All About Spike
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Spiegel Im Spiegel
By Fallowdoe

Part Thirteen: Shallow Cuts

The old, grey building was sheltered quietly in a pine grove. Beyond the thin copse, the ruins of the city stretched out in their shambling decay. But within that circle of evergreens, it seemed remote, distant from everything else. The building rose solemn from the trees like an ancient mead hall in the dark, Dane's woods. He could see the mountains swelling in the middle distance, painting strange, sloping shapes against the overcast, nighttime sky.

A pair of sleeping lions, in carved majesty, forever guarded the steep stairwell to the doorway. The stones were carved boldly over the wide entrance that was once filled with leaded glass. The carvings stated the building's name with a sense permanence and surety the world had long forgotten.

'Joseph P. Heorot Memorial Elementary School' they read with sober, timeless lettering.

All of the windows were boarded shut. The school yard was empty. A lone morning dove called from a shelter in a gargoyle down spout.

But all this hardly impressed itself on Spike. He clutched her tightly in his arms, to keep from dropping her as she was wracked by violent spasms.

It had started soon after they'd left the shelter of the abandoned building. She collapsed in blood and pain, the strain of her pregnancy breaking her all at once. And he'd known nothing for it but to seize her and run to this place. She'd barely been able to tell him the way through her shattering gasps.

And they had arrived, and Spike paused before the door, to register her breathing and her heartbeat, and check on her condition.

For quite some time she had gone quiet, and that made him more uncomfortable than the sound of her wailing screams. Holding her and running to this place, it was too familiar. He could smell the blood and the glazed-eye silence, could feel her head rolling loosely against his arm. She wasn't the first he had held this way.

It was altogether too familiar.

And her dark hair moved in the growing wind, and trailed out ahead like a mourning banner. She reminded him of more than past victims, in this distant, cadaverous stupor.

He could remember when he was the scourge of Europe, the night terror that children feared. When he was fast and strong and tore through the masses like a ragged blade. When he was in Prague, and he was terrified. His eyes had glimmered with unshed tears, and he had barely saved Drusilla from the hands of those who hunted her. And he had held her-- just like he held this girl now-- fleeing through Saint Wenseslaus Square, his hands trembling, covered with her blood.

It was just like this. Just like this when Drusilla had bled. And the memory collapsed on itself, and he could see where Dawn stood restrained, calling desperately after him. He was the very last to have seen her alive, excepting the thing that had killed her.

And then there was a sudden movement from the foundation of the building.

He shook off the dull horror of his memories as the sound of wild barking filled the air. German shepherds rushed forward from the bushes, straining against their restraints, heralding their arrival with frothing, angry snarls and cries.

The girl moved her head then, and surprised him. He hadn't realized she was still conscious. She was staring at the dogs intently, but in a blank and distant way that made him wonder if she could actually see them.

And he rushed forward, through the cluster of dark, barking shapes, using his speed to keep his balance as they tried to seize viciously on his legs.

Leaping up the stairs, Spike reached the glass door, covered completely in thick boards. The dogs strained at their chains at the foot of the stairwell, pulling forward and unable to reach him, growling guttural snarls in the cold air. He used his forward momentum to strike at the door hard with his foot. The wood began to buckle as he beat on it. The loud rhythm of the breaking wood twined with the barking and filled the night with cacophonous noise.

But still no one came. It seemed like forever. And for a moment he wondered, looking at the still facade, if everyone here had simply left, left the dogs-- and the building was actually empty.

He was about to break down the door in earnest when it swung open. A slight, elfin looking woman with short, dark hair stood in the space. Warm air rushed out into the cold from the hallway. There were silhouettes of several other people further behind in the hall, looking out.

"Goddess..." she whispered, "Rachel...?"

Her eyes were wide, and she reached out for the girl, and two men behind her moved forward to rush the shaking, pain stricken figure inside.

In the moment of bustling chaos, there were people calling back into the dimly lit hallway, and the sound of more behind those, all alert with concern as they carried her into the back rooms where he could not see. It afforded him a moment to process what had happened.

Rachel. So that was her name.

But it was all he had time to think before a foot collided with his chest and sent him careening down the stone stairwell. Landing hard on his side at the base, he felt a heel grind brutally into his throat. The woman's voice was chill as she spoke.

"What the hell did you do to her?"

---

"Hey, what's this one for?"

She kneeled on the cold stone floor, in among the dust of the dead and the caskets-- beside his bookshelves and records. She was perfectly at home. He could hear her moving about from where he stood in his bedroom, searching for something he could use to keep her busy. Echoing down from the first level, he could hear her footfalls mixing with the clanging sound of shifting metal.

"Don't touch anything!" he called from the space below. His voice echoed on the stones as started up the latter, to see that Dawn didn't hurt herself.

"Oh I bet you could, like cut the heads off of stuff with this one, right?"

His head appeared from the entrance to the first level of the crypt, and he could see her holding one of his short swords awkwardly. The old structure of the ladder making comfortable, wooden sounds with the step of his boots. The night pallor of the cold room contrasted with the warm glow of her skin in the candlelight, and the bright pastel colors of her still-childish clothing.

She was in a novice fencing stance with the toes pointed too far inwards and the angle of the heels uneven. He could see she was trying to imitate her sister. Her dark, reddish hair fell over her small shoulders, and she was smiling brightly. She was the picture of gangly teenage bravado.

"That's sharp," he warned.

"Well yeah-- or not so much with the beheading, right?"

Spike stood up off the ladder and walked over to her. His foot glanced against an axe she'd left on the floor and it spun to the right, filling the air with the rasping sound of metal on stone.

Beside the axe were a plethora of other weapons, scattering over the floor where she had been rooting them out of his weapons chest. He shook his head and made a mental note to lock it in the future.

And she was standing with that short sword, holding it out to look at it with one hand and rubbing her forearm, to alleviate the strain, with the other.

"I wish they weren't so heavy," she said, musing quietly, "If they weren't, I could help more."

"Or get yourself strung up gutless. Think that'd help?"

"I was just saying--"

"You were just saying how much you'd love to be out poking bads with sharp things. And if I let you I reckon I'd be the one Big Sis'd string up."

"But still... if I could help, it'd be better..."

"You don't need to worry about it," he said quietly, his tone suddenly serious. He hesitated, before continuing. She'd been nervous this time, more so than any other time Buffy had brought her here. He could see it in her face, in the way she'd been fidgeting and avoiding talking to him.

She was beginning to realize how seriously she was in danger. They were all beginning to realize it.

"Don't worry," he continued, "We're going to be watching out for you, 'Bit."

She sighed, looked away from him, fingers clutching the pommel of the weapon with white-knuckled intensity. Somehow it was the wrong thing to say-- if there could have been a right thing to say, and it set her off. Her eyes were bright with some sort of repressed anger, that was now cracking and spilling out the seams with caustic energy.

"Well yeah, you're all hiding me here. Again. If I could protect myself no one would look at me like I'm about to fall apart. Or like I'm this horrible thing that ruined your lives."

"You know full well we don't think that, nibblet-- just give me the sword and we'll put these things back and do something a little less agonizing, ok?"

"What's there to do? And what's the point of even being here?" she spat out, hand gesturing wildly. The blade caught a shaft of moonlight and shone silver.

"Glory'll just come in take me if she wants to-- what would you even be able to do about it?"

"Dawn--"

"You know what?" she said, her voice louder now, on the verge of breaking with tears, "I don't even care now! I wish she would!"

And she moved her hands forward, gesturing her frustration emphatically, and cried out in sudden pain. She dropped the sword. It made a loud clatter that hung in the air.

Her left hand welled with blood from where the blade had made a shallow cut. She watched it flow down her palm and fall in slow droplets to the floor.

She looked at it and her face went slack with a presentiment of dread. The rhythm of the drops falling to floor mimicked the rhythm of words. Shallow cuts, shallow cuts, shallow cuts...

And she looked down at the blade, where it lay on the floor. For the first time, he thought, she began to really understand that he'd used it to kill. That it was real, and it was harsh, and it was cold. And when she looked up, their eyes met.

And they couldn't say anything, and couldn't move. He felt a strange new distance between them. And there was just the thin, faltering trickle of blood, and the sudden, bare awareness of what might soon be coming.

---

She regarded him a moment, head to toe, where he lay on the earth beneath her foot, poised as if he were ready to react at any moment. She was breathing heavily, the air from her lungs a frosty cloud trailing into the night. There was no wasted breath swirling into the air.

"You're a vampire," she said flatly.

"Perceptive bint, aren't you," he responded, his voice rasping and strained under the press of her boot.

"We kill vampires," she said, pressing harder, and letting a stake fall from her sleeve.

One day, a human would see the weakness in him, and take the fatal chance. He wondered, in a strangely detached way, if it would be her.

She swiftly leapt for him, dropping to her knees over him and driving the stake downwards. He rolled with her movement, seizing the weapon as he pushed their weight left, and throwing the shard of wood to clatter against the tightly packed ground.

She lost her balance and fell to the side. He was on top of her now, restraining her by the wrists, careful from long knowledge of the chip not to exert too much pressure. She turned her head to the left, eyes alight with desperation, looking towards the stake lying lonely on the floor.

"Come!" she called out, and the stake sprung to life, flying to her hand as she strained to pull it from his grip.

A witch. And when he realized she was a witch, he was shocked he hadn't sensed the power in her before. Perhaps, without the chip, it wouldn't have been such a short fight after all...

She strained to strike, struggling with him for control. And a voice called out clearly from behind them.

"Wait!"

The sound of someone rushing out of the small crowd broke through the night. The group was clustered at the stairwell, frozen in place, watching the struggle with uneasy intensity. The sound approached the two where they struggled together.

Another woman, fading swiftly into old age, approached them. She knelt beside them and they both watched her warily. There was something stately in her gait, and he could sense a strong, magical power in her.

"Erin, look at him," she said to the girl calmly.

"I'm not getting much choice right now," she responded, her tone frustrated, struggling still to gain purchase and escape. She darted her gaze to the side, and the two women's eyes met in a sort of silent conversation that implied a long and intimate friendship.

"But look at him," the woman replied, steadily, "We can let him inside... it's allright"

And she reached out with papery, rough old hands and took the stake from Erin's fingers. She then took Spike's wrists gently in her hands, and pulled them away from the girl. Something about her-- about the way she looked at him, made him allow it, made his hands loosen at her touch and made him move away from the figure below him.

"Look at him," the old woman repeated, "Look in his mind. He can't harm you. And he won't."

Erin scrambled to her knees, and they found themselves facing each other, sitting on the ground. She whispered some incantation he couldn't entirely make out, and reached out to touch his temple.

And she pulled away as soon as she made contact, gasping suddenly, like she had touched something burning. She looked at him with pure shock. A flood of images and emotions filled her mind, ranging from the deep macabre to the sublime as they spanned the corners of his existence. A savage and wild sensation of movement through time and space filled her with the height of overpowering life and the pit of agonizing loss.

And it all spoke in a strange language to her. And all of that language could be spoken in only one word, and she spoke that word aloud as she stared at him, appalled and amazed at the same time.

"Slayer..." she whispered, softly.

---


Continued in Part Fourteen: The Foundation Crumbles

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