By L.A. Ward and Sanguine
Strange days have found us
Strange days have tracked us down
They're going to destroy our casual joys
We shall go on playing
Or find a new town
Strange days have found us
And through their strange hours we linger alone
Bodies confused, memories misused
As we run from the day
To a strange night of stone
Jim Morrison, The Doors
Chapter Four: Strange Days
In nineteen-seventy-seven Spike and Dru had been in Paris drinking champagne and hippies over Jim Morrison’s grave. But something had worried his wicked, ripe plum. With her hand on his crotch and her lips at his ear, Dru had sung, "Strange days have found us. Strange days have tracked us down."
Spike had maneuvered her against a gravestone and hitched up her skirt. "I know the lyrics, love."
But when their graveyard games were over, Dru had had refused to be deterred. She had pleaded to leave Paris. "The moon tells us to go. Can’t you hear it whispering?"
Of course he hadn’t, but what his dark princess had wanted, his dark princess had got. They had hopped the ferry from Calais.
"What strange thing are you?" She had asked as they stood on the moonlit deck.
"I’m not a stranger."
"Not stranger but different." Dru had touched his hair. "It goes all white."
Spike had laughed. "I can’t go gray, love. No more than you."
Dru’s gaze had narrowed as she stepped away. "London is calling, and you’ll be different there."
Looking back from the twenty-first century, Spike could see that Dru had been right. A shag over a dead poet’s grave in Pere-Lachaise hadn’t been the only thing Jim Morrison had inspired. In those days Spike had been stuck in his Lizard King phase. His hair had been longer and still sporting its natural shade. His pants had been leather and slung low across his hips while his shirts had been loose and often unbuttoned. However, when he had reached London, things had changed.
Dru had disappeared. That had often been her way. The first time Dru had done it had been back in 1881, and Spike had been frantic to find her, worried that she’d been caught in the sun. Angelus had laughed at Spike’s concern, saying his crazy little girl would be back when she wanted to come. Spike had eyed the son-of-a-bitch suspiciously, causing Angelus to backhand him across the jaw.
By the 1970s Spike had grown used to Dru wandering away and knew that all he could do was wait. Not wanting to stray far from the place he had seen her last, Spike had used the money he’d taken from the banker he’d killed on the train to rent a flat in Balham. The same flat he was walking to now, although these days he was paying the rent in a slightly different way. He still had a few thousand dollars left from agreeing to harbor demon eggs in Sunnydale, and a dead Suvolte wasn’t about to ask for a refund.
Spike stared at the building where—for lack of a better word—he ‘lived.’ It was identical to every other building on the block, all weathered red brick and unwashed windows. Nothing distinguished it from its neighbors except its address. Everything was in an equal state of disrepair.
Spike pushed open the front door and toed aside a small mouse who scurried into a crack in the wall. He climbed the stairs by the light of a single, naked bulb to unlock the door to the upstairs flat. Small, dark, and dilapidated, it wasn’t a place that inspired thoughts of hominess or comfort. It was just a hole to hide in.
There were only two rooms other than the bath. The first held a broken down chair and tele with a kitchette situated along the rear wall. The other had a mattress sagging on an iron bed frame and blackout blinds. Spike had cleaned the place well enough. It was marginally less filthy than it had been before, but the floor remained stained, the wall plaster still crumbled, and when Spike laid down he couldn’t help counting the water marks on the ceiling. There were seventeen. The night he had first met Emma, there had been only ten.
He’d been different then--more pissed and less likely to consider walking out to face the sun--and the floor had trembled with an erratic bass beat which drowned out his eight-track copy of Morrison Hotel by The Doors. Spike had considered ignoring it for all of three seconds before his quicksilver temper demanded he go downstairs to rip out someone’s lungs.
He had stormed out the door intent on causing carnage and mayhem only to find Emma sitting at the base of the steps. She’d been a kid of fifteen or sixteen—the same age as Bit was now—and she had looked at him with tears in her eyes.
Bugger it all to hell, he’d always been a sucker for tears. If hers had been the loud, blubbery kind, he would have killed her without a thought. But Emma had sat silent with her chin up and tears filling her eyes, and Spike had respected her for that. His murderous rage had faded, giving him time to notice the bruise on her cheek. It had been as much green as purple and black. Someone had hit her.
The door to the downstairs flat had opened revealing a boy not much older than Emma.
"Emma!" The boy had come out into the hall and knelt in front of her as he gently touched her bruise.
"It’s alright, Pete," Emma had protested.
"’S not alright. That bastard Ned Dix did this to you, didn’t he? I’ll kill him. Touchin’ my sister like that. I’ll kill him. "
=Appropriate reaction,= Spike had thought.
Peter had stared at Spike. "Who’re you?"
Emma had pulled herself to her feet. "He’s the one livin’ upstairs always listening to The Doors."
Pete had rolled his eyes, looking young and petulant and not nearly as intimidating as his raggedly cut hair, tattooed knuckles, and black leather jacket implied. "That stuff."
Spike had bristled. "Better than that screeching you call music."
"’S not the point." He helped Emma inside the flat, then looked back at Spike. "Well, are you comin’ in then?"
A dangerous invitation to issue to a vampire, especially dangerous if the vampire had been plotting your death only moments before. But somehow, that night Spike hadn’t been in the mood for killing and had enjoyed the novelty of being invited inside. He’d told himself it wasn’t because he was lonely. It wasn’t because Dru had been gone for a fortnight, Darla for two and a half decades, and Angelus for nearly a century. It wasn’t because he was desperate to talk to someone, and be spoken to in return. He wasn’t lonely. It was just boredom.
As the weeks passed Spike had become a regular visitor to the downstairs flat. He’d met Emma and Peter’s father who had once worked for The Underground but who had lost his job and lived on the dole. He’d accompanied Emma and Pete to concerts by the Sex Pistols even when they had performed under such names as Tax Exiles and Acne Ramble.
The three of them had seen the great Roundhouse triple bill of the Ramones, Talking Heads, and The Saints. Pete and Emma had even tried to make it onto the infamous boat party on the Thames. Spike hadn’t attempted—daylight issues he hadn’t wanted to explain—but it hadn’t mattered anyhow. The kids had never made it onto the boat, and Spike had met them later that night at the side door of the Earls Court Arena where they had slipped in to see Queen live.
Spike had never told Emma and Pete what he was, and somehow he had managed to restrain his ways to keep them from finding out. Oh, he snacked often enough, making meals of everything from tourists to punks, but always out of sight of his young friends.
Then one night Spike had returned to his Balham flat to discover Drusilla had come home. He had sensed her the moment he had entered the building, or at least when he had heard hearts pounding with a rapid flutter and smelled the scents of sweat and fear.
The door to the downstairs flat had stood ajar. A streak of yellow-white light had striped the darkened hallway as Spike laid his hand against the painted wood door. He had silently opened it to find a familiar sight—pain and death.
Emma’s father had lain in a sloppy sprawl across the floor, his eyes open but with a glassy stare. Dead, of course. What else would he have been with that gash in his throat?
Spike had heard a squeaking, terrified sound and lifted his gaze to meet Pete’s pleading stare. Drusilla had held the boy in her clutches as she grinned in gameface at Spike. "I followed the biscuit crumbs home."
Emma had cried, "Spike!" She had probably believed he would save her, but Spike had casually crossed his arms and leaned against the frame of the door. He had watched Dru murder Pete.
"No!" Emma had screamed, her sobs becoming gut wrenching and loud. There had been no stoic dignity in her then, just grief and fear as she sensed the exact moment her brother died. "No. . ." she whimpered before something caught her eye. "Ned?"
Spike had turned to find Emma’s erstwhile abusive boyfriend standing behind him, an expression of horror etched on the teen’s face. Spike hadn’t thought about it. He hadn’t needed to. Instinct had kicked in and, shifting into gameface, he had reached out and grabbed the boy around the neck, twisting it with brutal strength until the boy’s spine snapped and his lifeless husk dropped to the floor. Stepping over the corpse, Spike had walked across the room, taking Dru’s hand and lifting it to his lips.
"Did you miss me?" Dru had asked.
"Always, love." He had slipped his hand around her waist. "Come with me and I’ll show you how."
Dru had held back, looking over her shoulder at Emma. "But the biscuit tin is still half full."
Spike had nuzzled Dru’s neck, giving soft kisses before nibbling her ear. "I’m hungry, pet, and not for cookies."
"Mmmm, my tummy *is* full. . ."
And he had led his dark princess from the room saying, "I think it’s time I change my look, pet. What would you think if I got a haircut, something new?"
Spike had never looked back. Not once. Not until tonight. Now, Spike sat up on his sagging bed, and his hand shook as he reached for a half empty pack of cigarettes. =Bloody hell. I *am* a monster.= He’d said it before. He'd known it was true, but he had never understood the enormity of that confession.
Spike stood and anxiously paced the room. Emma and Pete had trusted him. They had thought he was their friend, and he had betrayed them.
"Our girl has issues," the barfly had said earlier tonight.
=And why shouldn’t she? She saw her entire family murdered in front of her eyes. God.=
Spike felt sick. He’d done that. It had been him. Angel had always liked to claim that he and Angelus were two different beings, but Spike didn’t see that. He didn’t feel that. It was him. He’d just never cared before now.
Spike stubbed out his cigarette. What was he supposed to do? He had convinced himself that he was prepared for this. When he’d sought out Lurky, he’d been so sure he knew what he was doing. Buffy had demanded change, so he would bloody well show her change. He just hadn’t known it would be so hard or that it would hurt so much. When he looked at the last century from his new perspective—
Spike ran to the bathroom and vomited into the toilet. There had only been pigs’ blood and beer in his stomach, but there was even less there now. He laid his head against the cool porcelain and wondered what in the hell he was doing. How had he ever arrived at a plan as insanely stupid as this?
If he’d felt guilty for what had happened in Sunnydale, he should have walked out to face the sun. But, no, he’d gone off on some half-cocked plan, determined to prove Buffy wrong, to fix his mistakes, to do. . . *something.*
He’d done ‘something’ all right. He’d gone and gotten himself royally fucked.
Spike now had the conscience of that oversensitive, idealistic fool Dru had killed in an alley. A century’s worth of sins now plagued his innocent old soul. What was he supposed to do with that? What was he supposed to do with any of it? He had committed more murders and atrocities than he could count, and he couldn’t change a thing. He couldn’t take it back. He couldn’t fix anything. Nothing could be made right. How could he possibly go on like this? Was there a reason to go on at all?
He’d told Willow that death was the easy way out, that facing yourself was the real challenge. =And you were right, you bloody arrogant fool!= But how was he supposed to pull it off? How was he supposed to find his way out of this pit he had dug himself into?
=Pull yourself together, mate. You’re barely two steps away from becoming the poof, and you wouldn’t want that, now would you?= Brooding didn’t accomplish a damn thing. It was paralyzing and made it all too easy to become weak and ineffectual.
=So don’t be a wanker. Get up. Get your arse in gear.=
Spike pulled himself to his feet and splashed water on his face.
He had to do something. He couldn’t sit still. He could never sit still. . .or hide. He’d go back and face Emma. He’d apologize. Yeah, he knew it wouldn’t do a bit of good. Saying ‘I’m sorry’ didn’t change a thing. She would only hate him, and she had every reason to. But it was the only thing he could offer. He could stand and face her anger and hate. Who knows, maybe it would help her in some small way.
Spike looked up and laughed. "Who do you think you are to think you can help?" The mirror reflected everything in the room but him. "That’s what I thought."
The next night he paced for a half hour before working up the courage to return to the pub. When he walked through the door Simon elbowed Tony.
"Just the bloke I was lookin’ for." Simon pushed away from the bar. "What would you say to a ticket to the show."
Spike frowned. "Show?"
"You’ve got to be kiddin’ me! The show. Carling Live. The Sex Pistols’ jubilee."
Not believing what he was hearing, Spike shook his head. "Twenty-five years of mocking the old bird, and now they’re cashing in on her jubilee?"
Tony sipped his lager. "It’s called selling out."
Spike tried to wrap his mind this new bit of information. "Sid must be rolling in his grave."
"That’s the truth. All the real ones are gone." Simon raised his glass. "To Sid."
Tony raised his glass as well. "To Dee Dee and Joey Ramone."
Simon wiped a tear from his eye. "And our Emma."
That caught Spike’s attention. "What?" Spike glanced from Simon to Tony. "What are you saying?"
Simon sat down. "I’m sorry, mate. It’s the extra ticket. It was Emma’s. She—"
Tony bowed his head. "Kicked it last night. It was always gonna get her sooner or later."
"It? What it?" Spike felt like the floor had fallen from underneath him.
"You noticed the tracks didn’t you? On her arms."
Spike’s brows furrowed and there was a sinking feeling in his gut. "Heroin?" She was an addict. It was obvious now.
Simon stared intently into his lager. "She tried getting off the stuff once or twice. Never worked. Like I told you—issues."
"Tragic history," Tony explained.
"Don’t know how she lived with it all. She was a strong person, but I guess she’d had enough."
"Or her body had."
=Or she saw me again,= Spike realized. =The sight of me sent her off for a hit—the *last* one. I killed her. Wasn’t even trying, and I killed her. =
Buffy walked through the graveyard in sunlight. How weird was that? Most of the time it was the graveyard shift for her -- ha-ha -- and for the last few days it had been the freaky fog. Now, the sky was clear and blue and it looked like Southern California again.
She turned left and started down a familiar path where she ran into a floppy-eared demon carrying a grocery bag.
"Slayer!" Clem, as always, managed to look both surprised and pleased. "Here for a visit? I just bought blue corn tortilla chips and peach salsa. Yum!"
"I think you’ve been hanging out with Dawn too much."
The puppy-like demon’s happy face fell. "But. . .I. . .If you think I shouldn't see her—"
Buffy rushed to say, "Relax. I’m kidding. Honest. Dawnie lives on junk food too."
"Oh." Slowly his smile and enthusiasm returned. "Oh! That’s different then. It’s just, you know, you Slayer, me demon. I can be a bit jumpy sometimes. Wanna be on your good side, not tick you off."
"I didn’t mean to scare you."
Shifting his brown paper bag, Clem asked, "What can I do for you? If you’re looking for—"
=No, don’t go there. Don’t mention *him.*= "I just wanted to check how things were around here. The fog kind of made patrol difficult."
"The fog? Yeah, that was weird. Haven’t seen anything like that since ninety-four."
That surprised her. "It’s happened before?" The demon nodded. "Anything come from it?" Buffy asked.
"Freaky. Monstery. Apocalypsy?"
"Not that I can think of."
"Well, that’s good." They stared at each other and the silence stretched. It was getting kind of awkward. "That’s good. I guess I’ll go." She turned to leave.
The fact that Clem used her name made Buffy stop and become a nervous. Using her name meant what he was about to say was important.
Clem tugged nervously at his ear. "I got an e-mail from him today."
"You’ve got an e-mail account?"
"I’ve got DSL and an IMac and—" Clem took a deep breath and blurted out "—Spike said he wasn’t coming back."
"He always comes back." Buffy knew she sounded like a bewildered little girl. She hated that sound. She attempted a more authoritative tone. "He’ll be back."
"I hope you’re right, Slayer." Clem looked down at his feet. "He could be good company, you know. I mean, when he wasn’t pissed or anything, he could be good company. I just. . .I miss him, and I thought maybe you. . ."
What could she say? That she missed Spike too? She *so* could not admit to missing Spike. It was wrong and squicky and for years she’d been insisting he go away. How hypocritical would it be to now admit she kind of missed him? "Don’t worry about it," Buffy said crisply. "He’ll be back. He *always* comes back. He’s annoying that way. Just be glad we got rid of the fog."
Inside the tomb the last of the mist faded away, revealing the face and form of a man. He was handsome, with aquiline features and fair hair, and his eyes were a clear, pale blue. He smiled as he moved to sit and then to stand. He looked at his hands and arms, admiring them. He touched his face with a degree of amazement, then he moved toward the door. He paused at the threshold, looking uncertain about crossing it, but he took a deep breath stepped into the sunlight.
Sunshine bathed his face and shoulders as he spread his arms wide, embracing the light. He threw back his head and laughed.
Dawn entered the house. It was big, silent and empty. "Buffy?"
No answer meant that Buffy wasn’t home. She would be back soon, though. Buffy had been all super-attentive lately. It was probably an overreaction for eight months of pretending Dawn almost didn’t exist. It could also be because just about everyone else in their lives was gone.
Friend-wise they were pretty much down to Xander, and Xander had turned into the king of the eternally complaining bad mood. He complained about talking to Anya. He complained about not talking to Anya. He complained about not enough work then about too much. He complained about the X-Files killing off the Lone Gunmen, the new timeslot for Farscape, and that the Yoda fight was the only decent thing in the new Star Wars. If he complained much more, Dawn was thinking about smacking him. Hard.
She walked into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator door, and stared at the contents. Not finding anything appealing, she opened the freezer. Nothing there either--back to the refrigerator. Maybe something new had appeared in the last three seconds. No luck. Conceding defeat, Dawn pulled a glass out of the cabinet and turned on the faucet.
Liquid as red as blood flowed from the tap, and through the window Dawn saw her sister latch the rear gate. "Buffy!"
Continued in Chapter Five: What You Can't Take Back