All About Spike
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Blood Kin
By Nan Dibble

Sequel to Old Blood

SECTION ONE: STIRRINGS



Chapter Two: Dreams and Portents

Waking in his fine new brass bed, Spike just laid there, feeling utterly flattened. After awhile he rubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes, murmuring, “Ah, Dru, what’ve you done to me, pet?”

Intense, convincing prophetic dreams had been Drusilla’s curse/gift. Mostly hers had come to her awake, but no matter--Spike had no doubt about the resemblance and very little about the source.

He didn’t know whether to attribute his new susceptibility to such dreams to his recently reacquired soul or to the fact that for several months after winning it, he’d been as bug-shagging crazy as Dru had ever been, though he’d mostly got over that now.

More likely it derived from something older, deeper, and darker: his first dream of that kind had brought him the devastating revelation that he was in love with the Slayer. And that was so long ago he couldn’t properly remember.

But the dream itself--that, he remembered just fine.

And the soul could be no explanation for that, unless cause and effect had taken to playing leapfrog.

There’d been others, since, each telling him something he most sincerely didn’t want to know. And so far as he knew, every one of them true.

He finally sat up and shoved his hands through his hair a few times, trying to get himself collected. Time for patrol soon: he should get moving.

He sometimes wondered precisely what got passed along in the blood from sire to childe, in the turning. Something was: he knew that much. The older the sire, the more stable the childe, in terms of retaining the previous personality and not being so completely overwhelmed by the invasion of the demon. The more given in the initial feed, the quicker the rising. Those things were certain.

But he’d begun to suspect it was more than that--that the demon that was passed was in some way the same demon; that there was actual inheritance through the blood. To some extent, all the vampires of the Aurelian line were more like one another, for better and for worse, than they were like vamps of other kindreds. Same bad tempers. Same contrariness, even though it took different forms among the four of them. The family resemblances of a family of monsters. But it was even more specific than that: it seemed to him he’d been able to detect traces of Angelus in his get, Michael.

And this dream business was something particular and unique to Drusilla, Spike’s own sire.

In the matter of siring, the Aurelians, as usual, buggered it up with complications, contradictions. Dru had done the actual turning and was therefore Spike’s sire. Head of the clan was Darla, who’d turned Angelus, who’d turned Dru. But if Angelus was the one you answered to, that beat you down and forced your obedience…. If Angelus flayed the flesh off your spine enough times if you didn’t address him as Sire and get his boots blacked quick enough, Angelus was your true Sire and Drusilla, who’d turned you, only some unholy amalgam of sister, mother, bride.

Aurelians had a constitutional incapability of leaving anything simple and straightforward. Him in love with the Slayer: just another instance. He was as bent as the rest. Relationships all skewed and confusing.

But about Dru. Whose blood had actually turned him.

Crazy she certainly was; but she also was a legitimate seeress: fey, second-sight, whatever you cared to call it. Might take years to figure out some nonsense she’d babbled out of nowhere, apropos of nothing. But the confirmation was there, firm and heavy as fate, if you chose to look for it, admit to it, recognize it when it came. It’d taken 120-some years since his turning for Dru’s casual comment about “burning baby fish swimming all around your head” to be grimly enacted by the Initiative implanting the microchip in his brain, but sooner or later the echo was there if you were prepared to see it and didn’t need the interpretation to be anything like literal to make a fit.

And who could remember such claptrap anyway, when it didn’t connect to anything, mean anything when she said it?

Well, apparently he could. Because he did.

Angelus’ hard tutelage and his own inclination had combined to beat out of him the vapid, imaginative inclinations of that idiot wanker William, that he’d been before. For better than a century Spike had prided himself on being the compleat pragmatist and hedonist, living entirely in the moment and in the body. No looking back, or much forward, or away from what was. No silly-buggers vaporings. Very few memorable dreams.

And now, these…hauntings.

Very odd.

Maybe it was loving the Slayer, true willingness to transform himself into whatever was needed to become what she might love in return, that had cracked through the protective cynicism to the wet, soppy, soft-headed poet buried shallow underneath. Or maybe it was just the fact of such a profound surrender rather than the content of it or the intent. Simply being that open to whatever change might come upon him.

Less open than Dru to the mysteries of powers, portents. But open.

He didn’t know. Didn’t understand.

And introspection was worse than useless because nobody else knew or cared. No vampire he’d ever run into had the least interest in such things. And for all the Council of Wankers’ endless tomes and scribblings on vampire lore, their entire interest stretched only to the quickest, most effective ways to kill as many of them as possible. No aid there, of a certainty.

Nobody he could talk to about it, or really wanted to, such disquieting images as those he’d wakened from, clear to him now as actual memory.

No point, no use.

He got himself dressed, had some blood as the children were finishing their dinners, and then they all went out together, through the yard and then the back yard of Casa Summers on the next block. Spike thought he could feel, smell rain in the air, and said as much to Willow when he met her in the hall, waiting to monitor his experiment at impersonating a canary.

“Can still feel it,” he added, nodding at the shut basement door. “Nowhere near as bad as it was, but no trouble knowin’ something sorcerous got done down there. No, none whatever. No.”

The residue of the blood spell was so strong that he didn’t even feel the Slayer coming up behind him and jerked a little when her hand landed on his shoulder.

“Jumpy,” Buffy observed.

“Some. I guess,” Spike admitted. “H’lo, love.”

Buffy asked Willow, “Do we need to know more than that?” kindly trying to get him out of any nearer approach.

“It’s all right,” Spike said at once. “Distance of maybe fifteen feet, how much difference can that make? Just ‘cause you don’t feel it don’t mean it’s not there. Have to know--“ And then he stopped short, having to force himself to recall the name that belonged in what was suddenly a hole in his mind. “--know that it’s not gonna do any harm to…Dawn.”

Hole all filled up, with her name and all his names for her, just as it should be, and what an odd thing to find all that missing, having to be dredged up by an effort of will.

Adding, “I’ll just do this now, then we can get gone,” Spike stepped away from Buffy’s steadying hand, opened the basement door, and went down.

Descending the stairs, he went to game face, telling himself that it was to sharpen his sight and all his senses, take advantage of the greater acuity the demon provided. But the demon didn’t like it any better than he did, and sight was only a distraction.

At the foot of the stairs, he shut his eyes and let himself be buffeted by the fierce currents of ambient magic. Willow, she’d said she’d set crystals in place to power a dampening field: continue bleeding the magic off, beyond whatever wholesale dissipation she’d done. The cardinal points, she’d said, and one for good measure in the middle.

He could make out that focus now: the one the other crystals fed into. Pretty much like a drain, the force shallower there and indefinably more directed. Moving to it was moving to a center. The surrounding motion had a pattern, was no longer just random swirls of force.

And quite without his intention, the dream overtook him again, clearer than memory. Reenacted in all its colors and feelings.

He saw/was himself crouched on a low hill under an orange sky like there were vast fires roundabout but none where he was. Heavy smell of smoke from things natural and unnatural burning. He hurt, he’d taken damage, but that didn’t matter because no opposition remained, everywhere he looked he saw only vampires like himself, all in game face, jubilant as he was. All connected. He knew if he so much as looked in some direction, he could send a troop there, obedient to his will, an accustomed extension of his arm, his sight. And that was because their attention was all on him, focused, full of the exultant joy of wholesale destruction that was the demons’ birthright and expression. It was wonderful. They’d won. He turned to the Slayer, that he felt beside him, and she was glorious, bright as a flame, so full of energy and life that he did the only thing appropriate: sank fangs into her throat and drank her down. And it felt perfectly fine and splendid every second he was doing it. Everyone felt how wonderful it was.

As before, the dream claimed him completely. And then spat him out, shaken and horrified, standing in the middle of a dark basement with pipes overhead and the vague smell of laundry. And the fading intoxication of Slayer blood in his mouth.

He couldn’t get back up the stairs fast enough.

**********

It was a joint patrol, all the SITs, Spike’s troop and Buffy’s. Sweep the major cemeteries, then converge on the High School perched on top of the Hellmouth itself. If all went well until then, take down any roaming Turok-han they found there. Dust them all.

The packs were sent ahead in alternate arcs. The front of each arc scouted and, if given opportunity, engaged. Then the rest of the arc swept up and overwhelmed whatever was left. Were they to meet something big, both packs would come together on it like a clap of hands.

Easily loping at Spike’s right, Dawn pronounced critically, “You’re off.”

“I know it, Bit. No help for it. Just you keep close, that’s all.”

“How close?” she retorted--almost a complaint.

“This close.” He seized her hand and refused her attempts to shake off his grip.

A shrill whistle: the lead of his pack had found something.

When, with Dawn still in protesting tow, Spike reached the SITs, he found that the pack had hit a nest, apparently based in a vacant house adjoining the cemetery. The SITs were engaged by pairs among the tombstones, around and under the street lights, swirling across the street, pursuing into the front yard. Buffy’s troop was coming in from the left, heading directly for the house itself. Halted on the opposite sidewalk, Spike watched Buffy kick the door in. She and her SITs disappeared inside.

Spike scanned the remaining vamps struggling in the open: completely disorganized, easily isolated, surrounded, and then dispatched by his children in pairs and fours, just as he’d taught them. The vampires. The cousins, he thought, as Amanda dusted the last one, a woman, and she was gone. His children, Amanda, were looking to him for orders--a wave to send them into the house or a lifted hand to hold them in place, and with them still, their faces turned to him, Spike lost all sense of the flow. Some vital connection unhitched, and he had no idea what to tell the children or even why they were waiting.

Matrix moment, came the thought. Glitch in the program. Now they start coming out of the walls….

His place was guarding Buffy’s back, her children didn’t know to do that because that was his place, so why was he still here instead of inside?

Ignoring the standing SITs, Spike flipped the haft of the small axe up into his left hand as he crossed the street, moving faster. He was nearly to the front steps when Chloe came out, and Buffy right behind her, grimacing and waving away the dust as he’d seen her do a thousand times, and then the rest of her pack emerging by twos and threes.

Buffy noticed him, frowned slightly, and said, “What is it?”

Spike shook his head, embarrassed to be caught staring at her like a lummox. He was turning away, tipping the axe onto his shoulder, when Buffy caught his elbow and wheeled him about to face her again. He tilted his head in inquiry.

Buffy studied him a moment longer, then lifted her arms, waving all the SITs in. “That was beyond excellent,” she told them. “It went exactly the way it’s supposed to. Absolutely nothing went wrong. I think it would be tempting fate to take on anything else tonight. Besides, I heard somebody say something about rain. I declare the patrol over. Everybody, get home and tell Willow I authorize ice cream money for everybody.”

Surprised smiles were succeeded by grins as Buffy made her announcement. Buffy was generally pretty miserly with her praise, and for her to call off a patrol halfway through was unheard of. By the time she authorized ice-cream, half the SITs were hopping with excitement. Almost exactly half: his own lot were waiting for his word, Amanda and Kim standing to the fore and trying not to look too hopeful.

Actually Spike was pretty pleased with them himself. And truth be told, he’d lost all enthusiasm for the patrol. He told them, “Well, what are you still standin’ here for? You heard the Slayer.”

Everybody broke into broad grins, there were squeaks and small yells, and hopping became universal. Amanda called the mark, and the SITs went dashing off together, whooping and laughing and calling to one another.

Buffy watched them out of sight, smiling. Then she turned and lifted up on her toes and kissed him for quite a long time. Spike’s reaction was much like the SITs’ had been--happy incredulous surprise gradually replaced by wholehearted enthusiasm.

Long after she should have run out of breath, she dropped back onto her heels and laid her cheek against his chest. “Suddenly,” she remarked softly, “I didn’t feel like sharing.”

“Well, that was nice,” Spike responded, glad of the chance to slide fingers through her hair. “For a beginning.”

“Thought we could use a little alone time. You look hungry. Do you feel hungry?”

Something in him did not like that question. And wouldn’t have answered it for any price. Shaking the feeling away, he turned with her and began walking slowly, shoulders a bit closed in, and she stuck her arm through his, the way she did.

He began, “Wish I had that old motorbike back,” and then stopped because that sounded strange to him. Stumbling all over himself in his head now. “Love, I’m off beyond all reckoning, and I dunno why.”

“The basement,” she suggested.

“Yeah. Maybe. Can’t properly catch hold….” His right hand enacted it: closing over something, losing it. “Anyways, that bike, it’s down in L.A. Left it there when I…left.”

“I see,” said Buffy gravely. “Severe case of vocabulary deprivation.”

“Or something. Bugger! Maybe we should take a turn by some hardware store. Pick me up a new set of chains, something--”

“Don’t joke about that.”

“Oh, you figure I’m joking, do you? Not goin’ back down in that basement, try to recycle that other set, I’ll tell you that. Witch may have given the all clear on it, but that’s one nasty swamp of confusion an’ I’m not goin’ back there anytime soon.”

“How’s the bed?” Buffy inquired, all wide-eyed and cheerful.

Spike goggled at her. “Bed.”

“Brass, heavy as sin, spindles for, you know, tying things to. Four corners, big round posts. For maybe tying things to. That the furniture scavenging patrol found on Friday. And Xander collected with his truck. And then the box spring and the mattress, and everybody broke nails putting together for a surprise, and you were all lonesome in by yourself all afternoon. That bed.”

“Knew there was something I loved you for, Slayer--it’s your subtlety.”

Buffy made a pout. “Well, hinting wasn’t getting it done. And you still haven’t answered the question.”

They’d stopped. Spike bent his forehead against hers. “Which question was that now, pet.”

“The one I’ll be completely mortified to have to ask you in so many words, Spike-of-my-life. The one whose answer better be yes, or I’m gonna have you examined by experts.”

“Oh, that question. Answer’s yes, of course. But….”

“I am not in the mood for but. With one ‘T.’”

Spike sighed. “But I think it’s haunted. Or something.”

“Haunted.”

“Or something. Yeah.”

She pushed him out to arm’s length. Or pushed herself. Same thing, in the end. “So let’s see if I have this straight. My basement has a giant magical whirlpool nobody can detect but you--”

“Yeah. Suck you down, quick as that.”

“--and your basement has now been graced with a haunted bed, and you just noticed it.”

“Well, there’s my old place,” Spike suggested. “Crypt. Kind of busted up, but then it always was, more or less. And it’s quiet, anyways.”

Buffy folded her arms, never a good sign. “Are you suggesting that I’m loud?”

Spike hung his head, smiling small. “Well, yeah. Sometimes. Been known to happen.”

Buffy commandeered his arm, both her arms locked strong around it, and started marching determinedly across the street. “That’s it: expert consulting time.”

“What in hell?”

“Gonna see Giles.”

“The hell we are.” He stopped, set himself. So she yanked him. He protested, “No.”

“Yes.”

“You’re joking, right?”

“No.”

“Well, you better be, because if you think I’m gonna--”

**********

“Haunted,” said the Watcher, polishing his glasses.

“Or something. Yeah.” Spike shrugged, settling lower in the creaky scoop chair, boots on the crappy little coffee table, looking distractedly around at the mean little motel room, mini-efficiency, whatever. Buffy had blessedly left on an emergency liquor run, since Rupert had nothing to hand, or Spike wouldn’t have still been there, no chance. But she’d be brassed off if she came back and found him gone, after she’d made such a thing of getting them there in the first place. Spike turned the small axe over and over between his hands.

“‘Tisn’t as if it’s just me,” he argued sullenly. “All right, I’m off, I admit to it. Never claimed otherwise, did I? But she is, too. Call a patrol off in the middle, or just started, is closer to it. Come over all broody, sodding bloody ‘alone time.’ What kind of a thing is that, tell me?”

Having finished with his glasses, Rupert put them back on and perched himself sideways on the desk chair. “Let’s just stay with the ‘haunted’ part, shall we?”

“Look, Rupert, let’s just chalk it up to ‘Oh, Spike’s all bloody crazy again, let’s chain him up to something,’ as per usual, and leave it at that, all right? ‘Tisn’t as if it hasn’t happened before. Got Dru’s fucking dreams in my head, don’t I? And what’s that all about? Just figure I’m crazy and be done with it.”

“But you claim it’s affecting Buffy, as well.”

“Well, yeah. Call the patrol off, send the SITs off for fucking ice cream, what would you think? Drag me off to talk to you, what’s she expect, does she think you hung out a shingle as a wanker ‘relationship counselor’ or suchlike? You can’t be loving this either, all the poncy feelings crap.”

“Back to the haunted part,” Rupert suggested calmly, looking at Spike down his nose, the way he did, goddamned librarian nancy Watcher.

“Well, ‘tisn’t the bed. It’s me. I just said that other. For something to say.” Spike tipped his head back and rubbed his eyes. “Bed’s fine. This has been goin’ on awhile. Long while, actually. Bloody years, actually. Oh, sod it, Rupert, there’s no fucking point to this.”

Couldn’t budge the man off his damn poncy reserve with a goddam wrecking ball. Made Spike want to hit him, and he could, chip all disabled, and Rupert knew it, too, and therefore ought to ease off on the provoking, but oh no, no clue whatever, just carry on as per usual.

Spike thumped the hand axe into the coffee table and left it there, so he wouldn’t fucking behead the Watcher by mistake making a gesture or something.

Giles said, “What’s been going on awhile?” When Spike only glowered at him, Giles added, “I detect the absence of a noun here.”

“Like I fucking care.”

“Yes. Quite. Except that you do, it’s perfectly obvious if even Buffy has noticed it--”

Spike leveled a finger at him. “Gonna tell her you said that.”

The Watcher folded his hands. “Spike, why don’t you set aside the bloody histrionics and simply tell me what this is all about?”

“Well, I dunno, do I? Just…that something is off. Big time. Major off. And it’s coming from lots of directions. Lots of ways. Hellmouth, maybe. I dunno. Say, did I tell you I ran into one of Angelus’ get? Chap named Michael, Mike. Last night at Willy’s.”

“Spike, we haven’t had anything resembling a conversation in, minimally, three months. At which point you were hearing voices and seeing things on a regular basis, and apparently eating people again, and siring vampires. Oh, and being tied or chained to handy bits of furniture and fed with a cup and a straw. So I would hardly call any words exchanged between us ‘conversation’ in the normal meaning of the term. And I’ve barely seen you since you and Buffy became…reacquainted.”

“Oh, ‘reacquainted,’ that’s a fine word. Fucking ‘reacquainted.’”

“So, no: somehow the subject of a vampire named Mike has not come up in all the conversations we’ve not had since that point. I’ll tell you now, all this avoidance is beginning to concern me. And if Buffy asks my advice, I intend to give it to her.”

“Fine. You do that. Told her to go pick up a new set of chains, didn’t I?”

“Did you?”

“Yeah. Ask her. She’ll tell you.”

“Well then, I might as well wait and ask her, as you say, since you’re obviously not going to volunteer anything pertinent.”

“Like I fucking know what’s pertinent!”

“Spike.” The Watcher being patient if it bloody well killed him, which it still might. “I know that you’re sensitive to…influences. Patterns, at times, before they’ve fully formed. Off before the gun has fired, so to speak.”

“Right. Goin’ off half-cocked, you mean. Story of my bleeding unlife, that is, you got that right. Be a desperate bad choice to head up General Motors. Or organize your basic slumber party. Much less try to organize the cousins into anything resembling a fighting force.”

Giles’ eyes nailed him to the spot. “Cousins.”

“Colonial vampire slang, Rupert. Indicating other vampires. Different bloodlines. Or no known bloodline at all. Politer way of saying ‘bastards.’ Inclusive of about nine tenths of the vampire race. You might want to make a note of it.” Hearing the door, Spike looked around, and it was Buffy with a bottle. “Oh, ministering bloody angels, pet, what took you so long. Rupert’s about to send me clear round the bend, Mr. Echo, repeating about every third word. ‘M way too old for Mr. Rogers at this point. Not the desired demographic. Never mind that, gimme.”

While Buffy was reaching for one of the water tumblers all done up nifty in their little sanitary paper skirts on the desk, Spike swiped the bottle out of her hand and uncapped it without even bothering to look at the label. Put down as much as he thought he could take at one go, then waited for it to hit. At least take some of the frantic edge off. Off still being the operative word here. God, if he had to go back into those chains, he’d fucking curl up and die. Couldn’t get much worse than that. Well, it could. And it had. But not lately, and he wasn’t braced for something like that again. Didn’t know how to brace, just went all off and hadn’t a sodding clue what’d set it off. Same word again. Fucking vocabulary deficiency.

Giles was disrobing one of the tumblers in his prissy way and laying the paper aside, all neat and tidy. Then he leaned to swipe the bottle back from Spike, who let him have it, and poured himself a measure after making a great show of cleaning off the neck where Spike had drunk from it.

“The current topic,” Giles informed Buffy, who was taking a slow seat on the edge of the bed, “appears to be rallying the local vampires against the First, with Spike as Commander-in-Chief.” Buffy’s eyes got large, looking across at Spike.

“In nobody’s bad dream, pet. No sodding chance whatever. ‘Tisn’t as though I don’t know that.”

Giles finished his sip. “Who has suggested it, or is this merely one of your daft schemes being wisely discarded? Before the fact, for a change?”

“Well, that Mike. That was what I was telling you. But I didn’t need him to tell me. See it all quite plain on my own, thanks ever so, and have done for awhile.” Spike hunched forward, elbows on knees, shoulders tight: like any second he might come out of the chair and fight something. Looking from Buffy to Giles with frowning, half-sullen seriousness, he let out pent-up words in an unconsidered burst: “I don’t think either of you properly appreciates how desperate it’s got for the local vamps here. The cousins. Being driven off their territories, the grande melee of all against fucking all…. And where they gonna go? L.A., and try to poach off some established territory there? Get their fucking heads cut off soon as somebody catches ‘em at it? Take to the woods and eat, what, bats? Gophers? Goddam moose? All the ones got someplace else to be, or think they do, or hope they might, they’re already long gone. Before I came back, even, all souled up and Bedlam-certified. Down in the school basement, trying to make anything, something, fit together and make sense, an’ all the voices. All the masks. And then after, on the wheel, over and over, watch the seal open, watch ‘em rise, watch ‘em come…. Telling me how a Turok-han’s worth ten of us miserable worthless corrupted part-demon mutts, pure blood gonna wipe us all out, once an’ for all, Grand Evil Master Plan Racial Cleansing thing. And you think the cousins don’t know it? Think they’re all of a twitter with demon solidarity forever, go ahead and eat our food supply, we don’t mind, we share, and wipe us out in the bargain because it’s all for the greater Evil? Not hardly. They’d fight, if they knew a bloody thing about it. If there was somebody could make ‘em quit squabbling over the last scraps, wasting it all on that, against each other. Somebody to point ‘em at a target and tell ‘em what to do once they got there, except make bad faces at it. Make ‘em fucking mind. Make ‘em learn which end of the pointy stick to hang onto, anything beyond the splendid Stone Age purity of fists and fangs, that’s all they know or care about. But not me. No. I’d just get ‘em wasted wholesale. Big fiasco. My skills do not lie in that direction. Might as well call the thing by its name and be done with it. But it’s a pure shame to have it go to waste and send the children in instead. They’ll be fucking cut to pieces, Rupert, first time they try anything beyond skirmishing, sniping around the edges, clip a few Bringers, a few sodding vamp nests, like tonight and then ice cream afterwards, for a treat. For their victory. They’re all gonna fucking die, Rupert, and there’s no way of getting them ready for that any better than they are. Fine children, Rupert, and what am I to say to them?”

“Yes. Well.” Deciding that occasioned further spectacles-cleaning, Giles passed the bottle over to free his hands for the task. “That’s…quite something. I can see how you’d find that a disconcerting matter to have on your mind.”

Spike interrupted drinking and swallowed to retort, “Hell with my mind, Rupert. ‘S’not the issue here.”

While Spike put the level of the bottle down, Giles conceded, “No, I believe that it’s not. Your concerns are quite sane enough. Probably even realistic. Buffy. Have you two discussed this?”

Buffy spread her hands. “This is word one.”

“Yes,” said Giles. “Yes, I see. And the dreams you spoke of, Spike. Is it safe to assume they relate to this?”

A little better, Spike thought. Some blurred around the edges now. He didn’t have to see it all so plain. Everything not stumbling into everything else, inside his head. He had some of his own patience back now. Some of his calm.

“No, because it’s not gonna happen like that.” Before Giles could echo “like that?” like a bloody parrot, as he was clearly going to, Spike specified, “Like in the dream. Can’t change sides now. No going back. I know that. Don’t want to anyhow.”

Spike regarded Buffy: sitting so quiet all this while, frown-faced and concerned but not interrupting with smart-mouth remarks, trying to see her way through and understand instead of stomping on whatever she didn’t like, to scry meanings from whatever pieces the stomping made, like tea leaves. So nice and so worried, like she’d never do such a thing as chain him up to a chair or pitch him through a wall. Hardly like herself at all. He loved her very hard, that minute.

“C’mere, love.” Spike reached and dragged the other chair closer, for Buffy to sit beside him. “’S’not your fault it’s taken me this long to come up against the blind wall you been flat against awhile now. Long odds always been something I more liked than not. Dunno why it should seem different now, why that’s put me all off.”

Almost shyly, Buffy came from her seat on the bed, leaving a few wrinkles in the antiseptic nasty puke-green bedspread, oh no, that wouldn’t do, Rupert’s room all untidy with the glasses naked and the bed wildly disarranged like a goddam orgy had taken place, four lines in the bedspread and that was wrong. Four lines was wrong.

Five, there should be. Four and one for….

Tucking up in the chair, Buffy clasped his free hand, and Spike looked frowning from the lines to her two hands clasped around his, then back to the bed, trying to come up with the sense of it, so close, just barely out of reach, couldn’t quite close his hand on it….

“Dawn.”

Buffy said blankly, “What?” and Rupert started assuring him plenty of time still remained before sunrise, like he didn’t know that, no clue, no sense, no penny drop except for him.

He said, realized, “Dawn’s gone.”

And they both still just gaped at him, no clue whatever. Buffy said, puzzled, “Who’s Dawn?”

Spike flung the bottle against the furthest wall.


Continued in Chapter Three: The Dance of Sea and Shore

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