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.
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, Faith, and Buffy showed up at Spike’s, where Wes used an Orlon Window to try and revert Spike’s memories, only to break the memory spell Angel had received as part of the Wolfram & Hart deal, too…
The story begins here.
The first thought that went through Spike’s head was, I wish people would leave my bloody head alone!
The second came right on top of the first, spurred by the sight of a certain Slayer sitting up against the wall on the other side of the room.
She came. She actually came.
The shattering of the Orlon Window had felt like a Fyarl picking him up single-handedly by the head and then giving him a vicious shake, cascading thoughts and images and emotions in a flurried tumble. There were those he had believed only moments earlier to be true, like how Angel’s fist had felt slamming into his jaw the first time he saw him after coming back from Africa, and then there were those Spike knew were the real truth, like the look of shock on Buffy’s face when he’d opened that door in the basement and seen her for the first time in the flesh since getting the soul. Each felt as solid as the other, but coping with the duality wasn’t as hard as he might have thought. After all, he’d lived with the multiple realities in those months of crazy in the high school basement and longer. This was just more of the same.
Except he had Buffy here. And she had come of her own volition because she’d been worried about him. She’d sought him out specifically, and she’d done everything in her power to find him when she’d thought he was missing.
And he’d acted like a right prat with her because he’d been wracked with guilt and fear that he’d resolved – or at least managed – months ago.
Her eyes seemed to consume her face as she watched him from across the room. It always amazed Spike how luminous they became when she wasn’t smiling or scowling. Her features were far too animated then for the expressiveness of her eyes to properly flourish. But in moments like these, when she looked at him as if she expected him to hang the moon – like she’d looked at him at the bottom of the Hellmouth, right before he’d booted her to the surface – Spike almost believed that he could, that with her, he could do anything if he set his mind to it.
And he hadn’t gone to her.
Buffy still wasn’t moving, frozen against the wall as if the effects of the Orlon Window had pinned her like some fragile butterfly. Gingerly, Spike pushed himself up, but bracing against his arms caused licks of fiery pain to shoot up the tendons, making him grimace and fall back onto his ass. He regarded Buffy carefully, wondering why Wesley and Faith had scarpered off to leave him alone to deal with her, but in light of what was likely to come, he couldn’t say he could blame them.
Buffy was the first to break their silent showdown.
“Are you all right?” she asked warily.
He couldn’t help himself. He snorted in amusement.
“Just got shaken and stirred to prove you were right all along, luv,” he said. “’Course, I’m right as rain.”
Buffy’s face hardened at his unintended sarcasm. “I did it to help, Spike. And if I wanted to have to deal with you being an asshole about it, I would’ve told Wes not to bother. But I didn’t. Because I knew you’d want to be the real you as much as I did.” She took a deep breath, her gaze ducking for a moment. When she looked up again, the ghosts were back in her eyes. “Just tell me you remember. Tell me I wasn’t alone last year. Tell me it fixed what was wrong.”
He didn’t care about the pain in his arms. It wasn’t anything compared to what he heard in her voice.
She didn’t look away as he crouched in front of her, and she didn’t flinch when he held his hand out to her, palm up, exposing the small scars that still riddled his palm. Spike wished desperately he could see her hand, to know if the marks had lingered with her, too, but for now, he was simply grateful she was there.
“I remember,” he murmured. “And you’re not alone, Buffy.”
There was more he wanted to say, like You don’t have to be alone any more, if that’s what you want, but Spike was too afraid he’d fucked things up for good this time to push his luck like that just yet.
Buffy blinked. It was a motion that went so slowly, he swore he could each eyelash in the space of time it took for her to open them again. When her gaze returned to his, more of her anger was gone. “Are you going to tell me why you didn’t let me know?” she asked quietly.
He had practiced this speech, so many times, in so many different ways, that he thought he had it down. Having Buffy right in front of him, however, in the mood each was in, made all the words disappear, and Spike felt like a floundering poet again, in search of the right rhyme that wouldn’t destroy the whole poem.
“First thing I did after I was magicked out of the amulet was ask about you,” he said. “Did they tell you I was a ghost there for awhile?”
She nodded. He wondered if she was refraining from talking because she was afraid of what she was going to say or because she was afraid he would stop altogether.
“Tried leaving the city to get to you, but whatever brought me back kept popping me to the lawyers as soon as I got far enough away. I didn’t have a choice but to stick around. Least…while I wasn’t solid.”
“You’re solid now. You were solid when Dana cut your hands off.”
Spike shook his head. “About the only time I ever wished I was a ghost again. Haven’t even been myself that long yet, and already got Slayers after my parts.”
“But you still didn’t call me. Or let Angel call me. Or just, you know, lurk under my window like the old days. Why? Was I…that bad to be around?”
Her odd question made him pause. It had never been about her. It had never even occurred to him that she could think that.
Before he had the chance to answer, Buffy closed the space between them, threading her arms around his waist, carefully resting her cheek on his shoulder. Spike lifted his hand, curling it around the base of her skull, and his fingers molded in remembered patterns that made him squeeze his eyes shut to try and hold in the barrage of emotions. “Was never about you,” he murmured. “God, Buffy…it was never about you.”
Her heat scorched through the thin cotton of the borrowed t-shirt, and her heart thundered until Spike couldn’t hear his own thoughts. Maybe it was better that way. His head had a way of fucking him over, making sense where there was none. Her willingness to allow him to hold her, even so platonically, gave him courage to try and offer further explanations.
“How was I s’posed to top the sort of exit I had?” he said. “You saw me as a hero. I didn’t…I didn’t want to lose that.”
That was when she pulled away, though her arms stayed clasped behind his back. “And you didn’t think I’d understand that?” That tiny line appeared between her brows, though it looked like it had become deeper in the past six months. “You’re not the only one who’s died saving the world, Spike. And I didn’t have a choice about coming back, either.”
“I never thought less of you for it, luv.”
“So why did you think I would?”
There were a lot of different ways he could answer that. Spike chose the simplest.
“Because I’m still a vampire, and when it comes down to it, you’re the Slayer.”
Buffy shook her head. “I’m a Slayer now.”
“No.” Lifting his hand, Spike swiped his thumb along her jaw. “You’ll always be the Slayer to me.”
“And you’ll never be just a vampire to me,” she replied. “One of these days, I wish you’d believe that.”
The certainty in her voice reminded him of how badly he’d treated her the night before, his memory buggered notwithstanding. With his guilt substituting as restraint, Spike rested his hands on her shoulders and pushed Buffy away, rising to his feet. Wesley’s little magical gizmo lay in shards in his path to the kitchen sink, and he toed the broken pieces of glass that littered the floor, wondering how something so deceptively fragile could be so powerful.
“Only thing I don’t like about this business is having my memories of Dawn’s all jumbled,” he said. “Always knew they weren’t real, but I think I like it better not bein’ reminded.”
He felt Buffy’s gaze follow him as he stood in front of the open refrigerator. “I know,” she admitted. “I knew it was going to happen, and it still managed to knock me on my ass. Literally.”
“Any notion on what was goin’ on with Wes and Faith?”
“No. Things have been…weird with them, ever since I got here.”
They lapsed into silence as he kept his back to her, pretending to look interested in the contents of his empty fridge. Until he heard her stand up and approach. It took everything he had not to flinch when Buffy rested a hand on his shoulder.
“I don’t want to go. But if this is too hard for you, Spike, if you need time to adjust—”
“Time’s not goin’ to make a difference. It’s still all the same.” He shut the refrigerator, probably a little too hard. “You came to me. And I was too bloody scared to go to you.”
Buffy shook her head. “I don’t believe that.”
“Believe what you want. Doesn’t change a thing.” Getting drunk again was sounding better and better. “Look, if you want to go, don’t be looking for me as an excuse. Just go.”
“Is that what you want?”
“No. Yes.” He threw his hands up in frustration and stomped over to the couch. “I don’t bloody know, all right? I never expected you to come.”
Before he flopped down, Buffy was already moving, coming to sit on the opposite end. She tucked her legs beneath her and angled to face him. “Well, I’m here now,” she said. “And one way or another, we are going to talk about this. But…maybe we should save the hard stuff for later when all this isn’t so fresh.”
“And do what? Sit here and stare at each other?” Actually, he didn’t mind that notion so much. It had the flavor of easier times.
“We can still talk. Like…all this stuff that’s going on with Angel, and why someone would want me to think he dusted you. Maybe you can fill me on what’s been going on.”
Spike nodded. That sounded doable. And safe. “Will you tell me what’s been goin’ on with you and the Bit?”
When Buffy smiled, it lit her up. And in that moment, Spike thought that maybe, just maybe, everything would be all right.
Faith called after Wes as she stepped outside of the apartment building. Though he was only a few paces ahead, he didn’t look back, didn’t even falter from his too-stiff posture. Maybe it was the wind, whistling around their ears, but she doubted it. He seemed oblivious to everything, just like he’d been inside.
With an added burst of speed, she closed the distance and grabbed his arm, jerking him to a halt. “What do you think you’re doing?” she demanded.
The driving rain plastered his hair to his skull, dripping down the lines of his jaw. Curling his fingers around hers, Wes peeled her hand away. “Go back inside,” he ordered. His tone was flat, but there was something deadly lurking in his eyes. “Make sure Buffy and Spike are all right.”
He turned on his heel to continue toward the car, but Faith darted around to block his path. “And let you wander off looking like somebody just kicked your puppy? I don’t think so.”
“I’m perfectly fine.”
“Not if you’ve got a head full of new memories like I do.” His flinch would have escaped notice of someone who didn’t know him like she did, but it was all the proof she needed to know the same thing had happened to him. “You remember the kid, too, huh?”
A muscle twitched in his jaw. “Connor,” he said softly. “Angel’s son.”
“You didn’t remember him before? I thought…” Her gaze strayed to his neck, which had the unfortunate side effect of prompting Wes to reach and finger the scar. “That doesn’t make sense.”
“No,” he agreed. “It doesn’t. It also raises the question…where is Connor now? And how did Angel ever allow something to happen to him after…after everything? Why has he never mentioned him?”
“Obviously, somebody messed with Angel’s head, too.”
“At the same time he accepted Wolfram & Hart’s employment agreement? That seems too…coincidental to me.”
Faith could see exactly what direction Wes was going with this line of logic, and a feeling of dread settled in her stomach. “Don’t go there,” she warned. “Angel didn’t have anything to do with this.”
“And we won’t know that for sure until we speak with him. Step out of my way, Faith.”
She lifted her chin. “I can’t let you go, Wes. Not with your head like this.”
“A rather ironic choice of words for you, don’t you think?”
Her arms were growing numb from the cold rain seeping through her clothes, but Faith remained unmoving. “Someone’s setting Angel up, remember? You said it yourself. All the shit with Spike ringing a bell? And then there’s Lindsey. How do we know he’s not the one behind all this?
Mentioning Lindsey sparked a response, even if it wasn’t one Faith wanted. “Even more reason to go to the hotel,” he said.
She blocked his shove long before he made contact, but it had more force than she intended, sending Wes spiraling into the wall from his own momentum. Faith squelched the instinct to go and help him back to his feet, though she had to ball her hands into fists in order not to do it.
His laugh was harsh, his eyes bright even as he blinked against the driving rain. “Ah yes,” he commented, pushing back to his feet. “Faith’s response to any situation where she feels out of control. I’d forgotten.” He laughed again. “And look, there’s that irony again.”
The words stung, more so than thinking Angel might even be remotely connected to all their memory problems. “It’s not like that,” she said. “I’m doing this for your own good.”
“Oh, I get it. You couldn’t save Robin Wood, so you’ll save me instead?”
Her heart stopped. More than anything else, Faith wanted to run, far, far away, never stopping until her legs defeated her and the world was a pale shadow glimmering in the distance. After everything that had transpired between her and Wes over the past twenty-four hours, she’d stupidly believed that maybe she’d actually found someone who’d help her get past it all. She should have known better. She should always know better.
The second she took a step away from him, Wes frowned, as if only realizing what he’d just said. “Faith…I didn’t mean—”
“No.” She refused to cry. “You did mean it. And you know what? Fuck you, Wes. Go see Angel. Get mad. Say something you’re just going to regret later. I don’t fucking care any more.”
She still had his motorcycle keys in her pocket. Rain or not, Faith was getting out of there, and just maybe this time, she wouldn’t come back.
It was his turn to jerk her to a halt. She could have pulled away, she could have done almost anything. But the heat from his hand cut through the cold, and it took her a moment to process the why the hell did he stop me? thought that sprang first to her mind, and then she was turning to look at him, to see the pain mirrored in his clear eyes.
It only took a heartbeat.
They moved together, mouths crashing with teeth and tongues.
For a few precious minutes, Faith didn’t feel the rain.
It didn’t take long sitting with Lindsey to remember why it was Angel disliked the man so much. He respected self-preservation as much as the next demon, but the streak in Lindsey was a mile wide. Add in the years of glib responses and doubletalk, and Angel was ready to end the interrogation in a nice bloodbath long before dawn hit.
The only thing of value that he got before Lindsey passed out was the information about the tattoos. It was something to get Wesley to look into to confirm, but on this, Angel was inclined to believe Lindsey’s story. He knew from recent experience how persistent the Senior Partners could be. Considering how much Lindsey knew about the firm, he wouldn’t want that kind of wild card running around, either. It also explained how Lindsey was able to get into Wolfram & Hart without being detected. Since he claimed to be working alone, it would be the only way to do some of the things Angel suspected him of.
What Angel didn’t get answered was why. Why go after him now? Why include Spike in the mess?
And if Lindsey wasn’t behind telling Buffy the truth about Spike, who else could it possibly be?
The smell of Lindsey’s blood grew too strong for him to take. When he was certain Lindsey was out cold, Angel crept upstairs, aware of the echoing emptiness of the Hyperion around him with every step. He hadn’t been back here for months. Now he understood why.
Ghosts haunted every dust-filled corner. Standing in the lobby, Angel’s solemn gaze swept over the counter, the faint sound of remembered laughter making the images even worse. There were Fred and Gunn, standing in front of the weapons cabinet, flirting with coy smiles and stolen touches. Through the office door, he saw Wes standing behind the desk, leaning over as he inspected something spread out atop its surface. Connor lounged on the sofa, equal parts teenage insolence and earnest hope.
And there, descending the stairs, was Cordy. Not the Cordy from last year, pregnant and angry and not really his. The Cordelia who looked Angel square in the eye and dared him to back down without saying a word.
Maybe he should have stayed downstairs. He wasn’t up to facing her, even in ghost form. Not until he’d done everything he could to bring her back. He owed her that much.
It wouldn’t be much longer. If he’d had doubts before about the prudence of using Dana Jameson for his own purposes, he didn’t now.
To be continued in Chapter 13: Calling Up a Little Girl with a Bullwhip…