A little horror story for things who go bump in the night.
Spoilers after and including "The Initiative". Started writing this before "The Gift" aired and finished it before "All the Way". (I am John Creasy's worst nightmare.) Set anywhen from early season 5 on.
Thanks to Mel Bradley, who supplied answers to an obscure reference question. And Rebecca Littlehales, sister and Xebbeta-reader extraordinaire--at your feet I grovel. (Which kinda kills the whole "sister" image.)
He passes them on the street, and they keep their heads down, faces turned to the wall. They remember when he didn’t buy cigarettes at all, when shoplifting was just another trick to play before he ripped open the store clerk's throat. They remember, and their eyes slide over and through him. They're angry, maybe. Wistful. They're almost certain.
He still has his fans, the truly stubborn kind who hold out long after the rabble gives up and moves on to worthier idols. He’ll be back, they insist. Spike is Spike is Spike. He’s in there. They flip through notebooks filled with yellowed newspaper clippings from as far back as the Great War—news briefs, obituaries, a one-man anthology of destruction and death. They point out here, here, Belize, Rome, Notting Hill, this one quickly, this one with knives. They smile; they say, you can’t keep a good demon down. The pages rustle. But their little circle grows smaller every week, moving on to blacker pastures, and the truly faithful stare dry-eyed as the yellowed words grow fainter. They are the ones who look up as he passes on the street; they glance at him, startled, then their gaze catches and they have to tear their eyes away.
Even on the higher circles of that which is deepest underground the actions of such a creature don't escape notice. He passes through the murmurs of the cocktail circuit, where the clothes are finer and the hostility more restrained, but blood still glimmers in the smooth stolen crystal goblets. There is only the best here, always. Watching carefully over the rim of a glass, murmuring polite conversation while looking for weakness-—only the best survive. Someone will be there, new and naïve and drunk on the fine blue blood and the power of youth. He mentions, brings it up with a vapid smirk: what of this Spike? What are we to think of this William the not-so-bloody? Of course they do not like to think of him at all, and a glance passes around the circle as they make a careful note of this newcomer over their glasses—-marked, doomed. Soon they will take him down, but for now they will humor him. And they murmur, dear me, never, pardon, polite company, unsuitable. And that is that.
Though sometimes the newcomer presses on, too drunk or stupid to catch the veiled hint—-dear me, they think, he’s positively begging for it—but what about this Spike? Is it dangerous, this little vampire with the chip in his head? They are aghast. The chip is too far. The chip is gauche. The chip is firmly expected to not exist.
Maybe it's some novice's instinct of self-preservation, or maybe it's simple ignorance that keeps most of the new ones from the subject of that girl, that Slayer. Most of them. The one who didn't, forgot, dared (said her name, said it there, in the sacred underground) –- well. They gave him fair warning, fair head start. He almost made it out in time.
Some lines even demons revere. The light shining through the crystal turns their hands and claws a muddy red, and surely it's just the light that flickers there, shaken and trembling. Two who murder among their people. The line of Aureulius is cursed. Nothing more.
Angel had a soul, someone murmurs. What’s his excuse?
You can almost see the gazes rustle.
Spike never was the vamp for excuses, either.
The canned blood in his veins runs even colder than their own, but they can smell the stink of humanity rising in him like bile. He reeks of it: their human obsessions and their food and their thoughts and that lost, bewildered look they get when something in them hurts. He drinks these in like blood and on the street they can't meet his gaze, because he doesn’t understand. His face is gaunt and haunted and pleads for help without knowing how, but they keep their eyes to the wall. They know what's happening. They don’t know why. They could kill him, singly or as a pack; they could ask him all the questions they haven’t dared to as they tear at his cold flesh again and again-—Is this what you wanted? Does it happen this way? Is it worth it? They could but they don’t. They’re afraid to see him look at them with his empty human eyes and say, Yes.
They keep their eyes to the wall—yellow eyes, proper eyes. He buys cigarettes maybe twice a week, and they huddle inside their skins and hurry past the shop without looking inside. These days he doesn’t seem to care who sees or what they think; he just pushes the crumpled bills into the cashier’s hand and saunters off for the butcher’s shop. He doesn’t see and he doesn’t care, and they try not to wonder if it’s because of who he was or who he is becoming.