All About Spike
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Spiegel Im Spiegel
By Fallowdoe

Part Fifteen: The Lady of Heorot

There was a mural in Heorot Elementary's gymnasium. He stared at it from his perch on the bleachers.

It covered all of the expanse of the far wall. A bright sunburst, surrounded by a brilliant azure sky. Puffy, cottonball clouds danced in amorphous, round shapes circling a bright rainbow, stretching across the sun and into the far corners of the room.

In bright colors, arching along with that rainbow, bubbly lettering informed him that: 'You Can Be *Anything* You Want to Be!!!'.

It didn't seem like the best advice, to him.

Must have been inspiration for the children, or some other rot, when this was a school, nestled comfortably in one of the quieter corners of a busy city. And he wondered what those children would be doing now, and how they'd feel about a vampire surveying the thin and harried crowds that had settled in their schoolyard.

The gymnasium floor was a trading post, the busiest hub of this that was now a kind of walled and protected town. As he sat perched high in the bleachers, the people below moved in clusters. Fragments of their speech floated up to him. Some Canadian French mixed with the English in low murmurs, and he realized how far he had traveled, back and forth, since those days in Sunnydale. And the remarkable distances he had traveled over the whole world, before then, seemed somehow insignificant in comparison to this newer, aimless journey.

Rows of tables held the odds and ends humans found important, and they moved among them, bartering for what they felt they needed. They were decorated with brightly colored strips of fabric. The crowd's footfalls and the shrill squeak of the soles of their shoes filled the air, intermingling with their voices.

But he could tell something was wrong here. All of the windows were boarded shut, and they lived in a minimum of light. The wood, though, hadn't had time to warp or stain. It was new. And there were far more tables than traders in the gymnasium space, and even the crowd among them seemed thin. It was designed for a higher capacity. Something was wrong here. And he could hear it in their words and see it in the movement of the crowd-- the amorphous, rambling assembly was alight with unfocused fear.

And he noticed a movement beside him, a small intake of breath. It broke him from his thoughts.

"No, don't look up," Erin said. She was the one who had kicked him down the front stairs, and later invited him into the place.

He looked away from the crowd, and their eyes met.

She was sitting several rows below him, a large pad of paper in her hands. He had noticed her, trailing behind him, as he'd wandered the halls of this place. She had looked at him with confusion and a sort of bare and earnest fascination. And now she seemed unable to leave him alone. She didn't understand him, and she was amazed and repelled by all that she had seen in his mind.

"What's that, then?" he asked, gesturing to her paper and her charcoal- smeared hands.

"I was drawing your face," she said simply. She was never one to be shy. She turned the page towards him, and he found himself staring back, in greys and soft blacks.

"Oh," he said, distantly, scanning the paper, "So is that what I look like nowadays?"

"Guess it's been a while for you, since you've seen that..." she responded, her tone grown more uncomfortable as she remembered that this creature didn't breathe and didn't age.

"Has," he answered simply.

"So you help people-- save their lives," she said, standing up and moving towards him with sudden determination, "I don't understand that."

"Not much to understand," he said, shrugging off her inquisitive nudging, "Helps to decapitate whatever's trying to chew their skin off or what have you. There was this one time--"

"But, I mean, you're--"

"A vampire?"

"Yes."

"Evil?"

"Yes-- well... probably. I mean... you say that, but..."

She paused a moment. He was watching his knees with unusual intensity. She sat down on the bleacher beside him.

"But you're so unhappy," she said. He looked up again at her directly, his eyes cold and unreadable.

"You seemed-- so deeply unhappy..." Her tone was gentle, and she found herself moved with a sudden compassion for the terrible conflicts she'd sensed in his being.

"Well," he said, his eyes softer now, "I think everyone out there now's got something to mourn for."

And she nodded, and they were silent a moment. Time passed by, and she began to sketch once more.

"I'm sorry I kicked you down a flight of stairs," she said, and he smiled.

"Sure I deserved it for something or other."

And suddenly, the sound of children laughing filled the air around them like bells from below. They were running, chasing each other through the merchant's stalls. And behind them, the brilliant, almost-garish mural brightly proclaimed the innate potential of their futures. One small girl waved to Erin, before running off. She waved back, smiling.

"Yours?" he asked.

"Yeah," she said, "Right before what happened-- well, happened. If I didn't have the magic I don't know that we could have lived through it."

She stopped drawing again, her hands still.

"And it's terrible," she continued, looking up to him where he sat quietly beside her, her voice raising as if she were asking a question, "But... if I'd known, I don't think I would have...?"

And then a sadder silence floated between them.

"Amazing," he responded, thoughtfully, "How many'll grow up not even knowing what it was like before."

The noise of the crowd was like the subtle rhythm of rain on a windowsill.

"Where will you be heading next?" she said.

"I don't know yet. Somewhere else."

"You-- you could stay a while," she said, her tone lower, her eyes conveying veiled meaning, "Considering we did try to kill you and all, it's the least we can do..."

"Sorry, love," he said, a little sadly, "Got to keep moving on."

Her eyes lit up with sudden understanding, and parts of his being she hadn't understood suddenly gelled and fell together.

"There's someone," she said, laying a hand on his arm, "From before-- isn't there..."

"Yeah," he said, smiling again, remembering, "Real firebrand she was. Probably kick me in the head if she laid eyes on me again."

"But you'll keep going."

He shrugged, still smiling.

"Ain't love grand?"

"I could help you," she said steadily.

"What?"

"I live in the old science lab here. You can come by, later on tonight. It's good for casting. It'd be easier if I had something of hers... but still, I can help you. Locator spell. Try to find out where she is."

He paused a moment, emotions she didn't know running across his expressive face. After a while, he spoke.

"No."

"What-- why. Did you--"

"I know," he said, "But looking for her and not finding her, it's not done me ill. But if I find her, I don't want it like that-- like I chased her down again-- chased her like some hunting animal."

"Think she's still alive?" Erin asked wistfully, looking out into the groups of playing children, and that little girl. Her father hadn't lasted a year in the new world.

"Her?" he said with the old twinkle in his eye, "Take a hell of a lot more to kill her..."

Erin rose. She had always had a talent, since she was very young, for knowing when was the time to leave. And she knew the time had come to leave this creature, in his web of complexities, alone to his future. She smiled at him, and turned to go.

But she paused.

"What was her name?" she asked.

He looked up again at the woman's small, elfin face and warmly toned skin.

"Buffy," he said, his eyes bright with something ineffable.

She chuckled at that, kindly.

"That's a stupid name..." she said, shrugging, as she walked away.

And Spike made a decision, unconsciously and suddenly, to let her in.

"My name's Spike," he said, calling after her. She was laughing outright now.

"That's a stupid name, too!" she called, and was lost into the crowd once more.

---

The courtyard was the only place she could see the stars, since they'd boarded up the windows. As much as she understood it, she had hated to nail those windows shut. But this was home, and it needed to be protected. And she was one of the few with the power to do it.

And so Erin sat on a stone bench in that courtyard, in the center of the school, as she put the finishing touches on her portrait. She'd done good work, and it was an excellent likeness. She'd shut it away in a drawer, soon, in among the other collections of things she'd come across that were interesting or beautiful.

The night was cold and wintry. The air promised that snows would start falling, in just a few days. It was electrically charged with the sense of anticipation and movement.

And then the sound of beating wings filled her ears. She froze, as the familiar, shrieking cries rang out overhead.

It had come back, as they knew it would.

The doors burst open behind her.

"Erin!"

It was Michael, whom she had trained herself to protect this place with her art. Her eyes darted to his, and found his face pale.

"Erin, we don't have much time--"

And she was up, and darting past him, ready to face the beast. The drawing lay forgotten in the dead, winter grass.

---


Continued in Part Sixteen: Peace on Earth

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