ETA: I’m reposting this in a revised version incorporating a different ‘real name’ for Spike. Although the poll that I ran gave a result of 4 to 1 in favour of the original version, I can see certain advantages to the change, and I have rewritten the chapter accordingly. I would appreciate feedback on this version, especially from people who have read the original. I have kept a copy of the original version, and I will restore it if reader opinion so demands.
Previous parts here:
Part One / Part Two / Part Three / Part Four / Part Five / Part Six / Part Seven / Part Eight / Part Nine / Part Ten / Part Eleven
Angel of the Morning
I heard the phone ring as I was toweling myself dry. I dressed as quickly as I could and hurried downstairs, heart pounding, and found Spike and Xander pointedly ignoring each other. They seemed pretty calm apart from that and so I could tell that the call hadn’t been bad news about Tara. I relaxed a little and I looked at the guys, wondering if they were likely to start fighting any time soon, but it looked like they were observing a truce, or at least a cease fire. Spike stood up as I came into the room; Xander was reading one of the papers we’d retrieved from the Three Stooges’ belongings, one that had been completely incomprehensible to me.
“Ready to go?” Xander asked, putting down the paper and standing up.
“Sure thing,” I said. “Uh, Xan, were you reading that? What is it? I couldn’t make any sense of it.”
“It’s Klingon,” he explained. “A love poem. A really, really, bad love poem.”
“D’oh!” I exclaimed, ‘cause hey, should have guessed, Warren and Jonathan and the other one, Tucker’s brother, were all big with the Star Trek geekdom. “What else would it be?” I moved on to more important matters. “Hey, who was that on the phone? News about Tara?”
“Yeah, it was Ahn with an update. Looks like they’re gonna keep Tara in overnight, but they’re pretty sure she’s gonna be okay.”
“Good, but I’ll feel better when I see her myself.” I started for the door and then stopped as a sudden thought hit me. “Xander, could you translate that poem for me?”
“Sure, no problem. You mean now?” Xander sounded puzzled.
“Well, not right now. Maybe when we get to the hospital, ‘cause there’s always hanging around and waiting. I’ll just grab my iBook.”
“Okay,” Xander agreed, although he looked confused, and he pocketed the sheet of paper. “Hey, where’s Dawn? Isn’t she coming?”
“She went to the amusement park with Janice,” I explained. “They’re going to stay at Janice’s afterwards. Really, I checked with Janice’s mom.” I slipped my iBook into its carrying case, slung it over my shoulder, and headed for the door. Spike had donned his coat and he moved to accompany me.
“Might as well let Dawn stay there, I guess,” Xander said, standing up. “No point in spoiling her night now that it looks like Tara’s gonna be fine.” He glared at Spike. “Hey, dead boy, where do you think you’re going? You needn’t think you’re coming with us.”
“Suit yourself. If you won’t give me a ride I’ll use the bike,” Spike said. “I want to see Tara too, pillock.”
“Yeah, sure,” Xander said, sounding skeptical. “Like I believe that. You’re just faking that you care to keep in good with Willow.”
“Believe what you want, but I bloody like the witch. Always have done.”
“You punched her in the nose,” Xander reminded Spike.
“Had a good reason, didn’t I?”
“Please, Xander, this isn’t the time,” I said. “Let’s just go see Tara. All of us. She’ll be happy to see Spike, I know.”
“Oh, all right,” Xander caved. “I guess it’s better than leaving dead boy here to try it on with Buffy when she gets in from patrol.” He ignored the glare that the remark provoked from Spike. “Hey, should we leave Buff a note?”
“I’ll call her from the hospital, if she’s not back I’ll leave a message,” I said, and I stepped out of the door at last.
- - - - -
“Who would have thought they’d make such a big deal about concussion?” Xander mused. “Hey, I’ve been knocked out a few times. I never knew it was something to be worried about.” He glared at Spike. “The time that sticks in my mind most is when somebody hit me over the head with a microscope. That hurt for freakin’ days.”
“Uh, yeah. Sorry about that,” Spike said, looking down at his boots.
“Like hell are you sorry,” Xander accused. “You’re just saying it to keep in with Willow.”
“And you meant it when you said ‘sorry’ to me outside the bathroom?” Spike shot back. “Doing the same thing, you were.”
“No, I did mean it,” Xander said. “Sort of. I had you wrong that one time, so I meant it. Just that once. Although, yeah, I wouldn’t have bothered apologizing if Willow hadn’t been there.”
“Keep it down, both of you,” I ordered. “Have you finished that translation yet, Xan?”
“Nearly,” Xander said, returning his attention to the Klingon poetry. “What’s so freaking important about it anyway?”
“The stuff we retrieved from the Trio is in code,” I explained. “The sort where you need a key text. I tried to analyze it, and I guessed at a few geeky Star Wars and Star Trek things, but no luck. I’m hoping the poem might be the key.”
“Think it might give us a lead on those gits, then, love?” Spike asked.
“Maybe,” I replied. “It’s worth a try, anyway. I really, really, want them caught.”
“Me too,” Anya chimed in. “Warren damaged Xander. And Tara too, of course.”
“Yeah,” Spike growled. “Love to smash the bastard’s teeth down his throat myself, if I could do it without my head exploding.”
“Shush,” Xander muttered. “I’m not sure about this one. Gleaming? Glittering? Shining?”
“Effulgent?” Spike suggested, sounding a little hesitant.
“Huh? Ah, got it. Glistening. Right, that’s it. I’ve put in the English characters of the Klingon words, and the translation. Hope it helps.” Xander passed me the annotated sheet and I opened up the laptop.
“Let’s see. If 572 is the fifth line, seventh word, second letter, then the Klingon letter is H and the English is W. 394 gives Klingon H, English E. 146 gives – H again in Klingon, think I can rule that out – the English word gives L. 914 is L again. 611 is S. Wells. Tucker’s surname, so it’s the little weasel’s too, what is his name? Looking good.” I typed away for a minute, hit ‘Enter’, and watched as the gibberish turned into words in English. “Oh. Wells Fargo. Not his name after all, but I was right anyway. We did it, yay us.” I studied the screen. “Oh. Big oh. This is bad, people. Warren’s going after banks, armored car deliveries, corporate vaults, and – oh shit. Opening night at the amusement park.”
“Nibblet’s there!” Spike exclaimed, and he sprang to his feet; just as a nurse walked up to us.
“You can see Miss MacLay now,” the nurse announced. “One at a time, not for more than five minutes, and keep it quiet.”
Spike’s mouth twisted and he frowned. I guessed that he was caught between loyalties. “I can’t see that five minutes could hurt,” I said, hoping that I wasn’t jinxing things by saying it. “You go first, Spike. I’ll be calling Buffy while you’re in with Tara.”
“Better idea,” Xander suggested. “I’ll go find Dawn and Janice, and take them home. I’m the one with the car.”
“I’m the one who promised to protect her,” Spike grumbled.
“And what could you do against Warren, chip head?” Xander retorted with a smug grin on his face.
“’Bout the same as you,” Spike pointed out.
The nurse was fidgeting impatiently. “Stop it, both of you,” I ordered. “Spike, if you want to see Tara you go right this minute.”
“’Kay,” Spike agreed, and followed the nurse out of the waiting area.
I turned my attention back to the laptop. “No big panic about going to get Dawn,” I told Xander. “The place will be closed by the time Warren hits it. It’s the armored truck collecting the takings that he’s going for.”
“Should we tell the police?” Anya suggested. “They’re human, after all. Not really Buffy’s responsibility. Warren’s already on the ‘wanted’ list. He put two other people in hospital as well as Tara and he stole money out of the cash register at the Bronze. Let the police deal with him.”
“Uh, they might ask too many questions about how we got this info,” Xander pointed out. “We didn’t have any legal right to search their place.”
“I don’t think they’ll be able to deal with Warren anyway,” I said. “Not if he’s as super strong as you say. They could shoot him, that is if he isn’t protected against bullets, but they wouldn’t shoot an unarmed man straight off. They’d start off with batons and he’d tear them apart. It’s gonna have to be Buffy.”
- - - - -
There was a big bruise across the side of Tara’s face, ugly and livid. I winced. How could anyone hurt such a sweet and gentle person? “Hi, sweetie,” I greeted her. “How are you feeling?”
“Achy,” she replied, “but not bad. I don’t see why I need to stay overnight.”
“Hey, this is nicer than where you live these days,” I pointed out. “Relax and enjoy it.” It occurred to me that the doctors were probably being extra cautious about Tara’s condition, because they’d see from her history that the last time she’d been admitted she’d been a babbling idiot, and now here she was with a head injury. Not that there was any connection with the last time, of course, Glory’s brain-sucking didn’t have anything to do with a blow on the head, but much better for them to be too careful than not careful enough. “Why did Warren hit you, anyway?”
“I could tell he was all super strong, and I tried to do a spell to find out what was giving him the power, but the skinny one saw me and shouted to Warren and he came and hit me.”
“The skinny one?” I frowned. I still couldn’t remember Tucker’s brother’s first name. “Not Jonathan?”
“No, not Jonathan. I think he knew what I was doing, but he didn’t say anything. He just looked scared.”
“I hope Warren’s not too super strong for Buffy to handle,” I said, and we talked about the Nerd Trio for a couple of minutes, until Tara turned the conversation to a more uncomfortable subject.
“Spike told me what he did,” she said. “Are you, um, how are you dealing?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say it’s been fun, but I’m dealing,” I said, “but I don’t feel like I can stay living with Buffy much longer. I’m gonna move out as soon as I can find a place of my own. Hey, maybe you might want to think about moving back there?”
“Maybe,” Tara said. “I’ll think about it. What about you and Spike?”
I bit my lip. “I don’t know. What he did hurt me, it’s gonna be a while before things are the same between us, but I think maybe I am gonna forgive him. Kick his ass good first, and then forgive him, that is.”
Tara laughed. “You do that, hon. You were so happy together. I hope you can get it back.”
“I’ll try,” I promised. “Now, you do what the doctors tell you and get well. I’ll see you when they let you out of here tomorrow, okay?”
- - - - -
“So, Spike,” I said, passing him a mug of warm blood, “what am I going to do with you?” I poured myself a mug of coffee and joined him on the couch, but I sat at the far end instead of snuggling up against him.
Spike sucked in his lower lip. “Well, I vote for me spending a lot of time groveling, until you see how sorry I am, and then we go back to the way we were before Xander came back. Only, it’s not going to be that easy, is it, love?”
“Maybe,” I said. “If you prove that you really love me.”
Spike frowned. “How am I supposed to do that, love? Dragon slaying’s sorta gone out of style these days, and I’m betting that chaining Buffy up and saying I’ll stake her for you wouldn’t exactly get me very far.”
“Tell me your real name,” I said. “I know you’re hiding something. Tell me, and maybe I’ll believe you about how sorry you are.”
“Well, officially it’s William Shackleton,” he said. “Got a passport to prove it.” He paused to take a long drink from his mug of blood. “Willow – you won’t laugh, will you?”
“I’ll try not to.”
Spike sighed. “Okay. It’s Pratt.”
It took a couple of seconds for it to sink in. At first I could only think of Pratt and Whitney, like the jet engines, and Fletcher Pratt who wrote the Harold Shea stories; but then I remembered Giles, and sometimes Spike himself, using ‘you complete prat’ as an insult. ‘Pratfall’. I guess ‘prat’ means ‘butt’. I just about managed not to laugh. “Thanks for telling me, Spike. That’s pretty much of a bummer, huh? Must have been tough for you as a kid.”
“Nah, wasn’t a problem, Red. Never heard the word other than as a name when I was alive. First time I heard it used for ‘arse’ was in the Forties, and I don’t think it got used much to mean ‘useless git’ until some telly program in the Sixties started it and it caught on. ‘Course, since then I’ve been dead worried that Angelus would drop me in it, or Dru would without knowing what she was doing, and where would my Big Bad rep have been then?”
“I won’t tell anyone, Spike, I promise. But thanks for trusting me enough to tell me.” I shuffled along the couch and took up my accustomed position next to my vampire.
He put his arm around my shoulders. “Love you, Willow.”
“I love you too, Spike,” I said. “But hey, you were pretty much of a jerk. Don’t do it again, okay?”
“I won’t. Don’t want to hurt you ever again, love.” He chuckled. “Should have heard what Joel called me. Jerk doesn’t even begin to cover it. Clem gave me a right mouthful, too. The Nibblet topped both of them, though. Came over to the crypt this afternoon on her way to see Janice and she chewed me out good and proper. Deserved it, of course, every word.”
“Yeah, you did. But, okay, it’s not all your fault. Yeah, I should have stood up more to Xander. Only, it’s hard. See, him and me have been friends for such a long time, and we’ve kept each other going through all kinds of badness and danger, and against a whole bunch of enemies. Cordelia. The Master. You, when you first came to Sunnydale. Angelus. Principal Snyder.” I squeezed Spike’s arm. “I promise I’ll put you first, from now on, like he should put Anya first, but I want you to understand and try not to antagonize him if you can avoid it.”
“Try my best, love.” Spike shuffled in the seat and looked uncomfortable. “Don’t tell him I said this, but Xander’s not so bad. Can’t blame him for being protective of you, can I? ‘Part from that, he’s okay. Got to admire his guts, fighting alongside the Slayer all this time, when he’s just a normal bloke. Okay, he gets on my wick sometimes, but I can live with that. Give as good as I get, don’t I?” He grinned suddenly. “Never know when we’ll need someone who knows Klingon poetry.” He was going to say more but was interrupted by the door opening.
Buffy entered, walking with a limp. “Hi, guys,” she greeted us. She pouted slightly as she noticed our position but didn’t comment. “I think we can call this one a draw. No more super strength for Warren, but he got away again.”
“You stopped the robbery, Buff?”
“Yeah. Stopped the robbery, and smashed Warren’s balls.”
Spike winced and shifted position. “He won’t be going far, then. Should find him in the hospital.”
Buffy laughed. “Not those balls. He had these magic orbs that gave him his power. I took them off him and smashed them to pieces. Only, he had a rocket pack, would you believe? Straight outa James Bond. Up, up, and away. There wasn’t anything I could do about it. Andrew got away too. I caught Jonathan. The other two hadn’t told him about the rockets.” She frowned. “I almost wish he had gotten away. He tipped me off about the orbs, did what he could to help, but he’s the one on his way to jail now.”
“Jonathan’s the one who had the magic,” I said. “The other two should be a bit easier to find without him, plus, all the cops in town know about Warren Mears now after his party at the Bronze. Attempted robbery, assault, murder if Jonathan talks; Warren should be pretty high up on their list, and now he’s without the super powers they should be able to handle him.”
“I hope so,” Buff said. “I’ve had it up to here with that guy. Hey, do I smell coffee?” She headed for the kitchen and poured herself a cup. “Maybe not a draw, then. Score one for the home team.”
“I suppose I’d best be off,” Spike said, and took his arm away from my shoulder. He didn’t sound like he was all that thrilled about leaving me.
Suddenly I had an idea. I’d wanted to give Buffy a little payback, but I didn’t want to hurt her. She’d been my best girl friend for a long long time, and even if Tara had taken over that position now Buffy was still very special to me. She just needed to be taken down a peg, that’s all. “Don’t go, Spike,” I said. “Stay the night.”
“What, here?” Spike’s eyebrows went up so high that they nearly touched his hair. “With you?”
“Well, I guess we could rig up a cot in the basement if you really want,” I said. “Yeah, with me, doofus.”
“You’re not –” Buffy began, her nostrils flaring, but then she chopped herself off short. She took a deep breath and her eyes got big and sad. “I’m sorry about what happened, Willow. Sorry I did what I did.”
“Yeah, well, not like I haven’t done a lot of things I’m sorry for this year.” I shook my head. “I’m gonna move out of here, Buff. I can’t stay.” I saw a hint of tears in Buffy’s eyes and went on hastily “Tara’s thinking of moving back in my place, if you want her, that is. And I’ll still come see you, lots. Most days, if you want. Just not live here any more.”
Buffy looked away from me, her eyes flicking around the room. “Maybe I’ll sell this house and get somewhere smaller. Things just aren’t the same any more.” She smiled suddenly. “Lorraine says they want to send me on a management course. She’s moving on to a branch in LA and she says I have a good chance of taking over from her, ‘cause Todd? He has the paper qualifications, but as far as people skills go, forget it. All of a sudden the DoubleMeat Palace is looking like it might be a good job. If we can get Warren tidied up there’s no reason why I shouldn’t go on the course, ‘cause the Hellmouthy side of Sunnydale is looking pretty quiet for once. You know, I haven’t even seen a vampire for a week. Well, apart from Spike.”
“Had to do something in the evenings without Willow,” Spike mumbled. “Was feeling pissed off and it gave me something to do.”
“Oh.” Buffy stared hard at Spike for a moment. “Thank you, Spike. And – I’m sorry. Sorry I stopped treating you like a man. Sorry I took from you without giving anything back.”
“’Salright. Enjoyed it while it lasted,” Spike said. “But, it’s over. Still got your back when you need me. But Willow comes first.”
“Darn right,” I said, as the mood was getting a bit heavy, and I wanted to get to bed while I was still awake enough to enjoy it. “Good night, Buffy.”
“Good night, Willow,” Buffy said. She cracked a smile. “I won’t say ‘sleep well’, ‘cause I guess that’s not what you’re planning.”
I smiled back. “Well, maybe not right away.”
- - - - -
However, even though I’d made a point of inviting Spike so that I could make my message to Buffy perfectly clear, when it came down to it I was still a bit embarrassed at the idea of her actually hearing us having sex. I didn’t go as far as putting on my sensible pajamas, but I put on a nightgown instead of getting into bed naked, and even though it was from Victoria’s Secret it was pretty rather than flat out sexy.
Spike was being perceptive guy again tonight, after his total lapse the week before, and when he joined me in the bed he just cuddled me. “I’m not so sure about the boinking tonight, Spike,” I said. “I’m sorry, I think we kinda missed the moment.”
“’Salright, pet,” he said. “Nice, this. Just holding you, all warm and cosy, like.”
“Yeah, it is nice,” I agreed, and I snuggled even closer against him. “Sorta like being a married couple.”
“Married?” Spike stiffened. “Bloody hell. Never thought of it like that.” He relaxed again and cuddled into me, until we were touching each other along the whole lengths of our bodies. “Probably ruled out by the whole vampire thing, love, but if it wasn’t, I dunno, just maybe I might be thinking about it.”
Okay, there were one whole lot of ‘maybes’ and ‘mights’ in that, but it still gave me a pretty big attack of the warm fuzzies. I wriggled against him, and I could feel him getting hard, and I started to think maybe boinking might not be out of the question after all. “If you feel like making love, I might be persuaded,” I told him. “If we can catch the mood. Hey, why don’t you recite some poetry to me or something?”
“Poetry? Not my bloody awful stuff?”
“Well, I bet it wasn’t really that bad,” I said, “but I was thinking more something classic. Browning, maybe, or Shakespeare.”
“Shakespeare?” Spike grinned. “Okay, love, try this.
‘In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood’ …”
I started laughing. “Hey, Spike, so not what I was meaning. I was thinking the Sonnets, not Henry V.”
“Made you laugh, though,” he chuckled. “It’s a start. I’ll think of some soppy ‘compare thee to a summer’s day’ stuff in a minute.”
The laughter was just what I’d needed, and snuggling up against Spike was getting me hot anyway. I threw off the bedclothes, pushed myself up onto my hands and knees, let my chest sink to the bed, and wriggled my ass. I could feel the nightgown slipping down over my back and I knew he must be getting a pretty good view of everything I had. “Forget the slushy stuff, Spike,” I told him. “Wanna imitate the action of the tiger?”
- - - - -
I woke up all mixed up with Spike in a tangle of limbs. I was a little stiff, and a little sore, but I felt oh so good. “Mmmm,” I said, untangling one of my arms and stretching.
“Morning, love,” Spike greeted me.
“Good morning,” I said, and I felt a wicked impulse and I slipped my hand down to see if he might be interested in a little morning action.
“Hang on a minute, Nibblet,” Spike said loudly. He extricated his legs from mine and sat up in the bed.
He obviously wasn’t speaking to me, and I sat up too. “Huh? Dawnie?”
“She’s outside the door,” Spike informed me. “Wants to know if we’re decent, she’s bringing us breakfast in bed.” He leaned out of the bed, retrieved his jeans from the floor, and pulled them on under the covers.
“She’s back from Janice’s already?” I said, puzzled, and then I glanced at my watch and I wasn’t puzzled any more. “Wow, it’s like really, really, late.” I smoothed down my crumpled nightdress, and I saw that Spike had snatched up a shirt and was pulling it on. “I guess we’ll do.”
“Okay, Bit, you can come in now,” Spike called.
The door swung open. Dawn stooped to pick up a tray from the floor and then came in. “Hey, pancakes and coffee,” she announced. “Bet you could do with it.” She brought the tray over to the bed and Spike took it from her. “You’ll just have to eat human food,” she told him, “’cause Weetabix and blood? So not going there.”
“This is brilliant, Nibs,” Spike assured her. “You forgiven me now, then?”
“Well, I was tempted to spit in your coffee,” Dawn said, even as Spike picked up a cup and raised it to his lips, “but I didn’t.”
Spike froze with the coffee inches from its destination and looked at it suspiciously. I picked up a cup and sipped it gratefully. “Thanks, Dawnie,” I said. “Uh, we thought we’d have gotten up before you got back. We must have been really tired.”
“Like I don’t know what you’ve been doing,” Dawn said. “Are you guys back together for good?”
Spike looked acutely embarrassed. “Hope so,” he said, and took a drink. “Don’t deserve it, but Willow’s giving me another chance.”
I bit into a pancake. “It’s not burnt. So, not made by Buffy, then?”
Dawn grinned. “All my own work. Buffy’s out in the garden. Xander came over, he’s going to take her with him when he goes to take Tara home from the hospital, and they went out there to talk so that I couldn’t overhear.”
“He’s going to get Tara? Hey, I want to go!” I took another drink from my coffee. “I’d better get dressed.”
“Oh, it’s not time yet,” Dawn said. She gazed critically at Spike. “Your hair’s all curly. You so should get it cut short, ‘cause that slicked-back look? So doesn’t work in the morning.”
Spike put his cup down and held the tray in one hand while he pawed at his hair with the other. “Do I look that bad?” he asked me. “Can’t exactly check myself out in the mirror, love.”
“You look cute,” I told him, and that brought a look of horror to his face.
“Hey, I wonder if I can hear what Buffy and Xander are talking about from here?” Dawn said, and wandered over to the window. She opened the curtains a crack, careful not to admit any stray sunbeams that might threaten Spike, and peered out. “Hey!” she exclaimed, her tone suddenly revealing surprise and perhaps alarm. “Warren’s there, and that other guy. Oh, shit! They have guns!”
I shot out of bed and headed for the window. Spike moved to follow, but was hampered by the breakfast tray and had to take a moment to set it down. “Get away from the window, Dawn,” I urged, and she turned towards me, excitement showing on her face.
Something hit me on the shoulder, very hard, and I found myself sitting on the floor. Fragments of glass rained down in front of me. For a second my arm felt numb but then a burning pain seared through me. Dawn stared down at me, her mouth moving as if she was talking, but any sound she made was drowned out by a howl of anguish from Spike. There was a blood-red circle on the breast of her sweatshirt that hadn’t been there a moment ago. I couldn’t move, couldn’t speak: I could only watch in horror as the circle on Dawn’s breast grew larger, as her eyes closed, and as she toppled face first to the floor and lay still.
The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox.
Other news; my mother is here from Australia, and she’ll be staying with me for a week. And I’ve been nominated in the Love’s Bitch Awards as Best Author, and “Savage Beauty” is nominated as Best Comedy.