
"She'll have my curly hair, an' your lovely looks, I think, an' she'll be fond of dresses an' girly things. Other than that ... didn't get much sense of a personality. 'Til I got here, thought all along she was by way of bein' a spirit-guide. But now I recall, early on she told me I'd never meet her if I didn't go the right way. So pretty sure she's right here an' all." His hand starfished on her stomach.
"Do you think ... do you think she'll be special somehow?"
"Any child of ours must be that, Buffy."
"No, I mean, do you think she's going to have some mission? Some particular purpose?"
"Will it make a difference to what we do with her if she did?"
" ... no. No, I suppose not." She let out the breath she didn't realize she'd been holding. "No one knows what their child will be, do they? And if you did know in advancewell, it wouldn't make any of it any easier, would it?"
"If my mamma knew what would happen to her brood, poor lady might've run mad."
Buffy could practically hear and see her again, Mrs Augusta Grieves, with her great stores of forebearance, always occupied with something but never hasty in her movements, sitting upright in her straight chair near the embroidered firescreen. She never sat easy, was never seen without her hand-work, her stays, her cap, her high-button boots. She'd talked by the hour to her about her departed daughters, believing her to have been an acquaintance of the two eldest. She spoke of them as if they were still alive, away perhaps on a country visit, but yet there was nothing in her manner to suggest self-delusion or dangerous fantasy. She knew they were dead, but she could not learn to set them aside therefore, any more than she set her son aside, who still came home each evening to dine at her side, to read aloud to her, and say the prayers at ten o'clock in the dining room. Buffy wondered what Mrs Grieves might have known about her daughters that she did not speak about. Certainly there was nothing at all like what she knew about Johnny, that put her in two minds about him so that no thought or memory could be untrammeled.
"She wouldn't," Buffy said. "Even if she knew, your mother would've had her children all the same. Treasured them while they were there, and kept their memories after." She found his hand in the bedclothes, squeezed it. "Spike, I know she thought of you every dayprobably every houruntil she died. She loved you so much, and that never never changed."
"Would she have loved this?" He brought up the fangs and bumps.
Buffy kissed them. "I think so. She'd have been frightened ... and very sorry ... but I don't think she'd have been able to help loving you anyway." Her eyes filled suddenly with hot tears. "I can't believe I said you should've slain him! Oh Spike! But if you hadall those people would still beoh God! Our boy, our boy, our boy!"
She crawled into his lap, his arms. At last, they wept together. Holding each other, rocking back and forth crazily in the disordered sheets in a shuddering rhythm weirdly like the fuck they'd had a little while before. Her tears didn't so much ooze as shake themselves out, burning her skin as they slid down to her cheeks, distended by a silent howl. In her arms, Spike's body quaked; he was almost silent, except for the occasional cry, startling coming from him, like the honk of some kind of water bird.
When it was over, like the fuck, they were left spent, speechless, lightheaded, sprawled.
Her eye fell on the clock on the bedside table.
"It's almost morning." She still couldn't speak without emitting a sob.
Spike's face was a blur, parchment white, the eyes sunken and rimmed in red. "Should get some sleep. S'been a long night."
"Let's wash first, and change the sheets." She rose with difficulty; for a second, the room spun. He seemed to know it; in the next moment he caught her, lifted her off her feet. She let him carry her into the bathroom, where he set her down in front of the sink, with its broad expanse of mirror.
"Bath, or shower?"
She yawned. "I am tired. Quick shower." She could barely focus, her eyelids wanting to fall closed. She forced her eyes wide, saw herself, woolly and dissheveled, bare skin covered in the reddening marks of her husband's fierce love. Her breasts were bigger, and she thought now she saw, for the first time, the beginning of a pooch to her belly, though it had to be, still, too soon for that. He got the water running, then turning back to her, threaded his arms around her from behind. He pressed a kiss against the place he'd bitten her, and she shivered down to her toes.
"I love you so much, Mr Grieves."
"An' I love you, pretty Scourge of the Darkness an' Mother of my Children. Come now, water's just as hot as you like it."
Just before he tugged her towards the shower, she saw, through her swimmy fluttering eyelids, their dual reflection. His hands clasped around her breasts, his bony face hovering at a tilt beside hers, the hooded eyes regarding her with adoring bemusement.
In the next moment she was beneath the warm spray, eyes pressed shut as she raised her face to the water. She wouldn't say anything to him about it, but she was sure of what she'd seen. She clasped the image to her, as she clasped all sorts of memories that would not come again.
He awoke with a powerful thirst, a hard-on like a club, and a sense of well-being he couldn't remember the like of. The brief day was just dawning, the pale winter light diffusing into the room. Beside him Buffy still slept, hands curled into fists.
Watching her eyes move beneath the closed lidssmiling at the sight of her inelegantly open mouthhe stroked himself. Thought whether it would be kinder to let Slayer dream on while he got himself off, or treat her to this quite-remarkable-even-for-him cockstand. Seemed a shame not to share itit was so patently for her. Though she'd washed before sleep, she still smelled juicy. Lifting the sheet up to see more of her released a big waft of the lovely funk of her sex. She lay on her belly, one leg drawn up. Sitting up, he got a good view of her behind, and the pink lips of her quim. A light touch with his fingertip came away wet. Buffy sighed in her sleep, pulling her leg up higher.
That decided him. Rolling her gently onto her back, he buried his face in her cunt. She awoke with a cry that turned at once into a long happy groan.
She was wet and slippery and fragrant as a halved fruit. Lapping her up, he humped the mattress until suddenly her hand was there, closing around his cock. "God, Spike, don't waste this on the sheets."
He laughed, not lifting his mouth from her. She was already undulating to fuck his mouth, her free hand pressing on the back of his neck. With a shout that was nearly a bark, she came. Before she stopped quaking he reversed himself, plunging into her to the hilt. She cried out again, a whoop of joy that sent his excitement spiralling higher.
"FuckSpikeI love your cock."
He rolled onto his back, carrying her around with him. "There you are," he said, when he was sprawled beneath her, their wiry hairs crushed together, her face hanging over him, as pink as her nipples. "Give us a fuck now, Slayer, that'll do justice to it."
It was just this wayriding him like a valkyriethat she came out strongest as a woman who wasn't like other women. As rude and demanding as he was with her the day before, she was even more so, using him as she pleased, confident that her pleasure was his as well. He gave up counting the number of times she threw her head back, shivering and shaking and drenching him. When she finally signaled that she wanted him to come, he was as covered as she with bite marks and hickies, every muscle stretched to the sore point, every sense suffused with slayer.
Still, she brought him off, after the long rough ride, not with a harder mauling, but with a sweet speaking look into his eyes, a murmur of his true name, and a kisssoft and encompassing as a happy homecomingon his bruised mouth. He bucked and shouted and shot.
"I think you passed out there for a sec'."
He forced himself to focus, and found her stretched out close beside him, flushed and aimiable and shiny-eyed.
"You send me, baby."
He floated on the afterglow through another shower, more kissing that almost led to another boutdeflected by Buffy who insisted she could hear his stomach growling as well as her ownand following her down to the kitchen.
Where he found Angel sitting in his place at the table, accepting one of his bottles of beer from the rosy fingers of his daughter, who bent to kiss his mouth as she placed it in front of him.
Spike vamped out and lunged.
Return to Herself's Fic.