Genre/Warnings: Angst, episode related, AU, vague spoilers up to 7.08 "Sleeper"
Thanks to Abbylee for her help.
When I get home, Spike is in his room. I can hear him talking to himself. Great, I’m sharing my apartment not just with Spike, but with his invisible friends as well. I just hope his friends don’t talk him into doing anything stupid. When I go to bed I go through the better-safe-than-sorry routine: Chair under the doorknob – check. Stake under pillow – check. Could my life get any spookier?
Apparently yes, because come next morning there’s still no Willow. Instead, we get a flayed body at the construction site. Then Buffy comes up with the plan of asking Spike whether he knows anything. Uh-oh.
“That would be a waste of time, Buff,” I say. “Whatever evil thing did this, I don’t think Spike has the inside scoop. He wasn’t here last night.”
“And you know that because?”
“I… um… he was at my place last night.” Ugh, that didn’t come out right. “He’s living in my closet now.” Crap, that doesn’t sound better, either.
“He’s where?” Buffy snaps incredulously, eyes big. “Are you nuts?”
“No, but Spike is. Very much making with the crazy. So I…uh… thought I should keep an eye on the guy. Make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid… --er than usual.”
“Hey, newsflash, you’re the one who sees red whenever Spike’s name is mentioned. The one who always brings up that… what he did. And now you go and invite him to stay with you? Without even telling me?”
“I thought the less you have to do with him, the better,” I say defensively as we walk to the car. “After what he did…”
“That’s not for you to decide,” Buffy tells me icily. “Regardless of what happened, Spike’s a vampire. One who may be connected to whatever evil is coming for us next. It’s my business to know where he is and what he does.”
I toss the hard hat on the back seat and start the car. The drive to my apartment is punctuated by a number of oh so casual questions that don’t fool me for a minute:
“Did he say where he was all that time?”
“Who cares? Wherever he went, he should’ve stayed there.”
Long pause. Then: “How is he? His mind, I mean. Still—“
“Crazy? You betcha. Talks to himself.”
Two traffic lights later: “Well, as long as he’s harmless…”
I just nod, pretending that driving requires all my attention. This would be the right moment to tell her about the soul. But if he wanted her to know he would have told her, wouldn’t he?
We reach the condo and take the stairs to the second floor when I hear Spike’s voice coming from somewhere ahead. What’s going on?
“Heard all about you,” he’s saying. “How you skinned that guy. Always thought you had it in you!” Swell. Talk about skinning people in my hallway, why don’t you? The neighbors are gonna love this.
“Did he just say skinning?” Buffy and I exchange a glance. Oh right. The body.
“You sure you don’t wanna stay? I’m sure he wouldn’t mind.” Spike says, his voice raised.
Buffy breaks into a run, taking two steps at a time. I follow her at a trot. When I reach the landing, whoever Spike was talking to is gone. There’s no one in the hallway, just Buffy and Spike. Who is wearing nothing but his pants. I try not to stare. I check for invisible people, instead.
“Buffy?” Spike asks softly.
“Spike, what’s going on?” Buffy wants to know, her voice stern and businesslike but I can see the way she’s looking at the scars on his chest. Almost like she cares.
“You look beautiful,” Spike says instead of answering, looking almost bashful. Like Buffy’s the holy grail. It obviously makes her uncomfortable.
“Who skinned whom, Spike?” she asks.
“Could we have a change of scenery for the next act, like maybe the apartment?” I suggest in a lowered voice. “My neighbors are already keeping tabs on me. No need to go Twilight Zone in the hall.” Spike opens the door wide and steps back. We follow him inside. He briskly walks into his room and comes back buttoning up his shirt.
Buffy rests her hands on her hips. “Come on, Spike. Who were you talking to? Who skinned whom? If you know anything about this, you have to tell me.”
“Just heard there’s a body, is all.”
“How do you know?”
“The witch told me.”
“Willow?” I interrupt. “Willow was here?”
Spike gives me a strange glance. “You mean you didn’t see her?”
“No. When? Just now?”
“Probably wasn’t her then. Maybe it was just in my head. It’s a bit crowded in there, of late.”
Buffy frowns, as uncomfortable with his ramblings than I am. “What happened to your hands?” She nods at the bandages.
He hides them behind his back. “It’s nothing.”
There is an uncomfortable silence. “Right, if you two will excuse me…” Spike hesitates, then walks into his room and shuts the door.
You know what’s scary? Hearing a 15-year-old girl talk about viscera, puddles of blood and skin-eating demons. Bleagh! And weird? Tracking said demon by using Spike as a bloodhound. And not funny? Dawn’s comment when Buffy tells her that I’ve got Spike unliving in my apartment: “You think Xander’s under a spell or something?”
Much much later, when I get home, Spike is sitting in front of the TV. He wordlessly turns it off, puts the remote on the table and heads for his room. In the doorway he pauses.
“Did you find her then?” he asks.
“Willow? Yeah we found her.” I still cringe inwardly at the intense neediness I heard in her voice. ‘You’re here, you’re here!’ For a while I thought she’d never let me out of her sight again.
“Was it her did the killing? She dead? Slayer kill her?”
“No! Of course not. It was a demon called Gnarl, that was responsible for the flaying. Willow wouldn’t do that kind of thing.” Okay, in the light of what happened that sounds like denial in capital letters. But she wouldn’t, okay? I know she wouldn’t. It was a one time crazy thing that’s so not gonna happen again.
“You smell of blood.”
“Oh? Yea, she… That thing, it hurt her. It was going to…” The thought still makes me shudder. And why am I wasting precious sleep time talking to him? Are we having a conversation?
“Eat her, I know. Heard about the fellow. Peels ‘em like an apple.”
“Thanks for the image, Spike. If that’s not going to give me sweet dreams, then nothing will.”
But he’s not really listening to me. There’s a worried look on his face and he snaps around, staring into the empty space of his room and backing away from it. “No. That’s your MO, not mine. Go away you skanky bitch, not talking to you!”
See, this is what I’ve had to put up with the past two days. Just when you think he makes some sense, he starts talking to invisible people again. “There’s no one in there, Spike. Who do you see? Someone you killed?” Wouldn’t that be some kind of poetic justice? Is that why he went nuts, because that soul acts like a giant slide show in his head, populating the world with the faces of the people he murdered?
“Not quite,” he mumbles.
“Who do you see?” I ask again.
“No one,” he says quietly. “Told you, I’m insane.”
I’m too tired to pursue the matter any further. Bedroom. Chair. Doorknob. Stake. I fall asleep in mid-wank.
Continued in Part Seven