Author’s Note: This part contains a number of rude homophobic expressions. They are not meant to express the views of the author.
I’m not much for talking, this morning, so I just listen, as they talk about teachers and assignments, the new Principal, the quality of the cafeteria food and the weird hell called High School.
“You know, a girl in my pottery class was saying that there are ghosts in the school basement.” Dawn tells us. “She said she heard weird sounds coming through the air vents, like someone’s crying or something. You think those zombie kinda things are back? Cause, you know, last time they were more creepy than weepy.”
“I don’t think so, Dawn. I’m sure there’s a perfectly normal explanation. Maybe the sounds are from another class room. Or maybe it’s a prank. Or… or the wind, maybe.”
Or maybe not.
“Whoever made that talisman could have made another one, right? Maybe you should ask Spike. If he’s been living down there… Wait. Forget I mentioned him, okay?” Looking into my rear mirror, I see Dawn frown and fold her arms in front of her chest. “Probably a prank. Sure. Whatever.”
Looks like the info that Spike is as mad as a hatter has not yet caught up with Dawn. I shoot a glance at Buffy, but she’s studiously not-looking at me.
After that, the conversation turns to Willow’s imminent return. Of course we’ll all go to the airport tomorrow, to welcome her back. I think we’re all nervous about what she’s gonna be like and whether her mojo will be gone or not, but nobody brings those doubts up and for that I’m grateful.
I drop the girls off, then go to work. Yup, reliable.
Reliable Xander starts work punctually. He’s a right regular guy, wearing his sensible hard hat, pinning the new shift roster to the notice board, inspecting the excavation site, and running around with important looking blueprints tucked under his arm. Successful, down to earth, hands on Mr. Harris, doing his job. And the Oscar goes to…
At the end of the day I deal with the inevitable complaints about next week’s roster, do a bit of paperwork and send the crew off with a manly pat on the back and their pay checks.
When everybody’s gone and the Chrysler is the only car left in the parking lot, I grab my flashlight and my stake, brandish my master keys and let myself into the main building. Not much later, I’m sneaking through the school basement. Again. I can’t believe I’m doing this.
Something’s down here. Something evil. Other than Spike. I can feel it. I half expect Pennywise the clown to jump at me. Whatever it is, it seems that something doesn’t want me to find him, cause I swear, when I take the same route like last night, the door to his bolt-hole is gone. Maybe the walls move when no one’s looking.
It’s deathly quiet down here, except for the skittering sounds of small feet hurrying along the dark passages. I hate rats. As if on cue, my foot connects with something soft and squishy. I hastily point my flashlight at the squishiness. It’s a dead rat. I prod it with my toe. Yup, dead. I crouch to get a better look. Its throat is torn. But there’s no blood.
There’s no reply. I put a tentative finger on the rat carcass. Maybe it’s my imagination, but there seems to be a bit of body warmth left.
“Spike! Can you hear me?”
I aim my flashlight at my surroundings. The bright circle dances over crates, a row of stacked chairs and a few gutted filing cabinets. I almost miss the tiny movement as the tips of two boots are hastily dragged backwards, out of the light.
Okay, lets investigate.
In the far corner of the room, there’s a narrow space between the filing cabinets and the wall, less than a yard wide. That’s where he is, sitting on the dirty floor, hugging his knees. When I point the flashlight at him, he flinches. I direct the brightness away from his face. At least he’s dressed. He’s wearing a dark button down shirt that looks downright filthy and the same pants as last night.
“You found me, then.” he states wearily. “So, what are you gonna do now?”
Good question. Fortunately, he doesn’t wait for me to answer but makes a vague shooing gesture: “I’m not going to make another one for you. You can’t trick me. You’re not real. Go away or change into someone else.”
Whoa. Not so fast. “Another what now? Change? Huh?”
“You picked the wrong guy. Harris would never come down here.” Spike shakes his head. “You think I’m stupid?”
“Stupid? Yes, the thought has occurred to me, Spike. I also think you’ve completely lost it. Meaning, you need help.”
He lifts his head to look at me, then nods slowly. “I know.”
“I’d say ‘professional help,’” I continue, “but as weird as this town is, I don’t think we have shrinks that specialize in treating looney bloodsuckers. Meaning, I’m all you’ve got. Come on, pal. We’re leaving.”
“No, I can’t. It’s my place. It fits. I fit,” he mutters, then shouts: “Haven’t you learned anything?”
He looks like he’d like to bolt, but I’ve got him cornered. “Spike, this place is no good. It’s turning your mind into goo. You can’t stay here. In case you’ve forgotten. This is the hellmouth we’re sitting on. This is as bad as it gets.”
“Bad,” he echoes.
“Yes. Bad, Spike.”
“Bad Spike. Yes. Spike’s a bad man.”
“You’re not a man, Spike. You may look like one, but you’re not.” I guess you could call it my mantra.
He looks away. “Is that so?” he asks. His voice is brittle.
“Well, I must admit, sometimes it’s kinda hard to remember the facts,” I concede.
He gives me a bleak stare and nods. “Bad dog, then. That’s what Dru used to say. She’s here, you know. They’re all here.”
I sigh. This is getting old fast. “For the last time, Spike. You can’t stay here.”
He turns away and mumbles something I can’t make out.
“Say that again?”
“I’ve got nowhere else to go.”
“What about your crypt?”
When he doesn’t answer, I grab him by his shoulder. He hisses in pain. I let go with a panicky yelp, before I realize that no, my touch is not burning him. I merely touched one of his burns by accident. At least now, when he looks at me, he seems focused. “Spike, can we go to your crypt?”
“Not going there,” he chokes out. “Memories. Too many memories.”
I get that. I think of the apartment and how empty it feels without Anya. If the crypt is ruled out, that doesn’t leave a load of options. I wouldn’t dream of letting him near Buffy and Dawn, so that’s a definite no-no. Magic Box basement? Maybe not, since he and Anya tried to beat the snot out of each other last night. Well, someone’s gotto put up with him and – like I thought - that someone’s gonna be me. Swell!
We get out of the school basement without incident. I mean, Spike mutters a lot, and needs some coaxing, but in the end I get him into the car.
“Where are you taking me?” he asks.
“My place,” I answer curtly, still struggling with the idea of ‘Spike Trek II – The Return of the Evil Roomie.’ “But hands off my stuff! I haven’t forgotten about my lamp and the radio.”
Good question. I just shrug.
Ten silent minutes later I pull into the condo’s parking lot and get out of the car. “Come on, we’re here.”
He follows me up the stairs. He seems alert, attentive. Checks the place out casually, like a thief who’s memorizing possible escape routes. I unlock the door and walk inside. Spike hovers on the outside.
“Get your butt inside, Spike.”
He hesitates, then steps into the apartment.
I close the door and watch his face as he looks around, taking in TV, kitchenette, microwave, and finally the old orange recliner chair – ugly but comfy.
“Okay, as you can see, this is the living room,” I babble, suddenly inexplicably nervous. I point at the various doors. “That’s my room over there. And this is the bathroom. You should take a shower. You’re definitely ripe, Spike.”
He gives no sign that he’s heard me.
“You gonna tie me up again?” he asks with a nod towards the chair.
“Do I have to?”
“That depends,” he says, sounding more Spike-y by the minute.
“On what?” I ask nervously.
“On what you want.”
“Huh? What? Want?”
“You brought me here for a reason.”
“Maybe I just want to help. Have you thought of that, Spike?”
He arches his eyebrow warily. “Yeah, and next they’ll be handing out ice-skates in hell.” He starts pacing. “Nothing ever comes without a price. Had a hundred and fifty years to learn that lesson. And since I already offered my helpin’ hand, fighting the beasties of the hellmouth and such…” suddenly he’s standing before me, much too close for comfort, “…there must be something else. Something. You. Want. From. Me.”
I swallow. I’m beginning to think that bringing him here may have been a big mistake. He doesn’t think he’s here because I want to be… ‘serviced,’ does he? God, I hope not. Okay, the thought makes my body tingle in a totally unwelcome way, but hey, I can handle it.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Spike.” Yeah, try denial.
Spike’s body radiates tension. He’s like a coiled snake, ready to strike. Suddenly his hand is on my neck, as he grabs my hair almost painfully. Before I know what’s going on, I’ve got my back against the wall and his other hand between my legs. His face is only inches away from me.
“That what you want, Harris?” he asks, as his fingers tighten on my hard-on. My heart races, my mouth is dry and I break out in a sweat. Mortal fear mingles with arousal and disgust.
I’m unable to answer. I mean, what am I supposed to say, when he’s kinda fondling the evidence?
He gives me a truly evil smile, the kind I haven’t seen on him for quite a while. “Always figured you for a shirt lifter, Harris,” he says smoothly. “I’ve eaten enough faggots to know the signs.” His grip on my balls tightens, bordering on painful.
God, this can’t be happening. I’d struggle, except I’m kinda rooted to the spot.
“You know, you had your chance in that church. Wasn’t playing with a full deck, then. But I’m better now,” he says menacingly. “So, I’m telling you: If you try to get a leg over, I’ll strangle you with your own soddin’ entrails, even if the bleedin’ chip fixes me for good.”
His words are like a kick in the balls. This is worse than standing naked in front of the whole chemistry class. This is worse than being dressed up in a stuffed out bra and girl’s underwear and being made to dance in front of the whole fraternity. Worse even than my clumsy strip show at The Fabulous Ladies Night Club, where the string of my unmentionable popped in mid-action. I guess this must be the single most humiliating moment of my whole life.
“Fucking six-pound note,” Spike explodes. “How desperate do you think I am?” With that he lets go, giving me one last shove that’s hard enough to set off his chip, for he clutches his head in obvious pain. “I don’t need you,” he bellows, “or the soddin’ Scoobies. Don’t need anybody.”
More profanities pour out of him, but I’m not even listening anymore. All I hear is my own furious heartbeat and a strange roar in my ears.
“I’ll go when I bloody well please.” He roars, picks up a chair and hurls it across the room. It hits the recliner chair, bounces off and ricochets into a lamp, smashing it into a thousand pieces.
Okay, that would be my cue for a hasty retreat. Maybe a dash for the front door? No, he’s too close. I’d never get it open. I turn around and run into the bedroom. I slam the door behind me, lock it and put a chair underneath the doorknob. My legs are weak and I slide down to the floor, my back against the door. Congratulations! Now you’re a prisoner in your own bedroom.
I press my ear against the door. No more crashing sounds from the other side. Just a strange manic laughter. I half expect him to go Jack Nicholson (only without the axe) and pound his way right through the door to try and grab me, but nothing like that happens.
Seconds stretch into minutes. I listen, but I can’t hear a thing. For a moment I feel like he’s directly on the other side of the door. I hold my breath. Then the feeling is gone.
Hours later I’m still sitting there. I must have fallen asleep somehow. According to the alarm clock it’s 4.30 am. I’m hungry and thirsty, and I desperately need to pee.
I’m sure Spike’s gone. Probably grabbed what money he could find, nicked the stereo, raided the fridge and left. Here’s hoping. I remove the chair, unlock the door and tiptoe into the living room. It’s dark, but a thin strip of light is visible underneath the bathroom door and I can hear water running. Maybe he showered and left the water running? Only one way to find out.
When I open the door, I am hit by cold humidity.
Spike sits huddled in the bathtub. Butt-naked. The shower is running, pelting him with ice-cold water. He’s shivering. A rusty liquid the color of thin tea rushes towards the drain, and is swallowed in a swirl.
“Won’t come off,” he says in a small voice. He’s gripping the nail brush with hands that are slippery with blood and scrubbing away with it like mad. “Just won’t…”
He looks up, like a drowning man, his desperation palpable.
That’s when I finally connect the dots.
Continued in Part Five