By Annie Sewell-Jennings
Sequel to The Waiting Season
SUMMARY: As old friends return to Sunnydale and life begins to move on, a new adversary comes to town and shows Buffy more about herself than she ever wanted to know. B/S
SPOILERS: Through "Grave"
DISCLAIMER: The characters within this story are the property of Mutant Enemy Productions, except for the ones that you don't recognize, because I made them up all by my lonesome. Aren't I cool? No? Shut up. You don't know me. Bitch. Music will be disclaimed as it is used, and it will be used occasionally. Like in this chapter. Really, it will.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I have had this idea brewing in my head for what seems like an eternity, and only now is it finally coming together on paper. Or screen. Whatever. Anyway, the necromancy information is a combination of genuine research and Lovecraft's mythology, as well as some embellishments from yours truly. It may help if you read my The Waiting Season series of vignettes to help establish this story, and those are also on my site.
I'd just like to make a shout-out to my beta dawg, Devil Piglet. Big props to her mad grammar skillz. You know you a pimp.
Also, special props to my girl, wisteria, who helped me so very much with this chapter, and for being one of the coolest chicks ever. Seriously.
Chapter Six: Glory Box
Playing with this bow and arrow
Gonna give my heart away
Leave it for the other girls to play
For I've been a temptress too long
Give me a reason to love you
Give me a reason to be a woman
I just want to be a woman
--Portishead, "Glory Box"
The night was still, calm, without a trace of motion. No wind blew through the heavy boughs of the willow trees, and the lake by Miller's Point was still, without ripples, a perfect liquid mirror. Only starlight illuminated the tranquil scenery, and the heat beat down onto the town even in the dark hours between sundown and sunup.
Buffy destroyed the mood completely.
Blindly, she stumbled through the cemetery, shedding crumpled papers as she walked. Her fist was balled up, knuckles white and grasping documents, photographs, letters and printouts. Evidence of all of his crimes, accusations waiting to spring from her lips.
Of course, she had no one to accuse but herself.
All of those names. All of those people. They did not matter to Spike, the soulless, unrepentant vampire with the heart of fool's gold. But they mattered to her. They were the proof that there was something wrong with her own heart, that it could cry out for him, after all of the terrible things that he had done. Giles could tell her to follow her heart, to trust in her instincts, but all that Buffy owned was a single, potentially damning question:
She could not do this anymore, this constant wondering about who he really was underneath all of the sinful sinews. Photography taught her nothing, displaying all of his finery and mystery, and the documentation Giles had given her just offered more doubts. Absence had only made her heart grow weary, and now she was going to demand the truth from him. He would tell her who he was, what he was, and if nothing was going to furnish her the answers, then she was going to take them.
Who were you before you were turned?
Why do you love me?
What happened to you in Africa?
Why don't you want to see me anymore?
But then she saw him, and all of her uncertainty fell silent.
Underneath a stone fountain of an angel weeping, Spike stood naked, head tipped back, his brilliant body fully exposed. Moonlight gave his white skin an indigo tint, his startling lightning hair wet and clinging to his forehead in drooping curls. Long, tapering fingers ran through the rakish mess of blond, eyes closed, charcoal lashes dipping onto his angular cheekbones.
He was all angles, her beloved Spike, spare and economical, thin and lean like a panther compared to her other, more ursine lovers. The protrusion of his hipbones, the cradle of his pelvis, his cock flaccid but thick between his legs, stark against the thatch of dark hair. Her eyes crawled all over him like her hands craved to do, touching every joint, every bone, every muscle.
The papers scattered around her along with her inhibitions, and Buffy lifted the camera hanging around her neck, mindful to turn the flash off, and began to snap pictures. Details, the minor keys, the etching between the lines of his savage beauty.
The nape of his neck, covered with beads of water.
Flat male nipple, dark and dusky against the chalk of his skin.
Water turning his hair darker, like tarnished silver.
But she made a fatal mistake; she lowered her camera and looked down at the ground, at the photographs and documents scattered around her. The wide eyes of a woman, pregnant, her great stomach ripped open and the umbilical cord streaming out of it, insides exposed. They never found the fetus. Something dark -- bloody and bitter -- rolled in her own stomach, and when she looked back up at him, she saw nothing but death.
Blinking, Spike looked up, water pouring over his shoulders, cleansing him, washing all of his wrongs from his skin. He had not even noticed her standing there, surrounded by papers and pictures, her camera around her neck as always. Fists balled up, signifying that she was in furious hellcat mode, ready to slash at him with her lavender-polished claws.
"What?" he asked, confused, and Buffy leaned down, picking up a piece of paper. She marched up to him, not mindful of his nudity, but then again, neither was he.
"Carmen Lawton!" she hissed, gritting her teeth. "1952. Chicago. What, you don’t remember her? Just one of many in your sick line of fucked-up victims? Is it all a big blur to you, Spike? Everything that you did?"
Fear and guilt started to creep up inside of his mind, crawling through his veins, insinuating itself into the very core of his being. Dread. This was the way that dread felt, magnified by his newfound conscience. Fuck, he didn't know if he could do this with her. Play this game, join this dance, when he didn't know the rules or the steps anymore. Spike was never one for boundaries, but they might have come in handy in this situation. All that he knew how to do was aggravate her.
Spike moved out from underneath the fountain's gentle rain and into her raging cyclone, grabbing a ratty towel and wrapping it around his hips.
"You're babbling, Slayer," he said, his voice rough like gravel. Sloe-eyed, he shot her a smirk. "Not that it doesn't look good on you, but--"
The photograph exploded into full color horror in front of his eyes, blood and skin, dead eyes staring blankly at nothing. Red blood swimming down and staining the sterile sheets, massive stomach ripped apart so that innards spilled out, exposing reproductive organs torn to shreds and an empty cellar where a baby should live.
"No, please, don't," she whispers, hands cupping her distended belly protectively. She's a fragile beam of light in the dark alleyway, all long blonde hair and saddle shoes, her tummy swollen and ripe for the picking. Frantically, she reaches for her purse, offering it to him with shaking fingers. "Take it. You can have whatever you want. Just please, please, don't hurt me."
Beside him, Drusilla is giggling, clapping her hands delightedly, her dark hair rolled into big curls and her striped dress billowing around slender legs. "We can have whatever we want," she says excitedly, and then her fingers tug insistently on his sleeve, like a child begging for candy. "Let's have a baby, Spike. You can be the wicked daddy, and I'll be its mummy, and we'll spoil it rotten."
Harshly, he grabs the back of her skull and crushes her mouth to his, tasting blood and bone in her cold, cruel mouth. Anything for her. Anything she wants.
"Never be more rotten than you are, princess," he mutters into her ear, and then the woman starts to scream.
Stumbling, Spike jerked away from the photograph, flinching from the pain of remembering and realizing. "Yeah," he muttered, wiping a damp hand across his face. Sweat or water? Didn't know. Didn't matter. He stole a glance at her, standing there with her body stern and strict, sheets of paper laid to waste at her feet, trailing back from whence she came. Wincing, he gestured at the littered ground. "See you've done your homework."
"I had to," she said, her voice unflinching. "I had to know what you've done."
What he had done. Stupid fucking girl, thinking that she could learn the magnitude of his evil from reading some sodding scraps of paper, looking at nasty photos, reading dull Watcher data. The pregnant woman and her poor, lost little baby wasn't nearly the beginning. Men, women, children, animals... Oh, he'd done some reprehensible deeds in his extended lifetime, and nothing, nothing, could quantify it into words. He'd tried. Wrote a dozen apologies -- poems, graffiti on walls, etched into his forearms with ballpoint pens -- but each time he would tear them to shreds with his mind. A sequence of letters couldn't even begin to do it sick justice.
The scars on his arms faded away. His crimes never would.
"You want to know what I've done?" Spike asked in a deadly, eerily calm voice, and Buffy felt herself shrink up inside, forced back in time to the upstairs bathroom. The sound of running water from the stone fountain was not helping.
He chuckled a bit, and she caught the faint scent of fresh grass clinging to his skin as he bent down and picked up another photograph, squinting his eyes and tilting it in a couple of different directions. "Oh, yeah. I remember this girl. Little snip of a thing, couldn't have been much older than the bit. Most extraordinary eyes, she had. Big and blue. 'Course, you can't tell in the picture, since I ate them out of the sockets."
Nausea bubbled and churned in her stomach, and Buffy licked her suddenly dry lips, dully watching as he picked up the papers and photographs surrounding her. As he started to describe what he'd done to every victim, every nameless face, every missing appendage or stolen innocence, she started to feel the numbing cold settle into her body again. It was the same feeling she'd had after returning from the dead.
"...And this one, he was a good-looking fellow, sold bathtub gin back in Prohibition," he continued, thoughtfully putting his thumb up under his chin. "Nasty little bugger. Dru used to say that he wore a toupee, but she was wrong. Found that out after we scalped him."
"Stop it," she whispered, and Spike threw the papers at her, the sharp edge of one cutting her cheek. Blood rose up to the cut, but it did not sting worse than his words. How casual he sounded, all in that rippling velveteen voice that used to croon out admissions of love to her.
He was all steel and metal now, jaw tense and eyes throwing hatred into her face, harder and blacker than hematite. "No," he said, his voice barely restrained. "You wanted to know, didn't you now? Got your Watcher to give you all the goods on me. Afraid I went to Africa and got my hardware upgraded?"
A slow, devastating smirk crawled over his lips, and even in the middle of all of this evil, his grotesque photographs scattered all around them in glossy details of gore, Buffy felt her knees go weak. His posture liquefied, easing into that serpentine grace that only Spike possessed, and in his near nudity, it was too much for her to handle. The towel crept lower down his hips, threatening to unfurl completely, and she wanted to kiss that leer right off of his mouth. Oh, God. I'll have to kill him one day.
He got so close to her that she could smell him, that fresh water scent combining with the pungent odor of alcoholism and nicotine addiction, and she closed her eyes, lips parting in spite of herself as he sneered in her face. "See, the thing that I don't get is why the paperwork was really all that necessary," he murmured, his voice rippling through her veins. "Knew what I was before you came here, didn't you. Or did you manage to forget that night in all your happy denial?"
Oh, yes, this was familiar. Just like riding a bike. Slip into the old demeanor, the lecherous leering and the arrogant posturing. Whisper naughties into her ear and make her squirm, make her feel terrible and dirty, just like him. Throw all of his worries into the wind, all for the sake of making Buffy remember exactly who William the Bloody was. A monster. Nothing but a monster. He looked at her from under his lashes, waiting to see the boiling hatred, the revulsion of what he was, laid out on the grass to confront her.
Randomly, he picked up a piece of paper and thrust it at her. Little Greta, the raped girl with a rosary where her heart should have been stared out at her. The one who looked like Dawn. "This is what I am," he hissed. "Look at it. See her? That's me. Don't fool yourself into thinking that there's anymore to me than what you've read, cause there isn't."
Buffy shoved him away from her, knocking the piece of paper out of his hands, desperation and fear filling her empty, numbed body. "Stop it!" she cried. "Stop saying those things! There has to be more to you, there has to be, more than these fucking pictures and stories and, God!" Her voice was rising to a fever-pitch, and she started to pick up his papers, throwing them at him. "Just give me a reason, Spike! Give me one goddamn reason for this!"
"Why?" he shouted back, shoving her with equal force, his fists raging for the chance to fight her. Needed a good brawl, needed a good fucking fight. "I've given you plenty of reasons to hate me over the last couple of years. Why do you have to do this, bring these bloody pictures and papers and shove them in my goddamn face?"
"Because I need a reason to love you!"
Her scream stilled everything, the heat unbearable, sweat beading on her forehead as she started to cry in spite of herself, falling to her knees in front of Spike like a devotee begging for a prayer to be answered. Buffy put her head in her hands, sobs wracking her slender body, all messy blonde hair and berry-brown skin, and it was then that the weight of her words sank in.
She loves me.
Shocked, Spike stared down at her, the woman he'd abused and tried to murder, tried to rape in the comforts of her own home, rocking back and forth on her knees with her face in her hands, telling him that she loved him. It was everything he had ever wanted, all of his hopes and dreams exploding like the Fourth of bloody July fireworks, and it was destroying her.
"I'm in love with you," she confessed, her voice fractured, her eyes pleading as she looked up at him. "I don't know how long, I don't know how at all, but God, Spike, I love you, and I don't get it! I've been trying to figure it out, and I don't understand, and you won't tell me anything but how bad you are."
Desperately, she looked up at him with watery eyes, grabby fingers snatching at the unraveling hem of his towel. "Please," she begged, "please just help me. Give me a reason to feel this way."
He thought of a thousand things that he would have said a year ago. All of those promises that he was hers, that he would die for her, that he would reverse his gravity if it pleased her, filled his head and swam over his vision. Buffy chained up in the depths of the catacomb, grimacing as he begged her for shreds of affection, and the resigned, hollow look on her face as she revoked his invitation. Her fists ramming into his face, little grenades of pain going off in his head as she called him filth, nothing, dead and heartless.
Tender, warm little hands started to brush at his knees, and then he groaned when he felt the heat of her soft, tearstained cheek press against his thigh. Buffy looked up at him, lips parted and eyes liquid in the dark, the very essence of innocence. "Come down to me," she whispered.
Oh, fuck, he could never resist her.
Helplessly, Spike fell to his knees, and her fingers started to travel all over his face, touching every feature, caressing and blessing with her tiny hands. Her lava-hot lips brushed the cliff of his cheekbone, careening down towards his jaw, and Spike realized that it was hopeless to try and fight her. He would destroy everything wonderful and good within her, kill her and leave her disemboweled and discarded, like those many scraps of paper. Another piece of his dark, gutted history.
But God help him, he couldn't leave her.
Slow, gauzy arousal started to film over her as Spike lowered his mouth to her neck, tongue dancing over his favorite place, the beat her heart pressed against his lips and teeth. Cool fingertips slithered under her shirt, thumb orbiting her navel in ragged, trembling circles, shaking fingers traveling upwards to the rise of her breasts. Buffy uttered a moan, her hands descending down the column of his spine, fingernails digging little moon-shaped crescents into his fine, pearly skin.
"I missed you," she rasped into his ear, and she heard him laugh desperately, pressing his forehead in the crook between her neck and shoulder. She began to kiss the side of his throat, mouth ascending towards his earlobe. "I can't stop thinking about you. I know... I know that I messed things up between us, that I did you wrong, that I used you and hurt you--"
Frantically, he shut her up with a kiss, silencing her and stopping her from apologizing to him anymore. He was the monster, not her, and he crushed his mouth to hers, dying for the taste of her. Milk and honey, touch of sour lemon, rainwater and toothpaste. His girl, this was his girl.
When he kissed her, all that Buffy could think of was the cigarettes she'd smoked as a sore substitute for him this summer, wrapping her lips around the filter and inhaling shallow echoes of Spike. Stupid, so stupid to smoke, not just because of the cancerous consequences, but because it wasn't him. She'd forgotten about the bouquet of booze and blood, the heady rush of history, the cool, conflicting frost and fire.
She would never touch another cigarette again.
Her body arched towards his, the denim-clad cradle of her hips pressing against his erection, breasts firm and nipples hard, raking across his chest. Her fingers scrambled through his hair, and she felt fire twisting and gnarling inside of her belly, pressing low and urgent. Want him, need him, love him so much. When his hand closed over her breast, thumb brushing her taut, aching nipple, she cried out and dug her nails into his neck, breaking the kiss and burying her face in his neck.
"I smoked for you," she gasped, all of these words pouring out of her while he touched her, driving her mad with his hands, the caresses and rhythms pulsing through her in a dance that she had missed. "I stole your cigarettes and smoked them, because I missed your mouth." He moaned, and she struggled to undo the buttons of her shirt. Too many barriers, no matter how filmy the shirt was. "I sat in your crypt when Clem was gone. I... Oh, God, Spike..."
The frothy blouse slipped away from her, landing in a pile of navy fabric on the ground, and Spike felt arousal and desire surge through him like a bolt of lightning. Round, curvaceous, slender and strong, breasts encased in plum-colored silk, belly a little rounder, ribs no longer showing. Healthy, strong, proud Buffy, and he should turn her away, make her run, but he couldn't. Wasn't that strong, wasn't that much of a martyr.
Spike couldn't give up the only thing in the world that mattered.
He surrendered to her hands, to her demands, fingers tearing at the satin bra, feeling everything so hot that when he looked at her, he expected steam to rise from her skin. Her hands were everywhere, scouring his skin, scorching and leaving little hot handprints all over his torso. Metallic fingernails tweaked his nipple, and the sensation traveled with the speed of light down to his cock. Hissing in her ear, he wrapped his fingers around her fragile wrist, guiding her palm south, shuddering when her nails skittered across the sensitive skin of his belly.
She stopped then, and he tensed as she grabbed his face in between her hands, urgency in her eyes. "Don't leave me again," she whispered. "And don't avoid me anymore. I can't stand it, not being with you. Start over with me." She briefly brushed her mouth against his. "Tell me, Spike. I haven't heard you say it in forever."
Sighing, he lowered his head and muttered out the words.
"Love you forever, Summers."
Wildly, Buffy pulled away from him, standing up and above him, unbuttoning her shorts and shoving them down her thighs, moonlight streaking her skin. She was a composition of violets and blues. Skin stained azure and china, sharply contrasted by the rich indigo of her underwear. Starlight Slayer, head thrown back in a cloud of curls, her tidy hands reaching back and unfastening her bra.
When she was naked, sky-clad underneath the witching stars, Spike swallowed hard and looked at her, really looked. She seemed to glow in the darkness, a lithe candle burning itself down to the wick. "I never should have hurt you," she whispered, lowering herself to his level and crawling her hands over his bare skin. "Will you forgive me, Spike?" One golden thigh brushed against his skin, and she rubbed her nose against one nipple, making him twitch and groan beneath her.
"Don't ask me to do that," he muttered, his voice ragged. He sounded like he was being torn apart. "I can't... Not after..."
Another kiss, this one bruising and blistering with desperation. "It doesn't matter," she whispered, and she meant it, really meant it. None of it mattered, not the scraps of paper pointing out his wrongs, not the torn shower curtain that she'd had to throw away. Love softened all of those blows to her system, made her throat tighten and her chest constrict whenever he just looked at her. In spite of it all, their sordid history, she could look at him and see everything that she needed. Everything that she wanted. "I'm in love with you, so in love--"
Ask me again why I could never love you.
Gently, carefully, she rolled him over on top of her, fluidly pushing the towel away from his hips, gasping when his prick brushed against the aching heat between her thighs, and she opened her legs, winding them around his waist, coaxing him inside of her. "Need you," she whispered. "Love you so much... Want you... Oh, God... Want you inside..."
I know you felt it... When I was inside you...
Wet grass was blurring with images of cold tile, melding frenetically inside of his mind as he latched a mouth onto her breast, his hand stroking her inner thigh, surrounded by her heat and drowning in the beating of her heart. His fingertip brushed her swollen quim, and she gasped for breath, cried out--
Don't... Please, please Spike, please don't do this, please don't do this...
Flawless, she was, stretched out underneath him, her skin gold and untouched, covered in sweat and blades of grass. Dusky nipples tasting of salt and sugar, her swollen genitalia brushing against his cock, the smell of her arousal bringing him back to the drunken dance on the beach. Her hands reached around and cupped his neck, coaxing him--
You'll feel it again.
Gasping, Spike scrambled off of her, memory rushing back and painting bruises all over her copper skin, blood in her hair, throat torn out and blood gushing between her legs from where he would have taken her. Could see it all playing out in his mind, the entire scene, a glimpse at what could have been, and he couldn't do that to her. Not again, not ever again, and Spike clawed at his face, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes, trying to squeeze out the images.
"No, no, no, stop..."
Shock and hurt began to replace arousal and desire, and Buffy sat up in the grass, looking at him as he started to rock back and forth, hiding his face behind his elegant hands. His long legs seemed to fold in towards himself, and she reached out a hand to touch him. "Spike..."
Sharply, he jerked away from her touch, moving back inches, and Buffy felt all of her confidence, all of her rapture, just slipping away, soaking into the earth like the bloody photographs. Embarrassment possessed her, and she felt her lower lip start to tremble, her vision blurring once again. Not going to cry, just because he...
Buffy licked her lips nervously, and then picked up his discarded towel, covering herself. She'd had no problems with nudity earlier, all dressed up in love. Without him, she felt too exposed, too raw, and slightly ashamed. Worried, she leaned in closer to him, wanting to touch his hair, stroke his back, but not knowing how without him pushing her away. "Spike? Are you... Okay?" Her voice dropped. "Is it something I did?"
A mad, despairing laugh met her ears, and it sent hackles down her spine. "Not quite," he said, his voice strangled and tight. "Something I did."
Within an instant, she understood, and her shoulders sagged. "Oh." She tried to reason with him. "Spike, it's okay. I'm over it. It was a mistake, and I know that you're sorry--"
"Sorry doesn't matter," he said through clenched teeth. Couldn't believe his luck, having to explain this so many times tonight, the dense little Summers girls, so fucking naïve. "Doesn't amount to a hill of bloody beans, when I--" He couldn't say the rest of it, too overwhelmed by the intensity of his own rottenness.
"Shh," she murmured, her fingertips grazing over his brow, so fragile, so small, and she didn't know how easily he could break her wrist. How easily he could break all of her bones, how easily he could bruise her fair skin. "Spike, it's okay. It's all right. We'll... We'll work through it. I just wish that..." She shook her head. "Just let me touch you. Please, just let me..."
When the sobs came, Buffy embraced him, wrapping her arms around him, pressing her cheek against her breast and tucking his bright blond head beneath her chin. "It's all right," she murmured. "It's all right."
Spike did not remember her taking him to her house.
Yet that was where he found himself when the shuddering subsided, tucked into her bed, naked as a jay bird while Buffy stood in front of the full-length mirror, wearing nothing but a pair of panties and a jade camisole. It was easy to watch her here, while she was unaware, so stunning when he wasn't in the picture.
She loved him. Absolutely incredible, that she loved him after everything they'd been through. After everything he'd put her through. All that he'd ever wanted, standing there in scanty scraps of cloth, running a brush through her damp hair, a sad smile clinging to her lips. Buffy in love. Buffy in love with him. A monster. A madman. A killer.
Slowly, she turned around, and she smiled tenderly as she gazed at him. "Feeling better?" she asked softly, and Spike did not say a word. He felt like shit, but now wasn't the time to give her more trouble. Sighing, Buffy crawled onto the bed, and he moved away from her, off to the side, where he wouldn't hurt her. She put a hand on his shoulder, stilling him. "Spike. It's okay. Just... Relax. Get some sleep. It's almost dawn."
Dawn, sleeping in the next room, dressed in her cutesy pajamas. The ones with the stars scattered across them, perhaps, or maybe the rainbows and butterflies. Innocent, unknowing of the evil next door. "Should go home," he muttered gruffly, but she was pushing him back into the pillows, wrapping her palm around the base of his neck and lowering him onto her skin.
"Stay," she urged. "You've had a long night. You can stay here until it's dark again."
Silly girl. It's dark enough already.
No artificial illumination for them tonight, tangled up underneath her sheets, limbs sliding over skin, and she slithered underneath the weight of his body, pressing his cheek once again to her breast. Warm arms surrounded him in a cocoon of roseate skin, and she pressed her lips to his disheveled, unruly curls. "Do you still love me, Spike?" she asked, and Spike sighed helplessly.
"You know I do," he muttered. "Doesn't matter what I want, pet, cause I'll kill you in the end."
Chills broke down her spine, traveling throughout her body, but she did not shudder. Buffy couldn't let him see that, now when he was so despondent. "So what?" she asked, and then she sighed, shaking her head against the pillows. "I know I'm not going to make it to retirement age, Spike. It's not a shocker. And if I die... Well, I'd rather it be by your hand. We'll kill each other, but we'll have this before then. We'll love each other until the end."
Until the bitter end.
Spike shuddered, and she sighed, smoothing his hair out with her fingertips, his Slayer, his queen, his forever victim. "We'll take it slow," she murmured into his hair. "We'll work through this together. I'll wait for you, Spike, because I--"
But he shook his head against her skin. "Don't say it. Hurts to hear you say it."
That made her chin tremble, her heart ache, because she'd destroyed him to the point where her falling in love with him did nothing but bring him misery. "Okay," she whispered. "But I do, you know. I really, really do. Now get some sleep. Everything's going to be all right."
She repeated it until he dissolved into dreaming.
So don't you stop being a man
Just take a little look from our side if you can
Sow a little tenderness
No matter if you cry
Give me a reason to love you
Give me a reason to be a woman
It's all I want to be is all woman
This is the beginning of forever and ever"
--Portishead, "Glory Box"
"...Tonight on MS-NBC, a report live from Ashleigh Banfield in Kabul..."
"...Exclusive interview with Ariel Sharon, in which he discusses the most recent string of suicide bombings in the West Bank, conducted by CBS's own..."
"...Flooding in Prague causing massive destruction, particularly to the Czech capital's historic downtown district, where waters are cresting to record levels over the past..."
"...Join us tomorrow, when we'll have former Attorney General Janet Reno and rapper Eminem live..."
"...God! Holy shit! Oh, holy shit! A plane just hit the World..."
There was no greater modern invention than the television.
The wide-screen, high definition television set sat snugly in the lavish study, surrounded by high-end computer equipment, fax machines whirring and telephones ringing. Typical office chaos exploded around the blaring noise of the TV, secretaries in mild-mannered suits rushing back and forth with economic speed, attorneys pacing and barking out orders, and he was in the middle of it all, staring at the television and flipping channels.
"...In next time for another episode of Passions..."
"...Dude, you're getting a..."
"...Five easy payments of .99 a month, no money down, zero..."
"...Out the phrase 'under God' from our beloved Pledge, then you are effectively taking out all of the religion in this fine country during a time when we need it the most, and I think..."
Chuckling, he decided to leave it on The 700 Club, and he pointed at the screen. "You know, this is truly the most evil thing on TV," he said, shaking his head at the man expounding upon the virtues of fundamentalist Christianity. "For a while, I thought that it might be that show on MTV where all the kids are screaming, but I'd have to say that this tops it by a landslide."
Amused, the pudgy man in the rumpled suit and tie chuckled a moment, sliding his glasses up on his sweaty nose. "I still say that there is nothing more nefarious than Geraldo Rivera," he countered, and the slender, gray-haired man holding the remote control scoffed, waving his hand at him in a dismissive, elegant gesture.
Sighing, the man circled the rosewood desk, relaxing into the Herman Miller mesh chair with a slow wriggle of comfortable lumbar support. "It's television," he said, proudly waving a manicured hand at the screen. "Television. Junk food for the brain, rotting away at people's brains. I just love it. Nobody is alone in the modern world; everybody is alone in the modern world. It's one of those great philosophical contradictions, an oxymoron with commercials. Who would have thought that people would get so smart as to broadcast all of this violence, and sell it out to advertisers for money? Brilliant."
One lawyer snarled into the cellular phone that seemed permanently glued to his ear, his eyes flashing gold for a moment as he forgot himself and vamped out. "Look, I told you already that Mr. Lucas wants a dozen subzero refrigerators, and he wanted them by today," the vampire said, slamming his fist on the wall. "Look, jackass, I don't care if these are your normal operating hours or not. If your drivers aren't there, then you can haul them over yourself." He paused. "Oh, what'll I do if you don't? Tell me, buddy, have you ever seen a crucifixion up close and personal?"
Arching one immaculate silver eyebrow, the gentleman behind the desk cleared his throat, and the immortal attorney turned around, fangs glistening in the light of the television screen. "Could you take that call elsewhere?" he asked, his voice smooth and refined. "I'm trying to watch TV."
"Yes, sir," the vampire stammered, and he quickly gestured to the other unholy secretaries and lawyers, ushering them out of the study.
The robust man in the wrinkled suit stood up as well, sighing and stretching, until Mr. Lucas shook his head. "Stay, Marty," he said. "They're rerunning The Osbournes soon. It's the one where Ozzy has the pet psychiatrist come by. Your favorite. Besides, we need to talk."
"Of course," Martin Glaze said, taking his seat and folding his hands in his lap.
Drake Lucas stood up, his tall figure cutting an impressive swath through the electric blue light of the television monitor, and he pressed the power button, turning the big screen off. To his right, there was a bank of twelve smaller sets, all of them receiving nothing but static, and he sighed.
"I know you didn't want to come here, Marty," he said conversationally, and before Glaze could protest, Lucas shook his head. "It's fine. You're entitled to your opinion. Besides, I agree with you. This place is a hellhole. Literally. But we must do what we must do, correct? We have to take what destiny offers." A wave of his pale, spidery fingers, and the static on the television sets began to clear up, fuzzy sprinkles of electricity calming and evening out into a singular image, stretched across the monitors.
A bedroom, calm and serene in the hour before morning, and a beautiful young woman sleeping with a man's white-blond head covering her naked breasts. Her hands were wrapped around his shoulder, one against his forehead, keeping him safe from the rays of the vicious sun preparing to rise and claim them.
(end part six)
Continued in Chapter Seven: Minor Adjustments