The Sick Rose
Sequel to Bone Chapel; part of Prague Series
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SUMMARY: Spike and Dru
get their come-uppance. Self-contained, but follows ‘Painted Eggs’
and ‘Bone Chapel’ to conclude the Czech adventures of Spike and
Drusilla. (FayJay home page. )
SPOILERS: Pre-Sunnydale – set just before BtVS Season
(Het & Slash). Violence. I subscribe to the
school of fiction. Romantic, yes. Passionate, yes. Amoral and cruel –
DISCLAIMER: I am not
now, nor have I ever been, Numfar. Not even a little bit. The characters are
the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui, Sandollar, and David
Greenwalt Productions, 20th Century Fox, and whoever else may have a hold upon
them. The situation is wholly mine, and I do not mean to infringe upon any
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Grateful thanks to Rebecca Lizard for heroic Beta
work, and to Herself and Kalima for nagging me to finish the darned thing. For
Spike’s Bitches, without whom...
The Honeymoon Suite at the Hotel Europa came complete with champagne on
ice, a spray of blood-bright roses in a crystal vase and a pair of dinky little
chocolates wrapped in green foil and nestled in the clean white pillows. Jiri,
laden with boxes and bags, followed The Crazy Americans down the corridor
towards their suite with a tolerant smile and high hopes of imminent
enrichment. Their clothes were expensive and they carried themselves with the
unthinking confidence that came from absolute security. Rich as Midas, or Jiri
would eat his hat. The girl was singing to herself, swinging a porcelain doll
in one hand and her sweetheart’s hand in the other; foreigners were
peculiar creatures and no mistake.
When they reached the entrance to the suite Mr Van Helsing produced his
newly acquired keys with a flourish, unlocked the door and then scooped the
giggling girl up in his arms and carried her over the threshold. (“Van
Helsing” indeed! But it made a change from “Smith” and the staff
were happy enough to cater to tourists’ whims when they had such huge
wads of hard currency.) Jiri had noticed no sign of wedding rings, but that was
not unusual in this day and age; and by the time he had carried all their gear
into the room they were wrapped around one another on the bed and kissing like
they had just invented it. Jiri waited patiently by the bags. When it became
perfectly clear that no crisp handful of dollars or crowns was going to be
forthcoming Jiri’s smile leaked away. He stalked out into the corridor muttering
Czech imprecations under his breath and left them to their rapt contemplation
of one another.
“Naughty,” said Drusilla after several minutes of quiet
tussling. “He wanted a tip, Spike.” She was sitting astride his waist, the folds of her black satin
skirts bunched up around them like the topsy turvy petals of a discarded,
“He’s alive, isn’t he?” replied Spike. “No
pleasing some people.”
He buried one hand in the sea of dark fabric,
seeking out the sharp curve of her hip and then cupping it firmly once it was
“Do you like it, pet?”
He meant the Honeymoon Suite, the Art Nouveau Hotel, the tourist-glutted
city, this century, this life; but the wicked little glance she shot him and
the irresistible circling of her slender hips over his groin put a slightly
different slant on his words. Dru dipped her head towards him until the soft
lustre of her hair hid the rest of the room, and the pressure of her lips on
his answered all Spike’s questions without recourse to speech.
And after all, it was early afternoon; what better way to while away the
Spike showered briskly, scrubbing blood out from under his fingernails
and soaping away the smells of champagne and semen and his darling’s
sweet quim with some reluctance. Getting messy had been entirely delicious and
the maid had arrived at the perfect moment, just as he was weighing up the pros
and cons of calling room service. They had made her change the bed linen before
they ate her.
The shampoo smelled of some kind of herb. As he massaged it into his
scalp Spike made a mental note to swing by a chemist’s for a box of
bleach once he’d dumped the maid’s body. He always took great care
to hide his roots.
“Spoike,” she pronounced his name. It still sent a little
shiver of tenderness through him to hear her betraying her origins with that
accent. Nonsense, of course, to think of such things – hierarchy among
vampires had entirely different rules, and yet it seemed that his
class-consciousness was ingrained even beyond the grave. It shamed him.
Drusilla’s voice was a strange vulnerability; it labelled her as the
daughter of a tradesman scrabbling his way into the middle classes without the
money to pay for her elocution lessons. She sounded common. She was the most
uncommon of creatures, a fairytale princess whose humble origins were a presage
of greatness; but she sounded common. She sounded like the little match girl
plucked out of life and obscurity by a passing angel. The contrast with
William’s cultured tones couldn’t have been more marked and in time
it had come to trouble him. She was beyond such pettiness, but he could not
bear the thought of seeming to put himself above his princess in any way. Their
accents had all blurred with time and travel anyway, and with the influence of
each other’s speech patterns, but Angelus had still mocked and mocked
when he decided to adopt her accent wholesale and shed the name
‘William’ altogether. Darla’s contempt was less vocal and
Drusilla had accepted it like a new game, sublimely oblivious to the
delicacy that motivated him. But he was glad to embrace even this trivial
little facet of his darling girl, giving up the last reminders of his life to
Since they had been up most of the day, first packing and then making
their way underground to the cellars of the Europa with enough luggage for a
small army (how ever had they managed to gather so many possessions in so short
a time?), Drusilla was now thoroughly drowsy and sated and disinclined to hunt.
Spike, in contrast, was ready to run a marathon and take on a pub-load of
drunks. But if Dru were in a mood to be waited upon, then Spike was more than
happy to go out a-wandering the streets of Prague alone to find her some tasty
human morsel. He’d been trying to be more careful since the witch
burning, but he’d paid attention to the headlines and it seemed that
they’d got away with it. Again. Theirs really was a charmed life.
Spike grinned as he towelled himself down, thinking about the
evening’s entertainment with gleeful anticipation. He could get rid of
the corpse, steal some more hair dye, spill a little blood, ravish a few
tourists and perhaps pick up a gift for his girl along the way.
He used to be quite partial to a spot of absinthe. The sight of Gary
Oldman’s Dracula swigging the stuff, however, had given Spike a definite
distaste for the green liquor - and indeed for Gary Oldman, of whom he had
previously been rather fond. Instead he accepted a foaming pint of Pilsner
Urquell and surveyed the human contents of The Golden Tiger pub with a
speculative glint in his eye. It was ridiculously busy, but he just
didn’t see anyone he fancied - although he was aware of being checked out
by a number of men and women. They would do well enough for a quick bite, but
he wanted to get Drusilla something special.
Perhaps jewellery was a better idea, or some fragile wisp of lace.
His attention was finally snared by a fresh-faced young Australian; a
big, bonnie, brawny lad with a tumble of golden curls and a disarming baritone.
Shoulders and hands that reminded him of Angelus, but the face bespoke sunshine
and surfing and uncomplicated pleasures. He was alone, but wholly unintimidated
by the mass of beer-swilling strangers surrounding him. The boy caught his eye
and grinned at him. Spike smiled back.
His smile deepened when the Australian held his gaze for half a beat
longer than necessary – the half a beat that amounted to foreplay in a
certain kind of bar. Interesting. Not Drusilla’s type, this one, but potentially
entertaining nevertheless. He stepped a little closer.
“You meeting somebody, mate?”
“Guess I just have,” the Australian said with another
lingering smile. “Name’s Sean.”
drank in companionable silence for a few moments while the tide of eager
tourists ebbed and flowed around the bar.
“So this is where they all come, then, eh, The Golden Tiger?
Clinton, Hrabal, Havel, all those guys?”
“Apparently so,” Spike said, glancing around at the horde of
mundane men and women as he patted his pockets in search of the silver lighter
he’d stolen in Budapest. He found it, lit a battered Marlboro and took a
lungful of the smoke without any further comment. He didn’t feel very
much like small talk; had rather hoped this human might prove a bit more
entertaining than the rest of the crowd, but apparently not.
“Well it’s boring as fuck, mate,” said Sean after a
few moments. “Where’s the action around here?”
Spike grinned. Perhaps he’d been too hard on the boy. He caught
Sean’s eye and held it for a space, then let his glance slide down to the
wide mouth and the freshly shaved chin and then linger on the tender skin
sheathing his Adam’s apple. Delicious. His upper body was well muscled -
a rugby player’s physique. Spike’s glance trailed lower and he was
satisfied to see the boy’s slumbering, denim-encased cock stirring under
his attention. He looked back up into the wide green eyes and was rewarded with
a lovely expression of straightforward lust.
As Spike licked his lips and lifted the brimming glass of Pilsner, the
jostling arm of a large local made him splash beer down the front of his red
shirt and interrupted a rather pleasant train of thought. He set the glass back
down on the counter and then looked slowly from his wet shirt to the human
responsible and back again.
“How d’you feel about bar fights?” he asked.
Sean’s sleepy eyes lit up and a broad grin stole over his wholesome face.
“Here? Now? You’re off your fucking head, mate!” But
he sounded rather taken with the idea.
Spike turned to the group of Czechs on his right and grabbed the
shoulder of the shirt-wrecker, twisting him around.
“You spilled my pint,” he said evenly. The man scowled in
utter incomprehension. “D’you speak English? Mluvite
“Ne,” replied the Czech, looking thoroughly pissed off.
It was not that Spike couldn’t speak languages other than his own
– in point of fact he was fluent in quite a number by now – but he
generally preferred not to as a matter of principle. This, however, was an
exception. He smiled sweetly at the various meaty faces turned towards him.
“Your country stinks of shit, your women are all whores, Havel
copulates with pigs and your beer tastes like goat piss,” Spike said, in
loud and perfectly accented Czech.
That did the trick.
Afterwards, bruised and bleeding and retaining the semblance of human
form by the very skin of his teeth, Spike stalked out of the pub with an
expression of battered triumph. That would teach the fucker not to spill
people’s pints. Sean - who had handled himself quite respectably in the
fight - stumbled along at his heels, fingering his tender jaw and walking with
a slight limp. Drusilla was far from bored with the city, so Spike had made a
point of not killing anyone in public - didn’t want to have to flee the
local bobbies just yet. Spike was reasonably sure none of the motionless bodies
littering the floor of The Golden Tiger was actually dead. This, in his
considered opinion, constituted keeping a low profile.
“That lively enough for you?” he asked, glancing back at his
Australian with a fierce little grin.
“You really are a mad bastard,” said Sean, sounding awed and
a little afraid.
There was blood coming from the corner of his mouth and it proved
entirely irresistible. Spike grabbed him and dragged him down the nearest
alley. Sean was taller than Spike, putting the hollow of his throat in line
with Spike’s mouth; he closed his lips over the tantalising Adam’s
apple and sucked, feeling the blood rise up under the skin but pulling away
before he broke the soft layer of tissue. He found the trickle of dried blood
on the lad’s chin and licked it back to the corner of his parted lips,
settling into a feeding kiss that tasted every recess of the boy’s mouth
before returning its attention to the luscious little leaking wound. Spike
could feel the itch of the demon mask just beneath the surface of his skin, and
controlled it with some difficulty. The large hands that clutched his arse
provoked a shiver at the visceral memory of Angelus. But now was not then, and
Spike was the only one calling the shots these days. He wrapped his own hands
around Sean’s face and stepped back, forcing the lad to look at him.
“Take your clothes off,” Spike said. The boy blinked.
“But I’d rather…”
“I said. Take. Your. Fucking. Clothes. Off,” repeated Spike.
Sean scrambled to comply, the memory of Spike’s unexpected
strength still uppermost in his mind. He’d been utterly astonished (and
not a little turned on) by the skill and no-holds-barred ferocity with which
Spike had flung himself into the fighting – like a peroxide Bruce Lee on speed. Arguing
with him was right at the top of things Sean really didn’t want to do
anytime in the next century.
“Knickers too, pet.”
Spike lit a fag and stood back to watch the boy disrobe, plainly
enjoying his shivering self-consciousness. They could hear people walking along
Husova Street a scant few yards away and Sean had not anticipated finding
himself butt naked in an alleyway in the middle of the city. That wasn’t
quite how these things usually worked, in his experience, and the unexpected
nudity was making him feel exposed in all kinds of ways. But he wasn’t
protesting. Within a few minutes Sean was standing with the bare curve of his
buttocks and shoulders pressed into the brick wall, glancing down at the bag
containing passport and wallet with an expression of sublime misery that was at
odds with the way his knob was slapping into his firm belly.
Spike, fully dressed and enjoying it, withdrew the cigarette for a
moment to lick the forefinger of his right hand. He ran his finger around the
boy’s mouth, making small circles, and then traced a delicate little line
down over his throat, dwelling on the firm, smooth flesh of the sternum. Spike
stopped smoking long enough to dropped an incongruously chaste kiss on the warm
curve of a collarbone and then, cigarette nonchalantly clamped between his lips
once more, he rubbed the cool, calloused heels of his left palm over the
boy’s perky nipples. He smiled at the moan this elicited and let his hand
traverse the trembling skin until it reached the salivating head of his penis.
Young Sean had shown plenty of spunk in The Golden Tiger and he’d watched
Spike’s back like a good lad. Spike was feeling generous. He’d let
the boy show a little more spunk before he died.
He brushed the wet tip with the end of his finger and idly stroked the
pulsing underside of his cock, before wrapping a tepid hand around the shaft
and beginning to work it firmly. The green eyes widened and then closed and the
lad’s breathing grew hoarse and ragged. He bit his lip and after some
time began to gasp out the kind of inanities people usually did:
“Yes”, “More,” “Fuck,” “God,”
and other monosyllables, until Spike gagged him with another sucking kiss. A
little later Spike unfastened his own flies left-handed and freed his prick,
grinding the cool skin of his erection roughly against the lad’s
bollocks. Sean’s fingers dug into the vampire’s shoulder and he let
out a helpless moan of pure sensation as his hips bucked in that distinctive
way and he finally came into Spike’s waiting palm.
In the hazy moment that followed, Spike rubbed the spunk over his cock
and slipped a sticky finger between the human’s thighs and up into the
hot little bud of clenched flesh, readying it for his first thrust.
Sean’s eyes peeled open in puzzlement, but before he quite knew what was
happening Spike had angled the warm pelvis according to his needs, wriggled the
head of his cock into the tight passage and then slammed in, lifting a thigh in
each hand and wrapping the lad’s legs around his waist. It was not an
especially comfortable position for either of them, and Spike could smell fresh
blood as the boy’s skin rasped against the rough bricks behind him.
“What the fuck?” Sean was astounded at the ease with which
the slighter man had picked him up and bent him into this shape. “Shit,
what are you – what – you’re not wearing a fucking condom,
are you, you mad fucking bastard!” He thrashed against the wall and when his
wriggling only made Spike smile he eventually pulled back his fist and punched
the vampire in the face. Spike never missed a beat, but he let the human mask
melt away like butter on a hot griddle and Sean yelped at the sight.
“Yeah, what big teeth I have, eh? All the better to eat you with,
my dear,” said Spike, his hips hammering away as his fangs came down on
the boy’s neck.
Faces drawn in the candlelight, bare eyes raw and bruised from too
many sleepless nights and long hours of angry weeping. Nothing self-consciously
mystical about their clothes, no tinkling earrings or hair shirts for the
spell-casting. Businesslike. Ruthless. Bent on revenge.
At the centre of the circle: a bracelet of uneven amber beads
threaded on a slender braid of smoke-tainted human hair. Tiny specks of dried
blood freckling the limpid stones.
Beneath the bracelet: a battered square of celluloid. A pale
remembered face trapped by light and chemicals, smiling out of the past.
Guileless as sunlight. Guilty as sin.
It was a flyer pressed into his hand by a bored teenager that gave him
the idea. Puppets. Spike couldn’t imagine why it hadn’t occurred to
him before, because if ever a gift had ‘Drusilla’ written all over
it in gilt-edged letters, then this was surely it. There were toy shops
a-plenty in the streets of the Old Town selling puppets of kings and queens,
witches and devils, The Good Soldier Svejk, even Vaclav Havel and Bill Clinton;
but Spike had no intention of getting his girl any cheap tourist rubbish.
Besides, the blurry photograph on the flyer had shown the very doll for him.
The Marionette Theatre was easy enough to find and easier still to break
into; Spike strode through the corridors backstage with an aura of such
businesslike self assurance that, although the evening’s performance was
still a couple of hours away, nobody had the nerve to question him.
In spite of himself he found the storeroom slightly disconcerting; a
host of miniature manikins suspended from the ceiling by hair-fine wires, their
dead eyes staring blankly at the door. The carving was very fine, though
– far better than the tourist-fodder – with exaggerated expressions
of dumb rapture and comical dismay curving mouths and brows into parodies of
life. He thought about Miss Edith, and the brittle Easter eggs Dru had arranged
snugly on her dressing table in an improvised nest of silk scarves and reddened
feathers torn from a flailing swan. The puppets would be just her cup of tea.
The dolls for the current production dangled from hooks at the front of
the room; and Spike tangled his fingers in the threads, tearing the little
figures down until he found the ones from the flyer –Snow White and her
dashing Prince. She was ideal - Drusilla in dainty miniature. The dark hair and
Neanderthal brow of the little puppet prince would never do, though; it
reminded Spike of things he didn’t much fancy remembering. He plucked the
doll from its strings and enjoyed the pitiful little snap as he broke each
joint in turn: satisfying as the crackle of brittle human finger bones splintering
in his grasp. He dropped the fragments underfoot and browsed through the racks
of marionettes in search of a more appropriate figure, finally settling on a
roguish little blond pirate king clad in a dapper gold waistcoat over a
billowing white shirt and black satin breeches, a tin cutlass clasped in one
tiny wooden hand. Not bad. He carried his prize back to Snow White and admired
They made the perfect couple.
The Globe Bookshop was quite full, considering that it was so far off
the beaten tourist track. The people in here didn’t think of themselves
as tourists, though. “Travellers”, every one of them, as if such
semantics meant anything at all. Spike wandered down an aisle of second-hand
books, scanning the battered spines with mild interest. One title caught his
eye. He pulled out a horror paperback and glanced at the back-cover blurb:
"Everybody is a book of blood; wherever we're opened, we're red."
Clive Barker – an Englishman after his own heart. He grinned and slotted
it back into place. A little further along the same shelf there was a hardback
edition of the collected writings of William Blake – now *that* was more
tempting. Blake knew a thing or two, to be sure; Spike had heard a rumour that
the old boy had been a Watcher at one point, but had lost the plot when his
Slayer died. Wouldn’t surprise him in the least.
Drusilla was not a great reader herself, but she was partial to eating
poets, and painters, and other such fanciful dreamers of dreams. Spike had a
speculative eye on a charmingly gauche little redhead loitering before the
poetry shelves in the New Books section; all soft curves and freckles, with her
hair pinned up haphazardly and not-quite-fashionable glasses that kept slipping
down her slightly-too-long nose. Adorable. Not pretty, but quite possibly
He followed her receding form discreetly, admiring the concave flare of
her waist and the translucency of her skin. The nape of her neck was slightly
sun-scorched from wearing her hair up during the day. Spike could already
imagine the heat of it under his mouth, and he gazed at the frayed lacework of
her peeling skin with a predatory little smile. She rounded the central stack
of shelves and Spike sidled along a few paces behind, one hand loosely clasping
The Collected Works of Blake and the other trailing absently along the spines
of the books he passed.
His attention was caught by a flurry of movement at the door and Spike
paused on the balls of his feet, taking in the new arrivals with interest. Dark
eyes, dark hair, olive complexions ripened in the sun to a warm near-chocolate.
For a moment he couldn’t decide whether they were brothers or friends, so
alike the two lads looked. A brush of hand on arse and the quality of a smile
suggested that they were neither, and upon closer inspection he realised that
the impression of similarity owed more to gesture and expression than to actual
physiognomy. Latin lovers. He’d have hazarded a guess at Romanian or
Macedonian but the cut and colour of their clothing indicated western tailoring
rather than post-Soviet block. He drifted closer, aware that the girl was
paying for her books of verse and escaping into the darkness but no longer
interested as he followed the two matching fawns into the Globe’s coffee
“Mind if I join you gents?” It was a reasonable request,
since there were no empty tables. The couple glanced up automatically, wearing
twin expressions of irritation that faded as they took in Spike’s
dangerously disarming smile and the acres of black leather.
He took the empty seat and scanned the menu casually, aware of two pairs
of liquid brown eyes fixed upon him as he inclined his bleached head and read
with an appearance of fascination. He noticed the shop’s motto “In
libris, veritas; in kava, vita” - In books, truth; in coffee, life.
Thought about the tatty Clive Barker paperback with its gruesome cover and
smiled to himself as he waved at the waitress and ordered a double round of
plum brandy for himself and his unsuspecting new “books of blood”.
“In Libris, Vitae” was more like it.
After the fourth glass of slivovice they were all the very best of
friends. It transpired that, despite their Arcadian appearance, the pair were
Londoners; Londoners of Italian extraction, but Londoners just the same. Gianni
and Bob. (“Roberto. But everyone calls me Bob, except my mum.”)
They were childhood sweethearts, no less – grew up together, since some
25 years earlier their dads had moved to London from the same little town
outside Verona, married a pair of good Italian girls and all set up together in
the restaurant business. (Gianni rolled his eyes with a sheepish grin at the
cliché.) Back in Blackheath Bob and Gianni were, they assured him, so
far back in the closet that they were practically on first name terms with
Aslan. Their parents were determinedly oblivious and kept pushing appropriate
girls at them and dropping hints about grandchildren. Spike found this a little
difficult to believe – their body language *screamed*
“couple” – but the human capacity for ignoring the obvious
never ceased to amaze him. It was very convenient.
Since Gianni and Bob were no more Mancunian than Spike, they were,
naturally enough, big fans of Manchester United. They started arguing about the
off-side rule and as he ordered more slivovice Spike realised that he was
having a fine old time. They smelled of Lux soap, CK1 and of each other, and he
thought that Drusilla would find them entirely delightful. The gold
medal-standard game of 3 person footsie under the table left him in no doubt
that he could get them back to the hotel with perfect ease.
“I’ve got a place,” he said after a while, looking
squarely at Bob and then Gianni and savouring the cocktail of pheromones.
Piece of cake.
She wasn’t there.
Spike had unlocked the door to let the lads in and then quietly locked
it behind him, slipping the key into the duster’s pocket and following
Bob and Gianni into the bedroom. He cocked his head slightly to one side as he
looked from one firm arse to the other and wondered which boy Dru would nibble
first. He expected to find her slithering out from between the cotton sheets at
the first sound of their entrance - but there was no sign of her, no scent of
her, no sound of her. His drowsy darling had changed her mind and taken to the streets
Spike knew he shouldn’t be piqued, but his lips still formed an
involuntary pout. He put the bag of marionettes down on an over-padded chair,
feeling oddly cheated. Here was the hunter, home from the hill with puppets to
play with and humans to kill – and Sleeping Beauty had put on her glad
rags and wandered off to paint the town red. Without him.
Well bugger that for a lark. The pretty little Englishmen were embracing
under his nose, wrapped in a positively pornographic pose that was plainly
aimed to titillate. It was working. If she didn’t want to stay and play
then she could damn well come home to find the toys had been broken in without
Patience had never been one of Spike’s virtues.
He stalked forward and pulled the lads apart, hooking a hand into each
belt and tugging them both towards him with a degree of force that took them by
surprise. Bob moved into the first kiss, which was just what Spike would have
expected. He was game for anything, this Roberto; flightier and ballsier and
dumber than Gianni. His tongue in Spike’s mouth was carelessly slutty and
thoroughly at ease, moving with the practised, teasing skill of a scene queen
in the full bloom of youth and beauty. Gianni was only a heartbeat behind,
kissing his way along Spike’s cool throat as his hands worked on the
vampire’s belt and slipped down the back of his black jeans.
Spike moved his hands to the neck of Bob’s T-shirt and ripped it
in half. Bob, jolting out of the snog, looked frankly astonished and more than
a little pissed off, but Spike didn’t give him time to start some poofy
rant about the cost of designer gear. He picked the lad up, enjoying the warmth
of the skin under his hands, and threw him onto the king sized bed. Took in the
gob-smacked mixture of emotions on the lad’s face as he ripped open the
combats and yanked them down and off. Calvins. But of course. And there was
Bob’s todger straining to make its presence known inside them –
more a satyr than a fawn, and that was just as Spike had hoped. Gianni was a
lucky lad. He felt Gianni’s hand on his shoulder and, turning, saw that
Roberto’s lover had already divested himself of his clothes and was
already roused and ruddy and raring to go.
Mouths and hands everywhere. Pale arms interlaced with dark ones in an
angular chiaroscuro tangle of flesh. A cold tongue licking down the brown
curvature of a spine to slide between the cheeks of a youthful arse and slither
into the eager little pucker of clenched muscle. Fingers exploring the silken
skin of a penis and cupping a softly swinging scrotum. A sharp anklebone
grazing the soft flesh of a calf. Messy and awkward and delicious. Gianni was
ticklish and tender and prone to laughter at unlikely moments, whilst Roberto
thought himself terribly worldly and brazen and seemed acutely conscious of
always looking his best, as if he were starring in his own personal porn film.
It was all so bloody *easy*. Almost dull. He wondered what Drusilla was
Afterwards he left them handcuffed together on the bed, wrist to ankle.
Roberto’s sobs were barely audible through the gag; you’d have
thought the little idiot would be grateful to have been the one left alive.
Spike thought the whimpering was unlikely to be overheard, but he hung the
‘Do Not Disturb’ sign over the handle, just to be on the safe side.
He had taken them both, of course. Roberto missed the moment when Spike
separated Gianni from his proud member and gulped down the pulsing arterial
blood; Spike had Roberto on his knees at the time, with his face shoved into a
pillow and Spike’s cock ploughing into his arse at full steam. It was a
little tricky keeping Gianni from collapsing as the strength went out of his
legs, but Spike gripped onto the dying man’s right hip and left buttock
with a force that left little bloody half-moon nail prints embedded in the
cooling skin as he fed. The quality of Gianni’s screams eventually
registered with Roberto and had him thrashing under the vampire, but not until
it was far too late; and not until Spike’s cold seed had been spent
He didn’t know where to look for her, so he headed for the
Metamorphosis, one of the more modern demon bars off Wenceslas Square, and the
one in which the two of them had idled away many an evening. Henry, the
Jamaican werewolf who ran the place, prided himself on the freshness of the
blood and the authenticity of the bourbon – too many bars tried to palm
you off with cheap shite shipped over from Turkey in a Jack Daniels bottle, or
else they watered down the A Neg with pigs’ blood. Drusilla was
especially fond of the music in the Metamorphosis – they played a lot of
Bjork and Iva Bittova, and she had managed to persuade the Kankanath behind the
bar to lend her his Rasputina album. For seven foot of spiny blue war demon, the
Kankanath was surprisingly modern in his musical tastes. It was only a short
walk from The Europa, and as good a place as any to start looking for his girl.
He was most surprised to find it closed. Spike stood outside the silent
bar, gazing at the stylised stag beetle on the neon sign and weighed up the
merits of heading over to the Jewish Cemetery, which he knew she rather liked;
but she really could be anywhere at all. It was thoroughly frustrating.
He heard the demon walking up behind him, of course, but he still really
wasn’t anticipating the blow. It was a bloody Brachen demon, for
Christ’s sake – hardly the most warlike of species.
“What the fuck?” he spluttered as he got to his feet,
rounding on the little demon with teeth unleashed and eyes yellow with
irritation under his crinkled brow.
“You burnt the witch, didn’t you?” said the demon.
Spike stared at him.
The demon was shaking with barely contained fury.
“You stupid bastard. Do you have any idea what you’ve
Spike felt the beginnings of fear.
“Had a nice little barbecue, as I recall,” he replied in his
best flippant tone.
The little hedgehog fella gawped at him for a moment and then launched
another blow at his head, but Spike was ready for it this time and dodged
effortlessly, yanking the demon’s prickly arms up behind its back until
something broke with a satisfying little crunch. He wasn’t much of a
fighter, this one. The demon quivered against him, though whether from pain or
emotion he couldn’t readily tell.
“The witch your girlfriend, was she?”
“You stupid bastard,” the demon said. He sounded close to
tears. “You stupid, stupid bastard. You’ve broken the truce and now
we all pay.”
The nameless dread was getting more difficult to ignore by the minute
and the need to find Drusilla was almost a physical ache. He could feel the
demon’s pulse clattering against him and twisted the arms harder, taking
momentary comfort in the agonised moan that this provoked.
“What truce would that be, then?”
“With the witches, of course. They’ve got a demi-goddess
looking out for them, bound to the soil - you never heard of Libushe? Or her
sisters? You do not *mess* with the Czech witches. We don’t touch them or
theirs and the witches leave us be. Now you’ve broken the damned truce
and they’ve been scouring the city for two idiot leeches who think
they’re Bonnie and Clyde. They don’t care who they kill to get to
you and your girl. Especially the girl.”
Fear blossomed in his veins. He was used to travelling light –
gathering possessions for a while but discarding them whenever the time came to
flee, or when they had simply grown bored. Threats to his property meant
nothing. Threats to himself he rarely heeded. But threats to Dru filled him
with blind terror and murderous rage in equal measure.
“Where are they, these witches?” he asked, when he was able
to master his voice. The demon made a movement that would have been a shrug,
cut off with a whimper of pain. It said nothing. Spike sighed with exaggerated
patience and bit off its left ear. As the Bracken screamed he jerked its
cactus-spiked head to one side and pressed a vicious little kiss onto the
remaining ear before speaking into it.
“We’ll try again, shall we? Where. Are. These.
Drusilla couldn’t feel her feet bleeding, but the wounds were
staining her lace hem with smudges of cinnabar as she paced down the quiet
street. Her head was sharply angled, listening to the insistent whisper on the
wind and straining to distinguish the words.
Kazi, healer of deep wounds and fatal fevers
Work our will
She couldn’t quite make out what the voices were calling but she
knew with absolute certainty that it was something wonderful. Dru’s world
was full of marvels and horrors, and she rarely knew which was which. The
patterns that she saw about her so plainly often eluded other people –
even Angelus, even her Spike – and in turn their reasoning made little
sense to her. They seemed oblivious to the most obvious things: the music of
the spheres and the burning baby fishes dancing in the ether. She regarded
their pitiful incapacity with perfect, if puzzled, equanimity.
Teta, finder of things lost and
Work our will
When the voices called her from her bed she had not paused to pull on
shoes or lace herself into a frock – and really this should have struck
her as strange, but everything had the imperfect logic of a dream. It seemed
entirely reasonable to step out of the suite clad in nothing but a nightgown,
her pale unstockinged feet shod in nothing but her skin.
Libushe, the knowing one, founder of the city
Libushe, the wise one, bringer of justice
Libushe, the great one, queen among witches.
Find our blood. Bind our
When she trod through the discarded shards of glass and her sluggish
blood seeped onto the cobbles, Drusilla’s slumbering nerves carried no
message of pain down the long-dead synapses to her bewitched brain. She still
couldn’t quite make out the words, but if she went just a little further
she knew that they would be clear.
Dru walked on unhurriedly, tugged by distant voices like an obedient
marionette; and each unflinching footstep ground the glass still deeper into
her unprotected soles.
The muscles in his legs began to ache as he darted down the streets,
seeking her familiar form. It seemed impossible that these witches should pose
such a threat when killing one of them had been so bloody simple. He was
probably worrying over nothing - Brachens were scared of their own shadows
– but his limbs were heavy with a sense of dread that he could not reason
If she were dead - *really* dead, dead-and-gone dead, dust-and-ashes
dead – then surely he should feel it somehow? He could not have lost the
one thing in all the world that mattered in the space between one drink and the
next. Could he? Had he been mid-coitus on the sheets she had left rumpled,
utterly insensible of the instant when some faceless enemy crushed her into
The thought terrified him.
The streets were cluttered with herds of idiot tourists in search of
banal pleasures; overpriced beer, vanilla sex, middle class theatre and
outmoded nightclubs. He stared at the lumpen throng of humans and hated them.
Hated the cobblestones underfoot; hated the pastel castle perched upon its
hill; hated the tapering spires of St Vitus that stabbed the dark velvet sky;
hated the very bones of this saccharine city where his girl was
Still no sign of her.
He wondered, as he ran, how one went about fighting a god. How hard
could it be? The weren’t so damn special, after all – if she even
were a god, this Libushe. Oftentimes a lot of it was just cheap parlour tricks
and clever spin. There were demons who were quite convinced that Christ had
been a vampire, citing the whole transubstantiation thing, and the
resurrection, and raising their scaly eyebrows knowingly about the way that the
crucifix, alone amongst human religious symbols, had any power over vampires.
Spike gave it no credence – too many inconsistencies – but the
sheer effrontery of the notion tickled him. It was quite a common belief, which
just went to show how bloody gullible people were, be they human or demon.
Likely this Libushe was all talk too, owing her reputation to similar
half truths and gossip. And the Brachen was very probably exaggerating about
the amount of damage the witches had caused while searching for them.
They’d say anything when you started pulling their little spines out,
after all. Still, let her be as all-bleeding-powerful as she pleased, Spike
would not tolerate any threat to Drusilla. Not if Jehovah and all his heavenly
host appeared in person with flaming swords in hand.
Which was all well and good, but his bravado was no sodding use if she
were already taken from him and her beloved atoms scattered on the breeze.
The smell of her blood pulled him up short. Faint – so very faint!
– but unquestionably Drusilla’s. And freshly spilled. He caught the
air current carrying her scent and followed it, trying not to think about the
many ways to hurt a vampire without letting them crumble to dust. If they had
harmed a single strand of her midnight hair…
The blood, when he found it, spotted the ground near a shattered beer
bottle. He hunkered down and dipped a finger in the liquid. The taste was
unmistakable. Spike stared at the dark glitter of the lamplit glass and
concluded that she had walked straight through the glistening shards and left a
trail of red droplets instead of crumbs of bread. He followed it at a run, his boot soles growing slippery as
he trod in her cold footsteps.
When he glimpsed her in the distance the relief was overwhelming. She
was walking along calmly enough, although he was surprised to see her in a
state of dishabille. A lumpen young couple trailed along anxiously at her side,
plucking at her little puff sleeves and addressing her in exaggeratedly gentle
tones. She ignored them like Lady Bracknell being importuned by lepers. Spike
realised that he was grinning like a maniac. She was fine. Everything was fine.
“What are you up to, sweetheart?” he asked when he reached
her side. The pudgy humans looked at him askance. He turned his dazzling smile
on them and told them, quite pleasantly, to fuck off. They backed away
slightly, but seemed unwilling to leave Dru to his tender mercies.
“Drusilla, love?” She still had not glanced at him and
showed no signs of halting; the rhythm of her footsteps had faltered not a
whit. The receding tide of fear turned and swept over him anew.
“Dru?” Spike’s tone was hesitant. He moved to stand
directly in front of her, but her face betrayed no flicker of recognition as
they stood practically nose to nose. Her gaze remained fixed serenely in the
middle distance; but this did not prevent her from thrusting him out of her way
with all the preternatural strength her spindly arms possessed.
He got back to his feet and stared blankly at the fragile line of her
spine under the white cotton gown, watching the slight sway of her skinny hips
as she wandered on her way. Didn’t look back once; no danger of Drusilla
turning into a pillar of salt.
“Hey mister, the lady doesn’t – “
He swung on the fat tourist and roared, the planes of his face shifting
of their own volition. The swiftly spreading dark patch on the man’s
suddenly soaking jeans afforded Spike no satisfaction; his whole attention was
fixed despairingly on Drusilla as the tourists ran away. Whilst she walked the
lace-edged cotton swirled up around her ankles and he caught brief flashes of
the sweet arch of her insteps all sullied with scarlet.
Spike knew just enough about magic to know that he knew bugger all about
magic. There was no way to be certain that intervening would not make matters
worse, but he simply couldn’t stand back and let this – whatever
exactly ‘this’ was – happen. She was very clearly under some
wretched spell; and based on family history to date, no good was going to come
of it. He walked up behind her with his shoulders squared.
“Sorry, princess,” said Spike, and knocked her unconscious
with a brick.
He caught her before she could hit the cobbles, lifted her up in his
arms and cradled her against his chest, kissing the pale and pulseless arch of
her throat and pressing his newly-human face into the disordered silk of her
hair. He clearly wasn’t crying, because vampires didn’t cry –
especially not big bad slayers of Slayers. He just had a little dust in his
eye, that was all.
He was perhaps being overly cautious, but caution was such a novelty for
Spike that he had difficulty judging. Still, it seemed to him that the Europa
might not be such a good place to go right now, carrying a bleeding and
half-naked girl who was sought all over the city by vengeful witches. To be on
the safe side he carried Dru to the nearest front door and kicked it with one
steel-toed DM. After several minutes the door opened a crack.
They presented a sight pitiful enough to melt the sternest heart: Dru
looking, for once, almost as dead as she truly was and Spike’s wet eyes
brimming with helpless misery. The old woman took one look at them and invited
them in, muttering in scandalised Czech and making compassionate little
clucking sounds as she took in Drusilla’s pallor and her blood-spotted
skirts. Spike appreciated the sympathy enough to make a point of breaking her
liver-spotted neck quite quickly and painlessly as she picked up the phone to
call an ambulance.
The annoying thing about sweet little old grandmothers was that they
didn’t often have manacles and stout chains to hand. This was by no means
a universal rule, but it tended to be the case; and sadly the old dear whose
home Spike had appropriated was not a big fan of the S & M scene. He was
forced to improvise with the tools available and hence Drusilla’s
still-limp body was wrapped up like a mummy in ropes ad-libbed from twisted
sheets. He hoped it would be enough to keep her there while he dashed out for
sturdier restraints; if he was lucky she would remain unconscious long enough
for him to shackle her properly, so he could go out and find the bitches who
had the gall to mess with his girl.
Spike took the low road to the Europa alone, picking his way through the
disused stretches of the sewer tunnels and through metro station maintenance
shafts that witches were surely less likely to frequent; although he realised,
with a sinking heart, that he was probably persona non grata with most of Prague’s
demon community too. If the Brachen had been telling the truth, the witches had
already burned out a dozen vampire nests and killed assorted other demons of
various castes and species pretty much at random until they had a
vampire’s name to go with the corpse. The photograph had been found a
couple of streets away and it was the sheerest bad luck they had connected it
with the killing; he wondered how many discarded crisp packets and random fag
ends they had gathered up just on the off chance.
How could he have been so unforgivably careless?
He managed to avoid bumping into angry humans or angry monsters and
emerged in the Europa’s cellar after half an hour’s travel. Made
his way discreetly up to the Honeymoon Suite and crept in, his whole body tense
with nervous energy. Half expected witches and demons to spring out of the
wardrobes and wriggle out from under the bed, but the place appeared untouched.
He moved through the room with the utmost caution, alert for any sign of
intruders, but he could neither see nor smell anything new.
Roberto made a hopeful little sound that modulated into a muffled sob of
terror when he realised it was Spike. The vampire spared a moment to look at
the two humans and unaccustomed pity welled in him at the sight; they had been
quite the little Romeo and Juliet just a few hours earlier. His dead heart
clenched painfully at the thought of losing Drusilla and he patted the
lad’s dark hair absently.
“Don’t worry, pet,” Spike said, planting a friendly
kiss on Roberto’s cheek.
“Spike will make it all better.” Didn’t take long to
drain the boy; at first he thrashed like a hooked fish, but as the blood pumped
out of him his limbs grew loose and unresisting. Afterwards Spike briskly
unfastened the sets of clanking cuffs and stuffed them in the pocket of his
duster. He packed only one bag, piling in some of Dru’s more treasured
dresses. None of his own garments, though; he could pick up more clothes for
himself easily enough when the need arose. Tucked in the handful of mementos he
had gathered during a century of travelling and a couple of Drusilla’s
blessed dolls. It was primarily the cuffs and chains he’d come back for,
along with Miss Edith. As an afterthought he wrapped Dru’s hollow Easter
eggs in a couple of silk scarves and slipped them into his remaining pocket.
Once he had her wrists cuffed to the iron bedstead, and there was no
immediate danger of her escaping to wherever the spell wanted her to go once
she returned to consciousness, Spike finally allowed himself to tend to her
poor feet. He filled a basin with warm water and soap and found a little bottle
of disinfectant, and he brought these into the bedroom with a towel and some
bandages. She looked like one of the figurines in Madame Tussaud’s Wax
Museum, like a model of Sleeping Beauty. Except for the handcuffs.
Her feet were encrusted with congealed blood and nameless muck. When he
picked them up they weighed almost nothing in his hands, as if she had the
hollow bones of a bird. He dipped one corner of the towel into the basin and
gently wiped her right ankle clean and then the top of her foot, working down
towards the gory mess that was her wounded soles and slowly revealing the
whiteness under all the dirt. Her skin was in ribbons. It took him a good
twenty minutes to pick out the shards of glass and the little pebbles that had
been grating away as she walked. He knew it would heal quickly enough and that
the disinfectant was unnecessary, but nevertheless he sloshed it over her
tattered flesh and smeared on some antiseptic cream before binding a bandage
around each foot. He couldn’t bear to let them remain in that condition.
He propped Miss Edith up on the bedside table and arranged the fragile
Easter eggs beside her in a hastily-fashioned nest of scarves, so that there
would be something familiar and reassuring for Dru if she woke up in this
strange room. Brushed her tousled hair out of her face and stroked her cool
cheek with the back of his fingers. He hated to leave her like this, but Spike
knew that he was entirely out of his depth. For the first time he almost
regretted being so wrapped up in his girl; he hadn’t built up a
particularly wide circle of acquaintances in Prague. The vamps were liable to
stake him on sight, since they were bearing the brunt of the witches’
anger. He needed a wizard - preferably a foreign wizard, and possibly a demon
one. And he needed one now. This was not a threat that he could handle with his
fists or his fangs.
He took one last look at her quiet body, dropped a kiss on her unresponsive
brow and then hurried back out into the darkness.
The Kankanath was surprisingly helpful. Drusilla’s flirtation with
the bartender at the Metamorphosis had occasionally irritated Spike in the
past, but it was hardly the time to be possessive about his flirtatious little
flibbertigibbet. He needed all the help he could get right now. The blue demon
gave him the address of a powerful human wizard and pressed Dru’s
favourite Iva Bittova album into his hands, the one she always used to wheedle
him into playing on repeat while she danced between the tables with her eyes
closed. He wished Spike luck in a voice rendered even croakier than usual by
* * *
In spite of the lateness he could see a couple of lights on in the
apartment, which was promising. He knocked and waited, wondering what on earth
he could offer in exchange for help. It was all so much easier when you could
simply keep on breaking things until you got what you wanted.
No answer. He knocked again. After a little while he was gratified to
hear the grate of bolts being drawn and keys creaking in locks. Spike strove to
look trustworthy and harmless. He was most surprised to find himself facing a
young woman instead of the elderly Jewish gentleman he had been led to expect.
She fixed him with a thoroughly forbidding glare.
“Good evening,” said Spike in impeccable Czech.
“I’m sorry to disturb you at this hour, but I need to speak to
Isaac on a very urgent matter.”
The woman looked him up and down with one eyebrow arched, and then she
smiled in a decidedly unfriendly fashion. She replied in English.
“And what would possess me to invite William the Bloody into this
Bugger. He thought fast.
“You know what I am. Fair enough. But I need Isaac’s help
and I’ll pay whatever he wants in return. And whatever security he wants,
I’ll give it. Anything. Anything at all. No tricks, no strings.”
She eyed him appraisingly for a long moment and he wondered just who the
bloody hell she was. Her crisp voice proclaimed class and privilege as clearly
as the understated hair cut and the pink earlobes studded with pearls. Spike
really wasn’t taking to her one little bit.
“Fine words, Master William,” she said, “But I’m
more impressed by fine deeds. I take it you want Isaac to stop two and two from
adding up to four and save your lover? Oh, don’t look so surprised.
They’ve been combing the town for her these past three days. You’re
just lucky that she’s so thoroughly dotty; it’s only the fractured
mind that’s prevented them from getting hold of her. Well, that and her
own half-baked powers. Of course it helps that you don’t have souls;
being neither fish nor fowl, it’s trickier to pin you down with a spell.
They must have found something of hers, though – I heard a rumour about a
photograph, but that you wouldn’t possibly be so stupid as to – ah.
You did. Well, that was rather foolish, wasn’t it?”
“And just who the hell are you supposed to be?” he asked
“Gwendolyn Post. Mrs.” She smiled. “My friends call me
Gwen. But you can call me Mrs Post.” And that, it appeared, was that.
“Well, Gwenny, I actually wanted to talk to the man of the house.
Where *is* old Isaac, anyway?”
“He’s a trifle…indisposed…at present.” Her
smile widened, very much like the cat who’d had not only got the cream
but also a nice plump canary. Followed by a plate of pate de fois gras and a
whole roast goose with all the trimmings. “Suffice it to say that Mr
Goldstein and I are having a slight difference of opinion over things that need
not concern you. In spite of which he is very much in the land of the living
and shall remain so for the foreseeable future. And no, you are not welcome in
She hooked her index finger inside the collar of her neatly buttoned
blouse and tugged at it with every appearance of casualness. He watched the
slender fingertip travel across her unmarked neck and growled very softly.
Spike found himself torn between carnal impulses. He waited.
“It seems to me that we can do business here, Master William. You
want the spell lifted from your mad mistress. I can arrange that. Meanwhile all
I want is one tiny little book. Stealing it may be a little tricky, but is well
within your capabilities and can only serve to enhance your reputation; whereas
it would damage mine irreparably.”
That was more like it.
“And why, exactly, should I trust a low-rent version of Mrs
Peel?” he asked, mimicking her mellifluous tones. Saw her brows contract
angrily and felt a germ of satisfaction. Got her, the smug cow.
“What’s to say you aren’t just some posh totty he picked up
for a bit of slap and tickle? No, I’d really rather talk to Mr Goldstein
if it’s all the same with you, dear.”
“Well that is simply too bad, because Isaac isn’t going to
be talking to anyone for a while. I can’t think of any reason why you
should trust me, Master Will, but that really isn’t my concern. I am all
you’ve got and all you’re likely to get – but if my offer
doesn’t interest you, that’s perfectly fine by me.” She made
to close the door and he reached out automatically to stop her, his hand
slamming into the invisible barrier. She paused and looked down at him with a
frosty little smile. Spike very earnestly hoped that an opportunity would arise
to teach Mrs Gwendolyn Post a little more respect for vampires, but for the moment
she seemed to be holding all the cards. Bitch.
“OK, love, keep your hair on. You win. Fix my girl up and
I’ll go and get this book quick as a flash.” She laughed. Well, he
hadn’t really expected her to go along with it, but it was worth a try.
He realised then who it was she reminded him of, for all the surface
differences: Darla. Not in appearance or colouring or accent or class, but in
something more quintessential than that; something calculating and fearless and
“Bring me the book and then I’ll perform the spell. That is
my offer. Take it or leave it.”
“Where’s this book, then?”
Petr Soucek slept the untroubled sleep of the just on the top floor of
the Prague Watchers’ Council building, his innocent beer belly rising and
falling gently with each rumbling and sonorous snore as William the Bloody
broke in through the back door and stepped onto the premises with a grin.
Turned out Gwen Post had been as good as her word; either she really was
an honest-to-god Watcher currently resident in Prague or else she was more
powerful than any other magic user Spike had ever met. He wasn’t at all
sure which was the worse scenario.
Breaking and entry was one of Spike’s many lesser-known skills.
Admittedly the breaking bit was his real forte, but Spike could be stealthy and
discreet when the occasion demanded it. Reasonably discreet. Discreet by
Drusilla’s standards, at any rate, and they were the only standards he
was normally interested in.
He paused momentarily in the unlit hallway and listened for movement.
The city streets were very quiet at this hour; no trams or trolley buses
rattling in the distance; no Czechs going about their work in the wee small
hours; no toothsome tourists out wandering and wasted, all ripe and untasted
and wondering blearily where the hell they were. The whole world had sunk at
last into longed-for slumber and Spike felt himself the only wakeful creature
left with unfinished business to attend to.
He tried not to think about Drusilla lying shackled to a bed on the
other side of town. She was probably awake by now. If she were sensible of her
surroundings she would be thoroughly confused and perfectly furious. And
perhaps afraid. Likely struggling to be free and biting through the makeshift gag
as the cuffs rattled against the headboard. Desperate to do the witches’
If this woman were trifling with him he would strangle her with her own
He took the stairs carefully, wary of creaking boards and listening for
any alteration to the rhythmic palpitation of the sleeping Watchers’
hearts. Their quiet pulses continued unperturbed as he ascended and in no time
at all Spike was prowling through the dark rooms of the first floor. The layout
was just as Gwendolyn Post had described it.
Spike’s heightened sense of smell had no trouble picking out her
room and the door gave at his light touch. Unlocked. No surprise there –
say what you would, the woman was no amateur. She would have left no trace of
her treachery for the good Council folk to find and likely nothing of use to
Spike, but his curiosity was aroused and he took a moment to look around the
room. It was as impersonal as any hotel room, although she claimed to have been
living there for the best part of a year. Certainly it was thoroughly
impregnated with her scent; the imprint of her fingers on door handles and
window sills had imbued their surfaces with oils too faint for human noses and
the bouquet of her sweat and sex and secrets still clung to the fabrics and
lingered around the innocent bookshelves. She had not been here for a week or
more. He trod carefully, listening to the even breathing of the girl in the
room across the hallway, and fingered the decorative knickknacks and gimcrack
jewellery lying in apparent disarray on a shelf. His eye was caught by a pretty
ball of blown glass hanging from a cord beside the window and he plucked it
down and pocketed it automatically; always a magpie for his girl. Slid open
drawers and rummaged stealthily through the wardrobe but found nothing more
interesting than knickers from Marks and Spencers.
This wasn’t getting him anywhere; and it certainly wasn’t
getting him any closer to the damned book. He dismissed the room and left it
behind, heading up to the second floor in search of Gwen Post’s prize and
Petr Soucek’s door wasn’t locked. A trusting bunch, these
Watchers; placed a touching faith in their demon-repulsing spells and the
traditional rules against vampires. Weren’t counting on one of their own
extending an open invitation to the big bad wolf.
Spike pushed the door gently and was rewarded with the very faintest of
creaks; unfortunately this was enough to jar Mr Soucek into wakefulness and
Spike was obliged to cross the distance to the bed in the few seconds before
the human had settled into full consciousness. He straddled the Watcher with a
snarl, trapping the man’s hands by his sides and cutting off the
astounded Czech expletives by applying one firm hand to the warm throat and
squeezing. Hard. Alternating bars of moonlight and shadow cast by the blinds
crosshatched the bed, severing their tangled bodies into stripes. Petr
Soucek’s bulging eyes stared helplessly up at the vampire from a
colourless island of terrified skin, separated from the silent scream of his
gaping mouth by a slice of darkness that neatly erased the plump jowls and
Spike leaned forward until his unrising chest rested on the man’s
upper body and his goat-yellow eyes smiled at the Watcher from only a few
inches away. He pressed a friendly kiss onto the unseen nose and then nipped
off the tip with a clean little snap. The Watcher jerked beneath him in sudden
pain and Spike rocked with him, stroking the short grey hair with his free hand
and lapping idly at the wound while the man whimpered with shock.
“There, there, mate, no need to make a scene,” Spike said
pleasantly in Czech. “You just keep nice and quiet and I won’t bite
anything else. I’m sure you don’t want to be the Czech
Republic’s answer to John Wayne Bobbit, now, do you?”
After a moment he released his grip on the man’s jugular and felt
the lungs inflate at once. Spike laid a warning finger firmly over the parted
lips and was pleased to find Soucek didn’t shout or scream after all.
“Good lad! Now, on to business. The secret writings of John Dee and Thomas Kelley –
just hand them over and I’ll be on my merry way.”
There was an expectant pause and when the Watcher remained stubbornly
silent Spike sighed.
“Come on, mate, Dee and Kelly? Mysteries revealed to them by Uriel
and Madimi? Written around 1585, I think she said; brimming with brimstone and
bedknobs and broomsticks, all that kind of thing. You know the one I
Petr Soucek continued to bleed quietly and uncommunicatively. They were
all just bloody well determined to make his life more difficult, as if he
didn’t already have enough to worry about. Bastards.
“Fine then. We’ll do it the hard way.”
The girl was awake.
He had been conscious of her scent as soon as he stepped into the
hallway. He’d been peripherally aware of the modulated throb of her pulse
as Petr Soucek slipped out of life, hamstrung and blinded and bleeding from
countless cuts. Even as the pain-quickened patter of his frantic heart grew
fainter and fainter and faded into death Spike was still aware of the living
girl downstairs. He sensed the sudden syncopation when the sleeping Watcher
woke and he heard the quiet fall of her sleepy slippered feet as she rose and
made her way down to the kitchen.
Spike paused at the top of the staircase and considered his
alternatives, licking Petr’s blood fastidiously from fingers white as
bread. He glanced down at the book, which had been under nothing more
complicated than a simple invisibility spell. Soucek had taken quite a lot of
persuading to render it visible, but Spike could be exceptionally persuasive
It was an unremarkable looking volume, considering all the fuss that was
going into getting it. The leather, as far as he could ascertain, was just
ordinary leather; not the flayed skin of a virgin or preserved dragonhide,
nothing fancy like that. No gold or iron bindings either. Just a book, when all
was said and done, with its fragile pages guarded from deterioration by a
standard little cantrip, if the faint stink of civet and sage was any
indication. He didn’t know and he didn’t care what she wanted it
for, just so long as she could undo the wretched witches’ mojo. On the
other hand he really didn’t like having her hold all the cards like this,
because she was clearly no more trustworthy than he was himself. She’d
make a very good vampire, this Gwendolyn Post. He’d take great delight in
the look on her face just before she exploded into ashes.
After a little thought he ghosted down the staircase to the first floor,
unfastening shirt buttons with one hand. Listened to the hiss of water gushing
from a tap downstairs and hitting glass, the quality of the sound shifting as
the volume increased. Spike moved silently to Mrs Post’s empty room and
waited until he heard the girl turn off the tap, then opened the door loudly.
Sensed rather than heard her pause downstairs. Strode cheerfully over the
polished wood and descended the final flight of stairs with a spring in his
step and a lascivious gleam in his eye.
He was yawning a little theatrically as he reached the threshold of the
kitchen, the book of magic tucked casually in his armpit, and he made a point
of looking thoroughly surprised to find the kitchen inhabited. Even managed a
dash of embarrassment, although it was a stretch, when he met Martina
Ruzitckova’s narrowed grey eyes. Took in the tousled brown bob and the
imprint of a crumpled pillow creasing her right cheek; noted the delicate
beginnings of crow’s feet framing her gaze. A small woman in her late
20s, limbs rounded from the sedentary life of a scholar; the very epitome of
unthreatening girlishness in too-large striped blue pyjamas clearly designed
for a man. Slippers embroidered with daisies. Her features weren’t
especially pretty but she was not unattractive, and her eyes positively shone
with keen intelligence. Which was fine by Spike: intellectuals were often the
easiest ones to manipulate.
She had heard him galumphing down the stairs and the utter lack of
concealment, in conjunction with his dishevelled appearance, had already done a
lot to allay her qualms. Her expression was quizzical but unafraid as she
leaned back against the counter and sipped at the glass of water she’d
come seeking; but Spike noticed that this Watcher had pulled a knife from one
of the drawers, and was still holding it casually in her other hand. A glint of
silver against her collarbone; a cross dangling between her breasts under the
cotton, he’d wager. Hardly a great threat to a vampire like Spike, this
girl, but he was hoping for a little fun and – more to the point –
more information about Mrs Post and these blasted witches. This would take
“Sorry! We didn’t wake you, did we?” he exclaimed in
English, all roguish charm and chiselled cheekbones. “I mean,
uh…prominte? Ahoj…um…mluvite anglicky?” he took a
perverse delight in pronouncing the words in an accent thicker than boarding
school custard, as his countrymen were wont to do with any tongue but their
own, and watched more of the traces of mistrust melt away from her bare face.
Let her think him a fool.
“A little. And you are…?”
“Blake,” he improvised cheerfully. “I’m a friend
of Gwenny’s. Mrs Post’s.”
“A friend,” she repeated, glancing at his hastily-mussed
hair and half-exposed chest and raising one eyebrow. “I didn’t hear
you come in. I haven’t seen Gwendolyn for days.”
“No, she said as much,” he agreed with a smile.
“She’s been slaving away at the research. Once that girl has the
bit between her teeth there’s simply no stopping her. You must
“Martina. Martina Ruzickova.”
“Yeah, that’s right,” he agreed breezily.
“Gwenny’s told me all about you, Martina. You might not realise it,
but she thinks the world of you.” His eyes locked onto hers with an
intensity that made her breathing quicken ever so slightly. “’Scuse
me, you don’t mind if I just…?” Standing just a hair’s
breadth too far away to be actually invading her personal space and then he
leaned forward; watched an assortment of expressions cross her freckled face
before she realised he was just getting himself a glass. Martina dropped the
knife back into the drawer and stepped away rather sheepishly as he calmly
poured himself some cold water and gulped it down. Oh, but this would be fun
– he could smell desire on her already. Hardly surprising, though; she
was only human. They were so pathetically easy.
“So you and Mrs Post…?” she asked, with a rather sweet
attempt at nonchalance. Spike managed to feign a scandalised expression rather
well, all things considered.
“You surely don’t mean...? Sweetheart, Gwenny’s a
married woman. What kind of man do you take me for?”
Adorable the way the blush mounted on her cheeks then – he could
smell the blood blossoming just below the skin. Delicious.
“I’m sorry,” Martina said, looking genuinely
embarrassed. He smiled his most saintly smile and patted her hand forgivingly.
“No, I’m sorry. Really, what else would you think? But
we’re just good friends. She’s helping me with a little
problem.” Martina was having difficulty taking her eyes off him and he
returned her gaze with just the right blend of deference and desire. Spike
hadn’t seen himself in a mirror for centuries, and certainly back when he
had a reflection it had never seemed particularly adequate or dashing; but
Drusilla’s eyes were the only mirror he needed. She saw that he was
beautiful and terrible and wicked as sin and so he knew that it was true. It
was all in the eyes.
“Gwenny said you knew a lot about Libushe,” he said
casually, his eyes still locked on hers. She gave a coquettish little giggle at
odds with her evident intelligence; sex was such a great leveller.
“Oh, just what everyone knows,” Martina replied, smiling at
“I’m sure you’re just being modest. And you certainly
know far more than me - I’m no expert on witches. Demons are more my
line.” The timbre of his voice made her think he was just making
conversation, was asking about anything in order to draw their dialogue out a
little longer. As if anything about her mattered in the slightest. Humans were
so painfully predictable.
He missed Drusilla terribly just then. She had never once bored him in
all their decades of travel; and he had never taken her or her love for
granted. Knew that Angelus could have taken her away from him with one snap of
his fingers, the mincing great ponce; and he didn’t blame his girl for
that, because after all the man was her sire. Bastard. But oh, how he treasured
her now that she was his alone. They had their arguments from time to time, to
be sure – life wasn’t always blood and kisses. But nothing serious;
just a little pepper to spice up the banquet of existence.
He would not countenance the possibility of life without Drusilla.
Martina, the poor fool, was blooming under his admiring gaze. Spike
marvelled again at the human capacity for self-deception; a Watcher really
shouldn’t be so painfully easy to fool, but they saw what they expected
to see. Seems like they’d grown soft in Prague – a little flattery,
a little sleight of hand and Bob’s your uncle.
“So tell me about this Libushe, then,” he said, casting a
soulful look at Martina and watching her pupils dilate further. “She
really a goddess?” He was the personification of louche nonchalance.
She made a business of drinking the water; breaking eye contact and
lowering her lashes demurely as she gulped it down. Spike watched with his head
cocked to one side, his gaze travelling languorously along her bobbing throat
as she swallowed. She was making him thirsty. Martina wiped her mouth with the
back of her hand and half shivered as she caught sight of the intensity of his
focus on her at that moment.
“A goddess?” she repeated, transparently grateful for the
distraction. “No, not a goddess – although a lot of the demons take
her for one. You know demons, though – the sentient ones are so superstitious
Ha. Not a goddess. He’d *known* it was all just hype.
“So she’s a fraud?”
“Not exactly. You’re familiar with the legends?”
“Why don’t you fill me in?”
“Libushe was the greatest of Czech rulers. ‘The Mother of
Czechie,’ they called her.
Her father was a powerful chieftain in the seventh century; a great
magician and warrior but also a just and fair ruler. He was like our Solomon,
“When he died, the crown passed to Libushe. All three of his
daughters were powerful witches in their own right – Kazi was a great
healer and Teta a powerful priestess, but Libushe was the wisest and the
fairest of them all. She
was chosen as ruler, lawmaker and judge and for many years the Czech
people prospered. Then one day she gave judgment on a land dispute and the man
who lost the case became very bitter. He said it shamed the country to have a
Spike stifled a yawn, only the slight flaring of his nostrils revealing
the onset of ennui. His gaze wandered to the window and he noticed another of
the little glass baubles dangling from a cord; there had been one in Petr
Soucek’s room too, come to think of it. He was sure he’d seen them
before somewhere, but couldn’t quite place it at the moment. Pretty
things. Very Dru. Martina was
still rambling on about ancient history and his patience was swiftly wearing
thin. Perhaps flaying any useful information out of her would be quicker after
“And so Premysl became king instead and he ruled the people with
an iron rod.”
“My kind of guy,” Spike murmured. Martina smiled
“Libushe continued with her witchcraft. We know that she saw
prophetic visions which disturbed her greatly.” Her voice became steadier
as she warmed to her theme; she was clearly the sort who could ramble on about
myths and legends and musty texts indefinitely. Watchers – really, could
they possibly be any duller? No wonder Gwenny had decided to embrace The Dark
Side of the Force.
“Somewhere she found – or perhaps created – a window
to another dimension and then she and her sisters passed through the portal.
Time passes more slowly in that world; we know this because there have been a
number of recorded incidents of Libushe’s followers returning through the
portal over the centuries. She may still be alive.”
Spike had the feeling that she would keep right on talking until sunrise
unless he did something about it, so he jumped in as soon as she paused for
“Right – so she *was* a powerful little witch, but she
waltzed off through the looking glass? So what’s the big deal about these
Prague witches, then?”
His irritation was all too clear. Martina looked startled and he gave
her an apologetic grin that seemed to satisfy her for the moment.
“They are the ones who elected to stay and guard this side of the
portal - I mean, their descendents. They have had some contact with Libushe
herself over the centuries, but their philosophy is very different from hers.
Vlasta was her successor on this side of the portal - a warrior-woman, a sort
of Amazon, you know? She led an army of women against Premysl. They were
defeated, but the remnants formed the Order and their successors carried on
their work. The witches are very powerful, especially here in Prague. They
cleansed the city of several very aggressive species of demon and they have
fought some great battles against hellspawn in the past. The Order of Libushe
is a dangerous enemy.”
“So no weaknesses then? They don’t melt if you throw a
bucket of water over them, for example? ‘Cause I always thought that
looked like fun…”
“They are mortal women. Individually their power is not great, but
together – on their hallowed ground, armed with the power of the portal?
They are a force to be reckoned with. The Council leaves them to their own
devices, but we have an… understanding. Their enemies are our enemies.
They guard many items of power, many objects that could do terrible harm in
other hands, and they have never tried to abuse this power. We trust
Spike felt a surge of furious helplessness. What the hell did Mrs Post
think she could do to these bitches? If she were pulling a fast one, the
supercilious cow – if she dared to use him like some idiot
“Of course, they are sworn not to harm women,” added
Martina, half to herself. “This has always seemed a little naïve to
me. Gwendolyn thinks that they are idiots to be bound by such a geas –
but you will have heard all about it, I suppose. They don’t even kill
female demons; can’t kill them, or their own lives are forfeit. But they
can encourage them to kill one another.”
His glance fell upon the kitchen clock and he started slightly; it was
getting late. He had enough information to be going on with.
“Speaking of killing,” he said cheerfully, allowing the
curve of his brow to realign itself more comfortably, “I came down here
for a drink.”
Spike rang Isaac Goldstein’s doorbell again and was gratified by
how quickly Mrs Post opened the door. He held the book just out of her reach
and watched her mouth tighten.
“You wouldn’t be thinking about double-crossing me, now,
“Certainly not, Master William,” she said pettishly.
“I’m a woman of my word.”
“Tell that to Petr Soucek, love. Now, the thing is I’m a
suspicious type and I felt the need for some security – I’m sure
you can understand. So right now your little friend Martina is still very much
alive and well aware of who it was that invited a vampire into the
Watchers’ Prague HQ. She won’t be telling anyone for a little
while, of course; I’ve stowed her away in a nice safe place. But if
you’re thinking of screwing with me, Gwenny, then she’ll be free to
tell her Watcher chums all about what a bad girl you’ve been.”
He was bluffing, as it happened; all these years of poker playing had
made him a pretty skilful liar. Martina was thoroughly dead. He had made her
drink before her heart stopped, though; the notion of a vamped Watcher rather
Gwendolyn Post looked bored.
“I assure you, this is entirely unnecessary. You have fulfilled
your part of the bargain, now I shall fulfil mine. Give me the book.”
Spike considered his options and found them remarkably thin.
“What’s the magic word?” he asked. She stared at him
through narrowed eyes.
“There you go!”
The door slammed a moment later and Spike was left alone and bookless on
the threshold, wondering whether the bitch would keep her word and where to
start looking for these bloody witches if she didn’t. The news that they
couldn’t kill female demons had taken a great weight off his mind, but he
wasn’t about to get complacent anytime soon.
As luck would have it, a youngish tart happened along the street whilst
Spike was waiting impatiently for Gwendolyn Post. At least, he thought she was
a tart; dressed like a tart, smelled like a tart – spunk and sweat, fear
and anger and cheap perfume. Not that such semantics mattered – meat was
meat, regardless of its name or occupation. He savoured the hasty clip-clop of
her heels long before she strutted into view. Such sweet vulnerability in the
sound. He delighted in the vagaries of fashion; could not imagine Drusilla ever
donning such unseemly footwear, but he relished the seductive rhythm of these
stiletto-shod footsteps; the sharp, percussive beat of precariously arched feet
aching to be chased. Promising to be caught.
He watched her sail around the corner, wearing her body like an advert
and a shield. Hard little face masked in faded makeup; mascara-smudges under
her eyes and lipstick almost worn away - only a crimson ring still staining the
edges of her lips, quickly fading into the honest dusky pink of her naked
mouth. He took in these details as she walked through pools of lamplight and
hurried through the shadows in between them.
Smiled. Just what he wanted.
She didn’t notice him uncoil leather wings in the darkness and had
barely time for a sharp inhalation of night air when he seized her and covered
her wet mouth with one hand, wrapped an arm around her wildly struggling torso
and dragged her into the shadows.
Hot skin quivering against his snarl and then the blissful tearing as
his teeth ripped a beautiful new hole in her throat. Her scream was imprisoned
by his palm and it bubbled bloodily into his mouth. He drained her veins with
gulp after ravenous gulp – no need to pause for breath, after all.
Imagined it was Gwendolyn Post whose heart was thrashing helplessly towards
silence in his grasp and smiled against her neck. Bitch.
When she was spent and he was rosy and brimming with second-hand life,
he dropped her broken body between two parked cars. Retrieving her orphaned
handbag he rummaged through it, plucking out a wallet and a pack of Lucky
Strikes with a triumphant grin. Leafed quickly through the wallet and extracted
the crumpled bills with practised ease, ignoring the receipts and scribbled
phone numbers and the creased photo of a blue-eyed toddler. Dropped the
ransacked wallet and bag onto her limp body and strolled back to
Goldstein’s house, lighting up a fag.
If she were double crossing him, Gwendolyn Post could hope for no such
Faint stench of sulphur and pine curling from the house. Spike stared
hungrily at the windows, cursing the small print that came with the gift of
vampirism. Bloody invitations. Stupid rule. A flicker of blue-white light,
almost opaque in its intensity, licking quickly at the glass and then darkness
shrouded the house once more. He
cocked his head to one side, listening hard, then bounded up the steps to the
When the door opened, Spike’s jaw dropped. The figure before him
stood at least eight foot tall. Built, he reflected, like the proverbial brick
shithouse. He stared at the hulking great human-shaped thing – a
blank-eyed Apollo with feet of clay.
“Let me guess – your name would be Mud?” Spike’s
gaze travelled down to the flat, sexless branching of torso into thighs.
“Or possibly Ken… I take it this isn’t Mr Goldstein?”
he asked as nonchalantly as he could.
Gwendolyn Post’s voice was thick with triumph, her face flushed
with the sated expression of a woman who had just been well and truly laid. Or
something very like it.
“This is our way into the lion’s den, Master William,”
she said. Her crisp hair was dishevelled and still crackling with blue sparks.
“Our?” She smiled at him, and Spike felt his cock stirring
automatically at the look and the smell of her.
“Our. I’m coming along for the ride; and if you want your
Drusilla to be safe, you’ll have to restrain your appetites for the
duration. Besides, the golem won’t tolerate any attack upon my
He tried to remember when he had last heard such concentrated smugness
in a voice. Darla, of course.
“Fair enough, pet,” he said, pretty-faced, his blunt teeth
gritted in a glittering smile. “Whatever you say. You’re the
“You would do well to remember that,” she said, stepping out
into the night a pace behind her golem. Spike was acutely aware of her
movements, but his eyes were fixed on the golem as it moved into the circle of
“I thought the secret of making them had been lost,” he said.
It moved like water, somehow – not lumbering, as he had
half-expected, nor yet with any human or demon grace; but bonelessly, like lava
or liquid mud. As if its form were a matter of whim; as if all the molecules in
its body were rolling forward together almost by coincidence, like the shape of
a shoal of thousands of tiny fish. As if gravity held no sway over it at all.
Strange, even by Spike’s standards.
“It was lost,” said Mrs Post. “But I found it again.
With a little help from Mr Goldstein.”
Spike could almost have pitied the poor bastard.
Gwendolyn Post stalked across the pavement with every appearance of
fearlessness. Spike did not reach out and snap her brittle neck. He did not
seize a double handful of clean brown hair and yank her head right back, slice
through the white skin over her jugular and watch her blood arc through the
night air. He did not punch her in the solar plexus or plough the fragile bones
of her nose back into her skull. Instead he followed the girl and her golem,
like a good dog, and bided his time.
Drusilla was his only priority, the dark sun around which his world
revolved, the sweet erratic beat by which he measured time. His heart. His
soul. The cream in his coffee, the salt in his wound. His love for her was
boundless and binding and tender as a bruise. Gwendolyn Post pissed him right off and he would happily unravel her
intestines to make his girl a skipping rope – but there was a time and a
place for such things. For Dru’s sake he could put his pride to one side
and lope after the lapsed Watcher. Drusilla’s safety was paramount.
Mrs Post walked very quietly for a human, her neat feet shod in
predictably sensible shoes. The golem, far from shaking the ground with its
reverberating tread, flowed forwards as silently as smoke. Spike wasn’t
entirely sure it was actually touching the road at all.
“Where are we going, then, Gwenny?” She didn’t so much as glance at
“We are going,” she enunciated with irritating precision,
“to rescue your lover.”
“Yeah, I got that part, love,” he replied after a moment,
congratulating himself on his restraint at not having lunged straight at her in
vamp face. “But how do you know where to find the buggers who are hexing
“It is my business to know such things,” she said. Spike
very nearly retorted that it was her business to stake vampires, not save their
pretty little arses – but he bit his tongue just in time. Screw the small
talk anyway. Paused long enough to light another of his newly-acquired fags;
drew in a long breath of smoke and felt the pleasant little kick possess his
body. Not alcohol or blood, but still a nice low-level buzz that took the edge
off his frustration. He watched the cocky sway of her receding backside with a
tight little smile, and strode after her once again.
“So this is where they hocus their pocus?”
She shot him another repressive look and peered back at the slice of
courtyard visible through the archway. The building stood at the foot of
Vysehrad hill – big, but unprepossessing. The façade was decorated
with faded art nouveau swirls, but this was unremarkable in Prague –
certainly it was nothing like as grand as the front of the Hotel Europa.
“Kindly shut up.”
He was going to carry on needling her, but then his eye was caught by a
flicker of familiar movement in the courtyard and his heart suddenly sank.
Drusilla, her narrow back towards them, pacing towards the door.
The bandages on her feet were filthy. The chains of the mangled steel
cuffs dangled uselessly from her torn wrists and swung against the bloodied
nightgown like the latest outré bangles to grace the catwalk. Bondage
chic, he thought numbly, as his legs carried him down the street towards her at
He never even heard the golem move behind him, but it plucked him from
the ground effortlessly and Spike found himself hanging suddenly by the scruff
of his neck with all the dignity of a wet kitten. He swore in several languages
and wriggled uselessly, his vicious kicks and bone-splintering punches having
absolutely no impact whatsoever on the damned thing that carried him. God
damned magical perversions.
Spike was unceremoniously deposited at Mrs Post’s feet. He whipped
around in time to see Drusilla step inside the building, then threw back his
head and howled pure yellow-eyed fury.
“I’m sorry, William,” said Mrs Post carefully as he
turned towards her, sharp-toothed and murderous. “But that approach
simply would not have worked, I assure you. Believe me, this way is the best.
She has their full attention now. They won’t be expecting us.”
He glared at her for a long moment, angry beyond words. Exerted every
ounce of willpower he possessed to keep from killing her then and there, golem
or no. Reminded himself that he needed the bitch’s help and that the
little Czech watcher had told him the witches couldn’t harm women. Even
demon women. Drusilla was not about to be dusted, whatever it was they had in
mind; but that really wasn’t the point.
He should have known that the cuffs wouldn’t hold his darling long
if she truly wanted to be free of them. Normally she didn’t want to
escape. He shouldn’t have left her alone.
“Tell me,” he said at last, his brow still crumpled with
“This isn’t a dwelling. You aren’t bound by the
Invitation Rule. But,” her tone was peremptory, and paused him on the
brink of turning. “It is warded against humans and demons alike. Nothing
living or dead can enter uninvited without setting off the…well, we shall
call them ‘alarms’. The invader will be ignited on the spot.
It’s a very powerful spell.”
“But Drusilla –“
“Was plainly invited. We aren’t.”
He scowled at her and heard her pulse quicken; he could smell the
mixture of fear and exhilaration on her body.
“So?” His voice was lethally calm.
“So – the golem. The witches’ spell is centred in that
orb,” she said briskly, pointing at a dull sphere set into the lintel
over the door. “Demons of all denominations will be set afire if they try
to enter uninvited. So will humans. Golems, being neither human nor demon,
neither living nor dead, should be impervious to the spell.”
“Should? You’d better be a whole lot more certain than you
sound, Mrs Post.”
Her composure flickered for a moment.
“I’m perfectly certain. I’d stake my life on
“That’s just as well. So what are we waiting for?”
He could hear chanting from somewhere deep within the building –
had heard it very faintly all this time, but now he grew more conscious of it
as the voices swelled to a crescendo and then – stopped.
“Get on with it, you dozy cow!” he snarled. So much for
Her lip curled, but Gwendolyn Post muttered something in Hebrew that
sent the giant striding across the street at once. They watched it pass
effortlessly through the archway and stalk up to the door. Watched the huge
fingers bunch into a fist and punch straight into the orb. No human gesture,
that blow; no attempt to draw the arm back and build up momentum. Just a clean,
punch straight forward that shouldn’t have worked but clearly –
disquietingly – did.
The orb crumbled under the impact and Spike was on his feet and running
at once. Patience be damned. Magic be damned. Mrs Gwendolyn Post and her ruddy
great garden gnome be damned. Drusilla needed him.
Mrs Post watched the vampire hurl himself into the building and
permitted herself a complacent smile. It was all progressing like clockwork.
She snapped out a quick command to her golem, picked a speck of lint from her
jacket and proceeded through the archway like a conquering queen.
It was the only thing he feared. Not Angelus or The Master or the
ever-changing Slayer; such awful, awe-full figures inspired him with nothing
but an impish urge to defy and let fly with fists and fangs. Losing Dru was
another matter entirely. His imagination balked at it. Spike ran past
whitewashed empty walls, beneath bare light bulbs dangling from the ceiling at
intervals, over floors clean and smooth and characterless. He ran as if running
itself would answer everything; and he tried not to think of what he might be
It was all ridiculously stark, like some amateurish set design; as if
decoration were far too frivolous for this place. Spike had seen his fill of
monasteries and convents back when his unholy family was still intact and Angelus
was still fervently bent on corrupting Christians as creatively as he could.
This had something of that feeling – institutional, practical, everyday
and yet still incontrovertibly a holy place.
Where the devil *was* she? He could smell the faint metallic taint of
her dried blood on the air, a delicate note below the more brazen layers of
burning myrrh and rosemary. She was close, he would swear to it, but he found
himself unable to judge the direction. But his lover was close, of that he was
sure. As were the witches, damn their eyes; the throb of a dozen human
heartbeats blending together into subliminal music thrumming somewhere up
ahead. And abruptly the muffled
chanting resumed, but it sounded different this time around; pitched deeper and
Rounded a corner and the scent of her was stronger still. He could hear
a sliver of sound that was surely the silvery scrape of steel against steel
from Drusilla’s tortured handcuffs – but it seemed to come from
behind him, not ahead. It was the bloody witches, wasn’t it? Messing with
Spike hated magic.
Didn’t have a plan. Didn’t have a plan. Didn’t have a
plan. A nagging voice in the back of his head reminded him that Mrs Gwendolyn
Post had undoubtedly had a plan of some description, as well as some serious
eldritch firepower. But he wasn’t prepared to wait for her any damn
longer, not with Drusilla defenceless in the middle of this place. The Watcher
had got him in, and for this he was glad he had resisted the impulse to break
her irritating neck. His patience would not extend any further.
Spike’s plan, such as it was, involved biting, breaking and
running, in whatever order seemed appropriate at the time. It was a tried and
tested formula and had always served him well. Of course, generally it
hadn’t involved breaking or biting or running from a coven of Super
The air around him was charged with power, magic so thick that he felt
like he was running through water. His shirt plastered itself to his unmoving
chest like a second skin, heavy with not-quite-static that unaccountably made
his gorge rise. His peripheral vision was peopled with figures that vanished as
soon as he swung his head around for a proper look. His teeth ached.
Gwendolyn Post found the room without any difficulty, thanks to the
information in her newly-acquired book. There was no door in the smooth wall
that Spike had rushed past, but she knew where the entrance was. It
wasn’t a case of a door concealed by a glamour, either – there literally
was no door until one walked through it. It was deep magic, this, and the sort
of stuff that would have given Schroedinger nightmares, or perhaps wet dreams
– but Gwendolyn Post wasn’t about to be disconcerted by something
She strode into the wall and passed through into the safe room, then
paused just inside the threshold to survey the amassed artefacts. Priceless.
The witches were cretins to harbour all these items and take no advantage of
the wealth they had accrued over the centuries. Such a mouth-watering
Aladdin’s cave of Etruscan gems and Anasazi amulets, of blood-soaked
Sumerian statuary and prophetic Dacian scrolls! Her fingers itched with the
nearness of all this quiescent power; all these objects waiting patiently for
their mistress to come and claim them. Perfect. Let the vampire distract the
little fools – it would not take them long to finish him off, but she
didn’t need much time. And even if they caught her, their geas crippled
She ran her tongue over dry lips and experimentally ordered the Golem
forwards. Nothing – no magical cacophony or flashes of light. As far as
she could detect the room was unprotected, but it seemed so easy that she was
automatically mistrustful. Paused a moment more, then straightened her spine
and marched into the room. It really was just as easy as that.
He rounded the corner, muscles starting to ache from the strain of
fighting against the tide of power – felt like he was wading through
treacle – and found himself looking down yet another bloody whitewashed
corridor. But this one – thank Christ! – was lined with doors. Very
Alice in Wonderland; Spike half expected to see a be-waistcoated rabbit
consulting its pocket watch. (Drusilla loved the Alice books, and as far as he
could gather she took them entirely seriously; certainly far more seriously
than she did any of Darwin’s nonsensical notions. The knots in his gut
tightened convulsively at the sudden memory of reading Dodgson’s stories
to her in a shambolic nursery in South Kensington decades ago. She had dandled
Miss Edith in her gory satin lap, primly licking fresh blood from her skinny
fingers, and clapped gleefully when he got to the Queen of Hearts’
stentorian calls for decapitation.)
Nostalgia wasn’t getting him anywhere. Spike stared at the array
of doors for a moment or two, looking for some sign. His girl had to be behind
one of them – he could smell her somewhere close at hand, even through
the thick scent of smouldering herbs and incense. He could still hear human
hearts and an off-pitch humming laced with words in archaic Czech, but
something was distorting his sense of direction and the noise could have come
from anywhere as far as his ears were concerned. No sound of Drusilla; he
couldn’t decide whether her silence was a good thing or a bad thing and
wondered again how these wretched witches proposed to avenge themselves without
breaking their geas. They can’t kill her, he told himself, repeating it
again and again like a mantra in his head. They can’t kill her. It’s
He shoved forward into the sludgy currents of magic, donned his fiercest
predator’s scowl and ripped open the first door with enough force to make
the hinges scream. Loomed panting on the threshold and snarled ferociously at
…an empty storage room.
He dragged himself deeper down the corridor and flung himself savagely
at the next door, with much the same result. No Drusilla. Not behind the second
or the third or the fourth or –
And there she was at last, wide-eyed and wriggling, her mouth distorted
into a soundless scream that quite put Edvard Munch to shame. She hung
suspended in a thickening column of half-opaque orange light four or five feet
above a glinting circular shape that was either a distorted mirror or a pool of
– something. The air around her precious feet was hardening even as he
watched. He blinked. His girl was slowly being encased in amber. In the dirty
nightgown, with her disordered hair hanging in liquorice tangles down her back
and the mangled manacles glinting at her wrists, Dru looked like a
nightmarishly disreputable pantomime Wendy; although he couldn’t see any
wires holding her up. But she was flesh, not dust – the pure exhilaration
he felt at having this confirmed was overwhelming. She was whole and his and still
far more vividly alive than any of the living cattle they fed upon. Thank fuck.
The forcefield, or whatever the blazes that whole hideous air-like-mud
thing had been, was evidently limited to the corridor; he felt almost
weightless now that gravity was back to its normal self, strength and energy
zinging through his cold veins like cheap liquor. Everything was going to be
The first spell knocked him flat on his back and sent him flying over
the smooth stone floor like a kid skidding on black ice. Fortunately his rapid
progress was halted by a wall; the pain in his skull that this occasioned was
really quite considerable.
Spike got to his feet a little shakily and squared his shoulders. Looked
*down* this time, rather than just staring at his levitating lover, and took in
the inevitable ring of humans. Who the hell did they think they were? A dozen
of them, just as he’d thought – and such unremarkable women one
would never have given them a second glance on the street. A few were dressed
the part, in vaguely gothic or hippyish clothes, but for the most part they
looked like shopgirls and housewives, their hair coloured with cheap dye and
their makeup based on last year’s Hollywood movies. Shopgirls and
housewives with whiteless eyes of sheer liquid midnight, and enough power to
hypnotise Drusilla and draw her mindlessly across the city in spite of chains
They had been intent on their spell when he entered and most of them
continued to hum and mumble, their pitch-dark eyes fixed unblinkingly on
Drusilla; but a couple had turned their attention towards him. It was the
blonde who’d got the first blow in, from the grimly satisfied look on her
milk-and-water face. Bitch.
“We can do this the easy way, ladies, or we can do this the hard
way,” he said, his voice infused with all the cockiness he could muster
in the circumstances. In English, because it was Johnny Foreigner’s job
to understand him, damn it. Jenny Foreigner. Whatever.
He couldn’t help but notice that they didn’t smell afraid.
Perhaps he should have waited for Gwenny and her pet boulder after all; a
ruthless and amoral female magic user *who was on his side* would be pretty
damned handy right about now. If she were really on his side, that was –
he’d be a fool to trust that woman as far as he could throw her wretched
The second spell tried to slam him back against the wall again –
not very imaginative, these girls – but he was braced for the impact this
time and he leaned into it, hands buried deep in the pockets of his duster and
arms flat against his body. Fingers closed over the forgotten glass bauble
salvaged from the Watchers’ House for Dusilla’s amusement. The
glass felt warm against his skin and he clasped it with all the fierce
tenderness he possessed, determined not to let it break. He’d found the
bloody book and stormed the bloody fortress – he was damned well going to
save the girl and live happily ever after with his fairy princess if he had to
kill every bloody person in Central Europe in the process.
He slid back a few inches, but that was all. Ha. Watched the bitch
responsible for that particular little love pat frown her surprise and
displeasure. She reached out one ring-laden hand towards him, muttering another
“Oh, I don’t think so, love.” Stopped fighting quite
abruptly and let the current carry him back, then grabbed the nearest column
and used the momentum to swing himself right around and clean out of the path
of her spell. Oh, and they weren’t expecting that – she was still
rocking on the balls of her feet when he fell onto the nearest chanting witch
and snapped her brittle neck with brisk efficiency. Moved so damn fast she
didn’t have time to gasp.
The discordant humming and mumbled Czech broke off altogether for one
horrified moment and Drusilla’s scream split the air, for all the world
as if someone had let go of a mute switch. In that instant the curdling light
around her faded and she began to fall, but before she had dropped more than an
inch or so one of the witches resumed the spell-casting and Dru’s voice
was swallowed away again whilst the sunset glow buoyed her back up. It was all
over in a heartbeat – the piercing cry, the half-fall – all over
before the broken witch hit the ground at Spike’s feet.
“Come on! Is this the best you can do? What was all the fuss
The fast-congealing amber was mid-way up Drusilla’s calves, but
the witches had all turned their tar-black eyes away from her. They continued
to hum and chant, but he had their attention now.
Blondie spat a spell at him, her face distorted with rage. He was
running before the first syllable left her mouth, weaving between the columns
in the hopes that this would be another piece of non-specific firepower that a
person could dodge or outsmart without any actual hey presto skills. No such
luck. He felt it hit him like a bucket of icy water as soon as the phrase was
uttered; magic coated his body in an instant and the visceral sense of horror
was sudden and total.
The witches had placed a touching faith in their reputation and in the
power of the protection spell over the building’s entrance, but it still
astounded her that the items were just lying around on shelves and stacked on
tables and chairs, even piled haphazardly on the floor. She was slightly
shocked by the casualness with which they treated these things. Men and women
and demons had died for the treasures in this room; empires had fallen, battles
been lost and won – and now all these objects of desire sat gathering
dust in a store-room. Gwendolyn
Post didn’t know whether to be impressed or appalled by such a lack of
respect for power.
She had done her research well, but there were still dozens of artefacts
that the Watcher didn’t recognise in the slightest from any of the
countless Histories, Memoirs, Grimoirs and Catalogues she had ploughed through
over the past months. This was
frustrating. The Hapsburg Medallion she recognised immediately, and was careful
to avoid. Similarly the glittering Midas armband and the deceptively
innocent-looking fifteenth century treasure chest with its lid left
tantalisingly half-open – these she knew for the honey-traps they were.
There were perhaps a dozen similar items that she knew by reputation and, much
as she might like to command their power, she wasn’t about to touch any
of them with a bargepole - because there simply wasn’t time for the sort
of ceremony required to render touching any of them safe. An amateur would have
seized upon the glistening knickknacks arrayed near the door; but she was no
amateur, and she wasn’t about to risk blowing herself to kingdom come by
stuffing two mutually incompatible magical artefacts side by side in her
shoulder bag. Gwendolyn Post picked her way past the more obviously appealing
items, her eyes narrowed and her shoulders squared as she unzipped the bag.
The Golem loomed at the door-that-was-not, with strict instructions
regarding the fate of anyone foolish enough to enter.
Shit! Shitshitshit! Cursed with a soul? Turned to a frog? Incinerated in
one brief and dazzling pyrotechnical display? Spike dangled disgustedly between
cause and effect, waiting.
Cold fingers closed around the glass ball in his pocket, his lucky
charm, and Spike snarled; he was not going down like this. If he had only a
matter of seconds before he turned into stone or sprouted donkey’s ears,
then he was going to make those seconds count. He threw himself straight at the
nearest witch and dashed her stocky body to the ground. Her skull cracked like
a soft boiled egg. Blondie gaped at him and he wondered when her spell was
going to take hold even as he cannoned into the next girl and ripped her throat
wide open. Still nothing. The witches were scattering like hens in a hurricane,
half of them abandoning their singing altogether. He smiled savagely as he took
down the fourth woman, pouncing on her as she ran and breaking her neck before
the curls of light snaking from her fingertips had the chance to turn into
serious mojo. These witches were pretty over-rated, as far as he could see.
Drusilla thrashed like a trapped wasp in her prison of marmalade light, and he
caught the tiniest slices of her furious voice strobing out of nothingness as
the spell faltered. Nearly there.
And still Blondie’s abracadabra had not taken effect. He could
feel the magic crawling over his skin but it didn’t seem to be actually
*doing* anything. Curiouser and curiouser.
Felt another spell hit him from behind and he hadn’t even heard
this one being cast. He snapped around to see a little brunette thing with her
hands outstretched and her brow furrowed in concentration. Tears had smudged
her mascara and she stank of fear, but she was still grimly standing her ground
and muttering in Latin. An instant later he heard another voice raised, and a
third impact broadsided him; magic slicking his skin in layer upon layer. And
still *nothing actually happened*.
From the expressions on their faces the witches were quite as astonished
as he was himself by this turn of events. Spike shot a feral grin at Blondie
and sprang towards her, snarling; she kept her cool admirably and hurled spell
after spell at him, but they did nothing worse than fill his clothes with
static electricity and make his skin smell of ozone. She still didn’t
seem to believe it when he seized her around the waist and slammed her back
against one of the columns.
“If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s pushy
little blondes,” he told her conversationally, covering her mouth with
one hard palm to pre-empt any further witchcraft and biting into the base of
her throat. He’d had his fill of pushy little blondes during his years
with Darla, thank you very much. Spike felt another magical blow and then
another slamming into him, but he ignored them and cleaved to the warm body
struggling ever more weakly against him. He downed enough of her blood to feel
certain she wouldn’t be causing any more trouble before he let her slide
limply to the ground and rounded on the remaining witches.
“Who’s next, then?”
She hadn’t even noticed the door set into the wooden panelling -
not that it was shrouded in a web of see-me-not spells, just hidden by the
mundane magic of good carpentry - and so Gwendolyn Post was most surprised when the wood slid away and
several dishevelled women suddenly spilled into the back of the room. One of
them had a splatter of blood darkening her sweater and they all bore
expressions of shock and incredulity. Two were crying. Mrs Post took in these
details in a matter of seconds, powerfully conscious of the satchel in her arms
that was now bulging with stolen artefacts, and of the sheathed Tak Horn dagger
in her hand. She slipped the dagger nonchalantly into her pocket and stepped
forwards with an expression of concern before they could catch their balance
and start to wonder what the hell she was doing there.
“Are you all right? What has happened?” she asked in
impeccable Czech, radiating competence and reassurance and defying anyone to
ask her who she was or what right she had to be in this place. Gwendolyn Post
did not lack gall.
“Vampire,” said one of the women, wild-eyed. “Spells
bounced off him like water. I don’t…where did he come from? How did
he get in? Jana is dead. I watched her die.” There was an edge of
hysteria in her voice. “And
Agata, Miriam, Olinka... Jesus Maria! He came from nowhere, this
Damnation. Who would have guessed William The Bloody would last five
minutes against this much-vaunted Order of Libushe?
“She told us, Agata told us this could happen,” one of them sobbed. A
teenager, this one, trying to look American but not quite succeeding. Pretty
girl, but her face was red and blotchy, makeup smeared with snot and tears.
“We should have turned the other cheek. We have dishonoured this place
with this night’s work."
“She was a demon.”
“She was a woman. We have dishonoured our vows and we have been
“Shut up,” snapped the older witch.
“Agata told us! We have dishonoured ourselves. We have dishonoured
our vows. We tortured her, Maria. We tortured her, and that is against
everything we -””
The girl’s ragged voice broke off quite abruptly when the older
woman slapped her. They all stared then, dumbfounded and lost. This Maria
looked quite as shocked as the other witches and stared at her guilty hand as
if it belonged to someone else, her expression suddenly pitiful.
“I’m sorry. Tina, I’m so sorry,” she said
brokenly, but the teenager sent her one righteous wounded-puppy glare and then
stared away, hiccupping through her sobs.
And these were the witches who had terrorised the city’s demon
population for centuries? Good grief.
Dru dropped out of the air as the last terrified witch abandoned the
chanting, her beloved voice suddenly echoing freely through the chamber in a
familiar caterwaul that should never, *ever*, be caused by anyone but him.
Spike had expected her to fall and was already springing to catch her before
the amber light blinked out and gravity awoke to the fact that its laws had
just been messed with. He was
careful not to step on the mirror out of a formless fear that his foot might
pass straight through into nothingness; so when she dropped into his arms he
was straddling the frame awkwardly and he swung for a moment under the impact,
his knees buckling very slightly. Drusilla was wailing like a banshee and
flailing furiously in his grasp but he clung to her for a very long moment
before waddling out of the way of the mirror.
“I’m here, princess. Spike’s here,” he crooned,
rocking her like a baby. “Oh, sweetheart, what did they do?”
Drusilla was incoherent in his arms for long minutes, her raw howling
gradually fading to muffled little-girl sobs as he held her and patted her back
reassuringly, pressing kisses into her hair and her cheeks and her waving
fists. Tears and snot were soaking through his shirtfront. God, he loved her so
much it hurt. Priced beyond rubies.
“Make them pay, Spike,” she finally whispered. She sounded
like somebody had sandpapered the inside of her throat. “They made the
air burn. Everything. Everything burning.” She snuffled against his coat
like a broken hearted seven year old. “They hurt me.” He hugged her
“They’re gone now, pet. Spike showed them. Think they can
hurt my girl, do they?” For the life of him he still didn’t
understand quite how he had managed to ‘show’ them, but this
didn’t seem like the best time to admit it. He was quietly horrified by
how frail she looked – her skin was the colour of old parchment and it
stretched too tightly over her bones, giving her a disquietingly skeletal
appearance. There were dark shadows under her eyes which certainly hadn’t
been there before. He wished with a blistering passion that the thrice damned
witches would come back to life so he could kill the bitches all over again;
considered chasing down the scattered remnants and devoting some serious time
to their suffering, but dismissed the idea as impractical. Drusilla was his
“Hey, precious, look what I brought you,” he exclaimed,
suddenly remembering his gift. He rooted in his pocket for the glass ball,
astonishingly still intact, and produced it with a flourish. Then did a double
take. Drusilla sat up straighter, her face growing more animated.
“A witch ball,” she announced, her voice a tattered skeletal
scrape of its former self. “You brought me a magic bubble to drain away
their nasty poisons! Horrid girls. No supper for them.” Drusilla nestled
into his chest and peered at the iridescent darkness trapped behind the thick
glass. Spike grinned.
“Yeah,” he agreed nonchalantly. “Just a little
something I picked up. You don’t think I’d come looking for you
without any protection, do you, princess? Got to keep my darling safe.”
He dropped a kiss on the top of her head and cuddled her closer to him. No
wonder the bloody thing had looked familiar. He really was quite the luckiest
vampire ever fashioned.
“So that’s how you did it.”
Spike hadn’t heard Gwendolyn Post, which spoke volumes about the
depth of his concentration on Drusilla. He peered between the columns and
scrambled to his feet, clumsy through his efforts to keep hold of Dru while he
rose; he was sorry but unsurprised to find his darling barely able to stand.
“Yeah,” he agreed as he hooked one arm around
Drusilla’s waist, scanning the room for ideas and seeing only corpses.
The Watcher sounded rather less thrilled by his success than he was - which
somehow didn’t come as a great surprise. “They’re all talk,
these girls. Don’t know what all the fuss was about.”
Gwendolyn Post paced between the columns in a manner that set alarms
ringing in his head – humans weren’t supposed to move like that.
They were supposed to run away, possibly screaming and begging for mercy. They
most certainly were not supposed to move like predators. He found himself
wishing, for purely practical reasons, that Drusilla was at full strength.
Wondered what on earth could have weakened her so quickly. What she needed was
fresh human blood. And as luck would have it -
“Where did you get the witch ball?” said Gwendolyn Post
softly, almost to herself. “And where did you find one imbued with magics
strong enough to deflect – oh. But of course. How very foolish of
“Cheers, love. Nice of you to leave it hanging around like that.
Worried they might be able to scry you, were you? Or is it standard issue for
Watch Houses?” He could tell from her expression that he’d hit the
nail on the head. Probably a bit of both – the Council of Watchers had
some pretty powerful sorcerers on their payroll, from what he’d heard
tell; obviously they’d have some serious shielding on their premises.
Somebody somewhere was looking out for him; he choked on the thought of a
guardian angel. Too excruciating an irony.
Right – well, he couldn’t support Drusilla and catch her
some supper simultaneously. Spike gently leaned her up against a column and
turned towards Mrs Post. She still
looked disquietingly unafraid, considering the fact that she was facing a
blood-drinking demon shielded against magic. He smiled. He was going to enjoy
teaching her about fear.
“Who would have imagined that she could possibly have upset them
so much?” mused Gwendolyn Post as she came closer to the vampires.
“It seems incredible to me that they could show such poor judgment as to
test the parameters of their geas by torturing her. Granted they weren’t
actually going to kill her, but to risk the sanctity of their powers for
something as petty as vengeance…It’s ridiculous. “
“Payback’s a bitch,” agreed Spike. “So I take it
you weren’t helping me out of the treacherousness of your heart, then,
Gwenny? You been busy plundering their library? Stolen the Crown Jewels? Raided
the Lost Arc?”
“Something like that,” she smiled, pulling her shoulder bag
closer to her body. “I was perfectly sure they would kill you both, but
it seems that they really were quite appallingly incompetent. Presumably their
predecessors were a force to be reckoned with.” She glanced down at the
bodies strewn across the floor like so many broken dolls and lifted one eyebrow
“Then again, it could just be that they were shit-hot witches and
they finally met their match,” he suggested, cocking his head to one side
and flicking an assessing glance up and down. His delicate nostrils flared as
he inhaled her scent; a little fear, but not enough yet. Still that intolerable
self satisfaction. “I’ve killed two Slayers, Gwenny. Think about
that a little. Supernatural champions of Truth, Justice and the Watcher Way
– and cute with it. And deadly. And I killed them.” Her eyes were
fixed on his now. He could smell the giveaway wisp of sex in the air and smiled
wolfishly at her.
“You got lucky, Master William,” she replied, her voice as
crisp as a winter morning in the Cotswolds. “They compromised their vows
and left themselves vulnerable – which serves them right for making such
ridiculous vows in the first place. Had they not, you would be powder on the
flagstones by now. Fortunately I can rectify that little oversight.”
It had not escaped Spike’s notice that her shoulder bag was
bulging in places where formerly it had been smooth. When her fingers dipped
towards the zipper he was already in motion and had the bag in his hands before
she understood his intent. Silly bint. He wasn’t a moron, for God’s
sake – he wasn’t about to let her produce a broomstick and try to
curse him into the middle of next week, magical shield or no.
“What’s in the bag, Gwenny?” he called over his
shoulder as he darted out of reach with the leather clasped in his hands.
“Nothing good for my continued health, I’ll bet.” He was
highly gratified by the way her unflappable demeanour finally fell by the
“Give that *back*!” Gwendolyn Post’s howl would have
put the shrillest of fishwives to shame. She flung herself after him, her
features bunched up in a mask of pure, killing rage. Spike laughed out loud as
he wove away between the columns.
“What’s it worth, pet? Safe passage for me and Dru,
perhaps?” She replied with a snarl in a language that was neither Czech
nor English; and it took Spike a moment to identify the words. Hebrew.
He swung around just in time to see the golem surging towards him
impossibly fast; and Spike was under no illusions about his ability to best the
wretched thing in terms of speed, but he ran for it anyway. The golem flowed
silently behind him across the cold stone floors; and it was only a matter of
seconds before the damned thing would be on him; and if he had guessed wrong
then he was going to be looking pretty goddamned silly in the few seconds left
before it pulled his head off his handsome shoulders; but what the hell. Carpe
Diem, and all that bollocks. He
pounded towards the centre of the room and sprang over the mirror; and as he
jumped he dropped the bag and watched it pass straight through the surface.
Just as he’d thought; the looking glass was also a rabbit hole;
Libushe’s window to her other world. Gwendolyn Post’s anguished
howl echoed through the room as she realised what he had done; and when a split
second later the golem’s obedient pursuit sent it tumbling through the
portal her lament grew louder still.
If Spike had possessed a pulse it would certainly have been racing.
There was nothing like *winning* to give a bloke a buzz; and defenestration was
a grand old Czech tradition, after all. He smiled beatifically at the Watcher.
“Oops.” Incredulity and rage crossed her smooth features as
Gwendolyn Post took in the waste of a whole year’s careful planning and
research. It cracked Spike up. “Not feeling quite so tough now, are you,
If looks could kill he’d have been dead twice over, but Spike was
so busy revelling in his heady victory that it didn’t occur to him that
immobilising Gwenny was really the first order of the day. He wasn’t
expecting the sudden burst of speed that took her over to Dru; and even as he
broke into a belated run he saw the stake slam straight into his
darling’s chest and roared in helpless fury.
The impulse to tear Gwendolyn Post limb from limb was overwhelmed by the
horrified need to reach Drusilla before she dissolved; to hold her in the
limnal space between cause and effect, between flesh and dust, between love and
isolation. Time stretched out like salt water taffy. Spike was aware of every
beloved joint and sinew, every fingernail and lock of hair. He didn’t
dare blink, lest he miss the moment when she ceased to be; and although he
heard Gwendolyn Post’s receding footsteps, finding her and killing her
would have to wait a moment.
Drusilla curled up around the stake in a pitiful ball of skinny limbs,
shaking and mewling. And she was still not dust. As the seconds mounted up and
Drusilla writhed like a tangle of snakes, Spike tumbled to the glorious realisation
that his girl had not, in fact, been staked. Impaled, most certainly; but
staked, no. He lay gentle hands on her and pushed the tangled hair from her
eyes; and Spike was startled into immobility by the sight of her face. He had
considered her skeletal before, but that was nothing compared to the way that
her flesh had fallen clean away in the space of seconds, leaving her gaunt and
grey. She looked like she hadn’t fed in years. Spasms still wracked her
limbs and her bulging eyes were dull and unseeing, the pupils dilated so far it
hurt him to look at them.
“Jesus fucking Christ, Dru,” he exclaimed, and closed
trembling fingers around the shaft of the not-stake immediately. It came out
cleanly and he dropped it to the floor, where it rolled a few feet and then lay
still in a smear of his girl’s precious blood. Drusilla’s
convulsions slowed as soon as the thing left her flesh, but she lay where she
was with a thread of saliva trickling from her mouth and nothing remotely like
awareness animating her features. It terrified him. Spike scooped her up into
his arms and was appalled by how tiny and breakable she felt. Far worse than
before. He stroked her dull hair blindly and was horrified when a clump came
away in his hand.
Spike’s legs gave beneath him. He slid down to the floor with his
back braced against the cold stone column and pulled Drusilla close. The cause
of all this agony lay quietly a few feet away; and after a moment or two he
made sense of the shape; it was a dagger made from some kind of bone or horn,
with a handle of polished stone. He blinked at it stupidly, trying to make
sense of what had happened. Unicorn horn was dangerous; but Gwendolyn Post was
no virgin, so that couldn’t be it.
A demon’s horn of some kind.
“Ssssh, baby,” he said - quite needlessly, since Drusilla
was limp and unresisting as any rag doll. A Tak horn could do this, perhaps;
that would drain the life out of a human in a matter of seconds. God knows what
it would do to the undead. Perhaps this. He leaned back against the column and
rocked her wordlessly in his arms.
“I’m back, kitten. I brought you a snack.”
He closed the door softly and paused for a moment on the threshold to
pull a hipflask from his back pocket. The sting of slivovice on his lips was
too familiar. Ineffectual. While he stood in the hallway Spike clung to the
belief that she might breeze through the archway from the bedroom at any
moment, her cheeks flushed with borrowed life and the tang of fresh blood
metallic on her tongue when she kissed him hello. The vision faded further with
each unsteady step towards the bedroom, and when he reached the archway it
vanished altogether, leaving him trapped in this miserable reality.
She looked better than she had done. Blood had helped; it always did. But
it hadn’t been enough. Fat foreign tourists, unripe local virgins,
whimpering infants with milk on their lips – he had tried everything and
none of it had been enough to effect a proper cure. She was Dru, and yet not
Dru. Some days were better than others. He had to believe she was improving.
She had shown a faint interest in Miss Edith and had seemed to recognise the
little painted eggs that she had been carrying around since Easter, and this
had given him hope. When he returned to the house the day before he found that
she had crushed the coloured shells into rainbow-bright powder, and was crying
with childlike incomprehension. Sometimes he despaired.
“We’ve got to get out of town, princess,” he said,
helping her to sit up. She smiled at him with a blankness that broke his heart
into ever tinier pieces, and let him tuck a clean towel tenderly into the
collar of her nightgown. “You need your game face, love.” He
didn’t want to have to hit her again to bring it on, and he was inexpressibly
relieved when this time she remembered what to do. He pulled a pack of blood
from his pocket and passed it to her. Watched her frown with concentration as
she bit through the plastic and sucked the dead blood down. It would have to do
for now. He stroked her dark hair cautiously, reassured to feel it softer and
thicker than it had been, and tried not to think about anything but her
Prague’s demon population was still a-buzz with the news of the
witches’ defeat, but Spike hadn’t the heart to swagger around town.
He had scoured the city for Mrs Gwendolyn Post, but she had pulled a very
effective vanishing act. Bitch. Spike wasn’t unduly worried, though; he
had an eternity to think about vengeance. He wasn’t getting any older,
after all. In the meanwhile he was aware that the city was growing more
dangerous as the witches regrouped and pulled in favours from other humans in
Plzen and Brno and Vienna; and he had heard a rumour this evening that the Watchers’ Council were
on his tail. Turning that little Watcher Martina Whatsername really
hadn’t gone down well at all.
Time to find somewhere safe, where Drusilla could recover; and the
Metamorphosis’s Kankanath bartender had suggested the very place.
“We’re going to Sunnydale, sweetheart,” he said,
stroking her shoulder through the thin fabric. “Going to find you a cure
at the Hellmouth they’ve got there. You’re going to be all better,
baby. Spike will see to it.”