For those people missing Spike and/or Spuffy, they're back in this chapter...
TITLE: A Soul to Seduce
RATING: NC17 eventually
SETTING: This is set immediately after the AtS S5 episode, “Damage,” but will veer from canon at that point. You’ll very quickly see how. :)
PAIRINGS: Spike/Buffy, Wes/Faith, Lindsey/OC
DISCLAIMER: Not mine, which is a shame because usually we're nicer to them than Joss was. Dialogue taken from AtS S4 Episode, “Salvage.”
SUMMARY: When Buffy finds out Spike's alive, she shows up in Los Angeles to demand answers, only to find herself immediately immersed in a web of deceit and betrayal. Who to trust becomes the million dollar question, and her life turns into a race to solve it. Before it's too late for everyone.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Wesley took Lindsey to the Hyperion for questioning, leaving Angel to the job, leaving Wes to take Faith back to his place to work on the Spike issue…
The story begins here.
Buffy woke up to the smell of coffee and the sound of a clipped English accent detailing events in a part of the world with too many k’s and z’s in its name. Blearily, she opened her eyes, grimacing at the crusty feel of her lashes sticking together, and peered around the dim room. It took a second to remember where she was and why her neck was so stiff. Wesley’s apartment. She was on the couch, where she’d fallen asleep the night before in spite of her whirling thoughts and his offer of his bed. She groaned as she sat up. Next time, she’d be a lot less noble about turning down a comfy mattress.
The TV was dark, which meant the news program was coming from something else. Buffy followed the sound to the kitchen, where she found Wesley standing at the stove. A laptop on the counter was streaming BBC World News, and he kept stealing glances at it as he stirred the scrambled eggs.
“Please tell me the coffee is for sharing,” Buffy said.
At the sound of her voice, Wes looked over and gave her a smile. “Help yourself,” he replied. “There’s milk in the refrigerator, and sugar is in the small bowl to the left of the coffeemaker.”
He was turning off the burner by the time she had her hands cradled around a wide mug, and Buffy watched him as he dished out the breakfast he’d prepared. Though his movements were crisp and sure, the dark shadows below Wesley’s eyes betrayed his lack of sleep. His clothes were clean, though. Obviously at some point, he’d at least had the chance to shower and clean up.
She finally found the courage to ask him what she was dying to when he carried plates out to the living room. “How’d it go with Spike last night?”
“We didn’t actually get around to seeing Spike,” he said. Briefly, he described running into the lawyer that Faith had known and their subsequent trip to Angel’s old hotel. “In the end, I decided it was more important to make sure Faith’s injuries were taken care of. Evaluating Spike’s condition was simply meant to speed my attempts at fixing his memory. I don’t think that’ll be necessary now.”
Buffy sat down, her stomach grumbling at the smell of cooked food. “How come?”
“I found a means to counter memory spells that I think is going to work. If it doesn’t, then I’ll interview Spike to try and further glean what was done to him.”
Nodding, she bit into a piece of toast, the center soggy from too much melted butter. “Hopefully sleep helped put him in a better mood, too.”
Wesley’s smile was wry, and he vanished back into the kitchen without speaking another word. It left Buffy to her too-loud thoughts, memories of how Spike had reacted to her on the street searing her inner eye. How would her life be different now if Spike hadn’t come back to Sunnydale after getting his soul? It was too out there to even contemplate. The Spike she knew – her Spike – would never have stayed away. He didn’t back down from challenges, and if life in Sunnydale after the attempted rape was so hard, then he would have been first in line to weather it. It was just who he was.
But that brought her back to her original question. Why didn’t he want her to know he was alive? Didn’t everything they went through matter any more to him? How could he have forgotten the things she said to him those last few days?
The only way to get answers was to fix his brain and ask him. And Buffy wasn’t going anywhere until she was satisfied.
It wasn’t until Wes returned from the kitchen that it dawned on her she hadn’t seen or heard Faith since waking. At her query, he gestured toward the front door.
“We didn’t have the opportunity to go to Watts and fetch your things last night,” he explained. “So she took my motorcycle when she woke up this morning to get them. As soon as she’s back, you can shower and get cleaned up. Then we’ll go to Spike’s.”
They ate in companionable silence while each got lost in his or her thoughts. It was weird. Though Buffy had known about Wesley’s affiliation with Angel, and she knew from what Giles had told her that he’d changed over the years, it still struck her as offputting to see him wear stubble and scars with a quiet self-assurance that was completely opposite to how she’d known him in Sunnydale. Her head was telling her to still be wary because of the whole evil law firm thing, but her gut was pushing her to trust him more and more. The way that Faith seemed to, without uttering more than a few words in his defense.
“So you and Faith…” She waited until he glanced up from his eggs. “…you two seem to be working pretty good together these days.”
The corner of his mouth lifted. “The same could be said for you.”
Typical British non-answer, even if it was mostly accurate. “What was she talking about last night about a demon bite?”
This time, she saw Wes hesitate. “An injury she received that wasn’t treated properly,” he replied. “I’m going to take care of it for her as soon as we have this issue with Spike resolved.”
Buffy wracked her brain, trying to remember the last time Faith had gotten seriously hurt. They hadn’t fought at each other’s sides since splitting up in Cleveland, and Giles hadn’t mentioned anything but the attack that had killed Robin. “Do you know about what happened to her?” she asked carefully. She wasn’t going to be the one to spill Faith’s secrets, but Cleveland was the only possibility she could think of.
There was no mistaking his reaction. Time had taught Wesley empathy.
“I spoke with Giles. He gave me the broad strokes,” he admitted. His soft voice carried in spite of his low tones. “Faith filled in a few additional details.”
He might as well have said Faith had dyed her hair blonde and lip-synched Britney Spears for a local beauty pageant. “Faith did what?” Buffy exclaimed.
Wes chuckled. “I was rather insistent. And perhaps she felt it was simply time to talk about it. Her time with you has been therapeutic, I’m sure, but these things have a way of building up. I was likely just in the right place at the right time.”
Buffy thought there was probably more to it than that, but his wary wording made it clear that it was pointless to press. “Losing Robin was tough for her,” she said. “I think she feels guilty because things weren’t all peaches and cream between them when it happened.”
“Why? What happened?”
“Robin was getting way more serious than Faith wanted to be, which I can’t blame her because, really, if there’s anybody with more Slayer issues than Spike, it was Robin. He kept petitioning Giles to get instated as her Watcher, and the first time Giles brought it up to Faith, she went out and got so drunk that she torched the wrong vampire nest and ended up incinerating Mr. Harold Sherman, grandfather of twelve and loved husband, instead. Unfortunately, that only convinced Robin that he really was right. They were still fighting about it when he was killed.”
Wesley absorbed the story with a quiet aplomb, nodding as if in agreement when she was done. “Accepting help has never been Faith’s strong suit.”
“And yet, she accepted yours.”
His smile was enigmatic. “Time will tell if that’s true.”
The sound of the front door opening and closing put a halt to their conversation, and seconds later, Faith came strolling in, both hers and Buffy’s bags slung over her shoulder. Her cheeks were reddened, her hair unkempt, and there was a gleam in her eye that Buffy hadn’t seen in a very long time.
“First thing I’m doing when Giles gets me assigned again,” Faith said, grabbing a piece of toast before flopping into an opposite chair, “is buying myself a set of wheels. Man, Wes, yours is sweet. I felt like I was fucking flying out there with all that wind.”
That explained the fresh exuberance Buffy had never seen in her outside of a nightclub. Faith had tasted freedom and reveled in it, in the way she took a hold of so much of life. Even after all these years, Buffy was still jealous of how she could do that.
Wes just seemed mostly amused.
“I take it you didn’t have any problems handling it,” he commented.
“All five by five, boss. Mind if I drive it over to Spike’s?”
“I heard there was a storm coming in.”
“You think I can’t hold my own against a few bumps and bruises?”
He smiled. “Let’s consider it when the time arrives, shall we?”
Watching Faith and Wes speak so familiarly with each other – god, they weren’t flirting, were they? – left Buffy feeling very much the odd Slayer out. She rose from the chair and grabbed her bag, backing away with an apologetic smile.
“I’ll be fast,” she said. “I want to get this stuff with Spike taken care of as soon as possible.”
The rain started just as they pulled to a stop in front of Spike’s apartment building. The driving wind made it sting where it hit their skin, and all three ducked their heads to protect their faces as they made mad dashes from the vehicles to the front entrance.
From the second he opened the door to them, Faith saw that Spike was less than thrilled by his visitors. They probably looked awful, with hair damp from the rain and hers made wild where the wind had picked up the ends, but his appearance wasn’t much better. He looked as if they’d woken him up, the Star Wars t-shirt he wore rumpled, his sweats hanging loose from his slim hips. His feet were bare as he retreated back to the solitariness of his apartment without saying a word, and he held his arms stiffly at his sides, like it hurt to move them.
Buffy wrinkled her nose when they entered, the reek of beer filling the stale air, but either it didn’t bother her enough to comment on it aloud or she was too afraid to say something that would get them kicked out. Faith was going to bet it was the latter.
Wes was the first to break the silence.
“How are you feeling?” he asked.
Spike rolled his neck before straddling one of the straight-backed chairs at the small dining room table. “Spent half the night gettin’ pissed so I couldn’t feel the pain, and the other half wishing I had more beer.” He cast only a cursory glance in Buffy’s direction and ignored Faith entirely. It dawned on her that if what Buffy said was true, in Spike’s head, he had never met Faith. “Tell Angel he can get Harm to send some over. Tell him he’s getting off cheap. Better the beer than whatever he’s paying those medical wankers.”
“Sounds like my kind of recovery,” Faith commented with a grin.
Speaking up drew Spike’s attention to her, and his eyes narrowed as he scanned her over. “Who’s this?” he asked, though the question was posed to Wesley.
Buffy answered first. “This is Faith. She came with me from Rome. You met her last spring, remember?”
The argument flared for a second before recognition came to him, and slowly, Spike nodded. “In the Hellmouth. You’re the other Slayer. Well, before there were other other Slayers.”
“You don’t remember getting into a fight with her?” Buffy’s query had more than a touch of hope in it. To Faith, it stank of desperation. “When they kicked me out of my house. You and Faith got into it when you got back from the monastery with Andrew.”
Spike snorted. “Gotta say, these flights of fancies of yours keep gettin' better and better, Slayer. Now you’ve got me hanging about with monks. These the same blokes who fashioned Dawn for us?”
It was Wesley’s turn to intervene. “Are you saying you don’t remember Andrew?”
With a growl, Spike lurched to his feet and began prowling around the room. “Don’t tell me she’s got you believing her nonsense now,” he complained. “You’re s’posed to be the smart one. Or do all you Watcher types have a weakness for thinking the best of a Slayer?”
Faith caught Wesley’s glance at her before he moved to address Spike more directly. “Buffy came to me last night to let me know that she’d found you,” he said. “And yes, she has concerns about the state of your memory. But I’m not here because I necessarily believe her.”
“Huh? You said—”
Wes continued as if Buffy hadn’t spoken up. “Something happened yesterday, Spike. We still haven’t determined what it was exactly, but someone went through a great deal of trouble to remove you from Wolfram & Hart facilities. Did Buffy tell you that the security tapes showed you being dusted?”
Some of his annoyance faded, to be replaced with a growing confusion. “She said something or other ‘bout bein’ afraid of me bein’ dust, but we didn’t get into particulars.”
“And then you were discovered in a psychiatric facility. With a building full of Slayers. You don’t find that odd?”
“Truth be told, mate, been tryin’ not to think of it at all.”
Wesley placed the bag he’d carried in on the table, taking care with its content. Before they’d left his apartment, he’d given Buffy firm instructions on how to keep it from getting jarred on the trip over, and now he reached in to extract what he’d needed held so preciously.
It was a glass cube, golden and glowing from some internal illumination. It fit in the palm of his hand, but even completely still, the cube seemed to move, the small flecks of light inside dancing around like fireflies.
Spike leaned forward to peer at it in curiosity. “What’s that?”
“It’s called an Orlon Window. Most practitioners of magic use it as a focusing tool. It allows them to be unfazed by external forces that might disrupt their concentration or attempt to persuade them that something is real when it’s not. I learned of its existence when I was researching memory spells last night, trying to determine what could have been done to you. Interestingly enough, the Artifacts Department at Wolfram & Hart has several in their possession, so I had one delivered to my flat this morning.”
“And? What’s it do?”
“In its current state, not a lot,” Wes admitted. “But if it gets broken in the presence of someone who’s had his mind altered in some fashion, the power it releases shatters the spell, thus restoring that person’s original memories.”
“My noggin is just fine.” Spike hooked his thumb toward Buffy. “The Slayer’s the one who’s off her box.”
“Then the Window will still have done its job. The objective here is to lift any veils from either of your minds, Spike. In the end, all we want is the truth.”
Everyone waited while Spike contemplated the glowing cube. They had discussed the implications of what breaking the Orlon Window might do to Buffy and Faith, how their memories of Dawn might be altered in some way, but both women were prepared for the consequences. Since their accounts of the previous year matched each other’s and not Spike’s, they weren’t worried about anything else that might happen. And the end result would be worth it.
Finally, Spike nodded. “Get to it,” he said, his voice resigned. “If it fixes what’s wrong, then that’s all I care about.”
Wesley nodded. He moved his arm so that the hand that held the cube hovered over the bare floor instead of the table, and in a slow, liquid motion, let it go.
All eyes followed the golden path of the Orlon Window as it fell. When the delicate glass made contact with the hard floor, it shattered into tiny fragments, releasing an explosion of blinding light that Faith felt like a rush of searing ice slamming into her. It propelled everybody back, into the walls, into the furniture, away from the epicenter. It left all but Spike breathless.
“You think you can just breeze in here, telling everyone what to do? You're not a part of this. If you think I'm not gonna kill Angelus if he comes at me, then—”
“Listen up, junior. When I need a blood hound, I'll call you. If Angelus needs putting down, I'll be the one to do it, not you. So... is there anything else you're not okay with? Good.”
She heard the conversation in her head, as clear as day. She saw him in the dark, when they’d been on the prowl for Angelus, sniffing out the trail. She remembered slamming him to the wall after he’d dusted the vampire, and she remembered sending him home with Gunn because he couldn’t follow directions.
How had she forgotten about him?
Faith was still puzzling it over as she pushed herself back to her feet. When she concentrated, she could feel both sets of memories, the ones that had just been shoved back into her head by Wesley’s glass box, and the ones she’d walked in with, when it had just been her and Wes who’d gone after Angelus and the Beast. Why she’d have two, though, she had no idea.
She turned to Wes to ask him his theory on the whole deal and promptly froze.
He had already gotten back to his feet. Everything about Wes had gone completely still, his clear gaze fixed on some unknown point on the wall over Spike’s head, and he looked like he was going to be sick any second. He didn’t even respond when Faith called his name.
She took a step closer and tried again. “Wes?”
He blinked. Slowly, Wes turned his head to meet Faith’s worried eyes, but instead of answering her, he took a long, deep breath, then walked over to the door and out.
It only took one glance at Buffy to know where her focus was at the moment. Without saying a word, Faith took off after Wes, leaving Buffy and Spike watching each other across the room.
To be continued in Chapter 12: A Man Cut from the Know…