Author’s Note: Warning. This part contains a dream sequence that involves non-consensual sex, violent images, and character death. Also, the use of the cross is not meant to be disrespectful.
On my way home I go past Revello Drive. Like I thought, the lights are still on. Meaning I better check in. The door is unlocked, as usual. I’m greeted by bouts of canned laughter and applause.
“Xander? In here.” Buffy’s voice comes out of the living room. I close the door and walk in.
Abruptly, the laughter is cut off, as Buffy puts the remote on the table, next to a bowl of popcorn and the Sunnydale Times obituary page. She gives me a slightly forced smile. “I was hoping you’d stop by before I have to leave for another patrol. How did it go?”
“Spike. What did he have to say?” She shrugs into her leather coat.
Nothing much. Except for the offer to ‘service’ me. Which was one hell of a sick way of putting it. I shrug. “I don’t know,” I say dismissively. “Didn’t make much sense. The guy’s pretty much round the bend. Mumbled something about a thing lurking in the school basement. I didn’t see anything down there, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Why is it so important what he said?”
There it is, that tiny moment of hesitation, when she weighs how much to tell me.
“No biggie. It just, you know, sounded like he knew something. He still has connections. You know, ear to the ground, that kind of thing.”
I fish a handful of popcorn out of the bowl. “What makes you think the bleached sicko still wants to help? I mean, why should he? Why did he come back, anyway?”
She kneels down in front of her weapons trunk and arms herself. That way she doesn’t have to look me in the eye, when she replies. “I—I dunno, he just said he’d help, and I believe him. I think.” She closes the trunk with a decisive snap.
“What about Anya?” I blurt out.
“What about her?” Buffy asks warily, as she stuffs her stakes into the pockets of her jacket.
“If it’s true and we’re in for a big evil extravaganza, then Anya might have heard something. If you ask her, maybe she can…“
“Anya is a demon, now,” Buffy states. “No longer part of the gang.”
Yeah, like I need a reminder. After all I saw her go all vein-y and kick Spike’s ass. Funny, but it didn’t freak me out like I thought it would, the demon face, I mean. No matter what, she’s still Anya, right? And Spike is still Spike, named for torturing his victims with railroad spikes. I don’t need to see his pointy teeth and lumpies to know what he is and always will be: an evil soulless thing, right?
Apparently some of my thoughts register on my face, because Buffy gives me a comforting smile. “I’m sorry Xander,” she says. “It’s just that… I don’t think helping us ranks high on Anya’s agenda, you know. But, hey, Willow will be back soon, to help with the research. How is that for timing?”
“Willow’s coming back?”
“Giles just called. Apparently, she’s all de-toxed and ready. You’ll see, it’s gonna be just like old times.”
Amen and can I get a hallelujah!
Buffy heads for the door. I grab another handful of popcorn for the road and follow her outside.
“Right, I better get going,” Buffy says. “It’s getting late and I don’t want to miss it when Mr. what’s-his-name wakes up all bloodthirsty. Tomorrow morning?”
“I’ll be there.”
I watch her receding back, then take a deep breath. It’s a beautiful night. Warm air, the crickets do their thing, the moon’s almost full. But I feel cold and I’ve got the smell of burnt flesh clinging to my jacket. Swell!
It’s been four months. But every time I come home and toss my keys on the kitchen counter, part of me goes “Hey, where’s Anya?”
I open the fridge. No more smelly cheeses. Just leftover pizza and three six-packs. I grab one. Maybe the beer will help me calm down. I take it with me into the bathroom. I really have to get rid of this smell. I strip, stuff everything into the overflowing hamper and take a long hot bath.
Later, I open a new packet of boxer shorts, slip into a pair (because all the pyjamas are in the hamper) and then crawl between the sheets. To sleep. At least that’s the general idea, but I’m still wound up like a clockwork. My heart is ticking too fast and my body is tense. Normally, that’s my cue to spank the monkey, thinking about Anya, Angelina Jolie, the Playboy centerfold or no one in particular. On a less denial-y night my thoughts might even stray to Ben Browder in leather pants.
But tonight I really don’t feel like getting in touch with myself, because I know where my thoughts would end up. I’d end up wondering what might have happened if I hadn’t chickened out or sobered up or--- whatever. Oh boy.
So, I toss and turn and try to will all thoughts of Spike out of my brain. It takes a long time until I finally fall asleep.
In my dream we are back in that church. Spike is standing before the cross, naked. My eyes hungrily trace the outline of his limbs. I admire his lean calves and thighs, dwell on the hard muscles that ripple underneath milky skin. I step closer, open my pants and pull myself out. Without hesitation I position myself and plough inside him. One of my hands grips his shoulder, the other clutches his hip. Every thrust pushes him against the cross. I can smell flesh burning, and smoke starts to curl up. Suddenly, I realize that it’s not the cross that is branding him, it’s me. Everywhere I touch him his skin hisses and blisters. It bubbles like melting plastic then turns a charcoal black. He doesn’t scream. Just writhes underneath me. Somehow I know his mouth is sewn shut. Then there’s a whooshing sound and he’s suddenly engulfed by flames. I can feel the heat but it doesn’t burn me. The next instant he’s gone and his ashes are scattering to the floor.
“Oh god,” I hear myself say. I hear clapping behind me. When I turn around (suddenly fully dressed) I see Anya and Willow standing there.
“Willow!” I exclaim, glad to see her. I don’t mind that her hair is black and that her eyes are bottomless pits. After all, she’s my Willow.
“That was a nice effect,” Willow is saying.
“Yes,” Anya answers, nodding appreciatively. “Not bad for a beginner. But it was over too quickly. Vengeance is a fine art. You’re supposed to make the pain linger.”
I’m about to tell them that I don’t care about vengeance, but a loud beeping sound drowns out my voice. Willow shakes her head and gestures towards her ear. “I can’t hear you,” she mouths and I…
…wake up, all sweaty and sticky, my heart racing. My hand slams down on the alarm clock, shutting it up in mid-bleep.
The sun is shining into the bedroom, cheerful and warm. I know it’s only in my head, but for a moment it’s back, that horrible smell of burning flesh.
God, I think I’m gonna be sick.
Continued in Part Four