A/N: It's helpful but not necessary to read Memory
Box: Part I to understand what's going on here.
Though if you don't read it, you may wonder what Spike is doing in London, why Buffy's with him, and why he owns a house in Queen's Gate Terrace.
"You seen any of London yet?" Spike asked, tucking the Slayer beneath his arm and strolling up the street.
Buffy shook her head and slid her arm across Spike's back beneath the duster. Once again, her fingers tangled in his t-shirt. "I haven't much been in the mood to play tourist."
"You in a better mood today?"
"Well, yeah." She rubbed his back and gave his waist a squeeze before stuffing her fingers inside his back pocket. "But we can't play tourist."
"Can too. Can do anything we want to." Reversing directions on the pavement, he began pulling her down Gloucester Road.
"Spike, no." Her fingers dug at his where they'd captured her wrist. "We can't. It's cloudy now, but that could change. You should get indoors."
"You can't know that."
"I know London weather. Won't change."
She braced her feet against his strength, which had little effect except to make her trip after him. Slayer and vampire both knew she could have overridden him easily had she wished it. The other pedestrians couldn't have cared less what the odd couple were doing on the busy London street.
"I don't want to risk your burning up," Buffy protested.
He stopped so quickly, she nearly ran into him.
"Not a risk when we're traveling underground." Taking Buffy by the shoulders, Spike spun her around to face the building before them. "Gloucester Road tube station. What say we grab a ticket?"
She bit her lip. "It's tempting."
Spike grinned and did that tongue thing he did so well. "Friend of mind once said the best thing to do with a temptation is yield to it."
"A friend of mine once said while opportunity knocks, temptation leans hard on the bell. It never gives up, sort of like you."
His eyes were so eager, so earnest and so blue, Buffy closed her mouth on the strong refusal she had ready.
"Come on, pet." He was practically bouncing on his feet. "Got you all to myself for the first time in months. You're in my city, my territory. Let me show it off to you."
Sliding up behind Buffy with a predator's grace, the vampire slid his hands around her waist. His fingers spread across her stomach. Those hands slid even lower and tightened just so, making something deep inside Buffy flutter. Enfolding her in his duster, Spike pushed his nose against the back of her ear and purred.
"You know I'll make it good for you, Slayer." He was holding her so tightly, she could feel his voice vibrate inside of her. "Show you the Tower of London. The Crown Jewels and the Beefeaters."
"There's a restaurant?" she squeaked.
Spike laughed softly, his breath tickling her ear. Buffy leaned back, wanting him even closer.
"No, pet, that's what we call the guards. What say we nip over to Tower Hill and I show you the Bloody Tower?" His fingers snuck further inside her jeans, were caressing circles much lower than they should have been on a public street.
Buffy closed her eyes and swallowed hard. "Oh. God."
"I'll take that as a yes." Catching her hand, he yanked her inside the station. Studying the rate chart, Spike muttered to himself while Buffy tried to uncurl her toes.
"Not like we're playing tourist only one day," he muttered. "Too much to show you, so think a month pass would be better for both of us. Here now, let's get our pictures taken and no making faces, Slayer. No sitting on my lap either, much as I know you want to. This one's solo for the transit authorities."
She agreed with Spike that it was "right handy" to have a photo booth right there at the entrance to the tube station, so that one could get a photo and obtain a month's pass immediately from the man behind the glass. In only a few minutes, she and Spike had their very own passes to the London Underground to flash at the guard before passing neatly through the turnstile.
"It's the Circle or the District Line east we're wanting." Spike said as he captured her hand again to guide her down the narrow stairs. "Come on, don't dawdle. The ravens won't wait."
They reached the platform, and Spike peered impatiently down the dark tunnel for the train. "Yeah. Eight of 'em are kept at the government's expense 'cause they're the palladium of the realm."
"Palladium. An image from legend on which a city's safety is said to depend. They teach you nothing at that school of yours?"
"I'd forgotten how fast your words can leave my brain behind."
"You complaining already?"
"Nooo. Just realizing how lazy I've gotten recently."
A train rumbled into the station, and Buffy followed her vampire aboard. Once they were settled, she rested their joined hands on his thigh. "So, what about these palladium birds that won't wait?"
"Legend says so long as the ravens are at the Tower, Britain's safe from invasion."
"Demonic or mortal?"
"Mortal. Both. I don't know, Slayer. It's a sodding legend."
Buffy stroked his hand. "Poor Spike. You don't like being interrupted, do you?"
He glowered at her, his full lower lip coming out to play. "You asked, I was telling. Can't tell if you keep interrupting. You treat your uni dons like this?"
"University professors." His accent was clipped and clean.
"Oh. Were you lecturing me like they did?"
"Was trying, before a pretty little bint interrupted me."
She grinned and hugged his arm tightly to her. "You really think I'm pretty?"
"None of that. Profs don't flirt with their students."
She snuggled against him. "Then I guess it's a good thing I'm not a student, and you're not a professor. But go on. I promise not to interrupt again."
"Where was I?"
"Legend says Britain's safe from invasion as long as the ravens are there," Buffy summarized dutifully. "But you don't know what kind of invasion the legend is talking about."
"Right. Not much else to tell. Legend also says if the ravens leave the Tower of London, the White Tower will crumble and the monarchy will fall. The raven keepers trim the birds' flight feathers to prevent them leaving. 'Course, they mate on the wing, so they're right frustrated all of the time."
"The raven keepers mate on the wing?"
"Yeah. Go soaring out over Traitor's Gate and the Thames like bloody archangels, they do." He nudged her. "Get up, pet. This is our stop."
~ ~ ~
"The names of the eight ravens currently in the tower are Gwylum, Thor, Hugine, Munin, Branwen, Bran, Gundulf, and Baldrick," proclaimed the Beefeater, pacing patiently behind one of the birds.
"Which raven is that one?" Buffy asked.
"Don't know," said Spike. "Didn't put on its name tag this morning."
Buffy looked up at the vampire. "You know, if you'd told me those names before, I'd have thought you were making them up."
"Not me. I'd have told you they were named Giles, Xander, Willow--"
She smacked him lightly in the arm.
"That'll bruise. Gonna kiss and make it better, Slayer?"
"Absolutely. Just not here." She tugged him away from the guard, who was being surrounded by tourists eager to ask questions. "Come on, mister. Show me your tower."
"Love to." Leering, Spike trapped the tip of his tongue between his teeth and began stalking her in the predatory panther style that always made Buffy's adrenaline kick in. "Want me to show you now or later when we're alone?"
"I....um...." She walked backward away from him as he continued deliberately pacing her. The duster flared around his legs and Buffy stared, could feel herself blushing. "I walked into that one, didn't it?"
"Walked in, closed the door, and delivered yourself very nicely," Spike agreed. Lengthening his stride, he pounced to tuck her beneath his shoulder in one easy motion--a place Buffy was fast learning was a favorite with him--and kissed her forehead. "Come on. I'll let you off the hook and show you the tower, as opposed to my tower."
~ ~ ~
Buffy stood wide-eyed before the Crown Jewels while Spike stood beside Buffy and offered a running commentary on their history that had other tourists inching closer to listen. A gaggle of tourists followed like goslings in hopes of more tidbits as Spike led the Slayer through the display.
Always aware of any attention he might be getting, Spike whirled at the exit and addressed the small crowd. "The lady and I will be examining torture in the Tower next. Feel free to join us."
The tourists laughed at being found out and followed sheepishly in Spike's dustered wake.
Entering the narrow room, the vampire hung back in a shallow alcove and let the tourists file past. He didn't move or speak until the group of men, women and children were all waiting for him in front of shadowed display of some sort of wooden medieval furniture guarded by a thick plexiglass barrier. Some cast anxious glances over their shoulders to peer at their impromptu guide.
What is he planning? Buffy wondered.
Spike raised his head, and his smirking face was too familiar to the Slayer. Years before, she'd first seen that amused predator look before the vampire had begun toying with her inside Sunnydale High.
"Spike?" she whispered.
"It's all right, pet. Slinking forward, he used the same suggestive, hypnotic walk Buffy had seen years before in Sunnydale High to approach the tourists. "It's been said that only the Rack, the Scavenger's Daughter and the Manacles were used here in the Tower. It was only a little torture—only two centuries' worth. The three of 'em are replicated right over there."
Spike nodded at the objects behind the plexiglass. As one, the tourists turned their backs on the vampire to view the replicas. Stupid tourists, thought Buffy.
"See that big placard announcing 'Torture in the Tower'? Touch the computer screen next to it, and you can read a bit about the torturers and their victims. It's all historical. Clean and tidy, too. Can't smell anybody's blood or worse. Can't hear the screaming. Can't hear anybody begging for their life or protesting their innocence. The tourist board doesn’t want to scare you." He stopped and smirked at a pair of teenaged girls. "Are you scared?"
They giggled at him. One tossed back her hair. "No."
"No." Spike tilted his head. "You two don't feel anything for Ann Askew? Accused of treason, she was the only woman tortured here. Maybe happened right where you're standing. Since, like Ann, you don't want to confess, how about I strap you to that Rack over there, dislocate your arms and legs, and then rip them out of their sockets? Think you'd feel something then?"
One of the girls dropped her gaze to the stone floor. Whatever the other girl saw in Spike's face made her leap back and try to hide behind her friend.
A boy stepped up to pull on Spike's sleeve. "Where's the iron maiden?"
"Not here," said the vampire. "Best one was in Nuremberg, but she was destroyed during the war."
"How did she work?"
"Had two doors, like a cabinet." The vampire gestured by way of illustration. "Featured an interior studded with spikes. The maiden impaled you in the eyes, chest and back, but left you alive to feel it for days. She had a trap door in her bottom that let her minders drop your greasy remains into the river or moat below."
"Glad you think so." Spike clapped a hand on the boy's shoulder. "So. That accounts for London and Nuremberg. Other toys were used elsewhere. Cat's paw, mutilation shears, ear chopper, iron gag, knee splitter, caspie-claws, thumbikins. Most are pretty self-explanatory. Just look 'em up on the Internet and enjoy."
"What are caspie-claws?" the boy pursued.
"Let me tell you." Leaning against the stone wall and crossing his arms, Spike began his narration in earnest. "They weren't used here or so say the history books. They were used in Scotland in June of 1595 after the Earl of Orkney had some family troubles. His brother John tried to murder him, first by witchcraft and then by poisoning. A notorious witch named Alison Balfour was said to have helped him. Alison swore she was innocent and no evidence could be found, but it was enough back then to be accused. Her legs were put into the caspie-claws--iron cases for the arms or the legs. The cases were heated over braziers until Alison's flesh burned. She was kept like that for two days."
"Oh, God," said someone in the crowd.
Spike hesitated. "It gets worse. Want me to stop?"
"No," said an older woman with a Scots accent at the front of the crowd. "This part of our history needs remembered so it never happens again. You go on and tell what happened to Alison."
"She didn't confess, so they brought in her family. Alison watched as her elderly husband was slowly crushed to death by fifty stone of iron bars." The vampire glanced at Buffy. "That's seven hundred pounds. Alison still didn't confess, so her son was next. A boy like you." Spike nodded at the one who'd asked about the iron maiden. "They put the boots on him. Anybody know what those were?"
A few people shook their heads.
"Your legs got put between two planks of iron and bound with cords. Then the torturers used a cousin to today's sledgehammer to drive in wooden wedges from your ankles to your knees. With every strike, the inquisitor--a different fellow from the torturer--repeated the question. First your flesh split, then your bones cracked, then the marrow gushed out. Your legs were useless when the torturer removed the boots, and you died a little later. They gave Alison's son fifty-seven strokes, but his mum still didn't confess."
"I can't believe this," someone said over the tourists' murmuring.
Spike shrugged. "Like this lady here said, it's a documented part of history and not just Scotland's. Next came Alison's little girl. Didn't have boots small enough to fit her, so she got the piniwinkies--sort of a thumbscrew. Did the same thing as the boots only to the little one's fingers and toes. Crushed them until the blood spurted out from under her fingernails." He nodded at the two teenage girls who had giggled at him in the beginning. "You feeling anything over there yet?"
"Stop it," whispered one of the girls.
"The torturers didn't stop, and Alison finally broke down. Confessed to witchcraft and probably to the seven deadly sins as well. 'Course she was convicted. Recanted her confession later when she was about to be put to death on the Heading Hill of Kirkwall, but they burned her anyway. Deducted the cost of her trial and execution from her estate, too. Should probably mention this all happened in Edinburgh. Not here. If that matters."
"Did the little girl live?" someone asked.
"The records don't say, but my guess is no. Even if she did survive her fingers and toes being crushed, who'd take in a convicted witch's child? And so--" Spike pushed away from the wall. "Hope you enjoyed this little torture tour as much as I enjoyed taking you on it."
Giving a mocking bow to the stunned and silent crowd, Spike strode back to a stunned Buffy. "I'm feeling peckish, pet. Care for a snack? "
"You feeling better?" asked a sheepish Spike as he scooted closer to Buffy on the black iron bench.
"Not really, no." Buffy sat primly and stared down at her folded hands.
"Didn't mean to upset you."
"I'm not upset," she protested for the fifth time in as many minutes. "I just..." She glanced across at him. "I'm trying to wrap my mind around the fact that they tortured and executed people here five hundred years ago--"
"Three hundred, pet."
"Whatever. They hurt and killed people here, and now tourists want to hear really detailed stories about it from you, and moms and dads bring picnics for their kids and eat right over there by...by that block where they beheaded people. It's sick!"
"Well yeah. It's a tourist attraction. People have died at Disneyland too."
"Nobody's been tortured at Disneyland."
"Never been through 'It's a Small World' have you? Dru and me--"
"Not now, Spike."
He slouched on the bench and scowled at the family seated on benches across the green and eating the sandwiches that had inspired part of Buffy's outburst. One of the Tower ravens sidled closer to the family's children, hoping for a handout.
"I get it," Spike said. "You need a few minutes to get back your appetite."
"Among other things. I need to be alone for a few minutes, please?"
"Sure. You stare at the grass and glower at me for having some fun with the tourists at the expense of people who are three centuries dead."
"Don't what, Slayer? You're upset, I get that for all that you're saying you're not. What I don't get is how I can entertain a sodding group of strangers with a bit of history, but I can't be allowed to help fix whatever it is that's wrecked your good mood. You were happy enough looking at the...the diamonds and stuff, so it's obviously something I did with the torture."
"Yes, it is," she admitted. "But I don't know why yet. Okay?"
"Fine." Spike gritted his teeth so tightly, Buffy could hear them grinding together. "Let me know when you want me, yeah?"
Pushing off of the bench so hard that it vibrated beneath Buffy, Spike stomped across the grass and startled a raven into flapping frantically to get out of the way. Joining one of its fellows on a nearby rock, the bird ruffled its feathers and cawed after the vampire.
Why do I feel like this? Buffy pondered. Why do I feel so... unnerved... about what happened in there? It's not like Spike tortured those poor people all those centuries ago. And it's not as though I don't know what he did do. I thought I'd come to terms with that while we were still in Sunnydale. I mean, he went and got his soul to ensure he'd know good from evil and be able to choose accordingly. His conscience and his soul are every bit 'there' as my own are. So why am I sitting here freaking over him when I know I love him and this is our first day back together? Why am I wrecking this?
"Excuse me?" A tall, well-built woman hurried in Spike's direction. She practically broke into a run before the vampire stopped and stared at her.
"You yelling at me?"
"Yes. I'm sorry, I know it's terribly rude of me, but I'm an informal student of the Inquisition. Might I have a moment of your time?"
"Your lecture was better than a horror movie, Mr.--"
"No. Just Spike." Turning, the vampire sighed and gave her his full attention. "What can I do for you?"
"You've already done it." The woman beamed. "You made me think because you made Alison come alive for me in there. Your story and its horrible details? They resonated with me."
"Through your words, I felt what it was like to be confined to the torturer in a way I never have while merely reading about the instruments themselves. You have a gift, Spike. What sources did you pull from?"
He scuffed the toe of his boot in the grass. "Umm, it's been awhile since I was at the books, but I think you can find the details in the Annals of Scotland, Reign of James the Sixth, 1591 through 1603, Part C."
Spike is an historical scholar of torture? Buffy barely refrained from rolling her eyes. Why does this not surprise me? Then again, so's the very mortal woman he's talking to, right? I wonder if she'd be into it if she knew how many demons would be glad to give her an up-close, personal look at being tortured. Once upon a time, Spike was among them.
"For the other stuff," Spike was saying, "try Guiley's book from 1989 and Sidky. Can't remember the date for his work."
"You do know that torture occurred over a relatively short period of time of the Tower's history?" the woman ventured.
"Right." Spike eyed the sky for a moment where the sun was trying to break through the clouds. Strolling casually back toward Buffy, he regained the shadows and safety. His fan followed him. "During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries."
"Yes, exactly. Of the prisoners passing through the tower, only a tiny fraction were ever tortured."
"A fraction more were executed." Spike dropped the fact casually, but the woman flinched. "Ever think about that?"
"Do you know why they stopped torturing people? Was there an outcry against it?"
"A few contemporary critics claimed torture was cruel and ineffective because a man on the rack would say anything to be released. Those critics were right with a few notable exceptions, like Alison."
"Have you other sources you might share with me?" the woman pursued.
"Have you pen and paper?"
Spike scribbled in the notebook the woman pulled from her purse, and Buffy grew bored with the conversation that resumed after he'd finished scribbling. The woman took her leave eventually, and Spike glanced warily toward Buffy. Offering a silent smile by way of apology, she patted the bench beside her and tried to look harmless. Relatively, anyway.
Spike returned to sprawl on the bench and scowl with his legs stretched before him. "Know you were watching, Slayer. Can't tell what you're thinking, but I stuck to the facts. It's all in the history books."
Buffy sighed. "Do you want to hear what I'm thinking, or do you just want to assume bad things?"
"Always willing to listen. Never sure you want to let me in."
He'd shoved his hands into his duster pockets, much too far away for Buffy's liking. Slipping her hand inside, she wrapped her fingers around his.
"I'm not deliberately shutting you out," she protested. "I'm trying to figure out what I feel about what you did with the tourists."
She chewed her lip. "In Sunnydale, you always had words while I was still stuck feeling things. Words take a long time with me.
"You're using them great at the moment," Spike observed.
"But this is as far as I've gotten. All I'm doing is thinking out loud. Will you help me work through this to the end?"
Spike stopped scowling and his eyes softened. His fingers tightened around hers inside the duster pocket. "Do anything for you, pet. You know that."
Buffy squeezed his hand. "How weird is it that I'm at the Tower of London with a vampire in broad daylight...cloud light, anyway...and you're making friends with the tourists rather than eating them?"
"More interesting to talk to them," Spike muttered. Sitting up straighter on the bench, he laid their still-entwined hands on Buffy's knee and turned to offer her the same focused attention he'd given the scholar-tourist. "How strange is it that a vampire loves the Slayer and that she's written him all sorts of letters when before she always shut him out?"
She played with his fingers. "I thought I had to do everything alone."
"You still feel that way?"
"No. But the intense way you stare at me makes the Slayer in me twitchy. I feel like prey."
"Sorry." Spike looked away. "That better?"
Laying her hand against his cheek, Buffy gently turned his face back to her. "Don't stop doing it. It's my problem, not yours, and I'll get used to it. Your eyes have always been so expressive whether you were hating or loving me."
Her fingers traced the scar in his eyebrow. "It's kind of scary talking like this without any barrier. Not even pen and paper. I've never let anybody so close."
"Not Willow or Rupert or Peaches?"
"No. I couldn't be the independent Slayer and vulnerable, open Buffy at the same time. You made sense of the silent stuff then, so maybe you can help me make sense of the talky stuff now." Groaning, Buffy fell back against the bench. "I'm babbling, aren't I? Where am I going?"
"I don't know, but keep going."
She laid her arm over her eyes. "I can't. I'm stuck. I told you talking and me are non-mixy."
"How about you think back to when we were inside the torture exhibit. What were you feeling then?"
"You...You said you were going to give everybody the shivers. That's what they were there for. You looked predatory, the way you did when we met inside Sunnydale High. All, 'I'm gonna have lots of fun with you.' I thought you were enjoying it way too much."
"Making the tourists shiver."
"I see." Spike considered that for a moment. "I used to tell Dawn stories that made her shiver. Like the one about the little girl in the coal bin."
"You were chipped and unsouled then."
"I may be unchipped and souled now, but you know I'm still a vampire. Still dangerous." He gave a shrug. "What's the difference if I'm telling stories?"
Buffy sighed. "I don't know. That's something I'm trying to work out in my mind."
Spike gave her a minute before asking, "Do you think I wanted to hurt those tourists?"
She didn't hesitate. "No."
"Are you sure, Slayer?"
"Oh, yeah. You're a hundred percent more gleeful when you want to hurt someone," she said petulantly, flapping her hand at him.
He tugged on her arm. "Pet, it's difficult to talk when you're languishing like Camille. Could you sit up and look at me?"
"The heroine dying of consumption in 'La Traviata'."
She sat up and shifted on the bench so that she was facing him. "I haven't coughed or tried to sing to you once."
"Right." Sliding his arm around her, Spike drew her in. "Feels better if we touch while we talk, yeah?"
"Buffy, have you noticed that from the moment I got this shiny soul of mine, there's been no time for either one of us to learn what it means. We were busy battling the First for a year, and then I burned up. You and the Nibblet went off to Rome to rebuild your lives, while I tried to fight the good fight in Los Angeles. I'm coming to terms with being a vampire with a soul, while you're coming to terms with maybe wanting to have me around. It's never going to be all sunshine and kittens between us."
She looked at him for a long moment. "We'd both be bored if it were sunny kittens all of the time."
She sat up. "You know something else? I'm a dope."
Spike shook his head. "You called me that once. Never forgot it."
"It's me who's wrong. More twitchy than wrong really, about nothing. You didn't do anything bad to those tourists. You didn't even want to. You...you've just got this weird, outrageous sense of humor. Remember just before we fought for the first time when you told me that you liked weapons, they made you feel all manly? You, Mr. 'I've Already Got My Weapon'-vamp?"
He arched an eyebrow. "You were the slayer who wanted to throw yours away. I was just making some pre-fight conversation."
"You were posing. Strutting, even. You wanted me to stare at your crotch."
"Well, yeah. Distract you, then leap on you and tear out your throat. It's what I do. Did."
"I remember those worn button-fly jeans you wore. It was impossible to ignore your crotch or its attachments. Anyway...." She gave herself a little shake. "That was then, this is now. Where was I?"
Spike smirked, his blue eyes danced. "You were staring at my crotch."
"See? That just proves my point, that you have this perverse way of looking at things. I don't mean it's wrong, it's just weird. And you have this...this mind that hoards trivia like black velvet collects lint. You've always been outré--"
"Do you even know what that word means, Slayer? French is not your friend, you were fracturing it the first night I saw you."
"Outré means highly unconventional and eccentric. You used it one night and I looked it up after I got home."
"Well. Think of that."
"Don't get all conceited, it happened only once. The point I'm trying to make is that I've never realized before how outré you've always been without losing your humanity."
The vampire frowned at her. "What's my humanity got to do with my sense of humor?"
"Everything's tied together. Your sense of fair play and not wanting to kill me unless we'd had a fair fight. Your not killing Mom because...why didn't you kill my mom?"
"I like mums."
"See? That's not vampish, it's human. You didn't want Angel destroying the world because you liked the English equivalent of moms and apple pie."
Spike snorted. "I hadn't even met your mum then."
She nudged him. "You know what I mean. Later on, you went all chivalrous. You wanted to open doors for me and kept Mom and Dawn safe for me."
"Wasn't always stalking you when I spent all those nights smoking in your front yard," Spike said quietly.
That earned him the softest of kisses. "You really were my knight in black leather, weren't you?"
"When you let me, yeah. But I still don't get what you're saying about my sense of humor."
"When you're funny, it's a lot more subtle than when Angel or Xander were funny. You're faster, more deadly. You come up with wise things in a smart-assed way. Like telling Angel and me that maybe you're love's bitch, but you're man enough to admit it. I mean, where did that come from at the end of that speech about love being blood not brains?"
"Just say what I feel, Slayer."
"Well, what you say can be lethal. I know I'm explaining this badly. But I didn't get it until just now."
Spike grimaced. "I think maybe you've been watching The Three Stooges all of your life, Slayer. Maybe you've grown up enough to recognize satire when you hear it." He shrugged. "Or at least Monty Python."
"Are you laughing at me?"
"Really not. You've just paid me a very nice compliment. Have to admit I don't see what it has to do with my terrorizing the tourists."
"You were playing with the tourists, not terrorizing them," Buffy proclaimed. "Just like you were playing with my sister when you told her stories in your crypt. You weren't being malevolent, you wanted Dawn's attention. To make her shiver. You weren't reliving the crunch with her anymore than you were reliving the crunch with Alison."
Spike regarded her solemnly but didn't say anything, so Buffy went on.
"What freaked me out today is that you made it real. I wasn't ready for that. But you only used words to do it. Soul or no soul, you could have locked those tourists inside and demonstrated what those torture thingies can do in a much more intimate way. You chose to tell a ghost story instead."
He was still staring at her.
Buffy squirmed. "I told you I'd be thinking out loud. Am I wrong?"
"No, pet. But I've got something important to say, and I want you to think about it."
She braced herself for the worst. "What?"
"Alison and her family weren't ripped to pieces by vampires or other demons. Her own kind put her through it. Men who had the blessings of their god and their government. Men who were dead inside."
Buffy blinked. "Oh, Spike. I didn't think of that."
"If I could make you and the others feel for Alison and her own, it's because Angelus did things like that to me in the early years. I learned to kill at his side, but I did it clean. I've been a monster, Buffy. I still am. I captured children for Dru when she wanted to feed, but I never tortured them. I'm not into the pre-show, never have been and never will be."
She rubbed his thigh, soothing. "I know you're not like that."
Taking her by the shoulders, Spike dug in his fingers hard enough to bruise.
"Will you listen to yourself!" He shook her a little. "Don't do this, Buffy, don't discount it. Don't forget there are still monsters out there, and don't whitewash what I've done. Don't ever make that mistake."
"I don't." Her hands came up to clasp his arms. "But you shouldn't forget that I train new slayers every day and kill some of those demons every week. But you changed, Spike. And then you died and I missed you so badly, it hurt to keep breathing. Even though you've been evil, you've showed me over and over that you're a good man. That's what I remember first."
"No matter how much I change, it undo what I've done. All I can do is stop hurting people and go forward. Make a difference now. Make the right choices today and tomorrow and tomorrow. Anything you see that's good in me, you put it there. But I'm still a monster. Still a vampire. I may not have hurt Alison, but there were others I hurt. I made a lot of people scream and there was so much blood--"
"You'd never hurt them now, and that's what matters."
"That won't bring back Alison or her family."
Buffy shook her head. "You're not responsible for them, but you were responsible for Dawn the summer I was gone. You loved her and took care of her, you bought her ice cream and made her smile. Before I died and after I came back, you were careful and tender and you made my life a lot easier on the hellmouth. Your training helped us survive the First."
"Doesn't matter," he growled and pushed her hands away, made to rise from the bench.
"It does matter." She yanked him back, and while the vampire didn't pull away again, he didn't sit back down either. "Just this week, I've been using your lessons to train the new slayers. You're still helping to keep people alive, help the slayers battle the demons."
She struggled to get the words out past the lump in her throat. "I know you've been an evil vampire, I was there for some of it. You've also saved the world three times that I know of, and I was there for two of those."
Dropping back his head, Spike bunched his fingers into fists. "You're crying again, I can smell the tears. Not worth a Slayer's tears."
"You want to make a date with Vi and Rona and watch them kick your ass for saying that? They cried when you didn't make it out of the hellmouth. You matter to a hell of a lot more people than you realize, and they're still missing you. So stop being broody hair-gel guy number two and sit down." She swiped the wetness from her cheek with one hand and yanked on his duster with the other. "Don't make me rip this."
Spike sat down. "You know I'm going to be bad and rude again in the future. Can't help it. It's what I do."
"So?" Buffy scrambled for a tissue and blew her nose. "I've called you a pig and will again. Maybe you never knew my favorite toy from childhood was a pig."
"So all those times I thought you were insulting me, you really weren't?"
"I was too. Just not as badly as you thought." Sniffing delicately, she drew a deep breath. "Look, I know you're never going to be the civilized-Giles type. I don't want or need you to be. Just be yourself while I try to get some perspective and stop freaking every time you tell a ghost story. It's my problem, not yours. I need to deal with it."
"We'll deal together," Spike insisted, checking that Buffy's fingers were dry before capturing her hand and holding tight. "My turn to talk now since you made me sit back down. You up for that?"
Buffy nodded. "Whatever you want."
"I want to talk about this resouled vampire thing," said Spike. "When you started writing me letters, you thought I was in hell, out of reach. I think you idealized the dead me. Now you've got to throw out the white-knight version of me in your head that saved the world and burned up. You follow?"
"I'm not sure I agree," Buffy said cautiously.
"Hear me out 'til the end. In that dungeon today, I think you saw I'm not a white knight, 'cause one of those wouldn't have twisted up your insides about Alison. No, wait." Spike put up a cautionary hand as Buffy began protesting. All I'm saying is you're remembering the good things about Sunnydale and me while forgetting the bad."
"I love you," she said through gritted teeth. "Are you going to say that I don't again?"
"No." Leaning forward, he braced his elbows on his knees. "What did you miss of me, and who am I really?"
She threw him a look reminiscent of confused-Joyce. "What huh?"
"Who am I now that I have a soul?" Spike pursued.
"You're the man that I love."
"No, Buffy. I'm a vampire with a soul who's trying to be a man. If I can. Do you love me, or do you love what I did for you back in the hellmouth?"
She gasped. "How can you even ask me that?"
"Have to ask because you said the best night of my life--that night you let me help and hold you--it didn't mean anything. You weren't ready to see me gone, but that didn't mean you wanted me to stay."
"I want you to stay now," she said quietly.
"Please don't do this."
"Don't do what, Slayer? Don't ask the tough questions? Don't look for the answers we can both live with?"
"I understand that you...we...need time to adjust to your having a soul. That you need to find out who you are. I want to be there for you. I want us to be together whether we're here in London or in Bath or in Timbuktu. I don't care."
He peered across the Tower green where the shadows were growing longer. "You know, Slayer, doesn't matter how many times we've had sex or fought side by side or whatever. You and I together is something that's never been."
He thought she started to reach out to him, but instead Buffy slid her hands beneath her to sit on them. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that being together is your telling Rupert and your friends that we're together. It means committing to each other, Buffy. And that...that's—" Giving a sad smile, he muttered, "It's somewhere we've never gone."
"But we're there now," she protested, her chin trembling. "I'm beside you right now, and I want to be with you. So what am I doing wrong?"
"Not doing anything wrong. We're talking things through." He smoothed a tear from her cheek. "Don't cry, Buffy. I can bear anybody's tears but yours."
Ducking her head, she swiped at the wetness. "I didn't used to cry all the damn time. What do you mean when you say we've never been together, and could you please hold me while you tell me?"
"Come here, pet." He settled her across his lap with her legs stretched out on the bench and wrapped his arms tightly around her. "Don't think we've sat like this since we were engaged under Red's spell."
"Bad us," she whispered, burrowing against him.
He kissed her forehead. "You and me, in the way you're wanting us to be now, hasn't ever been. Always did need me fighting and protecting the ones you love, but beyond that you haven't had much use for me. So now you say that you want to give us a try. I can still fight, but I don't know what else I can do. I'm trying to suss out who and what I am, now I've got my soul back. Am I a man or a demon or both, Buffy? Need to find out for both our sakes."
She nodded and watched him closely as though memorizing his every word. Guess my staring at her doesn't bother her now.
"We're outside the hellmouth now," Spike continued. "No ghoulies to distract us. No sisters to baby-sit and no slayerettes to train. It's going to be just you and me, if I'm reading this the way you want it?"
"Yes." She sounded determined.
"So we'll try us being together. Be just Buffy and whoever I end up being. We'll go slow and careful, get to know each other and see if we can stand each other. If we're each of us what the other wants."
"I can live with that." She snuggled against him with a relieved sigh. Her stomach rumbled, and Spike dared lay a hand across it.
"You hungry, pet?"
"Maybe a little. But I don't want to move. Am too comfy to move."
"No need." Sliding his arm beneath her, Spike rose with Buffy in his arms. Cradling her securely against him, he started off across the grass and gained the stone path.
"Spike!" The Slayer yelped. "What are you doing?"
"Carrying you off for a bit of kip." Spike headed with all haste toward the placard announcing the New Armouries Restaurant. "Never had restaurants in the Tower when I was here last."
Ignoring the gawkers as they crossed the green, Buffy wound her arms around his neck and nibbled his head. Spike shivered.
"Here now. No distracting the transportation."
She giggled and hugged tightly. "I hesitate to ask when you were here last."
"Summer of 1879, I think it was."
Shoving open the restaurant door with his shoulder, Spike set Buffy carefully on her feet just inside the entry. "There you are. Safe and sound and look—there's a hot meal and tea waiting for us."
She glanced at the food only to turn back and throw her arms around his waist. Rocking back, Spike caught her hard and tried to take an unnecessary breath, only to discover that he was being held so tightly that breathing was impossible. "Here now, what's this?"
"Thank you for carrying me," she murmured against his chest, ignoring the tourists pushing past them in the small entry. "No matter what you say, I still think you're my white knight in black leather."
~ ~ ~
Buffy carried bits of leftover roast beef from her sandwich out of the restaurant and paused to peer up at the afternoon sky.
"No sun yet, and there are lots of clouds," she noted happily to the vampire sidling up beside her. "Do you think the Beefeaters will mind if I try to feed their ravens?"
"Won't mind. But you might when they start ripping off the tips of your fingers during snack-time. Be better off tossing the treats onto the grass and watching what happens."
"They're birds, Spike. Not sharks." With that, Buffy headed down the pavement and back to the iron bench she'd started thinking of as theirs. Nestled safely in shadow, it welcomed both vampire and Slayer once more. She spread her offerings on the far right side of the of the bench while Spike claimed his seat and looked on, amusement and contentment dancing in his eyes. Leaning against the vampire, Buffy waited.
"Here, birdy-birdy," she sang. "Are you sure they like roast beef?"
"They're carnivores on the wing, Slayer. Like anything long as it's not rotten."
She turned slightly toward him. "So, are we all talked out? Whoa." A black blur was flapping madly toward them across the green. "It's working!"
"Always did say be careful what you wish for, Slayer."
Buffy leaned harder against Spike and narrowly missed getting her nose thwacked by a wing as the raven hopped up onto the arm of the bench. Perched only a few inches away from her elbow, it looked from the roast beef to the Slayer, bird mantled its wings and opened its beak.
"Is he threatening to peck out my eyes?"
"Hardly. You're alive, not his type. Looks like a young bird, he's begging to be fed." Reaching across the Slayer, the vampire took up a piece of meat and held it over the raven's head. "Better I get bitten than you."
"The big black bird bites the big bad bitey vampire. Neat."
In the end, all Spike had to do was drop each offering inside the raven's open beak. "There you go, Blackie. You want to feed him the last bits?"
"Mighty Slayer will take on the armies of hell, but is afraid of a little raven?"
"He's got a very sharp beak and claws."
"I've got some very sharp fangs and a wicked wit. Never stopped you." Spike continued feeding the raven until all the roast beef was gone. Gathering up the napkin, he shoved it into his pocket. "Don't need to eat that."
The bird cleaned its beak on the arm of the bench and began preening its feathers.
"See now, he's making himself more presentable for you," said Spike. "Hand over your cell phone and let me take a picture. Send it off to Dawn, show her where you've been."
"Um, okay." Carefully, so as not to startle the bird, Buffy dug out her phone. "Good luck with the picture thing, it doesn't take very good ones. He'll probably fly away before you can do much."
"He'll stay to say thank you, won't you, mate?" Slipping off of the bench, Spike retreated a few feet before snapping off a picture. "Don't usually get to see them this up close and personal."
Almost on cue, the bird pulled out and discarded a glossy tail feather that floated toward Buffy. Reaching out, she caught it.
"Spike...Did you see that?" The feather rested across her hands.
"I did, pet. Got some shots of it, too."
Another raven called from across the green and Buffy's bird answered. Gifts and goodies exchanged, it flapped down onto the grass and headed past Spike.
Buffy stroked the still-warm feather. "Do you think he meant for me to have this?"
"Looks like." Closing the phone after taking a few more pictures of his Slayer, Spike sat back down on the bench.
She handed the feather to him. "You want to hold it?"
Taking back her cell phone, Buffy keyed through the photos. "My phone must like you because these are great. Which one should I send to Dawn?"
She sent it off and tucked the phone back into her purse.
"You know, from ancient times ravens were thought to fly between the seen and unseen worlds. Between the darkness and the light," Spike commented, stroking the sleek, black feather. "They symbolize creation too, and you've come to England to create a new life."
Reaching up, she stroked his hair and kissed his cheek. "I think the raven gave his feather to both of us, because you've been walking with me there for years. And we're creating a new life together."
"I like the sound of that." Turning his head, he kissed her wrist. "You ready to leave the Tower, pet?"
"Yeah." Taking his hand, she let him pull her up from the bench. "Where are we going next?"
He thought for a moment as they headed for the exit. "British Museum, I think. Not enough time to see everything today, you'd need a week for that. Enough time for a couple of manuscripts and the mummies, maybe."
"Ooooh, sounds like fun. As long as the mummies don't try to strangle the odd Slayer."
"You're certainly that."
"Hey!" She shoved against him so that he staggered, taking her with him. Somehow, his arm ended up around her waist.
"Do you really think we can create a new life here? We won't have to go to Outer Mongolia or something?"
"If you can still stand me after my bloody little performance." Spike nodded back toward the torture exhibit.
"Everybody needs a hobby. It's not as if you locked them in and drained them one by one."
He tilted his head and regarded her for a long moment. "Had to be strange going through that with me. I mean, vampire and all. Nothing normal about me, you know? Or about what I did to those tourists."
"I think you did fine, you gave them the shivers." She traced his mouth with the feather. "Angel left Sunnydale because he wanted me to have a normal life. But a slayer can't have normal any more than you can. I don't want normal anyway. I want you--minus the caspie-claws and the thumbikins, if that's okay?"
"I don't know about that." Capturing her free hand, Spike nibbled the tips of her fingers. "Right tasty these are, pet."
"Did you come here often as a child?" Buffy asked as she and Spike passed through the massive Greek columns guarding the entrance to the British Museum.
"'Course. We all did."
Their voices echoed in the cavernous entry, along with every other whisper and movement by the assortment of people milling about. Buffy turned in place, feeling more than a little overwhelmed at huge marble foyer with its corridors leading deeper into the historical behemoth.
"This place is huge." Buffy turned in place. "Where do we start?"
"Here." Taking her hand, Spike strode over to the information desk to plonk down a handful of money. "Need a guidebook."
"Six pounds, please."
"Six POUNDS?" The vampire growled and added more bank notes. "Was only a few pence back in the day."
The girl at the counter offered a polite smile, took the money, and slid a thin volume toward the vampire. "Enjoy your visit, sir."
"We'll be sure to do that, yeah."
Spike stalked away from the desk with Buffy following in his wake. Well away from the foot traffic, he leaned against the stone wall and began leafing through the guide.
Pretty black-leathered vampire standing against pretty white marble, Buffy's brain supplied. He really does look like an alabaster Greek statue sometimes.
"So here's a map to this floor and the collections they've got." Oblivious of his companion's poetic mental comparisons, Spike flipped the guidebook's pages so fast that Buffy couldn't see anything. "Haven't been back here in over a hundred years, so my memory's rusty about where the good stuff is."
Spike narrowed his eyes. "Watch it, missy."
"What? I'm all ears. Really."
"Hmph." Spike flipped more pages. "You've got Ancient Greece and Egypt upstairs. Both exhibits spill over to this floor, keeping company with your part of the world." He turned a map on its side and squinted at it. "Cor, could spend a week in here and not see everything. No idea where to take you first. 'Cause visiting the British Museum? Unless you've got the luxury of popping in regularly, it's an exercise in prioritization."
"Is that what the guidebook says?"
"I thought it didn't sound like you. Let's see..." She rubbed her nose. "Since we're the original apocalyptic couple, let's pretend all of London is about to be destroyed."
"Bite your tongue!" He sounded truly horrified.
"Nope. That's the way it is, Spike. Youve got a magic wand and can save just one room in here, so what would you save?"
"Too easy." He grabbed her hand. "Come on."
Spike hustled Buffy further into the museum, moving so quickly that the slayer was hard-pressed to keep up with him. They shot through a narrow corridor opening onto a huge rectangular courtyard, and Spike stopped so abruptly that Buffy nearly crashed into his back.
"What's with the vampire speed and hard stops all of a sudden?"
"You're standing in the Great Court. And that" He nodded at a huge round building dominating the middle of the court. "That's the Reading Room."
She looked at the people strolling casually up the steps. "So? Nobody else is in a hurry."
"So, it's a library." Spike pulled her toward the stairs running up the side of the building. "Like your Library of Congress, only better."
"Uh-huh." Buffy tried to sound impressed. "So there are lots of books in there?"
"Three bookcases deep, all round the room."
"That's not a lot, Spike."
"The rest are in warehouses round the courtyard."
"I don't see any warehouses," Buffy protested. "I see a couple of café s and oh, look! There's shopping!" She yanked Spike's hand to redirect him, to no avail.
"Shop later. When you want a book, it's brought from warehouses you don't see. Come on. Want to show you." He began hauling her up the rounded stairway.
"I don't get why you're showing me books when we could be looking at pretty trinkets. Buffy and books, not mixy. But hey, we should call Willow! She likes books."
Ignoring Buffy's protests, Spike pushed through the heavy doors only to stop abruptly on the other side. Coming up beside him, Buffy saw the vampire drop back his head to stare up at the ceiling.
"Look at that, they've restored it."
"Restored what? And hey, where are the mummies? Aren't there supposed to be mummies in this place?"
"Look at that ceiling, it's papier mache, pet. Delicate like." Gazing around the room, Spike flared his nostrils. "Smells different than it did. You know those reading tables over there are older than me?"
"That's... um... really fascinating. I didn't know you liked books that much." Buffy lagged behind while Spike wandered farther into the room. "Are you sure you don't want to go see the mummies?"
"Where's the card catalog gone?" Spike demanded.
A young man behind the front desk greeted them. "Welcome to the information center. How may I assist you?"
"Where is the card catalog?" Spike repeated.
"It was removed, sir. The Great Court and Reading Room have been restored, and we replaced the books."
"With what, may I ask, did you replace them?" Spike's tone held clipped menace as he approached the desk.
"Our Reading Room now houses the Paul Hamlyn Library. We have twenty-five thousand books, catalogues and other printed material focusing on the world cultures represented in the British Museum."
"Bugger." Spike's jaw clenched.
"Let me show you how it works." The attendant gestured at his computer. "This is our new object database. Simply touch the screen to find information on five thousand objects from museum collections. We have links between objects, background information, and suggestions for further reading."
"How fascinating." Spike's expression and low growl told Buffy he was anything but fascinated. "What the bloody hell did you do with all the books?"
"The Hamlyn books are in the stacks, sir."
"Not your bloody horrid museum books, you nit. I'm talking about the British Library's collection."
"Oh, that. It was relocated to St. Pancras."
"Relocated? Are you mad?" The vampire's voice rose. People at the tables turned to stare.
"We ran out of room here. It was most inconvenient"
"You sodding moron!"
"Um, Spike" Buffy laid a hand on his shoulder. "You want to calm down?"
Shrugging off her hand, Spike loomed over the counter. "The bloody Reading Room is a British institution, you nit. You can't up and move it like a bunch of kiddie books thrown out of the nursery once the babe is half-grown!"
"The collections were not thrown out, sir. St. Pancras is a much larger, more modern and comfortable facility for our patrons."
"Yeah? Well, I'm a patron who's bloody uncomfortable and fucking upset!" Spike shouted. "Bloody buggering sods have fucked with my books! I'll break your fucking neck for that!"
The attendant's eyes widened as Spike's eyes went yellow. Shifting into game face, the vampire snarled and lunged across the counter. Shrieking, the young man leaped back against the placards introducing his new, shiny information system and cringed when they tumbled to the floor.
"Get back here!" Spike leaped onto the information desk.
"You're bleeding mad, mate!" squeaked the clerk.
"I'll rip out your scrawny throat, I will!"
"Okay, that's it." Gathering two handfuls of leather duster, Buffy yanked . Hard. Spike slid toward her like a great cat crouched on a kitchen counter. "Get down from there, and leave the poor guy alone."
"He stole my books!"
She yanked harder and overbalanced the vampire, who had no choice but to jump backward off of the counter. Spike's boots thudded on the thin carpeting. Lifting his lip, he snarled again. Grabbing Spike's jaw, Buffy turned his face toward her.
"Chill out," she ordered. "Now. He did not steal your books, they've just been moved."
"They've been meddled with!" He lisped slightly through his fangs.
"We got that part, William." She stroked his ridged brow. "Put it away, okay?"
The vampire growled softly, but complied, letting his features melt back into their human mask.
Buffy smiled kindly at the attendant who was shivering so hard, his teeth were chattering. "I'm sorry, where did you say they've been moved to?"
"S-St. Pancras. In Euston Street. Easily found." Whirling, the attendant retrieved a piece of paper and held it out with violently shaking fingers. "We have maps. You could be there in a matter of minutes."
Spike reached past Buffy to snatch the paper.
Sliding in between the vampire and the clerk, Buffy shoved her weight back against Spike to begin forcing him toward the door.
"Thank you for your help." She offered another smile. "You've been really patient with my boyfriend who is... um... William's a really avid Victorian scholar. Thanks again. Really."
Buffy ignored the terrified looks of the other patrons and whirled to grab Spike by the lapels of his duster. "You've got your map? Let's go."
She hustled the unresisting vampire out of the Reading Room, down the clean marble steps, and toward the canopied terrace of the nearest café.
"I swear I'm trying to be patient with you," Buffy railed, "but stuff like this makes it really hard. Now sit." Shoving him into the nearest chair, she flung herself into the one next to it. "And behave. No more bellowing, no more flashy fangs."
"You shut up and listen to me. You know this sort of erratic vamp behavior pisses me off. After you died, you weren't there to piss me off, and the silence was horrible. I'm really thankful to have you back to piss me off, and I'm willing to cut us both some slack for what we've been through, but that doesn't mean I'm going to let you frighten people for no good reason."
His sidelong glance was sullen. "Had a reason."
"Good. You can tell me about it after you cool off."
She ordered a pot of tea while Spike spread out his crumpled map and concentrated on uncrumpling it. Clearly distressed, the vampire ran a hand through his hair, which mussed the straight-gelled strands into curly disarray.
Pouring the tea when it finally arrived, Buffy asked, "You want milk or sugar?"
She could have sworn she saw tears shimmering in the vampire's eyes before he gulped down the hot tea.
"Do you want a refill?"
"Yes. Thank you," Spike added as a seeming afterthought. He stared at the mangled map to St. Pancras.
Taking the vampire's hand, Buffy wound her fingers through his. He didn't resist, but he didn't respond either.
"Can you tell me what happened back there?" she prodded gently. "I've seen you spin out, but never over a bunch of books."
"Never before seen the William-git part of me throw a tantrum, have you?" He sounded miserable.
"Didn't I meet the William part of you back in Sunnydale?" she asked carefully, still holding his fingers. "In the high school basement?"
"Met the souled part of me, yeah. Was barking mad then, with the Victorian guilt and moral conscience shoved back in to live alongside the memories of what I'd done for over a hundred years. Never mind what the First was doing." He shook his head ruefully.
"Don't know what stranger-soul Angelus got shoved inside of him, but the demon in Africa made sure I got what I went for. Got my own back, so what you saw a few minutes ago was all William. All souled up and ready to fight for what's his, even when it's not. Original William wanted to beat up on stupid people, but he resisted doing that like a good little gent and ran away from a fight. Don't have that problem now, do I? Right embarrassing wanker when I want to be." Spike looked away. "Sorry you had to see that."
Buffy watched him tighten his jaw so that his cheeks hollowed even more. The vampire was breathing erratically as though he was still struggling to force down his emotions.
"Are you saying the demon and the man are two different beings? Two different people are inside of you?"
"I'm saying when I was turned, it's as if my own soul left and a demon's guilt-free soul walked in. I was still me, still William, just left behind my morality."
"But Giles told me"
"Sod what he said." Pulling his hand away, Spike locked gazes with Buffy. "Never been turned, has your watcher? Doesn't know what it feels like 'cause he's never lived through it, has he? I know what losing my soul felt like. Know what it felt like to get it back, too. Know the weight of every wrong I did since Dru turned me. Haven't behaved like a proper demon since before Sunnydale sank, and I don't want to now. Not hurting anybody anymore, am I? Not interested, not even tempted."
Buffy gave a slight smile. "Not still evil?"
The vampire scowled. "Could if I wanted, same as anybody with a soul. Just don't want to. Get up every morning and say to myself, 'Not going to eat anybody today," and I stick to it. More than can be said for a lot of humans out there. This museum is full of relics from those sorts of people."
"So you went to Africa specifically to get back your own soul?"
"Yeah." He played with his spoon.
Buffy sat silent for a long moment before asking, "Would you let the William part of you tell me why you're upset that a bunch of books got moved?"
"Just am, all right?"
"Please, tell me? Let me in?" she wheedled. "If we're going to be together, I need to understand why you feel the way you do about things."
The vampire's blue eyes softened, and she knew however unfair it was to appeal to 'the William-git,' that part of Spike couldn't deny her. No matter what she might ask, if it was within Spike's power, he'd grant it.
It would be so easy to abuse that, she realized.
"Bloody hell." Closing his eyes, Spike considered. "It's not just a bunch of books, Buffy. Reading Room's a national treasure. Has every publication in the UK and Ireland and more. Millions of things, like DaVinci's personal sketchbook and Mozart's musical diary. William Blake's notebook"
"Oh, I know him," Buffy interrupted. "He's the one who wrote 'The Tyger.' I read that before I had to drop out of my poetry class in college. It was so beautiful and terrible, it made me wonder why there's bloodshed and pain and horror in the world."
Spike cocked his head. "Figured out the answer yet?"
"I don't think there is an answer."
"Got that right. When I read 'The Tyger,' I wanted to know more about William Blake. So I carried myself off to the Reading Room, and you know what I discovered?" Spike leaned forward as if about to impart a secret hidden in the mists of time.
""Blake was a real radical, both politically and philosophically. He and his wife practiced nudism in a friend's garden. You know the sort'It's all right, we'll just pretend we're Adam and Eve.' Nothing extreme about that now, but it was immoral behavior back then. Then he got himself tried for treason after saying something like, 'You bloody soldiers of the god-damned king, I hope Napoleon kills the lot of you,' while throwing a drunken soldier out of his own garden."
Buffy narrowed her eyes. "Are you making this up?"
"No more than I made up the stuff in the Tower. Story gets even better because Blake used to see visions and hear voices. His notebook's got the sketches he made of the famous people who visited him. Everyone and every thing in this world's a story, Slayer, and the Reading Room was full of 'em."
"That's why you're upset to have it moved?"
"Yeah. Bit of a shock, you know, havin' a universe move on you?" Sitting back, Spike sipped his cold tea. "I was eight when my da brought me here for the first time. The whole place was musty and scholarly and just...neat. The tables were crowded, the room was a shabby sanctuary used by philosophers and conspirators. Dreamers, writers and eccentrics."
"Which one were you?" Buffy asked, genuinely curious.
"Thought I was all of them at different times. Know I was none of them now." Spike glanced around the Great Court. "Look what they've done to the place, Slayer. Cleared it out to put in theatres and exhibit halls. Don't even have to go into the museum proper to explore things, you can shop and eat when the museum's closed."
"Got lots of space to entertain London's movers and shakers, don't they?" Spike continued. "Give 'em the best champagne and canapés. Get a taste of art free, and go into the Reading Room to admire its fancy computer. Don't read a thing, just look at the pictures on the magic screen."
"What's wrong with all of that?" Buffy asked.
"What's the point in entertainment without scholarship? There's no depth, is there? It's all empty."
She leaned forward, her chin in her hand. "I never knew part of you was such a snob when it comes to books and art."
"Not a snob," he murmured. "Love beautiful things, that's all." Reaching out, Spike wove a strand of Buffy's hair around his finger. "Like I love you."
His blue eyes were sad and Buffy shivered, feeling as though the vampire had been left behind, and she was seeing pure William in the moment. Reaching out, she stroked his cheek.
"You're amazing," she whispered.
"Somewhere inside of you is an obstinate, opinionated Victorian gentleman who survived being turned into a vampire and having mad Dru as your sire and Angelus and Darla as your elders. You fought and won against two slayers, and stayed with your crazy girlfriend for over a hundred years. You survived having a chip shoved inside your head and not being able to eat people. You cared about my Mom and took care of Dawn, and endured being tortured by a hell-god and the First. You changed for me and got your soul and survived being burning up in Sunnydale's hellmouth. A few weeks ago, you thumbed your nose at a demon army sent against Angel, and now you're freaking because your books have been moved."
Spike shrugged. "We all have our breaking points, love."
"You werent upset with the new restaurants in the Tower of London, so why are you upset with the ones here?"
He scowled fiercely. "Those other restaurants didn't replace friends of mine, did they? Know better than most people that everything changes. Had to change along with everything to survive, didn't I? But the Reading Room'd been there since before I was born. Thought it would always be there."
"It's still there. It's just been relocated." Smiling, she ran her fingers through his scattered curls. "We could go there now, if you like?"
Spike thought for a moment before shaking his head. Getting to his feet, he held out his hand. "Am over my fit for now, and there's a fair lot of other stuffother stories--to show you."
Spike ushered her into the empty elevator, trailed his finger over the buttons and punched one. "There."
"How did you do that?" Buffy questioned, still holding onto his free hand.
He blinked down at her. "How'd I do what? Walk across the courtyard to summon the lift?"
"No, you pig." She punched him lightly in the arm and softened the blow with a smile. "You just came to terms with losing your Reading Room. How did you do it?"
He shrugged. "Same way I came to terms with getting turned and meeting Angelus, getting a soul and burning up, and everything in between, around it and nearby. Nothing special, Slayer."
"It is special. You're not like other vampires."
"'Course not." Spike looked outraged at the thought he might be.
"I can really tell the difference between the master vamp I met years
ago behind the Bronze, and who you are today. At the same time, you just told
me there are parts of you that haven't really changed since the night you
were turned. So how did you decide what to change?"
Spike looked sheepish and leaned back against the elevator wall. "Don't rightly know. Just take it moment by moment and do what I've had to do to survive. Then move on to the next moment. Like I said, it's nothing special. Eastern philosophers have been doing it for millennia. Here's our floor."
Buffy dogged the vampire as they moved into a hallway. "Do you think you're different from other vamps because the William part of you never left?"
"Don't know , pet. Before I came to love you, the Judge said I reeked of humanity. The human part of me might have had something to do with that." Consulting his museum guide, Spike wandered erratically down the echoing corridors, peering at this exhibit placard and that. "What we want's down this way. Can't show you my books, but I'm going to show you something of writing."
Turning into a small alcove, Spike reached back to catch Buffy's hand and pulled her close beside him.
"There you go." He gestured at something displayed upright behind thick glass.
Buffy peered at a small brass placard proclaiming, The Vindolanda Tablets. "That's nice. What am I looking at?"
"The oldest surviving handwritten documents in all of Britain."
"Great." Turning from the exhibit, Buffy leaned up against her companion. Pouting, she trailed her fingers across his chest. "Spike... aren't there any nice diamonds or sapphires to look at? I really liked seeing the Crown Jewels."
"Did you, now?" Smirking, the vampire slid his hands beneath Buffy's shirt and across her back. Nibbling on her ear, he murmured. "Told you, Slayer, everything in life tells a story whether you're aware of it or not. Your jewels and these tablets, they all got a tale to tell."
"And what might that tale be?" He could always hold her with just his voice. He'd done so from the moment he'd said he wanted to save the world and not just for the happy meals with legs.
Spike turned Buffy gently around before pulling her hard against him and nuzzling his nose against the back of her neck. The slow patterns his cool fingers were tracing on the Slayer's belly also helped hold her attention.
"Vindolanda in Northumberland is where these tablets were found." His cool breath tickled her hair. "They're from Roman Britain, late first or second century."
"So wha-at?" She gasped when his tongue dipped inside her ear. Keep doing that, and don't stop talking, she thought. Say anything, I'll listen.
"You taste good, Slayer." His purring vibrated against her back. "Always have. That there's a private letter. Written by a serving Roman soldier to his mistress."
Turning her head, Buffy stole a deep, lingering kiss before whispering, "You're lying."
"What makes you say that?" he asked against her mouth.
"First-century mistresses probably couldn't read."
"Ah, there you have me. Perhaps she was a Druidic mistress."
Buffy laughed against his mouth, loving the way his teeth were trying to nip at her. "You are so full of it, Spike."
"Full and hard. Always am, where you're concerned." His erection pressed against her buttocks. He began rocking gently against her.
"You are so not getting off on me inside a dark little alcove in a very stuffy museum." Buffy's amused tone took any sting out of her words. Turning, she held Spike's face in her hand. Savoring the hard line of his cheekbone and the desire in his eyes, she kissed him again. "Keep it for later when we can both savor the moment, okay?"
Still moving against her, he turned on the pout. "I'll be hard and aching with it for hours."
"And I know you'll enjoy it." Smirking, she turned back to the
display. "Tell me more about these violina things."
"Tablets. Right." Nestling her against him just so, Spike resumed his scholarly lecture. "They found a lot of 'em with a lot of different handwriting. Adds to people's knowledge of Roman cursive writing from the first century."
"Why is that important?"
"I'm not quite sure." His voice dropped to a purr. "God, but you're warm. The warmer you get, the stronger I can scent you. Goes right to my head. Both of them."
His nose was in her ear. She felt him open his mouth and gasped, wondering if he'd gone all fangs a moment before the tip of his tongue flicked behind her ear and he tasted her.
Spike moaned a sound coming from deep inside him while his hands began shaking as they held her. "Gods, Slayer. You've no idea...."
Dropping her head back against his chest, Buffy reached back to grip the outside of Spike's thighs.
"Want you closer," she whispered. "Missed your touch. Missed dancing with you."
"Missed you too, pet." He kissed her temple. His fingers were nudging almost frantically beneath her jeans, seeking her warmth. "Missing you right now. Need to touch you."
Sneaky, unwilling-to-wait-until-later fingers, she thought.
"You were making with the talky," Buffy managed to gasp just as Spike's cool fingers wiggled between her legs. "Telling me about... about... what was it?"
"First thought the tablets were made of wood and wax. Or papyrus." Purring softly, Spike pushed aside Buffy's thong and began rubbing her heat insistently.
"Oh, my god. Don't... stop...Ss-stop that. You have to..." She moaned, grabbing his wrist and holding it still. "Spike, we're in public."
"Yeah. Danger's half the fun, sweetheart. Let yourself feel it." His teeth worried her ear.
She moved against his fingers and began panting in rhythm with his touch. "Oh, god. Don't stop."
Pushing his nose against her cheek, Spike directed Buffy's attention to the shadowed recess behind the tablets they were supposed to be studying. "You think maybe someone's watching us? Some pathetic git of a guard's at some computer screen? Watching me pleasure you in this little room?"
The thought that someone might be watching them set her aflame, and his fingers were on the move again to drive the flames higher. Gripping his thighs harder, Buffy whimpered and writhed.
"So hot and wet for me already. My beautiful, beautiful Buffy." His free hand pulled her tighter against him.
Buffy squeaked and clamped her thighs together in an effort to still his fingers. "Wha... What are the tablets made of?"
Spike chuckled and let his fingers lay still against her. "Hot steel, that's what you are. Can feel you quivering for me already, Slayer. Want me inside you?"
"What are they... the thingies in the window...."
He eased away from her, and Buffy stumbled back a step.
"Spike! " she hissed. "Oh, God... please!" Her knees shook, she shuddered. Moving despite herself, Buffy desperately sought to increase the pressure of his touch.
Spike nuzzled her neck and raked his teeth over her bare throat. "Still want me to stop, pet?"
Buffy could only gasp as his fingers were busy between her legs again.
"The tablets are wafer...thin...slices...of wood." Spike punctuated each word by nipping Buffy's neck as he pushed his fingers deeper inside her. "The Romans used carbon ink and...quill-like...pens. Sharp. And hard. So beautiful...."
Buffy arched and gave a soft cry.
"There's my girl. So desperate, and so close. You like the story I'm telling?"
"Don't stop, don't stop," Buffy babbled, arching steadily to meet his touch.
"Thought you wanted to wait until"
"No!" Reaching her arms back over her head, Buffy grasped Spike's face. "Want you. Now. Harder. Please, Spike, please!"
Footsteps pounded just beyond their alcove, headed straight for it. The Slayer leaped away from her vampire half a moment before a boy rounded the corner. Skidding into the steel and glass display case, he stared up at the dimly lit tablets.
"What's this, mum?" he shouted, oblivious of the Slayer shuddering and panting so frantically behind him, of the man beside her whose eyes had gone amber.
"I don't know, Ronnie," a female voice called from outside the alcove. Paper rustled. "Oh, blast. This map is impossible to read."
Spike growled softly, and the boy whipped his head around. Bones shifted, bumpies appeared. A lip lifted and a fang was revealed as the growl grew louder.
Giving a screech, the boy bolted from the room. "Mummy, there's a wolf in there!"
"What are you on about? The wolves aren't on this floor. Stop darting about and stay with me. You want to see the mummies, don't you?"
"The wolf has glowy eyes and fangs and he growled me!"
"I think I've got this map sorted now, Ronnie. Come along."
"Stop yakking and come on!"
The boy pelted after his mother whose footsteps receded down the hall. Buffy whirled and stared up at Spike whose eyes flashed gold as he looked sheepishly down at her.
"Did you go all game-face on that child?"
"Er... Sorry 'bout that, Slayer."
The next moment, Buffy began giggling.
"Here now." Spike scowled. "You off your trolley, or are you laughin' at me?"
Buffy only laughed harder. Sliding close, she ran her arms around Spike's waist and hugged him tight. "You're right, everything is a story. Especially our love life."
He snorted, but returned her hug. "Ongoing soap opera's more like it."
"I told you we needed to wait." Reaching up on tiptoe, Buffy kissed him lightly.
"Hate it when you're right." He was still scowling. "I wanted--"
"I know what you wanted. We'll share later, I promise. In private." She kissed him again.
"Cross my heart and kiss my big toe, Spike."
There was the suggestive leer Buffy had missed earlier, complete with that long tongue caught between neat white teeth. "Gonna kiss a lot more than your big toe, Slayer."
Be still, my frantic-beating heart, she thought, but it's nice to know the
Spike I fell in lust and love with is still in there.
The next minute the tongue retreated, the blonde head hair tilted, and those blue eyes softened.
"Buffy...You do know that I love as well I want you?" he murmured. "If I'm pushing or going too fast, you have only to say so, and I'll"
"I'm not saying a thing," she interrupted, laying a finger across his lips. "That is, I mean you're perfect. Exactly right for me."
"Perfect, am I?" The suggestive leer was back.
"Ego much, mister?" She blushed to remember begging for his touch and practically falling at his feet in a puddle of need. "I don't really think you could go too fast for me now. But you said earlier that we've never really been together, and that we should go slow, so...."
"Did say that, didn't I? Always knew I could be a bit dim." He nodded at the Vindolanda display behind her. "You seen enough of that, Slayer? Ready to move on?"
"Definitely." She linked her arm through his. "Where did you say those mummies are hiding?"
"So now you've seen the Lindisfarne Gospels and the sole surviving copy of Beowulf—" Spike ticked them off on his fingers.
"And I knew what Beowulf was 'cause we studied it at SunnyD U--go me. Now, about those mummies you keep putting off--"
"Going there now, aren't we?" Scowling down at her, Spike grabbed Buffy's hand to pull her down yet another corridor. Every time I do that, he reflected, I expect she'll up and hit me for hauling her about.
"I don't know where we're going. You're the one with the map." Buffy made a snatch for it.
"Mummies are right down there." He gestured with the museum map, coincidentally keeping it out of reach. Again. Spike grinned to himself as the slayer at his side took a deep breath and visibly made herself back down from the irritating challenge Spike offered.
"Did you see the mummies when you were a kid?"
Spike snorted. "That's all I ever wanted to see. "
Buffy linked her arm in his. "But did you actually see them, or do you just remember William seeing them?"
"Thought we covered that earlier, Slayer? One and the same, aren't we?"
"I don't know." She chewed on her lip. "I mean, both my watchers said the soul and all its memories leave a host body when it's turned, and the demon moves in. They said you get only shadow memories of the original host."
"Might be the case with other vamps. Wasn't with me." Turning abruptly, Spike yanked Buffy through a doorway. "Room 62, Early Egypt. This way."
He stopped so abruptly just inside the room that he knew Buffy could probably feel the tendons in her shoulder strain. Tightening his grip on her hand, the vampire surveyed the room. "Will you look at that?"
"Look at what? And let go my hand, you're squishing it." Buffy shook out her fingers.
Spike threw his arms wide "They've totally redone these rooms. It was jam-packed before. Dark and spooky, too, with mummies displayed four to a case, stacked warehouse-style."
"Your kind of place, huh?"
"Well, yeah. At ten, I knew they rose up at night."
Buffy wandered toward the first exhibits set around the perimeter of the room. "So you had fun scaring yourself until you become one of the things that goes bump in the night?"
"Well, yeah. But the mummies helped with that too. My da read about some of them arriving, so he took me along to see them. Guess I was about six, and he got whaled on by my mum afterwards. 'You took your son to see a body!' She was scandalized, but I thought the bloke looked quite peaceful and nicely tanned lying in the sand. My da and the mummies taught me it was all right to be dead."
"Wow. No wonder you adjusted so well to becoming a vamp." She peered at a display. "So, what are we looking at?"
"You can read the sodding description, Slayer. Right there on the card."
"I want to hear you tell it." Capturing his arm again, Buffy pouted. Her green eyes softened, and she kissed Spike's t-shirted shoulder. "Please?"
"Don't think you've ever said please to me before. You use that tone on me, you can have anything you want." Grabbing Buffy about the waist, Spike stole a quick kiss.
Winding her arms around him, she leaned in. "Want more. "
"No. We're waiting for later. Besides, you want your Egyptology lesson number one, right?" Spinning Buffy about, he planted her firmly before the exhibit and assumed his best lectury voice. "In here you've got an example of what happened when the early Egyptians began experimenting with mummymaking. That's Ginger. He got thrown into a pit, and the sand and heat dehydrated him. He's named for his red hair. Bloke's famous, got his picture in books all over the world."
"What's all that stuff around him?"
"Tools he worked with in life, vessels filled with food to go with him into the afterlife. The ancient Egyptians believed you could take it all with you." Spike nestled Buffy close against him and wondered if he could get away with touching her in these much more public rooms as he had before the Vindolinda Tablets. Probably. But it'd probably get us thrown out, too.
"So why aren't you upset with them relocating your mummies the way you were upset about your books?" Buffy demanded as they moved to the next exhibit.
"Mummies aren't personal. Books are. Here now, look at this. Won't see many of these about."
Buffy sighed. "What, a skeleton in a box?"
"That box is a First Dynasty basket coffin, showing how the Egyptians made mistakes when they started making mummies. The body rotted 'cause the moisture got trapped inside."
"Bored now," Buffy announced. "Been there, killed it. Can we go shopping now?"
"Oh, so it's the violence you're craving."
"Shopping and mummies. Both involve bodily violence, brainsucking and the like. Have it your way, Slayer, but you don't see these mummies now, they may not be here when you get back." He led her out of the Egyptian rooms.
"What, everybody in there is going to rise up and walk out next week?"
"Actually, yeah. They're disappearing all round the world. Some because they haven't been well kept, so the insects are getting them or the air's too hot or too cold and they're disintegrating. Others are leaving 'cause a lot of people think it's not right to look at a dead person in a museum, no matter how old the mummy is."
"How do you know this stuff?"
"Went to Winchester and Oxford," Spike said proudly. "Watched the History Channel and Discovery in SunnyD as well."
Staring up at him, Buffy looked incredulous. Spike had the pleasure of seeing her rendered speechless.
"What?" he said, defensive. "Nothing else for a vampire to do all day."
"It's not that. It's just... give me a minute to think." Pulling away from him, she looked back at the rooms they had vacated. "I watch television too, you know? Not so much when we were home because, hello, Slayer and no time to do much of that because the world was always ending. But over here I've had time in between training the new slayers."
Plopping down on a nearby stone bench, she swung her feet. "Some of those mummies found in America--the Native American ones found in caves--they date from four hundred to six hundred years aga. They were banned from display after an Act of Congress because they can be traced to families that still exists. There are tribal traditions that say a burial ground needs respected and a body needs to rest. They don't want their great-great-whatever grandfather displayed for the world to see."
"Yes. But even ancient mummies--including ones like you just saw--are also being removed from museums in the States," Spike pointed out. "You won't see one at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. any longer. Even on the Continent, some mummies--the Guanches, for example--have been removed from display. It's possible that certain bog bodies may be next, so if you want to see the Linden Man, see him here and now, or you may never get to."
"Grief, will you listen to yourself? You sound like a Victorian lecturer in some dusty hall. I mean, even your accent's changed, so am I talking to William or to Spike?"
He rocked back and didn't answer, so Buffy continued. "What's it matter if people can't gawk at dead people in museums anymore? What's the big deal?"
"The big deal," said Spike through gritted teeth and using air quotes, "is that many archaeologists and other scientists believe museum mummies offer a valuable educational service for the public. Mummies teach about past civilizations and societies. They also teach about the inevitability of death."
Buffy cocked her head. "Do you know that I've had slayers cry the first time they've dusted a vamp?"
"Did you cry?"
"Not then. After I got home and the shock set in, you bet I did. Teenagers don't think about dead things, so the first lesson a slayer learns is how fast things can change. How temporary life and unlife is."
"We vampires get an up close, personal lesson the moment we realize we're dead. Not everyone has our advantage--yours and mine."
She blinked up at him. "Have you had to learn that lesson three times because you've died three times?"
"Give the Slayer a Kewpie, she wins the grand prize."
"Not sure where those came from, actually. Anyway, are we arguing again?"
Buffy shook her head. "Not arguing. Discussing." Getting up from the bench, she came to slide her arms around Spike and hug him tight. "The dead are gone, there's nothing we can do to help them. We can only help the living. And lessons about dying? With or without the mummies, life teaches us all, doesn't it?"
"Guess it does." Resting his cheek on the top of Buffy's head, Spike shivered. "Hardest time for me was that summer you were gone, pet. Don't want to go through that again."
"The hardest time for me has been being without you after you burned up. I don't want to--" Her voice broke, she burrowed harder against him. "I can't be without you again. I still hurt inside when I think about it. Why is that, when you're standing right here?"
"Everyone's afraid of losing what we love, I'd reckon. Makes us hold on all the tighter." He stroked her hair. "You done spending time with the dead, Buffy?"
"Yes. Except for you. But you're the least dead vampire I've ever met."
"Take that as a compliment, love." Kissing her forehead, Spike tucked the slayer beneath his arm. "Come on. Let's get you home."
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DISCLAIMERS: Blood Ties and its characters/teleplays are the property of Tanya Huff, Insight Film, Chum TV, Kaleidoscope Entertainment and, their associates and license holders. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel the Series and their characters/teleplays are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, UPN, 20th Century-Fox and, their associates and license holders. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and all character names are the acknowledged trademarks of George Lucas and Lucasfilm. Lord of the Rings and all character names are the acknowledged trademarks of the J.R.R. Tolkien Estate and/or its licensees. Character and other creative elements from these respective works are used on this site without permission for entertainment, not-profit purposes only. This site contains only fan-produced fiction and artwork which intend no copyright infringement.No money is collected or made off of anything on this site. Everything here is fictional (this means it never happened). Any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental. By entering this site, you agree to hold the author and website owner completely blameless and liable for absolutely nothing.