First, however, I have to point something out. Over at darker_spike this week, the art challenge was banners for fic. So like a completely graphic-deficient, greedy writer, I asked for one for Soul. And was so, so, SO blessed with katekat1010 stepping up and making one.
Isn't it gorgeous? She also made me two icons to go with it, a Spuffy one and a Waith one. Thank you so much, hon!!!
So, on to the fic...Angel gets pummeled, Spike and Buffy talk, and somebody has a dream...
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: Lindsey and Spike had a coming clean, Gemma told Buffy off and only reluctantly agreed to let her see Dana, while Faith didn’t go to Wesley’s office in favor of confronting Angel…
There is a primer for this now, in case you need help keeping track.
The story begins here.
The windshield shattered from the force of his landing, but Angel rolled off almost immediately, ignoring the ache across his shoulders. Faith was there as his feet hit the concrete, but he caught her roundhouse, grabbing her ankle and throwing her out into the open lane.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” he barked. He watched her tuck into a roll before hopping back to her feet, but pure fury still shown in her face. He hadn’t seen Faith look this ferocious since that rainy night in the alley. It didn’t make him feel any better.
“I trusted you,” she spat.
She launched herself forward, but where Angel anticipated her going high, Faith dove low, her shoulder slamming into his groin to push him back into the SUV. The maneuver had both of them curling to separate, though Angel was pretty sure he hurt a lot more than she did. He barely had time to block her subsequent blows, and while he pulled his punches, unwilling to hurt her until he knew what the fuck was going on, she landed enough of her own to make him uncomfortable, all the while muttering under her breath about disloyalty and trust and something he couldn’t quite catch.
Wesley’s sharp voice cracked the air, and for the first time since the start of her assault, Faith faltered. Angel shoved her off, dancing back out of the way, and watched as Wes strode toward them, his face grim.
“You want to do this as much as I do,” she said, her eyes never leaving Angel.
The fresh scent of her blood was filling his nostrils, and he saw the stain starting to spread over her abdomen. He’d completely forgotten about her injury from the day before.
“And you stopped me,” Wes said. His voice never wavered, never rose, not even when he laid a firm hand on her shoulder. He didn’t have the strength to hold her back, but for whatever reason, it served to rein Faith in. “And now you’ve got yourself hurt again. You should have gone to my office as I told you.”
“He fucking lied to us!”
“And we’ll find out why. In due time.”
Though she continued to watch him, their conversation made Angel feel like the odd man out, intimate when it never used to be. There had been a time when she would have spoken to Angel like that, when Wes would have been the outsider, but for whatever reason, this wasn’t it.
“Would someone like to tell me what the hell is going on?” Angel demanded.
The eyes Wes turned to him weren’t those of his best friend. They were cool and distant, and that, more than anything else, frightened Angel.
“Oddly enough, that was exactly what I was going to ask you earlier,” he said. “Before Faith convinced me to give you the benefit of the doubt.”
“About whether or not you’d knowingly manipulate the people you’ve always professed trusting most.”
The more Wes said, the more nervous Angel got. He’d feared for awhile how the choice to trade Cordy for a Slayer would go over with the gang, which was part of why he’d refrained from saying anything until he’d made up his mind. It didn’t explain why Faith was so upset about it, though. Unless it was the fact that it was a Slayer that was bugging her. And then there was the question of how had they found out in the first place. If Dr. Guerrero knew of his presence at Watts the night before, it was likely she had said something to Buffy. Maybe that was all it took to get Wes asking questions.
“You son of a bitch,” Faith muttered. “You think you can just fuck with people’s lives like that?”
When she took a step forward, Angel countered back, even though Wesley’s hand was firmly on her shoulder. “I haven’t even done anything yet,” Angel argued. “I’ve been putting Eve off for days now, because I didn’t like the idea of doing that to Dana—”
“Dana?” Wesley’s frown shifted from anger to confusion. “What is it you think you’re doing, Angel?”
Now Wesley wasn’t the only one who was confused. “You’re not talking about Dana?” he asked carefully.
“No, though I’m beginning to believe that maybe I should be.”
“Save that one for B,” Faith spat. “Let’s hear him try to justify messing with our heads about Connor first.”
The world stopped. It was the last possibility Angel had ever considered. And finally, the betrayal he’d heard in Wesley’s voice made sense. Somehow, some way, they had found out the truth. Did that mean Connor knew now, too? Was he going to be in danger again?
“Damn it,” Angel muttered. “How did you find out?”
“The spell I used to help Spike clear his memory,” Wes explained. “It…cleared whatever block you had put in place.”
Hope began to flare again. “Does that mean you two are the only ones who know?”
Wesley’s gaze hardened. “If you’re asking if Fred and Gunn are still unaware of your deception, then yes. But that doesn’t excuse what you’ve done, Angel. Or explain why.”
“It’s a long story.”
“Then I suggest we get started. And perhaps you should tell us what exactly your business is with Dana at the same time.”
The look on Faith’s face mirrored Angel’s feelings on the matter. She didn’t want to talk; she wanted to pummel something. Angel was beginning to wish he could just let her go at it instead of dealing with the truths Wes was going to force him to face.
“Not here,” Angel said. “The walls have ears.”
“My place then. Faith is still in need of medical attention.”
“I’ll ride shotgun with Angel.” Both men looked to Faith, but she didn’t back down from the glare she still leveled at Angel. “One of us has to make sure he actually shows, right?”
It was on the tip of Angel’s tongue to protest that they could trust him, when Wesley said, “Don’t hit him while he’s driving.”
His stomach sank. It was going to be a very long afternoon. Facing Dr. Guerrero would have been infinitely easier than trying to explain everything to Wes and Faith.
The first thing Gemma did upon returning to Watts was check in on Dana. It was why she was in LA, after all. And no disappointment about Buffy Summers or surprise allies in men who liked to break into offices after hours was worth forgetting that.
She frowned when she saw who was waiting for her near Dana’s new room. “What do you want, Andrew?” she said without breaking her pace. “I don’t have time for any nonsense today.”
He jumped from his seat, scuttling after her like a puppy who’d been kicked one too many times. “I thought you’d want a report on what the Slayers have found out about Angel.”
Gemma stopped and looked at him for the first time with interest. “What did they find?”
Under her direct gaze, he fidgeted. “Well, nothing, actually, but…”
With a snort of disgust, she turned on her heel and began heading for Dana’s room again. “Go away, Andrew,” she barked. “You don’t want to mess with me today.”
To her chagrin, his steps echoed behind hers. “But we found something else,” he said quickly. “When we were looking around, trying to figure out where he might have gone or if he might have done something else while he was here.”
“If this isn’t about Dana—”
“It could be. It’s about another vampire.”
The word vampire was what brought her to a second halt. Glancing back at Dana’s closed door, Gemma took a deep breath before turning to address Andrew again. “You found another vampire?” she asked. She wasn’t so sure why she was surprised. Ever since coming to LA, it felt like her whole life was revolving around them.
“We found proof that there was another one in the building,” Andrew clarified. “In a room that doesn’t get used any more. There were straps with crosses embedded in them on the bed, and the door’s lock had been broken. And there was a file.”
It took everything she had not to scream in frustration. “Are you telling me that the Watts Institute has vampire patients?” Gemma said, her voice tight. “It’s a Council holding. It’s supposed to be a haven for Slayers.”
“So far, we think it’s only the one. But I’ve got the girls combing the building, looking for more. The file had pages torn out of it, but there was one part that was clear.” He leaned forward conspiratorially, pitching his tone lower. “It was a Wolfram & Hart employee.”
Her blood ran cold. If she never heard the name of that company again, it would be too soon. “Thank you for letting me know,” she said. She gripped her ID card a little tighter. “Let me know if you find anything else.”
“I’ll just call Buffy—”
“No.” The single word came out more harshly than Gemma intended, and she countered Andrew’s immediate frown with a small smile. “She has enough to worry about. Don’t bother her with this.”
She waited until Andrew had walked off before sliding her card through the lock. She only let out the breath she’d been holding when the door closed shut behind her.
It wasn’t supposed to be this difficult. When she’d been contacted about taking Dana’s case, it had seemed like the perfect opportunity to do what others had failed before her. Angel was on the alert now, and had been for months, but it had been deemed worthwhile for someone in her unique position to attempt to circumvent that. Gemma had leapt at the chance to do some real good for a change. Too much of her life had been spent behind glass, and if her age prevented her from taking full advantage of her new powers, then it was even better that she utilized her intellectual training to achieve the same goals.
Saving Dana was part of that.
Getting Angel under control was another.
Her gaze was weary as she finally shifted her attention to the observation window that overlooked Dana’s new room. Dana still slept, her lashes dark against her pale cheeks, but the shallowness of her breaths wasn’t typical of restful REM. Neither was the near constant twitching of her hands, strapped at her sides. With a frown, Gemma unlocked the inner door and entered the room, crossing immediately to the bedside in order to check Dana’s vitals.
Her heart was racing. Her skin was hot and clammy. But her eyes remained closed.
“What are you dreaming about?” Gemma mused out loud. She shouldn’t be dreaming at all, Gemma knew. The sedatives Dana had been given should have knocked her out enough to make that type of thought process impossible. But this was proof she was, which either meant the drugs weren’t enough – which Gemma doubted – or that the nightmares were that powerful. Neither possibility made her happy.
Retreating to the observation room again, she looked over Dana’s file to doublecheck that her medication had been administered properly. It would have been nice to blame Dana’s state on poor nursing, but everything checked out. If she wanted to prevent the dreams from coming back, she was going to have to run the risk of upping the dosage to a dangerous level. She didn’t want to do that. She wanted the dreams to go away on their own.
After all, if she couldn’t save Dana, what was the point in trying to save any of them?
Spike intercepted her before she made it halfway down the stairs.
“He’s asleep,” he said, jerking his head toward the cell in the basement. “And you and me need to talk, Buffy.”
Her fingers tightened around the bag of McDonalds she clutched in her hand, but Buffy nodded anyway and turned on her heel to go back upstairs. Frankly, she felt talked out; between Gemma and Dana and Faith and Angel and Spike and everybody else who seemed to want a piece of her, Buffy was missing the days when all she had to do was swing a fist and solve her problems. But she stayed silent until they were sitting in the kitchen and Spike was cradling a mug of warmed blood between his hands.
“If this is going to be more about how Lindsey is your new bestest friend and I’m the insensitive ex who made your life miserable,” she said, “just save it. I’m tired, and I don’t think I’m up to round two of the Iron Slayer match. Or three. Or whatever number we’re on.”
His lashes were lowered, dark and thick against his pale cheeks. As much as she wasn’t looking forward to whatever it was he had to say, it warmed Buffy in the best way to be able to sit at a table and be able to count his lashes, if she so desired. Regardless of everything else, even if she went back to Rome alone, Spike was alive. In the end, that was all that mattered.
“Was talkin’ to Lindsey before he nodded off,” Spike said. “And we were talkin’ about honesty and all that. And I realized…I wasn’t completely honest with you.”
It wasn’t what she expected. Her hand paused in mid-reach for a fry.
“Part of why I stuck around, the part that makes sense, was what I had here. I was doin’ some good here the past few weeks, and yeah, maybe Lindsey picked me because I was the biggest nettle he could find, but in the end, that doesn’t change how it made me feel.”
He finally looked up, and she caught her breath at how his eyes blazed with sincerity. More than any other time since finding Spike, since getting his memory back, he looked at her like the man who’d looked at her those last few days in Sunnydale. “Now I wouldn’t trade a second of the time I spent on the Hellmouth – well…” He smiled. “…maybe a few bein’ tied up in Harris’ basement, but let’s face it, Buffy. That was always your show. And I was good with that. Here, it’s different. It’s…”
“All about Spike,” Buffy finished. Slowly, she picked up a fry and chewed on the end, not really tasting it as she digested this new information. It wasn’t even that it was new. Spike had been hinting around at this ever since they’d started talking. Hearing him say it aloud was almost a relief. “I can see why that would be tempting.”
“Can you?” He reached out and took her hand. It wasn’t until he entwined their fingers that she realized they were the same hands that had burned in the Hellmouth. “I’m tired of fighting, pet. I’m tired of…trying to make explanations that don’t take. I don’t want to do that any more.”
“Then why do we keep coming back to it?”
Her mouth twitched. “Because we’re both stubborn as hell and just as hurt?”
Spike snorted, smiling in kind. “Yeah, that would be the reason, all right.”
They sat there, his broad thumb stroking over the back of her hand, both sets of eyes fixed downward to watch the hypnotic movements. There was no resolution here. Buffy didn’t know why she’d expected one in the first place. Had any of her relationships ever been so fortunate as to make sense in the end? But it was that last word, that end, that her body and senses revolted against. She hadn’t come to Los Angeles to find an end. She’d come to LA to find a beginning.
“Since we’re being honest,” she said, her voice soft, “will you answer me one thing?”
“One or a hundred. Just name it, pet.”
“Do you really want me to go back to Rome?”
“No.” There wasn’t even a moment of hesitation. There was, however, nearly a minute before Spike spoke again. “Did you want to go?”
Her answer wasn’t quite as quick. That was because she waited to say anything until she’d lifted her head to meet his gaze.
“Not without you,” Buffy said.
His smile warmed her as much as his earlier sincerity had. “Then that’s a start,” Spike murmured.
The dreams were nothing new. The dreams had always been there, always waited in the dark for her to join them again, always splattered her with pinpricks of pain that helped her remember that she was still alive and that others weren’t. The others weren’t. None of them, not the ones she loved, not the ones she didn’t know, not the ones who refused to leave or shut up or let her forget for a second that they had come first. Not even the ones that she had thought she’d known. Head. Heart.
The hands had come after.
But there was something different about the dreams this time. They were still soaked in scarlet, still left her breathless, still pushed and pulled and tugged and tore until her head spun and her nails were bloody. But this one, this one wanted her to slow down, wanted Dana to stop and look over her shoulder and see what it was that called her. This one screamed in pain, and then whispered in glee, and she couldn’t keep her head straight, didn’t know which way was up or down or in or out, or whether it was head or heart or hands or all three. Whether it was hers. Whether it was theirs. Whether it was his.
She stopped for him. Because he had come back. With the others, head and heart and then they were gone. But not him. He came back. Even after she’d taken the hands, too, he came back and back and back and she didn’t know why, didn’t understand. There was an answer there, lurking with him in the shadows, but Dana couldn’t see it, and it didn’t matter how many times she looked under the rock or over the edge. He kept it hidden, tucked inside like another secret he didn’t want to share.
“I was never here.”
But he’d lied. Or he didn’t yet know. It was the same either way.
He was here. Had been here. Would be here again.
Dana didn’t understand.
But she would.
Head. Heart. Hands.
Her short nails dug so tightly into her clenched fists that blood stained the fresh sheets of her bed.
To be continued in Chapter 18: This Is Not a Place for Playing Solitaire…