“I’ve listened: and all the sounds I heard/Were music,—wind, and stream, and bird./With youth who sang from hill to hill/I’ve listened: my heart is hungry still./I’ve looked: the morning world was green;/Bright roofs and towers of town I’ve seen;/And stars, wheeling through wingless night./I’ve looked: and my soul yet longs for light./I’ve thought: but in my sense survives/Only the impulse of those lives/That were my making./Hear me say,/’I’ve thought!’—and darkness hides my day.” ~Siegfried Sassoon, “Alone”
Giles pinched the bridge of his nose, suddenly feeling very old. He really didn’t like being put in the middle of things, but that was exactly what Buffy was doing. When Spike found out what she’d done, who she’d been talking to, he wasn’t going to be happy, and Giles couldn’t blame him in the slightest. He wasn’t too happy with his Slayer at the moment either.
“Do you really think that’s a good idea?” he asked, keeping his voice carefully neutral. “We still don’t know what their ultimate objective might be.”
“They’re interested in the same thing I am, Giles,” Buffy replied. “Riley told me that their focus is on keeping people safe from demons. It’s the same thing I do, only with more funding.”
Giles wasn’t so sure of that. “Riley may not know everything,” he warned her. “In fact, he may have been deliberately kept in the dark about certain aspects of the Initiative’s goals.”
“He’s a captain,” Buffy said, as though that was supposed to mean something. “He’s pretty high up.”
“I see.” Giles sighed, knowing that when Buffy set her sights on a course of action there was little anyone could do to dissuade her. She tended to be rather single-minded at times.
Giles still wasn’t quite sure what her goal was in telling him about things. He wasn’t her Watcher any longer, and Buffy hadn’t been treating him as such except for occasionally asking for his help whenever there was something only he could handle. She’d already had the conversation with Riley, and she’d agreed to help out the soldiers on a temporary basis—all without consulting with anyone.
“Did you tell him about Spike?”
“No,” Buffy said quickly. “I want to be sure that they’ll listen to me first. I mean, it’s probably hard to believe that a vampire has a soul when you don’t even know what makes a Slayer work. I think he believes I take some intense vitamins or something.”
That was exactly what concerned Giles, and he knew it concerned Spike. If they believed that the Slayer was nothing more than some kind of specially enhanced girl, they might decide to duplicate the Council’s work. Or they might decide that the only way to know how the Slayer worked was to take Buffy apart.
“And when are you going to tell Spike about this?” Giles asked.
Buffy winced. “I was hoping you’d talk to him,” she suggested. “He’ll listen to you.”
And her purposes in coming to him first became clear. “No. Absolutely not,” was Giles’ unequivocal answer. “You were the one who decided to talk to Riley without discussing it with the rest of us first. You can be the one to explain that fact to Spike.”
She sighed. “You know he’s going to overreact, Giles. I just—what if they can help? What if they’re the good guys? They made a mistake with Spike, but once they understand what a Slayer is, they’ll know not to mess with him again. I want him to be safe, and if the Initiative can help me do my job, I don’t see why I shouldn’t take advantage of that. I’m killing two birds with one stone.”
Giles leaned back in his chair, wishing that Joyce were with him. Not that he believed that she’d be able to talk any sense into her daughter, but he felt as though he could use the moral support, particularly where it concerned Buffy’s relationship with Spike. He could picture the vampire’s reaction, and he suspected that it might border on the irrational. In fact, Giles would be greatly surprised if Spike even let her get as far as explaining her reasoning behind her decision.
Once Buffy told the vampire that she’d spoken to one of the soldiers who had cut him open, Giles doubted very much that Spike would be willing to listen further.
“You have to do what you think is best, Buffy,” he finally said. “But don’t be surprised when Spike doesn’t understand.”
“I’m sure he will,” Buffy replied, sounding a lot more confident than she looked. “I’ll just explain things to him.”
Giles was sincerely grateful that he didn’t have to be there for that.
“You what?” Spike’s voice was dangerously soft, and Buffy felt her stomach clench. She’d suspected that this conversation wasn’t going to go well, but she’d never seen that look in his eyes before. His eyes were cold—colder than she’d ever seen them.
Buffy had agreed to work with the Initiative without considering the consequences. The idea was to protect Spike from the inside, since they hadn’t been able to do much from the outside. It made no sense for Spike to continue to live in fear of being recaptured when she might be able to do something about it. Riley seemed like a reasonable guy, and once Buffy explained things—once she could get him to see that Spike was different, that not all demons were the same—he could convince them to lay off Spike.
It had seemed like a golden opportunity when he’d offered her a place with the organization, one that she couldn’t hesitate to take for fear it would be retracted. Of course, she’d rethought her decision about five minutes later, but changing her mind would mean admitting that she’d been wrong.
Buffy hated admitting that she was wrong.
“I talked to Riley,” Buffy repeated. “And he talked to his superiors. His boss was my psych professor from last semester, and she wants to meet me. We talked about the Initiative’s goals, and I told him that I was completely on board, of course. You know, playing along.”
Spike stood, moving away from his tiny kitchen table. Light filtered through the window weakly; the sun was on the other side of the townhouse in the late afternoon. Not that the position of the sun was a concern these days. “Did you tell him about me?”
“No,” Buffy said quickly. “I want to be sure that you’re going to be safe.”
“And what about you?” Spike demanded in a low voice. “What’s going to keep you safe?”
“I’m the Slayer, Spike. I’m human.” Buffy stood, wanting to reach out to him, but she could see from the way that he was holding himself that such an overture on her part would not be welcomed. “I want to protect you. Once they understand—”
“Understand what?” he demanded. “You’re talking about working with the sodding enemy, Buffy. These are the bastards who knew I wasn’t feeding on humans, and instead of asking politely why that might be, they cut me open and fiddled around.”
Buffy shook her head. She’d known he’d be hard to convince, but she was beginning to think that she had had no idea of the depth of Spike’s anger with the soldiers. “They didn’t know, Spike. I’m sure they just thought that you were a regular vampire.”
“Just like they think all the other demons are regular demons,” Spike snarled. “The ones who wouldn’t harm a flea. Sure, they’ll take down the big, nasty ones, but they aren’t real choosy. Demon’s a demon, right?”
Buffy was silent as he turned to face her again, the betrayal on his face clear. “You know what they did to me,” he said quietly, “and you’re going to be allies with them now?”
“They’re not experimenting on humans, Spike. We have the same goals.”
“I’m a demon. You want to get rid of me?”
“What? No!” Buffy stared at him, aghast. “How can you even think that?”
“It’s what you just said, innit?” he demanded. “Rid the world of all demon-kind, right? It’s just a little hypocritical of you to say you want to rid the world of demons when you’re sleeping with one.”
“Wasn’t it you who told me I shouldn’t worry so much about the shades of gray?” Buffy asked angrily. “That if I started thinking about that I might be putting myself in danger?”
“When you’re out patrolling, yeah!” Spike shot back. “Bloody hell, don’t you get it? These bastards don’t see us as any more than animals, to be used for whatever purpose they see fit. Why the hell would they believe that I’m any different? Or that any other demon would be? They find out who and what I am, and then they’ll be after me even harder than before, because they’ll want to know what makes me different. Only it’s not something you can explain, so they’ll cut and they’ll cut, and they’ll take piece after piece until there’s nothing left of me!”
“I wouldn’t let that happen,” Buffy replied, hurt that he would even think that she’d allow him to be taken again. She would make them understand, if not with her words, then certainly with her fists.
“You might not be able to stop it,” Spike replied. He took a deep breath. “I don’t want you to do this, Buffy. Just—don’t do this, please.”
“I have to, Spike. If we can work together—”
“You aren’t listening.” His voice was cold again; he sounded like winter. “They think of demons as nothing, less than nothing. That means they think of me that way. If you work with them, you’re saying that they’re right. You’re saying that you agree.”
Buffy swallowed. “Spike, of course you’re different. But—”
“No, I’m not.” Spike stared at her, his face twisting with some unnamed emotion. “I might look human, might even feel human while I’m wearing this ring, but I’m not.”
Buffy shook her head. “Spike, you say you want me to see the shades of gray, but that’s exactly what I’m doing. Not all demons are evil, but they’re not all good, and the Initiative has the same goals I do when it comes to stopping them.”
“Except that they’re not real discriminating when it comes to who they kill,” Spike said. “And you’re going to have to do the same. They won’t let you see anything but the black and white, Buffy—and probably only the black. They won’t want you to think for yourself.”
“That’s not true!” Buffy shot back.
“You’re saying that they’re right,” Spike continued, as though he hadn’t heard her. “You somehow think that demon equals bad and human equals good.”
“I’m the Slayer, Spike!” she snapped. “My job is to protect humans.”
Buffy knew, as soon as the words came out of her mouth, that she’d effectively ended the conversation. Spike wouldn’t listen to anything else she had to say now, not after that statement, not after what he’d just told her.
The funny part was that Buffy had been trying to get Spike to talk to her for months about this very thing, about what was going through his head. Now she knew, and she’d just royally screwed things up.
“Right,” he said, his voice hoarse with emotion. “I’d been wondering when you’d figure out that a vampire isn’t worthy of the Slayer’s time. I should have known. I should have bloody well known.”
He was gone after that—out of the kitchen and through the front door so fast that Buffy didn’t even have a chance to call him back. She stood there, her hand pressed to her mouth, hoping to keep the sobs back.
Buffy had expected him to be angry, but she hadn’t known to expect this. She’d seen the end of their relationship in his eyes.
She took a deep breath, trying to keep the tears at bay. There was no point in going after Spike now. He would be ready to talk when he was ready to talk, and not a moment before. Eventually, he would understand. Buffy would figure out what the Initiative was really up to, and she would make Spike see that she’d been right all along. This was the best way to handle it.
Until then, however, somebody probably needed to make sure that the stupid vampire didn’t get himself killed.
She picked up Spike’s phone, dialing the number she’d committed to memory over the last months, and taking a deep breath when she heard Wesley’s voice telling her to leave a name and number. “Wesley, it’s Buffy. Spike and I just had a fight, and I think he might do something really dumb. Do me a favor and keep him out of trouble until he cools down. Please?”
Buffy pressed her hands to her eyes. It was going to be fine; she was sure of it. Her plan would work, and then Spike would come around.
Wesley had silenced his phone since he was meeting Willow and Tara for lunch. Willow had warned him that Tara was shy, which he’d guessed for himself, and so he wanted to tread carefully. It always bothered him when people interrupted a conversation to answer their phone; he felt it was disrespectful, and he wasn’t about to do the same.
Between his own efforts and Willow’s, they managed to draw Tara out. She was reserved, and seemed unwilling to talk much about herself or her past. Once the conversation turned to magic, however, she began to open up a little more. “My mother practiced,” Tara explained. “She t-taught me, but…” She trailed off, then admitted, “My d-d-dad didn’t approve.”
Wesley grimaced, knowing exactly how that was. “I understand. Parents don’t always understand your calling.”
Tara offered him a timid smile. “No, they don’t.”
“How old were you when you started practicing?” Willow asked.
She hesitated. “I don’t remember. I-I think it’s been a part of m-me for as long as I c-can remember.”
“It will be nice to have someone who knows so much,” Wesley stated. “I’ve known witches who have had that sort of experience, and they’re invaluable for the anchoring they can provide.”
Tara appeared alarmed. “I don’t know that much,” she protested. “I-I-I’m r-r-really n-not that g-good.”
“You probably know more than I do,” Willow was quick to assure her. “You’ve been at this for a lot longer than I have.”
The other girl seemed encouraged by that idea, and the conversation turned to other things—favorite subjects and classes and professors. Tara left soon after to attend a class, but Willow lingered. “What do you think of her?”
“She seems like a very nice girl,” Wesley replied. “What about you?”
“I think we might want to ease her into things slowly,” Willow replied. “I mean, Buffy and the rest of the gang are great, but all of them at once might be overwhelming.”
“I know it’s overwhelming,” Wesley said, remembering his initial reaction to a Slayer with friends. He’d felt out-numbered and out-maneuvered at every turn. He might have deserved it, but Tara didn’t. “Am I going to see you tonight?”
Willow hesitated, then said apologetically, “I’ve got a paper I’d probably better get done before I do anything else. Tomorrow? We could go to the Bronze.”
“Alright.” They shared a kiss, sweet and lingering, Wesley’s hand coming up to cup her face.
A smile lit her face. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“Until tomorrow, then.” Wesley watched her walk away, feeling curiously relaxed. It had been so long since he’d dated anybody, and he was finding it difficult to take things slow. Willow hadn’t given him any signs that she wanted to speed the process up, but Wesley was beginning to consider it. Perhaps he’d ask her back to his place after they went to the Bronze.
He pulled out his cell phone and checked for messages, quickly dialing his voicemail when he realized he’d missed a call from Spike. The message wasn’t from Spike, however, and the tone of Buffy’s voice concerned him enough that Wesley decided to immediately head to his place.
Buffy had sounded close to tears, which he knew was highly unusual for her.
Wesley rummaged through the chest that held his magic supplies, pulling out what he needed for a locator spell. As much practice as he’d gotten lately performing magic, it didn’t take him long to figure out that Spike was at Willy’s. With any luck, he wouldn’t go far before Wesley could get there.
The trip didn’t take long on the bike, and Wesley headed inside the bar without hesitation.
“You’re in the wrong place, human.”
The demon who stopped him was formidable, but Wesley’s focus was on Spike, who was sitting in a back booth with a bottle and a shot glass in front of him. “I think I’m in the right place,” Wesley replied calmly. “So if you’ll step out of my way, I would appreciate it.”
“And what will you do if I don’t?” he asked, his face inches away from Wesley’s, yellow-orange teeth bared.
“I don’t know about him, but I’ll rip your sodding head off.” Spike’s cold voice cut through the quiet of the nearly-empty bar.
The demon might have been spoiling for a fight, but he wasn’t ready to chance one with Spike, obviously sensing that the vampire was ready to chew him up and spit him out. He backed off with a growl of warning, and Wesley followed Spike back to his seat.
“What are you doing here?” Spike asked, a snarl in his voice.
Wesley sat down across from him. “Buffy called me. She said you’d had a fight and that you might do something stupid. Was she right?”
“I’m not the one doing something stupid,” Spike responded. “She went to them.”
“She went to—” Wesley broke off as he realized exactly who Spike was referring to. “The soldiers?”
“She talked to the one we ran into while we were dealing with the Gentlemen,” Spike said softly.
Wesley hesitated. “Surely that isn’t the end of the world, Spike. From what you said, he had to know there was something up with you. If Buffy could—”
“She talked to him for the second time yesterday,” Spike continued, ignoring Wesley’s words. “He told her that he works for a group called the Initiative, and that they’re a government-sponsored demon-fighting unit. He said they want to protect humans from demons, and asked if she’d like to get involved.” Spike paused. “She told him yes.”
Wesley hissed, knowing that it must have seemed like the ultimate betrayal to Spike. At the same time, he knew the Slayer well enough to know that her intentions were good. “Perhaps she merely wants to protect you.”
“I’m sure she does,” Spike said, “but I asked her not to do this, Wes. She went behind my back to talk to that wanker, and then she comes and announces she’s working with them for the time being. I don’t care about her motives. She had to know how that would make me feel.”
“Did she?” Wesley didn’t want to anger Spike, but at the same time, the vampire hadn’t been very communicative lately. It was possible that Buffy didn’t know how he would feel if she decided to work with the soldiers. At least, she might not have realized how deep Spike’s rage and fear went.
“She should have,” Spike said stubbornly. “Buffy should have at least talked to me first before doing this.”
Wesley couldn’t argue with Spike there. It was entirely possible that Buffy’s decision would lead to trouble down the road. Big trouble. He watched as the vampire fished around in his jacket pocket, pulling out his keys. Spike’s motions were deliberate as he pulled off the compass on his key chain, handing it over to Wesley.
“What are you doing?” Wesley asked.
Spike’s blue eyes were dark with pain. “You keep that. I don’t want anything on me that’ll connect me to the Slayer. I don’t want to make it any easier for those bastards to find me.”
“Don’t you think you’re overreacting a bit?” Wesley asked. “Buffy would never—”
“Buffy wouldn’t,” Spike agreed. “But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t use her to get to me. She’s got the mate to this one, and if they figure that out, not even this bloody ring will hide me.”
Wesley looked at the compass, watching as the needle quivered. The Slayer was apparently on the move. “Maybe you should leave town,” he suggested softly. “Take a job, give yourself some time to cool off.”
Spike shook his head. “No. I won’t leave her.”
Wesley frowned, perplexed. “But I thought—”
“Don’t think I want to see her right now,” Spike said. “But what if those soldiers decide to add a Slayer to their collection? I won’t let that happen, no matter how pissed off at her I might be.”
“What are you going to tell her?” Wesley asked.
Spike shook his head. “I’m not going to tell her anything. If we run into each other, fine, but I don’t think I can deal with her right now.” His eyes darkened. “Maybe she didn’t mean it that way, but it feels too much like betrayal for me to let it go.”