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Broken by Degree

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“What the bloody hell is this?” Spike asked as he walked through the door. Wood’s garage was covered in crosses, no inch unsanctified. It was… A bit unnerving, to say the least.

With the unwavering expression of a man with a plan, Wood shrugged. “What can I say? I like to be prepared. Now –” he carried on, moving over to what looked like a workbench. And – oh, bollocks – not your standard workbench either, no metrosexual Apple Mac taking the place of the old fashioned motor project, but a magic workbench, with jars and one fuck-off pestle and mortar. Plus knuckledusters. Swell. “You know, we met once before.”

“We did?” Spike asked, watching the other man arm himself. But that was all right; the chip was out and he had his teeth. He wouldn’t harm the bloke too badly. “Funny.” He tried to distract him nonetheless. “You’d think I’d remember you.” Sarcasm was too easy sometimes. But always fun.

The muscles in Wood’s forehead tightened slightly as he fought to keep the scene like the dramatic standoff he must’ve always imagined. “Oh, you wouldn’t remember me,” he said seriously. “I doubt you even saw me. You only had eyes for my mother.”

“Oh right.” Spike was getting a little worried now, mostly as Wood leaned behind him and started fishing around in his workbench drawer. The sensible thing would probably be to leave, but Spike wasn’t about to turn his back on someone who thought crosses made good interior design. Not until he knew what was going on. “She a looker then?” he tried again.

“She was your type,” Wood replied derisively, the visible part of his arm stilling in its search. Presumably he’d found what he was looking for. “Just another Slayer for you to sink your teeth into.”

It all came together at that point. Buffy had mentioned it, hadn’t she, that Wood’s mum was a Slayer? She’d never made the connection, of course, and Spike had never thought to. But he was the right age, Wood (had that been her surname?), and he had the look, the fire. It was all a lot less attractive in another man. “So that’s it, then?” Spike asked. “Why you brought me here? This our fight to the death?”

“No,” Wood replied, oddly. He didn’t raise his hand from the drawer. “Not ours. For everything, you’ve got a soul now, and I understand that. It wouldn’t have bothered me ten years ago, but I like to think I’ve grown since then.”

Spike said nothing, raising an eyebrow. The crosses really, really said otherwise.

“Buffy needs her allies in this fight,” Wood continued. “I see that. The thing is –” Now he pulled his hand up, which seemed to be holding some sort of thick rod, sigils carved on the sides. It looked almost familiar, but Spike couldn’t place it. “Does she really need all of you?” Wood and his piece of wood suddenly became threatening as he raised his arm before him. “Or do you think there’s a piece she can spare me?”

“Hang on a second,” Spike raised his hands in front of him. Again, it wasn’t about to hinder him if a fight started, but magic was a whole different kettle of fish. “You want to get your lumps in and I can understand that.” And so it seemed he was bargaining, which was never a good sign. People never took him seriously. “Let’s take this outside and maybe I’ll let you have a go,” Spike continued, not taking his eyes off that rod. “Man-on-man…”

“But you’re not a man, are you, Spike?” Wood replied, hand not wavering. Well, Spike had to admit, he’d walked into that one. “Still, maybe part of you will be.”

Then, with a roar, Wood zapped. As he flew backwards to the crosses, slumping forwards not without a Hail Mary jolt of agony, Spike remembered where he’d seen that rod before, in the hand of one big robey demon. And then everything went black.

Given that he was still thinking about his mother, it was something of a relief.

Buffy’s shoes that night weren’t made for running. They did the job, but she couldn’t sprint all the way to Robin’s house from the cemetery, kept having to slow and curse herself just to bring some more adrenaline. By the time she reached the house – lights off but a glow coming from the garage – she was terrified about what she was going to find, and categorically unwilling to examine the nature of that fear.

What she found was not what she would have expected.

First she saw Robin, slumped against the wall. He didn’t look all that beaten up but he was definitely out cold – please not dead – like it had been one hard blow that had taken him down. Spike was pacing frustratedly in front of him, jaw and fists clenched as he snarled. The First, in Spike’s form, was near Wood’s side, arms crossed and leaning back against the wall… Which was covered in crosses? Oh, she would be very angry when Robin woke up. If he wasn’t dead, he was going to wish he were…

The First was talking. “…but what are you going to get out of killing him, precisely? One last hearty meal before the gallows? Think about it, you dunce, what d’you think she’s gonna do?” It wasn’t the First’s usual line, Buffy had to admit. Weird.

Spike didn’t reply, but seemed to sense her presence right at that moment. “Buffy,” he said, immediately distracted and turning to face her, taking two steps closer with a wicked smirk of delight she hadn’t seen in a lifetime. “You’re here.”

She couldn’t meet his eyes when he was like this, so she looked over at the First instead. He nodded, gaze drifting down away from hers. Weird. “Slayer,” he greeted, even weirder.

“What’s going on?” she asked Spike, risking a glance at his hooded eyes. He couldn’t have killed Robin, she decided, otherwise he’d look a lot less pleased with himself. Although he was slightly reminding her of trigger-Spike about now.

Especially as he sneered, “Principal wanted revenge.”

Buffy blinked, not sure how the logic of that followed. At all. Thankfully the First – who she was beginning to think possibly wasn’t actually the First Evil – elaborated, “I… We killed his mother, Nikki.” He said it with more sorrow and compassion Buffy had ever thought Spike capable of. And he was still leaning against the crosses, which left her muscles itching to get him off them. “But he only wanted to get rid of the part he thought killed her…”

Oh… Now, she was catching on. “So he split you up.” Wow, she really had to be more careful about the stories she told in the workplace. She’d thought Robin’s attention had wandered when she’d spun that story about Xander, but clearly he must have been planning this all along. “That son of a bitch!”

Diffident Spike at the crosses just nodded again, a frown on his face. Sneery Spike snorted, unsurprisingly – standing a little too close her and making her senses tingle, like a feral animal well within snapping range. Eyeing him again, she couldn’t help but wonder if she really recognised either of them.

Wood came round quite quickly and after a stern lecture from Buffy, they left him. Spike found himself fighting the urge to make sure the man was OK, but that was only because he knew how it felt to get a blow to the head like that – not the mention the blow to his pride. But, then again, the best thing for the man’s ego was probably to leave him to get on with it, even if they always said on ER you shouldn’t leave people with concussions.

All the same, he had killed the man’s mother. And Spike certainly knew how that felt. It kept nagging at him, probably because of that stone thing, but he wished the other half of him would stop and wait and talk to him about it, because Spike was sure that he remembered. He just didn’t want to think about it.

Spike wasn’t used to having this many thoughts. If he didn’t know that half of him had been split away, he wasn’t sure that he’d have noticed, but it was impossible not to, really. Wasn’t he impulsive? He thought of himself as an impulsive person, but now as they trudged back to Revello he could only think how much he’d always underrated Hamlet. And the Modernists.

The Modernists? Spike paused, mulling that over. Shite; what had happened to him?

Up ahead, the other Spike was yapping around Buffy’s coattails like a starving dog. Of course, not literally, but it was clear enough to see if you understood the instincts involved. She was marching purposefully down the pavement, disconcertingly carefree about the dangers that still had to be lurking out here, and Spike’s doppelganger was covering her flank, riding on her wake like he was high on valium. He usually had more discretion than that – a bit more cool. Spike felt like telling him that women usually went for blokes who had at least some modicum of self-respect, but then he knew, somehow, that that would just make him over-egg the pudding to even further heights of embarrassment.

Still, Spike wondered, with a little surprise. Did that mean he was the cool one? Nerdy old him (and, yes, he had accepted that was the one he was)? That was a turn up for the –

Fuck; bollocks; shit! Suddenly the curb was underneath him and Spike was tripping over his own feet. With a scramble he regained his footing, but he couldn’t help but groan. Thankfully the other two hadn’t turned around. All the same – he was the clumsy one? Just bloody great.

So, Spike knew he should be playing it a bit more cool. He just couldn’t quite bring himself to care. Buffy had been changing towards him, recently, he’d been more than aware (and usually he could recall all the details, but he couldn’t be bothered about those right now). This was too much of an opportunity to not risk getting close to her; when the nerves he remembered kicked back in they’d be back in the steps of their usual dance, but for now he was going with it. He felt like he was walking on air.

Boots pounding down the pavement, he couldn’t help but wince, nonetheless, when the version behind him failed to cross the street without tripping. Buffy smirked, he saw.

“Oi,” Spike shot at her. “DMs don’t give you that much sensitivity, all right?” He felt like he was defending his kid brother. Like the three years he’d had one of those.

“Right,” Buffy humoured him. “’Cause you’re the king of grace, I guess?”

Uncaring what made him do it, Spike decided to show off a little, skipping a couple of steps in front of her and taking her waist in his hands. The touch of her was electric, as always, and more than enough for him to get the balance right as he swung her off the ground. It let him ignore any nagging worries in his head.

The whole world evaporated as he danced them a few more steps down the street. Buffy shrieked and he grinned at the sound, full of that glow he got when she realised vamp skills weren’t just for fighting. In seconds he let her back down, gracefully, and they were standing closer than ever, her heart pounding between them. Her eyes were full and round, laughter and freedom bubbling through her like he always wanted. So much has changed, Spike thought, full of hope, and as her eyes ducked he couldn’t help but lean in…

Two things happened at once when he did that. In front of him, Buffy skittered away, wrenching herself back from his touch with a shudder. Behind him, one strong hand landed on his shoulder and dragged him violently backwards.

“Leave her alone,” he heard his own voice snarl – and he blinked, startled by how things had gone wrong.

Buffy was still there in front of him, arms crossed over the front of her as her gaze darted between him and the pavement. “You can’t… We can’t do that,” she was saying, half like a warning, half like the rush of thoughts were pouring into her head and out of her. Spike could only stare in shock. “Not now. Not with everyone. It’s too soon; I’m not ready – and they’d all say; with Dawn I can’t… Please don’t make me –”

“It’s all right,” the other version said, pushing Spike out of the way to comfort from what was probably a respectful distance. “I know. We know. We don’t want anything from you – just… We’re here to support you – always.”

With the first sting of tears in his eyes, Spike turned his head away from the scene, scanning the dark with its abandoned cars and merrily phasing traffic lights. He felt like shit – like he was disgusting, polluted, murderous. He wished he could explain, but had a feeling it was the other one who’d ended up articulate. “I’m sorry,” he said, and it sounded insincere. With a growl of frustration, then, he turned and kicked the lamppost they were standing by. It made his whole leg jar. “Bollocks.

Surprisingly then, Buffy said, “It’s OK.” With a final shudder, she sounded more together. Looking up, Spike saw the usual sergeant major expression fall across her face, but not without that fatal hint of gratitude and forgiveness, first aimed at the other version, then, beatifically, at him. He said nothing, though he knew what to say to take that look off her face.

After a beat, Buffy’s gaze flicked back to the other version, before she rolled her eyes and said, “Let’s get home. This is all Giles’ fault, so I expect him to fix you.”

Part of Spike rebelled at the idea there was anything wrong with him – but the other part, because apparently he could be quartered, was desperate to be whole again, just to know what the hell he was supposed to do.

Buffy had almost forgotten her anger by the time all three of them made it home. Being around Spike like this was just too weird for her to take it one hundred percent seriously, so she was hoping they could get the two of them put back together with the minimum amount of arguing and they could all get back to normal. As normal as normal was.

Nonetheless, as she finally tracked down Giles in the kitchen with a cup of tea, she couldn’t help but remember a little bit of rage.

“Ah, Buffy,” he said when he saw her, rising to his feet. All she could hear was him saying, Spike’s a liability, Buffy, round and round in her head. “Now, I know what you’re thinking…”

“Save it, Giles,” she snapped at him. He looked startled. “Your plan failed. Spike’s alive.” Taken, then, by the humour of the situation, she smiled. “In fact…” This could be better than she thought. She hadn’t considered how Giles would react to multiple Spikes coming back through the door.

Before she could share the sweet news, however, Xander came through the kitchen door and asked, stealing all her thunder, “Um, sorry to bother you, Buff – but is there a reason we suddenly have two Spikes in the house?”

“What?” Giles asked, alarmed as he spluttered through his tea.

Buffy rolled her eyes and pulled the magic stick from her back pocket. She slammed it on the table. “Remember this?” she said. “We have a problem.”

“Oh… Don’t tell me they’re both Spike?” Xander said, sounding like he’d really been looking forward to the end of this day. He wasn’t the only one. “I thought one of them was a robot. I was hoping one of them could be a robot.” Even as Buffy threw half a glare his way, however, it was clear Xander wasn’t all that serious. He’d grown as a person, her Xandman.

“Are we sure one isn’t the First?” asked Giles anyway, almost proving he’d regressed. He threw a glance Buffy’s way she wasn’t sure was all that flattering. “Its ability to mimic those we, ah –”

“For god’s sake, Giles,” Buffy cut in, “I’m not deluded! I can tell Spike from the First Evil. Even if I’m friendly with him – no, wait.” She curled a fist against the table top. “Especially because I’m friendly with him.”

“Also,” Xander added, raising his hands seemingly to diffuse the tension, “they can both touch things.” Buffy looked at him, wondering how he knew. Scratching the back of his head, Xander explained, “Spike One stole the remote and made everyone move over on the couch. Uh, Spike Two was lurking, which annoyed Spike One, so he threw a cushion at him and Spike One – I mean Two – threw it back, only it hit Dawn in the face, so…”

It took about half the explanation to get Buffy moving through to the living room, Xander and Giles following behind her.

It was a warzone. The Potentials had long since fled and Dawn had made something of a fort on the couch, crouched among cushions with one Spike grinning at her side. Buffy could only assume it was pushy-grabby Spike – although, she realised, looking at the other Spike by the hall doors (who was eyeing up the pair on the couch like a sharpshooter, one cushion in each hand) – the difference between them wasn’t all that pronounced right now.

Anya’s voice suddenly addressed her from the right, and Buffy realised she’d been there all along. “Will someone please tell me what’s going on?”

“It seems,” Giles got there first, apparently still more than capable of getting stuff right when it suited him, “Robin Wood employed the ferula gemina to split Spike into his good and evil halves.”

“And that explains what now?” Anya replied.

The conversation was broken by the Spike on the couch saying, “Go, go, go!” to Dawn – who immediately started hurling cushions at the other Spike, who was picking them up and throwing them back as soon as he could, making Dawn shriek every time he caught her. Uninvolved in this, Spike on the couch just watched, snickering and offering commentary.

Buffy could only see her living room getting trashed. “Enough!” she shouted.

All throwing ceased. The final cushion landed whumpf against standing Spike’s chest. He flinched, looking contrite and nervous about what she was going to say.

“Aw, Buffy,” Dawn said sulkily. “You made him feel bad again. I can’t deal with his guilt face.”

Buffy rolled her eyes. She could see more than well enough how Spike’s ‘guilt face’ became a little more extreme the moment he realised it was working. Not that it wasn’t genuine, she was sure, and she was sure he’d been mortified the first time he’d hit Dawn until she’d started their little game – but even the good half of Spike knew how to press an advantage. “He’ll get over it,” was all Buffy said. She eyed the cushions, pillows and sleeping bags littering the floor. Where had they all come from? “Now I want this mess cleaned up – and that goes for all three of you, Mr. Anarchist.” She threw a challenging glare at Spike on the couch, who was suddenly sporting an innocent expression and a hand on his chest. Me? But what have I done?

She wasn’t having any of it. Although she couldn’t help but wonder why one Spike (who mostly acted like an adult) left her with two children when he was split in half. It was a mystery.

As Dawn and the two Spikes began to bring order back to the room’s soft furnishings, anyway, Buffy turned back to Xander, Anya and Giles, waiting for someone to remember the solution to this particular situation. She remembered that Willow had fixed the Xanders that time, but she was in LA, so someone else was going to have to figure it out. Although – if Anya suggested anything about putting the two Spikes to good use, Buffy was going to throttle her.

“So, what I’m trying to figure,” Xander commented at last. “Is which one’s smelly, paranoid Xander and which one’s promotion-and-apartment in the same day Xander.” He shrugged. “Or, you know, the Spike version of that.”

“Yeah,” Anya agreed, paying far too much attention to the matching butts putting the couch back together. She tilted her head. “They’re kind of the same.”

At that Buffy snorted – because it was so obviously untrue. Anarchist Spike was aware of every eye on him and clearly playing up to the crowd – just the same way as he’d sensed her earlier, Buffy remembered. Clumsy Spike, on the other hand, was oblivious. He just had good muscle tone. He flinched when Dawn poked him, wanting help to fold the comforters. “They’re seriously not the same,” she said. “They’re just both Spike.”

“Something must have gone wrong in the forging process,” Giles commented, taking his glasses off to clean. “I imagine Robin Wood’s goal, if he didn’t intend to kill Spike as we know him, was to split the demon and the soul apart, leaving him with the vampire who killed his mother, whom he could stake freely, and the, uh, ally to the cause who would be much less of a risk.”

Spike had said as much before (though Buffy couldn’t remember which one), but it was still the dumbest plan she’d ever heard. “I think it worked exactly the way he planned it,” she contradicted Giles, pretty sure he didn’t believe it had gone wrong either. “The only problem he had was that his plan was idiotic.” She watched them again, as Dawn and Anarchist Spike gave up to sit back on the mostly fixed couch, leaving Clumsy Spike to finish off. For his part, he rolled his eyes and got on with it. “I mean, what did he expect, the demon half to be all I vant to suck your blurd while the souled half made daisy chains in the corner? Come on… Where was the rest of his personality supposed to go?”

There was silence for a moment, but then Xander piped up. “When you put it like that, it does make some sense.”

Buffy was pretty sure she was right. If the soul and demon had been split up, then that probably explained why one of the Spikes was able to touch crosses, while the other still had his demony senses – which were even amped up a little. It had been a hard lesson over the last few months, how little the soul seemed to have affected Spike – all the weeping and the guilt aside – but she’d learnt it. She’d been trying to make Spike learn it too, make him realise he could still be just as terrifying in the fight as he’d been before, but that was still a work in progress. “What do you think, Giles?” she asked blithely, daring him to say she was wrong. He said nothing.

It was good to be whole again, Spike thought once the mojo was over. Giles left the basement with no more than a, “Well, that seems to have been successful,” but Spike was glad to see the back of him for one evening. Xander and Anya had been distracted by something else, but, again, that was fine, because it left him with Buffy and Dawn, who it turned out was still one of his favourite people.

“OK,” the girl herself told him, seemingly coming back to the awkward status quo now there was only one of him in the room. “So… You’ve got yourself to stand up for you now. No more free passes.” She didn’t sound entirely serious, which was music to his ears. “I’ll be watching you,” she finished – and she even did a cute little ‘I’ll be watching you’ gesture, flicking her fingers in a V back and forth in front of her face down their eye-line.

On a better day, he’d have been able to think of a comeback, but as it was he just nodded, freeing her from the awkwardness to go back upstairs.

But then Buffy was smirking at him, arms crossed where she stood outside the sacred circle. “It’s nice to see you guys make up,” she said.

“Yeah, well,” he replied with a shrug, gaze drifting to his bed. “She’s a decent kid.” It was a good thing they’d got this sorted tonight – otherwise where would half of him have slept? Sharing a bed with himself would not have been on the cards.

“Yeah – decent but not quite good,” Buffy agreed, the shuffle of her feet loud on the concrete floor. “Describes a lot of people I know.”

The instinct flashed in him to challenge her, force her into eye contact and ask, Yeah, but you wouldn’t have us any other way, would you, pet? He caught himself just in time, not sure she was ready for even that, but she seemed, in her uncanny way, to know exactly what he was thinking.

“I think a hundred percent good is overrated anyway,” she said, meaningfully. “It’s like plain salad. Sure, all the magazines say you should order it, but who actually wants to eat that?”

“I don’t disagree…” he murmured, meeting her eyes but not moving out of the circle.

“Good,” she said, without irony. Although she smiled a quirky smile. “Because I know that rod was invented the first time to split Slayer Buffy from Human Buffy… And I don’t think either of them would have been all that perfect either.”

“Hey!” he said, unable to resist that line. She was still smirking at him. “Who are you calling imperfect?”

Buffy shrugged. “I’m just trying to work out why you’re still standing there moping.”

Spike looked back down to his boots, which had brought with them the scuff from the curbside. He didn’t know what he was feeling. He’d been split in half! It felt like it should matter. “I’m sorry about what happened on the way back,” he ultimately said, unable quite to shake the double memory from his mind.

“It’s all right,” Buffy said with another shrug. “You caught me off guard. And –” She paused, waiting to give him a meaningful glance before she finished, “On another day, you might have got a different reaction.”

“On another day, it might not have happened,” Spike replied dryly, wishing he were able to predict his own actions in such situations. The nerdy side of him would at least have thought about it, but he didn’t seem to get much of a say in general, even with the soul on his side. That was the worst thing – what always bothered him. He’d thought at the time that the soul would help him figure these things out, work out how to act and keep him from the same mistakes. But it couldn’t could it? It didn’t have that much power.

Glancing up the stairs, then, Buffy crossed the basement then and put a small hand on his shoulder. He almost jerked away, caught by his own surprise. She saw and her expression seemed to challenge him, See? But what she said was, “All I want for this fight is for you to be you, Spike.” He looked over to his bed again, where the chains still were from his trip down memory lane. How was he supposed to be himself when there were parts he wished he could cut out? Parts it seemed like he couldn’t really cut out? And yet, “Please,” Buffy continued, taking them right back to where this had all started. “Tell me about your mother.”

And in the end he did.