By L.A. Ward and Sanguine
Chapter Five: What You Can't Take Back
Giles swiftly rose from his couch and opened the door. A very excited Reginald Claridge burst into his apartment. "Mr. Giles? What do you think?" Reggie had exchanged his tailored suit for a sleeveless leather jacket that did not enhance his non-existent pectoral muscles. Ripped jeans, gelled hair, and a wide grin completed his ensemble.
Giles's jaw dropped by way of response.
"Mr. Giles, are you sure this is absolutely necessary?" Lydia Grant hesitantly crossed the threshold. She was unrecognizable with her jet-black wig, bright red lips, and tight leather skirt.
Giles removed his glasses. If he couldn't see them, then perhaps he'd manage to suppress his overwhelming urge to giggle. Of course he shouldn't be laughing at a time like this. This was serious. Only one day left and he still hadn't found Spike. The situation was becoming desperate. Pulling himself together, Giles managed to reply. "Yes, Miss Grant. It is absolutely necessary. You were the one that suggested that we consider Spike's interests and hobbies." Giles's mouth twisted as he recalled the short, unpleasant period in which Spike had been his unwanted roommate. Permanently affixed to his couch, blasting the Sex Pistols and the Ramones at all hours, eating Weetabix mixed with blood, and watching Passions. =Why didn't I just stake him then? It would have saved me a lot of trouble . . . and humiliation.=
"I suppose it is a necessary evil," Lydia said, as she daintily adjusted her fishnet stockings. "As I demonstrated in chapter four of my thesis, William--Spike--has an unusual number of human interests. In particular, he shows an affinity for music that promulgated an anti-establishment perspective."
"Indeed." Giles grimaced slightly as Reggie stretched, exposing an expanse of white belly. "And I suppose we must look the part."
"Blimey, you'll certainly fit right in!" Reggie exclaimed, admiring Giles's white t-shirt, black jeans, and earring. "You must have been to one of these before."
Giles smiled wistfully, shrugging on a black leather jacket. "That was a long time ago."
"So what'll it be, Buffy? The Matrix or Coppola's Dracula?" Xander held up two videocassettes.
"Gah!" Buffy buried her head in a couch cushion. "Save me from Gary Oldman and his kabuki scariness."
"Will do." Xander tossed the rejected cassette onto the coffee table and slipped The Matrix into the VCR. "Neo it is."
Buffy chewed contemplatively on a kernel of microwave popcorn. Movie night with the Xandman. Just like old times.
Except it wasn't.
Willow was somewhere in London, eating bad English food and doing the twelve-step thing. Dawn was at Janice's house, spending the night. Of course, Anya wasn't there. Anya was avoiding all-things-Scooby like the plague. Probably being deserted at the altar had something to do with it. Plus, there was the issue of Spike shagging.
Spike. Buffy clutched the couch cushion more tightly. Spike would have never come to a Scooby movie night. There was the never-asking-him thing for starters. But that was totally justified. Spike didn't play well with others. On the other hand, Spike did like those dumb soap operas. Maybe he liked movies too. Buffy felt a stab of guilt. She'd never really found out what Spike liked . . . outside the bedroom.
No point in dwelling. He was gone. Buffy absentmindedly popped another piece of popcorn in her mouth, shaking off her melancholia. "Do you want something to drink, Xander? I've got Coke, I think. No water though, 'cause it's sorta blood colored at the moment."
"Coke is fine, Buffy. Have you heard anything about what's causing the H2O weirdness?"
"Nada. Maybe it's just regular old toxic waste."
Xander laughed, crossing his fingers. "Here's hopin'!"
Buffy rose from the couch and headed for the kitchen. "One Coke, coming up."
Xander followed her. "Hellmouth's been quiet lately, hasn't it?"
"I suppose. Not much slayage since Willow . . ."
"Yeah," Xander nodded. "I wonder how Willow's doing? I haven't heard anything from her or Giles."
"Me neither." Buffy opened the refrigerator and removed the two-liter. "I'm sure they're OK. Probably just busy."
Buffy felt Xander's eyes on her as she poured equal amounts of Coke into two tall glasses. "What?"
"Um," Xander fidgeted, "Speaking of those who no longer talk to us, have you heard anything about Anya?"
"No," Buffy shook her head. "I've been working double shifts at the Doublemeat, so I haven't been by the Magic Box lately." She handed a glass to Xander. "Why don't you just call her?"
Xander smiled sardonically. "I dunno. Maybe because she betrayed me by sleeping with a soulless thing?"
Buffy sighed. "She was single, Xander. You dumped her, remember?"
"But I didn't mean it."
Buffy gazed out the kitchen window at the empty porch. "Sometimes you do things you can't take back."
Spike took a deep draw on his Guinness. Guinness, the drink of champions. Guinness, the drink of the truly drunk. The pub was empty tonight, save Spike and a passed-out bloke with orange hair. Loud music blared from the speakers for the benefit of two patrons who didn't care or were too unconscious to listen. Blurrily, Spike ordered another drink from the barkeeper, Emma's replacement. "Another round for me, and, well, for me."
The barkeeper considered Spike with sympathy. "You wanting to get totally pissed, mate?"
"Already there." Spike considered a torn, faded poster on the wall. "Never Mind the Bollocks" it declared. His vision blurred. He blinked hard, washing down the lump in his throat with another drag of Guinness.
Barkeeper shrugged. "Suit yourself. Loo's in back. Make sure you use it. I don't fancy cleaning up your mess."
Spike nodded and gulped down another swig of alcohol. Guinness, the drink of oblivion. Guinness, the drink of not having to remember another life destroyed. Guinness, the drink of forgetting Emma.
Soft sheets, lightly scented with apricots and cinnamon. Tara. Willow traced her finger over her lover's collarbone, inhaling deeply. "So, baby" Willow began, snuggling into the comfortable crook of Tara's arm, "what should we do today?"
Tara laughed gently. "I dunno. Should we be really ambitious and think about leaving the bedroom?"
Willow kissed her softly. "I don't know about you, but I'm not feeling very ambitious." She deepened the kiss, her mouth moving gently against Tara's lips, soft, wet . . . too wet. And they tasted . . .
Panicked, Willow pulled back from the kiss. There was blood on the sheets, blood on her mouth, blood on her hands.
She looked down. It wasn't Tara. Warren smiled at her, skinless, horrible, defiling her bed. "Miss me?"
Willow bolted upright, breathing hard. Nothing. Darkness. Shaken, she checked the pillow next to her. No one was there. Tara wasn't there. Warren wasn't there. She was alone.
Pulling on her robe with shaking hands, she moved to the window of the small room. Outside a street lamp illuminated posh row houses. No cars passed. Suddenly Willow felt terribly alone. But perhaps she deserved it.
After all, she couldn't take back what she'd done. She couldn't bring Warren back to life. Even worse, part of her didn't want to. He'd killed Tara.
With tear-clouded vision, Willow looked up at the sky. The stars were mostly obscured by the glare of artificial city light. =What am I going to do?=
Out the silence, the answer came. Willow didn't know where it came from--her subconscious, Tara, God, whatever. But nevertheless, the answer was there. =Live.=
Giles and his companions had endured a particularly horrible train ride from Victoria to Crystal Palace. The train was late, crowded, and generally unpleasant, and Lydia and Reggie's costume choices had earned them snickers and mocking glares from their fellow riders. With five minutes to spare, they rushed towards the auditorium, Lydia limping in her three-inch heels and Reggie, flushed and gasping in his leather. Presenting their tickets to a smirking, heavily-tatooed man at the gate, they hurried inside.
It was packed, chock-a-block full. The scent of unwashed bodies, the rainbow of hair colors, the oppressive heat. The music blared from huge speakers: loud, subversive, offensive, vibrating through every nerve.
"We're never going to find him in here," Reggie yelled, trying to make himself heard over the music.
Giles considered the sea of leather and multi-colored hair before him. "You're probably right."
Lydia pursed her lips impatiently. "This is precisely the kind of place that Spike would come. He'd feel comfortable here. Perhaps we'd increase our chances of finding him if we each take a different section of the auditorium."
"I'll take the front," Reggie volunteered.
"Very well. I'll look back here," Giles assented, nodding towards the rear seats. "Why don't you look in the middle, Lydia? We can meet outside after the concert to compare results."
"Brilliant," Reggie exclaimed, straightening his leather vest. Accidentally, he elbowed a rather beefy-looking man, who was trying to make his way to his seat. "Oi, you! Watch where you're goin'"
"Sorry . . . mate. I was just . . ."
The man cackled. "Never mind, lad. You just gave me a right good laugh."
Buffy turned off the VCR and gathered up the spent candy wrappers. Xander was still eating like a horse. He certainly didn't need the additional calories, but ever since the end-of-the-world debacle he'd transferred one bad habit--the drinking--into another compulsion--the eating. Of course, Xander had always eaten under stress and it wasn't as bad as the drinking and . . .
=I'm making excuses for him again.= Buffy smiled ruefully and tossed the remnants of Scoobie movie night (the pathetic edition) into the trashcan. She liked The Matrix OK, but Neo's black leather duster made her think of another black leather duster, hidden in her bedroom in the back of her closet, behind some shoe boxes, and her old toys, and other unimportant . . . stuff. She had put it there after that--night--assuming that at some point he would come back to retrieve it.
But months had passed and he had never come back. Maybe she should get rid of it. After all, she didn't have very many good memories about that duster, or the man--the thing--that wore it. Violently, she re-arranged the cushions on the couch. "Don't know why I kept the stupid coat anyway."
She turned off the living room light and slowly made her way upstairs. When she had first come back she had descended those stairs, fragile, broken. He had looked at her with such caring and compassion. He had been so gentle when he took her hands and had understood her pain.
What made things go so terribly wrong?
"There's nothing good in you! You're dead inside." Her own words echoed in her mind as she flopped on her bed. She wouldn't sleep very well tonight.
I Am An Anti-Christ
I Am An Anarchist,
Don't Know What I Want
But I Know How To Get It.
Johnny Rotten looked older. There was no doubt about it. But he was defiant and apparently still very angry. Demonically smiling, he gave the two-fingered salute as he kicked an over-eager fan who had tried to clamber on stage. Giles smiled wistfully, listening to the lyrics. Twenty-five years, and the music still made him remember . . .
"Oi! Ripper!" A leather-clad man with a safety pin through his nose and semi-bleached hair strode over, radiating confidence.
"Ethan!" Ripper embraced his friend, yelling above the music. "Great party."
"Yeah." Ethan considered him slyly. "So, you still in for later?"
"Abso-fucking-lutely. Wouldn't miss it." Ripper smiled dangerously, halfway between a leer and a full-out grin.
"Good, good. Enjoy yourself. I'll see you at midnight."
Don't Be Told What You Want
Don't Be Told What You Need.
There's No Future
There's No Future
There's No Future For You .
Five 'til midnight. Randall, Ethan, Deidre, Phillip. The core gang was there along with a neatly-drawn pentagram. Incense wafted. Candles flared.
This was going to be fun. Ripper remembered the last time. The power as Eyghon took control of his body was unbelievable. And the sex . . .
He grasped Deidre's hand and kissed it. "Almost time, pet."
She kissed him, hard. "Almost time."
Randall laughed. "Patience, Ripper. It's not your turn this time." He tore Deirde's hand away and spun her to him. "It's mine." Hungrily, he pressed his lips to hers.
Ethan smirked. "Break it up, children. It's time for the festivities to begin."
Ripper smiled. Watching was fun.
Randall's face pulsated as the demon possessed him.
=No future, no future for you.=
Ethan turned up the Sex Pistols album and spun Deidre around, screaming with debauched abandon.
Randall smirked, full of power, and grabbed Deidre by the hair. "Bitch." He smacked her.
Blood trickled from a newly-formed cut above her eyebrow. Randall licked it off slowly, with excruciating precision. Viciously he bit her lip, drawing more blood.
"Ow," Deidre cried out. "Stop it, Randall, you're hurting me."
"Isn't that the point?" Randall hit her harder, and Deidre slammed into the wall, losing consciousness.
"Wait a bloody minute!" Ripper looked at Ethan, who was busily snorting a line of coke from a rubbish-strewn coffee table. "Ethan, we've got to do something! He's really hurting her."
Ethan shrugged. "Just a little foreplay."
Ripper shook his head. "That isn't foreplay, Ethan. Where's the incantation? I want to send the demon back."
Randall, eyes glowing, addressed Ripper sweetly. "But, my dear, I don't want to go back." With superhuman speed he grasped Ripper's neck in a vice-like hold.
Ripper felt his life ebbing away. "Do it, Ethan, do it."
Ethan laughed. "Come on, Ripper. Can't you do better than that?"
Ripper turned purple, but managed to chant a few words beneath his breath. "Back to the depths, oh Eyghon, destroyer and despoiler. I shun thee and thy ways."
The demon laughed.
Suddenly, Ethan brought down a sturdy cherry wood chair on Randall's head. The demon whirled and staggered, letting go of Ripper's throat. Sneering, it headed for its new antagonist.
"Ripper, DO SOMETHING." Ethan screamed, his self-preservation instinct finally kicking in.
Ripper grabbed a long knife from a nearby table and plunged it into the demon's--into his friend's back.
Randall spun around, wailing in pain. "How could you, Giles? How could you do this?" Blood began to drip onto the floor.
"Randall, is that you?" Ripper dropped the knife. "Are you back?"
Randall slumped to the floor. "Ripper? Ethan? Oh God, I'm going to die!" Blood-flecked spittle stained his mouth. Unbelieving, he looked at his friends. Randall slumped to the floor, eyes wide and unseeing. He was dead. And Ripper had killed him.
Reggie relished the noise, the excitement, the sheer madness of it all. It was unlike anything he'd ever experienced before.
Of course, he hadn't experienced much.
When Spike had deposited Willow Rosenberg on the steps of the Watcher's Council, Reggie's life had suddenly blossomed with the excitement and intrigue he'd been craving. He'd seen a real vampire and a Nayr Sprite and all sorts of trolls and demons.
And now he was experiencing another life form all together. Scanning this crowd for Spike was like looking for a needle in a haystack! They all looked alike.
"Watch where you're going, you bastard!" A surly-looking man with a pierced eyebrow considered him menacingly. Reggie promptly removed his dress shoe (damn he knew he'd forgotten something!) from the man's boot-clad foot.
"Dreadfully sorry! I really didn't mean it."
The behemoth cracked his knuckles. "Whaddaya think, Simon? We could take this one."
His companion snorted. "Hardly worth it, Tony." Derisively he fingered Reggie's leather vest. "This one looks like easy pickings."
Tony's voice took on a mocking tone. "If Spike were here, he'd help me."
Reggie's eyes bulged. "Excuse me, sir. Did you say Spike?"
Tony glared. "Yeah, what of it?"
"I'm looking for a Spike, actually."
Simon grabbed his crouch and gestured lewdly. "Got one right here, you wanker."
Reggie blushed. "No, not that kind of spike. My Spike . . ." Reggie paused, considering how to describe the vampire. "He's got, um, peroxided hair . . . well, at least it used to be blond . . . his roots are showing now, and he's rather short and has an acute . . . um . . . sun allergy, and he likes Weetabix and spicy chicken wings."
"Do you know him? Is he about?"
"No," Simon guffawed, "your friend Spikey can't come out to play. Now piss off." Roughly he pushed Reggie back.
"I'm afraid I can't do that." Reggie's jaw took on a determined cast as he clutched the crucifix that he'd had the foresight to put in his pocket. One never knew what sort of dangers one might encounter in the field. These ruffians, if they were friends of Spike's, could be one of the legions of the undead, determined to kill and maim, to reign in terror over all of humanity! It really paid to take precautions.
Tony's eyes narrowed. "What are you? A copper?"
Reggie shook his head. "No! Absolutely not! I hate those . . . sort of people." Desperately, he tried a different tack. "Look, I really need to talk to Spike. It's urgent."
Tony continued to look skeptical and crossed his arms.
"He's my . . ." Reggie cast about for a plausible excuse. "He's my brother!"
Simon considered Reggie. "He's a bit plump, Tony, but he might just be related."
Tony nodded. "Alright, lad." He pounded Reggie on the back, a bit too hard for comfort. "Spike didn't feel like comin' to the concert tonight. As far as I know, he's at the Dog and Bear."
Reggie's brow furrowed.
"It's a pub, you nitwit! In Soho."
"Right," Reggie smiled brightly. "I knew that!
Giles neatly avoided a wino as he negotiated the uneven cobblestones. =Dog and Bear. Dog and Bear.= Looking up, he noticed the brightly painted sign: a bear with a poodle in its mouth.
"Must be the place." Giles smiled, the first time since the concert. The Sex Pistols brought back too many memories, none of them good. But at least Reggie--Reggie of all people!!--had managed to discover Spike's location. Giles narrowly avoided a broken bottle and pushed the door open.
The orange-haired patron glanced up from his inebriated stupor. The barkeeper stopped polishing a glass. But the person Giles was looking for seemed oblivious to his presence. Spike continued to examine his drink, as if all the answers in the world were contained in his half-empty glass of Guinness. Without looking up, he addressed Giles. "Do come in," he slurred, gesturing expansively. "You're just in time to see me pass out."
Giles gazed at the vampire in shock. Spike looked horrible. His hair was shaggy and unkempt, with brown roots peeking through. Dark circles rimmed his hooded eyes. His cheekbones were even more pronounced than usual, and the hand that grasped his drink was almost skeletal. It looked as if he hadn't fed for a very long time.
But what was even more disturbing was Spike's demeanor. It was if he didn't care . . . about anything. When he was drunk, the vampire usually turned annoyingly loquacious, tearfully rambling on about love and passion and all manner of nonsense. This Spike just seemed . . . defeated.
The bartender rolled his eyes. "What will you have?"
"Scotch, straight." Giles slapped a crisp ten-pound note on the counter. "And a coffee for my friend."
Spike rose his glass. "Don't listen to him. Make it another Guinness."
"So one scotch and one coffee." The bartender poured the drinks as the two men watched in less-than-companionable silence.
Finally Spike turned, considering Giles with bloodshot eyes. "So, what brings you here, Rupert . . . and in such an intriguing costume. Leather? An earring? Mid-life crisis? The witch gone missing again?"
Giles shook his head. "Why are you in London, Spike?"
"I'm English, you stupid git."
Giles sighed, exasperated. This was going to be difficult. "Why did you help Willow?"
Spike smirked. "Wouldn't you like to know?"
"I would, actually." Giles examined him closely. "Something is different about you."
Spike laughed. "Everything's exactly the same. I'm still killing people, Rupert."
"The chip?" Giles fingered the stake in his pocket.
"No," Spike took a final gulp of Guinness. "The chip's still perfectly operational, captain."
Spike's mouth twisted. "Sometimes the past comes back to bite you in the arse."
Giles took a deep drink of his Scotch. "I know what you mean."
"I could say it's been great seeing you, Rupes, but I'd be lying." Spike unsteadily rose to his feet. "If you don't need anything else, I'll be toddling off."
Giles grasped Spike's arm. He could feel the bone protruding underneath. "Wait, Spike. I do have something important to ask you."
"You? Needin' the opinion of an evil vampire? That's rich."
Giles shook his head. "I need you to *do* something."
Spike's eyebrow twitched. "Does this something involve money?"
"No," Giles paused, taking another sip of Scotch, "but it involves blackmail."
"Really, Rupert," Spike dramatically pressed his hand to his breast, "I didn't think you were capable of such things. I'm shocked!"
"It's not me," Giles averred. "It's those punters at the Council. If I don't bring you back to Headquarters then they'll toss Willow out."
Giles watched for a reaction. Concern flickered across Spike's face. Spike may not give a toss about the rest of the human race, but Giles knew the vampire cared about Buffy and her friends. It was pathetic really, considering how they reviled him. Giles almost felt sorry for Spike. Almost. Pressing his advantage, he continued. "I know you care about Willow. You know how dependent she's become on black magic. Her only hope is with the Wiccans on staff at Headquarters. They can cleanse the dark magic from her system and repair her soul."
"Repair it? Interesting word choice, Rupes. What's the going rate for that?"
"Will you help?"
Spike took a sip of coffee. "What will those wankers do to me if I come? Poking? Prodding? A spot of torture?"
Giles shrugged. "Honestly, I don't know. Lydia Grant--the female watcher who wrote her thesis on you--wants to interview you. Her motives are pure enough. She just wants to know more about vampires."
"I might give the poor bird nightmares."
Giles removed his glasses, cleaning them on his t-shirt. "I'm not sure about Travers, though. He seemed over-eager to get you in his clutches."
Spike swallowed a gulp of coffee. "The witch . . . she'll die if I don't help, won't she?"
Giles nodded. ""If the Council discontinues her treatment, she'll almost certainly kill herself."
"I don't need another dead woman on my conscience." Spike sighed heavily. "Right, Rupert. I'll agree on one condition."
Giles gaped. =Conscience? What was Spike blathering on about? Was he delusional?= Recovering slightly, he managed to respond. "What do you want?"
"Lurk about when I do the Louis thing." Spike leered, a pale imitation of his former bravado. "I wouldn't want Miss Grant to take advantage of me."
Continued in Chapter Six: Ouroborus and Macchiavelli