DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course, and the chapter title comes from Sting’s, “Shape of My Heart.” Spike’s various
ramblings come from, in the order in which he says them, “She Walks in Beauty”
by Lord Byron, “Here I Love You” by Pablo Neruda, “La Vita Nuova” by Dante
Alighieri, “Nurse’s Song” by William Blake, “A Dream Within a Dream” by Edgar
Allan Poe, “Song” by Lord Byron, and “The Taxi” by Amy Lowell.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Xander has taken Spike back to London, but left him alone at the hotel while he went to tell Giles and Willow. Meanwhile, Buffy has arrived at Willow’s invitation and was about to check in when she ran into a stranger in the middle of the street, one who looks remarkably like Spike…
It had to be a joke. A very unfunny, twisted, cosmic joke. That had to be the only explanation why Buffy was staring into the eyes of a vampire who’d been dead for over three years.
But as that moment stretched into infinity, she started to notice the other details. Things like the obvious sunburn on his nose, the flare of his nostrils. She glanced down and saw the rise and fall of his chest. He was breathing.
Spike didn’t breathe. Hadn’t breathed.
This couldn’t be Spike.
It was just a sick coincidence of fate.
Then, he spoke.
“’She walks in beauty, like the night of cloudless climes and starry skies,’” he murmured.
The words were poetry---she recognized that much, at least---and the accent was smoother than she remembered, but the voice raised goosebumps along her arms, made her forget about the rain that was starting to drizzle beneath the collar of her shirt.
She’d listened to Spike for too many hours not to recognize his voice when she heard it.
A car honked at them, startling her from her reverie, and Buffy’s head snapped to the side to see the traffic behind held up by them in the road. Before she could react, strong hands wrapped around her wrists and pulled her the rest of the way across, straight through the middle of a puddle that soaked over the top of her shoe and onto the pavement in front of the hotel. He didn’t let go, and she let herself be led beneath the awning, now openly gaping at him as her certainty about his identity firmed.
“Spike?” she repeated, this time louder and with what she hoped was more conviction. “How…is it really you?”
The corner of his mouth lifted, wrinkles appearing around his eyes. Though those had been there the last time she’d seen him, they hadn’t been as deeply furrowed as they were now. Some time in the past three and a half years, life had started to take its toll on Spike’s face. It made her chest tight to think that she meant that literally.
“’Sometimes,’” he said, and his voice was a little bit stronger now, “’I get up early and even my soul is wet.’”
Buffy had the oddest feeling of déjà vu, as if she’d been in this place, hearing these words, before. It took a moment of staring at him in confusion before she could place it, though, and when she did, her breath caught in her throat.
His soul. He’d talked of it then, too, only she hadn’t caught on to his crazy ramblings until he’d practically burned all his flesh off his body on that damn cross. Was it all part of how he could be human now? Had he undergone some sort of trial for this as well? But…how did he survive the collapse of the Hellmouth?
Most importantly, why hadn’t he bothered to tell her that he was now alive?
Anger was starting to filter through the shock of seeing him, starting from a simmer at the bottom of her feet to surge rapidly upward through her veins. As her mouth opened to speak, however, she heard the running of footsteps from behind her, and Dawn’s breathless query drifted through the rain.
“Are you OK?” she asked. “Judd and I saw you almost slip and fall and---.” The rest of it was swallowed in a squeak, and Buffy glanced back to see Dawn’s wide eyes fixed on the man who still held Buffy’s wrists in his unyielding grasp, a sea of blue that had just been buffeted by a storm. “Oh, my god,” she whispered.
“I’m fine,” Buffy said, more calmly than she felt. She turned back to Spike, shoring up the crumbling nerves first spying him had smashed, and deliberately pulled her arms away from him. It surprised her that she could break his hold so easily, but then, that would come from his being human now, wouldn’t it? “Although a certain someone isn’t going to be if he doesn’t tell us what the hell is going on here.”
He tilted his head, a gesture so achingly familiar that Buffy was swept up in the déjà vu again, and his eyes took on a contemplative look, as he seemed to be considering his words before answering. He’d done that a lot that last year before the final battle with the First. Became quieter, even after he’d found his so-called demon again to fight for her. It was as if he’d finally understood how his words could be weapons, too, and took greater care in using them around her, for fear of hurting Buffy yet again.
“’In that book which is my memory…’” he began, “’on the first page that is the chapter when I first met you, appear the words…here begins a new life.’”
In spite of the quiet lull his voice created in the rain, the riddle of his words agitated her further, making her close the gap between them as she searched his face for duplicity. She didn’t want him to be crazy again. It had been so hard to deal with the first time---there wasn’t even supposed to be a second time. He was supposed to be dead. She’d mourned him. She’d taken the gift he’d given her and moved on with her life. Why was he back here now? Why did he always have to disrupt things when everything finally looked to be on track?
Before she could speak, she felt Dawn step closer, hovering just behind Buffy’s shoulder.
“I know that,” she said. “That’s Dante Alighieri. La Vita Nuova.”
Spike’s eyes lit up, and he nodded.
“It’s really you, isn’t it?”
The delight in Dawn’s voice was unexpected, and Buffy glanced across at her sister in shock. Neither one of them had spoken of Spike over the past few years, but she had always suspected Dawn had grieved for the vampire’s death almost as much as Buffy had. It was tempered by guilt, though, beaten down by the miscommunications and betrayals of everything that had happened after Buffy had been brought back. Even after the soul, Dawn had been leery of Spike because of the attempted rape, but at the same time, she’d missed her ex-best friend. Her head was just as messed up about Spike as Buffy’s had always been.
Somewhere from behind, Buffy became aware that Judd had joined them, and was probably watching the whole exchange in confusion. He didn’t know about Spike. After the debacle with the Immortal, Buffy had never revealed that part of her history to any of her boyfriends, carefully editing out those years of her life with the precision of a practiced surgeon. The memories of him and their time together, both good and bad, had been carefully stored away, locked up to be evaluated at a later date. It looked like later had finally arrived.
Spike’s grip reappeared around Buffy’s wrist. “’Come, come, leave off play, and let us away, ‘til the morning appears in the skies,’” he said. His voice had grown more insistent, and there was no denying the definite tug in his arm as he turned to walk away.
“No,” Buffy said firmly, and broke free from him yet again. “We’re not going anywhere with you until you tell us what’s going on.”
“What’s happening here, Buffy?” Judd asked. Stepping forward, he tried to place himself between her and Spike, but was met with the crash of Spike’s fist in his face.
He crumpled to the wet cement, blood gushing from his nose.
“Judd!” Buffy called out, crouching down to look him over. He wasn’t exactly the physical type. When it came time for her slaying responsibilities, he was more than happy to step aside and let her have at it, content with his books and research that had brought them together in the first place. Buffy didn’t think she’d ever seen him take a punch before, and now, he’d been walloped by one of the best.
“What in the hell do you think you’re doing?” she demanded, straightening to face off with Spike. Vibrating with anger, the crisp energy radiating from Buffy seemed to burn away the rain around her, making her an unexpected oasis amidst the gray chaos. She didn’t feel a thing, though. All she could see were those inquisitive blue eyes looking down at her. He always made her feel like she was drowning.
“’All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream,’” he said, but when his mouth opened to say more, she shook her head.
“No,” she interrupted. “No more gibberish. I know you’re in there, Spike. Just talk to me. Tell me what’s---.”
“It’s not gibberish,” Dawn said.
When she glanced back, both Judd and her sister were regarding Spike, the first with fear, the second with fascination. “She’s right,” Judd said. His voice was broken from the blow to his nose. “It’s poetry. Poe, to be exact. But…who is this?”
“His name’s Spike.” Buffy turned to see him still watching her, still so intent on her every movement. “He’s an old…friend.”
“Well, your friend has a lot to learn about introductions.” Judd’s complaint was accompanied by his
scramble to his feet. With his head
tilted back, he kept his nose pinched to keep the blood from running any more
down his shirt, but he glared at Spike at the same time that he moved into
position behind Buffy. “What’s his
“I don’t know,” Buffy murmured. “Other than the fact that he’s not supposed to be alive.”
“Or walking,” Dawn said.
“Or breathing.” A flurry of motion behind Spike’s shoulder caught Buffy’s attention, and she glanced past him to see the reason she’d come to London in the first place.
“You just had to fall asleep, didn’t you, William?” Xander huffed as he ran up. “You couldn’t just watch the tel---.” He skidded to a halt when he rounded Spike and spotted Buffy, the eye not covered by the patch he still wore going wide. “Oh, fuck.”
Not the response she was expecting. For that matter, seeing Xander suddenly seeming so proprietorial of someone he’d always despised certainly merited just as much jaw dropping as anything else.
“Xander,” Buffy said carefully. “You haven’t been messing around with magic again, have you?”
“This isn’t what it looks like,” he said.
“It looks like Spike.”
“OK, so it is what it looks like,” he amended, and then hastened to step to her side, leaning in to talk to her in hushed tones. “This isn’t how I wanted you to find out, Buffy. There’s things going on that I don’t understand. I was hoping to get some answers from Willow and Giles before you got dragged into the whole mess.”
“You mean why he’s talking in riddles? Or you know, talking at all? Because last time I checked, dust didn’t have a mouth.”
“It’s a long story, and…” He jerked his head back to where Spike still stood, lowering his voice even further. “…he’s not really the one who can tell you about it.”
“Because he’s not awake. He’s sleepwalking.” Xander sighed. “I know what it looks like, Buffy, but if you ever trusted me, now’s the time to prove it. Do…whatever it is you’re going to do, and as soon as he stops walking, I’ll bring him back to the hotel and we’ll talk.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” she said, steel in both her spine and tone. “Not until---.”
“’We’ll go no more a-roving so late into the night,’” Spike said, and glanced up at ruefully at the cloud-covered sky. “’Though the heart be still as loving, and the moon be still as bright.’”
The words took even Xander by surprise, and he whirled to face the shorter man.
“What?” he asked, incredulous. “Why?”
Buffy was rooted to the spot as Spike stepped forward, and lifted a hand to softly brush his knuckles across her cheek.
“’Why should I leave you, to wound myself upon the sharp edges of the night?’” he murmured.
Silence permeated the street. The only sounds came from the evening traffic whisking across the wet cement.
“OK, that hasn’t happened before,” Xander commented. Tentatively, he reached forward and curled his hand around Spike’s elbow. To Buffy, it looked like he feared being lashed out against, much like had happened with Judd, but when there came no reaction, Xander’s grip tightened.
“Let’s let Buffy and Dawn get out of the rain, OK, Sp---William?” he said, steering Spike toward the front doors of the hotel. Before they went inside, he turned back to the trio who still remained on the walk, his tanned face weary from some unknown weight. “Are you staying here?” he asked Buffy.
“As soon as I’ve got him settled again, I’ll call you. I’ll get Giles and Willow over, too. I’ll explain everything then.”
With that, the two men disappeared inside the building, leaving a very bewildered Slayer aching in the rain.
To be continued in Chapter 7: How Fragile We Are…