|A Different Light by dreamweaver|
|Chapter #1 - Chapter 1|
The fabulous banner is by the awesomely talented Ben Rostock.
Buffy had never wanted to kill anyone as much as she wanted to kill Spike right now.
It was just the way her luck was running these days that he would have to turn up just when she was making a fool of herself, chasing after Parker! Even Spike had thought that was pathetic—and was cruel enough to say so. God! She wanted to dust him so bad! But he was wearing that ring, that Gem of Amara, on his finger. Stakes didn’t hurt him. Sunlight didn’t fry him. No wonder it was a vamp’s Holy Grail! She wondered whether even a bazooka would get through the protection it gave him.
The jerk was enjoying himself. He had the upper hand now. He was a superb fighter and they had always been evenly matched, strength to strength and skill to skill. But now he was invulnerable. Stakes, crosses, sunlight, holy water—none of that would work, not with that ring on his finger.
He threw her into a glass table and she barely missed cracking her head on the metal frame, rolled off in a shower of glass while he strolled after her, grinning.
“Getting tired, Slayer?”
She was. She had tried every trick she knew and nothing worked. He could have killed her a dozen times already, was playing with her like a cat with a mouse.
They traded another flurry of blows and he got her right in the stomach, knocking her down some steps. She fell and bruised her upper arm on the bricks of the lower level.
“So, you let Parker take a poke, eh?” he mocked, strolling down the steps as she staggered to her feet. “Didn't seem like you know each other that well. What did it take to pry apart the Slayer's dimpled knees?”
God! How she hated him!
“You're a pig, Spike.” She was too furious even to think up a decent quip. That came when she was having fun. She wasn’t having fun right now.
Spike did a forceful kick straight to her ribcage that threw her staggering backwards.
“Did he play the sensitive lad and get you to seduce him? That's a good trick if the girl’s thick enough to buy it.”
Buffy slammed a roundhouse swing at him. He blocked it smoothly, both that and every punch that followed, easily ducked or blocked the vicious kicks she threw at him. She was nearing the end of her strength now and desperate. She spun on a kick and he got her across the small of her back with a sweeping blow of his knee and shin that sent her tumbling forward onto her face across the steps. She lay there for a moment, unable to get up, trying to get her breath back.
“I wonder what went wrong. Were you too strong? Did you bruise the boy?” He was enjoying himself immensely, knowing that his words were more hurtful to her than his blows, pinpointing and throwing her own fears into her face.
She glared at him in hatred.
“Whatever.” He gave her a mocking smirk. “I guess you're not worth a second go. Come to think of it, seems like someone told me that. Who was it? Oh, yeah.” He grinned triumphantly. “Angel.”
Her brain shorted right out. She flung herself at him, snarling, beyond thought or reason, wanting only to kill him.
There was only one way. She found it. That blind rage of pure fury gave it to her. She smashed at him with the insane strength that came with that rage, thrashed him across the concrete planters, knocked him back at the right angle at last, coming back to herself in that moment of triumph. She held him immobilized over the concrete, her whole weight across his back and his arm twisted and stretched behind him.
“Take it off me this way, we both burn!” he flung at her in desperation as she reached to snatch off the ring.
“Really?” she said, mocking. “Let's see.”
She jerked the ring off his finger and his face instantly contorted with pain. The removal of the ring made him susceptible to sunlight once more and he hissed in agony as he started to smoke.
Blackness crashed down on them.
“What the hell?” Buffy exclaimed.
“Oh, thank God!” That was Spike, saved from the sun. Then, in a furious, confused voice: “What the fuck is this, Slayer? What are you doing?”
“Me? You’re the one who’s not getting burned up by the sun! What did you do?”
“Not exactly a vamp talent, turning off the sun,” he snarled. “Stop pulling at me!”
“I’m not pulling at you!”
She had in fact released him in shock. But she was still gripping the leather sleeve of his duster. She didn’t want to lose track of where he was. There was no way she wanted a dangerous enemy loose who could possibly see in the dark while she was totally blind and unable to see him at all.
“Well, something’s pulling at me,” he said.
Something was pulling at her too, a drag like a current. They were being swept along through empty space. She flung out her free hand, swiping to all sides in the freezing blackness.
“Can you see? Vampire! Can you see anything at all?”
“No! It’s black, even to vamp eyes.”
She could feel him twisting and turning as well, searching about him.
A pinpoint of light appeared in the darkness.
“Look!” Buffy exclaimed.
“Sodding hell! What is that?”
The light rushed at them like a train bearing down on them. They both involuntarily flung up their arms against it.
It bore down on them, engulfed them. Buffy felt as if she were being pulled in all directions at once and then turned inside out. It was a sickening feeling.
Then she was staggering on a vast stone floor at one end of a vast stone hall and there was a huge crowd of strangers staring at her.
“Bloody hell!” exclaimed Spike.
They both instinctively swung to stand back to back, falling into fighting stances. They were enemies, but they knew each other. They didn’t know what they were facing here.
“We’re not in Kansas anymore,” muttered Spike.
They sure weren’t. Buffy glanced around warily. The hall they stood in was huge, both in height and in width, and was packed with people. Banners, arms and tapestries decorated the walls, and clerestory windows high up provided plenty of light though, luckily for Spike, no actual sunbeams reached the floor where they stood. To her left was a dais; on the dais was a man about thirty, very tall and impressive and splendidly dressed, clearly a Personage, seated on what was as clearly a throne, cut all in one piece and intricately carved out of pure white marble. His guards, all in black leather, bared swords in their hands, were leaping towards them.
“Truce, Slayer, until we get home,” said Spike quickly under his breath.
It galled her to have to agree. She was still so furious with him that she would rather have killed him. But he was right. He had adapted at once to the new situation. Spike’s genius, that instant adaptation to whatever might be thrown at him. Anything between them would have to wait until they were back in Sunnydale again.
“Truce,” she growled reluctantly.
The pressure of his back against hers suddenly vanished. From the corner of her eye, she saw him make a flying leap at the closest wall. He reached the crossed swords that hung ten feet up there, yanked them out of their scabbards, then rebounded off the wall with one foot.
She caught the sword he threw her, then he was at her back once again, snarling and in gameface. The guards coming at them instinctively recoiled at the sight of fangs, ridges and yellow eyes, giving them both time to drop into defensive positions. The swords were thankfully not decorative; they had an edge and were meant for use. The guards coming towards them came forward now more warily.
The Personage shouted something in a harsh, abrupt voice. The guards stopped. But they did not withdraw. They remained where they were, encircling the two intruders. A further line of black-leather-coated forms with bared swords was now barring the way to the dais, additional protection for Mr. Big.
A woman standing behind a brazier set up on the right side of the dais called something in a high, clear voice. She was very tall, some six and a half feet, with ivory skin and black hair. All the people around were like her, the men even taller, perhaps averaging seven feet plus and built to match. As far as Buffy could see, the look was a racial resemblance. Everyone was formally and sumptuously dressed, all in knee-length, brocade coats buttoned from hem to throat over pants for the men and ankle-length skirts for the women, except for the guards whose coats were similar but of leather with silver buttons.
The woman threw something into the brazier and called again, looking right at them. It was clearly a question.
“Sorry, no comprendo,” muttered Buffy sarcastically and Spike laughed under his breath.
The guards scowled at them. The woman tried again. Buffy and Spike held their positions. This went on for a little while, the woman tossing things into the brazier and asking incomprehensible questions.
“At least she’s good to look at,” Spike muttered.
“Don’t we have enough things to worry about without you getting the hots for some alien?” Buffy growled. But the woman really was beautiful.
“Hot bird’s a hot bird, Slayer. Doesn’t bother me. How much you wanna bet she’s a witch though? Look at that ‘toss the eye of newt tastefully into the cauldron’ action.”
“Got the moves,” Buffy agreed.
Out of the corner of her eye, she could see him coolly scanning the hall. The sword in his hand didn’t waver and his braced, forward-slanting, dangerous stance didn’t ease in the slightest. Well, if she had to have him around, it was good that he was on her side. He might be an unregenerate, evil, soulless monster, but he was a ferocious fighter and she knew already from the Acathla business that if he gave his word on something, he kept it. She might have to watch out for him slashing at her throat the second they got back to Sunnydale, but here and now he was an ally.
“Dimensional jump?” he remarked suddenly.
“I’d say so.”
“Christ, the things that happen around you, Slayer!”
“Well, it was your own fault! If you hadn’t tried for that third notch on your Slayer-killing belt, you wouldn’t be here right now.”
“Do you understand me?” the woman said and they both jumped.
“Now we do,” Buffy said quickly. “Did you bring us here? Why?”
There was an angry murmur from the crowd.
“What?” asked Buffy, glancing around in surprise.
The woman raised a hand. “They do not know our customs, nefa’in,” she said to the crowd, “and of course they are confused and distressed. Grant them some allowance, of your courtesy.”
“Grant us bugger all,” growled Spike. “Just send us home.”
The woman frowned a little in puzzlement, as if not all of that had translated. Buffy guessed that the spell that she had done allowed some sort of instantaneous translation. But Spike’s British slang and probably her own Americanisms certainly would not translate well.
“We will not harm you,” the woman said.
“We will not let you,” Spike mocked.
“Knock it off,” muttered Buffy. “If you haven’t noticed, there are several hundred people here and a lot of what look like professional soldiers. Just cool the ’tude.”
“We can take ‘em,” growled Spike, glaring at the guards who glared back through cold and deadly eyes.
“An explanation might be of value, Lady Adara,” said the Personage dryly from his throne.
The lady bowed immediately. “I will do so at once, Tariess lord.”
Buffy didn’t know whether that was name or title. The word came not in her head like the rest of the conversation, but through her actual hearing. But the connotation discernible in the woman’s tone suggested that the simple term ‘lord’ was an understatement. ‘Lord’ was probably a modest equivalent for something like ‘majesty’.
“Explanations would be of the good,” she agreed.
“To simplify a complex situation is difficult,” Lady Adara said, frowning. “But I will try. We have an enemy, both powerful and unknown. Seeking for ways to defeat it, we came upon a prophecy in an ancient book...”
“Oh, God, not another freaking prophecy!” Buffy groaned.
Spike snickered. “Knew it was all about you, Slayer.”
Buffy realized that everyone was staring at them in bewilderment again. She waved her free hand dismissively. “Sorry. My issue. Ignore it.”
Lady Adara hesitated, clearly thrown off stride. “Yes, well. The prophecy, nefa’in, said that we should call for a champion across the Void. We called. You came.”
“Champion!” exclaimed Spike. “Oh, that’s her! The Slayer. She’s the champion all right. The one girl and all that crap.”
“Right then,” he said happily. “You got her. You don’t need me. Send me back.”
“But you too must be a champion, nefai.”
“Boy, have you ever got the wrong vampire!” He snickered helplessly. “No soul here. What you want is the great poof. Send me back and I’ll tell him he’s got an urgent appointment.”
“You are the one who came, nefai.”
“I just got dragged along for the ride because she was hanging onto my sleeve! Wouldn’t be here otherwise! Send me back.”
“The spell called you and you came, nefai. Therefore you too must be a champion.”
“I’m no bloody champion!” snapped Spike, outraged. “Not me! Never! I’m evil!”
“Spike!” muttered Buffy. “Ixnay on the evil. Heroes aren’t evil.”
“I’m not a sodding hero, Slayer!”
“Don’t offend the nice natives who are the only ones who can send us home.”
“Besides, are you not her Guildsman, nefai?” Lady Adara asked. “You cannot abandon her now.”
“Watch me,” muttered Spike. “And what’s a Guildsman anyway?”
“I think she means the guards,” Buffy murmured. “All that black leather. See? Only the guards are wearing that. And there you are in black leather. Cut a little differently, but still. They think you’re my bodyguard.”
“Me!” He snickered involuntarily. “Gonna have a bit of a shock then, aren’t they?”
They had been speaking under their breaths, so quietly that only Slayer and vampire hearing could pick it up. Lady Adara was still talking.
“...Besides, the passage through the void will not open again for sixty days.”
“What? Sixty!” groaned Spike. “Say it’s not so!”
“If you do not wish to help us, we will assuredly send you back at that time. Do not fear.”
Spike laughed and glanced at Buffy. “What’s that phrase you use, Slayer? Oh, yeah. As if!”
Adara plowed on determinedly. “You will be our honored guests until then, since we are the ones who brought you here and disrupted your lives.”
Someone was thrusting through the group of people standing on the left of the dais. It was a big man with a harsh, lined face, his braided hair shot through with silver.
“We do not need their help! Look at them, Tariess lord! Are these champions? They stand no higher than one of our children of twelve summers!”
“Think you may find that size doesn’t matter,” said Spike dryly and Buffy laughed.
“I said it before and I say it again, Tariess lord. We need no outlanders. We can defend ourselves!”
“Scared of us, isn’t he?” Spike murmured and Buffy thought he was right. The way the man was looking at them, in disgust and revulsion, suggested that their clear difference from his norm frightened him.
“It is to be seen, Lehren-aver,” said the Personage calmly. “In the meantime, they are here and here they must stay, will they, nil they, until the passage opens. Lady Adara, see to their comfort.”
“I will, Tariess lord.”
“I regret this happenstance,” he said courteously to Buffy and Spike. “If you choose to help us, we would be grateful. Should you choose not, we will not compel you. In either case, we will make your stay as pleasant as may be.”
“Thank you.” Buffy caught a warning glance from Lady Adara and added hurriedly, “Tariess lord.”
He made a movement of his hand, dismissing them, and Adara led the way to a door on their right, the crowd falling back to allow them passage. Two guards fell in behind them, hands on their sword hilts. Spike gave them a narrow look, but said nothing. They seemed to be Adara’s men. No one attempted to take away the swords Buffy and Spike still carried bare in their hands.
“What is this place, lady?” Buffy asked as they went through corridor after luxurious corridor and up flights of magnificent stairs.
“This is the Hasjarad,” Adara explained. “It is where our lord and his court live and govern and dispense justice.”
“What is that?”
“A home for the king.”
“Home, yes. What is ‘king’?”
Adara nodded in understanding. “Yes. Tariess lord rules.”
“What does he rule? How large is this land, I mean?”
“His domain spans the continent.”
“Empire,” muttered Spike. “Like Rome or Persia. Darius the Great.”
Buffy stared at him. “Huh?”
“Bloody ignorant SoCal valleygirl.”
“Hey! I’m not ignorant! Just not interested.”
“You are her Guildsman, nefai?” Adara asked dubiously and they both became aware of the impeccable manners of her guards behind them.
“Yes, he is,” said Buffy hurriedly. “Our ways are just different, that’s all!”
“Not a hireling,” muttered Spike.
“Ah, through conviction then. Most commendable,” nodded Adara and Spike smirked at Buffy, who had to stifle a strong urge to kick him in the shins. “I am sorry. I did not ask your names. Please pardon the discourtesy.”
“I’m Buffy Summers and this is Spike.”
“B...Buf...” Adara stumbled over the name, which had clearly come across by sound rather than by translation. “It is a strange name.”
“You can say that again,” muttered Spike and Buffy gave him a dirty look.
“Buf-fy Sum-mers,” said Adara with extreme effort. “Do I have that right, avera? Names are so important.”
“Try Slayer,” suggested Spike with a hidden grin.
“Ah! That is easier,” said Adara and Buffy sighed. “And you, aver. Spike. That does translate. But it is a name of convenience, is it not?”
“His name’s William the...”
“Spike,” said Spike flatly. “Just Spike.”
“As you wish. Here is your residence.”
They had reached a set of resplendent doors. The guards stepped forward to throw them wide. Buffy noticed that there were other such doors widely spaced along the extremely long corridor. At the far end of the corridor was a truly spectacular set of double doors, gilded and intricately carved, in front of which were black-uniformed guards.
“Tariess lord’s,” said Adara, noting the direction of her gaze. “A historical residence, as are the seven others on this floor.”
Buffy and Spike exchanged uneasy glances, understanding that they were being honored by being placed so close to the ruler’s apartments.
The doors led to an impressive foyer and then a reception salon and a set of bowing figures.
“Your staff,” said Adara. “This is Emer, who is in charge and will look after you.”
“Averin.” The staff bowed.
There must be twenty of them, Buffy thought in panic. Twenty servants to keep the place in order! She bowed awkwardly back and was chagrined when Spike of all people did it better.
“Would you care to see the arrangement of the premises, nefa’in?” Emer asked. She was middle-aged, slender and had great dignity.
“Yes, thank you,” Spike said at once, though all Buffy wanted was to sit down somewhere and rest. She was exhausted. But from the smiles, he had said the right thing. “Better know the layout, Slayer, just in case,” he said under his breath.
“This is the outer section,” said Emer, leading the way. “It serves all the formal functions. The state dining room is here beside the reception salon and the post-of-guard. There is of course a private dining room in a circular salon that all the master bedrooms, each with bath, give out upon...”
It was...palatial. Buffy got steadily more and more numb as they went through room after room, which all started to blur together as they went on. Guest rooms and studies and libraries and solariums and apparently even a kitchen with its own chef—all filled with magnificent, antique furniture, every piece of which had a history that Emer proudly described. From the tour-guide fluency of her descriptions, people often came to view the place.
“Bloody museum,” Spike muttered sotto voce to her.
“Huh.” Even Buffy’s Slayer strength was flagging as she dragged herself through room after room. It had been a very long day. The transition here through that cold, empty, black place had drained her, and that had come on top of the fight with Spike and the emotional strain of her clash with Parker.
Adara at last noticed her exhaustion and called off the tour. Buffy sank onto a couch with relief, amidst a flurry of staff.
“Something to drink, avera?” Emer asked anxiously. “Tea?”
“Water,” sighed Buffy. “Or something cold.”
“Something stronger for me,” muttered Spike.
“Shibei and isornin,” said Adara firmly.
Shibei turned out to be an amber liquor that Spike after the first dubious sip smiled over, and isornin was a very pleasant iced tea.
Emer came and bowed. “The chef wishes to know if you have any preferences, nefa’in.”
“Anything, thank you,” said Buffy. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Likewise, but...” Spike lifted a brow at Buffy.
“He needs blood,” said Buffy baldly and they both smiled blandly at the rustle of consternation that went through the room. “He’s something called a vampire and they subsist on blood.”
“Human blood,” said Spike flatly. Buffy opened her mouth to protest and he stared her down.
“It can be done,” said Adara, exchanging a desperate glance with Emer. “The hospitals, avera. They would have a supply.”
“No hurry,” said Spike easily. “I’ve fed for the day. Tomorrow will do fine.”
“Also tomorrow, Lady Adara,” Buffy said suddenly, “perhaps you could tell me more of this situation of yours.”
“Should have known,” sighed Spike, letting his head fall against the back of the armchair into which he had sprawled.
“I’m the Slayer, Spike. It’s my job.”
“In our dimension.”
“In any dimension, there’s no harm in listening.”
“Tomorrow then, nefai,” said Adara, smiling with satisfaction at the partial victory and leaving hurriedly before Buffy could change her mind.
“Being ‘good’ can be a real pain in the ass, can’t it?” remarked Spike scornfully when they were finally left alone.
“You’ll never have to worry about that. Human blood!”
“I’m already making a concession by getting it from the blood banks. Could have asked for it from a live source, couldn’t I? Look at this place! They’re so desperate they’d have talked some poor sucker into volunteering. One of the maids, for instance.”
She knew he was right. She glared at him and he smirked back.
“So why didn’t you?”
“Some of them are already worried about our intentions towards them. That Lehren git back there, f’r instance. Don’t want them thinking we might harm them. You were right when you said we’re outnumbered.”
One of the staff came in with a tray full of niblets and set it down where they could both reach it.
“Would you like more isornin, avera?”
“No, this is fine,” said Buffy. “Thank you.”
“The chef will not have a meal ready for at least an hour, but we can draw baths in the meantime.”
“Oh, yes, please!” sighed Buffy. “That would be wonderful.”
The girl smiled and bowed, then went over and flung wide the curtains along one side of the room, revealing a magnificent view of a huge city sweeping outwards to mountains beyond. Late evening sunlight blazed in.
“Holy shit!” Spike almost fell out of his chair as sunrays poured over him, then made a precipitate retreat to the shadows at the back of the room, knocking over a probably priceless footstool in the process.
Buffy laughed and laughed.
“Glad you think it’s funny, Slayer! I want that Gem! These people don’t understand anything! Gimme back that Gem!”
“Spike, you didn’t burn.”
“The sunlight was full on you and you didn’t even smoulder.”
He looked down at himself in astonishment, then held out a hand cautiously into the sunlight. Nothing happened.
“What the hell?”
He edged carefully into the sunlight and stood there in surprise.
“Different sun, I guess,” said Buffy.
“Well, how about that?”
The maid was standing with her hands to her mouth. Emer and another staffer came running in.
“Nothing to worry about.” Buffy waved a hand carelessly. “He has spasms every now and then. Just ignore it.”
Spike gave her a glare. Emer gave them both a nervous look, clearly thinking of the precious antiquities. The staffer went to right the fallen footstool, giving Spike a slanting, sideways glance from under dropped eyelashes as she did so. She was very lovely. Spike gave her an appreciative glance back.
“Now there was a come-on, if I ever saw one,” he remarked once Emer and the two girls had left. “Wonder if she might volunteer to keep my bed warm tonight.”
“Don’t fuck with the staff, vampire!” Buffy snapped. “We want to keep in these people’s good books.”
“Guarantee I’d be in her good books, Slayer.” He smirked at her. “But a gentleman doesn’t sleep with the maids in his own home.”
“Like you’re a gentleman.”
“Was brought up to be one.” He sprawled back into his chair. “I‘m not a bog-trotting Irish peasant farmer’s son like Angel.”
Buffy glared at him. “Shut up about Angel.”
“Angelus always liked rape. Me, I like ‘em willing. And someone whose livelihood depends on your smile or frown can’t be considered willing. I don’t fuck the servants.”
“Scruples. Who’d have thought!”
“Had a lot of them before I was turned. Too bloody many, in fact.” He smiled scornfully at himself.
“Don’t have any now, do you?”
His lids lifted and he gave her a cold stare. “No.”
They looked at each other with dislike.
“Or taste. Harmony,” she mocked.
“A good lay. If she’d only stop talking. God, that bint drove me ’round the bend! Kept going on and on about sodding France. Made the mistake of saying I’d take her there sometime and she never let it go. Even staking her didn’t work.”
Buffy stared at him. “You staked Harmony?”
“Didn’t take. She was wearing the Gem. Real shame. Would have shut her up for once.”
“You’ve got no feelings, have you?”
Something moved behind his eyes. A bitterness.
“No. And certainly not for a ditz like Harmony. Thinks she’s a SoCal princess. She’s a barmaid,” he said cruelly. “Dru might be crazy, but at least she’s got brains. Need that in a woman, I do.”
“It’s all about Dru, isn’t it?” she realized. “Because she dumped you. You’re taking it out on Harmony.”
“Not liking women much right now.” His face was cold and hard and resentful. A diagonal muscle jumped in his cheek. “You’re one to talk, Slayer. Taking up with that wimpy Parker git because Angel dumped you on your arse.”
“Why the dishrag? No, really. I want to know. He’s a user, that Abrams. Anybody can see that. Except for bints with over-active hormones, I guess,” he added unkindly.
“It’s none of your business!”
“He’s got wet eyes. Tell you something free, Slayer. You see someone with wet eyes like that, you run like hell. That git’s never had to work for anything in his life. He just turns on the soppy stare, all soulful and whatnot, and he gets it all. No spine, that one. Limp noodle. All wet.” He grinned suddenly. “Bet he didn’t even get you off.”
Buffy flushed. Parker had been disappointing. Spike laughed knowingly.
“Yeah, thought so. Humans will never do it for you, Slayer. Not when you can break ‘em like a twig. That’s why I never take up with humans. No fun when you can’t let yourself go. Always have to hold back just in case you do them some damage.”
“He’s normal!” she flung at him angrily.
“You pulling my chain?” he asked in astonishment. “What’s normal got to do with you? You’re more than normal, Slayer. You need someone more than normal too.”
“Yeah, I’m a freak,” she muttered.
“We’re all freaks here, Slayer, remember? But you’re special. Do you honest to God want to be normal?” he asked in amazement. “Or are you just shitting me? Have a house with a white picket fence, dog, two point five kids? Turn into June Cleaver, vacuuming her house in pearls, waiting for hubby to come home from the office? Pfft!” It was a disdainful, contemptuous sound. “You’d hate it.”
She had, when she lost her powers during the Council’s Cruciamentum test.
“That’s not the point.”
“Who sold you that crock of shit?” His eyes were penetrating. “It was Angel, wasn’t it? Really pulled a number on you, didn’t he? Couldn’t take the heat. Didn’t have the willpower to stay with you unless he could fuck you. Some great love, that is.”
“Like you would know!”
“Slayer, Dru was sick a year before I found a way to cure her. Stayed with her, din’ I? Found the solution.”
She looked at him in unwilling realization. “You really loved Dru, didn’t you?”
His mouth twisted. “Yeah.”
“And you don’t even have a soul.”
He looked at her scornfully. “Can love without a soul, Slayer. Not wisely, perhaps. But well.”
There was a little silence. Spike pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his duster pocket and lit one, then looked at the pack sadly.
“Have to ration these.”
“It’s different with Angel,” Buffy said suddenly.
“Oh, yeah?” He blew a long plume of smoke at the ceiling. “Soul goes bye-bye with a moment of perfect happiness? Well, find a way to stabilize it. What’s Angel doing about that? Should be looking for a way around it. That’s what I’d do.”
“Why’d Dru dump you anyway?” she asked. It suddenly seemed to her to have been a very silly thing to have done.
His lips tightened and his gaze came down to her face. Something moved in his eyes, irresolute, angry and resentful. He stared at her for a moment as if he were seeing her for the first time.
“What?” she asked, looking away uncomfortably from that focused blue gaze. “Do I have something on my face?”
“What? No. Sorry. Thinking. Dru just...got some weird ideas in her head. Didn’t like that truce that we had. Kept saying...” He broke off abruptly, looking away. “Didn’t make any sense. She’s always been mental, but this time she really spaced out.”
There was another little silence.
“Maybe I really was taking it out on Harm because of Dru,” he said suddenly. “But, sod it, she’d drive anyone to murder.”
Buffy grinned involuntarily. “When I heard she had a boyfriend, I thought he must be the most tolerant guy in the world.”
Spike snickered. “Well, that’s not me.”
“I should say not. She’s pretty though,” she added to excuse him.
“Prettier than you, Slayer.”
“Thanks ever so,” she mocked, amused.
“You’re not pretty, Slayer. You’re beautiful. Got force.”
She gaped at him.
“Just saying,” he muttered, shifting uneasily in his seat.
“Well, uh, thanks. You’re not so bad yourself.”
“Not so bad between the sheets either, Slayer.” His eyes had lit with mocking laughter, vividly blue. “Should get it on sometime, the two of us. Think you’ll find you’ve been missing something with those other two gits.”
Her breath caught. He was hot. And very sensual, very tactile. She wondered what it would be like to...And she wasn’t thinking that way! Not about Spike!
“You wish,” she growled.
“Maybe I do,” he muttered to her complete surprise.