Ally stayed in bed with Spike that morning far longer than any other normal day. She didn't want him out of her sight, just in case. She was worried. And scared. And basically crumbling inside. And yet, beside him, with his arm wrapped around her waist, she felt whole and strong.
When he woke up, at first he just snuggled against her back, his hand making circles in her skin, before it stopped and she felt him push himself up on his elbow. "What time is it?"
"I don't know. Late. Around mid-morning, I guess." She responded, rolling until she was facing him.
"Why are you still in bed? You alright, love?"
"Yeah. I'm fine. Just tired." She threw an arm over him and tried to keep him lying down, burying her face in his chest, his skin still warm from being in contact with hers. "How are you feeling?"
"Uh, good. Same as always."
"Good. That's good." She murmured, closing her eyes again.
He held her again, his mind troubled, thinking of any reasons as to why she was acting different. Was she hiding something from him? Was she hiding something about last night from him?
Not a half hour later, when he almost believed she was asleep once more, her phone started ringing. She jumped, startled at first, before reaching over to the downturned laundry basket they used as a night stand and grabbing her phone. She frowned at the number on the screen before answering. "Hey, soldier-boy. What's up?"
His vampire hearing allowed him to catch most of what the other said. At first he thought it to be the Slayer's ex, but turned out it was the other solider, the one who kept calling her 'doll' at the hospital.
Spike didn't like that bloke.
Sometime during Ally's forty-freaking-minute conversation with Captain America's sidekick, Buffy got home and stuck her head through the door to the basement. "Why are you two still in bed?"
"She's talking to Short Commando Boy." Spike informed her, obviously not happy about the chat. He was sitting in the mattress, sheets up to his waist, leaning against his bent knees.
"Graham?" Buffy inquired, tilting her head.
"Don't know the name." Spike growled, sending an unimpressed look toward his girl while she nodded at her sister.
"Say hi. And put on some clothes, Spike, for god's sake." Buffy grimaced before leaving.
The vampire shook his head, sighing in relief when he noticed the phone conversation coming to an end, and stood from the bed to shrug his pants on.
"You done there, pet?" He asked Ally once she left the phone aside and mimicked him, throwing one of his t-shirts on, considering her clean clothes were in the Nibblet's room.
"Yup. I'm hungry."
"You're the one who didn't want to get up."
"It's comfy here."
"Not gon' argue with that." He smirked, letting his eyes slide over her legs and stepping a bit closer, only for Big Sis to come back and ruin any plans he could have had.
"Good, you're up. Finally." Buffy interrupted, coming down the stairs and ignoring the huff of annoyance from the bleach blond. "We've got a situation."
"Don't you always?" Spike shot back, arching an eyebrow. Than earned him a light kick from his girl, who had sat back on the mattress to listen to her sister.
He let himself plop down beside her and nodded toward Goldilocks, letting her continue.
"Something is taking the form of people we know, people who have died, to trick us. We have to find out what it is. Alls, you were with it the longest. You've had two encounters. That has to mean something." The senior Slayer leant against the side of the stairs, arms crossed over her chest.
"That whatever this Big Bad is, it has plans for me? We already know that. We know those plans." Ally shrugged, clearly upset about the whole deal. They didn't know what they were facing. They had absolutely no clue. The only thing they knew was that it wanted Ally under its control, and it had followers… "Wait, it's not only this Big Bag. It has followers. The… guys in the robes. I had almost forgotten about them. We could search something that matched those. See if anything comes up."
"Yeah, we'll get on that. Any other thing? Like… why does it show up looking like dead people?"
"Cause it's creepy? Big Bad's like creepy, right? Scare us out, make us more… vulnerable to its words. Like Psych 101."
Buffy held her hand up, shaking her head. "Don't tell me about Psych. The vampire I killed last night? We went to high school together, he was a Psych major, and basically psychoanalyzed our whole fight." She huffed, making Ally smirk. That should have been interesting. Buffy and she had more issues than Cosmo.
"Dru used to do that." Spike spoke up, frowning to himself. "She messed with people's minds, showing them what they wanted to see."
"But I don't want to see my mother." Ally retorted.
"And yet showing you your mother messed up with your head, didn't it?" He shot back.
"So… dead people we care about, followers in robes…" The eldest Summers girl counted, looking at them expectantly.
Spike stilled for a moment and leaned forward, his face getting darker and darker. "Is it… dead people or people who have died?"
"Isn't it the same?" Buffy wondered, confused, yet Ally understood what he meant.
"No. I mean, vampires? They have technically died, but are not dead, they are… undead. So… maybe this thing could look like a vampire?" She turned toward him, like asking for confirmation on her guess.
"Or you two." He added, sombre.
"Are you telling us this thing could take our form, be out there pretending to be us?" Buffy jumped from her spot and walked closer to them. "Right now?"
Both Slayers stared at the vampire, waiting for an answer, and frowned when he seemed to be looking to the side, his head tilted, like listening to something else.
Ally knew that posture, that absence in the middle of a conversation, out of nowhere. The voices in his head again? Or… the Big Bad? What if they were all the same? What if it was never about his soul, but this new evil they were facing, messing with him?
"Spike? Earth to Bleach Boy!" Buffy called out, oblivious to what was happening to him.
Ally froze, feeling the change before he even turned to face them again. She could feel it all, much more dimly than the night before, yet still there. The human and the soul were being pushed down, and the demon was taking the wheel.
"Buffy…" Ally tried to warn her, but Spike turned toward the blonde, game face on and snarling, and immediately jumped from the bed, ignoring the brunette. "Buffy!"
The vampire charged against the blonde Slayer, who was too shocked to react in time. She was thrown against the stairs, breaking the railing into pieces and hitting her head on the steps, blurring her sight.
Ally, horrified at the scene, ran toward her vampire, who was already advancing on Buffy. She stood in front of Spike, hands held high in front of her, hoping it would stop him. "Stay back, Spike. Back! Please, baby, stay back." She pleaded, approaching him carefully until her hands touched his chest, still bare. He watched her, his eyes following her every movement, his attention diverted from the blonde. He recognized her, he recognized what was inside. She was his.
Beneath her palms, she felt his chest vibrate, the demon somewhat pleased with the contact. She tried pushing him, getting as much distance between him and Buffy, and the demon responded with a purr as one of her hands slid to his neck. "That's it, baby. Go back. It's just me. Calm down." She got him to the mattress before taking his hands, to which the demon inched closer to her, still purring and sniffing. Was he smelling her? Talk about weird. "Spike?" She got a low purr in response, no sign of the other side of him being anywhere near the surface. "Spike, come on, come back. Please, baby, come back." She brought his hands together against her, rubbing the backs with her thumbs.
Meanwhile, Buffy, dizzy and with the biggest headache in quite some time, watched the scene, fascinated with the way Ally handled the demon, no longer the Spike they knew. Not only that, but she was shocked by the way the demon responded to her sister, purring like a cat at every touch and every word, not tearing his eyes off her for a second.
If Spike hadn't just tried to kill her, she might have thought the scene was beautiful.
Slowly, extremely so, Ally noticed the other side of him resurfacing. She kept talking to him, calling for him, caressing his cheek and staring right into his yellow eyes. Her heart jolted when the yellow turned into blue and his human visage replaced the demon's. He was back.
"There you are." Ally smiled, brushing her thumb over his eyebrows, where the vampy bumps had been a minute earlier. "Do you remember anything?"
Spike's face went from blank to horrified in a split second. He tumbled backward, tripping over the mattress as his eyes glanced behind Ally and saw the other Slayer on the stairs, barely managing to support herself on her arms, a gash on her forehead spilling blood over the left side of her face.
And he remembered. He remembered what had happened a moment ago, what he had almost done back at the Bronze, what the other had told him to do. He was still there, leaning against the wall to his right, watching the scene with a smirk on his face. It was him.
"Spike?" Ally kneeled in front of him, cupping his cheek once more, concern painted in her face.
"I remember." He choked, tears escaping his eyes, sliding down to her hand.
Behind Ally, he saw Buffy finally stand up and make her way toward them, as if she was approaching an injured animal, cautious. She held her arm to her side, probably hurt from hitting the stairs. He'd done that. Now she's gonna kill you. You lose, mate. The other was having the time of his life, still smirking from his place.
The blonde Slayer stood behind her sister, frowning at him, unsure of what to expect. She'd never seen him like that. Spike, crying? From her experience, and from what her friends had told her, he'd only done that when Ally died.
The vampire, however, knew what to expect. "Do it fast, OK?" He croaked to Buffy, grabbing the brunette's wrist to take her hand from his cheek. He couldn't believe she was still there, trying to protect him, from others, from himself… He pushed Ally lightly to the side, giving the senior Slayer room to do her job. "He said you'd do it!"
The blonde woman, instead, frowned, glancing at her sister once before looking back at him. "Who said?"
Spike frowned, disconcerted. "Me. It was me." His eyes moved to his love, once again reaching for him. "I saw it. I was here the whole time, talking and singing." Looking around, he searched for the other, but he'd vanished, or moved, or hidden. "There was a song." His face pinched, a headache hitting him in increasing intensity, making him hold his head between his hands. He couldn't take it anymore. All that time in the basement of the high school, all that time with her taking care of him, and the other her messing with him, and… He just couldn't take it anymore.
"What are you talking about?" Buffy asked out loud, trying to remain strong, firm, if only for Ally's good. The brunette was so lost, so confused about the vampire's state…
Ally placed one her hands on his knee, the other on his shoulder, whispering things Buffy didn't understand to him, like their inside secrets. Lover's words.
Still holding his head, trembling from head to toe, Spike's voice reached the eldest Summers woman. "I don't know. Please, I don't remember. Don't make me remember." He looked at the other, now standing closer to Buffy, only visible to his eyes. He wanted to be in the first row when the Slayer fulfilled her duty. "Make it so I forget again! I did what you wanted!"
Both sisters looked in the direction he was screaming, unable to see anyone other than themselves down there. "There's something here." Ally whispered, getting a nod in response from Buffy.
In an extremely unusual display of trust toward the vampire, Buffy sat in the mattress, right beside the couple, getting a bewildered look from the bleach blond. "Oh, God, no, please, do it! I can't cry the soul out of me. It won't come. I know what I did." He begged for his death, for that eternal peace. He doubted there was any Heaven waiting for him, but at least there would be no more of this… mind-torture.
"There's something playing with us. All of us." Buffy announced in an unexpectedly gentle voice.
"We need to learn everything we can about it, Buff. We're blind to this new Big Bad right now."
"I know." The blonde looked back at Spike, once again holding onto Ally's hand, as if his life depended on it.
"Spike?" Ally called, brushing his fingertips against his jaw to make him lift his head. "Did the other you… Was it like the other me?"
"What?" Buffy squeaked, bewildered. What was Ally talking about?
Spike, on the other side, seemed to understand what the brunette meant. "Doesn't touch."
"So it might be the same, right? The same thing that talked to you before?" Ally turned to look at Buffy, her face firm, decided. "It's been around him since the high school. Sometimes it looked like me, sometimes other people he killed before, now like him. We thought it was something caused by his soul…"
"Turns out it's not." Buffy finished for her. "Alright. You keep an eye on him. I'll try to get the others, plan something."
At Ally's nod, Buffy left the basement, her mind racing with theories, ideas, and images of what had happened down there. It was crazy, completely nuts.
"You should have told me." Spike muttered as his head laid on Ally's lap, her fingers treading through his hair.
"It wouldn't have done any good. I didn't want you to have to worry until we knew what to do about it."
"Fat load of good it did, didn't it?" He growled, rolling on his side until his face hid against her stomach. Not the most effective tantrum. "Should've rolled the other way." He muttered again.
Ally chuckled, still caressing his scalp. "Are you pouting?" She teased, recognizing the tone of his voice, even if it was muffled against the t-shirt she wore.
"Are too." She giggled, the vibrations travelling through her body. "Baby, I'm sorry, but I thought it was the best course of action. I thought it was an accident or something. I told Buffy last night, just in case. I didn't think it would happen again so soon. I only wanted to keep you from beating yourself about it. Like you don't have enough worries already."
He sighed, rolling onto his back once more to look at her. "Can't protect me from everything, love."
"Doesn't mean I won't try."
"Bloody stubborn woman."
She smiled widely, knowing just how stubborn she could be. "But you love it."
"Every single thing. From the pig-headedness to the baby cereal addiction." He smiled softly, his hand blindly searching for hers and bringing it to his chest once caught.
"Keep sweet talking and I might just faint." She laughed, shaking his head at his cheesiness. He was a romantic, she'd known that for a long time. Hell, hadn't he been a poet when he was human? He'd mentioned something about that, and other people from his circles mocking him for his 'bloody awful' poetry, earning him the nickname of William the Bloody.
"Oh, what I would have given to hear those words during my human life." He laughed alongside her, but his hand tightened a bit more. "What I would have given to have someone like you beside me then."
"Wrong period, I guess." She shrugged, resuming the soothing massage to his scalp. "I sometimes wonder what you were like before we met. Both vampire and human life."
"Bloody awful, in both of them. Pathetic loser and serial killer." He scoffed, trying to avoid thinking about those times.
"Nah, I don't think so. What's inside… don't think that changes much. Except with Angel. That's freaky alter-ego shit, alright. But you… I think I still would have loved them. Can't imagine a life without you, now."
"Same here, Ally Cat. Don't know how I lived that long without knowing you." He raised his hand to cup her cheek, watching her lips stretch in a soft smile. That smile, and those eyes. All of her. He wanted it, forever. He'd wanted it for so long. "Marry me." He whispered, not really filtering his thoughts.
He watched her expression change from adoring to shocked, dread settling in his undead heart. He'd fucked up. He shouldn't have said that. Bloody hell, he shouldn't have said that! But he wanted it, didn't he? He'd wanted to tell her that for so many months. He was going to do it far sooner, but then he had to get into the demon egg trade, and she left, and he left...
His hand on her cheek stilled, tension tangible in the atmosphere. The bleach blond observed her, wide eyed, as his throat constricted and knots formed in his stomach. He'd fucked up.
Silence. Spike blinked, thrown off by her response. She couldn't be serious. "What?"
"Yes." She repeated, swallowing her nerves.
"No!" He shot up, his head barely missing hers as he sat upright, his upper body twisted so he could look at her.
"Bugger!" He threw his hands up, his whole person a mess. "This is not how it was s'possed to be! Have to give you something, that's how it goes!"
"Spike, calm down…"
"I have nothing to give you!"
She wrapped her hand around his forearm, stilling him and forcing him to look at her. He was being stupid. "Are you kidding me? You've given me everything. Heck! You got your soul back for me!"
He paused, breathing heavily even though he didn't need it. He was staring at her, his face the picture of confusion. Adorable, but she was worried. He let his arms fall on his sides, tilting his head lightly. "So… yes?"