Spiegel Im Spiegel
Part Seven: May Queen
He was always tired.
He had tried to rest, hidden where the shells of buildings began to rise
again from the frozen earth, where they clustered together like haunted
trees in the nearby forests. And the people who traveled here were like
specters, faded shells wandering alone and confused through the mass of
buildings, swelling up into a great and abandoned city. It didn't matter
what its name had been, before. It was nameless, now.
They sought shelter in the settlements, the populated, defended buildings
clustered together at the center of the ruins, where the destruction of the
long ago, sweeping fires-- the fires that had followed immediately after
the key's destruction-- had not been total.
He had tried to rest, but was driven from his sleep, unable to settle his
mind. It was running, always running, pushing memories to the surface and
demanding his attention. And it was all he really had, now, so he let it
roll over him, let the recollections sprint desperately through his
thoughts, firing over and over, disconnecting themselves from all sense or
care in their progress.
He turned down the broken asphalt, the grass tall all around him, clinging
in heavy bunches of overgrowth over the fallen rubble of buildings, and
against lonely walls with useless windows cut into their brick and stone
and metal. He listened, sweeping from road to road, alley to dark corners
and back again. Pacing the black streets relentlessly, thinking and
listening for noise and disruption in the night.
Patrolling-- hunting. Looking for something to distract himself from the
internal turmoil-- searching for a way to place it in a framework that he
could understand, and accept, and, perhaps, finally lay to rest.
His mind was wandering, and his body wandered with it, through the hollow
desolation of the broken streets.
"Giles, she's dead."
Willow's voice was dull and empty. She knelt beside the body, next to the
rubble they'd pulled off her. Next to where he was trying to revive her.
Xander was standing a few feet away, ash falling softly into his hair, his
In the cold air, a soft rumble of thunder flowed over and around him.
Xander's hand was in his pocket, fingering something rectangular with a
steady, unconscious rhythm.
"Giles stop-- we can't... we can't stay here..." Willow's voice remained
even, a thin, reedy whisper. But it seemed as powerful as a tidal wave in
that moment, and made Giles' shoulders sink and his head fall into his
hands. He breathed deeply, and looked up.
Suddenly, lightening cut through the night, and thunder bellowed in the air
like an explosion. Icy rain fell in sheets over them all.
Tara knelt in the heavy rain, stroking Anya's cooling brow. She closed her
empty eyes, tenderly. The motion frightened Spike in a way he couldn't
explain. It was as if the entire world had been buried with that gentle
gesture. And Xander stood, fingering the object in his pocket like a
Spike became slowly aware that his hands were shaking.
He threw the foolish fledgling to the ground of the alley, where it fell
into a spray of dead ash. It had mistaken him for prey, as he stalked in
It was new. Days old. Those who had made it would nest nearby, taking the
travelers who sought refuge at the inner settlements as they passed through
He turned down the alleyway, dust clinging on his boots, and searched for
Things were falling apart, all around. The group, crowded around their
fallen friend, filled with a silent anxiety. It was an electric current in
the strangled, frozen air.
They could hear someone in the distance, screaming, and shambling,
unsettling sounds echoed through the hail and rain.
Buffy was curled into her knees, unmoving. Rain fell down over her hair,
and darkened it with moisture. It fell in heavy beads from her
expressionless face. Bloody bruises spread across her brow, and Spike
worried a moment, distantly, that she might have a concussion. She
whispered something to herself, quietly.
Dawn. Her face had been terrified when he was thrown from the tower. Now
the tower was gone-- sunk into the abyss. And she was gone.
Spike's strangled sob surprised himself. Heads suddenly spun to stare at
him. He half-turned, a hand to his temple. A sinking, twisting horror
moved in his stomach and mingled with the pain of his broken ribs. It
caught in his throat, closing it tightly.
He wasn't sure if he would fall down crying or break everything in reach.
A hand fell on his shoulder.
"Spike..." Giles said, his face calm, resolved, "We have to care for the
He followed a trail of filth and blood to where he heard loud voices. They
"We've fed you and watched you and kept you from all the beasties out there-
There was weeping. And as he grew close, crouched behind a half-fallen
wall of bricks, he could hear more. The entire scene pieced itself
together in his mind, the rich tapestry of sounds creating an awareness of
all the figures on the other side of his shelter.
"You have a lot more than you could have, and we've been generous, and
we've been patient--"
A large group, males and females both, sitting around a large fire. The
weeping, solitary creature was apart from them, on the other side of that
inferno. Spitting and laughing and faint murmurs filled the air. They
rumbled under the sound of the icy diatribe against the lone accused.
Coughing and heavy, hoarse breathing whispered through the night.
"We've done a lot here, you know-- built something real-- we survive, and
so do you. Why would you run off like that?"
They were humans. This was a nest, but a very different nest than that of
the fledglings he'd faced. Their sires dwelled elsewhere. Perhaps they'd
even been killed by this band of human hunters.
He knew, deep down, that when he finally died, it would be by human hands.
As he crouched in the thick darkness, unbroken by their firelight, he knew
the chip would be his death, in the end. It had continued to reign him
close, long after the human society that created it had fallen away. He'd
survived long on his wits, but one day a human would understand it, see the
weakness, and would take the chance.
He'd learned much in his long life. He knew humans were dangerous. Others
of his kind didn't take them seriously, but after the destruction-- after
it had all fallen to pieces, he learned that humans could be as cruel and
as dangerous as the evil things that fed on them.
He turned, looked over his shelter, and watched the group. A wiry, nervous
looking man stood before them, spitting out his words as if they confused
him. He was clearly their leader, and though he was thin from hardship, he
was powerful. They listened to him with fear and loyalty. He stood beside
the bound woman, her stomach swollen heavily with pregnancy. She looked
like a porcelain doll in the firelight.
Someone had covered her black hair in a crown of wild plants and grasses,
and she was sobbing heavily. Pale blue flowers, that had survived the
cold, fell in garlands down through her hair. The dark locks shook with
her tears, and the leaves of her flowered crown trembled with it, quivering
with her movements. He could see her gasping breath, floating like mist in
the cold air.
Their leader's tone was losing focus, swelling in intensity. Soon it would
shatter into rage.
"No one runs away-- No one escapes! We have to stay together-- don't you
understand that we have to stay *together*!"
"We must stay together..." Giles said it calmly, trying to focus the groups
attention on himself, appealing to them to break their stupor, "We need to
go somewhere safe-- we must get moving."
Tara and Willow stood with him, now, on one side, and Spike stood on the
other. Xander was frozen in place, simply staring at Anya. Giles took off
his jacket and covered her while he continued to speak.
"We might not be able to drive, the roads seem impassable..."
And Spike watched Buffy, who sat curled on the pavement, her eyes blank and
empty. Like she'd been in the gas station, in a time that seemed years
away from them, impossible to recover. He wondered with increasing dread
if they could ever get her back.
"We can try," Spike responded, clearing his throat, "We can... we can get
you all east, into the mountains-- somewhere isolated."
They hadn't thought this far ahead. It became clear they never really
expected to fail. They simply hadn't planned what they would do, and it
still felt impossible, like somehow they could convince the universe to
take it back as something unfair and unwanted.
Something about Spike's words had made Buffy shudder, and she broke her
paralysis. Without warning, she bolted upright, looked around wildly a
moment, and then ran at full speed into the distance.
Without thinking, Spike immediately ran after her, leaving the others
It was just the way he was tempered. He did things without thinking.
These long seven years he was acting without understanding why. It was
the same as when he ran after her in that moment-- he couldn't have done
otherwise. It was why he was wandering in these bleak hours, hunting his
own without her watchful eyes to see that he did it. To see that he was
doing what she wanted.
And it was why he was impelled, deep in his gut, to action, even though he
found it difficult to care about the humans. They would kill each other
easily, as soon as they were saved. Moths to the flame. And he couldn't
fight them, couldn't live with them-- and in the end, they'd kill him, one
But the firelight that danced before him still drew him in, and he couldn't
quite walk away from it. He never walked away, not now. And they called
him Slayer for his efforts. The irony was enough to make him sick.
"Stop it! Stop crying!"
The man at the fire was beginning to lose control. Spike knew the sound of
it well. The girl gasped and struggled to stay her cries, but she was
beyond all effort.
As he wound to strike her, Spike stood up and stepped closer to the fire.
"I don't think you're going to want to do that," he said quietly, eyes
reflecting the twisting flames, standing in the hazy space where the
firelight was swallowed whole by night darkness.
Continued in Part Eight: Pale Diana