All About Spike - Print Version
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Summary: With Darla's help, Drusilla has hatched a scheme to get her old Spike back; but as usually happens when Spike's involved, things don't go as planned.
Disclaimer: Dear Mr. Whedon, ME, et al: Thank you for letting me play with your toys.
Notes: This takes place some time during Season 6. Buffy is back. How? I dunno. That’s a different story. This is a story about Spike.
Thanks and love to cousinjean and fenwic, as they are the goddesses of beta; and to Larlie, for the logistics.
Some things were always the same, Buffy thought. Blah blah blah cemetery, blah blah blah vampires, blah blah blah stakeage. Of course, she considered, having a constant companion while patrolling took some getting used to. They hadn’t let her go out alone since… since she’d come back. There was always somebody with: Giles, Willow, Xander. And Spike. There was always Spike. Every night, he was out here, either by her side or watching from a distance. He was walking beside her now, scanning the darkness of the graveyard. Looking at her surreptitiously when he didn’t think she’d notice. Eventually, she thought, she might get really annoyed, or start to feel smothered. But for now, it was reassuring to have friends at her side.
Buffy saw three figures moving towards them. They hadn’t seen her yet, but Spike’s hair was pretty damn noticeable in the moonlight. It was only a matter of time.
“There.” She pointed.
“See ‘em,” Spike said. “You want big un, or little two?”
“How about I take left, you take right, and whoever’s done first gets the middle?”
“Works for me.”
The vampires had seen them now, and closed for the fight. Spike swung wide, angling his battle so that he could keep Buffy in view. Buffy just tore into her opponent, taking him down hard and fast. She kicked the vampire in the head twice. Then, as he swung at her and overbalanced, she staked him through the back. She spun to face the third vampire.
Spike blocked a few punches, paying more attention to Buffy’s fight than to his own. Hell. Third guy was the big one, and he looked like he could fight. He didn’t overextend, wasn’t trying to take her out with one punch. He could be dangerous.
The fist cracking into his jaw broke his concentration.
Pay attention to your own fight, you lovesick twit. Then back up the Slayer. Focused now, he stepped inside the other vampire’s guard and hit him in the solar plexus. And again. Then a shot to the face, and the vampire was backed up against a tree. Grab stake. Dust.
Buffy had been back for a month now. He wondered when he would finally relax, finally accept the miracle. No time soon, he imagined: just the thought of her patrolling without him made him want to vomit. He watched her as she fought, landing two quick jabs to the third vampire’s face. Then the vampire backhanded her across the face, knocking her into a tombstone.
Spike grabbed the vampire by his shoulders, and threw him to the ground. A few hard kicks to the ribs, a solid boot in the face, and the vampire was dazed and unmoving. Spike dropped to one knee while drawing a stake from his pocket, and slammed the stake through the vampire’s heart. It exploded into dust.
Slipping the stake back into his pocket, Spike stood and turned to find Buffy. She was back on her feet, and looking at him. She appeared to be unhurt. He took a few steps closer, to make sure. Was that a bruise on her cheekbone? Blood?
“Spike!” Buffy punched him solidly, smack in the center of his chest. Caught off guard, he staggered back a few steps.
“When are you going to stop being over-protecty boy?”
When I stop seeing you dead every time I close my eyes. “I - just - fff - ” He swung away from her. “Got used to fightin’ with the Scoobs, needing an assist here and there. That’s all.”
“Well, get over it. Fast. You’re making me mental.” Buffy crossed her arms. “And a mental Buffy is a stakey Buffy.”
Spike raised his hands. “Got it. Buffy does her own slaying.”
“Right,” Buffy said. “You’re not here to do my job, you’re here to watch my back.”
“Happy to oblige.” Spike paused. “Especially in that cunning little tank top.”
Buffy made a face. “Letch.”
“Well, I have to have something to do, if you’re doin’ all the fighting,” he pointed out, doing his best to sound reasonable.
Buffy shook her head in exasperation. “Not even gonna go there. Anyway, I think we’re done for tonight.”
Spike felt a flash of panic. “Walk you home?”
Hell, she’d seen it. The fear, and the need, had shown in his face. “What? Pleasure of your company, and all that. I swear, we run into any nasties on the way, I’ll hang back and place bets.”
Buffy laughed. She couldn’t stop herself. “See you tomorrow night. Unless you want to take a night off, I can patrol without you, you can catch up on your reading?”
“Tomorrow night. I’ll be here.”
Spike headed back to his crypt. He meandered leisurely through the tombstones of the graveyard. On a whim, he leapt up on one, balancing on the ball of one foot. He swung his free foot forward and back, and took a deep drag off his cigarette. Then he hopped down and flicked the cigarette off into the darkness. His home was in sight now; he idly wondered if he should check out the late movie. Or maybe get royally sloshed.
Hold up. He had company. Familiar company. Family. Spike briefly considered turning around, and heading back the way he had come. But it wouldn’t work; she already knew he was there. He moved forward to greet her.
Drusilla was waiting for him. She stood a few yards from the entrance to the crypt, swaying gently like a sapling in a breeze.
“Dru.” He stood for a moment, gazing at her quizzically. “Ducks, you really shouldn’t be here.”
Her eyes widened with gleeful mischief. “I need you. You’re essential. Must have all the pieces, or the picture isn’t there.”
“The Slayer was here not five minutes ago. She sees you, and you’re dust.” Spike shifted his stance, impatiently. “Dru, you need to get out of Sunnydale. Now.”
She held her hands out in front of her body, palms up. “Here is the devil, and here is the deep blue sea. Choose, Spike, choose.”
Spike took a few steps backwards. “Luv, please, not in the mood for games.”
“No choice is choice, Spike. No choice is the devil.”
“Yeah. Okay. Whatever.” Spike could feel himself getting frustrated. “Take care of yourself, see you around, I’m off to- ”
Something hit him in the center of his back. Electricity shot through him, shook him hard, knocked him off his feet.
“Ow! Bugger, that hurt!” Spike rolled over on his side, and recognized the figure standing over him.
“Darla. Should’ve known.” He grinned.
The blonde vampire stood over him, a three-foot-long taser held in her hands like a billy club. “And why is that, William?”
“You always were one for the sucker punch.”
Darla smiled in response, and then stuck the stun baton into Spike’s ribs. He convulsed at her feet for a few seconds, and she watched with delight. Drusilla crossed over to Darla, her eyes never leaving Spike’s agonies.
“One last chance, Spike my lad. Are you going to do the right thing by Drusilla here?” Darla wrapped her arm around Dru’s waist, pulling her close. “Or do we have to do things the hard way?”
He knew he shouldn’t say it. He should placate, or cajole. Anything to buy time, to get away, to regroup.
Darla hit him with the taser a third time. He spasmed and jerked, and then passed out.
“Dru, I can see why you brought this toy,” she smiled. “He looks like he’s dancing on a gibbet.”
“Fun, isn’t it?” Drusilla giggled.
“Very,” Darla purred. She prodded Spike’s torso with the edge of her boot. No response - he was definitely unconscious. She hit him with the taser a few more times, enjoying the way it made his insensible body arch and shudder.
Spike slowly became aware of his surroundings. His mouth tasted like blood and burnt toast. He was… hanging from something, from a shackle at each wrist. Not over his head, but from two different points- splayed out, his body hanging between his arms. Could he get his feet underneath himself, maybe stand? Good. Yes. Pressure’s off the shoulders. Roll the shoulders, make fists. Work on getting the feeling back into his arms. Damn, he felt like -
Like Darla had hit him with a stun gun seven or eight times. Hell, if he’d known it felt like that, he would’ve just coldcocked Buffy last year. Chip or no chip. Small wonder she told him to get knotted, he thought.
Okay, no use putting it off. Spike lifted his head and opened his eyes. He was in a cave somewhere. It wasn’t familiar: maybe twelve feet by fifteen feet, roughly rectangular, high enough ceiling, smooth floor. Something had lived here before, and made it habitable. Torches at the corners made it light enough to see the exit leading off to his right. Of course, he didn’t see himself using it any time soon. On the wall opposite him was a round mirror. It was huge, at least six feet in diameter, with a beveled edge and a strange, distorting shimmer. It was reflecting a low stone table in the center of the room. And another mirror, this one with heavy iron cuffs pulled towards its center. He snuck a peek over his shoulder. Yeh, there it was: a mirror matching the one on the other wall. He was shackled in front of it; the bolts holding the chains were driven into the solid rock on each side of the mirror.
Where were Darla and Dru? And where was his coat? And his boots? Lovely. Barefoot and weaponless, chained to a mirror. The only people who knew his whereabouts were two vampires who not only loved to torture people, but also were really quite skilled at it.
This didn’t bode well.
Okay, he could hear them coming now. They entered, whispering to each other. Darla was carrying things: candles, a bowl, a white cloth, a small leather bag tied with a knotted cord. Various items for a spell, Spike imagined. Not one he was familiar with. Dru held something small in her hands, which she slipped into a pocket when she entered.
“My lover’s awake.” Drusilla danced over to him, ran her fingers through his hair, and pulled his head back, hard.
“Trust me, Spike,” she whispered in his ear. She kissed him, grinding her mouth against his and splitting his lip. When blood welled from the cut, she cooed softly and licked it away. “Pretty flowers deep in the dark cruel woods. It’s all for the worst…”
He could see Darla behind Dru, covering the stone table with a cloth that looked like white silk. Dru moved to help her; the women set four thick cream-colored candles on the table, one at each corner of the cloth.
“Right.” Spike was tired of waiting. “Mind filling me in on our plans for the evening? ‘Cause if it’s just dinner by candlelight, ladies, I’m afraid my heart belongs to another.”
“We’re well aware of your little… fixation.” Darla looked particularly smug. “We’re doing a little scorned-woman’s-revenge scenario, Spike, and you’re front and center for this one.”
“Really?” Spike tugged at the chain holding his right arm to the wall. There was some play there; the bolt in the wall pulled out a fraction of an inch. “Little old me? I would’ve thought Angelus would be the one to get your knickers in a twist.”
“No,” Drusilla crowed. “That wouldn’t do at all. Whoosh! Out like a candle I would go.”
Spike turned his head to look at Darla. “Look, maybe it’s that I’m chained to the bloody wall, here, but I just don’t have it in me to interpret. Would you just tell me what you’re doing, or do I have to bash myself unconscious again?”
“It’s fairly simple, actually,” Darla replied. “Dru’s decided that she wants her boy back. And I’ve decided to help her.”
“Not gonna happen. Dru, honey, we’ve danced this dance.” He looked over at Dru, hoping still to protect her even as he pushed her away. “Remember? I’ve made my choice, pathetic as it may be.”
“You, but not you.” Drusilla leaned towards him conspiratorially. “I’m going to get my Spike back pure. No plastic in his head. No Slayer in his heart.”
“And then comes the really fun part,” Darla added.
Spike waited a moment for her to continue; then he rolled his eyes. “Fine. Which is?”
Darla walked over to him, smiling. She slowly ran her index finger down his neck, tracing the path of his jugular vein. “We kill the Slayer. And we kill you.”
With that, Darla stabbed her fingernail into Spike’s neck. Spike jerked back, but instantly Darla had her other hand shoved up under his jaw, pinning him in place. Blood spurted out of the wound, running down his neck and soaking his shirt.
“Dru! The blood!” Darla cried. And Drusilla was there, catching his blood in a deep, wide-rimmed bowl. It filled rapidly; too rapidly, Spike thought. He estimated that the bowl would hold three, maybe four pints of his blood. This would definitely weaken him. Separately, he could probably defeat either of the two women. At full strength, he would’ve risked fighting them both. But now, he decided, the prudent thing to do was to try to escape.
Then again, when had he ever been prudent? He grabbed the chain shackling his right wrist, and pulled. The bolt moved again, another fraction of an inch. At this rate, he would be dust a good three days before he got this bugger out.
Come on, Spike, keep working that damn bolt.
Another fraction of an inch. And another.
“Really,” Spike said. “Isn’t this an awful lot of trouble, just to get a little payback? You girls could always go out, make yourselves a coupla new lapdogs. Hell, you could make yourselves your whole bloody kennel.”
“Don’t want a new puppy. Can’t just go to the pound, make it all better, kiss all the hurts away.” Drusilla replied. Her gaze remained fixed on the blood filling the bowl in her hands.
The flow of blood from his jugular had slowed to a trickle. The bowl was almost full, to about an inch from the rim. Drusilla held the bowl in both hands, moving carefully to the table in the center of the room. She looked like a child with an overfull cereal bowl, Spike thought. Probably an apt simile, considering a vampire’s use for blood. But contrary to Spike’s expectations, Drusilla didn’t drink. Instead, she nicked her wrist with a fingernail and added her blood to his. As Dru’s blood drained into the bowl, Darla threw in a handful of a copper-colored powder. She chanted something in a language he couldn’t understand. It sounded similar to a few demon languages he had heard, but he couldn’t place it specifically. Now the bowl was completely full. Dru pulled her wrist away and Darla stopped chanting. Then Darla walked around the table, lighting the candles with a cheap pink plastic Bic lighter. Drusilla reached into the pocket of her skirt and pulled out the mystery item, which she placed carefully, almost reverently, in the center of the table.
It was a pair of eyeglasses. Wire rims, and rounded frames. More old-fashioned spectacles, really. Oddly familiar.
Next, Darla and Dru moved to opposite sides of the table, Dru on the side near the door, Darla facing her. They picked up the bowl, carefully, and slowly poured the blood over the spectacles. The blood soaked into the white cloth and pooled out away from the center of the table. It covered the table and bled down the cloth, until the white of the cloth was completely gone and the entire table was thick and dark with his blood. The bowl was empty. Darla threw it against the far wall and it shattered into a thousand pieces.
“There. All set,” Darla said. “Drusilla, are you ready for your present?”
“Eyes of pearl and bones of jet and dead hands clapping, clapping,” Dru replied eagerly, dancing in a circle.
“Well, I’m going to take that as a yes.” Darla looked at Spike. “She’s a little excited. How about you, sweet William? Are you ready for what’s to come?”
Shut up, Spike.
“I’m ready to knock you into next week, bitch.”
“Aww, Spike. You always know the right thing to say to a girl.” She ran her tongue across her top teeth seductively, flirting with him a little. “Dru. Let’s do it.”
Drusilla spread her fingers, and set her hands into the blood on the table. Darla did the same, and then her eyes locked with Dru’s. In unison, they began chanting. The language was the same as before, as incomprehensible as before.
“Nnng ho pelenth k shasss nik amah. Nnng ho pelenth k shasss nik amah. Nnng ho pelenth k shasss nik amah.” Their voices rose, swelled, grew louder with the power of the words.
Spike became aware of a light growing in the room. The light was so white it was almost blue, and seemed to be coming from behind him. He craned his head over his shoulder to look. Yeh, he was right. The light was coming from the mirror, and was pulsing brighter. Already the light was too intense; he had to squint and look away from it. Spike struggled frantically with the chain on his right wrist. The bolt jolted forward an inch, and then stuck fast.
“Come on, move,” he muttered. “Move, you wanker, move.”
The light was building behind him in the mirror. He could feel it push him away from the wall, feel all the little hairs on his body standing up. A ray of light shot forward from the center of the mirror. It shone through his chest, pushing him forward like a fist between his shoulder blades, and onto the glasses in the center of the table. It refracted through the blood-covered lenses of the spectacles. There the light changed color, matching the red of his blood, and shone through to the center of the second mirror.
“Bloody… watch where you’re going!”
Who said that? Spike looked around, but could see no one else in the room. Who was crying? Why was the voice so familiar?
Something began to appear in the light of the other mirror. Spike could see an alley full of trash, and the brick wall of a building. A man with dark blond hair, in a tweed suit, sobbing. A few scraps of paper clutched in one hand.
Oh, God. It was him. It was William.
Spike threw himself against his chains. Nothing moved. He gritted his teeth, and let his demon come forth. Using his hips against the glass as a fulcrum, he threw his upper body forward and heaved at the chain on his wrist. The muscles of his chest, arms, and stomach strained to their limit. For long seconds, nothing moved. Then, with a screech, the bolt holding his right arm pulled free from the wall. It lashed forward and clipped Darla on the side of her head. She fell to her knees, dazed.
Drusilla hadn’t noticed. She was mesmerized by the light, by the figure drawn into reality in front of her. She had stopped chanting, but her hands were still pressed into the cloth of the table.
Great. One down, one to go. Spike turned his attention to the second chain. This one didn’t move, no matter how much he heaved on it. Perhaps Darla had a key? No good. She wasn’t unconscious, and she was out of his limited reach. Right, then. He was just going to have to muscle his way out of this one.
And he was going to have to hurry. The spell was complete, and William was in the room. Really, actually in the room. The mirrors flashed a last time, and the light disappeared.
William looked up, through his tears, and his eyes widened. This wasn’t the alley he had turned into. This wasn’t any place with which he was familiar. And now, there was a young woman moving towards him, reaching towards him, her hands covered with… Oh good gracious! Was that blood?
William’s shriek echoed through the cave.
That was it. Spike turned around and, using the chain for resistance, braced his feet against the wall. Then he walked up the wall, planting his feet as close as possible to the bolt holding the chain. He heaved at the chain, using every muscle he had. The mirror cracked under his left foot, but the bolt didn’t give. Instead, his shoulder did. Spike screamed as he felt his shoulder pull out of his socket. Then he grabbed his shackled wrist with his right hand, just above the cuff, and kept pulling. The iron cuff bit into his hand. Blood was seeping from a dozen small wounds. The blood worked as lubrication, and Spike felt his hand pull slightly through the cuff. He pulled harder. He could hear small bones crunching in his hands, and felt his thumb break. He gritted his teeth, and pulled harder. One final jerk, and his wrist slipped free. Spike went flying across the cave. He braced himself for a hard impact, and tried to twist himself so that his hand could break his fall.
Instead, Darla did. He’d fallen on top of her, causing her head to crack hard against the floor of the cave. Spike grabbed a fistful of her hair and slammed her head against the rock a few more times, to ensure that she remained out of the fight. And because he really liked the thwacking sound it made. And once more, because, hell, he just really hated Darla. Then he pushed himself to his feet. His left arm wasn’t working at all, and hung from his side at a weird angle.
Drusilla was crooning to William, whose eyes were locked on hers. He appeared to be entranced: his face was full of puzzlement and hope, and he wore a dazed smile. Dru looked triumphant, and hungry. Until Spike bodyslammed her into the wall.
“Run! Run, you stupid git! Go!” He flashed into vamp-face, hoping to scare William into motion.
It worked. William let out a strange little meep, and then dashed out the cave’s exit.
“No!” Drusilla screamed, and launched herself after him. Spike grabbed her around the waist with his good arm, and used her own momentum to swing her back into the room. Then he let her go, and she crashed into the table, knocking over the lit candles. William’s spectacles went flying into the corner. Spike blocked the exit, stalling for time. He winced as he felt shards of the glass bowl cutting into the soles of his feet. Dru leapt back upright, and hissed at him.
“Spike. Always stepping when he should be hopping. You’ve taken my toys again, Spike.” Her voice was affronted, as though she had suffered a great wrong.
Knocking over the candles had started a real blaze. The spell had somehow caused his blood to dry, and the cloth was going up in flames. Darla lay dangerously close to the growing fire. Spike took a step back, and laughed.
“Well, Dru, it appears you have a choice,” Spike said. “You can take it out of my skin, and let Grandma go up like a Roman candle. Or you can haul her unconscious ass out of here, and let me go.”
“Ooooh!” Drusilla screeched, almost dancing with frustration.
“Six of one, pet. I’m always up for a tussle.” He was lying through his teeth. He didn’t know how he was standing.
Dru had a further moment of indecision, and then whirled to run over to Darla.
“Excellent choice,” Spike muttered. Then he staggered out of the cave, which led directly into a sewer tunnel. There was a little light coming through the sewer grate, signaling the coming sunrise. He looked to his left, and then his right, searching for William.
Beautiful. Where did he go?
Spike pounded on Buffy’s door. He had run all the way to Buffy’s house, racing the sunrise. His feet were cut and bleeding, and his shoulder throbbed mercilessly. He still had a shackle hanging from his right wrist, and the chain and bolt dragged behind him. He was woozy from lack of blood. But he made it to the porch with time to spare. If he could get somebody to open the door for him. Again and again, he hammered his right fist against the solid wood of the Summers’ front door.
“Slayer! Buffy! Get the hell up and open the ruddy door!”
Spike paused for a brief moment. He thought he heard something: bare feet padding towards the door, then stopping. He began pounding again. “If you don’t open this door in the next thirty seconds, either I break the lock or you sweep me up later!”
The door swung open. Dawn stood there in the doorway, with one hand on the door. She looked rumpled and sleepy, but her eyes still held a challenging look.
“C’n I come in?” Technically, he could already. But he was doing his best these days to observe the niceties, not to push his luck.
Saying nothing, Dawn moved out of the doorway. Spike nodded a thanks at her and stepped into the foyer.
“Three things,” Dawn said, as she swung the door shut. “One, I’m not really awake yet. So don’t talk to me for a half-hour, until I’ve had some coffee, and don’t give me any crap about being too young to drink coffee. Two, Buffy is upstairs, sleeping; you wake her at your own risk. Got it?”
“Got it,” Spike affirmed. He moved to the foot of the stairs. “Can’t wait. Oh. Three?”
“Three, you look like hell, Spike.”
“Yeh. Could be worse.” He grinned sardonically. “My ex is in town.”
Dawn stared at Spike as he limped up the stairs. “Omigod. Drusilla?”
“And she brought party favors.”
Spike crossed down the hall, and stopped in front of Buffy’s closed door. Knock, or go in? Screw it, he wasn’t aiming for sainthood, here. He turned the knob, and pushed the door open.
Buffy was still sleeping. She had kicked off her covers in the night, and lay in a patch of sunlight that had just begun shining through the window. She was on her back, her right arm stretched across the bed and the other arm curled around her head. Her knees were tucked to one side, the side opposite her outstretched arm. Spike could see, just where her tank top had pulled away from her pajama bottoms, about an inch of the skin of her stomach and flank. It glowed in the sunlight, gold and peach, moving faintly with the motion of her breathing.
Saint, no. Bloody masochist, was what he was.
“Buffy!” He started drumming the knuckles of his functional hand on her doorframe. “Up! Up! We need to talk.”
Buffy rolled over onto her side and pulled a pillow over her head. He continued drumming, and heard a muffled protest from underneath the pillow.
“Don’t make me start singing, Buffy,” Spike warned. “’Cause I’m telling you right now, I’ve had the Clash in my head all night.”
The protests were slightly more high-pitched, and maybe a touch louder. Sodding hell, now she was wriggling. He closed his eyes.
“Buffy! BuffyBuffyBuffyBuffyUPBuffyBuff-- ”
Something whacked him in the face, knocking him back a few steps into the doorframe. His dislocated shoulder slammed into the jamb, sending shots of white-hot pain through his body, and causing his vision to gray out at the edges. He let out a low moan of pain as he struggled to stay conscious. His right hand gripped the doorframe, the only thing keeping him standing. He concentrated on the feel of the wood underneath his fingers, concentrated on the pillow Buffy had thrown that was now at his feet, concentrated on not passing out. Slowly, his vision cleared and the pain ebbed.
Buffy was sitting on the edge of the bed, looking concerned. His soft cry of pain had woken her instantly. “Spike? What’s the matter? Are you hurt?”
“Shoulder. Out of … socket,” he ground out. “Need help gettin' it back in.”
“Ow.” Buffy winced, and then got up to walk over to him. “Not a problem, though. Left?”
“As it’s the one hangin’ useless at my side, yeh, brilliant deduction, pet.”
“Now, Spike,” Buffy said, as she pushed the sleeve of his tee shirt up over his deltoid muscle. “This is already going to hurt a lot. Do you really want it to hurt even more?”
“Just do it,” he muttered.
“Yick,” she said, as she examined his injured arm. In addition to the dislocated shoulder, Buffy could see deep cuts and gashes around the back of his left hand, and his thumb appeared to be broken. She crossed to the window, pulling the shades closed. “On the bed, Lefty.”
“On the bed. Face up.” Spike staggered forward, and gingerly rolled his body onto the bed. “What, no witty remark? You must be in some real pain.”
He looked up at her, humor visible beneath the pain in his eyes. “I reserve the right to make salacious comments later.”
Buffy grasped Spike’s left wrist firmly in both hands, and lifted his arm slightly off the bed. She held his arm, now perpendicular to his body and elevated at about a twenty-degree angle.
He hissed. “Lewd, obscene, vulgar comments…”
She placed one foot against his ribcage.
“Involving similarities between your current pose and specific pages of the Kama Sutra…”
Buffy fought back a smirk as she began to pull. “This is going to hurt like a-“
“Son of a BITCH!” Spike screamed, as his humerus popped back into the socket of his shoulder.
“Yep,” Buffy grinned. “That’s what it was gonna hurt like. Now, Spike, spill it. What’s with the morning visit?”
Spike sat back up and swung his feet back onto the floor. His face was intent, pleading, even a little desperate.
“I need you to find someone.”
Thanks and love to fenwic, cousinjean and georgevna - your insight, perspective, and support are invaluable.
William ran. He ran as if his life depended on it; he was fairly certain that was indeed the case. That man. His face had changed - become a monster’s.
And the woman. Beautiful, entrancing, but somehow terrifying. Inhuman. As though she was a cobra beguiling its prey, or some succubus from an ancient myth. He somehow knew that in her embrace he would have gone joyfully to his destruction.
William dashed down what he believed to be a sewer. It unquestionably smelled as though it were a sewer. He was unsure if the noises he heard were the offspring of his terrified imagination, or if those nightmares made manifest were following him. Whatever their origin, they spurred him to sprint down the dim corridor.
His breath hitched.
“Oh, dear, no. Not now.” He needed to breathe, needed to be able to run. He could feel his lungs tightening, as though iron bands were locking themselves around his chest. He inhaled, and could hear the rattling wheeze. He forced himself to keep moving. Where to go?
Up. Up to the street, where people could see him. Surely whatever was chasing him would not murder him in front of witnesses. He staggered now, gulping for the breaths that rasped in his lungs.
William bent over, his hands propped on his knees. He forced himself to take a series of shallow, panting breaths - anything deeper would start him coughing, would make the tightness in his lungs worse.
As he straightened up, he looked around. There. A ladder in the wall. William climbed it slowly, his breath still laboring. At the top of the ladder was an exit, blocked by a solid metal cover. William tested it with his hand. It didn’t move.
“Oh, please,” he whispered. “Please.” He took another step up the ladder, and put his shoulder against the metal disc. He pushed, and felt the cover move slightly. Encouraged, he pushed harder, feeling the strain in his back and legs. Slowly, ponderously, he raised the cover until it was free of the opening. It slipped to the side and landed, showing about ten inches of the world above the sewer. William pulled himself through the gap until he was sitting on the edge of the hole. He then took a moment to rest, letting his legs dangle into the hole. Cautiously, he took a slightly deeper breath. It was too soon: his breath caught and he began coughing uncontrollably. Minutes passed as he fought to regain control of his breathing.
Suddenly, the woman was there - the one with dark hair and enthralling eyes, the one with bloody hands and bloody lips. She was below him, at the bottom of the ladder, reaching up toward his leg. In a heartbeat she would clutch his ankle. She would pull him back down into the gray murk of the sewer. She would consume him, and he would beg her to.
With a start, William jerked his legs out of the hole. He stood, a continuation of his previous motion, and took a few panicked steps away from the manhole cover.
“Silly. Of course she wasn’t there. You’re merely distressing yourself.” William laughed at himself, a nervous, soundless laugh. He deliberately turned his back to the manhole cover and looked around.
His surroundings were recognizable yet strange. There were streets, and buildings, and people. But the streets weren’t dirt or cobblestone; they were a thick black substance, like hardened tar. Along them moved strange purring carriages with no external means of propulsion. The buildings had signs, labeling themselves as shops of some sort. But though the words on the signs appeared to be English, he only understood every other one. And the people…There were relatively few on the street, but this was perhaps due to it being just after sunrise (How could it be just after sunrise? Minutes ago it was only late evening). They passed by him, not looking at him, as though each was hurrying to some unspoken destination. Their clothing was of alien materials, and in myriad hues, and in a few cases, almost nonexistent.
This wasn’t London. This wasn’t anyplace he knew.
When Buffy had realized that it was going to take longer than “Go, find, kill,” she’d sent Spike back downstairs. There was no way she could comprehend anything more complex without first having a shower. Especially when she’d been awakened at daybreak. Ugh. So not a morning person. She shuffled to the bathroom and stood in the shower and let hot water hit her in the face until it wasn’t hot any more. Then she brushed her teeth and pulled her wet hair back into a ponytail. Feeling slightly more human, she headed back to her room to grab some clothes and toss them on.
Buffy could hear a soft murmuring as she padded downstairs. Dawn and Spike, in the kitchen, discussing something quietly.
“That’s good, Bit. Now, feel around for the pin…”
“What’s the pin?”
“It’s the movey part. You found it?”
Buffy rounded the corner and walked into the kitchen. Spike sat on a stool at the island, leaning in towards her sister. Dawn, still in pajamas, was bent intently over the shackle on his wrist, which rested on the island. She held a straightened paper clip in one hand, and what looked to be a turkey skewer in the other. Both were jammed into the keyhole of the cuff in front of her. Dawn bit her lower lip as she probed with the turkey skewer.
Buffy crossed her arms. “What are you doing?”
Dawn glanced up at Buffy. “It’s so cool! Spike’s teaching me to pick locks!”
“Why?” Buffy asked, a note of warning in her voice.
“Well, can’t do it meself, can I? Left hand’s a little nonfunctional right now.”
“Don’t teach her that. And I’ve got a hacksaw.” Buffy pulled a mug out of the cupboard. She poured herself some coffee, and downed half the mug in one swallow.
There was a click, and the cuff fell open.
“Hey! Hey! I did it!” Dawn was gleeful.
“Good work!” Spike said. “That was - damn, that was quick. Took me hours, my first go at one of those.”
Dawn giggled. “Well, I am ‘The Key’, you know.”
Spike groaned and rolled his eyes at Dawn.
“Ack.” Buffy took another slurp of coffee. “Go get dressed, while I yell at Spike for being a bad influence.”
Dawn hopped down off the stool. “’Kay. Hey, can I keep the cuff?”
“It’s all yours.” Spike waved his hand magnanimously.
“In appreciation of my freedom, oh mighty Key.” Spike and Dawn grinned at each other. They held the grin, smiling at each other for a long moment. Then Dawn walked out of the kitchen, swinging the shackle by its chain. Buffy watched her leave, and then turned to look at Spike.
Buffy continued to glare at him.
“Please. It’s not anything she can’t find out on the Internet,” Spike scoffed. “Plus, learning how to pick locks takes an insane amount of practice. She won’t stick with it long enough to -- Oh, who’m I kidding. Of course, she’ll stick with it. It’s fun.”
Buffy sighed. Spike was incorrigible. And Spike and Dawn together were impossible. Still, he’d been there for Dawn when she - she couldn’t be. According to Giles, they’d kept each other sane. She owed Spike for that. Would probably always owe him.
She walked over to him, setting her mug on the counter. “How’s your shoulder?”
“And your hand?”
“Big baby. Hold on a sec.” Buffy left the kitchen and returned quickly with a massive first aid kit. She rifled through the kit, pulling out rubbing alcohol, gauze, tape, and scissors.
“You have something in there I can use to splint my thumb?”
“How about a splint?” She tossed one to him, and he caught it with his good hand.
The corner of his mouth quirked up. “Hmm, I’d really prefer a splint, if you had one.”
“Or a splint might work.”
“Why not a splint?”
“Okay, now, see, the word has lost all its meaning.” Buffy smiled at him. “Splint. Splint splint splint.”
“You’re right. Completely senseless.” Spike awkwardly tried to wrap his left hand. He fumbled the brace, and it fell to the ground. “Bollocks!”
“Let me do it.” Buffy grabbed the splint off the floor, and held out her hand. Spike made a face at her. But after a moment he placed his injured hand palm up in hers. Buffy swabbed the cuts around his wrist with alcohol, and closed the worst cuts with some butterfly bandages. Then she gently maneuvered the brace around his thumb. As she wrapped his hand in gauze, she glanced up at him. Something was weird about his black T-shirt. It was folding strangely, as though it had been really heavily starched.
“Why is your shirt all stiff like that?”
Spike glanced down. “Oh. Blood.”
“Mine!” Defensive, Spike raised his chin, so Buffy could see the gash on his neck. “Din’t I tell you? I’ve been butchered kosher.”
Buffy stepped closer to examine Spike’s wound. “What the hell? How did this happen?”
“Dru and Darla drained my blood for a spell,” Spike said. “Took a great huge vat of it. I’m all logy.”
“Okay. That’s it. Full story, from the top, please.”
Buffy finished wrapping his hand, taping the bandage carefully, and Spike told her of Drusilla’s ultimatum in the graveyard. Then she poured herself another cup of coffee, as he talked of waking up in the cave. While she used tweezers to pull shards of glass out of his feet, Spike revealed details of the spell cast. He finished with his escape as she repacked the first aid kit and put it away. The only time he paused, the only slight hitch in the narrative, was when he mentioned the man who had appeared as a result of the spell. All he could choke out was that the man had to be found.
Buffy took a moment to consider the story she’d heard.
“So they zapped you with a taser and chained you to a wall?” Buffy asked. When Spike nodded in response, she grinned. “What’s that like?”
“Funny.” Spike winced. “I’m well aware that karma just bit a great big bloody chunk outta my arse. I would point out though, that I didn’t take your boots, or your favorite bloody coat.”
“Nope. Just my cashmere sweater and a few pairs of underwear.”
“Did I mention I’m a few pints low?” Spike asked.
She relented. He did look kind of punch-drunk. “Fine. Give me a few minutes to go do girly things, and I’ll run by the butcher shop. You can sack out here today.”
He looked at her, incredulous at the offer.
Buffy sighed. “Hello? You can’t go home, ‘cause your whackadoo ex-girlfriend knows where you live, and you’re injured. Also, you’re barefoot, so your usually amusing sprint to the sewers, with or without Mr. Blanko, will result in your feet burning off and the new nickname of ‘Stumpy’. Finally, I need to contact you the second I find your mystery guy, right?”
“Then unless you got a phone in your crypt without telling me, you’re easier to reach here. You can - ” Her voice caught. “You can sleep in my room.”
“Thanks,” he said softly.
Great. Now she felt all uncomfortable. “Promise you won’t teach Dawn how to hotwire a car, and we’re even.”
Spike looked at her, mischief again twinkling in his eyes. “Yeh. Well. Little late for that, actually.”
Buffy closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Spike, I swear. The second my little sister gets in any trouble whatsoever, whether or not it’s something she learned from you? You are going to have a serious splinter problem. Cardiac splinters.”
Buffy put her mug in the sink, and started back upstairs. A thought hit her, causing her to turn around in the doorway.
“Oh. So this guy, this what’s-his-name?”
“William? Who is he?”
Spike suddenly couldn’t look at her. His focus darted around the room, as though the way to describe this man was tucked somewhere in a corner of the kitchen. “He’s, he’s - someone from my past.”
“Human. Sort of a relative.” Tension thickened Spike’s words. His voice was deeper, and he seemed to be spitting the words out. “Died in 1880.”
“So he knew you before you were a vamp?” Now, this had some possibilities.
“You could say that, yeh.”
“Wow. He must be utterly freaked, getting plopped down in Sunnydale.” Buffy thought for a second. “We have to find him before Dru and Darla do?”
“And if we don’t?”
“Well.” Spike thought for a second. “Things could get very ugly.”
Buffy walked along the streets of downtown Sunnydale, humming under her breath. A guy in tweed, with light brown hair and little round glasses. How hard could it be? After all, who wears tweed in Southern California? Giles, on occasion, and … our mystery guest, whoever the heck he was.
So why was it taking so long? At Spike’s oddly urgent pleas, she had cancelled her day’s schedule. She had combed the streets of Sunnydale for, geez, what time was it, anyway? One twenty-four. Great. For almost six hours. Not to mention the fact that Spike was now sacked out on her bed, and that she’d swung by his crypt to pick up a change of clothes for him. Buffy, the Vampire Errand-Runner. Could this day get any weirder?
Don’t think that. You’re just asking for it, Buffy.
Okay, she was going to give this another thirty minutes, and then she was calling in the cavalry. Maybe Willow could cast some locatey spell. Some track-the-guy-from-a-different-time thing. Whatever didn’t involve Buffy trudging around Sunnydale any more in what she’d thought would be comfortable boots.
Whoa. Tweed alert, dead ahead. Buffy took a few steps closer. Yep, this guy definitely fit the profile: tweed, glasses, floppy hair. Oddly familiar. But he wasn’t panicky, or jumpy, or hiding from anyone. He didn’t even look scared, which was kinda weird considering he’d just been zapped from the nineteenth century. Instead, he was scribbling in a little leather book that was propped on his knee in front of him. He looked up, totally engrossed in his thoughts, blind to his surroundings. Then his focus snapped back to the book, and he was writing again.
She walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder. “Excuse me, but -”
“Oh. Dear. Please.” He stood up abruptly, gesturing towards the bench. “Allow me to offer you a seat, miss.”
“Umm, thanks,” she said, a little bewildered. “I think there’s room for both of us, here.”
He nodded hesitantly. Still, he appeared to be waiting for something. Oh, right, she’d read Pride and Prejudice. It’s one of those ‘girls sit first’ things. Courtesy. Novel concept.
Buffy sat on the bench. After a few awkward half-starts, William followed, perching on the edge as though he could bolt at any second. He turned to look at her, but his gaze darted away. Was he embarrassed about something? Dang, he looked familiar.
“Sir?” What’s with the sir? Swell, now she was stuck in a Jane Austen novel. “Can I ask you a question?”
“Of-of course. It’s a pleasure to be of assistance.” Plummy British accent. Nice.
“Is your name William?”
A look of surprise flashed across his face. It was followed by fear, and then resolution. “Yes. That is, my Christian name is William. How would you -”
“Great. Whew. I’ve been looking for you for hours.” She could tell he was fighting to keep from looking scared again. “Don’t worry. I’m here to help. Card-carrying good guy. Scout’s honor.”
“Wha-- ?” Better. Now he just looked completely baffled.
Duh, Buffy. Slang, pop culture references, not gonna go over with a guy who thinks electricity is newfangled. She started again. “I was sent to look for you, to take you somewhere safe. My name’s Buffy. Buffy Summers.”
“Pleasure to make your acquaintance.” The words came out automatically. “Miss Summers?”
“Please. Buffy. I only get called Miss Summers when I’m in trouble.” She could only be so formal. Plus, well, it was true.
“Miss, would you happen to know…” He stopped, then started again. “This may appear to be an odd question, and I beg your forbearance. I assure you, I am not, in fact, deranged. At least, I don’t believe myself to be.”
“Where-where are we?”
Not an odd question, considering the circumstances. “This is Sunnydale.”
“Ah.” William jotted a note in his journal. “And what, pray tell, is Sunnydale? Is it country, or city, or some other geographic demarcation?”
“Oh. Town. It’s a town in California, in the United States.”
“California? Really?” William looked about himself. “Where are the cowboys? And the hostile natives? And the gold miners? I have heard it told on good authority that the streets in California are well nigh paved with gold.”
“Not a lotta gold-mining around here, actually. Or cowboys.” Buffy considered. “Though we do have a fair number of hostile natives…”
“Oh. Oh.” He looked slightly disappointed - like someone had explained the workings behind a truly amazing magic trick. “I appear to have been misinformed. I have - on more than one occasion - been teased for my gullibility. Here is another sterling example of it.”
Buffy smiled at him. “No, you’re fine. You’re just asking the wrong question.”
“Now I truly am perplexed. What question should I ask?”
“Well, you know where we are. Now ask when we are. When.”
“You can’t be serious. It’s 1880, of course, how could it be…” William trailed off as he considered the alien nature of his surroundings. “Otherwise…”
Break it to him gently. “It looks like you got the all-expenses-paid trip to the year 2001, William.”
“2001? The year of our Lord 2001? Two zero zero one?”
“You got it.”
“I retract what I said earlier. I consider it quite possible that I am, in fact, deranged.” William closed his eyes tightly, and she could see him fighting panic.
“Trust me. You’re not crazy,” Buffy assured him. “The situation you’re in, yeah, that’s seriously loony. But you look to be doing pretty well, actually.”
William bounced in his seat. “Oh. Oh. Pardon me, but I must-” He lifted the book he carried slightly, and gave her a questioning glance.
“Go ahead. Whatever.” Buffy was a little taken aback by this weird burst of enthusiasm.
“Thank you.” With that, William opened his book, and wrote busily with a stub of a pencil. Buffy waited a few minutes, watching as he continued to scribble. Eventually she ran out of patience.
“With the writing?”
He looked over at her, a shy, sweet smile lighting up his features. Then, meeting her gaze, he flushed and looked away.
“You see, I was a little… oh, what’s the word? Overwhelmed? Inundated? By this whole experience. This place-it is so alien. Yet there is just enough that is recognizable around me, which makes it even more disconcerting. I therefore made the decision to behave, well, as Gulliver would -“
“Gulliver’s Travels?” Buffy asked.
“Yes! Yes! Precisely! You’ve read it?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Saw the miniseries.”
A look of incomprehension passed across his face, but then he continued his explanation. “Well, then, I thought I would do as Gulliver did, and commit my impressions of this unfamiliar realm to paper.” He looked down for a second. “It was either this, or curl up into a little ball in a blind panic.”
“All this is a little much, huh?”
“Precisely. But I’m finding the imposition of distance -- by means of the rational framework of the attempt to describe my surroundings -- is remarkably successful at distracting me from the terror.”
“Oh. Good.” Yeesh. This guy could out-Giles Giles with the vocab.
“It appears we have answered the salient questions of when and where.” William closed his journal, gripping it tightly in his hands. “Now, may I ask, why? Why am I here? How do I get home?”
“Good questions,” Buffy said. “I don’t exactly know. But we’ll figure it out, I promise. If it helps, I know how you got here.”
“That would be most helpful, yes.” There was that shy smile again.
“Well, we think that Drusilla - umm, the woman from the cave? With the dark hair and absolutely no sanity?”
“Ah. Yes. I remember,” William said, his voice taking on a distant quality. “It was as though she had cast a spell over me.”
“She did cast a spell,” Buffy replied. “That’s what brought you here. That other blond lady, and I use the term loosely, was helping her.”
“And the fellow? The one with the white hair? And the face…” William shuddered.
“Good guy. Well, comparatively. He’s the one who asked me to find you.”
“But his face!” William’s breathing started to speed up; Buffy could see him working to maintain control. “His face became a monster’s. And he screamed at me. Chased me.”
“Don’t worry. He can’t hurt you. Like - can’t. He just wants to make sure you get back where you belong.” She could tell that William was unconvinced. Great. “Tell you what. Let’s get you to Giles, and I’ll explain on the way.”
She stood up. William instinctively followed her to his feet, but when she took a step he didn’t follow. She could tell that he wanted to go with her, that he wanted to trust her, but was still a little frightened.
“Come on,” she wheedled. “I’ll throw in lunch…”
He looked at her blankly.
“Lunch? Luncheon? Food?”
“Luncheon? Miss, I am at your service. You may direct me in all endeavors.” Under his breath he added, “In lieu of anything else remotely resembling a viable option.”
Oh. Oh no. That look on his face now- that tight little half-smile. She knew that look. Buffy grabbed William’s arm, and turned him to face her. From straight on it was easier to see. Blue eyes, lethal cheekbones. Hell, suddenly it was obvious. Spike’s relative? Hah. This was Spike. Spike when he was human.
“Oh, God.” Buffy worked hard to keep herself from laughing, and utterly failed.
“Have I- ” He was wounded by her laughter, uncomfortable and vulnerable. “Have I done something to amuse you?”
“No, no, I’m sorry, I’m not laughing at you.” Buffy waved her hand at William, trying simultaneously to regain control of herself and apologize. He looked so hurt. “I’m laughing at Spike.”
“This is going to take so much explaining. Okay, let’s start at the top,” Buffy said, as they began to walk away. “Do you know what a vampire is?”
“A vampire? Oh! Oh-do you mean? Such as the character from the work by Byron?” The enthusiasm was back in William’s voice. “Or, well, Polidari, actually, but I somehow prefer to think it was Byron’s.”
“Well, Buffy, it kind of makes sense,” Willow said, as she stared at William. “Vampire me was pretty different from me me. And not just the slutty factor.”
Buffy looked over at William. He was writing in his journal again, this time while sitting at the round table in the Magic Shop. Buffy, Giles, Willow, Anya and Xander were gathered around the counter, quietly discussing the situation.
“It gets even weirder. He’s really nice. Shy, polite. He doesn’t have any American money, and he was still horrified when I paid for his burger.” Buffy shook her head in amazement. “He even calls me ‘Miss Buffy’. He’s, like, the anti-Spike. Bizarro Spike.”
“It’s a pretty big difference, no arguments there,” Willow said. “Even his accent is different - he’s all Giles-y.”
“Caught that, did you?” Buffy looked from Willow to Giles. “So what do you think? Can you send him back?”
“I have some preliminary ideas.” Giles patted a pile of books. “One of these should tell us the specifics of that spell.”
“And once we know that,” Willow added, as she took one of the books, “it’s pretty easy to reverse it.”
Xander was still giggling. Had been giggling for over an hour. He would get himself under control, see William, and collapse into giggles again.
“Oh, man. I am so gonna ride Spike for this. Humiliations, galore!”
“Xander! You will not.” Buffy glared at him.
“And what possible reason on God’s green earth could stop me?”
“One, Spike is totally freaked out about this. Two, William is really nice. And I think he’s sensitive to teasing. Three…” Buffy wracked her brains trying to think of a three.
Willow didn’t look up from her book as she said, “Three, I’ll show everyone that picture of you from my thirteenth birthday party.”
Xander’s face dropped. “You wouldn’t.”
“Man. You suck all the joy out of life.” He glared at Willow. “Joy sucker.”
“So, what did you tell him?” Anya asked. “About the whole he-gets-turned-into-a-vampire-and-his-crazy-ex-girlfriend-brought-him-here thing?”
“Basically, that. Plus, the Cliff’s Notes of vampire lore, and some quick Slayer stuff,” Buffy added. “The weird thing was trying to explain how Spike could be a vampire and still be a good - well, goodish - guy.”
Xander giggled again. It was getting a little old. “You mean, you didn’t tell him that Spike’s in loooove with you? That the power of loooove drew him from his evil ways?”
“Umm, I kind of fudged that part, actually.”
“What did you tell him?” Giles asked.
“I didn’t,” Buffy said. “I did the ‘it’s a long story’ buck-and-shuffle.”
Willow shook her head. “Buffy…”
“What? You explain a microchip implant to a guy who has no concept of computers.” She sighed. “Okay, I totally wussed. How do you tell a guy that in a hundred years he’ll fall in love with you and completely renounce a life-type-thing of evil? And not sound like a cheesy romance novel? And not come across as even more self-involved than usual?”
Nobody could answer her. Giles did the thing where he started to talk a couple of times, but no actual sound came out. The rest of the group didn’t even try that hard. Buffy sighed, and grabbed a book off the stack. She plopped down in a chair across from William and opened the book. A History of Temporal Magics. Should be a real page-turner. She should’ve gotten one with pictures.
Hours passed. Tara had shown up, and pitched right in. Xander and Willow had moved over to the table, and Giles sat on the stairs. William was still perched on the edge of his seat. He had finished writing, so Buffy gave him her poetry textbook from last term - somehow, it had gotten left at the Magic Shop. When she looked up fifteen minutes later his lips were moving. He was silently mouthing the words of the poems he read, and his eyes shone with tears. Buffy couldn’t help but sneak glances at him as she worked. Spike worked so hard to guard his feelings. She could still see them, but it was like light coming through a shuttered window. With William, the shutters were torn down and the curtains drawn back, and his emotions shone through with a purity that was almost painful.
Willow looked up. “Hey, I think I found something.”
Buffy started. Crap, she had been staring. It would’ve been embarrassing if anyone had noticed. Fortunately, most of the gang had been working diligently. Anya was totaling receipts and Xander was… Xander was napping, his head nestled in his folded arms.
Buffy shot an evil look at Willow, and lifted her book about four feet off the table. Willow leaned over and touched William on the shoulder, breaking his reverie. He turned an inquisitive glance to her. When she pointed at Buffy, he smiled, but then quickly shifted his gaze to Xander. Buffy waited until she had everyone’s attention, and dropped the book. It banged onto the table, the report echoing through the room.
Xander jerked back, his chair tipping him over and dumping him on the floor. “No, honey, please, I didn’t mean it…”
Buffy snorted. A second later, everyone was laughing. Even Tara let out a quiet giggle. Only William remained silent. Xander took a second to figure out what had happened, and then he was laughing too. He got to his feet and took a quick bow. “Thanks, thanks, I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.”
William stared at Xander.
“What?” Xander asked, puzzled. “Did I land in something?”
“You-you don’t mind their laughter? That you were made the butt of a joke?”
“Hey. I fell asleep. I earned it.”
“Physical comedy is quite amusing,” Anya said, beaming at her fiancé. “As Xander frequently reminds us.”
“Could you teach me how to do that?” William asked, still focused on Xander. “Not falling off a chair; I’m inept enough as it is, I believe I could manage that one. But the - the not minding. The not being upset in the face of ridicule. I can’t help but find it devastating.”
“It’s not ridicule,” Buffy assured him. “It’s never ridicule.”
“Yeah,” Willow chimed in. “We love Xander. And that - that was just some gentle teasing.”
“And some hard landing,” Xander said. “Nah, really, if they didn’t tease, I’d think they were mad at me.”
“Ah. Humor as reinforcement of the bonds of camaraderie. I see.” Buffy didn’t think he looked reassured. If anything, he looked even more heartbroken.
“Hey.” She walked over and leaned against the table in front of William. “Are you okay? We didn’t upset you, did we?”
William looked up at her. Then he gulped, and his gaze darted away. He stared intently at the books as he shook his head. “I am quite well, I assure you. Thank you for your concern.”
Buffy wrinkled her nose. “William? Why won’t you look at me?”
“You keep looking away when I talk to you. Your hands, the table, anywhere but me.”
Willow cleared her throat. “Buffy, from his perspective, the way we’re dressed? We probably look like hookers.”
“Oh. Yeah,” Buffy grimaced as she considered her halter-top and snug-fitting pants. “Is that the problem?”
William remained looking at his hands. “I’m afraid I don’t understand the terminology, Miss - Buffy.”
“A hooker. Prostitute? Lady of the evening?”
If possible, William had blushed even redder. “Oh. No, no. That isn’t the case, I assure you.”
“Well, that’s a relief.”
“Prostitutes usually wear more clothing.” William now had his handkerchief out, and was assiduously cleaning his glasses. “Though, conversely, their hygiene appears to be abysmal. So I assure you, I was never under the misapprehension…Not-not, mind you, that I have ever had any encounters with such creatures, I’ve merely observed them - on street corners, or from a carriage, or…” William’s face was scarlet.
“Basically, it’s as though you’re sittin’ there starkers.” Spike sauntered in, and leaned against a bookshelf. He took a deep drag off his cigarette. “Or like you’re all frolicking around in little silk teddies. Crotchless silk teddies.”
Buffy blushed beet red, and glanced at Willow. Willow looked even redder than William. In fact, Anya was the only woman in the room who wasn’t turning twelve shades of scarlet.
“There. Now you’ve got it. That’s why he’s havin’ problems with the direct eye contact. It’s all a question of putting yourself in the right mindset.” Spike cocked his head slightly, and leered at them. “I’m already there.”
“Okay,” Willow said. “I’m gonna go put on a sweater. Or a parka. Whichever.”
The corner of Spike’s mouth quirked as he watched Willow flee with Tara into the back room. He looked different, Buffy thought. It was probably just that the clothes she found weren’t his usual blacks - it was harder to look badass in gray cargo pants and a brown leather car coat. Or maybe it was that she was trying to reconcile the vampire she knew with the man she had met today. All afternoon she had worked to see something of Spike in William. Now was she trying to do the reverse?
Her focus shifted to William. Since Spike’s entrance, William had been staring at him. At this man who shared his face, yet was unrecognizable. She could tell that he didn’t know what to feel. One instant he seemed to be horrified, the next his face beamed with surprised delight. And the next, he just seemed bewildered.
“So, Slayer,” Spike drawled, “I see you found him. And couldn’t wait to show him off to the rest of your buddies. Do they know all the sordid details?”
Giles looked at him. “Buffy told us the basics. Drusilla and Darla cast a spell, and brought you - human you - here to the present.”
“Plus they stole my coat. I can forgive being tied up and tortured. Hell, I’ve done it before. But those bitches took my duster, and for that they must pay.” Spike took a long last pull off his cigarette. Then he took another out of his coat pocket, and used the butt of his old to light the new.
“Yes, well-” Giles paused, slightly distracted by the edge he heard in Spike’s voice. “Realizing the gravity of the situation, Buffy enlisted us to search for a way to reverse the spell.”
“Have you? Found one?”
“Willow may have found something,” Buffy said. “Course, we’d know for sure if you hadn’t scared her off in search of layers.”
Spike just stared at her. His gaze was confrontational, unrepentant. She could see the hurt in his eyes, and his struggle to mask the hurt with anger.
Giles broke what was becoming an uncomfortable silence. “Maybe we should introduce you two. William, this is Spike, your vampire counterpart from the future.” A pained expression flitted across his face. “I just used the phrase ‘vampire counterpart from the future’. Splendid.”
“So. William.” Spike said the name as though it was a vulgar insult. “What’ve they told you?”
William continued to stare at Spike. Then he started, and slowly answered the question. “They said… they said that I became a vampire. I didn’t know such things existed. Didn’t quite believe it, really, until I saw you again. I…”
“Yeh. Peachy. Deal with it. What else?”
Buffy broke in. “Not much. Just that you help us good guys now. I wasn’t sure what you wanted us to- ”
“Okay, Billy, here’s the long and short of it. I can only fight demons. Can’t bite. Can’t hurt people. I’m the vamp equivalent of a steer. Neutered for public safety. My metaphorical balls lopped off and stuck in some Initiative jar.” Spike was now almost shouting. “Not to worry! The actual plumbing is in perfect working order. Gets chuff-all for use, though. As I’m madly in love with a bird who’s doing really well if she can tolerate my presence. Familiar with that ‘un, William? History bloody repeats itself!”
Buffy’d had enough. “’Scuse us a second.”
She grabbed Spike and dragged him into the front of the shop. “Spike. Shut up. Shut. Up. I know you’re just acting like a jerk because you’re all vulnerable and embarrassed, but shut up.”
His eyes were bitter. “Know me so well, do you, Slayer?”
“I don’t want to have to kick your ass. That’s all I’m saying.”
“Don’t feel sorry for me,” he growled, looking away from her. “Ever consider that just makes it worse?”
“Please. I don’t feel sorry for you,” Buffy said. “You’ve already got that covered, for one. And besides, I kind of like him.”
“I do. I’m a little freaked out, since, as doppelgangers go, you two couldn’t be more different. But I think he’s sweet. And he’s been really brave, considering.”
“Brave? He’s a weak, pathetic little toff who’s got his head so far in the clouds it’s buried in his arse. I know. I was him.”
“Hello? He just got dragged one hundred years into the future, and it hasn’t turned him into a gibbering loony. To me, that shows some serious guts.” She smiled at Spike. “Hey! Something you have in common.”
Spike relaxed a little. “There, now, see, you just gave me a compliment. Proof positive you’re feeling sorry for me.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Look, nobody is going to give you a hard time about this, and nobody is going to give him a hard time about this. Not even Xander. On pain of abject humiliation. So, let’s make a deal. You agree to be on your best behavior, especially towards William.”
“And in return?” Oh, yeah, he was back. He just touched his tongue to his upper teeth.
“I help you find your girlfriend and we pound her ass.” She smiled sweetly.
He looked at her for a long moment. “Deal. You were gonna do it anyway, mind you, but deal. You’ve gotta promise that we’ll get my coat back, though. Or you owe me a new bloody duster.”
“I could use some new boots…”
“Don’t push it.” Buffy made a fist, and tapped him on the chest with it. It wasn’t a punch - more her way of affirming their bizarre friendship. But Spike understood the intent of the gesture, and grinned. She tilted her head towards the back of the room, asking nonverbally if he was ready to return. He waved his arm - ladies first - and followed her to the table.
Willow and Tara had returned from the back room. Tara was now wearing her coat; and Willow had donned one of Giles’ sweaters. She was swimming in it, but the redness in her cheeks had faded.
Spike looked down at his shoe, which he was digging through the floorboard. “Sorry, all. Got a little worked up. Oughtn’t to have taken it out on you.”
Of all people, Xander spoke up. “It’s okay, Spike. Having your ex in town can make you a little crazy. Especially your ex.”
Spike gave a half-hearted smile. “She does have a way of making things more exciting.”
Buffy turned to Willow. “So, you found something?”
Willow nodded. “You remember the spell where Xander got split in two last year?”
“Nope,” Spike said.
“Oh. Well. He did.” Willow was a little thrown, but quickly regained her enthusiasm. “But, see, his natural state was to be one person. Same here with William, I think. His natural state is to be in 1880. But there’s some sort of mystical anchor holding him here, like a pushpin holding a stretched rubber band.”
Spike nodded slowly. “So we find the mystical pushpin -”
“Mystical pushpin?” Xander broke in. “Hey Giles? Isn’t that the name of an album you have?”
Spike continued. “We find it, and we pull it out, and…”
“Snap.” Buffy finished the thought.
After a moment, Anya broke the silence. “So what’s the anchor? And where do we start looking?”
Tara said, “Well, from what Buffy said earlier, the spell had some pretty standard elements - um, the candles, and the blood and stuff? And then there are elements specific to the spell, like the mirrors.”
“The only thing that stands out as a personal item is that pair of glasses you mentioned. So we think that’s the anchor,” Willow added. She then turned to Spike. “What did they look like, by the way?”
Spike pointed to the glasses perched on William’s nose. “Like those. Only a hundred-odd years older.”
“So Drusilla must’ve gotten hold of your spectacles. Or she kept them for all those years,” Tara said. “That’s either incredibly romantic, or kinda creepy.”
“Or it’s both,” Xander said.
“Don’t suppose we can just smash those puppies and call it a night?” Spike asked. When Willow shook her head, he added, “Nah, of course not. That would be too damn easy. I could go take a peek in the cave, see if they’re still there.”
“Great. ‘Cause, the second I get the specs, we’re ready to go.” Willow smiled, but then looked chagrined. “Without them, I have no clue how to do this.”
“Whoa. Willow. Problem.” Xander waved a hand in the air. “We break the spell, William snaps back to- eighteen whenever, sorry, I wasn’t paying attention then-but he could change the past. He could go back, corner the stock market or something.”
“Like I gave a rat’s ass about the stock market after I was turned,” Spike muttered.
“What did you care about?” Willow asked.
Spike looked at her, with a face that said, “You cannot be that bloody stupid.”
“Oh. Yeah. Killing things. Duh.”
“The point is,” Xander said, “I’ve seen way too many episodes of Star Trek not to know that this could be really bad. We could totally mess up the world somehow. We have to consider the possibilities.”
Anya looked up. “Maybe the world would be better if we left it this way. Spike did kill people for over a hundred years. That wouldn’t happen now.”
“Ooh, now we get to play ‘Let’s Justify My Existence’. Joy.” Spike pointed with his cigarette. “Can we do Xander next?”
There was a moment of silence. Spike sighed, and started ticking points off on his fingers. “Killed the Annoying One. Helped fight Angelus. Saved your asses in the Initiative, against my better judgment. Patrolled almost every night for the past- ”
“No,” Buffy said. “Spike, you don’t have to do that. You’re one of us now. And we’re going to help fix this. Period. End of statement.”
“I agree,” Willow said. “What’s done is done. And we need to keep it that way. Or make sure it has happened that way. Or-”
Anya broke in. “Time paradoxes. Guaranteed to mess with your grammar.” She looked over at Spike. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have suggested wiping out your existence. I’ve done that before - negating existences? It’s never pleasant, and usually quite messy.”
“No big,” Spike replied. “Was a fair point.”
“But-” William paused, and searched for a name. “Alexander, he does have a valid concern. Knowledge will affect my behavior, in both subtle and obvious ways. And those changes in behavior may have significant consequences.”
“Giles?” Buffy asked. “What about that? Doesn’t sending him back change the past? What if it does make everything really bad?”
“Well, of course, we can’t be certain of the temporal ramifications,” Giles replied. “But it would seem to me that the damage has already been done. Our aim should be to return things to the way they were - to make events adhere as closely as possible to their original course.”
Buffy looked at him skeptically. “So we’re just going to put him back and hope nobody notices he got moved?”
He looked at her with that bemused smile on his face, the one she loved to get out of him. “Precisely.”
Buffy made the decision. “Okay. Here’s how we’ll play it. Spike, Tara and I will go into the sewers to look for the spectacles. Giles, Xander, Anya, Willow, you’ll take William to my house. Darla and Dru are likely to come after him, so be ready. You get there, you stay inside.”
“Barrier spell?” Willow asked.
“I’m thinking yeah,” Buffy nodded. “They may be uninvited vamps, but they can throw stuff. Also, Dawn’s home, and those girls aren’t above a little kidnapping, so keep her safe. When we’re done, we’ll meet up with you there. Questions?”
There were none.
“Now this? This is a truly mind-blowing stench. I thought the smell in the other tunnel was bad, but no. You’ve really outdone yourself here.” Buffy tried not to gag as she moved through the sewer.
Tara picked her way carefully along the tunnel. “Remind me again why I got to go with the stinky group?”
“You’re the one who can tell if the spectacles are the anchor,” Buffy said. “Spike knows where we’re going - sort of - and I’m here to punch things.”
“And we all get to complain about the smell,” Tara added. “We’re multitasking.”
Spike shone his flashlight on the far wall. He thought they were close, but then he’d thought they were close twenty minutes ago. Mind you, he wasn’t about to tell the Slayer and her dry-clean-only pants that they were taking the scenic route. He’d already had his ass kicked once in the last twenty-four hours; he didn’t need it to happen again.
“What do you think, Spike?” Buffy asked. “Stinkier here, or back there five minutes ago?”
“You don’t see me breathing, do you?” Spike replied. “There’s a reason for that.”
They walked down the tunnel, scanning the walls with flashlights. “There,” Spike said. “I think it’s up here on the left.”
“You think?” There was a note of warning in Buffy’s voice.
“Well, wasn’t planning a return visit, so I held up on the bread crumbs.”
Spike ducked into the side passage. A few moments later, he poked his head back out.
“This is it. Shoe check.” He shone his flashlight on Buffy’s thick boots, and then checked out Tara’s flats.
“Shoe check? Is this some weird fetish thing, Spike?” Buffy teased.
He smirked at her. “That, and it looks like somebody had a bit of a tantrum. The mirrors are broke, and there are glass bits all over the floor. You should be good. Tara, step careful.”
The three moved carefully into the room. The glass reflected the beams from their flashlights, making the light play along the walls and ceiling like they were standing on a disco ball. From the debris left in the room, Buffy could imagine the events of the night before: the lone shackle hanging from the wall, the empty frames of mirrors, the pedestal covered in soot and char.
Tara sighed. “I don’t sense anything. And the anchor would have a strong residual aura. I don’t think it’s here.”
“Great,” Buffy said. “Still, we should check to make sure.”
They spent long minutes searching the room, running the flashlights in a search pattern along the floor and walls. The spectacles were gone.
Giles maneuvered his BMW through the darkened streets of Sunnydale. Willow sat beside him, and Anya was tucked between William and Xander in the back seat.
William’s face was equal parts delight and terror. Giles was only going thirty or so miles an hour, which to his other passengers was a little cautious. To William, they were rocketing along at an uncontrollable speed; he was certain that at any moment they would topple over, or barrel into something. Willow had carefully belted a strap around his waist to keep him in the vehicle, else he might’ve flipped out the back at one of the sudden accelerations. It was marvelous.
Xander looked over at William, and grinned. “You look like you’re on the Goliath. Roller coaster. At Magic Mountain. Something that will take way too long to explain, so I’m just gonna shut up now.”
“It goes so fast!” William exclaimed.
“Trust me, we’d be going faster if anyone else was driving.”
“I heard that, Xander,” Giles said.
“How does this carriage function?” William asked. “With no horses, or external means of propulsion, what provides the impetus? Is it more magic?”
Willow turned around as best she could. “Actually, magic is kind of uncommon in our world. That hasn’t changed much since 1880 - people still pretty much don’t believe it exists. This car runs on an internal combustion engine, powered by a petroleum derivative called gasoline. The combustion of the gasoline drives a series of pistons, which provide the force to rotate the wheels on an axle.”
William smiled at her. “I’m forever indebted. Oh. Would you be willing to expound on this information once we reach our destination? I must commit this experience to paper.”
“Happy to help,” she replied. Turning back around, she noticed the puzzled expressions on her friends’ faces. “What? I can’t have varied interests?”
Giles smiled as he turned onto Revello Drive.
“Ooh! Hey! William!” Xander turned around to face him. “We have to order pizza. You haven’t lived ‘til you’ve had deep-dish pepperoni and mushroom.”
“I…I look forward to that.” William looked slightly stunned. “Whatever that may be.”
“We must get Canadian bacon and pineapple, too,” Anya added.
“Pesto vegetarian,” Willow said.
Everyone but William looked at Giles.
“What? I’m aware it’s a contradiction in terms. I like it. I’ll have you know, in Denmark they put creamed corn on pizza.”
“Yes, well, they are sick and wrong,” Xander said. “In America, we eat pepperoni and mushroom.”
“Hear, hear!” William said. At everyone’s surprised glances he added quietly, “Please. Nobody likes creamed corn.”
Everyone in the car was laughing again. This time, William joined in.
The SUV was barely used anymore, and Buffy had parked it in the garage. So Giles pulled into the driveway. The instant the motor died, two figures appeared in front of the car. The headlights lit them perfectly. Even with their demonic visages, Giles instantly recognized them. Darla and Drusilla. Giles swore, and Xander grabbed for the axe at his feet.
Darla took a step forward, closer to the car. “I think you have something that belongs to us. We’ve come to collect it.”
Willow touched Giles’ sleeve. “Giles?” She pointed over his shoulder. At the side of the car, more shapes became visible out of the darkness.
“I see them.” More figures appeared on the right side of the car, and behind them. Giles estimated about twenty vampires, counting Darla and Drusilla.
They were surrounded.
As usual, I owe love and immense gratitude to cousinjean, fenwic, georgevna, and Aurelio Zen. Fair warning: there's a joke in here that's pretty dang similar to what the show did. But I wrote it before the episode aired, so I prefer to think of it as serendipity. [Because it's not like adjrun has a track record of writing things that eventually show up on-screen or anything ... --cj]
They were surrounded.
With a muttered curse, Giles gunned the gas pedal and threw the car into drive. It lurched forward, smashed into Darla and knocked her into the corner of the porch railing. Drusilla spun out of the way with an almost choreographed grace, twirling slightly off-center. Giles slammed on the brakes before he plowed into the Summers’ garage and the car jerked to a halt. He shot a quick glance over his right shoulder. Three vampires had moved to circle behind the car, and even more loomed beyond them. Another half-dozen stalked in towards the passenger side of the car.
“Giles,” Willow warned, her gaze intent and focused beyond him. Giles twisted in his seat and threw his left arm up to ward off the blow he couldn’t see coming. The vampire’s fist glanced off his forearm, so the punch skidded across the back of his head rather than knocking him cold. The vampire growled, grabbed a fistful of Giles’s hair, and slammed his head forward against the steering wheel. Again, Giles got a hand up to lessen the blow, but his mouth smashed into the steering wheel. He felt his lip split and tasted the quick warm tang of blood in his mouth.
Xander fumbled for the duffel bag at his feet, his fingers closing around the haft of a battle axe. He pulled the leather-wrapped handle free, but the wide steel blade caught in the canvas.
“Hold on to something,” Willow said. Giles tried to nod in response, but the fist in his hair precluded any real movement. His left hand clutched at the steering wheel, and his right grabbed the gear shift.
Willow released her seatbelt. She stood as best she could in the passenger seat, trying to get a clear line of vision. The bag resting on her hip, its long single strap slung over her shoulder like a bandolier, blocked her movement; she shifted it to the hollow of her back. She gestured at the vampire, a broad sweeping motion as though she was backhanding him away from the car. The vampire flew backwards, but kept its grip on Giles’s hair. Giles yelled as he was pulled against the side of the car, his head torqued painfully backwards. Willow gritted her teeth and waved her arm again. This time the gesture ended with her fingers pointing directly at the vampire. An electric blue pulse of light shot into its face and hurled it twenty feet across the lawn, strands of gray-brown hair still caught in his clenched fingers.
“Giles? Giles?” Anya asked from the back seat. “Are you all right?”
Giles sat up and touched his fingers to the back of his head. “Bastard gave me a bloody tonsure.”
He flicked his eyes to the left. Another half-dozen vampires. With a snort of frustration, he swiveled to look behind the car and shifted into reverse. The car rocketed backwards, plowing directly into two more vampires. One bounced off the trunk, but the other fell under the left rear wheel, causing a sickening lurch and snapping sounds that punched through the night air. The lurch threw Willow off balance, slamming her hips into the door. She yelped and caught the corner of the windshield with the fingertips of her right hand. From that fulcrum her torso swung wide outside the car, her left arm windmilling in a futile attempt to regain her balance. Her hips tipped over and her legs began to slide out of the car. She twisted to try to get her left hand underneath herself as she fell, but her shoulder smacked hard on the driveway. Stunned for a moment, she lay curled on her side. Then Willow pushed herself up to her knees and looked around. Five vampires closed in.
Giles hit the brakes hard, and the rear of the car slewed to the right. The sudden jolt of their deceleration shoved Anya, Xander and William deep into the leather backseat, and then sprung them forward again. Xander finally worked the axe free, unlatched his seatbelt, and vaulted out of the car. He stood with his back to the door, ready to fend off anything that came near. In this case, anything was the dozen vampires closing in to the left and rear.
William shot Anya a look of bewilderment and terror. “What do I do?”
“Here.” Anya thrust a wooden cross into William’s hands. “Stay down. Inside the car. And wave that at anyone who’s not us.”
William nodded. Though Anya’s words were hardly reassuring, they were simple and specific. Surely he couldn’t bungle holding a cross.
“Stake, stake, stake,” Willow chanted as she fumbled in her bag. She pulled out a double handful of stakes, and tossed them in the air. They arced upwards; as they fell back to earth, she caught five telekinetically. An extra stake, two pens and a hairbrush clattered to the pavement. One by one, Willow sent the stakes at the vampires moving in on her. One by one, the vampires clutched their chests and exploded to dust.
The injured vampire chose that moment to drag itself out from underneath the car, its pelvis shattered, legs twisted and bent in places that shouldn’t bend. Xander looked down at its mangled legs and shuddered.
“Guuhhh. Believe me, buddy, I’m doing you a favor.” With a quick swing of his axe he beheaded the vampire.
“Willow!” Giles yelled. “Get back in the car!”
“Okay, wait up!” Willow grinned as she got back to her feet. A sixth vampire darted out of the trees behind her. She hadn’t seen him before, and now she wouldn’t. He linked his hands and clubbed Willow just above her left ear. She flew the width of the driveway, already unconscious. Her temple cracked into the asphalt, bounced, hit again with a wetter thud. She lay there motionless.
“Anya! Sword!” Giles said, his voice tense with urgency and fear.
Anya struggled to get the four-foot saber out of the open duffel bag. Giles, worried and impatient, opened his door, slamming it into the gut of an attacking vampire. The impact doubled the vampire over; Giles punched it, a short, brutal jab to the nose. As the disoriented vampire staggered back from the car, Xander swung his ax and decapitated it. Finally, Anya worked the hilt free of the canvas and handed the sword to Giles. He took it as he swung out of the BMW.
“Xander, stay close to the car. Anya, protect William. I’ll keep them off Willow.”
“No problem,” Xander replied, his pitch an octave higher than normal. “Um, An? How many do you count?”
Anya looked up from digging through her purse, and darted a quick glance around the car. “Eleven. Oh, plus Darla and Drusilla. So, thirteen.”
Xander gave a nervous giggle. “Oh, yeah, I’m loving these odds…”
Darla pulled herself free from the shrubbery surrounding the porch. She bled from a dozen different scratches, and one sleeve of her shirt was torn. She took a few steps forward, pushed some strands of tousled blonde hair off her face, and surveyed the fight before her.
“I feel the need for some killing,” she muttered. She crossed over to Willow, nudged the witch in the ribs with her toe. “Redhead. Not my favorite, but it’ll do in a pinch.”
“Back away from her,” Giles warned. He closed the distance between them, the tip of his sword never wavering from pointing at Darla’s right eye.
“Ooh, very threatening,” Darla replied. “I’m sure I’ll be scared. Any second now.”
They circled each other around Willow, crumpled on the concrete at their feet. The four feet of razor-sharp steel in Giles’s hands compensated for Darla’s blinding speed, so that he countered any feint she made. She aimed a backhand blow at his head; he pulled back and parried her attack. The blade slashed across the palm of her hand, cutting down to the bone. She lunged at him. He dodged left, and sliced a furrow along the top of her arm. Darla stumbled over Willow and fell to her hands and knees. He returned to ready stance but let his sword leap out and nick her across the ribs. She howled, and half-fell, half-rolled to a sitting position - to be brought up short by the sword point at her jugular. She started to slide backwards on her hands, and Giles took a step forward to keep her in range. Darla’s attention momentarily shifted to a point over his left shoulder. Then she looked back at him, and a smile played at the corners of her mouth. Giles rolled his eyes, flipped the sword in his hands, and thrust it behind him. The vampire sneaking up on him grunted in surprise as the sword skewered his intestines. Giles spun, pulling the sword free and bringing it around to slice through the vampire’s neck. Its head had just enough time to hit the ground before it turned into dust.
Darla used those few moments to scuttle back out of range. Then she jumped to her feet and stalked over to two minions who stood back from the fight. “You! Do me a favor?”
With almost identical cowed expressions, they nodded at her. She continued, “Great. Then pull your thumbs out of your asses and kill this guy for me, would you?”
The two vampires looked at each other, as if trying to decide who scared them more. Darla took a step towards them, growling. Their decision made, they shuffled over to face Giles. Giles rolled his shoulders, shifted his grip on his sword, and waited.
Xander fought three vampires at once. More stood behind them, but couldn’t close in. Xander took advantage of this, keeping his back tight against the side of the convertible. He held them at about a three-foot distance, and slashed at anything that crossed this perimeter. It meant that he wasn’t really killing anything. But he couldn’t risk an attack that might leave himself open, might take him out of the game. So he was stuck playing defense.
Anya knelt in the back seat, facing the trunk. She held a can of Extra Super Hold Aqua Net in one hand and a disposable lighter in the other. William hunched low in the seat next to her, breathing in short, erratic gasps. She tried to smile at him to reassure him, but only managed a rictus of a grin.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “I’m sure they won’t kill all of us.”
A huge, beefy minion leapt onto the trunk of the car. William gulped and held the cross up over his head. Anya flicked the flint on the lighter, which caught on the first try. Then she held the lighter up to the nozzle and pressed the button. A three-foot jet of flaming hairspray caught the attacking vampire square in the face. He screamed and exploded into ash.
Anya’s smile was a little more natural this time. “Eleven. That’s much better.”
A vampire kicked Xander in the side, and sent him sprawling across the hood of the BMW. The impact knocked the axe from his hands; it skidded off the hood and fell in front of the car. Xander yelped and scrabbled after it.
Anya winced. “Well, it’s a little better.” She aimed her makeshift flamethrower over the now-unprotected left side of the car, sending a gout of fire at the encroaching vampires.
Dawn threw open the front door and brought a crossbow to her shoulder. She stood in the doorway, careful not to cross the threshold, and sighted at a vampire on the periphery. The bolt thudded into his chest. Not in the heart - he didn’t dust. Still, it knocked him to the ground. Dawn whooped, and grabbed a second crossbow at her feet.
Another vampire lunged at the rear of the car. Anya flicked the lighter and aimed the hairspray at his face. The vampire jerked back so hard he overbalanced and fell to the pavement.
William looked at her, astonished. “That… that’s amazing!”
Anya beamed. “Yes! It also provides all-day flexible hold.”
The two minions circled Giles, doing their best to stay on opposite sides of him. His focus shifted from one to the other, his weapon constantly on guard. He couldn’t allow them to draw him too far away from Willow. He hadn’t even had time to check if she was breathing; for all he knew, he was defending a corpse. The vampires were overcautious, having witnessed Giles’s prowess with the sword. So they waited, testing him with subtle feints and shifts. Searching for the flaw; waiting for the weakness. To capitalize on it, get within his guard and rip out his throat. So he could make no mistake. Because it meant not only his own life, but any hope for Willow’s. The result was a standoff: a slow, circling, wearying standoff.
Swinging his axe in great, sweeping arcs, Xander fought his way back to the side of the car. Four vampires menaced from the left. So Xander let his blows get wild, chaotic, forcing them away from the car. The axe clipped the frame of the windshield, screeching along the chrome. Xander winced. Maybe Giles hadn’t seen it, and he could later blame it on a vampire - the one who now reached across the driver’s seat to swipe at Anya. Xander struck quickly, embedding his axe in the back of the vampire’s neck. He made a thick, choking gurgle, and staggered back a step, his fingers scrabbling at the axe blade. Xander tugged on the axe once, twice. But the blade had lodged deeply in the vampire’s vertebrae. Xander only succeeded in pulling the wounded vampire towards him. Great, no weapon. And another vampire moved in on his right.
“Hold that for me, will ya?” Xander said. He let go of his axe; the half-decapitated vampire just stood there, wobbling in the moonlight. Xander turned and popped the second vampire in the nose. Then he grabbed the axe again. Sliding one hand halfway up the handle, he used the axe to lever Nearly Headless Nick away from the car. Then Xander braced his foot against the vampire’s back and yanked hard on the axe. The blade slipped free, but the sudden release sent Xander staggering back into the car door. Back to where he started the fight. Nearly Headless reeled forward, bounced off the second attacker, and slumped to his knees. Xander brought his axe up over his head and aimed a cut at the other side of Nick’s throat. This blow finished the job, and the vampire turned to dust before his head could hit the ground.
“Ten!” he called to Anya, working to catch his breath. She smiled quickly over her shoulder, and then aimed a shot of burning hairspray at her nearest assailant. There were still three vampires looming on the left side of the car, and Xander moved back to playing defense.
Dawn loosed another crossbow bolt at the attacker farthest from Xander. The bolt missed by yards, and went skidding off the pavement across the street.
“Dangit!” Dawn muttered, as she struggled to reload the crossbow. “Buffy never has a problem with these things. Nooo. Buffy has Super Slayer aiminess. Oof! Not to mention Slayer strength. Stupid crossbow…”
Anya flicked the wheel on her lighter. But her thumb was sore and raw, and the lighter burned. So she botched it. Before she could try again, a vampire backhanded the lighter out of her hand and halfway across the lawn. Anya sprayed him right in the eyes with a hefty shot of Aqua Net; he lurched back, temporarily blinded.
“Crap.” Anya threw the can at a second vampire, then ducked down to rifle through the weapons bag. There had to be a baseball bat in there, somewhere.
A frustrated minion picked that moment to tackle Xander. Xander had time only to get the axe up between them, to grasp the shaft in both hands like a quarterstaff, before the minion barreled into him. They slammed against the driver’s seat. With a dull metallic snap, the seat broke, collapsed back onto the passenger seat, and trapped Anya facedown underneath it.
“Honey!” Xander cried.
“Mm fnnn.” Anya said, muffled. The seat bucked slightly underneath him. “Mmm stk.”
The vampire pinning Xander to the seat chuckled. “I’d worry less about your girlfriend, and more about me.”
He sprawled on top of Xander in the driver’s seat, his face near Xander’s shoulder. The vamp’s knees were jammed into the steering wheel, his torso pressed hard against Xander’s, his hips wedged between Xander’s thighs. Xander had one leg hanging over the car door and the other foot wedged between the windshield and the dashboard, and could get no leverage to shove the vampire off. He held the axe across his chest, as though he was about to bench press the handle; the vampire strained to get a grip on the seat back, to push his upper body off Xander and aim a punch at his face.
Xander snickered. “Okay, the last time I was in this position? It was a lot more enjoyable. And you-” He cracked the vamp in the cheek with the axe handle. “Were a lot-” Now the other cheek.
“Prettier!” And now he did bench press the axe, under the vampire’s chin. The shaft across the vampire’s throat forced his head up and back, arching him into an unnatural arch. Xander locked his elbows and ducked his chin to one side, hoping to avoid the blind, ineffectual swipes the vampire made at his head. Xander’s continued survival depended on one thing: someone else coming to his rescue before the strength in his arms gave out.
William was alone now. Unprotected. Weaponless, save for the cross clutched in his right hand. He huddled in the back seat, as if he could make himself small enough to be invisible.
It didn’t work. The vampire who’d caught a faceful of hairspray saw him. Grinned. Sauntered over to the right side of the car to loom over him. William meeped, and waved the cross at the vampire, who recoiled, but then pressed in again. Testing, pushing boundaries. Toying with him.
Then a shadow pulled free of the darkness. “Now, now,” it crooned. “Don’t play with mummy’s things, little one.”
Drusilla grabbed the vampire by the scruff of the neck and tossed him into the street. Then she closed on William.
William held the cross out at her. “S-stay away from me…”
Her eyes widened with delight, and her fingers played back and forth against the bodice of her gown. “Naughty William. Thinks a nail and a thorn will protect him.”
Her right hand snapped out and grabbed his wrist. She watched her hand as it tightened around his wrist and forced his fingers open, the cross clattering to the asphalt. She kept squeezing. Feeling the bones of his wrist grate and shift in her hand, savoring the expression on William’s face as it battled between incredulity and pain.
“Please…” he whispered. “Don’t.”
Making soft cooing sounds, she dropped his wrist and circled around William. He tried to follow her movement, but she grabbed his shoulders and turned him to face away from her. She pressed into his back, slid her hands under his arms and around his chest, and lifted him from the car. Hard up against the lap belt. She pulled again. The seatbelt held firm, cutting deeply into his thighs. William screamed. Drusilla tore at the strap, yanked at it with all her strength. Nothing.
She let out a siren wail of frustration. Fine, then. The deed could be done here.
Drusilla pulled William’s back against the side of the convertible. She bent to loop her left arm under his chin, taking a moment to nuzzle the side of his throat and whisper soft reassuring nonsense in his ear. Then her features shifted, and she buried her fangs in his neck. He kicked out, a rabbit in the talons of a hawk, legs drumming in a frantic, futile effort to escape. His hands batted at the air in front of him, pushed ineffectually up at her hands, her face. He howled and keened and whimpered in her embrace, a litany of pleas bubbling from his lips. She drank it in. His fear intoxicated her, like the thick hot salt of his blood gushing into her mouth. She ran her right hand down the front of his shirt, reveling in the slight friction of the cotton against her palm, at the fluttering sobs of his breath. The hint of warmth and smooth skin underneath. His body arched in her embrace, taut with fear and pain and something he didn’t quite understand.
Then he felt something sink inside. He relaxed involuntarily in her arms, like the quick shuddering exhalation after holding one’s breath too long. As if strength, or will, was being leeched from him along with his blood. Stars burst in front of his eyes, and a dark, warm, swirling heaviness rose in him. His head fell back on her shoulder. And he lost himself.
Buffy and Spike raced homewards. They moved easily and comfortably through the night: Buffy pistoned along with short, choppy steps, never slowing; Spike loped at her side, fluid and graceful. Tara gamely fought to keep up, but a lack of superpowers and the annoying need to breathe hampered her efforts; her face was turning red, her breath was erratic and gaspy, and her running had an element of “stagger” in it.
They heard the sounds of battle in the distance: dull thuds of metal, quick yelps. Then a scream. Spike froze, his forward motion shifting from full-out run to dead stop. Unable to avoid him, Tara thudded into his shoulder and caromed back a few steps. Buffy stopped a second later.
“What? Come on!” she asked, turning to look at him. “Spike! What’s wrong?”
Spike looked off into the night, to Buffy’s house, now just half a block away. He stood motionless; his expression held both disbelief and horrible, horrible knowledge. His voice came, thick and broken.
“She’s killing me.”
Buffy followed his gaze. Then her dismay turned to resolution. “No. She’s not.”
She took off again, heels clacking in a quick staccato across the pavement. Spike shook his head once, and followed. A low growl built in his chest as he dashed towards the fray.
Buffy’s boot connected with the side of Dru’s head, ripping her fangs from William’s neck. Drusilla stumbled away a few feet from the force of the unexpected blow, but then rallied. Wiping the blood from her mouth with the back of her hand, she whirled to confront Buffy.
“Giles doesn’t let people eat in his car.” Buffy, fists on her hips, smirked at Dru. “You might get something on the leather.”
Drusilla growled, and launched herself at Buffy.
The vampire who’d been tossed into the street turned to face Spike. Spike leapt into the air and kicked both feet into his torso. The vampire hit the ground, stunned. Spike jumped on his chest, cracking sternum and ribs. Again. The ribcage gave way under his feet; the chest wall collapsed. And again. He booted the vampire in the face. Another vamp attacked, and Spike dealt him a vicious backhand. Using the momentum of his turn, he punched the attacker square in the face. The blow rebroke bones in his left hand. He couldn’t feel it. He was too lost in rage. Despising himself for his initial terror, he gratefully gave in to an overwhelming rush of bloodlust. Spike grabbed two handfuls of the second vampire’s hair and slammed a knee up into his face, shattering his nose. Then, one hand fisted in the minion’s hair, Spike drove a flurry of vicious jabs into his gut; each impact lifted his victim off the cement. Finally, the vampire sank to his knees, held up only by Spike’s grip on his hair. Spike wrapped his other hand around the vampire’s jaw and twisted, the snap of spine like a rifle shot through the night.
Tara reached the car, trailing the others by only seconds. She took a moment to regroup, putting her hands on her knees and gulping air. Then she crossed over to the driver’s side of the car, where Xander still struggled to stave off the vampire on his lap.
“Mind if I cut in?” She pulled a stake out of her jacket pocket, and drove it through the vampire’s back.
Xander sat up, coughing and brushing dust off his face. “Thanks, Tara. I tried to tell him, I’m not that kind of girl.”
“Wouldn’t take no for an answer?” She helped him to his feet.
“Yeah.” Immediately, he turned back to the car seat and tried to lift it upright. “How many times can you tell a guy, no means no?”
Tara grinned at him, and bent to help. “Makes you want to give up on men altogether.”
“Hyyy!” Anya yelled. The seat above her shook as she shoved against it. “Ghhhd mmmm ahhhd!”
Tara released the latch at the side of the seat, and Xander pulled up the back. Anya pushed herself off the floorboards. She launched herself at Xander, throwing her arms around him and tucking her head in under his chin. Still kneeling on the seat, he held her tight, and stroked the nape of her neck with one hand.
“Well, that was fun,” Anya said. “I’m using my sarcastic voice here, if you couldn’t tell. Because it wasn’t fun at all.”
He pressed a kiss to her temple. “Yeah, honey. I got that.”
“You okay here?” Tara asked Xander.
“Yeah. Thanks. I think Spike’s got the fighting…” He turned to look at Spike, who was repeatedly smashing his opponent’s head into a tree. Xander blinked - the head wasn’t quite head-shaped any more. “Yeesh. Out of control.”
“When we got here? Drusilla was biting William.” Tara said. “Spike got a little freaked.”
She glanced over at Spike and flinched. “Make that a lot freaked.”
“William got bit?” Xander asked. Tara nodded in response, a little nauseated by the carnage she’d just witnessed.
“An, baby, you need to let go,” Xander whispered into her hair. “We need to check that William’s okay.”
She moaned a protest. “He’s not dead. If Spike’s still here, he can’t be dead.”
“Oh. Right.” Anya scowled up at him, but then her arms loosened. She turned to Tara. “We’ll look after William. You might want -”
She nodded towards Giles. It took Tara a moment to see the unconscious figure at his feet.
“Willow!” Tara raced to her lover’s side.
Xander slipped between the front seats and knelt next to William. “Hey. Hey, buddy. How you doing?”
William slumped in the seat, boneless and sapped. His eyes stared ahead, unmoving, his gaze fixed and vacant. The simple holes of Dru’s bite had torn into rough teardrops when she was ripped away; blood welled from these gashes, threaded down his neck, and soaked into the collar of his shirt. This flow of blood was the only movement Xander could see. In that long moment of terrifying stillness, Xander had just enough time to consider grim, strange possibilities.
A thick, shuddering breath. William’s throat worked as he swallowed once, twice; then a calmer exhalation. His head flopped to the side as he tried to focus on Xander. He smiled, a sweet, loopy smile. “I feel… funny.”
“Yeah,” Xander nodded. “Massive blood loss’ll do that to you.”
William giggled, his attention sliding off Xander to the women locked in combat at the side of the car. Drusilla slashed at Buffy with her nails, gouging parallel furrows along her shoulder. Buffy yelped, and snapped a kick into Dru’s solar plexus. Then a second kick at her jaw.
Tara stood helpless, frustrated, by the hood of the car. The vampires circling Giles made it impossible to approach Willow. And Willow looked so… broken.
Tara raised her hands, shaping a ball of air in her palms. “Occaecare!” she cried, lobbing the imaginary ball at the nearest vampire.
The vampire shook his head, trying to clear his vision. He blinked, and rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands. Giles took full advantage of his foe’s confusion, his sword taking off head and hands in one blow. Now he faced only one opponent. One incredibly intimidated opponent.
Tara pushed through the dust of the slain vamp and dropped to her knees. She put her fingers to Willow’s neck, searching for a pulse.
“Is she breathing?” Giles asked, his voice betraying his exhaustion. “I haven’t had a moment to check. She was hurt so - her head. Is she breathing?”
“Yeah.” Shallow but steady breaths. And a strong, regular pulse. Tara sagged in relief. “Yeah.”
Anya stood beside the car and held a gauze pad to William’s neck, wiping at the blood to assess the depth of the punctures. His attention remained fixed over her shoulder, locked on Buffy. He clung to the sight of her. As if her fight - or her presence - was the only thing keeping him conscious.
“Buffy’s…” He searched for the right word. Why were his thoughts so muzzled? “Pretty…”
“Pretty what?” Anya asked.
“Pretty,” he agreed, nodding slightly. “She - it’s like she’s dancing, isn’t it? Some beautiful, violent dance. Beautiful for the violence.”
“Yup.” Xander looked up as Buffy clobbered Dru with a roundhouse. “She’s a fighter, our Buff.”
William continued to babble, only half-aware he said anything aloud. “Gleaming like… like white gold in the moonlight. Not pale and silver. Warm. Gold. Even at night… as though she’s lit by sunlight. Bringing day to the darkness.”
“Great.” Anya shot a knowing glance at Xander over William’s head. “Like human, like vamp.”
Drusilla caught her fingers in Buffy’s hair, and tossed her into the car’s right front fender. Then she lunged after Buffy, hoping to pin her against the car. Buffy put her palms on the hood, shifted her weight backwards, and slammed both her boots into Dru’s face. Dru sat down, hard.
“God, Dru,” Buffy quipped. “You fight like a girl.”
Dru tried to grab Buffy’s ankle and pull her to the ground. Buffy kicked her in the face again.
“If this degenerates into a slap fight, it’s so not my fault.”
Buffy had Drusilla figured, now. Not much of a fighter, Dru liked to get close to her victims. So Buffy kept her at a distance, using her feet as her primary weapons. She connected time and again: Dru’s face, gut, legs, ribs. Dru tried to block, or evade; but each parry came later and later, and more kicks landed solidly. Did more damage. She was on the ropes - Buffy could tell.
Buffy pulled out a stake.
“Wait!” Tara shouted.
Buffy turned to Tara, baffled.
“She has the spectacles! If you stake her, there’s no way to break the spell!”
Buffy shot Tara an incredulous look. “So, she’s trying to kill me, and I have to be Non-Lethal Force Chick? What - I also gotta fight with one hand tied behind my back?”
In the moment Buffy looked away, Dru leapt at her, and tackled her to the ground.
“Okay,” Xander said. “We’ve got to get William in the house.”
He scanned the front yard. Darla watched the action, looking pissed; Dru and Buffy rolled back and forth on the lawn; a vampire stood by Darla, trying to pull a crossbow bolt from his chest; another fled from Giles to join her. Spike sat on the chest of a third, pummeling his face over and over. Sprays of blood arced into the air after every punch. Xander saw the maimed bodies of two more vampires in the street, and another on the lawn.
“Spike? Spike!” Xander yelled from the car. Spike looked up at him, blood spattered across his face and dripping from his mouth. “Um, ya gonna kill that thing, or just pound him into pudding?”
Spike continued to stare at Xander, but then held out his hand. Xander threw him a stake. Spike plucked out of the air, then buried it in the vampire’s chest and watched it disintegrate beneath him.
“Great.” Xander shot Spike a thumb’s up. “Now you want to get the other ones you mangled, or you having too much fun as Berserker Boy?”
Eyes closed, Tara muttered a few words under her breath. Glitter swirled up from her outstretched palm, wended its way towards Drusilla, and slid into her skirt pocket. Tara sighed, nodded, and opened her eyes. Then she turned back to Willow, supporting her head as Giles lifted her into his arms.
“Dammit!” Darla fumed. Of the twenty vampires at the beginning of the attack, she had only two left. Well, two that were functional. “Dammit, dammit, dammit!”
They were losing. They had already lost, unless she could figure out… There. The girl. The little sister. Tucked away all safe inside the house.
“You,” she commanded her two remaining henchmen. “With me.”
She rushed up the steps and onto the porch, the two minions following. Dawn met her at the door, the defiant set of her chin belied by her unconscious steps backward. She lifted a reloaded crossbow to her shoulder. “Get back. I’ll shoot you, I swear.”
“You can try,” Darla laughed. She paused for a moment, trying to scare the girl just a little bit more. “Think you’re safe, little sister? You forget. I’ve been in your house. Okay, I’ve been dead since then, but I’m sure my invite’s still good.”
She lunged at the door. And rebounded off the barrier.
“Duh. I was home all day, idiot,” Dawn said. “I think by now I know how to do an uninvite spell.”
She fired the crossbow. The bolt buried itself in Darla’s eye. “Ew. Sorry!”
Darla staggered, fell back against her minions, and rebounded into the doorway. The barrier held her there, twitching and yowling. Dawn shrieked. She grabbed her second crossbow, and fired again. This time the bolt went right through Darla’s neck, spearing trachea and esophagus.
Dawn dropped the crossbow and danced backwards, completely squicked. “Sorry!”
Drusilla heard Darla’s strangled screech, and went wild. With a superhuman effort, she flung Buffy off her and into the hedges bounding the yard. She sprinted across the driveway, knocking Tara into the garage door, and up the front steps. Shooting a feral, defiant glare at Buffy and her friends, she swept Darla into her arms. Then she leapt off the porch and fled down the street, her minions sprinting to keep up.
The fight was over.
Giles cradled Willow in his arms, her head lolling against his shoulder, and crossed into the living room. As he set her down on the couch, she made a soft mewl, her face scrunched up with pain and reluctance to regain consciousness. Tara slipped both Willow’s shoes off her feet and positioned her feet carefully on the couch. Then she took a seat by Willow’s knees and held her hand, while Giles maneuvered a throw pillow under her head. Xander and Anya followed Giles into the room, a semiconscious William slung between them, his neck wounds still oozing blood. They eased William into the chair opposite the couch. Anya stayed with William and worked to staunch the bleeding; Xander had to reassure himself about Willow. Buffy brought up the rear, picking bits of hedge out of her hair.
Willow’s eyes fluttered open a fraction of an inch.
“Hey,” Tara smiled.
“Hey,” Willow murmured, her voice high and childlike. “What happened?”
“You got knocked out,” Tara replied.
“I did? Crud. How many times is that?”
“Don’t worry, Will,” Xander said, perched by her feet on the arm of the couch. “Giles is still way ahead in the ‘knocked unconscious’ tally.”
“And by a fair margin, I might add,” Giles said. He sat down on the coffee table and carefully examined the bruise on Willow’s temple. “I’m not sure we shouldn’t take you to hospital.”
“No. Don’t need it. Just…” Willow winced. “Somebody pounded my head flat with a mallet.”
Tara rubbed her hand a little and smiled at her. “Yeah, baby, you got conked pretty good.”
Giles checked her pupils. Her right eye was more dilated than the left: a clear indicator of concussion. “We need you to stay conscious for us, now. Can you do that, Willow?”
“Sure. Anything you want.” She tried to sit up. Tried and failed. “Oooh. That doesn’t require moving.”
“Buffy? Um, William’s getting blood on your chair. ” Anya said. She held up a once-white square of bandage, now dripping crimson. “And this gauze pad thing is… well, full.”
“Yeesh,” Buffy said. She leaned over William to examine the tears in his throat. “We’ve got to stop this bleeding.”
“We’re lucky it’s not irreparably worse,” Giles said. “I must say, your timing is impeccable.”
“Timing, schmiming,” Buffy replied. “Dawn saw lurkers outside, and called me on my cell.”
“Yup!” Dawn, looking more than a little smug, dragged the first aid kit into the living room and heaved it onto the coffee table. “Plus, if you’ll notice, I was Crossbow Girl tonight. Shot two vampires - not dead dead, though - and, I never crossed the threshold.”
“Full points for the Dawnster.” Xander shot her a grin.
“Thanks, Dawn,” Buffy said softly. She went over to the first aid kit and gave her sister’s shoulder a quick squeeze. “You were really smart tonight.”
“Yeah. Fine. No problem.” Dawn’s voice got a little short, to cover her embarrassed pleasure. She looked around the room, searching for another topic. “Everyone else okay?”
“Minor.” Xander waved a hand, dismissive. “Cuts and bruises.”
“Rugburns on my face,” Anya added, slightly petulant.
“Completely knackered,” Giles said.
“What about Spike?” Dawn asked. She turned, looking for him. And saw him. “Omigod! Spike!”
Buffy looked up from rifling through bandages. Spike stood a few feet in from the front door, turned slightly towards her, framed by the French doors into the living room. His eyes were distant, unfocused. Hollow. There were crimson streaks and spatters on his face, up into his hair. A smear of ash blackened one cheekbone and temple. His once-gray shirt was dark and wet, sticking to him, and a faint reddish sheen glistened over the dark brown car coat he wore as substitute for his stolen duster. Dust-thickened blood dripped from his hands onto the hardwood floor of the foyer.
“Spike!” He didn’t move. Buffy took a few steps toward him. “Are you hurt?”
He flinched back. “Don’t know.”
“Buffy?” Xander caught her attention. “Spike went a little… Wolverine out there. I don’t think that’s all his blood.”
“Oh. Ew,” Buffy said. “Go wash up, willya?”
Spike didn’t move. He turned his head to face her, but his eyes were still… elsewhere. Buffy considered taking him by the arm, walking him into the kitchen, talking to him about nothing in particular, bringing him out of this slightly intimidating haze. But she had more immediate concerns, like the guy bleeding to death on the La-Z-Boy. Sighing, she grabbed an armful of medical supplies and turned back to William.
William looked like a little boy woken up from a nap: his hair a tousled mess, his mouth open, jaw lax. He struggled to keep leaden eyelids up. Then he saw her, and a light rekindled in his eyes. “Buffy.”
Now that sweet, diffident smile. “Drowning. You saved me.”
“I’m in the process.” Buffy tore open an alcohol wipe. “Let’s get you patched up, shall we?”
He kept trying to look at her, even as she held his chin up to work on his neck. “I’ve never seen anything like…”
“The fighting? Yeah. Now you see why the whole pants thing. Kicking in a skirt gets a little breezy.”
“A goddess.” He struggled to find the words, the perfect description. “Warrior goddess, dancing battle in the moonlight. Artemis, or Athena.”
Spike laughed, a hysterical spiral of a giggle. “Oh, yeh. Virgin goddess, that’s our Buffy.”
“Spike, shut up.” Buffy hardened her tone into a verbal slap. She straightened, turned, and scowled at him. “You’ve got clumps of something in your hair, and the minute I figure out what it is, I’m gonna lose my lunch. So go. Kitchen sink. Clean yourself up.”
Spike swallowed. His hands balled into fists, relaxed, and clenched again. He met her gaze finally, with a hot, sullen glare; a battle still raged, but lucidity now held the field. He nodded - the gesture a sharp vertical jerk of the chin - took three steps backwards, and pivoted towards the kitchen. Buffy watched him leave, and listened for the sound of the faucet.
Back to the William triage. It was as though he’d heard nothing of the previous exchange, and still muddily pondered Buffy’s divinity. “Andraste, leading Celts into the fray. Or Nike.”
Xander crooked an eyebrow. “Goddess of shoes?”
Giles looked up at him, both exasperated and amused. “Nike is the Greek goddess of victory, Xander.”
“I know,” Xander said, shrugging his shoulders. “I just do it for the look, now.”
Giles chuckled softly, and resumed cleaning Willow’s bloody temple. Anya grabbed an alcohol wipe, and started swabbing the scrapes on Xander’s hands. Buffy finished putting butterfly bandages over each torn bite wound on William’s neck.
William continued, his attention now focused on something only he could see. “So very different from her. My own personal deity, divinity, pantheon.”
Buffy folded a pad of gauze in half, and started to cut strips of tape. “This other goddess have a name?”
“Cecily.” He smiled at her name, but a sadness crept into his dreamy expression. “She doesn’t - well, of course she wouldn’t. She’s…”
“Doesn’t return your feelings?” Buffy asked sympathetically.
He pushed himself a little more upright in the chair, and lifted his chin. “I know I love in vain, strive against hope, yet in this captious and untenable sieve I still pour in the water of my love, and lack not to lose, still.”
“That’s beautiful. You write that?”
William snorted. “Shakespeare. Me? My verse is rubbish, it’s - doggerel.”
Buffy tried to reassure him. “I’m sure it’s- ”
“If I were a good poet. Perhaps then she could love me? If I could capture her beauty in words, my emotions in ink. But I never.” He shook his head, despairing. “It’s always just abysmal. And so she looks at me and there’s this… disdain.”
“Shut up.” Spike stood in the doorway. He had sluiced the blood and ash from his face, his hair now a wet slick of pewter. Each hand clutched opposite sides of the jamb, pink-tinged droplets of water tracing paths down the wood. Buffy could see the fury in Spike’s eyes; he barely held himself in check.
William took no notice. He leaned towards Buffy, sharing a bittersweet confidence. “My love is an embarrassment to her.”
“Shut up!” Spike charged across the room, grabbed William by his shirtfront and shoved him up against the far wall. Buffy, caught off-guard and off-balance, sat down hard on the coffee table. Anya gasped, and backed into the corner of the room. Everyone else just watched, stunned at Spike’s sudden explosion. Spike held William against the wall, clutching a fistful of shirt. William, still reeling from blood loss and trapped in his private castigation, seemed not to notice.
“I truly am a wretched creature. Inherently…,” he laughed, bitter, soundless. “Unlovable.”
Finally he saw Spike’s face, mere inches from his own. He struggled to focus. “She’ll never love me, will she? You could tell me.”
“Shut up! Shut up! SHUT UP!” Spike punched William in the face, hard. Feedback from the chip jolted through his head, making him scream and spasm, knocking him to the ground. An instant later he bounced back to his feet. He punched William again. This time the feedback was even worse. He convulsed, grabbing his head, and keeled over to the floor. Small tremors shook him. The moment he could control his motion, he once more pushed himself to stand.
Buffy grabbed his arm and pulled him away, putting herself between Spike and William. “Spike! Stop it! Stop hitting yourself!”
In the awkward silence that followed, Xander raised his hand. “Whoa. Flash back to fourth grade recess, anyone?”
More silence. Spike lunged at William again; Buffy held him back, her arms locked around his ribcage. He tried again.
“Dammit, Spike!” Buffy yelled.
Spike froze. Then he pulled back, shaking himself free from Buffy’s restraint. He sobbed, once - or perhaps it was a gasp. A short, cruel bark of laughter. He shrugged his shoulders, again in an iron grip of self-control. His eyes slid up to lock on William. Then he spoke. Light, conversational.
“Do you know what I did to Cecily? I killed the bitch.” He twisted the last word, letting anger and cruelty seep into his tone.
“No.” William shook his head, pleading. “You couldn’t…”
Spike continued, implacable. “I ripped her throat out and gorged on her blood. I held her pretty, vapid face in my hands and watched as the life faded from her eyes. It was beautiful. It was a bloody poem, William.”
Spike held William’s gaze a moment more. Then, defiant, sneering, he looked around the room, taking in the shock and dismay. Something flickered across his face; with the same adamantine, merciless control, he strode from the room.
No one moved. It was as though everyone present held their breath, trapped between one instant and the next. Then the backdoor slammed.
William’s knees buckled; he slid down the wall.
Dawn looked at Buffy, a question in her eyes. Then, answering her own question, she bolted out of the room after Spike.
William lay slumped against the wall. His eyes stared at nothing. He didn’t notice the trickle of blood from his nose, or the blossom of bruise on his cheek and upper lip. Buffy had to look away - there was something on his face that spoke of a pain too great to encompass, like a bolus of grief great and hollow in his chest.