By Annie Sewell-Jennings
Sequel to The Waiting Season
Chapter Fourteen: Downpour
The man's smile only broadened. "But I am. And I heard that this was the place to find such information. In fact, Miss Rosenberg, I was told that you were the girl to see if I wanted some information on the matter."
Willow flinched and averted her eyes. Something was very, very wrong here. She could feel it all around her. Bad magic, dark magic, and a rage that was incomprehensible. Rage that she'd tasted only once in her life.
This was how it felt when she killed Warren.
"No," she said. "I don't know who told you that, but they're wrong. We don't carry anything on resurrections, and I don't do that sort of thing."
"Not anymore, you mean," the man said. He took a step closer to her, and she instantly compensated by stepping away. He just kept grinning. "But once upon a time, you knew exactly how to do it, didn't you? You had the power, and you knew how to use it. You still have the power, don't you, little witch?"
"No." Her voice sounded weaker; oh God, where were the others? "I don't.... Who are you?"
The man clucked his tongue. "How rude of me. I know your name, and yet you don't know mine. I'm Martin Glaze. Now, tell me, Willow, how does one raise the dead? Must I slaughter an innocent creature like you did? Should I slit its throat and wear its blood? Does it have to be a fawn, or will a different sort of animal do the trick?"
She couldn't breathe. The air around her was thicker than water, and she was drowning. Blindly, Willow grabbed at the wall for support as Martin Glaze moved ever closer, and then she was backed up against a wall, trying to keep her heart from pounding. "I think you should leave," she whispered.
"Oh, but I haven't got what I came for...."
"You heard her. Get out."
Anya had heard nothing of the conversation up to this point, but she didn't need to hear a word. She'd felt it in the stockroom. Felt it burn and boil inside her blood, hiss and howl in her brain. Vengeance. The man reeked of it. And this was no ordinary call for revenge. This man sought vengeance against the entire world.
Calmly, Anya took another step closer and shot a glance in Willow's direction. The redhead was plastered against the wall, her eyes closed and her face pale. Sweat beaded across her brow, and Anya knew that she could feel it, too. "Get away from her," Anya ordered. "This is my shop. My property. If you're harassing my employees, then you need to leave."
The man turned that empty, dead smile on her. "But I'm a paying customer," he said smoothly. He had the kind of voice that spoke of shady business deals and dark secrecy. "I came here looking for assistance."
"We have nothing here for you."
"Is that so, Anyanka?" When he said her full name, Anya felt her blood go cold. The hair on her arms rose, and she could feel gooseflesh itch across her skin. "This is your line of work, after all. If Miss Rosenberg won't assist me, then certainly I can come to you. After all, you've come out of retirement, haven't you?"
"I don't do that kind of business," she said coldly. "Not for your type. And I don't exactly take kindly to men who call on me for my services."
"But I am your type. I come seeking vengeance, Anyanka. You're obligated to assist me."
A few gliding steps and the man was standing right in front of her. Anya did not like what she saw. She trusted her eyes and her ears, her primal senses, and she could tell point blank that this man was Very Bad News. He would hurt and maim and kill and not think twice about it. When he turned that oily smile on her, she wanted to disappear. "But you haven't been meeting your obligations recently, have you? You've been slacking off on the job. Why bother taking up your old profession if you won't help those who need you? I need blood. You need me."
"And you need to back the fuck away from her before I have to get violent," Buffy snapped.
In one swift motion, she grabbed the man by his collar and shoved him across the room. Suddenly, Xander was there and Giles, too, and all three of them made a protective barrier around them. Anya barely registered Xander's warm hand on her shoulder. Everything felt hazy, like the air was full of smoke. She was having trouble breathing.
The man just laughed and grinned at her. "Ah, the Slayer," he said. "Always up for a round of crash and bash, aren't you? No need. I'll go. I don't need your assistance, anyway. I've got my own stock set up. The blood of four will open the door."
"Great," Buffy said. "Now why don't you open the door and leave?"
"I just came with a message from Mr. Lucas," he said. Buffy's eyes snapped to his, and he smiled at her. "That's right, Miss Summers. He wanted you to know that last night, your vampire dreamed of raping you. He dreamt of forcing you to the bathroom floor and taking, taking, taking, and when he woke up, he was hard and-"
But he did not get to finish his sentence, because Giles punched him in the face.
The man staggered backwards, and Giles stood over him with a glare that made Anya wonder just who Rupert Giles used to be. "Get out," he said coldly. "And if you know what's best for you, you won't return."
All he did was smile. "So sorry to disrupt your business. Have a lovely day."
Without another word, Martin Glaze gave them all a smile, turned on his heel, and walked out the door.
Buffy did not open her eyes until he was gone.
They sat on the steps for a very long time and did not say a word.
Understood that, he did. Understood everything the moment Dawn staggered up the front walk and gave him those awkward, wary eyes of her. Eyes that knew, and told him everything. There were tearstains on her pretty face, and in the pale gray light of the rainy afternoon, she looked absolutely terrified. Just stood there under the shade of her umbrella and stared at him, until Spike gave her a faltering smile and called her his bit.
And then she'd thrown her arms around him and they just stayed that way for a good, long while.
Good. Yeah, it was good. Felt nice, just to be surrounded in her fresh-girl scent, tainted by the cigarettes he'd been smoking all morning long. If Spike closed his eyes, he could pretend that it was last summer. Last summer, when everything had been so awful and miserable, and Dawn would hug him at strange intervals just because she'd needed a bit of love. And he'd needed it, too. Needed her hugs, because she smelled like Buffy.
But now, when he smelled that Summers-scent all hot under her freckled skin, Spike only felt worse.
Well, that was unexpected. Spike blinked, turned his head and looked at her. She did not return his gaze. "What's that about, love? Don't got anything to be sorry about, you do."
She sniffled; he supposed that she must have been crying again. Dammit; he hadn't noticed. Got all lost inside himself and forgot to pay attention. "Yes, I do," she said. "I spent all summer trying to hate you. And I tried really hard at it, too. But I couldn't, because I still loved you."
A wry smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. "So, you're sorry that you couldn't get up enough hate for your old pal Spike?"
The look that she gave him was one of absolute mortification. "No!" she protested. "God, Spike. Don't tell me that you're going to start getting all low-self-esteemy on me now, just because you have a...."
"A soul, pet," he said gently. "That's what I've got. Don't be so much like your sis that you can't say the word."
Wasn't surprising, this hesitance. She was a great deal like her sister, even though she always tried so hard to separate herself from her older sibling. But when Buffy had pulled herself from the bed this morning, she had turned on her side and kissed him. Told him that she loved him. Told him to stay here, not to leave, that she'd be back in a little while. And then she'd asked his permission to tell them about the soul. Only she couldn't say the word.
And she'd never looked him in the eyes.
So here was Dawn, his little bit, sitting here on the steps beside him. Not looking at him. She tugged at her lower lip with her teeth, and sighed. "I'm sorry that I tried to hate you, Spike. I'm so sorry. Because I meant what I told you at the crypt the other day. You were my best friend. You still are. I just couldn't...." Another teardrop sluiced down her cheek, and Spike sighed. Ached to wrap his arms around her, tell her that everything would be all right.
But he didn't want to make any promises he couldn't keep.
Instead, he just crooked his finger and brushed the tears off her face. "Ah, now. None of that, bit. Had every right to try and hate me, you did. Still do. Did some terrible, nasty things to you and the Slayer, even though I love my girls more than anything on this godforsaken planet."
Spike didn't see the slap coming, though he should've. Those Summers girls, oh, how he loved them.
Dawn glared at him with venomous, hurt eyes, and Spike was impressed by the way his cheek stung. "Don't say things like that!" she cried. "You always loved this planet, Spike. Don't tell me that you hate it now, just because you have a stupid soul." For a terrible moment, he was afraid that she might start crying again, but instead, her voice went all soft and whispery. "Has everything changed now? Are you completely different? Is it like it was with--"
"Don't even say that," Spike growled. "Not like it was with him, not at all. Still me, I am. Just a fucked-up version of me. Well, even more fucked-up, as the case may be. And that's the rub, isn't it? Went off to go get a soul, thinking it'd fix everything up right and proper, and I'd be good enough for your big sis. And instead, I'm sitting on her front steps and things haven't changed a bit. Not a damn bit."
A warm little finger suddenly trailed down his cheek, and there were Dawn's big hazel eyes, all wide with worry. "Oh, Spike."
He was so damn tired of crying.
Tired. Good word, that one. Tired of everything. Tired of the way that everything that once felt good now hurt like the dickens. Everything was so fucking confusing, and Spike didn't have a clue as to what he was supposed to do about any of this. He'd gotten a soul to please her, and instead, it seemed to just push her away. Got the soul to make him better, and instead, it just made him worse. He'd gone to Africa looking for answers.
And all he had were questions.
Dawn sighed, pulled him in close and wrapped her arms around him. And he let her, because God, he'd missed her. "I'm glad you didn't change," she said. "I like you just the way you are. But just remember -- if you hurt my sister, I will totally kick your scrawny white ass all over Sunnydale."
For the first time in what felt like forever, Spike smiled and meant it.
When he pulled away, he gave her that grin. Tugged at a handful of her glossy hair. "And you'd do well to remember that just 'cause I've got a soul don't mean I won't rip off that boy's head if he breaks my bit's heart," he said slyly. "Don't think I didn't see the two of you last night. All cozy and cuddly on the sofa." He clucked his tongue at her. "Naughty niblet."
Dawn turned pink. "There was nothing naughty! No naughtiness! We just fell asleep. Besides, I don't need to hear it from you. Buffy already read me the riot act about how boys are icky before she left this afternoon."
"Damn right." Spike then nudged her with his elbow. "Hand me my smokes, pidge, and tell me all about your lad. Grown up without me, you have."
Ah, there was that smile. That big, goofy Dawn Summers grin that was all her own. She shoved at him playfully and passed him his cigarettes. "Shut up. He's just a guy. A really, really nice guy, but a guy nonetheless." But the look on her face said that he was more than "just a guy." The girl was all aglow. A sharp pang of affection ripped through him, and Spike had sudden difficulty lighting his cigarette.
Loved her so much that if her sister didn't do him in, then this one would.
The purr of a motor interrupted his thoughts, and both of them turned their heads as a shiny red Honda pulled into the driveway. The way that Dawn's face lit up at the sight of the car told him exactly who had come a-calling. "That's Trey," she grinned. "I kind of had ulterior motives when I came back. Trey said he'd stop by around four and we'd go to the movies, and--" Suddenly, she paled. "Oh my God. It's all rainy, and my face is all teary, and these boots don't really match this top, and--"
Spike sighed and crushed out his cigarette under his boot. "Go inside and wash up," he said. "Change your clothes a dozen times, whatever it is you silly birds do whenever there's a boy involved. I'll take care of the lad, right?"
She gave him a grateful look and stood up, rushing for the door. Spike chuckled after her, and then turned his attention to the tall, dark-skinned boy running through the rain towards the front porch. Good -- little time alone with the lad was just what he wanted. Had to size him up, make sure he had a pulse and wouldn't try to corrupt his girl.
Boy seemed pleasant enough. Extended his hand, gave him a grin that had probably melted a dozen girls' hearts. Had a pair of wire-rimmed glasses on his nose and a good, solid handshake. "Hey, I don't think we've met yet," he said. "I'm Trey Baldwin. Just moved into town a couple of weeks ago."
Spike nodded at him, and then reached down for another cigarette. "Spike."
Trey nodded. "You're Buffy's boyfriend?"
Oh, what a loaded question. She'd told him she loved him. Kept him in her bed, gave him kisses and comfort, but as far as their relationship went? It'd always be a complicated mess, soul or no soul. He just smiled tightly. "Something like that. Friend of Dawn's. Take it you're here to see her, is that right?"
When the boy grinned, Spike knew. Could read that look a mile away. This was the look of a man enthralled. Didn't quite know if this was love yet, but Trey's eyes lit up just as Dawn's had earlier. "Yeah," he smiled. "She around?"
"She'll be down in a bit. Something I've got to talk to you about, first."
Before Trey could say anything else, Spike grabbed the boy's shirt in his fist and leaned in close. "You break my bit's heart and I'll rip your lungs out through your eye sockets," Spike hissed. "I'll hurt you so bad you'll have to revise your definition of the word 'pain.' And trust me, mate, I've had a lot of practice in the torture department."
Spike shoved the boy backward and gave him a dazzling grin. "Well, I feel better. Care for a cuppa while we're waiting, then?"
Trey didn't say a word; he just stared at Spike with wide, terrified eyes and made an barely audible "squeak."
Fortunately, Dawn came to his rescue. She bounded through the door with her hair all knotted up at the back of her head, wearing a black slip-dress that looked vaguely familiar (and probably came from Buffy's closet) and a pair of boots that made her look entirely too old for fresh-out-of-fifteen. "All right!" she chirped, looping her arm through Trey's. "We'll be back around seven. Spike, tell Buffy not to worry and that I'm not going to see an R-rated movie, and I've got my cell phone on me if she wigs. I'll see you later!"
Spike just waved at her as the boy stared at him in absolute horror while Dawn carted him off towards the car. He grinned. Still got it.
But his smile faded when he saw the way that Dawn and Trey were looking at each other. All enamored and full of young love-to-be. Dangerous stuff, love. Spike knew that one well. Remembered the way that the boy's hand had cupped Dawn's pale knee last night, the way that her eyes went all starry when he brought the subject up. The little bit was all grown up, and just waiting to get her heart crushed to smithereens.
Be careful, sweetbreads. Don't let your heart run away with itself. Love him if you must, but don't you love him too much. Don't get so swept away that you can't find your way back to earth.
Don't end up like me.
As the car pulled away from the curb, Dawn stared out the passenger window at the vampire standing underneath the porch. Still draped in his leather, still wreathed in his cigarette smoke. It didn't matter that he now radiated pain and was made heavy with sorrow. Underneath all of the grief and regret, she could still feel him. The same guy who'd taught her how to cheat at poker and taught her about punk music. The same guy who loved her and her sister beyond all logic or reason.
He was still Spike.
Trey swallowed hard. "You know, your sister's boyfriend is kind of scary."
Dawn smiled. "I know."
Buffy had not slept at all the night before.
Couldn't sleep. Not when Spike was curled up beside her, shaking and moaning his way through nightmares. He'd slept on his side, his back to her, taking up as little space as possible, so she just pressed herself against his back and felt him shiver and shudder all through the night. Had to stay awake for him. She'd been terrified that she might accidentally fall asleep and he would be gone. And besides that, she was so overwhelmed, so absolutely thrown, that sleep was an impossibility.
She was tired. Exhausted, even. She was angry, and confused, and hurt. Buffy had a million questions and not a single answer for any of them. The last twenty-four hours were an emotional roller-coaster, and she had a sinking feeling that the ride had only just begun.
She could not cope with all of this, so she was exceedingly grateful to the opportunity to just push it all to the back of her mind and deal with Martin Glaze.
"Tell me what you've got, Will," Buffy said as she paced back and forth behind her friend.
Willow frowned, typed in a few more words into the search engine. "Well, we've shot down lie number one," she muttered. "Apparently, Martin Glaze isn't as new in town as he claimed. He lived in Sunnydale for about four years, but in 1995, he moved to Boston. According to the DMV, he just re-applied for his California driver's license only a week ago."
"Why on earth would anyone ever want to leave Sunnydale?" Xander asked, and then he fake-winced. "Oh, right. Because of all the earth-shaking evil and apocalypse. How could I forget?"
"I don't know, Marty seemed like the kind of guy who'd be attracted to that sort of thing," Buffy said. "Maybe he had a bad magic experience. You know, the Hellmouth went all wonky on him or something."
But Willow frowned and shook her head. "He didn't feel like a magic kind of guy," she said. "I mean, yeah, there were some dark mojo vibes about him, but not in a heavy way, you know? I got the impression that either he was really inexperienced or they weren't his vibes."
"Oh, they weren't his vibes," Anya said. "I could tell. He was all about the vengeance, but he didn't have any natural magical affinity."
"Well, if Mr. Glaze couldn't have come to these conclusions about us through his own magical talents, or lack thereof, then I think it's safe to assume that our mysterious Mr. Lucas gave him all of his information," Giles muttered. He looked away from a dusty text long enough to meet Buffy's eyes. "After all, you said that he had rather private information about both you and Spike last night."
"And then it's probably also safe to assume that Drake's responsible for the extra-creepy photograph," she said. "Great. So, we've got a vampire with either a freaky sort of sixth sense or the best informants money can buy, plus a total freak-head with a thirst for vengeance against all humanity. And they're working together. Oh, this is going to be fun."
"Oh, this isn't good," Willow said suddenly, and Buffy turned her attention to the redhead and her laptop. "I did a search on Martin Glaze's name through the Sunnydale News & Courier and found out why he left Sunnydale seven years ago. Turns out that he had a son, Brandon. He died of leukemia."
"The pain was too much for him," Giles said softly, and Buffy winced. God, she knew that feeling. Remembered it all too well. In those first awful weeks after her mother's death, Buffy had wanted to leave the house in the worst of ways. Wanted to get away from how everything still smelled like her mom's perfume. Everything was painted in memory, too bright and too vivid.
"And that explains why he was asking about resurrection," Anya murmured. "His anger.... He wants vengeance for the death of his son. That's why it felt so unfocused. He doesn't know who he's angry at, but believe me, he's definitely more than just a little pissed off. He wants to bring his son back to life."
Clawing at the dirt. Everything is harsh. Everything is bright and dark and terrible. Cold. So cold. Everything is loud and awful and silent. Has to get out, has to breathe. Has to get out of this place. Climb out of this hell and then she'll be back in heaven, but when she gets into the moonlight, she knows that she'll never get back.
She flinched. Closed her eyes. "No," Buffy said. "No. He can't.... We can't let him do it. Not after what...."
"Buffy," Xander said softly, "it'll be all right. We won't let him do anything, all right? Besides, no more urns of Osiris. The ritual's gone; he won't find any information about it here. We sent him away, remember?"
She could feel her head pounding already. Resurrection. It was one of the dirtiest words she knew. "Willow," she murmured, "how old was Brandon Glaze when he died?"
Willow looked away. "Eight years old."
She could not let this happen. She could not let an eight-year-old boy be dragged out of heaven and thrown back into this world. She'd been twenty when it happened to her, and it had almost destroyed her. And God, how this kid must've suffered before. Ravaged by disease, finally released into some kind of sanctuary, only to be ripped out....
They never learn, do they? They just keep making the same mistakes, over and over again, and you just keep on protecting them. Give up everything for the world, and what does the world do in return? It takes. It just keeps on taking until there's nothing left.
Oh, Buffy was so very tired.
There was blood on his forehead. There was the smell of smoke and burning things. The airbag hadn't gone off. Everything hurt. The seatbelt hadn't held him right, and his neck hurt. His head hurt. Fuck, everything hurt. It all just hurt.
I didn't see it, I didn't see the car coming, but it was on the wrong side of the road. It was coming right for me.
There was an accident. There was metal crashing into metal, and he'd hit the brakes as hard as he could, but he couldn't avoid it. And then his head hit the windshield, and he couldn't see anymore. He heard things, fuzzy sounds. The hiss of the engine. The crunching of steel. He heard car doors opening and there was a girl's voice screaming beside him, and then the screaming went away and he fell asleep.
Dawn. Oh, God. Dawn.
Trey's eyes snapped open, but it was too late, and she was gone.
There was blood in his eyes, and he swiped at it. Felt sick and dizzy. There was the other car, right in front of him, but it was empty. Nobody home. And it was raining, and the passenger seat was empty. Dawn. She was gone. Taken away, removed. He'd heard her screaming. She was screaming his name, and he'd passed out. He'd failed her. Failed her.
"Dawn," he rasped hoarsely. Had to find her, had to get help. Clumsily, Trey reached for the seatbelt and unbuckled himself. As soon as he stumbled out of the car, he fell to his knees and vomited. Couldn't help it, his stomach hurt and he felt dazed and sick to his stomach. But then he felt a little better, and it didn't matter that he was kneeling in a dirty puddle, because the cold was good. The rain was good.
He could do this.
So he pulled himself to his feet and started to move. There was blood in his eyes and rain on his back, and he stumbled away from the site of the accident. Looked around at the dark that was falling all around him, and how long was he out? Didn't know, didn't matter. Had to find help. Had to find Dawn. Had to....
He walked. He tried to keep himself from falling. Kept himself moving. He walked up the front steps of the house and knocked on the door. Cried out for help. For anyone who was there. Beat on the door with his fists until it opened, and there stood the boyfriend. The one who'd threatened to kill him if....
"Spike," Trey gasped. "It's Dawn.... There was an accident, and she's gone, and I don't know what happened to her, and I lost her, and there was screaming, and I'm so sorry, and--" He felt himself sway and sob. "I'm so sorry, I don't know what happened, I'm so sorry, I'm so...."
Then Trey couldn't hold on any longer, and he burst into tears.
Continued in Chapter Fifteen: Sinking Ships