Two Of A Kind
Set sometime after First Date, but with elements of Chosen. For those of you who think that Captain Jack Sparrow and Spike have a few things in common.
“I think,” Xander said, slipping back into the reassuring tone he had often used with Anya, “we can be pretty sure that there won’t be bunnies at the apocalypse.” His eyes moved side to side as the group moved up the alley, another habit more recently ingrained. They were going home after a particularly difficult evening near the high school, and tired as he was, Xander really didn’t want any more trouble.
“But you can’t know that for sure,” Anya protested. “There might be –”
Light exploded in their midst, hissing and crackling. Buffy staggered back, throwing up a hand, feeling the heat run along the edge of her arm. She heard Spike curse beside her, felt his hand pulling her back away from the hotspot. She stumbled after him blindly, trusting him to lead her. Somewhere on the other side of the brilliant ball of light she heard Giles call and Willow shriek with surprise.
The light dissipated suddenly, leaving the pavement steaming in its wake. Blinking the water from her eyes, Buffy saw Xander helping Anya up; saw the others rubbing their eyes. Everyone’s okay, she thought, and started to breathe again.
That was when she noticed someone completely new standing in their midst, on the circle of scorched ground. It was a dark-eyed man, standing perfectly still, dressed in pirate garb like an extra from a Treasure Island casino show. Buffy noted that the knife at his waist looked real enough, as did the pistol tucked into the sash at his waist. But there wasn’t anything even remotely demony about him; he was the picture of piracy, from the leather tri-corn hat to the gaudy medallion around his neck to the turned back boots. Though he didn’t move a muscle, he eyed her with a similarly assessing gaze. After a moment he straightened, lifting the chain of the medallion. “That was very interesting.”
Spike took a step forward, an unconscious gesture designed to make himself and not Buffy the target of any incipient foul play. “Who the hell are you?”
The man turn his dark eyes on Spike, looking him up and down, then noticed Xander and Giles circling around to join him. Apparently deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, he dropped the chain and inclined his head with practiced courtesy. “Captain Jack Sparrow, at your service, sir,” he replied in a deep, silky smooth voice, tinged with an accent Buffy couldn’t quite identify. “And who might you be?”
“Captain of what?” she interrupted, looking about them. “Third Avenue?”
“Of the Black Pearl, dear lady.” He cast a glance at the alley around him and frowned, but did not change his tone. “Which is admittedly nowhere in evidence.”
“Buffy!” Anya hissed as dark shapes moved in the shadows behind the Slayer, “Bringers!” It was just enough warning for Buffy to turn and avoid the edge of a knife coming at her from the shadows. She caught the arm that held it, sent a roundhouse kick at the owner’s head, then kicked his knee out from under him. The Bringer went down hard, knife spinning out onto the pavement. As she turned Spike bumped her back; he’d moved in close to intercept another Bringer coming at her from behind. She kicked the first attacker unconscious and turned back to Spike, who struggled for possession of the Bringer’s wickedly long knife. As they twisted together, Buffy landed a heavy chop on the back of its neck and it slipped bonelessly down to the street.
Two more Bringers ran forward, knives raised in high arcs. One was repelled by a flash of static from Willow, the other rushed Giles. A third came at Buffy and she sprang back, sweeping up the knife from the first attack and lunging back in. Xander charged the first black-robed figure before it could launch a second attack on Willow, tackling it football style. It was a clumsy rush at best, but as the Bringer went down it’s head hit the brick wall at an awkward angle and the bones in its neck gave way.
“Agghhh.” The noise came from Giles, backed up against one of the alley’s walls, choking under the pressure of a Bringer’s crossed fists. Xander staggered up and charged again, but was deflected head first into the side of a dumpster. Anya screamed, Spike sprang forward and a loud noise exploded in the small space of the alley. The Bringer strangling Giles stiffened and slumped against him, and Spike came up short. Buffy defeated her opponent with a quick thrust while Giles coughed and knocked his attacker’s dead body to the ground.
It was over almost as quickly as it had begun, but the sound of the explosion still seemed to linger, a phantom echo. The sharp scent of gunpowder flavored the air, and Giles, blinking, realized that the Bringer attacking him had been shot. For a moment no one spoke. Captain Sparrow, still standing with his arm outstretched and pistol smoking, became aware of everyone staring at him and lifted an eyebrow. Tucking the pistol back into his sash, he regarded them solemnly. “My sincerest apologies if you did not want that one dispatched.” He nodded toward the corpse at Giles’ feet. “But it seemed prudent to act first and ask the questions later.”
“No,” Buffy said dropping the knife aside. “When it comes to these guys, dispatched is good. So, what are you? What are you doing here?”
“As I said, I am Captain Sparrow of the Black Pearl. As to what I am doing here...” His eyes shifted from side to side, eyeing his surroundings. “That I cannot immediately answer.”
“Buffy,” Spike said at her elbow. “We should get off the streets. There’s too many tonight.”
“Yeah,” Buffy agreed. “You should come with us...uh, Captain. It isn’t safe out here, and we have a lot...” she looked him up and down again, “to talk about.”
Captain Sparrow tipped his hat gallantly. “I’ll accept that kind offer, if you’d be kind enough to tell me just exactly where ‘here’ is?”
Buffy and Spike exchanged a look. “Sunnydale,” Buffy told him, then added “California” when he continued to look at her blankly.
“The west coast of the U.S.?” Willow added hopefully.
“Oh for Heaven’s sake,” Anya said, rolling her eyes. “Look at him. It isn’t just where, it’s when. You’re in the western part of the New World,” she told him pointedly. “And the year is 2003.”
Jack was very still for a moment, his eyes fastened on Anya. She nodded affirmation at him, and he tilted his head. “That’s also very interesting.”
“Like I said,” Buffy said, turning to leave, “We have a lot to talk about.”
As they walked, Anya fell into step beside Sparrow. “Don’t worry,” Anya told the captain, “Buffy will take care of everything. That’s what she does.”
Captain Jack looked ahead at Buffy’s back. “Is that so? And the other one? The dark one with the gold hair?”
“Oh, that’s Spike. He’s a–” Anya caught herself, and felt secretly proud that she’d remembered in time, “...very interesting person,” she concluded, using the captain’s words.
“Of that,” the captain agreed, “there is no doubt.”
“Is that real?” she asked, pointing to the jewel in the center of his medallion.
Sparrow shook his head. “I haven’t any idea. I’ve only had ownership of the piece for a short time.” He smiled a little, dark eyes shining, and Anya smiled broadly back.
“I like your sashes,” she said, nodding at his waist.
“Just one sash,” he said, his grin deepening till the streetlight glinted off a gold-covered tooth. “But it’s long and wide.”
* * *
“Last thing I remember,” Captain Sparrow said, twisting the top off another Michelob as if that small action were entertaining, “was seein’ what looked like all the hordes of hell swarming down on that village.” He tilted the cap in the light to examine the inside, tried with little success to twist it back on the beer, then gave up and flipped it onto the kitchen counter. He leaned back against the kitchen sink and lifted the bottle to his lips. The taste of cold beer was different, but he thought he could get used to it.
“What happened?” Dawn prompted. She and the Scoobies were gathered around the tabletop of the kitchen island listening with rapt attention. Captain Sparrow had removed his hat, but wore a scarf tied over his head beneath it decorated here and there with beads and coins, so he looked no less the pirate.
Andrew hadn’t waited long before scooping up the hat a placing it on his own head, an action which seemed to puzzle Captain Sparrow but that he seemed willing to allow as long as the hat remained within view. The Potentials, relegated to the living room, sat with a breathless silence that let Buffy know they were doing their utmost to eavesdrop.
Jack tipped his head. “We didn’t have a chance. I grabbed a few pieces like that,“ he nodded to the medallion dangling from Giles hand, ”and went down to the docks, but...”
“But?” Giles prompted.
Sparrow took a long swallow of his beer, then stood staring at the bottle. “It’s a pleasure to drink from these,” he said, “but it seems a waste of good glassware.”
“Go on with your story,” Giles said with some impatience.
“Yes. Well then. “ Captain Jack hesitated, and when he spoke, his voice was low and warm. “There’s something you have to understand first. The thing is, the Pearl is my home. The Pearl and the wide open ocean.” He took another swallow of the beer. “And her crew, that’s my family. They were all in that port village, every last one. Ye see, I’d finally gotten every mate I wanted aboard. All friends; all good lads. All willing to forsake the pirate’s code for my sake, if need be.”
Willow frowned. “The pirate’s code?”
Jack smiled at her. “Well, they’re more like guidelines. But you won’t find many mates out there who’ll hold you over them. But these men,“ he shook his head and the beads tied in his hair clicked together, “these were good men.” He glanced at Spike. “Sometimes a man recognizes that everyone he loves is on the line, and it’s no use runnin’ to save yourself.”
“So you went back?” Giles asked.
Jack snorted. “Yeah. With that around my neck and a crown on my head and two pockets full of doubloons.”
Jack finished the beer and looked at Buffy. “Is there any more ale, love?”
“No,” Buffy said evenly. “That was the last one.”
Jack put the bottle down with regret. “Truth be told, I’m not really certain what happened. I came running up over the crest of a hill, and I saw the town spread out in front of me.” His brows drew down. “It was bein’ ransacked like you’ve never seen. Things burnin,’ people screamin.’ “ He frowned, speaking softly. “I’m a pirate. I freely admit it. “ He looked at them, his dark eyes troubled. “But I’m not a murderer. I don’t kill for the fun of it. I don’t maim for amusement, and I’ve never taken a lady against her will. But these men...” The expression in his dark eyes hardened and he shook his head. “You have to remember, these were my friends losin’ their lives,” he said almost apologetically. “So I took my pistol in one hand and my blade in the other and I went down into it.”
“Wow,” Anya said quietly. Jack’s eyes flicked to her briefly.
“I fought like the very devil, we all did. But there were too many of them, three ships worth. And it seemed like everything was on fire....” His sentence trailed off and he stared, remembering.
“And the medallion?” Giles prompted.
“Oh. Well, there came a moment when I knew I was going to die. I don’t mean I was afraid, because, oddly enough and whether you believe it or not, I wasn’t. You just know when the time’s up, when you reach that moment where you have to run off into the night or die where you stand.” He stopped, seeming reluctant, but Giles prodded him on.
“I decided not to run,” Jack said simply. “Some things, some people, they’re just worth dying for.” He lifted a hand. “That’s the last thing I remember. That, and a burning pain in the center of my chest. I thought I’d been shot, quite honestly.” He adjusted the lace cuff on the lifted hand. “The pain spread right through me, and so I thought I’d caught on fire. Then there was a bright light, and a curious tingling sensation. Not precisely unpleasant. Then I was standing in the alley where you found me.”
“That’s it?” Giles said, frowning at the medallion.
“Told you it wasn’t much of a story.”
“I think it’s a good story,” Anya said, and Jack smiled at her.
“So did I,” Andrew concurred, looking at him in much the same way as Anya.
Giles turned the medallion over in his hand. “There’s some writing on it,” he said, pushing his glasses onto his forehead. “Buffy, get me a magnifying glass.”
Buffy took a reading glass out of a desk drawer and brought it to him. “Can you read it?”
“I’m not sure. Where did you say you got this, Captain...uh, Jack?”
“That came into my possession on an island not too far from Tortuga.”
“Well, I find that very difficult to believe,” Giles said. “These symbols are the same as some found on the Incan calendar. And as for as I know, there have never been any Incans anywhere near Tortuga.”
“I didn’t say it was from there,” Jack said silkily. “Only that that’s where it came into my hands.”
“Can you read what it says, Giles?” Buffy asked again.
“Maybe, We need some books. Willow, take a look at this. Dawn, you look too. We’re going to need to do some research.”
Spike looked at the huddle, then touched Buffy on the shoulder. “I’m going out for a smoke.”
“Might I join you?” Jack asked, and Spike nodded.
“You might be able to use that necklace against the First,” Anya told Buffy as the men went out onto the porch.
“How?” Buffy turned her full attention to Anya.
“Well, necklaces can be powerful. Remember Halfrek’s necklace? This one was powerful enough to bring a pirate hundreds of years into the future. If we could figure out how to use it...” She shrugged.
Buffy frowned. “I don’t really know what good being able to time travel would do us.”
“Maybe that’s not all it does.”
“What do you mean?”
Anya tucked her hair behind her ear. Humans often thought she was dense. “Well, we’re just seeing the end result. We don’t know what happened in his time period. I mean, he could’ve melted the whole island and been whisked here. We wouldn’t know.”
Buffy considered this. “Let’s hope Giles can figure it out.”
* * *
“So,” Captain Sparrow said, sitting down on a porch step beside Spike. “How does a man get along here?”
Spike raised an eyebrow, not sure what he was being asked. A passenger jet rumbled overhead, lights blinking as it climbed across the sky. Jack’s eyes flicked to it, then moved quickly back to Spike. Noting his lack of reaction, he held his breath and let the jet pass, then relaxed again. “What I mean is, I don’t imagine there’s much call for pirates?”
Spike reached inside his coat pocket and pulled out a package of cigarettes. “No,” he said, shaking out a cigarette then offering the open pack to Jack. Curious, Jack reached into the pack and selected a cigarette.
“May I ask what you do? Are you in some form of service to the lady of the house?”
Spike sputtered and nearly lost the cigarette between his teeth. “No offense offered,” Jack said quickly. “I’ve been in service to a number of noblewomen. It’s honorable work.” He frowned, noticing that there was no tobacco on one end of the little roll. “At least until...” he continued, smiling a small, ironic smile, “it becomes less honorable and more of a different kind of service.”
Spike smiled appreciatively despite himself and flicked open his lighter. He lit the tip of his cigarette, then held the flame out toward Jack. “Other end,” he murmured before Jack could light the filter.
“Oh, that’s quite good,” Jack said, surprised. “Very smooth.” He looked at the cigarette closely, wondering where one found workers with the dexterity to wrap such small perfect rolls.
“You could say I’m Buffy’s man, yeah,” Spike said after a moment, finding that despite his intention to remain aloof, he rather liked Captain Sparrow.
Jack blew out a plume of smoked and eyed him over it. “Honorably?”
“Yeah,” Spike said, pressing his lips together in a parody of a smile. “Now.”
“Ah,” Jack said, comprehending at once. “And yet you remain.”
“She needs me.” His cigarette glowed in the darkness as he drew on it.
“Loyalty,” Jack mused. “A lot of men in my time found that a difficult concept.”
“In any time,” Spike agreed. “But there’s a lot going on here now.” He was growing uncomfortable with the turn of the conversation. “Things that affect more than just me and the Slay-Buffy.”
Spike shook his head and crushed the butt of his cigarette under his heel. “We’ll fill you in if you stay. Don’t smoke that part.”
Jack pulled the filter away from his lips and ground it beneath his foot as he had seen Spike do. “If I stay? Just where do you anticipate me going?”
“Back to wherever the hell you came from.”
Jack looked at him sharply. “This is possible?”
“I don’t know. I wouldn’t rule it out. Damn near anything’s possible in Sunnydale.”
* * * *
“The nearest I can figure,” Giles explained after researching the piece most of the night and all of the following day, ”is that this medallion is some kind of amulet. Very powerful.”
“The good kind of amulet or the bad kind of amulet?” Buffy asked. They were upstairs in one of the bedrooms, books spread on the bed and floor, Willow’s computer humming in the background.
“I don’t know,” Giles answered honestly. “It could be either.”
“Well,” Willow said, “it was triggered by ‘selfless courage’, and that’s good, right?”
“How do we know that?” Buffy asked looking form Willow to Giles.
“Well, these markings here, “ said, squinting at the medallion, “they mean either ‘selfless courage’ or ‘noble sacrifice.’”
“Sacrifice as in somebody dying? That doesn’t sound good to me.”
Giles waved a hand. “No. Sacrifice as in somebody dying for a cause.“
“Remember Captain Sparrow said he fought like the devil even though he was hopelessly outnumbered?” Willow said. “We think he might’ve triggered some of the amulet’s power. Enough to time-shift him here.”
Willow nodded enthusiastically. “Tell her Giles.”
Giles stepped closer. “I think this amulet was designed for a specific purpose and endowed with a powerful magic. See this part here?” He held the amulet up to Buffy, who could have been looking at hieroglyphs of “The Three Bears” for all she knew. “This is a calendar, a very accurate one. And these lines intersect. And this word, it means ‘champion’ and this ‘Evil’ but this symbol here precedes it, so I think that means ‘against evil’. But it could just as easily be the other way, as in very much for evil.”
Buffy was suddenly very attentive. “Giles, do you think I can use this against the First?”
“Well, I don’t know. I think you could manage the selfless courage part quite well, but all that might do is time-shift you out of the fight, as it did Captain Sparrow. Which is entirely odd.” He pushed his glasses up and rubbed his eyes.
“Considering the other symbols. Buffy, I don’t think this was designed to time-shift anyone. I think that’s just a by-product of using it improperly.”
“What was it designed for?”
Giles held up his hands helplessly. “I don’t know. I just know you can’t use it with an axe.”
“An axe. There’s a very clear warning that whoever wields the axe can’t wear this, but I think it’s meant to be used in conjunction with the axe.”
“You’re talking in riddles again, Giles.”
He looked annoyed. “That’s what it says. Or something like it, anyway.”
“Okay,” Buffy said, recognizing the grumpy mood. “Well, we’ll just keep working on it, we’ll figure it out. “ She ignored Giles sarcastic stare at the word we and continued. “What about Captain Jack? Is he stuck here or can we send him back?”
Giles and Willow exchanged a look. “We might be able to send him back in exactly two weeks,” Willow said. “There’s some mention in one text about temporary time portals and temporal disturbances. Figuring from some of the symbols and the calendar on the amulet, he might be able to go back to his own time if he stands in exactly the same spot at 7:00 two weeks from tonight.”
Buffy brightened. “Well, I’m sure he’ll be glad to hear that. He’s like a fish out of water here. Did you see him with the microwave?”
But Willow wasn’t smiling. “There’s a hitch, Buffy.”
“He has to be wearing the amulet.”
They looked at each other. Buffy turned her gaze to Giles, who looked back at her silently. “No way. We might need that to fight the First.”
“It is his amulet, Buffy,” Giles reminded her.
“No. He stole it. And it saved his life. Now it’s our turn. We’re not killing him, Giles. He’ll just have to get used to electricity and running water and...and all the other things he’ll just have to get used to. I mean, he’s from the past. How bad can it be for him here? And isn’t he technically dead anyway?”
“I hardly think you could make an argument for—“
“I don’t care, Giles. I don’t care how I got it. It’s one more weapon in our arsenal against the First. We have a little time to figure out how to use it. Let’s focus on that.” Giles backed off, knowing she’d made up her mind.
“Actually, we have two weeks,” Willow reminded her. “Maybe we can figure out how to send Captain Jack back and still keep the amulet.”
“There you go,” Buffy said. “That would be perfect.”
“We may not be able to use it,” Giles cut in. “The time differential might render it useless.”
Buffy looked at him blankly. “The what?”
Giles pursed his lips. “Amulets often need time to accrue their power after being used. Like a charge building up. Since this one was just used by Captain Sparrow. Its power has been discharged. It might be a month, a year or even a hundred years before it can be used again effectively.”
“We won’t know unless we try.” Buffy set her jaw. “We need everything we have at this point, Giles.”
“I’ll keep working on it,” Willow said. “Maybe we really can do both.”
Buffy sighed. “I hope so. That would be the best for everyone.”
“Captain Sparrow would sure have a lot of catching up to do here.”
“Yeah, but I think he’s a lot like Spike. He could pretty much handle being dropped anywhere.”
Willow noted the compliment to Spike but didn’t comment on it. “I think I kinda like him being around. He’s got a lot of...character.”
Buffy smiled. “He does grow on you.”
“And I love his eyes. I mean, I would really love his eyes if guy eyes were my thing.”
Giles, standing between them, rolled his eyes.
“And that voice,” Willow continued.
“What kind of accent is that anyway?”
“I don’t know,” Willow said, affecting Sparrow’s posture. Giggling, she dropped her voice and mimicked, “Captain Jack Sparrow, at your service.”
“A cunning impersonation to be sure,” Sparrow said from the doorway. “Though I hope it’s the result of affection and not cruel mockery?”
“A...Affection,” Willow answered unequivocally after only a moment’s hesitation. “We were just admiring the way you talk. Trying to figure out what kind of accent you have. “
Captain Jack raised his brows. “A pirate’s accent, to be sure. The result of moving from one port to another and calling none of them home.”
“Oh. Well. It’s nice.”
Jack inclined his head. “I find your speech charming as well, if at times a bit bewildering.”
“Did you need something?” Buffy asked, finally finding her voice.
“The coldbox for the food appears to be getting empty. I was wondering if there was a cellar from which I could restock it?”
“That happens a lot,” Buffy sighed. “There’s a cellar, but it’s for laundry. And Spike. I’m gonna have to buy more food.”
Captain Jack put his hand in his pocket and drew out two small gold coins, offering them gallantly. “Please allow me.”
Buffy took the coins and stared at them. “Do you think the supermarket will take pieces of eight?”
“Maybe you can stop by the coin shop?” Willow suggested. “They’re probably pretty valuable.”
“May I escort you to the market?” Jack offered.
Willow looked him up and down. “Not like that. Buffy, you should see if Spike has anything to spare.”
Buffy nodded. “I’m guessing black jeans and a black t-shirt. C’mon, let’s see if anything’s clean.” She preceded Jack down the hallway.
“Do you think he heard anything?” Willow asked Giles when they were out of earshot.
“He didn’t appear to, but looks can be deceiving.”
The corners of Willows mouth turned down. “Especially if you’re a pirate.”
* * *
“Bloody hell!” Spike said as Buffy, Jack and Anya strode into the kitchen with their arms full of groceries. “Are those my clothes? You know, I have a small enough wardrobe without you lending it out.”
“Relax,” Buffy said, reaching into a bag, “It’s just for now. And here,” she paused, pulling a bottle of Jack Daniels out of the paper bag. “Adequate compensation.”
Spike’s brows shot up as he accepted the liquor. “You strike oil somewhere that I don’t know about?”
“It was Captain Sparrow’s idea. He paid for all of this with one gold coin!”
Spike turned to look at Jack, who inclined his head conspiratorially. “They appear to be worth considerably more now than they were in my day.” He smoothed the black t-shirt on his chest. “And I do appreciate the loan.”
Spike hefted the bottle. “Any time.”
“Perhaps I could join you later? I’m curious to see what they’ve done with whiskey.”
Spike nodded. “Like I said. Any time.”
Later that evening, Buffy persuaded Jack to part with his old clothes so that she could put them in the washing machine. Jack agreed, as much to see the machine as to get his clothing cleaned. He’d already been introduced to the marvel of a shower, which he referred to as “the indoor waterfall” and seemed to like far more than any pirate she’d ever read about. Now he watched keenly as she added the detergent and closed the lid of the machine.
“And this uses magic?” he asked.
“No, electricity. Remember what I told you? It plugs in over there. You just push this button in and away it goes.” She pushed the button and the machine rumbled to life. Captain Jack took a surprised step back.
“Not to worry, mate,” Spike said, clearly amused. “It doesn’t bite.”
“When the clothes are clean, you just put them in here and press that button, and they get dry. Except for the stuff you don’t want to shrink, which you hang up.” She pointed to the bag of clothespins suspended from the ceiling on a hook. “That’s all there is to it.”
“Truly a marvel,” Jack shook his head, then eyed the punching bag near the stairs. “And this?” He walked over to the bag and pressed his hand against it, then looked down beside it to an umbrella stand filled with wooden swords.
“Punching bag,” Buffy answered as he lifted a sword out of the bin. “To practice, well, punching.”
Jack hefted the wooden sword, then looked at her oddly. “You practice this?” Jack assumed a swordsman’s stance.
“Punching. Fighting. Yeah.” Buffy shrugged. “We’re kind of in the middle of a war.”
Jack let the tip of the sword drop and regarded her seriously. “Of this I was unaware. Can you tell me about it?”
Unsure, Buffy looked at Spike. “Doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere, love. Maybe you should tell him.” His blue eyes were guileless. “ A man should know what he’s getting into.” The look between them deepened until Buffy looked away. “Right. Okay. Better sit down, this could take a while.”
They talked for more than two hours. Buffy was surprised at how flexible Captain Sparrow’s mind was, and at how quickly he grasped the nuances of their situation. He seemed unrattled by the concepts of demons and vampires, apparently they were, along with zombies and ghosts, an accepted part of the mythology of his own time. Spike actually being a vampire was a bit of a shock, and though the captain purported to find it very interesting, he seemed extremely relieved to discover that the vampire had a soul and was no longer killing in the traditional way. It was all a lot for any man to swallow, but Jack Sparrow seemed to accept it all with grace and no small amount of curiosity. When Buffy neared the end of her explanations and Jack seemed to be slowing down his questions, Spike cracked open the bottle of whiskey and poured each of them a shot.
“So it would seem I’ve left one last stand for another,” Jack said thoughtfully.
“Yes, but you don’t have to stay. You could leave Sunnydale. A lot of people are starting to do that, and they don’t even know what’s coming. And it’s not really your fight,” she added, giving him an honorable out.
“Sounds like it’s everyone’s fight,” Jack answered. ‘It’s only a question of where and when.”
“Well, it’s true that if we lose....”
“Well then,” Jack said, lifting his whiskey. “’To right, and might and the coming fight,’” he quoted. “Salut!”
They drank, Buffy making a terrible face and shivering as it went down. Spike noted that Jack had not actually committed himself, and didn’t think he could blame him. It took some getting used to, some time to process, and even when you did, it wasn’t a pretty picture.
Jack held up the empty glass. “Remarkable,” he said. “Almost too smooth for my taste.”
Spike refilled the glass. “Plenty of rotgut to be had if you’ve a mind for it.”
Jack downed it easily. “I think this could grow on me.” He stood, stretched, and lifted the wooden sword. “I hope you have better weapons than this.”
“Those are just for practice,” Buffy told him. “We were using the real thing, but, well, way too many cuts in practice.”
Jack nodded. “Still, you’ve balanced them well and there is an edge.”
Buffy turned a warm gaze on Spike. “He did that. He thought it would make it easier for them to learn.”
Jack looked from one to the other. “Very wise.” He waved the sword, cutting through the air in intricate patterns. Then looking at Spike: “Care to have a go?”
“I will,” Buffy said, jumping up and reaching for a sword.
Alarmed, Jack looked at Spike, who grinned at him. “I didn’t mean....I wouldn’t want anyone getting hurt.”
“Right,” Spike agreed. “Don’t hurt the boy, Buffy.”
“But—“ Captain Jack turned just in time to block a blow at his head. The wooden swords cracked together, and Buffy retreated to come at him again. A few more parries and Sparrow realized that however tiny and attractive his opponent appeared, she was a serious challenge to his abilities. They danced across the basement floor, throwing dangerous slashes and thrusts, both countering with expert skill. Buffy realized that Jack fought very much like Spike, wavering between his desire not to hurt her and his need to prove his manliness. Like Spike as well, Jack was one of the only people in the house who could give her a really good workout.
Buffy broke out into a sweat, the sheen of it on her forehead catching the gleam from the basement light. Spike stood off to one side, arms folded, thoroughly enjoying the spectacle. God, she moved well, he thought, then considered another kind of movement altogether. Hard not to come back to that… he thought, trying to push the mental image firmly down. He was still trying when Buffy stomped the edge of a small laundry basket, making it jump into the air, then batted it at Sparrow like a baseball. He swept it deftly aside, swung his sword up in a high arc that slashed into the bag of laundry pins over Buffy’s head. The rounded pins spilled down on her, startling her and getting underfoot. Slipping backward on them, Buffy went down hard on her backside, the sword clattering on the cement floor. She reached for it but Sparrow pinned it neatly beneath his foot, his own sword pointed at her throat. She looked up at him darkly with the netting of the clothespin bag still on her head.
Somewhere in the background, Spike started to laugh.
“You cheated!” she accused.
“I won,” he answered simply. He flicked the bag off her head and extended his hand. She looked at it, then at Spike, who was still laughing. It was a sound she’d very rarely heard, this laugh that came up from deep within him, and something inside her melted. She grinned and took the extended hand, then went to pummel Spike’s chest, starting to laugh herself as she told him to shut up.
* * *
The days slipped by, Sparrow integrating himself neatly into household. He shared the basement with Spike and helped train the girls, with whom he flirted shamelessly. At first Buffy was concerned at the moon-eyes some of them made at him, but then she realized that he saw them all as the girls they were and was not interested in taking the flirtation any farther. He was a good storyteller, and at night they’d turn the lights down low and beg for stories of high seas adventures. He always obliged, entertaining even Spike, who snorted and rolled his eyes at the obvious embellishments but never left the room. The girls in turn made it their responsibility to bring him into the 21st century, catching him up on the modern marvels of such things as television and gel-filled sneakers. Xander drove everyone crazy with his Arg, matey! imitations and Andrew followed Sparrow like a faithful puppy whenever he permitted it. This he did with good, if somewhat confused, grace. For the most part Jack Sparrow behaved himself, and even when he didn’t he usually found a way to charm Buffy out of her annoyance.
Spike in particular seemed to enjoy his company. The two spent a lot of time together, and Buffy thought they probably had a lot in common. Sometimes it bothered her, but Jack could make Spike laugh, and that, she realized, was a sound she would never get tired of. And it wasn’t like she was being left out, she reasoned. Spike always welcomed her company when the two were together. Still, she had never had to share his attention before with anyone. She thought she was handling it pretty well.
At least she thought she was until that Thursday night.
At Jack’s request, they’d gone to the beach that day. Anya had packed a lunch, Dawn had gotten clearance from Willow and Giles (who were still working furiously at cracking the amulet’s secrets). Buffy had been glad to get away for a few hours. Xander drove them, ever watchful even at the beach, and the five of them had had a fine afternoon. But it had been almost heart-breaking when Jack had first climbed across the sand to look at the ocean. He stood very still, the wind lifting the beaded braids he still wore in his hair, his eyes squinting against the glare as he looked out over the water. Buffy thought for a moment that he might be searching the horizon for his beloved Pearl, then realized he was just looking with the same love at the sea. He’d suddenly kicked off his shoes, yanked off his shirt and made a run for the water before anyone could introduce him to the concept of a bathing suit. His head broke the water past the line where the waves were cresting, and he swam with the long, sure strokes of a true sailor. The water was cold this time of year, and he didn’t stay in long, but he worked himself hard, coming out exhausted to flop down on the blanket they’d laid out. He didn’t say much all day, but in the end when they went home, he thanked Buffy most sincerely.
That night he stood out on the porch and watched the sun go down. Spike joined him as soon as it was safe. Buffy could hear the low tones of their conversation in the kitchen, but couldn’t make out any of the words.
“Smoke?” Jack offered, having purchased his own carton of cigarettes as well as one for Spike. The vampire slipped one out of the open pack; he’d offer one of his own later. He lit them both with the silver lighter.
“Something like that work with kerosene?” Jack asked, nodding at the lighter.
They stood smoking in silence. Spike had sensed Jack’s mood immediately, but was giving him time to get around to it. When that didn’t happen, Spike leaned against the railing and spoke quietly. “What’s on your mind, mate?”
Jack looked at him, surprised, then looked away. His smile was sardonic. “The Pearl. The ocean.” He waved a hand. “The fight. My crew. My time…”
“You’ll adjust. It’ll just take time.”
“Which I understand is in short supply anyway.” Jack rolled on his elbow on the railing to face Spike. “Even if it wasn’t, I don’t belong here.”
Spike tilted his head. “Maybe you do. Ever thought of that? Maybe it’s your destiny to come through time to fight the First. Maybe you’ll do something no one else could.”
Jack grinned a deep pirate grin. “I appreciate that spin, mate, I truly do. But let’s be reasonable. I have no idea who this First really is, and let me tell you, it’s hard to gear up for a fight when your enemy doesn’t have a face you hate. I know, I know,” he added quickly, holding up a hand. “It’s the First Evil. It’s every face I hate. I understand the concept, “ he pointed to his head. “Here. But here,” he said more softly, pointing to his heart. “Here, I just want to go home and fight for my mates.” He turned back to the railing. “If any of them are still alive.”
Spike remained silent, thinking it best not to remind Sparrow of the year and the fact that his mates were most assuredly not still alive.
“I’d like to think that medallion did something for them before it brought me here. Giles and Willow keep sayin’ it’s out of power now.” He looked out over the yard, lit by the light of a rising three quarter moon. “It’s not just the fighting. It’s what’s to be done when it over. Here,” he spread his hands, “there are no pirates roaming the seas. Every land and every island has been explored, charted and catalogued. Nations have neatly divided the world and even a lot of the seas. “ He gave a little laugh. “Even if I could procure another ship, I’d have no idea how to run it. And what crew would follow me? Where would we go?”
Spike had no answer; he knew all too plainly how Jack felt.
“Sometimes if I close my eyes, I can feel the deck under me, hear the riggin’ creakin’ and smell the salt.” He closed his eyes a moment and drew in a breath, then let it out slowly and opened them again. “And then I open them and die a little because I know I’ll never have that freedom again.” He shook his head. “Don’t you ever feel it, mate? You were born over a hundred years ago. Don’t you ever long for that time to be back?”
“No. I wouldn’t go back to what I was.”
Jack cocked his head, momentarily diverted. “And what was that?”
Spike made a face. “Much younger.”
Jack laughed a little. “All right. Confess then. What were you before you were a vampire? No wait, let me guess.”
Spike grinned. It was a clever ruse really, a way to get an answer to a question he might otherwise not have been inclined to answer.
“Let’s see now...You were an educated man.” Jack narrowed his eyes. “You try to hide it, but little things give you away.”
“You’re probably the only one to notice.”
“No doubt. I’m guessing a gentleman of some import. Small family fortune, classical education, tour of Europe, the things all young gentlemen are expected to do.” Spike shrugged noncommittally. Jack continued, “And not nearly so dangerous.”
Spike laughed outright. “No. Not nearly.”
“Patron of the arts,” Jack continued, tilting his head and scrutinizing Spike.
“Yeah,” Spike said, flapping his leather duster. “The opera coat give me away?”
“That’s now,” Jack said astutely. “We’re talking about then. There’s one way at least that I know you’re like me: we both appreciate beautiful women and beautiful things.” He nodded. ”If I’d had the means or the standing in my youth, I would have been a great patron of all the arts.” Jack smoothed the black t-shirt over his chest as if it were a silk waistcoat. “Go ahead, deny it. I won’t believe you.”
Spike shook his head. “I don’t deny it. But it was a very long time ago.”
Jack was quiet a moment, then asked, “What did you want then? More than anything else?”
Spike took out another cigarette and offered the pack to Jack, who waved it away. “I wanted,” he said, flicking open his lighter with his thumb and touching the flame to the tip of the cigarette, “to be a poet.”
Jack turned to face him again, surprised. “A poet?”
Spike nodded, a part of him bracing for the inevitable laughter, but it never came. “A poet and a vampire,” Jack mused. “An interesting combination to be housed in one skin.” His lips curved upward. “I love poetry myself, especially when it’s written about the sea. There’s quite a lot of it out there, calling the sea one’s mistress, and so forth...” He waved his hand again. “Some of it’s terrible, but some of it,” he looked down, “some of it seems to speak right to my heart.” He leaned in and dropped his voice. “And let’s face it, it never hurts to memorize a few verses. Women love it when you can liken their eyes to some celestial sphere.” He laughed and Spike laughed with him.
“Were you any good? Have any success at it?”
“God, no!” Spike drew on his cigarette. “I was bloody awful.” They laughed again. “But it was what I wanted. Maybe the lesson here is that you shouldn’t always get what you want.”
“No,” Jack said. “Every man should get what he wants at least once. If only for a moment.”
“To learn the real value of it?”
Jack looked at him oddly, as if he hadn’t expected him to understand. Suddenly very serious, he dropped his voice again. “Can I tell you something? Just between us?”
Before Spike could answer, the screen door slapped against its frame and Buffy came out onto the porch. “Hey guys. Whatcha doing?”
Jack closed his mouth on what he was going to say and straightened. “Uh, nothing, just having a smoke,” Spike offered. Buffy looked from one man to the other, and they looked wordlessly back at her.
“Okay...” she drawled. “Nice night.”
They both agreed monosyllabically, and they both continued to look at her.
“No really,” she said at last. “What’s up?”
“Uh, we were kind of in the middle of something, Buffy. If you could just give us a minute?” Spike said.
“The two of you? Alone? As in me go inside?”
Buffy bristled. “Fine. I’ll go,” she said in clipped tones. She turned on her heel and marched back into the house.
“Well,” Jack said as the screen door slammed. “That could have been better.”
Spike took a deep breath. “She isn’t usually like this.”
“Perhaps you should go after her?”
“I will, but what was it you wanted to tell me?”
Jack looked as though he might speak, then thought better of it. “Nothing important. Another time. Go find your lady.”
* * *
He found her on the front porch. “Buffy...”
“Leave me alone.”
He came up beside her and put a hand on her arm, but she flinched away. “Buffy, come on...”
“I said leave me alone. What are you doing here anyway? Why aren’t you with your pirate friend talking about...pirate things?”
“Buffy, be reasonable. He was trying to tell me something and wasn’t comfortable with you there.”
She pushed him away. “Trying to tell you what?”
Spike’s cheeks drew in as his expression turned angry. “Well, I don’t know now, do I? Seein’ as he never had a chance to actually tell me.”
“Well then why don’t you go back out there with him and let him tell you?” Buffy was aware of the shrillness of her voice and the foolishness of what she was saying but couldn’t seem to stop.
“Because it’s more important to me to—“ he stopped suddenly, his brows drawing together. “Wait a minute, that’s what this is really about then, innit?”
“What do you mean?” Buffy said petulantly.
“You’re jealous,” Spike said evenly.
“I am not!” Buffy declared, her voice rising again.
“You are too!” Spike said decisively. “It’s fine for you, you have a house full of mates to talk to, people to go out on dates with, and me at your heel whenever you want. But if I spend time with anyone else, you feel some of the light’s gone out of your bloody universe!”
“You can do whatever you want!”
Buffy started to leave but Spike grabbed her arm. “Oh no, Slayer, we’re having this one out!”
“Let go of me!” Buffy wrenched her arm free and stood glaring at him till Spike turned as if to leave himself.
“You know, Buffy, sometimes you can be damn hard to be around.”
Spike turned back to her, angry again, advancing on her until her back was against the wall. The porch light gleamed off his corneas. “It’s not like I have any choice.” He wasn’t touching her, but she had the sensation of being pinned to the wall all the same. To her horror, Buffy’s eyes started to fill with tears. Spike watched them form and felt the anger drain right out of him as the wetness reached her lashes. Whatever he had been about to say evaporated on his lips.
The tears spilled over onto her cheeks and made their way down her face. Spike sighed.
“You come first, Buffy,” he said at last, his voice pitched low. “You always will. That’s why I’m here now, if it matters to you. That’s why I’ll continue to be here no matter what.” He raised a hand and touched her hair. “I’m the Slayer’s man; I know my place.” He smoothed the hair away from her face and tucked it behind her ear. “And with all that’s going on with the First, you need to be strong now. I understand that too.” He looked into her eyes, and for a moment all she could see in his was pain. “So if me bein’ friends with Jack Sparrow is hurting that, hurting you...”
“No!” Buffy threw her arms around his neck as more tears ran down over her cheeks. “No,” she said again into his neck. “I’m just being...stupid.”
Spike closed his eyes at the feel of her arms around him, her slender body flush against his own. He put his arms around her, breathing in the smell of her hair, resisting the urge to kiss the tears off her cheeks. “I’m here for you, Buffy. Whenever you need me.”
That made her cry more, but it also made her hold onto him a little longer. “I’m sorry,” she said, letting go all too soon and wiping her eyes. He stood with his hands on her shoulders, and she allowed the small intimacy. “You’re right. I’ve gotten used to you always being there for me, every moment of the day. But you’re wrong about me being able to talk to a house full of people.” She swallowed and sniffed a little. “I can’t talk to anyone else the way I talk to you. You understand things they...they just don’t get.” She gave a small laugh. “You know, like living, dying, living...”
He smiled at her and cupped her face with one hand, brushing his thumb across her cheek. “I’ll always listen, Buffy.”
“I know. “
“As for the captain—”
“Be friends with the captain. Have a party. I just... I just needed to hear you say...what you said.” She looked up at him with those tearstained eyes and wanted to kiss her. Oh God, how he wanted to. She might have even let him, but he would never know if it was because she wanted that kiss or because she somehow felt she should to make it up to him. She had kissed him like that once in the basement, and while he would take any affection she offered, it was not the same as the hungry kisses from the days when she had wanted him. So he swallowed hard against the lump in his throat and pulled her in close to place the gentlest of kisses on her forehead. “Come ‘round any time you need remindin’.”
* * *
Buffy smiled as she passed the basement door and another chorus of “Yo Ho!” filtered up from the basement. After talking to Spike any jealousy she felt over his friendship with Jack had evaporated. She also realized that he usually sought her out first. She hadn’t realized how off-hand she’d been about that, how she’d brushed him off when the mood suited her and sought him out again when it turned his way. She poked her head downstairs and yelled goodnight, which they returned in cheerful harmony.
“So you straightened things out then?” Jack asked as the door closed.
“You could say that.”
“S’good,” Jack said, the rum lightly slurring his words. “It’s never good to have a lady mad at you.”
“That the voice of experience talkin’?”
Jack grinned. “Do you know there’s a certain port,” Jack began, leaning in and punctuating his words with one waving finger. “On the far side of Barbados where a lady keeps...keeps a loaded gun on her bedside table every night?”
“Afraid you’ll come back?”
Jack let out a laugh that dissolved into an almost soundless giggle. “No,” he said, gasping for breath, “prayin’ that I will so she can shoot off my manhood!”
This struck Spike as inordinately funny, and he laughed till his side ached. It got them swapping stories of their adventures, and ultimately, their lives. Jack threw his arm over Spike’s shoulders. “You should meet the rest of my mates, you’d like them all,” Jack avowed. “I know because we’re alike, you and I, two of a kind.” He withdrew the arm and slapped Spike on the back with it. “And I’ll tell you quite honestly, you’re something else that’s hard to find in this world...”
Spike looked at him sideways. “What’s that?”
Jack leaned in. “A good man.” He nodded for emphasis and emptied the last of the rum into his glass, missing the stricken expression on Spike’s face.
* * * *
The days slipped past uneventfully. Buffy realized that she missed being able to be alone with Spike in the basement at night, and from the soulful looks he gave her before retiring, she knew that he missed it too. They caught up with each other in other places, but were never able to be alone together for long — there were just too many people about in the house.
One evening when Jack was engaged in storytelling, Buffy noticed that Spike was nowhere to be seen. Accidentally catching Jack’s eye, he waggled his eyebrows toward the basement without missing a beat in his tale. Frowning, Buffy slipped out of the room and padded down the stairs. Spike was alone, stretched out on his cot, as surprised to see her as she was to find him there.
“Jack’s telling a story,” she told him. “You’re missing it.”
“So are you.”
“Yeah, well, I think I’ve heard enough pirate stories for a while.” She brought up a hand and rubbed the back of her neck, then leaned her head from one side to the other, stretching her neck. The crick stubbornly remained. “He does tell them well though.” She laughed. “I just never know how much to believe.”
She looked at him, lying so relaxed on the cot, one arm thrown up behind his head, the other outstretched to her, and fought the urge to run to him.
“Come here, Buffy.” He pushed himself up and smoothed his hair back with his hands. She walked tentatively over to the bed.
Unsure, she sat on the edge of the bed. ”Spike, I...”
“Shsssh...” He brought up both hands and put them on her near the base of her neck, rubbing the sore muscles with perfect dexterity. Buffy let out an inadvertent moan of pleasure and he grinned. “Haven’t heard that sound in a while,” he teased. She wanted to make some clever comeback, but she was afraid it would make him stop. His fingers moved along her neck and shoulders with just the right pressure in all the right places, as much a natural talent as an acquired skill. When her neck felt soft and floppy he moved down her back, pausing to pull her down to the bed, where he massaged her from fingertips to hips. When he stopped she laid there bonelessly, eyes closed, breathing in his light scent from the pillow, telling herself she should shrug off this incredibly sensual feeling that had taken her over and get the hell out of the basement.
The cot creaked as he lay down beside her, his back to the wall. He didn’t pretend to give her space; his body came down close against hers and she wanted to sink back into it. His hand moved to her back, stroking gently, then curled against her waist, pressing her against him. She yielded, easily, gratefully, and he held her against him until her rapid pulse slowed and her breathing evened with sleep.
* * * *
“Buffy? What is it?” Willow stood framed in the bedroom doorway. Buffy looked up from her place beside the window. She wanted to say nothing, but that would have been a lie. “Get everybody downstairs. Something’s coming.” Alarm raced across Willow’s features, but she nodded and ran down the hall to the other bedrooms.
Everyone assembled downstairs. It was nearly two A.M. Spike, looking wary, leaned his shoulder against the wall. Jack sat in the armchair near him, one leg hooked over the arm, sword in his lap, rubbing his eyes. The girls, hastily dressed, sat around the living room, each holding a weapon. Xander and Anya watched at the windows while Willow and Dawn manned the windows in the kitchen. They’d been like that for the last twenty minutes.
“If I’m wrong about this guys, I’m sorry,” Buffy said, looking down the hall at Willow, who mouthed No. Nothing yet.
“Better safe than sorry,” Anya said, lifting her axe. “But the waiting is hard.”
Giles came in from the dining room. “Anything?”
Buffy shook her head. “Not yet.”
“This is the same group that attacked you in the alley?” Jack asked. “How many of them are there?”
“Yes, the same. As for how many, there seems to be a limitless supply.”
Jack smiled when he thought she was joking, then turned it to a frown when he realized she wasn’t.
“That pistol loaded?” Spike asked behind him.
“Always,” Jack answered, sharper now.
Half an hour ticked by and the girls shifted restlessly. Giles returned from his vigil in the dining room and looked at Buffy. “Any chance they changed their minds?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. I—“
There was a crash upstairs, the sound of breaking glass. Several of the girls shrieked, and Buffy whirled and ran for the stairs, Spike close behind her. She stopped at the top, listening.
“Ssh!” Spike hissed, and she shut up, relying on his superior hearing. He listened, then silently motioned them forward. When he got to Willow’s bedroom, he stopped and pointed at the closed door. Buffy nodded and moved to the other side where she could rush in when the door was opened. Spike quietly tested the handle, found it locked, and put his shoulder against the wood. Behind him, Giles, Xander and Kennedy readied their weapons.
Spike looked at Buffy and silently counted. One, two, three…
He slammed the wood hard and the lock gave way under the pressure of his shoulder. Buffy bounded into the room, the others rushing in behind her.
It was empty.
Broken glass littered the floor from the window. The room was oddly disheveled, as if someone had started to ransack it and abruptly halted. “The amulet,” Spike said beside her, and she felt something inside her sink. They hadn’t needed to ransack the room because the amulet wasn’t hidden. It had been left out on the table beside the pile of books.
“My amulet?” Jack said from the doorway. “Dirty buggers! Which way did they go?”
Buffy turned helplessly toward Giles. Spike moved forward and picked up a piece of glass. There was a tiny streak of blood on one edge, which he lifted to his nose. He threw it aside and looked at Buffy. “Follow me.”
* * * *
“I have to rest!” Giles gasped, stumbling over a tree root. “You go on!”
“Come on then,” Spike said, pulling at Buffy’s arm. “We’re closing on them!”
“Okay, Giles, you stay here,” Buffy said following him, “We’ll come back for you.” The Watcher nodded and waved them on.
Jack paused, then gave him his pistol. “You’ve got one shot,” he told him, “but it’ll be straight.” He clapped his shoulder then turned to follow Spike.
They caught up to them in the woods near an old vineyard. The Bringers, seemingly single-minded in their purpose, did not appear to know they were being pursued until Buffy took out the one in the rear with her crossbow. Xander dropped another and Spike a third. They stopped and turned, drawing their knives, and Buffy charge forward. Next to her Kennedy let out a battle cry and ran with her sword poised, separating the head from the shoulders of the first bringer she met. Buffy slashed through the midsection of the next and looked up, realizing that the remaining robed figures were scattering into the night. “Follow them!” she shouted. “Don’t let them get away with the amulet!”
The group split, each following a different bringer. Buffy caught up with her quarry quickly, engaging him in a small clearing. The Bringer was short and wiry and very quick, and he managed to flay open her white jacket at the shoulder after a brief but intense fight. She used its own knife against it at the end, then searched the prone figure, cursing when she came up empty. She ran back to the place where the group had split to find Spike leaning with his hands on his knees, breathing in deep breaths of air. “Mine didn’t have it,” he told her, then noticed her shoulder. “Are you hurt?”
“No, but my jacket is a casualty. No way to fix that.”
Xander ran out of the trees. “Anybody get it?” He yelled. “Anybody need help?”
“No. Where’s Kennedy and Captain Ja—“
Jack bounded out of the trees even as Buffy said his name. “That one didn’t have it on his person,” he told them. “Did anyone else get it?
Buffy shook her head. “No, but—“
“Where’s that dark haired girl? “
“I’m here,” Kennedy said from the shadows. She limped into view. “I got him but he didn’t have it on him.”
“Wait a minute,” Xander said, “that was all of them. We got all of them.”
“Maybe there were more we didn’t see?” Kennedy offered. “Should we keep going?”
Buffy looked at Spike. “Could you track them?”
He shook his head. “I don’t think so. The one that was bleedin’ is lyin’ over there. I didn’t catch the scent of any of the others.”
Buffy’s hands fell to her sides. “That’s it then. They got it.”
They stood panting. “At least no one got hurt, “ Xander pointed out.
There was a crashing in the brush and Buffy turned, raising her knife. Giles stumbled forward, still puffing. “Is everyone all right? Did we recover the medallion?”
“Yes,” Buffy answered. “And no, we didn’t get it. We think one of them must’ve gotten away.”
“It’s worse than that, Giles. Now they have a new weapon to use against us.”
“No, I don’t think so,” Giles said, “I think they just wanted to keep it out of your hands. Besides Buffy, I think it’s pretty much drained of the big magics for now. It shouldn’t be any real use to them.”
“Well, they want to keep it away from us for a reason.”
Giles nodded. “Good point.”
“Are we done here then?” Jack asked. Leaning his sword up against his shoulder.
“Yeah,” Buffy answered, “we’re done.”
* * * *
“She took out the three of them all by herself. That’s quite a woman you have there,” Jack said later, tipping the last drops of his whiskey into his mouth. They’d finished Jack’s rum and were working on what was left of Spike’s Jack Daniels. It was still a half hour till dawn.
“She’s not mine.” Spike said it evenly, but it still hurt.
“She’s no one else’s if not yours.” Spike had to roll that statement around in his whiskey-clouded mind a bit to understand what Jack meant. He grunted a non-committal reply. Jack refilled their glasses and sat back, his shoulders against the wall. They’d spent more than a few nights in the company of Captain Morgan or Jack Daniels, but the mood was darker tonight after their failure in the woods. Still, Jack seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the whiskey. But Spike seemed too quiet, and Jack was doing his best to draw him out again. “Look, buck up, mate,” he said cheerfully. “The tweedy guy, he said the amulet wouldn’t do you much good anyway. ‘Twas all spent. And you all lived to fight another day.”
Spike looked at him thoughtfully. “Right.”
“So tell me more about your Buffy,” Jack urged, for it was, after all, part of his experience that men liked to talk about their women, and Spike had been curiously reticent about Buffy.
Spike’s blue eyes were piercing. “Not much to tell really. We were together for a little while.” He shrugged, but his eyes never left Jack’s. “Wouldn’t have worked out anyway.”
Jack nodded. “You mean you bein’ immortal and all?”
“Yeah, that too.”
“But you decided to stay here and help her fight the First anyway?”
“Like I said, she needs me.”
Jack tilted his head. “And afterward?”
“Well, it’s all well and good for now, but what about after the battle’s over? What will you do then?”
“If I live, you mean?” Jack looked at Spike, the realization dawning on him that the vampire did not expect to survive. “I don’t know. Haven’t thought that far ahead.”
Jack was quiet a moment. He considered but didn’t state the obvious, that when the battle was over, Buffy would no longer need Spike. It seemed a depressing thought, so he took a different, and what he thought was a lighter, tack. “Ever bite her?”
Spike could have taken offense but the Jack Daniels had taken the edge off. “Many times,” he said, refilling his glass. “Many places.” He took a sip and met Jack’s eyes. “Never broke the skin.”
They sat on opposite ends of Spike’s cot, dressed in identical black t-shirts and jeans, one pale and blonde and the other dark and deeply tanned, like two sides of the same coin. “Was that a temptation?” Jack asked curiously.
Spike considered the question. “Yes,“ he said finally. “And no.”
“I don’t follow you, mate.”
Spike looked down into the glass, then raised glowering eyes to Sparrow. “I’m a vampire. It’s what I am. She has some of the sweetest blood in Sunnydale. And when we were together, the thought of having some of her inside me....” He closed his jaw on what he was going to say. “Yeah, I wanted to. But I never did. I knew it would hurt her and I knew if I took some I’d always want more. And she...” He shook his head a little. “She meant more to me than that.”
Jack steadied his head, trying to focus on the vampire. “And she’s a Slayer,” he mused. “Might not have felt right about it later.”
“Yeah,” Spike agreed, impressed at this insight. “I thought of that too.”
“Would she have let you?” Jack asked softly, finding the vampire’s eyes.
Spike thought about lying, but his whiskey-warm tongue answered on it’s own.
“Yes. She would have let me do anything.” He closed his eyes.
* * *
“Wednesday night is fish stick night,” Anya insisted. “We can have spaghetti tomorrow night.”
Kennedy waved the box of pasta in her face. “There’s nothing carved in stone that says we have to have fish sticks. Who made that up anyway? I hate fish sticks.”
Anya shrugged, emptying another box of sticks onto a cookie pan and setting the oven. “I’m just following the house tradition. Besides, I like fish sticks.”
“What’s all this about?” Xander asked, walking into the kitchen. “Oooh, fish sticks!”
Kennedy harrumphed and slapped the pasta box down on the counter, walking off in a huff.
“Was it something I said?” Xander asked.
“No,” Anya answered innocently. “You said just the right thing.” She smiled brightly. “Want to help me set the table?”
The fish sticks were greeted by enthusiasm by most of the girls, although in the dining room, Giles regarded them with a pained expression. “I’d forgotten it was Wednesday.”
“Ketchup?” Buffy offered, which did nothing to improve Giles’ expression. “Where’s Captain Jack?”
Giles frowned. “I thought he was downstairs with Spike.”
“No,” Willow said. “I just put in a load of laundry. Spike’s not down there.”
“Back porch?” Willow left the table and came back shaking her head.
“Maybe they went out to buy more rum?” Xander suggested. “They’ve been doing a lot of yo-ho-hoing these past two weeks.”
Buffy smiled. “Yeah, we’re gonna have to slow Captain Jack down a little on that sometime soon.”
Giles looked stricken. “If he’s here.”
“What time is it?”
Buffy turned Xander’s arm to look at his watch. “Quarter to seven, why?”
Giles looked distraught. “Don’t you see? It’s Wednesday, Buffy. Nearly seven o’clock on Wednesday!”
Buffy caught her breath and Xander looked from one to the other, perplexed. “So?”
“The amulet.” Buffy stood up. “He has the amulet! Giles we have to find him!”
Giles put his napkin on the table. “There’s only one place he can go.”
“Back to the alley,” Buffy said flatly. “Get to the van. Let’s go.”
* * * *
The alley was dark. Jack Sparrow picked his way carefully down it, holding his breath and listening for Bringers. Farther down it widened, letting some of the streetlight in on the two dumpsters that sat in residence. Jack walked back and forth across the ground, searching for the telltale circle of darkness on the pavement. It was difficult in the poor light, but he found it all the same. Stepping into it, he pulled the amulet out onto his puffy white shirt, tested the tightness of his sash and sat his hat more firmly on his head. Feeling ready, he stood with his hands at his sides, palms up, closed his eyes and lifted his chin.
“Don’t you have to chant something, say some magic words?” Spike’s voice said from the shadows.
Startled, Jack opened his eyes and scanned the dark alley, finding nothing. Vampire, he thought and licked his lips. Probably pretty good in the dark. “I don’t think so,” he said, not moving from the circle. “But if you know better I do wish you would illuminate me.”
Spike stepped out of the shadows, his hands in the pockets of his duster. “I can’t let you do this, mate.”
Jack’s chin dropped and he eyed Spike thoughtfully. “You know I can’t stay here. You know what it means to me to go back.”
Spike’s eyes were hard, his cheekbones razor sharp in the lamplight. The phrase very dangerous man came to Jack’s mind, and he struggled to reconcile the image with the man who had spent the last two weeks as his friend. “I have to know what happened,” Jack pleaded. Spike advanced but Jack held his ground. “I have to go back.”
“That’s what it was all about then?” Spike asked as if he already knew the answer. “Rum and friendship to throw me off the plan?”
Jack frowned, facing him warily. “What do you mean?”
“You knew I’d be the one to remember. The one who’d stop you.”
“Are you suggesting that I’ve been deceitful in my dealings with you?” Jack said, the frown deepening.
“Not many men befriend a vampire.”
Jack looked him right in the eye. “This one did.”
They stood staring at each other in silence. Jack tilted his head. “The real question now I suppose, is whether or not I’ll have to prove it.”
“Prove it?” Spike echoed. “How could you possibly prove it?”
Jack drew himself up like a nobleman facing execution. His eyes still locked with those of the vampire, he stepped forward out of the circle and held up his hands.
Spike suddenly had the insane desire to push him back in.
Jack lifted the amulet. “It can’t do you any good,” he said. “Not the way it is.”
“Maybe not,” Spike said, less certain.
Jack looked down at the medallion, the crystal winking in the dim light. He looked up abruptly, his eyes wide. “An idea occurs to me,” he said with enthusiasm, “whereby we might both get what we want.”
Spike’s eyes narrowed with suspicion. “What’s that?”
“Consider if you will, that the Bringers may not have been trying to keep it out of your hands, but out of mine.”
“I don’t follow.”
Jack lifted the chain.” Remember what Giles said, the magic has been discharged, it will take time to build up again. There’s just enough to take me home.”
“What if I take it back with me, then find a way to send it forward into your hands, without the jump in time? It would be strong again. You’d get it back, but it would be worth something in a fight again.”
“How would you do that?”
“Well,” Jack said, striving for a reasonable tone. “I don’t know right now. I’d have to find a way. That’s where friendship has to come in, mate. I can only give you my promise. You’ll have to decide if my word’s good enough.”
Spike eyed him intently. “Why should I trust you?”
“Because,” Jack said, offering his hand, “We’re two of a kind.”
Spike stared at him, his expression closed.
Giles! Hurry up! It’s right down that alley! Spike’s vampire ears picked up voices he recognized on the street, coming nearer. Jack smiled at him, a little sadly now, but made no move toward the circle.
“Bloody hell,” he murmured, taking Jack’s hand in a firm grip. “You damn well better get it back to me, or I’ll find one of your descendents and bite him.”
Jack laughed and shook Spike’s hand firmly, then clapped him once on the back. He stepped into the circle and turned. “I promise. Good luck against the First,“ he said most sincerely. “I wish I could be here to help.”
There they are! Hurry!
“You have enough to worry about, mate.” The amulet on Jack’s chest began to glow. He picked it up to look at it, but dropped it when it burned his fingers. “Remember not to do that,” he told Spike, and smirked. “I’ll raise a glass to you when I get home,” Jack promised, holding up one hand in farewell. “It’s been a pleasure.”
Spike nodded. “It has. Here,” he added. “Catch.”
Something glinted in the air as it left Spike’s hand. Jack caught the lighter deftly and grinned. “You won’t need it?”
Spike leaned his head back. “I can get another. “
“We’ll both have one,” Jack said, slipping it into his pocket. He winked. “Two of a kind, mate.”
“Spike!” Buffy shouted beside him. “What are you doing?”
The amulet flared to life, enveloping Sparrow in a golden column of light. Buffy lunged forward, but Spike’s arm shot out, blocking her way. The light exploded into a bright ball, and Spike felt his knuckle burn as Buffy pushed his hand into it.
There was an explosion, at least he thought there was; all he really felt was a ripple, as if someone had shoved him though a wall of molasses. Then they were all standing in the alley looking bewildered.
“Did anybody see that?” Buffy asked.
“See what?” Giles said.
“I thought I saw a flash of light.”
“Really?” Giles pushed up his glasses. “I don’t see anything.” Buffy shrugged and started walking again.
“What was I saying?” Xander asked. “Oh yeah, I think we can be sure there won’t be any bunnies at the apocalypse.”
Temporal disturbance, Spike thought. We’ve been shifted back two weeks, but they don’t remember. He looked down at his hand, where an angry red welt covered his knuckle. I touched it as it happened, that’s why I do. He started walking, still staring at his hand. Temporal mechanics were nasty things he couldn’t begin to puzzle out. Two weeks back…Does that mean it didn’t happen?
He reached into his pocket and took out a cigarette, then fished for his lighter.
It was nowhere to be found.
Grinning suddenly, Spike returned the cigarette to the pack and put it back in his pocket.
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