Chapter Twelve. A man trustworthy
What is done out of love always takes place beyond good and evil.
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 153
The chief lesson I have learned in a long life
is that the only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him;
and the surest way to make him untrustworthy is to distrust him and show your distrust.
Henry L. Stimson
I count him braver who overcomes his desires
than him who overcomes his enemies.
Artistotle, In Stobaeus, Florilegium
He finally closed the book, his head swimming from the stuffy atmosphere of the library and the crabbed handwriting of some of the journals. Giles took off his glasses with one hand, resting his head in the other. He was the only one in the library on this late Sunday night, the rooms silent and hushed. Thankfully the particular information he was searching for was readily available. The myth of vampires having the ability to impregnate women was more than just that. While it had been nearly three hundred years since the last reported case, there had been more than one.
Each case was fairly well documented and in each case it appeared that Angel’s theory was borne out. Giles grimaced at his own internal pun. In the six cases he’d uncovered, the women had all been dead and then mystically resurrected. His mind raced through the possibilities – Darla, and well, now Buffy. Not that she was pregnant – yet.
Interestingly enough, so far all the cases had something else in common – every vampire involved was an Aurelian. However it was entirely possible that the only reason the diaries mentioned Aurelian vampires was because of their status. Very few Aurelians sired minions indiscriminately, thereby preserving the bloodlines, additionally the Aurelius line produced an inordinate number of master vampires.
It had come as no great surprise that there was considerable mention in the Council’s libraries of Aurelian vampires, as a whole they were indeed, a “master race”.
What also hadn’t really come as much of a surprise was the rise of the William the Bloody. Giles had suspected much of the information, his findings merely confirming his suppositions.
Sired by either Drusilla or Angelus around 1880 (and he knew for a fact it was Drusilla); rose to master status in less than ten years – defeated his first Slayer in 1900 – the diaries mentioned other battles with Slayers – spanning nearly a century and the globe – Spike had set out to prove himself. By attaining his status as master, Spike had also elevated Drusilla to the same.
What struck Giles was the difference between the two vampires he knew well. While most Aurelians did not sire minions, Angelus had done so freely, twice in the last one hundred years, the first time immediately following Spike’s turning and then again recently, when the soul had been removed. According to the books, Spike had never sired more than a handful of minions, if that many. Another marked difference was while Spike preferred outright battling and open warfare, Angelus chose to stalk and frighten his prey – much as he had done with Drusilla, and what he’d attempted to do with Buffy.
There was a certain amount of chilling honesty in William the Bloody’s behavior. No subterfuge, no hidden agenda, just open face to face confrontations. His willingness to face his opponents said much for his character. If he said he was going to do something, he did. His loyalty was unquestionable and there was a rather gallant air about him. Oddly enough, there were little records of him torturing his victims while in Angelus’ case there were copious references to his brutality.
Giles sighed, feeling the strain of hours of research spent in an uncomfortable chair. Whatever had driven Angel away from Sunnydale, and Giles was beginning to suspect while Angel claimed it was because of the futility of his relationship with Buffy, he used that as merely an excuse and not clearly the real reason. He suspected they might never know the real truth.
If he were being honest with himself, Giles would be happy if Angel were to take up residence somewhere else. Some place further away like the inactive hellmouth in New York or London . . . or Singapore . . . or another dimension. Somewhere very, very far away.
Once more going over his mental to-do-list, Giles added another item as an addendum; Find a neurosurgeon capable of performing surgery on a vampire.
There hadn’t been any discussion of this with Buffy or Spike, though after speaking with her earlier, Giles had to at least be prepared for the possibility that she would be open to having the chip removed.
The chip was a liability.
Spike knew it. Giles knew it. And he was beginning to wonder if Buffy might know it as well. If they were going to be a truly effective team, neither Buffy nor Spike could afford such an obvious weakness. The chip was far too exploitable, leaving Spike far too vulnerable to attack.
And if the possibility of parenthood were thrown into the equation, with a further possibility of more human assailants – then, well, Giles was certain the chip would need to be either removed or neutralized. He had no doubts at all that either the Council or Wolfram & Hart would be tempted to get their hands on any child produced by the two. Or any number of other entities desiring control or power. There was no telling what the child of a vampire and a Slayer could do, what powers or talents such a child would possess.
Any child of a slayer was destined for scrutiny by the Council; should that child be also half vampire, Giles had no idea what the Council’s reaction would be. Wolfram & Hart would be just as . . . curious. Which was, he thought, a rather mild word for the amount of interest such a child would garner.
Getting up from his chair, Giles headed for the listings of known demon surgeons.
Anya was just locking the door and setting the alarm before slipping out the back door, heading directly to the apartment she shared with Xander, when she realized just how late it was.
The only illumination was from the street lights on Main Street and there were only a few people out walking. Most of them were going to or coming from the Espresso Pump so she wasn’t really paying attention to faces or forms.
She had every confidence that the warding and the disinvite Tara and Wesley had done earlier would be more than adequate. She’d also sent a quick plea out to D’Hoffryn, and although protection was not strictly his expertise, she knew he’d watch out for her. Which kind of explained why she didn’t flinch when a dark hulking shadow came up from behind her.
However, when a heavy hand clamped down on her shoulder, her shrieked surprise had her boyfriend covering his ears.
“Gee, Ahn, did you have to try and wake the dead?” Xander winced at the pitch of her voice.
“Xander! Why did you do that? I’m here all alone and you . . .” She swatted him on one shoulder. “Not good, Xander! You made me shriek and I hurt my ears.”
“You hurt your ears?” Xander looked at her in disbelief. “Ahn, I called you twice before I came closer, didn’t you hear me?”
“No. I was thinking.” Realizing Xander didn’t know what was going on, she said, “Wesley was here earlier. Something happened in Los Angeles and Angel has lost his soul.”
Xander wasn’t sure he’d heard her correctly. He wasn’t quite sure what to say. He’d always had this sneaky suspicion that someday Angel would slip and the soul would disappear. Staring at her for a few moments, Xander just tried to process the information. “Why was Wesley here?”
“He brought word from Los Angeles.” They hadn’t said anything to Anya about why Wesley had come and not just called, nor did she know how Angel had lost the soul.
“So who was the unlucky girl? Do we have to worry about an Angel groupie too?” Xander grabbed her hand, pulling her after him toward the back door. “What did Buffy say?”
“I don’t know, Xander. Buffy wasn’t here. She was home with Spike.” Completely missing the disgust on Xander’s face, she went on, “Tara and Wesley put up stronger wards and they also did a disinvite. Angel’s never been to our apartment so we don’t have to worry about that. Oh, and Giles called, he thinks he’ll be home before the end of the week, but he doesn’t want me in the store alone after dark.”
Xander was more than half listening this time, though his mind was still focusing on Angelus. “Ahn? Did Wesley say why Angel lost his soul?”
“No, Xander. I don’t believe he did.” Anya huffed at him, clearly peeved that once again he wasn’t paying attention to her. “Sometimes I don’t know why I talk to you.”
“Me either.” His words were a half attempted response to her, but an extremely unthinking and hurtful one.
Small tears sprang to Anya’s eyes while she bit her tongue. Staying uncharacteristically silent, Anya kept her thoughts and wounded heart to herself. She really was beginning to question her relationship with Xander.
She silently fumed the whole way home, not even questioning Xander when he changed his mind and turned the car towards Revello Drive.
“Tara?” Willow’s voice wavered, emotions leaking through, pain and loss coming through in bell-like clarity. Oz winced, knowing he was witnessing something he, above all people, probably shouldn’t be.
“Hello, Willow.” For some strange reason, Tara wasn’t nervous or upset or drawn in by the sound of Willow’s voice. The butterflies were there, but they weren’t crippling her and she wasn’t feeling at all apprehensive.
“Hey. How – how are you?” Willow, on the other hand, Willow was very nervous, Tara could clearly see it. She was fidgeting, her hands fluttering at her sides and she was shifting her weight from one foot to another.
“Good. I’m good.” Knowing she expected it, Tara asked, “How about you?”
“Okay, I guess.” Willow clearly didn’t know what to do next. A flash of pity surged through Tara, but she quickly squashed it. Despite outward . . . Tara finally looked at her ex-girlfriend.
Willow’s normal complexion was gone, that almost sun-kissed look gone, replaced by a paler version and was that? Yeah. . . Willow’s hair was darker, the red shot through with almost black highlights. Tara’s internal alarms went off and her back stiffened. Whatever internal changes the paleness and hair marked, they weren’t good changes. Taking an imperceptible step back, Tara said, “That’s good then.”
Opening up her senses, Tara tried to get a reading on Willow’s aura, even though her own emotions were blocking her. Drawing in a deep breath, she tried centering herself and realized that Oz was close, unobtrusively watching them. A sudden flash of insight let Tara know should something happen, Oz would come to her aid – and not automatically side with his ex-girlfriend. Taking another deep breath, Tara focused inward, drawing power and strength from the universe in, and on her exhalation, reached out with all her senses, reading Willow.
What she discovered was not good.
Willow . . . Willow what have you done? All is not what you think . . . be careful what you wish for. . . oh gods, Willow. . . my gods. What have you done? Poor Buffy . . . poor Spike.
Tara’s horrified thoughts were halted when Willow’s tentative, wavering voice interrupted her. “Tara? Do you think maybe we could talk? You know just . . . talk? With coffee? Or something?”
Tara recoiled violently, the ugliness that was creeping into the other girl revolting her. Back stepping away, Tara started shaking her head in denial, unable to form words.
Oz perked up from his spot just out of Willow’s line of sight, his nose getting a scent of Tara’s that was not so much fear, but . . . covering his own mild apprehension, Oz stepped out from behind the Hostess display, pretending he didn’t know what was going on.
“Thought I’d lost you,” taking the bacon from Tara’s hand he tossed it into the basket. He purposely avoided looking in Willow’s direction.
Willow’s shocked “Oz?” rang through the store.
Turning to look at her, he dead-panned, “Hey, Will. Didn’t see you.”
“Tara? Oz?” Confusion and pain and panic warred within her and each emotion was reflected on her face. “Oz?”
Ignoring her for a second, Oz touched Tara’s arm in a way that had Willow gaping further, but gave the blond a moment to recover. “We got everything?”
When she nodded then ducked her head to give him a silent thank you, only then did Oz shift his attention back to Willow.
“Hey. How’ve you been, Will?”
She was gaping at them like a fish too long out of water. This was . . . Willow couldn’t even wrap her mind around this. Oz and Tara? Oz. And. Tara. Were talking like they were all . . . domestic.
“We need to get milk and eggs. Oh, and tortilla chips and salad stuff,” Tara said while smiling at Oz.
“Um. Yeah. Tara? I?” Willow couldn’t complete a thought, much less a sentence. “How?”
Smiling at each other and sharing a look that had Willow reeling off balance even further, Oz said, “Ran into Buffy. She introduced us. Been hanging ever since.”
Deliberately keeping it vague, yet with enough innuendo to trigger further incoherency, Oz kept his expression neutral.
Willow couldn’t breathe. . . couldn’t. . . she felt like she’d stepped into an alternate dimension, but couldn’t remember how or when. This was so far beyond bizarre her brain couldn’t possibly process it. This was just like her nightmare, when the First Slayer attacked them all in their sleep, and the two of them had been passing notes and whispering . . .
Oz and Tara. Grocery shopping. Together. Maybe it was just . . . errands for Buffy. Yeah. That has to be it . . . and that line of reasoning was shattered by Tara’s next question.
“Do you remember if we have enough soap in the bathroom?”
What? Laundry soap and bath. . . and milk? Eggs? Willow couldn’t . . . this just isn’t . . happening.
Having gotten enough time to compose herself, Tara faced the other girl. “Willow? I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to have. . . to get together right now. I’m just not ready.”
“Please? Just. . . please, baby? I miss you so much.” Tears of confusion sprang to Willow’s eyes. ‘Can we just, you know, talk for a bit?”
Relenting a little, Tara said, “Maybe. I’ll let you know. . . just not right now.”
Oz touched her arm again, cocking his head toward the registers and by unspoken agreement, the two spoke at the same time, ‘We gotta go, Willow.” “I’ll let you know. . . okay?”
And before she could respond or really even recover, the two loves of Willow’s life were gone, leaving her in tears, without either of them sparing her a backwards glance.
She was watching him carefully, noting the bruises that dotted his arms and chest, the black eyes he was currently sporting, waiting patiently while he thought. He was usually so animated, so alive it was sometimes hard to watch him being this still, when his chest didn’t rise and fall with unneeded breath. Not tonight though, tonight she was grateful to have him in any shape. Breathing or not. Walking or not. Buffy almost didn’t care. As long as he wasn’t dusty, he would recover.
He was watching her just as carefully, from underneath partially closed eyes, noting the changes marking her. Her body had filled out some, she was no longer so painfully thin, her hair curling over her shoulder almost down to her waist. The baby was sleeping against her shoulder, his tiny form snuggled against her, her strong arms cradling him gently. She was unusually quiet right now, though there were times in the past when he’d seen her this still it was infrequent enough to remember. Whatever she was thinking right now was no doubt serious, very serious.
A soft sound escaped from the baby, breaking their contemplation of each other. She’d asked him just moments ago one of the more serious questions of his life. Would I? Would I go out and kill everything in sight? Opening his eyes, resting them on her slim form, Spike had to admit if he did go on a rampage the burden would fall to her. Buffy would be forced to not only slay him but she would be alone, probably for the rest of her short life. Do I miss the hunt? If he were being completely honest with himself the answer was, yes, at times he did. Was what he and Buffy did every night, patrolling and being a white hat, was that enough to replace the hunt? Yeah. Reluctantly admitting it, Spike quickly re-evaluated his life.
If they removed the chip, he’d have no restraints but himself.
If they kept the chip, more instances like the one from last night were likely to occur.
The chip kept him vulnerable, made them both vulnerable. At this point it was far more of a hindrance than a help – because looking at the woman standing in the doorway, Spike was so completely certain of his feelings for her that he didn’t ever want anything to alter the life he had now, except for it to get better. He wasn’t about to bollocks that up. Not for the taste of fresh blood. Besides, he had the best stuff in the world right here, why on earth would he go hunting for something that was of lesser quality? He knew, too, with sudden clarity that if he were to lie to her, there would be an indefinable change in their relationship. And they stood the chance of losing everything.
“No.” His voice was strong and steady and without any hesitation at all.
Spike waited a beat, wondering if she were going to say something to make him clarify his ‘no’ but she remained silent, her eyes fixed on his. “Why would I do that? ‘M not some fledge that can’t control himself. No need.”
Buffy left her position by the door, walking toward the bed, her hand unconsciously stroking down the baby’s back, her eyes still not leaving his.
There was a look in his eyes that she’d only seen once before – a look he’d had a very long time ago – and suddenly she remembered when it was.
She’d followed him out the front door, watching as the coat flared behind him. “Spike? You promise to keep Giles safe?”
The vampire had whirled around at the sound of his name, a nasty comment at the ready, but the look on her face had stopped him. Instead of spouting something glib or nasty, he’d closed the distance between them, his hand reaching out to cup her cheek.
A look entered his eyes, resolve, and a strange mixture of promise and tenderness, combined into a look of such fierce . . . Buffy couldn’t put a name to the emotions flickering in his eyes, though she knew on a gut level she could trust that look, would always be able to trust that look.
It was that moment – standing on the porch, Angelus on the loose, that moment and that look that started it for Buffy – the trust she had in Spike.
Sitting down on the bed facing him, Buffy realized that look was back. It was the same look and she knew now what she hadn’t known then, what he might not even have known back then, that other indefinable emotion in his eyes? All those years ago – it was love.
He’d loved her then.
Very deliberately, she laid the baby down on the bed, tucked up against Spike’s side, then she raised her eyes to his.
Her voice was low, almost hushed when she spoke. “How long? When . . . how long have you loved me?”
Drawing in a deep breath he searched her wide hazel green eyes. By way of answer he moved his good hand from behind his head, reaching for her, tugging on the ends of her hair. “From the first . . . moment I saw you.” His voice was equally low, husky with promise. ‘Didn’t know it . . . But it was there. . .”
She curled into his hand, kissing his palm. A smile cracked his face and she whispered his name. “When did you suspect?”
“Probably that night, come to find you when Angelus was . . . when he had Rupert. So fierce you were . . . yeah. Then.” Watching her nuzzle his had, Spike asked, “Why?”
“Because that was the night I started trusting you.”
“Ah.” Smiling a bit, Spike said, “Big night that was.”
They lapsed into silence, both of them lost in their thoughts. Buffy laid her head down on Spike’s chest, his arm curling around her from the side.
“Sweetheart? You’re serious about this?”
“As a heart attack.”
“Right then. How’re we gonna do this?” His arm tightened around her and Buffy leaned down to kiss his chest.
“Spike?” She hesitated, then rushed into what she wanted to say, “Just promise me before you kill Xander you’ll wait.”
He chuckled a bit. “All right.”