Chapter 8: The Stone of Oblivion
“I have no never-again, I have no always. In the sand/victory abandoned its footprints./I am a poor man willing to love his fellow men./I don’t know who you are. I love you. I don’t give away thorns,/and I don’t sell them./Maybe someone will know that I didn’t weave crowns/to draw blood; that I fought against mockery;/that I did fill the high tide of my soul with the truth./I repaid vileness with doves./I have no never, because I was different—/was, am, will be. And in the name/of my ever-changing love I proclaim a purity./Death is only the stone of oblivion./I love you, on your lips I kiss happiness itself./Let’s gather firewood. We’ll light a fire on the mountain.” ~Pablo Neruda, “Sonnet LXXVIII”
Willow was waiting for her opportunity. She knew that if Angelus was dusted, it would seriously distress the vampires he’d turned, but Spike wasn’t having a whole lot of luck. Not that Willow could blame him. Angelus was bigger and stronger, well-rested, and half-drunk on Slayer blood.
She managed to stake the vampire she had been fighting with, and looked over at Spike. He was still too close to Angelus, and the angle was all wrong for her intervention. “Spike!” she called telepathically. “Let him go!”
It occurred to her that this Spike had no reason to trust her, and that he’d been rather wary of her the entire time she’d been around him, but he didn’t have much of a choice. Spike was taking a beating, and even if he was holding his own for now, he couldn’t last much longer.
For a moment, she didn’t think he would obey, and then Spike tore himself away, still keeping his body between Dawn and Angelus. Willow used the opportunity to levitate a stake and send it spinning end-over-end, hitting Angelus’ heart.
He froze, as though stunned, just before disintegrating. There was a wail of anguish from the two Slayers he’d turned, and Spike used the opportunity to stake the one who had Buffy in a chokehold.
With Angelus’ death, the tide turned. While the others worked on dusting the remaining vampires, Willow focused her attention on freeing an unconscious Dawn, lowering the girl’s limp form to the rough ground.
“How is she?” Spike asked, dropping to his knees next to them.
Willow took a deep breath. “She needs to get to a hospital. It looks like she’s lost a lot of blood.”
Spike scooped her up in his arms. “Buffy! Where’s the closest hospital? Do you know?”
Buffy shook her head, her face pale. “No, but I have the number for a taxi service in my cell. I’ll call.” She glanced at Faith and Vi. “You two okay?”
“Five by five.” Faith’s voice sounded choked, and Willow knew that the other woman wouldn’t be happy that Angelus was dust, no matter how necessary it had been. “Go, B.”
Buffy scrambled after Spike, who was already heading out of the ruins to a place where a taxi would have better access.
“What are we going to do with the Watcher?” Faith asked. She sounded weary and maybe a little bitter to Willow, and not at all as though they’d just won a major battle.
“I don’t know. I’ll give Giles a call and see what he wants us to do.”
Willow swallowed her own sense of failure. This didn’t feel like a win to her either.
Buffy looked at the gray morning sky through the window. “If you catch a cab now, you’ll make it back to the apartment before sunrise.”
“I’d rather stay.” Spike hadn’t moved from Dawn’s side since she’d been admitted. Buffy had spun a tale of thugs setting upon them on their way out of a club and hoped she’d be believed. The doctors hadn’t asked many questions, though. Maybe as in Sunnydale, they saw their fair share of weird stuff, enough to let it go.
Buffy walked over to his chair by Dawn’s bed; her sister still hadn’t woken up. She put her hands on his shoulders, massaging tense muscles. “The doctor said she could go home as soon as wakes up, and they check her out. You don’t want to be stuck here until sundown.” When he didn’t reply, she added, “It’s okay, Spike. You saved her life.”
He shook his head. “I don’t know if I can be the kind of man you need, Buffy.”
“All I need is for you to stay with me.” She moved around in front of him, wanting to look him in the eye. “The rest we can figure out as we go along.”
His eyes searched her face. “You’re really okay?”
“Okay with what?”
“Angelus, him getting staked.”
Buffy couldn’t hold back the groan of sheer frustration. “Spike—”
“I know, I know. You’re over him.”
“Because he died, and you moved on.”
“And I died, and you didn’t move on?”
“How many times do I need to say it?” He looked so vulnerable, Buffy couldn’t be angry. Instead, she felt a sort of tender exasperation. “I love you.”
Tender fingers touched her neck where the vampire had held her. She expected it to bruise, and the coolness of his flesh soothed. “I’ll never get tired of hearing it.”
She smiled. “I love you. Now, get out of here so the sun doesn’t fry you. We’ve got an eastern exposure in this rom.”
“So we do,” he replied mildly, his hand cupping the back of her neck to draw her closer.
While one part of Buffy’s brain was enjoying the kiss—a lot—the other was rapidly calculating exactly how much time Spike had to get home, and there wasn’t much. “Go,” she whispered. “Please? I want to be sure you’re safe.”
Something changed in his eyes, and he nodded. “All right. You’ll call if anything changes?”
He stood, giving her a quick kiss before striding out of the room, and Buffy went back to her vigil, watching her sleeping sister’s face, and wishing with all her heart that she could somehow make her waking easier.
Spike arrived at the flat, feeling at peace for the first time in years. The last time he’d felt this way, he had been standing in the entranceway of Buffy’s house, telling her that she treated him like a man. At that moment, he’d had a clarity of purpose that he hadn’t been able to recreate since.
He was with Buffy; she loved him. It was more than he’d ever thought to ask for.
Spike didn’t expect what he found when he entered the apartment, however. “What is this?”
The dead Watcher lay on the floor in the living room, where the furniture had been pushed back against the walls to make room. Faith was leaning against the wall, arms crossed over her chest, looking seriously pissed off. Vi was perched on one of the chairs, looking more than a bit nervous, and Willow—
The witch was sitting on the couch next to a girl Spike didn’t know. He did, however, recognize the object in her hand.
“Spike, this is Lucia. She’s the one who helped Dawn do the original spell.”
Spike didn’t know whether to thank her, especially since one of the consequences from the spell was lying on the living room floor. “Yeah? What are you doin’ with an Orb of Thessula?” He glanced at the body. “You’re not seriously thinkin’ about—”
“I called Giles,” Willow said, her voice shaking slightly. “We don’t have enough Watchers, Spike. We’re shorthanded enough as it is, and Geoffrey’s loss leaves a bigger hole than you might think. He thought it was worth it to try this.”
Spike didn’t pretend to understand the realities of the current situation. Although he was aware that there were a hell of a lot of Slayers now, and that the majority of the Council had been blown up, he couldn’t quite understand why the death of one Watcher made such a difference that they would need to curse him.
“You know what this is goin’ to mean?” he demanded. “Someone is goin’ to have to look after him. You don’t just leave a new vampire to fend for itself, even if it has a soul. An’ what happens the first time he gets a happy? You saw what that sort of bollocks did to Angel!”
“We’ll fix the curse,” Willow replied. “But for right now, we need him, and he’ll be even more effective this way.”
Spike shook his head at the idiocy of it all. “Why? Give me one good reason before I rip his head off and take the option away.”
“We lost another Watcher last night besides Geoffrey,” Willow replied. “And we’ve located six new Slayers. You do the math.”
“Bloody hell.” Spike stared at the body, and he knew that he was in no position to forbid the curse from being done. He hadn’t been around long enough to have an informed opinion, and no one was going to listen to him anyway.
“I have to do this,” Willow said. “If he needs help—”
Spike cursed. The last thing he wanted was to be in charge in one of Angelus’ leftovers, but he didn’t think he had another choice. “Fine. We’re goin’ to need more blood, because he’s goin’ to be hungry as hell when he wakes up.”
Willow nodded. “We’ll see to it.” She offered him an apologetic smile. “You might not want to be here for this.”
Spike snorted. “I don’t want to be. Wake me up when he does, or when Buffy gets back.”
His good mood shattered, Spike slammed Buffy’s bedroom door behind him. If having a vampire as a Watcher wasn’t one of the stupidest things he’d ever heard of, he didn’t know what it might be.
Dawn woke slowly, the sunlight flooding the room providing immediate reassurance that she hadn’t been turned, and that she was still herself.
She turned her head to see Buffy sitting next to her bedside, a weary smile on her face. “Buffy.” Dawn felt tears fill her eyes. “I’m so, so sorry. I didn’t know. I just wanted you to be happy.”
“Sshhh.” Buffy moved quickly to sit on the bed, pulling her into a tight embrace. “It’s okay. It’s going to be fine.”
“He drained Geoffrey.” With Buffy’s arms around her, Dawn couldn’t hold back her sobs. “I watched him do it, and I couldn’t stop him. I tried. I was going to kill him. We were—”
Buffy hushed her, rocking her back and forth. “It’s going to be okay, Dawnie. We’re going to get through this.”
She cried until her eyes were swollen and she couldn’t breathe, and Buffy just kept holding her and stroking her hair. “I’m really, really sorry,” Dawn said, pulling back and swiping at her nose and eyes with her hands.
“Here.” Buffy handed her a fistful of tissues.
“Is Spike okay?” Dawn asked. “And everybody else?”
“We all came through in one piece,” Buffy assured her.
Dawn nodded. “You had to stake the Slayers?”
“Yeah. There wasn’t any other choice.” Buffy cupped her cheek. “I need to get the doctor. How do you feel about going home?”
“The sooner the better.” Dawn suddenly remembered something she’d seen that hadn’t made sense to her at the time, blinded as she’d been by her terror. “Buffy—wait. I think Angelus turned Geoffrey.”
Her sister’s expression expressed a deep, wordless sympathy. “We’re taking care of it. Don’t worry.”
But it wasn’t worry that seized her heart; it was grief.
Buffy fumbled with her cell phone as it rang. “Yeah, Giles? What’s up?”
“I asked Willow to do something for me. Where are you?”
“We’re just getting back to the apartment building,” she replied, fishing in her purse for the keys. “Why?”
“Willow is re-ensouling Geoffrey.”
“What?” Buffy couldn’t believe she’d heard that right. “Why?”
“Because I asked her to.”
“Hear me out.” His voice was authoritative enough to have her falling silent. “Willow called me to ask what should be done with the body, and I suggested performing the curse, as long as we could locate the appropriate ingredients.”
“You’re talking about an Orb.”
“When Willow called to inform me that Dawn’s friend was fortuitously waiting outside your building with the missing ingredient, I told her to go ahead with the spell.”
“Why, Giles? You still haven’t answered my question.”
“We lost two Watchers last night, Buffy. At least in Geoffrey’s case, we can bring him back in some form.”
She looked at Dawn, who was staring at her with concern on her face. “Hang on.” Putting a hand over the mouthpiece, she said, “Dawn? We’re running low on blood. Do you feel up to grabbing some?”
“What’s going on, Buffy?”
“I’ll explain later,” she promised. “Are you up to it?”
Dawn sighed. “Yeah. I’ll get some.”
As soon as she was certain that her sister was out of earshot, she began speaking again. “We can train new Watchers, Giles. We don’t need to curse a vamped one.”
“Do you know how many Slayers we’ve found recently?” Giles demanded. “No, you wouldn’t, because you haven’t been involved. That was your choice, and I respected that, but desperate times call for desperate measures.”
Buffy bit back the sharp reply she wanted to make. She wanted to know why he had been so willing to throw Spike to the wolves when he was now quite happy to put a vampire in charge of Slayers. And a newly-vamped Watcher, at that.
“Before you ask, it’s because of Spike that I think this might work.”
It was pretty much the only thing he could have said to get her to agree with such an insane plan. “Fine, Giles. We’ll take care of him.”
“You’re willing to help, then?”
“Do I have a choice?” Buffy snapped the phone closed. She unlocked the front entrance and took the stairs to her apartment two at a time. When she opened her door, she saw Geoffrey sitting up, in game face, his head in his hands, rocking back and forth.
Willow was sprawled on the couch, clearly exhausted, and Vi and Faith were standing with their weapons at the ready.
Buffy took it all in, then turned to Faith. “Where’s Spike?”
“In your bedroom.” Faith’s expression was grim. “He didn’t like the plan.”
“He can join the fucking club.” She tried to gentle her voice when she spoke to Geoffrey, knowing that this wasn’t his fault. “Geoff? You okay?”
He shook his head, not looking up. “I’m just so hungry,” he moaned.
“Did you get him some blood?” Buffy asked.
Vi nodded. “We fed him everything in the fridge. He wasn’t supposed to wake up before sunset.”
“Surprise,” came Spike’s dry voice. “The ones that wake up before the sun goes down are the ones the Slayer never has to stake.” He met Buffy’s eyes. “How’s the Nibblet?”
“She’s fine. I sent her to get more blood when Giles called. I thought we might need it.”
“Clearly.” Spike knelt in front of Geoffrey. “Hey. Look at me, mate.” His voice was as gentle as Buffy had ever heard it, and she was a little surprised to see that kind of compassion for a stranger from Spike. “Look at me. You’re makin’ the ladies in the room nervous, acting like that.”
“I don’t know how to change.” Geoffrey kept his head down, and his voice was still muffled by his hands. “This is wrong. I’m wrong.”
“Bollocks.” The one word hit Geoffrey like a slap, and the Watcher’s head snapped up. “Think about how much you can do with all that strength and speed. You’re more of an asset than ever, yeah? But that’s only if you quit your bloody whinging and listen.”
Buffy heard the audible gulp. “How?”
“Focus. Just focus. You’ll find the muscles there, even if you didn’t have them before.”
After a few seconds, the green eyes and fangs were gone, replaced by the same thin, rawboned face and green eyes that Buffy remembered. He looked like Geoffrey again.
And he looked like he was about to cry.
“That’s the way.” Spike reached out and hauled him to his feet, ignoring the fact that the other vampire had a good six inches on him.
“I’m so hungry,” Geoffrey said, in the tone of a small child who isn’t quite sure of himself. Even from a few feet away, Buffy could see the pity on Spike’s face.
“’Course you are. That will pass. You’ve just got to give it some time, that’s all.” The front door swung open, and Dawn came through, a brown paper bag in her hand—which she promptly dropped. There probably would have been blood everywhere if it hadn’t been for Faith’s quick intervention.
Geoffrey’s face shifted as soon as he saw Dawn, and her sister immediately burst into tears.
Spike’s cursing broke the tableau. “That’s about enough of that,” he snarled, keeping a tight grip on Geoffrey as he grabbed the bag from Faith. “Good catch, ducks. Now, we’re going to eat.”
Silence fell over the room as they left, and Buffy looked at Willow, who had remained silent throughout. “Will? Why?”
“Giles was right, Buffy. We’re in bad shape.”
“We can’t go around cursing every turned Watcher!” Buffy objected, keeping her voice low.
Willow shook her head. “It’s not every Watcher. It’s one of them, and it was all due to the circumstances.” She looked at Lucia meaningfully. The girl had been watching the whole affair with interest, although not with the sort of shock or fear Buffy had come to expect from the uninitiated—well, other than Oz.
Buffy took a deep breath and looked up, saying a quick prayer for patience. “Okay, fine. Dawn, why don’t you take Lucia into your room. You two can catch each other up.” She gave her sister a hard look. “And I’m going to want a very detailed explanation as to why one of your friends even knew we needed an Orb of Thessula, and where to get one.”
She looked at Faith and Vi. “Hotel room is on the Council. I don’t care what Giles says about saving money, he owes us, and you guys deserve a break. I’ll square it with him.”
“You sure you’re okay with him?” Faith did not sound happy, and Buffy could understand why. Unlike her, Buffy didn’t think that Faith had yet made peace with Angel’s death, and now to have to deal with it all over again—and to essentially have Angel replaced by a new vampire—Buffy wouldn’t have been happy either.
“Spike is here, too.”
Faith didn’t appear to be reassured, but Vi grabbed her arm. “We’ll call you later, Buffy.”
“You guys know where you’re going?”
Vi held up her cell phone. “No, but I know how to call a taxi.”
As soon as they were alone, Buffy turned to Willow. “Why didn’t you guys tell me how bad it was?” she demanded in a low voice.
“We knew you needed time off,” Willow replied gently. “And Giles wasn’t sure if—”
Buffy let out a sigh. “Giles wasn’t sure if I wanted to live badly enough not to get myself killed at the first opportunity.”
“Something like that.” Willow grimaced. “We needed you, Buffy, but if something had happened to you, it would have been a lot worse. If that makes any sense.”
“It makes a lot of sense.” Buffy rubbed her forehead. “You look pretty beat, Will. Why don’t you take my bed?”
Willow winced. “Uh, if it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll sleep on the couch, or even on the floor.”
Buffy frowned. “Why—oh. Yeah. I haven’t had a chance to change the sheets yet.”
“That’s why.” She smiled. “I’ll see what Dawnie wants to do. She looks wiped out.”
The Slayer watched her go, and realized that she was seeing the end of her retirement. She pushed her hair out of her face. “I knew it wouldn’t last,” she muttered.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/332068.html