By Annie Sewell-Jennings
Sequel to The Waiting Season
Chapter Eleven: All Fall Down
Startled, Buffy whipped her head around to look back at the vampire sitting on the front steps, a cigarette burning between his fingertips and a dark, unreadable expression on his sharp face. "What?" she asked. Spike shook his head and turned away.
"Storm," he said, pointing at the clouds, and then he retreated back into silence.
It was the quiet that made her worry. He'd always been such a talker, flapping his gums at any given opportunity no matter how badly she wanted him to just shut the fuck up. Spike could yap for hours about nothing in particular and had proved that fact on a regular basis. Even when they'd had sex, it was always him doing the talking, murmuring nasties into her ear and making her shudder and shiver in spite of herself.
Oh, you like that, don't you, you little tart. Touch me, yeah, right there like that, more, harder. Won't bruise me, pet, and if you do, it'll just be good. Oh, fuck, how do you know how to move like that, my sweet, my love, my darling, I'm...
Heat rose to her cheeks as she thought of all of his dirty talk, the way that he'd once been. Able to make her temperature soar with a single tilt of his head, the subtle arch of an eyebrow, the intimation of a sultry pout. Just the way that he'd moved was enough to undo her. The way that Spike seemed to move like water. Liquid. Boneless. Graceful. Inviting.
When he walked now, it was as though he was stepping on broken glass.
Troubled, Buffy wrapped her arms around her midsection and leaned against the porch railing, frowning out at the bottomless night. Heat lightning crackled and cut through the seemingly impenetrable dark, illuminating the shadows briefly before it flashed into nothingness again.
"I'm worried about you," she said softly, and Spike took a deep drag from his cigarette, fingers pinching the filter a little too tightly.
It made her want to laugh, that dark and dreadful voice, and then it just made her want to cry. This was not Spike, not at all. Right about this time, he'd be sliding his hands around her hips, trailing his fingers down the small of her back, pulling her hips to his and telling her to come upstairs for a spot of sex. Looking at her with those gas-flame eyes that burned too deep for her, murmuring obscenities into her ear and tonguing the delicate silver hoop...
"Not going to happen, ducks."
Spike did not know why she looked so surprised at his words; she knew him better than that. Could always tell. Wasn't just the scent of her desire, though it had always been overwhelming. It was the way that she seemed to melt when she thought of it, all of the tension and worry draining from her body, until he could almost feel her melting behind him.
Shock quickly melted into self-defense, and Buffy gave him a sharp, defiant look. "Wasn't thinking about--"
Spike rolled his eyes. "Don't play dumb," he said. "I know you."
The intimacy of that statement was undeniable, and Buffy bowed her head, feeling slightly shamed. "I know," she said. "It's just... Hard."
It was always hard, this thing between them. Always difficult and murky, the definitions and boundaries of their strange romance never clear-cut, always shady and uncertain. But ever since his return, things were even more strained. They were still dancing as they had always danced around each other, step here, step there, but now she felt like they were spinning around in wild circles, trapped in the same routine.
Something had to change.
Abruptly, Buffy stepped forward and took the cigarette from between his fingers, taking a long drag before she exhaled a shower of smoke into the night. Startled, Spike watched her with close attention, briefly mesmerized by the lovely sight of Buffy Summers, awash in intangible whorls of transparency. "I need to get out of this house," she decided, and Spike raised an eyebrow.
"Where do you want to go, pet?" he asked, and she felt a muscle in her jaw twitch before she pitched the cigarette into the front lawn.
"Let's kill something."
Buffy was right. She was too tall.
Dawn stood in front of the mirror in nothing more than her cotton bra and panties, skin illuminated by the dim radiance of candlelight, scrutinizing her appearance. Definitely too tall for the Summers clan, filled with their petite, doll-women. Her hair, too straight and dark -- it was not theirs.
The monks had screwed up. It was the only explanation that Dawn could think of, fearfully peering into the looking glass and seeing nothing of her family in the reflection. Buffy said that they had created her from her own blood. It must be so, or else her sister's sacrifice on the tower would not have saved the world.
But the monks, in all of their infinite magic and eye for detail, had overlooked a few key factors. She did not look like her family. She could remember breaking her collarbone when she was six, but when she'd broken her arm a year ago the doctors could not find any fractures or remaining scars. The insane could look at her and tell that she did not belong in this world.
And even though the gates to the dimensions were closed, she was still the Key.
A gust of wind whispered through the open window and pushed and tugged at the candlelight, tossing illumination across her abdomen and illuminating the twin scars on her sides. Carefully, Dawn traced the straight, fine lines where the knife had torn her skin, remembering the taste of fear and metal, and struggling in vain against the inevitable. They would bleed her until she crumpled, dead and done, and then it would be over.
But Buffy had jumped instead, and the blood continued to flow.
New curves were beginning to ripen her stick-straight figure, gentle sloping places where her breasts were budding, the flare of womanly hips, baby fat finally departing and leaving her with a willowy, towering shape that was foreign and strange.
When she was a little girl, she used to dream of these changes, longing to be beautiful and starlit with dreams and sensuality. She remembered watching Buffy kissing Angel when Dawn was no more than nine, seeing the stirrings of passion, and remembered that ache in her chest. Wondering what it would be like to fall in love.
Dawn watched from her window as Buffy and Spike started off, him looking so dashing and dark in his leather coat, long white fingers brushing her sister's cheek for a moment of tentative tenderness before she smiled at him and broke the spell. They had so much intimacy between them, so much that was left unsaid, and this passion that bubbled and boiled beneath the scarred surface.
It broke Dawn's heart to think that she'd never experience love like that.
In the back of her closet, where nobody could discover its presence, she kept the dress. The dress that still smelled of suicide and sandalwood, herbs and hurt snagged in the fine plum-colored velvet and cranberry silk trim. It felt heavy in Dawn's arms as she pulled it out, and she reached her hand inside of the bodice, pushing her fingers through the slits where the knife had cut. Flakes of dried blood fell like rusty snowflakes onto the carpet, and Dawn felt a strangled laugh bubble up in her throat and choke weakly in her chest.
Some girls bought their prom dresses early. Dawn had the dress she would die in.
The rumble of an engine startled her from her reflections, and Dawn frowned as she walked to the window. Her heart suddenly leapt into her throat when she recognized the yellow Cavalier parked in her driveway, and she watched with a strange, frilly sensation rippling through her body as Trey stepped out of the car and walked up the front walkway.
There's someone who likes me.
As the doorbell rang, Dawn hastily thumbed through pretty dresses and blouses on plastic hangers, her mind panicking as she thought of what to wear. The pinstriped pink dress? No, too young. Too silly. The yellow organdy, but no, it made her look too much like a lemon, all sour and bitter. Finally, she pulled out a simple red dress, spare and barren of any childish ornamentation, and slipped it on, turning around to zip it up the back when...
"Dawnie, could you help me with this?" her mother asks, frowning a little as she stands in the middle of her bedroom, struggling with the zipper and hooks on the pretty black cocktail dress. Jagged silver earrings dangle from her earlobes, that artsy design that Mom has always liked.
Dawn scoots off the bed, flips her pigtails over her shoulders and bounces over to Mom. "Sure," she chirps, and as she pulls the zipper up and fastens the tiny, fragile metal hooks, she thinks that her mother is undoubtedly the most beautiful woman on the planet, so elegant and--
The mirror showed a tall, boldly pretty girl, her neck craned around to eye the progress of the metal zipper as she tugged it up, and Dawn smiled at her reflection.
For a moment, she saw her mother in the mirror, and she belonged again.
Cemeteries were strange and exquisite havens, odd refuges for a girl who'd been pulled back into life from the dark, tilled soil and dried floral offerings. Yet Buffy liked graveyards, enjoyed the sense of history and stability that came from walking through aisles of marble and stone markers. Robert Henry Tucker, 1902-1923. Dianne West Marcus, 1972-1990.
In Sunnydale, everyone died too young.
Kathleen Ann Freeman was buried in the nestling edge of the cemetery, her headstone placed beneath the embracing arms of a willow tree, grass too green over the mound of freshly turned earth that covered her body and casket. The smell of hothouse flowers was thick and almost sickening in the air, baby's breath and delicate arrangements of lilies and crocuses. Purple flowers, dark violets and pretty angel-face roses.
"She must have liked purple," Buffy said a little sadly as she stood over the grave, noticing the plush lavender stuffed animals laid out on the grave, the balloons and bubbly toys. November 19, 1984 to September 1, 2002. Almost eighteen. Too young to have her life snuffed out like this, too young to be buried under six feet of dirt and earth.
Too young to be a vampire.
His fingers itched for another cigarette, something to make this anxiety a little more manageable, but he forced himself to stand there and look at it. He'd killed thousands in his heyday. Slaughtered the innocents, burned the villages, left internal organs strewn around in his wake.
But he'd never looked at the graves.
Funny, the things that having a soul made Spike notice. The subtle differences, the slight injustices of the world that made an impact instead of rolling off of him. The tragedy of a dead teenager would have meant nothing to him before. Just another silly bint who'd gotten herself into a spot of trouble that she couldn't recover from.
Now, there was an inherent sadness about the display of toys and flowers spread across young Kathleen's fresh grave, all of these gifts that this girl would never receive. For the first time, he wondered what his own grave looked like on the day of his burial. Had his family left out prayers for him? Engraved some of his awful poetry onto his gravestone? He'd never gone back to check. Once William was gone, Spike wanted him to stay gone. But Christ, the thought of his mother laying flowers at his grave...
"How did it happen?" he asked quietly.
"Make-out Point. She was pulled from her car by a vamp."
Girl sitting pretty and sweet. Blonde. Brunette. Doesn't matter. Naughty little thing. Should be home studying for her exams and instead she's here with a guy's hand down her pants. Moaning and sighing, teenaged petting in a secluded parking spot, and he can see her through the windows. Wants her. Delicate skin, fragile bones. Blood rushing and blushing with newfound arousal, and he can fucking smell it through the clean scent of new-car-smell and hormones.
Spike stifled a shudder, shifted his weight. "Could be a waste of your time, pet. Don't know if she'll come back, do you?"
Buffy shook her head. "Willow has a hack into the local coroner's office and the police station. We cross-reference the obituaries with their findings. They found weird blood in the car and on her mouth."
She's moaning in a different way now, full-blown ecstasy shooting through the both of them as he presses down onto her, her teeth gnawing at his chest, lapping at his blood as he feeds her. That's right, angel-face. Get greedy. Get strong and ruthless. Just keep on taking.
A gentle, clicking noise distracted him, and he turned his head in time to see Buffy unwind the simple string of lavender beads from her forearm and lay them carefully across the girl's headstone. "Sorry, Kathleen."
Worried him, it did, this sudden respect for the dead. He remembered a time not so long ago when she used to sit on these graves and bitch and moan about the length of time these new vampires took to rise while he smoked cigarettes in the distance and memorized the way that she smelled. Buffy had never once taken a moment to commemorate the life of the vampire she was preparing to slay.
"You do this often?" he asked quietly, and she quirked her mouth at him and shrugged her shoulders.
"Not really," Buffy admitted, and she sighed, touching her hand to the raised lettering of the headstone. "It just strikes me as sad sometimes, you know? I mean, not just the death because wow is that sad, but... She's going to wake up tonight as something different, and she'll never have a chance to make things--" Buffy cut herself off, but Spike knew what she was going to say.
She'll never have a chance to make things right.
Ever since Spike got the soul, he'd drowned in the way that he hurt her. Wrapped himself up in the misery of his crime, accepted his punishment, wallowed in his mud for a while like the pig he was. He told himself he was no good for her, that soul or no soul he would only end up destroying her in the end, giving into those urges and desires, bringing her back into the bathroom for another round of make-you-feel-me.
He'd never considered all of the other lovely ways he could kill her.
Buffy, laying beads and apologies at the foot of the newborn vampire's grave, all while the changing beast lay sleeping below her feet. Talking nonsense about vampires having opportunities, monsters having a second shot. Regretting that this girl would never have a chance to do something impossible, because as soon as she shot out of the ground with a body full of bloodlust, Buffy would kill her.
All because of him.
Clenching his jaw, Spike stormed over to her and grabbed her by her biceps, cold fingers pressing into her flesh unrelentingly. "None of that," he said. "Vamps don't get second chances, Slayer. Don't want them, either. They just want the kill, and if you start feeling sorry for them, they'll take you down before you can trade up your rosary for a stake. Got it?"
Buffy threw his hands off and glared at him fiercely. "Don't tell me how to do my job," she said. "I know what I'm doing."
A bitter laugh pierced the air, mocking and dark, and he sounded like himself again. Fists and fangs, reckless and wild, throwing punches at her back while she ripped off his clothes. Their old song and dance routine.
"Do you now, pet?" Spike murmured, voice mocking, and he tilted his head coyly as he approached. Almost like his old self, almost, but something so hateful in the way he moved. Something not at all fluid or graceful. Bitter and jerky, stiff and awkward. He was having trouble moving in his own skin. "Don't quite think so. Have to be a little off your game, love, if you're thinking about vamps like they're people."
"Aren't you?" Buffy shot back, shoving him away from her.
His lip curled in a trace of his old snarl, that feral look that crossed his face whenever he was about to vamp out and strike her. "Oh, no," he said sarcastically. "I'm just a dead, evil thing. Or don't you remember?"
Fists slam and pound into his face, turning his skin and flesh into putty, and she can feel bones breaking underneath her hands as she screams and hits him. Over and over, and he takes every blow, rolls with every punch as she pulverizes him. Hates him, hates him so much, hates herself even more...
"You don't have a soul! There is nothing good or clean in you. You are dead inside! You can't feel anything real! I could never be your girl!"
Buffy flinched and turned away, hating the memory for haunting her. Spike's beautiful face, exploding with bruises and blood, and the way that he never tried to stop her, never once protested. Just took his punishment while she yelled awful words at him and made him bleed. "I wasn't talking about you then," she said, and Spike sighed wearily.
"Should've been, pet. It's all true in the end."
Buffy groaned, a disgusted look crossing her face. "Oh, God, not that again," she moaned. Had to bring it up, though. Didn't she see? She was forgetting things, making allowances that she should not be making. Needed to remember what vampires were, what monsters they could all be underneath their pretty, eternally young exteriors.
"Yes," Spike said firmly, drawing her hands up in his. "That again. Don't tell me that you're over it. Don't tell me it didn't affect you." He lowered his voice, gave her a sliver of honesty, handed her something that he'd been concealing. "You can't be over it, cause I'm not."
She could see the blue of the bathroom tiles in the dark shades of his eyes, could see the gray shadow of her robe hanging over them. Even though they were in the openness of the cemetery, she still felt trapped inside of the bathroom, the fucking bathroom, the walls closing in on her. She hated him in that moment for forcing her to think about it again.
"Yes," Buffy spat angrily. "It hurt. It hurt a lot. Are you happy now? It hurt to the point of breaking me." Her lip trembled, and she felt everything come rushing back. The aching in her bones from the struggle, dulled by the grief she felt inside of her. That thick, awful feeling of betrayal. "It broke my heart."
She sits alone in the bathroom for two hours after he is gone. Sees the bruises erupting on her too-pale skin, blossoms of ugly purple and green rising to the surface from where his knee prodded into her thigh, parting her legs. There are scratches on her breasts from where clawed at her robe, and they're beginning to bleed. And yet nothing hurts as bad as her heart does. Nothing hurts as bad as that.
She struggled for composure, wrapped her arms tightly around her midsection to keep herself from sobbing. All the while, Spike stared at her with his sad, sorry eyes, all of the anger faded out into dark navy regret. "After you left, everything fell apart," she said, and she laughed sharply. "Not that it had really been together before. But... Tara was gone, and Willow was half-crazy, and I had to be the big Slayer again. So I pushed what happened out of my mind. I didn't think of you until it was over."
Sighing, Buffy walked past the grave and sat down on the wrought-iron bench next to the Cochran crypt, and Spike stared at her with an ache in his heart. Wanted to touch her, make her better, yet he knew he wouldn't be able to offer her anything. After all, he was the one who'd done this to her. Christ, he really was a bastard.
"When I thought of you again, when I thought about that night..." Helplessly, Buffy shook her head, gave him a weak smile. "I was devastated. Just destroyed. I thought that I should be angry with you, should be thinking about staking you for what you did to me."
Flinching, Spike looked away. "Jesus, love, I'm so..."
"I wasn't angry, though," Buffy said, and she reached for his hand tentatively, her fingertips traveling over the palm of his hand, tracing all of the lines of fortune engraved into his skin. She pulled him close to her, forced him to sit down beside her. "And then I realized why it hurt so bad, what you did to me. Why I didn't fight back at first."
She swallowed hard, and looked up into his eyes. Amazing eyes, burning and smoldering, always shifting from dark to light, much like the man himself. "It was because I was wrong about what I'd said to you before that happened. I did trust you, Spike. I trusted you, and you betrayed me."
Don't cry. Not in front of her. Got no right to cry in front of her, not after what you did, you selfish fucking bastard, you worthless piece of shit...
"I'd trusted you all along. Trusted you not to hurt me, to take care of me and my family, to... To love me. I'd let you in, and somewhere in the last year, I..." Her voice faded to almost a whisper. "I fell in love with you."
Desperately, Spike clamped down on her fingers with his own and begged her with his eyes. "Buffy, listen to yourself. You can't possibly mean that. You've gone off your bird."
But she shook her head at him, withdrew her fingers from his tight grasp. The scratchy, callused palm of her hand settled on his face, rough with all of the fighting that she was forced to do, and he remembered the way that these scratchy hands used to scrub his body like sandpaper, removing all of his thick skin until he was a mess of vulnerable flesh. Against his will, Spike leaned into her touch, a slave to her as always.
"I know what I mean," Buffy said gently. "We did some awful things to each other last year, Spike. We hurt each other pretty badly. But those moments, Spike. Those good moments."
Smiling and laughing, coated in afterglow, they lay there underneath the carpets, surrounded by faux-Orientals and stone. Disaster is strewn around them from the force of their sex, and yet here everything is calm. Everything is sweet, and he laughs at something that she says, ducks his head down and brushes his nose against her shoulder, and she lets herself smile at him because sometimes, he's adorable.
Her fingertips whispered down the bridge of his nose, moving towards his mouth, that silken creation that always made her feel dizzy and breathless, like vertigo but blissful. Heat began to braid her blood, twisting it and accelerating it, and she parted her lips as she looked at him. God, he was so beautiful. How did he ever get this beautiful?
"I want you," she whispered. "I don't care about the consequences. We'll work through it together. Take things slow. We can do this, because we love each other." The most fragile of kisses, laid on the tip of his delicate nose. "You couldn't make me hurt so bad if I didn't love you."
And it undid him. "Oh, Christ, Buffy..."
The softness of his mouth always astonished her. No matter how many fiery, fuel-laden kisses they'd forced upon each other, she would always be floored by how tenderly he could kiss. Just a sweep of his tongue across her lower lip, dancing across the tips of her teeth. Lust ensnared her, snapped her up in its jaws, shook her fiercely. A moan. A whisper. A breath. Everything was too much.
Everything was not enough.
"Spike," she gasped into his mouth, and he swallowed the name before she could say it again. Helpless against her, absolutely defenseless. When she touched him, he couldn't say no. Not to her. Never to her. Weak, selfish, evil animal...
No, he didn't care. His hand cupped her jaw, fingers sank into her hair. Wanted to cry, so fucking beautiful, this feeling of her. This moment. Just this crumb of time, so insignificant, and yet so glorious. Awe overtook him as Buffy kissed him, her mouth seeking out all of the soft spots where she could make him crumble.
Yet it was different, foreign from any other kiss they'd shared. This was sweeter, almost sugary. Brittle and breakable in some ways, indestructible in others. He kissed her in slow motion, foregoing their former haste. The heel of his hand hovered over her cheek, alighting only briefly on her skin. Buffy found herself almost whimpering; this wispiness was something they'd never experienced before. Hesitation was never part of their coupling, but here he was, touching her so soft...
Who am I kissing?
Blinking, Buffy pulled away from his mouth, her hand resting on his neck. Something about his eyes. So dark, so rich. Full of colors she'd never seen before. Blue and black, gray and cornflower. Haunted and hollow, full and brittle. And God, the way that he looked at her... All of the love in him just seemed magnified somehow, like viewing it under a microscope.
"What?" Spike asked, and Buffy shook her head, her fingertips moving to touch the forking scar on his eyebrow.
Suddenly, his eyes widened. "Buffy. Kathleen's up."
Quickly, Buffy jumped up from the stone bench and pulled the stake out from inside her sleeve, but when she turned around, she froze.
Kathleen Freeman was sobbing.
Dirt and soil was caked over her pale, bumpy face, and clumps of it clung to her lavender nylon dress. Her yellow eyes were wide with misery, tears streaking dirt and mud down her face, clumps of grass tangled in her blonde hair. She looked absolutely petrified.
"What..." she breathed, and her lower lip trembled. "What's happened to... It's not supposed to be like this, not supposed to be like this..." Buffy stood in front of the bench like a statue, gawking at the vampire as she dissolved into sobs, her fingers rising to touch her distorted features, and then one palm clutched her stomach. "Oh, God, what happened to me? What happened?"
It was not supposed to be like this. Vampires did not rise from the grave wracked with pain, weeping for the changes their bodies underwent. Kill. Maim. Feed. Destroy. Those were their functions, their actions following their rising, and Kathleen Freeman was not playing by the rules. Confused and distraught at the girl's obvious agony, Buffy wavered on what she was supposed to do. She felt helpless just staring while this girl wept, and she licked her lips. "Are you okay?"
Kathleen shook her head miserably. "No," she whispered. "I'm not."
A keening wail exploded from the girl's throat as she suddenly leapt at Buffy and tackled the Slayer to the ground. Gasping, Buffy struggled underneath the fledgling's grasp, stunned by how strong Kathleen was. Newborns weren't like this. They were easy to kill, predictable and almost boring. They weren't able to pin her down and hold her, and yet as Kathleen's fingernails dug into the sensitive skin of her throat, Buffy knew that something was wrong.
The vampire was still weeping.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I can't stop," she wailed as Buffy writhed beneath her. "I can't make it stop and it hurts, hurts so bad, I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry..." Buffy widened her eyes, saw Spike stand over the vampire with the stake in his hands, an equally shocked expression on his face as he raised the wooden weapon for the kill.
But one of Kathleen's stiletto sandals whipped out in a perfect, beautiful arc of leg and threw him aside like a toy, slamming him into her own gravestone. It shattered in an explosion of granite and rock, and Spike moaned, pain shooting through him as he lay on the grass. "Fuck," he whispered hoarsely, and he heard Buffy's screams behind him. Have to get to her, have to help her, Christ...
Wild hysteria jangled and jumbled in Kathleen's mangled voice as she scratched her dirt-encrusted fingernails across Buffy's cheek. Pain exploded in her face, bright and furious, and she jerked her face away, looking desperately at the abandoned stake on the grass. Almost in reach, almost...
Spike snatched it up and rammed it into the vampire's back, and Kathleen shattered into dust above her, a sob still lingering in the air like a ghost.
They both were absolutely still for a moment, shocked and dismayed at what had just happened, and then Spike muttered a curse under his breath and knelt down beside Buffy, pressing a hand to the ragged scratches on her face. "I'm fine," she said, but her breath was short and her eyes were wide, glassy-eyed from horror. "What the hell just happened here?"
"Don't know," he said shortly, helping her to her feet. "New vamps aren't supposed to rise like that, that's for damned sure. Something's interfering with..." He froze suddenly, his eyes widening with a paralyzing fear, as words drifted to him from a distance.
"My heart expands
'Tis grown a bulge in it
Inspired by your beauty, effulgent"
Mocking laughter, hands covering giggles while they stare at him with dancing eyes. Heat floods his cheeks and he snatches his papers back, embarrassment and shame filling him. Just the lowly poet as always, with the crowd sneering at him, taking his painstaking lyrics as amusement and entertainment.
"Oh, God," Spike whispered. "I'm buggered."
A man walked like a whisper over the small hill, applauding with a smirk on his face, and Buffy stared at him warily, her arms encircling Spike's forearm as she pulled herself to a standing position. He wore a dark Armani suit, beautifully cut and tailored to his slim frame, and his silvery hair was trimmed immaculately. She recognized him instantly -- the man in her photograph. The one who'd saluted her as she slept unknowing beside her vampire.
The man stopped when he reached the wrought-iron bench and pursed his lips thoughtfully, staring at Spike. "I don't know if I would have gone with 'effulgent', personally," he said in a conversational tone. "It just seems... Pretentious. But then again, you were young." He said this all matter-of-factly, and Spike felt a tension clog his throat and choke up his thoughts.
"Who the hell are you?" Buffy shot, her voice furious and bubbling with rage.
He ignored her for the moment, still looking at Spike with a knowing smile. "That's what they put on your tombstone, you know," he said. "In case you were wondering. Not that particular selection, of course, but another one. I think it was titled..." He snapped his fingers, smiled. "Ah, yes. 'Thy Knell Rings Twice'. Very touching. I especially liked the part about the moonlight singing you a lullaby."
"Sod off," Spike said in a low, cutting tone, and Buffy could feel the tension radiating off of him. What the fuck was going on here? What was this guy talking about? All that she knew was that it was upsetting Spike to the point of no return, and she rested a hand on his chest, tried to calm him down.
The man's sloe eyes turned coyly to gaze at her palm, pressed up against his cotton tee shirt, and then they returned to Spike's face. "She's a treasure," he commented. "Much better than that little tease in petticoats you ended up dying over. Sad death, man. Dying because some broad wouldn't love you back." His smile widened. "Would you do it again?"
Rage shuttled through him, and Spike snarled and lunged for the man, even as Buffy grabbed at his coat and hissed out his name. He hadn't made it even two steps before the man held up a hand, and Spike suddenly crumbled to the ground in a heap of leather and pain, clutching his head. He cried out in pain as imagery flashed through his mind.
Get off of me, oh God, please get off of me, Spike, stop, stop, it hurts, I'm hurt, this isn't happening, not from you, not from you, don't, please, please...
Panicked, Buffy bent down on the ground beside him, wrapped him in her arms, tried to get his attention. "Spike!" she cried, shaking him as his body shook and trembled, and then he broke into sobs. Tears ran down his face as he rolled away from her and buried his face in his hands, and when she tried to touch his shoulder, he only flinched and moved away. She whipped her head and around looked at the man in the overcoat desperately. "What did you do to him? Make it stop!"
"It has," the man said simply, leaning on the statue of an large angel with ease. "He's just weak. Funny. He's been bitching for weeks to himself that he should have suffered instead of you, but you give the guy a glimpse into what ran through your head in the bathroom that night..." He shook his head. "Some people. No concept of gratitude whatsoever."
His fingers were digging into his face, doubled over with the impact of what she had felt, and Buffy was torn between the aching need to comfort him and the strong, furious desire to kill this bastard standing before her.
She decided to go with the second option.
Buffy stormed across the space and punched the man in the face. His laughter was instantaneous, and so was the pain in her face as he hit her back. Crying out, Buffy's knees gave out from under her and she was too distracted to notice his blow to her stomach. All of the air left her lungs, and she was left cringing with pain on the ground.
"Not tonight," he said, standing over her with dancing eyes. Blue now. Oh, God, what was happening? He licked one finger and raised it to the sky, felt the wind, and narrowed his eyes. "But another night. Very soon, indeed. We'll..." He smiled again, looking at the weeping vampire on the grass. "We'll dance."
"Who are you?" Buffy croaked, and he arched one gray eyebrow at her before he turned the force of his relaxed smile on her. It made her worry, the fact that he was so untouched, so nonchalant.
"Drake," he said, extending a hand. She didn't take it. He smiled and withdrew. "Drake Lucas. You can give your Watcher that name, if you like, but he won't find it in any of his stuffy old books." His eyes flashed gold, and Buffy felt that rumble in her stomach. The rumble that said that this was a vampire. A very, very old one. Fucking A.
A desperate, choked sob came from Spike, and Buffy quickly moved over to him, at a loss for what she could do. "Spike..." she whispered, stroking his cheek, and he shook his head, gritted his teeth, tried to compose himself. Slowly, he sat up, feeling nauseated from what he'd experienced. Christ, all of her pain. All of the horrible pain.
"What did you do to Kathleen Freeman?" he demanded.
Drake smiled and tilted his head to the side, giving him a coy, assessing look. "Oh, Kathleen?" He chuckled. "It's not what I did do. It's what I didn't."
Buffy clenched her jaw and stared at him with dagger-like eyes. "You know, I'm not really a big fan of the cryptic bullshit," she said.
He grinned. "Cut and dry girl, eh? I love that in a Slayer. Makes all of the banter much more enjoyable."
Impatiently, Buffy glared at him and balled her hand up into a fist. "Dammit, I--"
"I let her keep her soul."
She stands on the ruins of her new grave, her burial dress streaked with dirt and mud, bewildered and frightened. "Oh, God, what happened to me? What happened?"
"You sick fuck," Buffy whispered, covering her hand with her mouth. Nausea churned inside of her, and she thought she might throw up at the thought of it. Rising with a soul, living in a hell like that, no control and the confusion and disorientation... "How could you? You can't do that, make her live through that kind of pain, that kind of--" She shook her head, tried to keep it together in the face of all of this. "Do you know how that must feel?"
"Why not ask him?"
Oh, God. No.
Spike knew in an instant what was coming. He could feel it in the air, that scent of bad revelations and imminent devastation. Chaos was churning in the thick, furious air, and thunder rumbled and rippled in the background like a bad drama unfolding. Terror slammed into him like a freight train, and he looked at Buffy, who stared at Drake with an uncomprehending look on her face. "What?" she asked.
Desperately, he grabbed her shoulders in his hands, begged her to listen to him with his eyes. "Buffy, love... Don't listen to him, don't..."
Conspiratorially, Drake moved closer to her, a sympathetic look washing over his ever-changing features. "He did it for you, you know," he said softly. "He thought it might give you some kind of happiness."
Confusedly, Buffy shook her head, her eyes never leaving Drake's face. "I don't..."
A sneer tampered with the sympathy on his face, and he smiled with the anxiousness of an asshole who couldn't wait to spoil the ending of a great movie. "He suffers. Oh, how he suffers. Every minute. Every second. And it's all because of you." He lowered his voice.
"Even with a soul, he'll never be worthy of you."
A soul a soul a soul a soul...
It all came crashing over her, waves of understanding, tsunamis of sudden knowledge. The way that he'd kissed her, too soft, too hesitant, like he was afraid of touching her. The way that he looked so troubled in his sleep. All of the photographs she'd thrown at him in accusation, and the way he'd tried so desperately to convince her not to love him. But one memory...
"Terribly sorry," he says in a flustered tone, his hands moving nervously as he picks up the broken glass...
All that she had to do was look into Spike's eyes, and she saw her answer there.
Buffy jerked back from him, her eyes wide with disbelief and her hand clapped over her mouth. "Oh my God," she whispered, and Spike felt his heart splinter and crumble, like there was glass in his veins. The most horrible sensation ever, because he'd lied to her. Because he'd lost her.
"Buffy, love," he pleaded, and she shook her head, stumbling to her feet.
"I don't know you," she whispered. "I don't... I can't..."
Before she lost it and started to weep, before she spilled her heart out in front of her enemy, Buffy did what she did best, and ran away. Helpless, Spike fell to his knees, held his head in his hands, and listened as Drake fucking Lucas laughed and walked away. His last words lingered in his wake:
"Ain't love grand?"
(end part eleven)
Continued in Chapter Twelve: The Broken Sky