Buffy, Holden and Spike - and a truth spell...
Timeline/Spoilers: Goes off-canon at Conversations with Dead People
Disclaimer: They're not mine. I just like to take them out and play with them sometimes.
Last chance to stop this madness, Buffy.
He waited, looking relaxed and calm, and gave her what looked like a genuinely warm smile. Then, obviously catching something in her expression, he took a step backwards and held up his hands. "Hey, if you've changed your mind - if you think this is a bad idea - I can just go."
She stared pensively at him, hand clenching reflexively around the stake. In another world, they could have been coming back from a date; she could have just spent a pleasant evening with a cute guy - been to the movies maybe, or a casual dinner. They could have talked, had fun, strolled home hand in hand. And now she would be doing the classic first-date dither: do I or don't I invite him in?
Yeah, in another world. In this one, the evening had consisted of some unpleasant revelations and a rather brutal fight rather than a film or a seafood dinner. Now she was bringing him to face his murderer.
/Alleged murderer/, a part of her brain insisted, clinging to that word like a drowning man. Alleged, alleged, alleged. You don't know anything yet.
Different scenario, same end result. Do I, don't I?
She clamped her jaw hard over the giggle that was suddenly bubbling up in her throat. It felt hysterical, and she simply didn't have time for that.
She opened her mouth, not sure what was going to come out but halfway expecting it to be run, go, get out of here.
Instead she said, "Come in, Holden."
He stepped through the door behind her, then stopped and blinked at the devastation they found themselves facing. "Wow. Looks like there was some serious partying going on here. Shame we missed it."
Buffy took in the sight of the wrecked living room, then flew to the stairs. "Dawn!" she shouted. "Dawn!"
Willow came running, hurtling downstairs into Buffy's arms. "Oh, Buffy, thank god you're back. Did it go after you, too?"
"What? Willow, what happened here? Where's Dawn?"
"She's okay, she's sleeping. Oh, Buffy, it was horrible. I think this thing - you know, the 'beneath you' thing - I think it's coming up for air. I was at the library, and I saw - it spoke to me, it looked like Cassie. It said it had a message from Tara but -" she swallowed, and shook her head. "And Dawnie, she saw your mom. And - and Buffy, who's this?"
Buffy threw a glance at Holden. "Oh. Yeah, this is Holden. He's, uh, well, it's a long story. One that might be connected to what's been going on, I don't know. Will, can you get Xander on the phone? I need him over here, now. And Spike. Tell him to bring Spike."
Xander shook his head at his untouched coffee. "Buffy, are you crazy? What are you trying to create here, the Sunnydale Home for Wayward Vampires?"
Buffy rubbed her eyes. They felt hot and gritty, and she kept them closed for a short, blissful second. /Shut your eyes and it'll all go away/.
Oh, how she wished that were true.
"I know, I know. But - "
"No, I don't think you do. Yeah, Webs was a good guy. Decent. But this - this thing, isn't him. And it doesn't have a chip or a soul, and yet you bring it into the house, with Dawn here."
"He's chained up. He can't hurt anyone."
Xander threw up his hands. "Oh, well, that's all right then. Why didn't you say so? I mean, chained-up vampire is so the essential household accessory these days. Every self-respecting homeowner should have one. Hey, does he have a brother? Some friends or cousins, maybe? Do they come in different colours? Because I'd really want mine to match my dÃ©cor and -"
"Xander - stop. Please."
He ran his hands through his hair, leaving it sticking up. "Buffy - I just don't understand. Why would you - "
"He said that Spike sired him. That Spike... killed him."
Xander's mouth snapped shut, and he stared at her for a long moment. "When?" he said eventually.
She looked down at her hands, curled around her own coffee mug. The coffee itself was just as untouched as Xander's. "Recently. Very. As in, a couple of nights ago."
He let out a long, slow breath. "Shit."
"Yeah. Pretty much my thoughts exactly."
"Do you believe him?"
She looked up at him, helpless. "I don't know."
His expression turned suddenly hard. "You don't want to, you mean."
"No, I don't want to," she snapped. "Do you? Do you want it to be true, that's Spike's killing people?"
Now it was Xander's turn to look down. "No. No, of course I don't. I don't want anyone to be killing people."
"Well, good. At least we agree on that much."
He gave her a small smile. "Common ground is a wonderful thing. But Buffy - if it is true - "
She took a deep breath. "Well, that's what we've got to find out, isn't it?" She pushed her cold coffee away and stood up. "Let's go talk to Spike."
She stared at him until he began to fidget self-consciously. "What? Am I growing another head or something?"
"Good question," said Xander. "Are you? An evil one, maybe?"
Spike frowned at him. "What's the boy been smoking now?"
Xander began to bristle but Buffy put a hand on his arm and he subsided, contenting himself with a baleful glare.
Spike looked at Buffy with wary curiosity. "What's going on?"
She raised her chin. "We were kind of hoping you could tell us that."
"What? I don't get it." He looked from her to Xander in confusion. "What are you talking about?"
"Oh, playing the innocent, are we? Listen here, Mister - "
Buffy shook her head. "Xander, don't."
Ignoring him, Spike took a step towards her. "Buffy, what is it?"
She took a step back, maintaining the distance between them, and tried not to see the hurt flash across his face.
"Come with me," she said.
He gave a little shrug, then followed her down the stairs to the basement in silence.
Holden's eyes snapped open at their approach. "Hey," he said, smiling widely.
Spike looked at Buffy, who just folded her arms and waited.
"Uh - hey," he said.
Buffy waited some more. Holden beamed at them both.
"Well?" she said, finally.
"Aren't you going to say something?"
Spike raised his eyebrows, a touch of annoyance colouring the confusion written on his face. "Okay. How about 'Buffy, why have you got a strange vampire chained up in your basement?' Will that do?"
Buffy watched him carefully. "/Strange/ vampire. So you're telling me you don't know him?"
Spike turned back to Holden, peering at him. "Nope. Never seen him before in my life."
"Willow, are you sure you're okay with this? I don't want to - you know - " Buffy paused, not sure how to put into words what she didn't want to do. /Make you go evil again/.
Willow nodded. "It's okay. I'm okay. You're going to be doing most of the work, anyway. I just have to make the stuff, and then it's up to you." She put down the pestle and mortar, and looked at Buffy. "Are you sure you're okay with it? It's going to be kind of... intimate."
Buffy swallowed. "I'm not exactly happy about it, but we need to know the truth."
Willow began grinding again. "Okay then, if you're sure." She chanted a few words over the powder, then added a noxious-smelling liquid and began to mix it into a paste.
Buffy pulled a face. "Does magic always have to be so stinky?"
Willow shrugged. "Apparently. Maybe it's meant to be a deterrent."
"Will - "
"Honestly, Buffy, I'm okay. I can do this. Giles said I need to practice my control, and this is as good a place as any to start. Baby steps, you know?" She smiled, and offered the little bowl to Buffy. "And you get to be the smelly one for a change. Okay, are you ready?"
Buffy stared at it unhappily, then nodded. "Yes. Ready. Let's do this."
"Okay now, remember - this isn't foolproof. It can't make them answer, and it can't make them tell the truth if they do."
"But if they don't, I'll know."
"Well, I guess that'll have to do."
"Are you sure you don't want us to hang around? I could - "
"No. Go, and take Dawn. I don't want her around in case - in case this goes wrong and I have to, you know. Fight."
In case I have to kill Spike.
Willow gave her a concerned look, but said nothing.
In case I can't.
Buffy took the bowl from Willow's hand, holding her breath. "Right, I'm going. Wish me luck."
"Good luck. Oh, and Buffy?"
Buffy paused in the doorway. "Yeah?"
"When you're linked, remember it goes all ways."
Willow smiled. "If you've got any secrets of your own, this would not be a good time to bring them up."
"Right. Right. Okay, thanks Will."
She squared her shoulders and headed down to the basement, the little bowl held out at arm's length.
"Secrets," she mumbled to herself under her breath. "As if I have any secrets."
Holden peered into the bowl in Buffy's hand with interest. "This is really fascinating. I never knew that there was so much I didn't know. Vampires, Slayers, magic...it's just, like, wow." He leaned forward. "Can I take notes? Would you mind? Of course, you'd have to unchain me. But I'd be good, I promise."
Buffy scooped out a little of the paste and wiped it on his forehead. "Yes," she said shortly.
"Yes I can, or yes you do mind?"
She scowled at him until he shrugged and sat back in the chair. She took another scoop of the paste, then walked over to Spike and applied it to his forehead too. He wrinkled his nose in a perfect expression of disgust, which almost made her laugh until she reminded herself that this was serious business. The level of serious that could wind up finishing in a cloud of dust.
That sobered her, and she returned to her own seat. She looked into the bowl uncertainly, then took a deep breath and gingerly smoothed a small glob onto her own skin. The paste felt grainy and unpleasant. A splodge dripped onto her eyebrow and she wiped it off, grimacing.
She waited, then looked at the two vampires facing her. Holden looked back expectantly, while Spike's expression was apprehensive and still more than a little confused.
"Okay," she said. "Here we go. Are you ready?"
"For anything," said Holden with a big smile.
Buffy ignored him and looked at Spike, who frowned. "I don't like this. Messing with magic, it's - " he broke off, and just shook his head.
She put the bowl down on the floor beside her chair. "Yeah, I know. I'm not exactly doing the thrilled-Buffy dance myself. But we don't have time to play detective, and this is quicker."
Spike eyed the bowl on the floor with distrust. "Are you sure you know what you're doing?"
"No. Next question?"
He glanced across at Holden. "Maybe I ought to be tied up as well."
"Into bondage, huh?" Holden murmured with a small nod. "Interesting."
Buffy glared at him and then turned back to Spike. "What?"
He shifted in the chair, looking uncomfortable. "If there really is something wrong with me, and there's any chance that this could bring it out - I don't want to risk you getting hurt."
Holden leaned forward. "Oh, come on. It is a bondage thing, isn't it? After what you told me that night about the good old days with - what was his name? Angelo? I mean, if you used to -" He broke off, looking from Spike to Buffy, then sat back again. "Okay, maybe that's a story for another time."
He grinned at her, a contemplative expression on his face. "Well, I certainly used to have more tact when I was human. Would never have dreamed of bringing up the question of a subject's sexual behaviours, which may or may not have been mentioned in confidence, in front of a third party. And a female one at that. And really, Buffy, you can put the stake away. I'm shutting up now." He nodded at her. "Carry on."
Buffy threw him another death-glare. "Thanks," she said. "I'm so grateful for your permission. Right, I think we -" she paused, looking at his face. "What?"
Holden was leaning forward again, looking at her in wonder. "Wow, that's neat."
Buffy frowned, then looked at Spike. He, too, was peering at her closely. "What?" she asked again, hand going self-consciously to her hair.
"Your lips," he said, then stopped.
The hand flew to her mouth instead. "/What?/" she spat.
"They're blue," supplied Holden, still looking fascinated. "It's a little Goth-y, but it kinda works for you."
She jumped out of the chair and stalked to the mirror on the wall, blinking as
she took in her reflection. They hadn't been kidding: her lips had turned a bright, cobalt blue. She pursed them, pouting at the mirror.
"Guess that's what happens when you lie, then," said Spike.
She turned back to look at him. "Huh?"
He gave her a small smile. "I could be wrong, but I was pretty sure I detected a note of sarcasm in what you just said about being grateful to our boy, here. I think the spell must have kicked in and picked up on the fact that it wasn't an entirely truthful statement."
"Oh. Right." She rubbed at her lips, but it had no effect. "Wow. You know, this could be kinda useful in the right colour. It would sure beat leaving lipstick all over everything. I wonder if Willow could adapt the spell to - " she broke off, and sighed. "And this really isn't about cosmetics. Focus, Buffy."
She turned away from the mirror, then took a deep breath and sat down again. "Let's do this. Spike, tell me a lie."
"My name is Xander," he said in a firm voice, then raised his eyebrows at her.
Buffy nodded. "Blue," she said, then turned to Holden. "Now you."
"I'm a professional belly dancer."
She nodded again. "Okay, I think that establishes that. Now we need to know what colour the truth is."
"Yellow," said Spike.
"You weren't lying when you said that. And you've gone yellow."
Another trip to the mirror told Buffy that was also the truth. "Gross," she said, examining her reflection critically. "I look jaundiced."
"It's not your best colour," Spike admitted, and Buffy watched his lips also turn a pale yellow shade.
"Well, I think that's told us how this works. So now - "
Holden shook his head. "Not necessarily."
"Well, it's not as simple as telling the truth versus lying, is it? You could say something that you've just got wrong. You're not lying, because it's not deliberate, but then you're not telling the truth either."
Buffy closed her eyes briefly. "This is going to give me a headache," she muttered.
Holden gave her an apologetic grin. "What can I say? I like details. And you've got to make sure everyone's on the same page in these kind of situations, that you're all using the same definitions."
She stared at him. "This isn't a group therapy session, you know."
The grin widened. "If you say so."
"I do. But you have a point, I'll admit that. Okay, let's test it. Try and say something that's just randomly wrong."
He looked at her thoughtfully. "You're currently wearing very tiny red lace panties," he said eventually, then grinned at her expression. "You know, I really like this dispensing with social etiquette thing. It's fun. I could get used to it."
"Don't bank on that," growled Buffy, trying to stop the flush from creeping into her face.
He pulled at his bottom lip, wiggling it. "Well? How'd I do?"
"You're wrong," she admitted, after sneaking a quick peek down the waistband of her jeans. "And you've gone kind of greenish."
"You're not wearing any panties at all," he said, and then winked at her. "This is all in the name of research, you understand. Now that's not exactly a lie but it's a far less likely guess. So I suppose it should be going bluer now?"
Buffy nodded. "This is getting way too complicated," she said, rubbing absently at her temple. "And can we please get off the subject of my underwear?"
"I don't think it's that bad," said Holden. "Polygraph tests are way more involved. You've got to worry about stress levels and autonomic responses and all sorts of stuff, whereas all we've got to do is check a colour chart. I think we can manage that. Oh, and sure. About the underwear thing, I mean. It's fine. We don't have to talk about your intimacy issues if you're not comfortable with that."
Buffy pulled the mirror off the wall and hauled it over to rest against the table leg where she could see it. "I know what you're trying to do," she said. "And it won't work."
Holden looked up, expression perfectly innocent. "What?"
"You're trying to distract me from the fact that you're an evil, lying vampire who's set up this whole thing just to try and stop me from staking you. And I do not have intimacy issues."
"Of course not," said Holden, grinning. Buffy glanced at her blue-lipped reflection and groaned.
"Right, that's it. This is not a psychoanalyze the Slayer session, okay? There will be no more discussion about issues. This is about facts." She took a deep breath and pointed at Holden before he could say another word. "Who sired you?"
Holden sat up as straight as the chains would allow. He nodded towards Spike. "He did."
Buffy stared hard at Holden's mouth. His lips were a clean, untainted lemon colour. "Say it," she said. "Be specific."
Holden assumed a long-suffering expression. "I was sired - bitten, killed, made a vampire, take your pick - by Spike. And when I say Spike I mean that guy, sitting right there."
Buffy waited, but his lips stayed resolutely yellow.
"I see," she said softly.
She turned to look at Spike, suddenly very conscious of the fact that they hadn't resolved the question of whether or not he should be tied up. She got slowly to her feet and reached into her pocket for the stake, gripping it so hard it hurt.
Spike was watching Holden, shaking his head. "No. No. I didn't do this. I /didn't/."
"Green," said Holden.
Buffy whipped around to face him. "What?"
"His lips are green."
Buffy continued to stare, the words not really registering. The specifics of the spell were suddenly out of reach, lost in the sound of her own blood pounding in her ears. All she could grasp was that Holden had been telling the truth. Spike had killed him.
Holden was leaning forward again, looking at Spike with evident fascination. "It means he's wrong, but he's not lying. So he did it, but he didn't /know/. Or he forgot, I suppose. That would work. Although it's kind of insulting from my point of view."
"Huh? What?" Buffy looked at Spike, whose expression just reflected her own confusion. She ran a hand through her hair, relieved to find that her head was actually still in place and not exploding all over the room.
"I thought you were supposed to be the expert on all this stuff? How come I seem to be the only one who following the plot, here?"
Buffy advanced on him, still holding the stake. She hefted it. "Well done, Webs. Top marks, you get a gold star. And unless you want to have nothing but a pile of dust to pin it to, start explaining to the rest of the class."
"Isn't it obvious? Yellow is the truth, blue is a lie and green means you just got it wrong. When he said he didn't do it, he got green. So he thought he was telling the truth, but he wasn't."
Buffy slowly lowered the stake, looking over at Spike. He shook his head, looking sick. "Buffy, I - if I did this, I don't remember it."
Holden nodded. "See? Yellow. So that's the truth. Although, as I said, kind of insulting."
Buffy sank back onto her chair. "How is this possible? How can you do something like this and not even know that you've done it? What the hell is going on?"
Spike shook his head, his face strained. "I don't know."
"This has got to be connected with what happened to Willow and Dawn. It can't be a coincidence. Whatever it is, it's making its move." She stood up again, and began to pace. "It pretended to be a - a ghost, a spirit, of people we knew. Cassie, my mom - it tried to scare them, to get Willow to kill herself. Is it trying to get me to kill you?"
"Maybe it's got the right idea."
Buffy whirled around. "What?"
Spike kept his head down, speaking to the floor. "Buffy - if this thing, whatever it is, if it can control me, make me kill - it's not safe. I'm not safe. You should kill me."
"No. No. I don't know what's going on, but we'll figure it out. You'll just have to stay here, where I can keep an eye on you."
"It's too dangerous."
"Buffy, I killed someone. With the chip, with the soul, I still killed someone. Don't you understand that?" He pointed at Holden. "Because his corpse is sitting right there, if you're having trouble with the concept."
Holden blinked. "Kinda not complaining, really. I mean, not that 'corpse' is a particularly attractive word, but hey. It might have only been a one-night-stand to you - and not a very memorable one at that - but it was fun. Even the biting thing was, you know - " he shrugged. "I like that kind of stuff. And being a vampire is great. Apart from the whole Slayer-wants-to-kill-you thing, but I'm hoping we've worked through that now. Obviously, a Slayer and a vampire can have a very productive relationship. And Buffy, that word is intended in the sense of general interaction, not a physical relationship. Although, of course, I'd be totally on board with the idea of that as well. Biting and threesomes? It doesn't get any better."
He grinned at them. "Just, you know, putting that out there for the record."
While Buffy stared at him, Spike got up and grabbed her arm. "Buffy. Listen to me. You have to - "
She jerked her arm away. "Quit telling me what I have to do. You don't have the answers, Spike. Okay, so maybe it did possess you or control you somehow - but we don't know why, or how, or if it can do it again. Maybe now we know what's happening, we can stop it. We can't make any kind of decision about what to do without more information. We just don't know what we're dealing with, here. We've never faced anything like this before."
Spike suddenly stilled, his eyes fixed on her mouth. "Seems like that isn't true," he said. At her look of confusion, he turned her around to face the mirror.
Buffy ran her finger over her bright green lips. "Then we have faced this before," she said slowly, and watched the colour fade to yellow.
Spike frowned at her. "Not trying to come over like a cheerleader, but don't most of the nasties you face end up dead?"
"Well, yeah. That is kinda my specialty."
"So, was there one who got away? From the fanfare that's been going around, it seems like this is something that should've made an impression."
Buffy frowned. "There have been vamps who've slipped the net, but this obviously isn't - " She broke off.
What about that was nagging at her?
You could do impressions of people - pretend to be them. To sound like them, look like them.
"Buffy? What is it?"
"There was something. A few years ago. 'From beneath you, it devours' - like, from underground?" She began to pace. "It could look like people - spirit manifestations, Giles called them - god, I should have remembered. What it did to you, when you came back - I just thought it was the soul, I didn't realise. I didn't make the connection."
"Buffy, what are you talking about?"
"When you were in the basement - you said you saw things, right? People. People you used to know. People who tormented you."
Spike dropped his eyes. "Yes. But Buffy, I wasn't - I was crazy, back then."
"I know. Because it drove you crazy. That's what it did to Angel, too. It looked like people from his past, people he'd killed. It wanted him to be evil again, and when it couldn't manage that it just wanted him dead."
"The First. It's some kind of - I don't know how to describe it, really. It's not a demon, it doesn't even have a body of it's own. It's like the dark side of the Force, or something. Those things you saw, you weren't imagining them. It was the First, playing with you." She clenched her hand into a fist, the nails digging into her palm. "I should have remembered. I should have /known/."
"Well, yes," said a voice behind her. "You really should have. It is kinda disappointing to be so easily forgotten."
She spun around, then froze. The word that jumped instantly to her lips was beaten straight back down. She wouldn't call this thing by Angel's name.
"Whoa," breathed Holden softly. "Getting the feeling of being in the presence of royalty, here." He shifted in the chair, pulling against the chains. "Pardon me if I don't kneel, I'm a little tied up."
"Pardon you?" The First gave him a wide, confident smile that twisted something in Buffy's stomach. The last time she'd seen it, she'd been looking at Angelus. "Well, that's going to depend if you earn it, isn't it, boy?. If you start acting like a real vampire and do something useful like kill this bitch, then I'll happily crown you king of the world. But if, on the other hand, you turn into a whining pussy like this pathetic piece of shit then I'm going to use your body as my own little private Disneyland."
"Oh," said Holden quietly.
Spike took a step forward, glancing at Buffy. The First stood up, and rounded on him. "Oh, yeah, that's right. Look to her before you do anything. Got to get the Slayer's permission before you dare speak, right? You're a fucking disgrace, that's what you are. But why am I surprised, huh? You always were a disappointment to me, William."
Spike raised his chin defiantly and opened his mouth, but whatever he was going to say seemed to die on his lips as the figure in front of him blurred and shifted and became Drusilla.
"And to me," she said sadly, twirling a strand of dark hair in her fingers. "My poor Spike, he got so lost. He should let Mummy show him the way home again."
Buffy could see the muscles in Spike's jaw working as he clenched his teeth. She reached out and laid a hand on his arm. "It's not real," she said softly.
"Oh, but it is," said the First, turning Drusilla's intense gaze on her. "It's all real, and it's going to be so very, very pretty." She clapped her hands in obvious delight. "There's going to be so much lovely death."
Buffy faced her. "What do you want?"
Another shift, and it was The Master looking back at her. "What do I want? Why, other than the chance to kill you again, you mean?" He stroked his chin in a parody of thought. "Hmm, let's see. What I think I want is for vampires - my creatures - to remember what they are. To stop embarrassing me by doing stupid things like falling in love and getting /souls/." He paused, and glared at Spike. "Did you think you were just going to get away with this? With any of this? That you could just wake up one day and say 'oh, I don't think I'm going to be evil any more'? Well, that's not how it works. That's not how it works at all."
He took a step forward, and Buffy found herself facing her mother. She stiffened, her chest suddenly constricted.
Joyce looked at her with an expression of such tender sadness that Buffy's stomach clenched into a tight knot.
"Buffy, Buffy... you can't win this. You shouldn't even try, because you're just going to get people killed. Sweetheart, I know this isn't what you want to hear but sometimes you have to make the hard choices. You know what you have to do."
"Yeah," said Buffy, fighting to keep her voice firm. "I have to beat you."
She gave Buffy a gentle smile. "There's my brave girl. But you're wrong this time, Buffy. You can't beat evil any more than you can beat time, or fate. And evil is going to take your friends, one by one, until you do the right thing."
"And what is that, exactly?"
"Why, just what you've always done. Kill vampires." She gave Spike a regretful look. "I'm sorry, Spike. It's nothing personal. You always were quite sweet, in your own way. It's just that you're - well, an abomination of nature. It just can't be allowed, I'm sure you understand."
Buffy clenched her fists. "No."
"Oh, Buffy. Is it worth it? The lives of so many people, for a monster?"
Buffy shook her head. "Get out. If you think I'm listening to a single word you say because you look like my mother, then you're as dumb as I always thought you were. This conversation is over."
"Okay, sweetheart. I can see you're not ready to deal with this yet. I'll give you some time to think it over, and we can talk again later." She smiled. "I'd like to spend some more time with Dawn, anyway." The smile widened. "And Spike, of course. Maybe Spike and Dawn. That could be a fun evening."
Buffy started forward, but the space in front of her was suddenly empty. She let out a huge rush of air, and for a second let her head rest in her hands.
Spike put a hand out towards her, hesitated and then let it drop. "Buffy," he said softly.
She held up her own hand. "Don't start. That doesn't change anything. All it proves is that the First wants you dead, and I'm not in the business of giving the bad guys what they want."
He took a step towards her. "Buffy, I can't - I can't let you or the Niblet get hurt because of me. Or - or by me."
"Then fight, dammit! Fight it with me. We can find a way, we always have. We can beat this thing without you having to /die/."
She stopped, aware that both Spike and Holden were staring at her. "What?"
Spike looked at the floor. "The spell," said Holden. "It's still working."
Buffy turned to the mirror, taking in her flushed cheeks, disordered hair and vibrantly green mouth. She shook her head. "No," she said. "No. I don't care about the stupid spell."
Spike finally looked up. "The spell works, Buffy. You know it does."
"Okay, okay, it works - but it's a truth spell, not a predict-the-future spell. It thinks what I said was wrong? Fine. I think it's wrong. Let's wait and see, all right?"
"Don't be crazy! Buffy, you - "
"Spike, please. I can't - I can't do this right now. I need to find the others, to find Dawn. I need to make sure she's safe. Just - go call Willow, okay? Find out where they are."
Spike hesitated, then finally nodded. "Yeah, okay."
As he left the room, Holden looked up at her. "And what happens to me?"
Buffy sighed. "I don't know."
"I could be an asset, you know. Like a double agent, or something. It could work."
Buffy gave a wavering laugh. "Spike was right - I think I must be going crazy. Crazy enough to actually be considering that."
Holden grinned. "Then I take back every bad word I've ever said about psychosis. Crazy is /great/."
He paused, then looked up at her. "You're in love with him, aren't you?"
Buffy stared at him. He'd made it a question rather than a statement, so the spell didn't react. She found herself wishing it had. Wishing that it could have answered the question for her.
Spike appeared back in the doorway. "I got hold of Willow," he said. "They're all fine. No visitations. They're on their way back."
Buffy closed her eyes briefly. "Good. Good. Thank you."
He opened his mouth, then seemed to think better of it. He simply nodded, then ducked back out of the room.
Buffy found Holden still looking at her expectantly.
"No," she said eventually. "I'm not in love with Spike."
He nodded, then smiled at her. "That's the official line, is it? Right, I've got it. And it's okay, your secret's safe with me - I am good at confidentiality, after all. But, like I said before -" He broke off, and smiled again. "The blue does kinda suit you."