Fic: DUST (25/?)Posted on 2011.07.08 at 00:08
Era/Season: Season 4 (post “Harsh Light of Day” and “Fear, Itself” but before “Beer Bad”)
Rating: Mature/NC-17 (strong language, sexual situations, adult content)
Betaed by: goblin_dae , yakimama , and subtilior
Summary: She'd kicked his butt, taken the Gem and sent it off to Angel. Buffy thought she'd seen the last of Spike. Clearly, she’d been too optimistic. That he was in her house, in her room, waking her out of a sound sleep and asking for (okay, demanding) her help meant that something had to be majorly wrong. They weren't due for another apocalypse, but ... why else would a vampire make a truce with the Slayer?
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all recognizable characters, locations, and dialogue belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and the various writers. This is written purely for fun.
When she awoke, she wasn't herself.
Or, she was herself, just not the self she thought she remembered being. That was the trouble, though ... her memory had kinda gone walkies. So she named herself Joan, cause she felt like a Joan, and she tried to sort out all the people around her. They seemed to be having memory troubles, too.
There was Giles and his fiancée Anna, or was that Anya? And a boy named Alex and his girlfriend Willow. There were two other girls, one named Tara and a younger girl who was a bit fuzzy around the edges and hard to focus on. Then there was Randy, who dressed like a librarian, but looked and talked like a rock star. Some of the faces were more familiar than others, like friends she might have known long ago, but who she hadn't seen in a while.
Then there were vampires.
Which would have been totally scary, except it turned out she was kinda a superhero. So she and Randy ran off to fight the vampires, and the others tried to escape the other way, and things would have been almost fun at that point except it turned out Randy was a vampire, too. And that was epically bad because even if he was annoying, she'd kind of liked having him back her up.
"Joan! Joan, wait up!"
Punching him seemed like the best option, so she did that, and then a cool flippy thing that ended with him on the ground and her straddling him in a way that would have been totally hot if not for the whole fang-face-might-kill-you business.
"Bloody hell, what are you doing?"
"You're a vampire," she told him, because shouldn't that have been obvious to him? Only it seemed like it wasn't—even though his teeth were too big for his face, and it looked like someone had stuck play-doh under his skin, he didn't seem to notice anything wrong with himself.
"Me? A vampire? No ..."
"Check the lumpies. And the teeth."
He did, running his tongue over incisors that would have scared a wolf and his fingers over the weird ridges on his forehead. Even though his face was so distorted, she could tell immediately when he put two and two together. Suddenly the look on his face was scary, not bewildered, and she tightened her hand on the stake in her fist.
"I kill your kind," she reminded him.
"And I bite yours," he said, his voice gone soft and growly. Then, just as quickly, the look and the tone faded. "So why don't I want to bite you? And why am I fighting other vampires?"
Which was kind of a good question, really. If he didn't remember who he was, or anything about his past, then shouldn't he have been even more grrrr-arrrrgh-y than the other vampires they'd fought? Shouldn't he have tried to attack them first thing in the shop?
A light flared in his golden eyes. "Maybe I'm a noble vampire! A good guy! On a mission of redemption! I help the hopeless! I'm a vampire with a soul ..."
Which was just ridiculous when she thought about it. "A vampire with a soul?" she said. "How lame is that?"
Then the other vampires showed up, and they were fighting again as if they'd been doing it forever. As if they'd spent years together, side by side, instead of just a few minutes. It was instinct, maybe, or maybe it was something else, because the longer they fought, the more she felt she knew him. He wasn't a good guy, she didn't think ... but she was beginning to think he wasn't a bad one.
And then something shifted, changed, and she remembered that she was Buffy, and she was stuck in Sunnydale, and everyone was asleep, and that Randy was Spike, and he was evil, and soulless, and her only ... well, he was her only something. The last vampire got in a lucky punch, which was okay, because it was just a dream. She wasn't really here, wasn't really fighting. Giles and Anya and Xander and Willow were fast asleep, her mother was fast asleep, she was a failure as a Slayer ...
The vampire loomed over her, and for a moment she seriously contemplated giving in. It was just a dream, wasn't it? Only then Spike was there, pulling the vamp away and ...
The second time she woke, it was to the scent of something burning and the sound of a loud crash. Then there was swearing. Loud swearing. Somehow it all seemed amplified, pounding against her eardrums and head in a way that hurt more than any blow she'd ever received from a demon.
"Bloody, buggering, fuck!"
Still, duty called—far too loudly—and anything that sounded so bad must be a threat, so she sat up.
Immediately she wished she hadn't. The room spun nauseatingly, and she clutched the edges of whatever it was she'd been sleeping on in order to hold herself steady. Her eyelids felt swollen, as though she'd blacked them both in a fight, and when she cracked them open a piercingly bright light made her slam them shut again rather than be blinded.
"What?" she managed, through a mouth gone dry as cotton.
Somewhere nearby Spike was still swearing; each word throbbed through her aching head.
"What?" she tried again.
"Bloody skylights," he yelled.
"Stop yelling," she whimpered.
"What?" he yelled again. God, her head hurt. Hell, the air hurt. Why was he screaming? She clamped her hands over her ears and winced at the sound that made. She whimpered again, and this seemed to silence Spike.
"Slayer?" he said, and this time it was just above bearable, still too loud but no longer lancing past her eardrums straight into her brain. "Slayer," he said again, closer now, and barely above a low purr. "You all right?"
"What'd you do to me?" she whispered.
"Everything," she said. She tried to open her eyes again, this time focusing on the bed, and was confused to see nothing but a vast expanse of sharp green felt.
Spike snorted. "You're hungover."
"I'm what?" Dimly she remembered a bottle of something dark and foul tasting. "No, I ... drink bad."
"Yeah, well, next time you're chugging a bottle of Jack all on your own, I'll remind you of that," he said. "Why're you clutching your head?"
"So it doesn't fall off. You were yelling."
"Got a bit singed. Sodding skylights."
Carefully she tilted her head up to look at him. He was standing beside whatever she was sitting on, and there was an angry burn mark across his face and his upraised right hand. He shrugged, and somehow the sight of that hurt bad enough that she had to close her eyes again.
"Let me guess," he said, amusement tinging his voice. "Never been hungover before, Slayer?"
"If I had, I would have never touched alcohol again," she said. "Oh, god, why aren't I dead?"
"Got that Slayer constitution," he said, clearly enjoying himself. "Take more than a little liver poisoning to do you in, I reckon."
She groaned. "How do I make it go away?"
Something sloshed loudly near her, and the strong scent of what she now recognized as whiskey wafted past her nose. Her stomach lurched alarmingly. When she opened her eyes again, Spike was holding another bottle out, the dark brown liquid in it dancing sickeningly inside.
"What is that?"
"Hair of the dog usually works," he suggested.
Her stomach wobbled, and she managed to turn her head away just in time to avoid coating him with puke.
"Now you've gone and ruined the felt, Slayer. Bloody hell."
Miserably, she opened her watering eyes to realize that what she'd been using for a bed was, in fact, a pool table. She couldn't remember why she was sleeping on a pool table, but she was still clothed so that was at least one good sign.
"What ... what happened, last night?" she asked.
"Well," he said, cheerfully, "it was New Year's. You decided to dive face first into a bottle, fuck up a game of pool, and have a little nap on the pool table. I'd tell you about the part where you danced naked on the bar and then we shagged six ways from Sunday, but I might have promised you that I wouldn't lie anymore."
"You what huh?"
"Oh, look, a proper sentence. No real hardship for me, really. Don't lie too often anyway." He shrugged. "So ... how do you feel about breakfast?" He grinned and rubbed his hands together.
This time, she aimed for his shoes.
It took Spike an hour and the kitchen's high-powered dishwashing hose to clean all the vomit off his boots and pants. By the time he got back to the Slayer she'd curled into a miserable ball on one of the sofas, her arms wrapped around her head. He sighed. By all rights he ought to be furious with her, but he couldn't work up a proper temper.
There was something, he was certain, fundamentally wrong with him. The evidence was piling up. He would think it a recent development, born out of months of forced abstinence—both sex and violence—only there'd always been something a little off. This little stint in Sunnyhell was merely making it more obvious.
From the moment he'd been turned he'd been found lacking, at least in the eyes of Angel and Darla—who were, after all, the paragons of what all bad little vampires ought to be. He'd been too human, somehow. Oh, he'd taken to killing like a piranha to bloody water, but still, there'd been things. Feelings, mostly. He'd felt when he shouldn't, cared when he couldn't, felt the twinge of a conscience that no longer existed more times than he could count. Christ, he'd tried to save his own mother. Save, not slaughter. Angel would have had a ball torturing him, had Spike ever divulged that little secret.
It had taken decades of ruthless self-reinvention to suppress the worst of his lingering humanity. It was no bonus for a vampire to have feelings for the world and those that lived in it. Oh, he'd tried. Tried to goosestep in time with Angelus' plans for the systematic mindfuck and flaying of the whole human race, tried to fall in with Dru's tea party to end all tea parties—but in the end, he hadn't been able to do it, had he? Instead he'd signed on with the Slayer, because he really didn't want to go to hell. Not yet, at any rate, and if he had anything to say about it, never. He'd stood up for, what? Dog racing? Football? Those sweaty little clubs packed with people he couldn't give two figs for, except that they were alive and tasty? He doubted there'd be any of that where Angel wanted them all to go.
One little truce, one little betrayal of the dark side, one little slip after a century of evil—that was his downfall. Dru had turned from him, cast him out into the world alone, and of course he'd returned to the Slayer's doorstep, begging for ... he didn't know what, exactly. He'd thought it was her death. He'd been sure of it. If he could kill her, take that spark of light and snuff it once and for all, he could go back to Dru as a proper creature of the darkness.
But watching her now, huddled and miserable as she was, he knew that wasn't it. No, somehow she'd wormed her way into his shriveled old heart, and she burned there like a flicker of flame that he couldn't bring himself to douse. Something about this girl warmed him. He liked her. Oh, he hated her sometimes, too. She was a bitchy little bint, after all. But he was sure of it now, this thing he'd been suspecting for weeks: when this was over, he wouldn't kill her. Might kick the crap out of her for the fun of it, but he wouldn't kill her.
He liked her too much.
Without the sun, the moon was just a big hunk of cold rock. Even dark things, Spike decided, needed the light. Even if they couldn't touch it directly.
In her sleep, Buffy moaned, turning toward him. She was pale and sweating slightly. It ought to have been disgusting, but he felt the urge to go to the kitchen and get her a towel soaked in ice water. He tamped down on it. Just because he liked the wench didn't mean he ought to let her know. She'd probably dust him for it.
Spike got up and paced. Sitting here brooding wasn't doing him any good, and he was trapped until the sun went down or she woke up. He was hungry, but the only blood bags in the Bronze were the human sort and ever since that night in the hospital he hadn't even been tempted to try snacking. Perhaps it was time to snoop around for some other kind of trouble.
Maybe this place connected up to the sewers?
The third time she woke up, Buffy was alone.
Her headache had faded to a dull throb, and she felt dehydrated and sore all over. Still, it was better than the searing pain she'd been in before. Somewhere in the building the air conditioner kicked off, plunging the place into silence.
That made her frown a little.
She cracked her eyes open. Lights were on here and there: a few bright clusters over the bar and the dance floor, a couple of single lamps near where she lay. There was a bottle of water on the coffee table in front of her, right at eye level. It had been cold before, she figured, judging by the condensation that was puddled around it on the wood. Of course Spike wouldn't think to use a coaster. When she reached for it, however, it was at room temperature. Clearly she'd been out for a while.
"Spike?" she said, hating how her voice croaked. She was never drinking again.
There was no answer, though. Wherever he was, he was either asleep or gone. He'd left her alone.
A wave of exhaustion swept over her, and she leaned her head back on the couch. Some Slayer she was. She only had one vampire to look after and she'd nodded off on the job. She really didn't want to get up and check the dressing room for corpses, but she knew she should. In a minute, anyway. Moving now wouldn't make a difference. If he'd killed them ... well, he'd killed them, and she'd have to dust him and that would be that.
She'd be alone.
Buffy wasn't much of a crier. Being the Slayer meant that it got harder and harder to cry. When Angel had ... when he'd ... well, when Angel. She'd cried then. Cried until she'd thought she'd simply dissolve into tears and wash away. And when her mother hadn't awoken on Christmas. Nothing had hurt as bad as that.
Well, maybe her brand spankin' new hangover.
But the thought of dealing with this situation alone … it left her feeling so hollow inside that she ached. She knew, if she went checked the dressing rooms and Spike had killed, that she'd have to dust him.
Only she didn't want to. She needed him, and she hated that she needed him. She was the Slayer; she wasn't supposed to need him. She was supposed to be working her butt off to fix things—only who ever heard of a Slayer having to fix something like this?
It wasn't fair. What higher power had she pissed off with her many failings that she'd deserved this as punishment? If only she'd been a better Slayer? Studied harder? Listened to Giles? Read what he'd told her to, maybe, or ... she wondered whatever had happened to that manual Kendra had once mentioned. Maybe there was something in there that she could've used to escape this situation. If she hadn't been so dumb, Giles would have had her read it. But no ... stupid valley girl Buffy was more interested in being Slaymate of the Year with Angel than ...
A door opened, echoing through the empty building. Boots clomped toward her across the cement floor.
Well, at least he'd come back. That was the one thing you could pretty much count on with Spike: he always came back.
"You're awake," he said, sounding surprised. "Figured you'd be out for another couple of hours at least."
"You're the expert on hangovers," she said, without looking at him.
He laughed a little. "Not human ones, though. Don't think vamp hangovers really compare. Our metabolism is wonky. Takes forever to get drunk, and we sober up quick if we stop."
"You weren't ever drunk as a human?"
"No. " His tone was clipped, closed off. If he'd been Giles, she'd have called it his End of Discussion voice.
"So how do you know it's not as bad, then?" she asked, because she hated Giles' End of Discussion voice—even more so when it was coming out of Spike's mouth.
"Angel," he said. "When he was human, Liam had plenty of experience with hangovers. He likely even invented a few new kinds. You could say he majored in debauchery and minored in wallowing in the gutter."
There was nothing she could say to that. What she didn't know about Angel's history could fill a book. Or several. She was pretty sure she knew where Giles kept them, too. Her head hurt. She didn't want to talk about Angel any more.
"I'm sorry I threatened to stake you that one time when you were sobering up. If it felt like this, though, it would have been a mercy killing."
He was silent for a minute. "Did you just apologize to me?" he said, bewildered.
"Sorta." She chanced a look at him. "Don't make a thing—What happened to you?"
Spike was carrying his coat, and he was spattered with blood and slime. He'd wiped off his hands, but both arms were covered with gore, as was his shirt and jeans. A grin spread across his face as he surveyed the damage. "Found a nest of Gavorak demons about half a block from here. Could smell it from the sewers. Rotten little bastards."
"Were they awake?"
"Oh, no. Just ... messy. May have gotten a bit carried away, once I started. Can see why you enjoy it. It's fun."
"I don't ..." She shook her head. "That's not why I ... There is no enjoyment in slaying, Spike. It's ... a big responsibility."
He cocked his head to the side and studied her. "Can't tell me you don't enjoy it some, Slayer," he said. "I've seen you, remember? I've fought you. Remember that ass kickin' you gave me two Halloweens ago? You enjoyed that. Don't deny it."
She rolled her eyes. "Yes, fine, I enjoyed kicking your ass. But the rest of it ... that's not why I do it."
"No, you do it because you have to," he said, perching on the edge of the coffee table and smearing blood on it in the process. "You do it because you've been trained to do it. But most importantly, you do it because there's somethin' deep inside that calls you to it, drives you. You need it—to feel alive, to keep going. Don't you?"
"What would you know about it?"
"Reckon I know a bit about having something hungry inside, something that craves violence and action and blood. Might not be as pure and holy as what you've got, but it's just as strong. We're just opposite sides of the same coin, Slayer. You're built to be able to fight my kind—to be our equal. Whatever it is that drives us, it drives you, too."
"I'm not evil," she said, but it wasn't as convincing as she wanted it to be.
"No, you're not. You're something better. Finer. My kind ... for the most part we're just mindless appetite and forces of destruction. You're built for something better."
There was something in his eyes, a strange kind of awe in his gaze that she found hard to face. She certainly didn't feel better, or finer. She felt useless. Whatever it was she'd been built for, it wasn't this.
And now Spike was doing her job for her?
She was a terrible Slayer. Always had been, always would be. If Kendra were here, or Giles or ... But it was still just her and Spike, and she didn't know what to do. She stared down at her hands, which were starting to tremble.
Abruptly, she stood. "I have to go."
"What? Go where? It's only an hour or two till sunset. Give it a bit and we'll go together."
"I have to go," she said inanely, and headed for the door. She heard him stand, heard him start to follow, but when she opened up the door the light from the evening sun flooded in and chased him back into the shadows.
"Slayer?" he said.
But she was gone.
Buffy went where she always went when she was feeling lost: to Giles.
She tried to wake him, once. After that she just sat on the floor beside the couch, her arms around her knees, and listened to him breathing softly. Little by little, she started to talk.
"I don't know what to do. Giles, everything's all messed up. It's been more than two months now, and we're no closer than when we started. What if ... what if you never wake up? What if I have to keep looking forever? Or until I'm old and gray and you're older and grayer and ... and ... I can't do this, Giles. I just ... I can't."
At some point, she realized she'd started to cry.
Finally, when it was getting close to sunset, she got up and wandered around the room, trailing her fingers over his books. They'd gone through most of the shelves; many of the volumes now lay strewn around her living room. Several bookshelves in Giles' spare bedroom remained untouched, though, and she knew he kept books upstairs, too.
Feeling weirdly like she was invading his privacy, she ventured up to the loft bedroom. While Giles' apartment had become their new meeting place after the destruction of the high school, Buffy had seldom ventured beyond the downstairs rooms. The only time she'd been upstairs had been right after ... right after Angel had killed Jenny.
She paused at the upper landing, then took a deep breath and pushed the door open.
The room beyond was dark, the air in it cold and still. A moment of feeling the wall beyond the threshold revealed the switch, and she winced when she flipped it. Giles' bed was made, and there were no ghosts in the room, waiting for her. None that she could see, at any rate. She imagined, for a moment, what Giles might have seen that night: the candles and the rose petals, the music and champagne, and Miss Calendar sprawled on the bed like a broken doll. Buffy felt her skin crawl. Had Jenny's eyes been open?
Swallowing hard, she stepped into the room. Sure enough, there were bookshelves in here, too. Books that looked ancient and priceless, and some that were newer and had nothing to do with demons or magic at all. Giles must read sometimes just for fun, she thought, surprised. Who knew? There was one shelf along the far wall with a few volumes on it, the pages marked. One of them was familiar and it drew her to it like a magnet. Carefully she pulled it out from among the rest.
Once, she and Willow had pored over this book, looking for pictures of the women that Angel might have loved. Now she wondered if maybe she'd been looking for the wrong thing. The cover was worn; the book old beyond belief. She didn't open it. Not yet. A smaller book on the same shelf caught her eye, and then another thicker one beside it. All three books had ribbons marking the pages.
It only took a moment to figure out what they must contain: more information on Angel. Giles had done his homework.
He was gonna kill her.
Tear off her legs and beat her to death with them, maybe. Rip her twiggy little arms out of their sockets. Eat her goddamn face off.
Okay, maybe not that last one.
Spike stood at the corner and sniffed, searching for her scent. Left, this time. His boots made a satisfying thump, thump, thump against the pavement. God, he was brassed. Who the fuck did she think she was, ditching him like that? He'd been helping, dammit! She ought to be getting down on her scrawny knees and thanking him for doing her job for her.
Slayer didn't need to be mucking around with Gavoraks. Literally. It'd ruin her clothes and get in her hair, and then he'd never hear the end of it.
Also, there was the poisonous-to-humans mucus thing.
Now he was covered in gunk, starving, and having to chase her around town because she'd gotten into a strop over ... Well, clearly he must've said or done something wrong, though he didn't have the faintest bloody clue what that something was.
At the next corner she'd turned left, then cut through the playground. Now he was nearly certain where she'd headed, and he picked up speed as well as temper. By the time he reached the Watcher's flat, he was in a foul mood. It got fouler when he realized that he'd missed her. He stood at the threshold and listened for a few minutes to be sure, but there was only one heartbeat inside, and he could smell her scent trailing away from the door.
She thought about going to the dorm to try to wake Willow again, then decided against it halfway there. It was too far, and she was tired. Instead she cut through Shady Oaks and headed for Xander's—only to pull up short when she remembered the state he and Anya were in.
Steeling herself, she opened the door.
"Xander?" she said, reaching for the overhead bulb chain. She pulled, then paused.
In their sleep, Xander and Anya had shifted. They weren't all twisty and kama-sutra-y anymore.
Now they were snuggled up together, spoon style, like two halves of the same whole. Xander had his arm wrapped protectively around Anya's waist, and Anya had twined her fingers with his.
Buffy left without turning off the light.
Her scent led him through an eerily silent cemetery, though he could sense several more of his kind nearby. Spike paused over the headstone of one Justin Reece, who had apparently made it to the ripe old age of seventeen. He shook his head, wondering at the state of things when vamps were turning kids. That young they had a real tendency to be immortal idiots. Slayer'd probably dust the boy herself in a year or so.
He got side tracked again near a mausoleum by the sound of heartbeats. Two college age boys in dark clothes were asleep near a couple piles of dust. They'd clearly been lucky—spell had kicked in before they'd become breakfast for a pair of hungry vamps. Spike nearly tripped over a cattle prod left near one of the piles.
"Lazy," he muttered and kicked the weapon into a bush.
Soon he emerged from the cemetery and followed her trail into a small neighborhood. The house he eventually located was a bit run down around the edges, the brickwork crumbling and the yard in desperate need of a trim. His nose led him around the back to a basement door.
Here, again, her scent indicated she'd gone in and left again. He tried peering through the grimy window, and was surprised to see a bed, with a boy and a girl curled up together, nude. The boy looked vaguely familiar, and it took him a moment to place him: one of the Slayer's friends. The dark-haired twit that he'd knocked unconscious the year before.
"Least you won't die a virgin," Spike muttered before turning away.
Not everyone, after all, was so lucky.
She wandered for a while. It didn't seem to matter where she went or what she did. She couldn't leave, after all.
It had seemed that way, last year, when she was trying to decide about college. She'd thought, maybe, she could get away from here ... only it had become more and more obvious that she was bound to the Hellmouth. Oh, not just because the Council wanted her there. No. She'd tied herself down with friends and worries and responsibilities. She couldn't leave Sunnydale unprotected.
Now, well ... now she just couldn't leave. Period.
Maybe this was it, the most she could ever hope for. Saving Sunnydale had become her entire world.
She retraced old patrol routes, wandered past places where she'd fought and won, places where she'd fought and lost. Places where people had died on her watch. So many important events in her life seemed to happen in alleys. She'd met Angel in one, Spike in another. She'd saved people in them and lost a few, too. Her life was spent in the dark cracks between normal things, between the lights.
God, she was tired of it.
Eventually her steps led her back to the hospital. She found her way up flights of stairs and down hallways without any conscious plan. Faith lay still, her skin pale, her dark hair in need of some serious conditioning. The machines surrounding her kept on beeping.
"Hey," Buffy said, sinking into a chair by the bed. "Happy New Year."
Faith, of course, said nothing.
Buffy sighed and looked down at the books she'd brought along. Here was as good a place as any, she supposed. She opened the first one—the familiar one—and instead of looking at the pictures, she started to read.
She'd expected to find Angelus, the vampire. Instead, she found Liam, the human. The diary was full of tiny, scribbly old handwriting that was hard to read, but the story was pretty thoroughly researched. Whoever had written it (a Watcher, most likely), had done his homework. Liam, the human, despised son of a local landlord, a heavy drinker and an even worse playboy, as likely to cheat at poker as he was to knock someone over the head in an alley and pick their pocket—apparently no one had been surprised when he'd come to a bad end in an alley late one night. What had surprised them was when he'd come back, two days later, and slaughtered his family, his friends, his friends' families, and their friends. When he and the mysterious woman who accompanied him had left the village, twelve hours later, there were very few people left to tell the tale. It had been, simply, a massacre.
It didn't get better from there.
She read on with a kind of horrified fascination, all the things she'd skipped over years before. She'd known what he was, who he'd been, she thought. Now ... the full weight of it descended on her shoulders. She read about how he'd turned Drusilla, the horrors he'd done. Halfway through the story of a missing young Englishman and his mother she found a note stuck between two pages, written in Giles' distinctive handwriting.
"Account is inconclusive. The victim, identified as William P. (last name excised as usual in Victorian writings), has the right name—however, the social status would indicate that he was of a significantly higher class than William the Bloody appears to be. In addition, the man was a gentleman poet—although not of any note—hardly the sort that might have been given to driving railroad spikes through the heads of his victims. The disappearance of both this William and his mother may well be attributable to Drusilla, rather than Angelus—but there is no evidence to connect this unfortunate soul to the vampire we currently know as Spike. It is possible that we may never know said vampire's true origins. If he were, say, a common dock worker or street thug, his disappearance would not be noteworthy enough to be recorded. "
There was a photograph of the missing William and his mother. It was grainy and blurry and faded, and it must have been taken a while before they'd died. The date on it was 1872, and they'd disappeared, according to the book, around 1880. Both of them were staring rigidly at the camera. The man's hair was darkish, curly and floppy over his forehead, and he wore a pair of glasses that partially blocked his eyes. He wasn't smiling—neither was the woman—but there was something familiar about his mouth and chin, and the lines of his cheekbones. Could Giles have been wrong? Had he actually found Spike?
Had Spike been a poet?
She shut the book quickly and looked up.
Spike stood rigidly in the doorway, his face and posture absolutely furious. His jaw clenched at the same time as his fists. Then he glanced from her to the bed, then back to her again and something in him seemed to melt tiredly.
"You've been crying," he said.
"What? Oh." Buffy dabbed at her cheeks and realized that she had been, probably while reading about Angel.
Spike stepped into the room—then his confidence seemed to fail. "Led me a bloody chase, you know."
"You didn't have to follow me."
"Yeah," was all he said. While he glanced at the bed's occupant, Buffy slid the books she'd been studying under Faith's mattress and out of sight. "What's wrong with her? Besides the spell, I mean."
"You care?" Buffy asked, surprised.
"What?" He glanced up quickly. "Pffft. No. Just ... curious, was all."
She debated whether or not to tell him, but in the end ... who else would she tell? "Me," she said finally. "I'm what's wrong with her."
"'Fraid I don't follow." Spike perched on one of the guest chairs and cocked his head to the side in that way she now knew meant that he was actually listening and trying to understand. Clearly, she'd spent too much time around him.
"She's in a coma. I put her there," Buffy said.
"You did? Thought she was your chum," he said.
"Sort of," Buffy said. "If you count me pushing her away, and her turning to the dark side, then trying to kill everyone as a friend."
"Sometimes enemies make the best friends," Spike said, with a sardonic twist to his mouth. "And sometimes friends make the worst enemies."
"What's that mean?" she asked.
"They know you best, don't they? Know exactly how to hurt you the worst. They know where you live, what you love, what you hate, where you're weakest and strongest. And when they go, they rip themselves out of you so hard it leaves a hole in the world."
His eyes had focused on the sky beyond the window. Then his smirk deepened, and he looked at her again. In the lamplight, his eyes glittered darkly. "Works the other way round, too, though. Look at us, helpin' one another. Don't think this particular scenario would be happening if it were anyone but you and me, Slayer. Can't say I've loved every mo', of course."
"That doesn't make us friends," she said.
"No," he said, after a longer pause than she'd expected. "It doesn't. But we're all we've got." He turned his attention back to Faith. "What'd you do to her, then? Cosh her on the head?"
"Stabbed … Well, beat the heck out of her, then stabbed her. Then she fell off a building."
"And she's still alive? Awfully bouncy little bitch, to take a beatin' from a Slayer and survive."
Buffy bit her lip, considering. If she told him, would he kill Faith?
Spike's eyes narrowed. Then he sniffed, and his spine stiffened. When he looked at the bed again, she knew she didn't have to say anything. "Well, wel. And then there were two. This one replace that by-the-book bint that Dru took out?"
"Her name," Buffy said through clenched teeth, "was Kendra. And she was my friend."
"Right. Sorry. Hard to get a proper introduction when someone is tryin' to stake you. Then I got an organ dropped on me and my manners went right out my head. Apologies."
Buffy didn't bother to respond to that. Maybe the book had been wrong, and Giles was right. Spike, a poet? Ha.
"I'm not gonna kill her, if that's what you're thinkin'," Spike said.
"Why not? Be an easy third Slayer for your scoreboard."
He stared at her. "You forgettin' we have a truce?"
"No ... I just thought, after, you might ..."
"What? Sneak in here and unplug her? Not my style. Besides ..." He gave the bed a sidelong glance. "Don't think she's my type."
"She's dark haired, skanky, and crazy. She loves to smoke, fight, have sex with anything that moves, and listen to loud, crappy music. The two of you were practically made for each other."
His eyebrow shot up, and he studied Faith a little more intently. Then he shrugged. "Like I said, not my type."
"No, I'm not. Told you I wouldn't lie anymore, right?"
"Whatever," she said, standing up and pacing away from the bed.
He could claim as much honesty as he wanted; she knew the truth. If there were a contest for better Slayer—well, Faith probably wouldn't win the Moral Judgment competition, but she'd rank higher in just about everything else. Faith would dust Spike in a heartbeat, no hesitation, no truces or deals ... well, she'd probably screw him first, because that's what Faith did, but then she'd stake him. But for Spike, if she woke up, and he had to pick which Slayer he'd rather be stuck with, Faith was totally his type.
"Slayer?" Spike said.
She sighed. Clearly she was going nuts, if she was seriously contemplating whether Faith would do a better job at this. If Buffy wasn't good at hitting the books, Faith was definitely no better in that department. "I'm just tired," she said. "I'm still not back to full ... whatever. Can we just go home?"
He stood, nodded, and gestured at the door. "Mind if we stop by the blood bank on the way? Feelin' peckish here, Slayer ..."
Author's Notes: Just a quick heads up: due to Real Life I'm going to be dropping updates down to once a week for a little while. I need to get a bit further ahead with both writing and editing, and life has gotten increasingly busy--cutting into precious writing/editing time. Please, be patient. I promise there will still be updates, once a week. Possibly on Wednesdays.