All About Spike - Plain Version
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Chapter: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
--- part four ---
Spike sat at the bar in the Bronze, listening to the music flow over the crowd, and breathing in the humid smell of cloves and dust in the air.
He sat in front of his beer, but didn't drink it. He simply tuned out the cacophony of voices around him and concentrated on his thoughts.
She needed a place to hide, to be hidden. He had carried her into the sewers, that he had come to know so well. One of the secret places was a little stone room, carved out of the living rock, hidden behind a dark corner deep in the heart of the tunnel mazes. He had put her there almost a week ago. Since then, he had made it considerably more comfortable for her. A narrow bed, covered in translucent silk drapings. Soft pillows. A single, battery powered light. He'd brought her roses, but they withered quickly in the stale, airless shadows of the chamber.
What was he doing? The absurdity of it hit him all at once, and the knot that had settled into his throat the past few days constricted and flailed like a restless serpent.
He had avoided Buffy as much as he could, and she had noticed. But he couldn't lie well, not to her, and she would know. And he didn't want to lie to her, didn't want to face her... not like this. At the same time, he longed to beg her compassion, collapse at her feet and bear all of his fears before her. But he had promised-- he had sworn to protect the woman who even now languished in the darkness, and to do that, he had to stay away.
Perhaps he should have stayed away before. For some reason, Buffy seemed to accept him, and that was an unexpected, precious gift that he was grateful for. It had made the constant pain of contact with the others bearable, because simply by being there-- by training and patrolling with him, she was giving him the gift of her time and concern.
Harris often looked at him warily from across a room, but, oddly perhaps, had refrained from any comment. But Dawn... her eyes. Whenever he was near her, he saw it in her face, in the clipped words. She hated him. He couldn't even indulge in the cold comfort of self-pity, because he also hated himself.
He chuckled bitterly as he reached for his glass, and managed to knock it over, the rim shattering as it hit the hardwood of the bar. He turned on his stool and stared into the crowd, into the lights falling on them. He wondered who these people were. All of their faces were young and fresh, though some, he was sure, were older than he was himself. And some were just beginning their lives, and didn't yet know what was out there among them.
Better watch out, he thought, still chuckling to himself. The people next to him at the bar were looking at him strangely.
Watch out. You never know when we might turn on you.
Buffy walked through the dance floor, scanning it for sight of her friends. Between the masses of moving bodies, she could make out their shapes, moving together in the distance. Willow and Xander were dancing, chatting together. It looked comfortable, appropriate. Like nothing was wrong.
A teenage girl, dancing with her boyfriend, bumped into her, and she muttered a vague apology. Buffy found she had frozen in place, stopped in the middle of the floor, staring across it like an idiot.
As she stood there, she saw the familiar frame, pushing through the crowd, moving to the exit. She struggled through the press to come closer to him.
She reached out and caught his hand, and he turned to see her. She stood before him, her face clear and open and expectant. When she saw his expression, the wear and sadness in his face, that open and questioning look tinged with concern. The music lilted in the background... a strange combination of bassoons and percussion, and a woman's plaintive voice. Modern and ancient, blues and lament, floating lucidly-- humming through the air.
She tilted her head to one side, and stepped closer, so he could hear her over the music the speakers blared around them. She leaned up to his ear on her toes, and did not let go of his hand.
"You should let go," she said simply. His head fell, and the blue spotlights outlined the curve of her collarbone as she continued.
"I don't know if I know entirely what it's like for you... but I know a little bit, from what's happened to me. Please, Spike, let go. I'll be here..."
He reached out tentatively and placed a nervous hand on her shoulder, and pressed his cheek against her own. She felt his breath tremble against her neck, and realized he was crying, softly.
She twined her fingers through his where she held them, and reached up to his face with her free hand, turned it and pulled back slightly to look at him. A tear fell down his face unbidden, and turned to evade her burning gaze.
She caught his cheek with her hand, and pulled him down to her lips tenderly.
"Don't," he choked, pulling away. As he walked out, pushing through the crowd, she looked after him.
It felt strange to see him so lost.
"Buffy," a warm voice called from behind her. Xander walked up to the table at which she sat, thinking.
"Hey," she uttered quietly. The music drowned her out. He sat down beside her.
"Look I know I was a jerk to you a while back Buff-- I've been trying to keep quiet, I know you can take care of yourself-- but I have to say it," he said in a spurt, "I care about you too much not to have noticed, and watching that little display... well, I need to say it."
She looked across the table at him. Her face was unreadable.
"Aren't you worried? At least a little...? I mean, with everything that happened before. I don't want you getting hurt again. I'm so tired of seeing you hurt. How do we know Spike wouldn't--"
"He wouldn't," she said simply.
"Xander I understand what you're saying, and I'm lucky to have people who care so much... but it's different now. I don't know if I can explain it."
"He doesn't seem too much different to me. Quieter, sure. Less fun to hurl insults at? You betcha... but Buffy, he's still Spike."
"I know... but he's hurting. Who knows what the soul has changed for him. He needs someone to understand. I can't just leave him. I won't."
"Ok," Xander said, patting her shoulder affectionately, "But... just be careful, ok? Until we can be sure we can trust him."
"Ok," she said, staring over Xander and into the crowd.
"What's it like?" Willow whispered to her companion. They sat side by side on the bed, their faces and hands pale against the night darkness. Tara stared forward, somewhat sadly, wouldn't look at Willow. She rapped her feet nervously against the bed frame.
"What's what like?" she asked gently, the breeze from the window was moving her hair, brushing it over one cheek from where she had tucked it behind her ear.
"Dying," Willow said simply. She wanted to know.
She could faintly hear Dawn and Buffy laughing together in the kitchen below. Something about an art contest, and that a portrait of a Rashk demon wasn't the best entry. Especially decapitated. They had asked them to draw things from life, though, Dawn had asserted, and Buffy had just left it sitting there in the parking lot. It was a still life. Her sister countered that there is nothing live about a decapitated Rashk demon. And they dissolved to laughter again.
"Well..." Tara said, "I'm not really sure-- I was too busy dying to notice I guess, you know?"
"Wh-- what have you been doing... since I've gone?"
"Nothing," Willow said sadly, remembering, "Nothing..." She couldn't tell her.
"You should go to the multicultural fair again this year... see the dragons."
"It's over... it was before you-- before. I guess we forgot to go."
"Oh. I'm sorry. Time feels-- different now."
"No-- don't apologize."
Tara nodded and fell silent, looking down, watching her bare feet rap against the bed frame. Then she looked up suddenly, straight forward.
"I have to go now," she said.
"Yes," she said sadly, "But I will see you here again. I don't have much power to be seen yet... you might have to help me."
"I can help you. I will."
"Thank you," she whispered. And she was gone.
Willow sat alone in the darkness of the room, listening to the comfortable, domestic chatter from downstairs, feeling bitterly empty once more.
She started violently as he washed out the wound. All the small ones, and the bruises, had healed. The deeper ones would be a long time in healing. Some hadn't even entirely closed yet. And so he cleaned them.
As he worked on her back, she sat on the edge of the bed he had brought her. She reached up, and touched his fingers where they rested on her shoulder. The warm yellow glow of the lantern dimly illuminated them in the cold dark.
"You're in pain, my William. You've been crying. I can always tell."
He paused a moment, and decided to speak.
"It's been hard, Dru... " He gently bound the wound he had cleaned on her shoulder blade, and pulled the strap of her sling back into place beside the padding, "Now put out your arm for me."
She stretched out her good arm, and he pulled back the bandages, and soaked a cloth in peroxide.
"I sometimes think I can hear moles in the earth," she said, looking at the walls around her, "But the stones cannot abide them..."
As he placed the disinfectant on her wound, he felt certain he had made the wrong choice.
She screamed at the pain in surprise, and batted with her fingernails at his cheek. The shallow cuts stung and welled up with blood.
She reached out again towards them, as if she could repair the damage. She looked near tears, and let out a delicate whine. He took her hand, and sighed.
"It's allright-- just give me your arm and stay still for me, can you do that?"
He worked a while longer, and left her a brush for her hair. He had also left her, for the night, with an appropriate supply of blood.
He closed the heavy, stained metal door behind him. The door of what he acknowledged to himself was her cell. He worked a moment arranging the lock and chain he had fastened to the outside.
She listened to him work on it, and limped over to the cold surface. She leaned against it, hearing the rattle of the chains echo against the metal.
"What is it, love," she called to him just as he turned to leave, "Don't you trust me?"
Continued in --- part five ---
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