By Rachel A.
Sequel to Geek The Girl; part of The Geek Series
Summary: Willow mentioned the shindig ... figured we're all part of the team.
Disclaimer: These characters don't belong to me, alas.
Spoilers: Through "As You Were"
Thanks Cynthia, for a kick-ass beta. And Laura, for not kicking my ass.
Today he tells someone, but she won't find out because it's not a someone she would ever speak to of her own accord. Perhaps she wouldn't even care, because it's also not a someone whose opinion is worth a whit to her. In fact, Spike's pretty certain she wouldn't consider Clem a someone at all.
Clem is not a human and, in the crudely drawn definitions of the Slayer, non-humans are non-someones. Things. Nothings. Really, he may as well be telling a volleyball, like Tom Hanks in that wretched shipwreck picture, but still. If she did find out, and she did care, and she did kill him, he thinks he'd probably be relieved.
Of course, he can't tell Clem everything. Because everything is just a little bit too painful, too perverse, too fucking humiliating to give voice to. There are somethings he can't even admit to himself, let alone to another sentient being. So he mostly tells the good parts.
He talks about what it's like to bag a slayer, to hear her begging for more, feel her clawing and biting, see her face contorting in pleasure and pain. He brags like a recently deflowered schoolboy, and Clem is significantly impressed, and for a few moments Spike can pretend he's proud of all he's done.
But Clem isn't a very good demon, and eventually he asks, "Do you love her?" and, later, "What happened to your eye?"
"Shut up," Spike says, and turns on the television. "It's time for Passions."
He opens a beer, (his fifth of the day and it's only one PM, but who's counting anymore) and hands one to Clem.
"I don't like this show so much lately," Clem says, sipping his beer. "Ever since they made Timmy a real boy it's gotten kind of boring."
"What, you think he should've just stayed a doll forever? Isn't that even more of a bore?"
Clem shrugs, not caring. Clem doesn't really care about much of anything. It's one of his better qualities. Sometimes it's nice, Spike thinks, to be with someone who won't fight you at every turn, someone who'll defer to you and respect you and be bloody well impressed by you because you're a badass motherfucker. Or, at least, you used to be, which is more than Clem can say for himself.
During the commercial, Clem asks again, "You do love her, right? Cause, I mean, that's what it sounds like."
"She's a crazy bitch," Spike growls, and drinks.
"But, you do..."
"Timmy's not even in this episode."
Spike nods, and turns off the television. No point without Timmy, really. Clem starts shuffling cards at the table, and Spike marvels at the banality of their existence. Creatures of the night, playing gin rummy and drinking beer in the middle of the day like a couple of rednecks at a trailer park. He takes some comfort in the fact that his wife beater is, at least, the wrong color.
"So, are you guys like, dating now?" Clem asks as he deals. "Or are you just..."
"Oh, please! Like I'd actually date her? Right. That's a bloody joke."
"But, you love her? I'm confused."
"Well, yeah I love her, but you know, I've got an image to maintain here."
"Oh, I gotcha," Clem nods. Like it makes perfect fucking sense. Spike really likes hanging out with Clem.
About twenty minutes into their game, there's a little pitter patter upstairs. Spike's first thought is that it's Buffy, come 'round for a quick shag or perhaps a fist workout, and he feels momentary panic. What if she heard him talking? She really will kill him, and Clem too. Or, worse yet, what if she decides to humiliate him in front of the one sentient being on the planet who still thinks he's even remotely cool?
Then he remembers. It's daytime. She never comes here in the daytime. Unless she's invisible or someone's life is at stake. Nobody comes here in the daytime. Well, except Clem.
"Shh," he hushes, even though Clem hasn't said anything in a long time. "There's a prowler upstairs."
"Are you sure? It sounded like the wind to me."
They sit in silence, listening to the tiny footsteps above their heads, and then the sound of the trap door creaking open. Spike begins estimating the distance from the card table to the weapons chest, and how fast he can get from here to there.
"Hello? Anybody home?" an anxious, feminine voice calls down. A familiar voice.
Now this, this definitely can't be good. This one hasn't been down here since the summer, since a long, hot night in June when she and her girlfriend brought him blood in bags and forced him to eat. Forced him to keep going.
He can't help wondering now; did they know, even then, what they were going to do? Had they been planning that early on? He knows they couldn't have foreseen the way it would turn out, the way she'd come back, but if they had, would they have gone through with it? And would they have bothered keeping him around?
Stupid, pointless questions all. The only important thing to ask is, what is she doing here now? What possible tragedy could've brought her to this place?
And, God help him, had she heard the things he'd been saying about Buffy?
"Uh, yeah, come on in," Spike says. Clem gives him a knowing wink, probably expecting the voice to come attached to the Slayer.
"Should I get lost?" Clem asks quietly, but before Spike can answer, or even figure out what his answer might be, Willow is standing in front of them with a strange, possibly phony smile.
She looks a little better than the last time he took a good look at her, shivering and pale on Buffy's porch Christmas night, but still not great. Not back to herself.
"Sorry, Spike, I didn't know you had...um...company?"
"Hey," Clem nods in acknowledgment and holds out his hand. To her credit, Willow shakes it without flinching.
"Hi," she says. "Willow."
"So," Spike says, interrupting the getting-to-know-you ritual. "What brings a girl like you to a place like this?
Maybe it isn't a tragedy, he thinks, taking in her obvious discomfort. Maybe his words to her that night made an impression and she's come to him for help. Maybe she's realized what her real problem is, and that he might be, at least, a sympathetic ear.
Or maybe she's lonely without her gal pal, and she's come down for a little bit of the touch. Maybe she hasn't forgotten their strange, fumbling bathtub kiss after all. Maybe he's become the Sunnydale vamp stud, rendering services to girls sorely in need of a visit to the dark side.
Or maybe she found out about him and Buffy and she's here to stake him. It's really a coin toss.
"Wanna play cards?" Clem asks her, stupidly.
"Oh, no, no thanks. I um-I can't really stay. I just wanted to....Spike, are you okay? What happened to your face?"
She ducks her head towards his, and he looks pointedly away, trying like mad to think of a reasonable and impressive explanation. He never answered Clem about it either, and now they're both looking at him, waiting for something. Her concern makes him somewhat queasy for reasons he isn't even capable of considering.
"Uh, yeah, I'm fine. Just uh...little accident. Got drunk. Don't remember, really. Something about a doorknob."
They both nod, and he can't tell if they're unconvinced or just underwhelmed.
"So, what were you saying?" he asks, willing her to resume her rambling and drop it.
"Right. Yeah. Well, there's this....thing that's....happening, and...well, I figured since you're...and we...well, I thought you might want to..."
"Spit it out, Red. Some of us have unlives to lead."
She blushes, and he is a little bit sorry. It's not like he's got anything pressing, after all. Still, couldn't hurt for her to think he's got more to do that sit around listening to her prattle.
"Sorry. It's just, it's no big deal, really. We're just having this...thing, this party thing. For Buffy's birthday, you know. And, um, it's at the house Sunday night...maybe eight-ish?"
Why is she telling him this? He doesn't know. Is it some sort of warning? Stay away from the house that night or we'll throw cake and balloons at you?
"Uh-huh..." he nods, warily looking her up and down. He notices for the first time that she's carrying her school bag, and that her fingers are clutching the strap hard enough to turn her knuckles white.
"Well, so...you can um, bring a friend if you want. Maybe-maybe if you're not doing anything, Clem..."
"Wait a minute, are you inviting me?" Spike asks, genuinely baffled.
"Well...yeah, that's the idea. I offered to be the party planner so, I'm a-planning. We're gonna have punch, and lots and lots of food."
"Sounds cool," Clem offers. Spike just stares at her.
"So, uh, consider yourselves invited then." Willow grins, all chipper delight and mission-accomplished-like.
"Thanks!" Clem says. Spike continues to stare.
"Well, I've gotta go to class. Um...bye." Spike watches her leave, still stunned into immobility.
He'd like to go after her, to ask her why, why in the name of all that is holy, did she think to come round here and give him a special, out-of-her-way invitation to this shindig. He'd like to ask her if it was Buffy's idea, even though he knows that it wasn't, and that, in fact, she probably had no idea Willow was going to invite him. She'll probably be angry about it. But still, he'd like to ask. He'd like to know if it's because of that night he sat on the porch and told her a horrible Christmas story, if she wanted to invite him for herself because she thinks of him as an actual friend.
He'd like to thank her, for treating him this way, but he's just too fucking confused to say anything to her at all.
"She seems nice," Clem chimes in after she's long gone. Spike nods.
"Yeah. Yeah, she is."
She said she'd kill him if he told anyone, but he realizes now that he was a fool for believing she genuinely didn't want to get caught. Going through it, in his mind, it's all pathetically obvious. Of course she wanted to get caught, but not out of any desire to share their "relationship" with her friends. Not out of a need to make it legitimate, reputable. No, it was just the opposite. She wanted someone to find out so that she'd be punished. So that she'd be forced to stop.
She told Tara. He's certain of that. But Tara is far too kind to give her what she was looking for. Tara didn't deal out the harsh judgment she craved, so she arranged for Riley to do it.
He doesn't know if it was a conscious act, or subconscious sabotage, but he's certain some part of her knew Riley would find them. She had to know. It would be sheer stupidity to think anything else.
Sometimes he wonders what things would be like for him if he hadn't fallen in love with Buffy. Like today, standing amidst the ruins of his home, his spirit as broken and ruined as his furniture, he looks back on the events that have led him to this point, and he asks himself: why? how? When did it start and could it have been prevented?
If he'd never gotten himself caught by the soldier boys, never had this chip put in his head, would this sickness have grown in his heart? What if he'd never come back to this town at all?
Or did it go back even further? Was he infected the first time he came here, with Dru?
He tries to pinpoint the moment, the fatal mistake, because if he can track down the roots maybe he can reach inside and dig himself out. Truly, though, it's nothing but a pointless brain teaser. He'd do just as well to sit here pondering where fate might've taken him if he hadn't given himself over to a madwoman a hundred years ago in hopes of finding love and transcendence. Doesn't matter "why?" Doesn't matter "what if?" It's too bloody late.
Karmic retribution, perhaps. What kind of past life could he have led to end up with this? He imagines himself in another time- a prince or a robber baron or a conquering hero- romancing dozens, thousands of women, then leaving them all pitiful and used up. Leaving them without love or mercy.
That must be it. It's the only plausible explanation for the countless recurrence of this tableau in his lifetime. Payback's a bitch.
Becoming a vampire changed a lot for him, but maybe nothing can change your karma. Maybe nothing in this world or any other can make him stop loving so hard, and failing so miserably.
The fates conspired to turn the woman he loved into a confused maelstrom of hatred and anguish. A she-devil who couldn't even find humor in his suffering- only annoyance. And it had to be so. Otherwise this scene wouldn't have played itself out so perfectly. The woman she'd been before would never have gotten close enough to wound him this deeply.
He gave himself to her, completely. He submitted to her, allowed her to work through her needs, her darkness, her malice. Let her be what she needed to be; the one in control, passive-aggressive though that control may have been. The one who loved less, or not at all. He let her feed off his love, and his darkness, and his death, in hopes that it would somehow bring her back to the light. Return her to herself. Problem was, he let himself forget one vital fact: as soon as she got a taste of that light again, she'd be leaving him far behind.
She said it was killing her, this thing between them. Came down here in her frilly blouse and spouted break-up clich�s in a little-girl voice, and what it all boiled down to was the same old story. You're beneath me.
Not good enough. Not evil enough. Too good. Too evil. Too dark. Too light. Too fucking bad, William, but it looks like you lose again.
He tried to show her the shadow world, but the thing of it is, any world that would have him isn't a good enough world for the Slayer.
It's been two days since she left, and he's only just begun to clean up. See what might be salvaged.
He's sorting through shards of vinyl, trying to locate a record that's whole, when she appears before him- something out of another dream. Another path not taken. A path barely seen before it was obliterated by the tornado of Buffy.
She winces, making an all-encompassing hand gesture towards the wreckage.
She looks out of place here, good and peaceful standing amidst the chaos and ash, but then he looks at her eyes and remembers the chaos that's inside her. There are shadows there. The shadows of the put-upon, the passive, the feeble, and the dumped. The power-hungry demon that lurks inside every hapless loser. He knows it well.
"You didn't hear? Soldier boy and the Slayer blew up my house."
"Oh," she says. Then, the "Ohhhh," of realization. "So, you're...eggman?"
She makes it sound cute, almost cartoonish. What does she think of it all, he wonders. What would she think of it if she heard his side, if she was willing to listen? What if she didn't have Buffy to tell her the difference between right and wrong? She doesn't sound particularly disturbed. Sometimes he thinks her moral compass might be as skewed as his own.
"Yeah," he nods. "Koo koo kachoo."
"Huh. Well...I didn't come here to, um...well, I never got the chance to-to thank you."
"Yeah, for...I know it was kind of a while ago, but, at the party? When you, um...almost, sort of stuck up for me? I just wanted you to know I appreciated it."
It takes him a long, awkward moment to figure out what the hell she's talking about, and he uses the time to pick himself up off the floor and dust some dirt off his pants. He looks hard at her- pale whites, and sharp reds, her clothes a random but sparkling disarray- and he tries to replay the events of the party-without-end in his mind, to place her within. His thoughts are scrambled and cloudy, though, and everything is viewed through a gauzy, syrupy haze of gold and brown and tiny blouses and the smell of burger mixed with artificial peach.
"In-in the kitchen," she prods him gently, and it finally clicks into place.
"Oh, that. Well, to be fair, I didn't do much speaking on your behalf, pet. Your little friend did the job just fine on her own."
"Oh, yeah," she nods, all sudden smiles and nearly hysterical enthusiasm. "Tara, Tara was great! Really great. But, she's also...you know, kind of biased. I mean, of course *she* didn't want me to do magic. But with you...just knowing you didn't think Anya was right, it made me feel less....ganged-up-ony. It made it a little easier for me to say no. So, um, thanks."
Once again, the little girl has left him speechless. It hurts him, her kindness.
He knows she isn't always kind, that she's capable of great, if inadvertent, cruelty. Stupidity. Careless lack of regard for consequences. Selfishness. But he's certainly not one to judge. Not when she's being so nice to him.
"It was hard, though," she continues, filling in his slightly rude silence. "I was thinking about what you said, on Christmas, about the power, and...it was really hard feeling so powerless. It was frustrating. I felt totally useless, you know? And you're right. That's the worst part, is giving up that control and just being....well, whatever I am now."
"You're welcome," he finally manages to say. Really, he hadn't been so high-minded in his defense. Just didn't want to get turned into a toad or have the house explode or what all. Her energy could be very unfocussed at times. But it's probably best to keep his reasons to himself.
She gives him a thin smile and stuffs her hands into the pockets of her bizarre, fuzzy coat.
"You need some help cleaning up?" she asks.
"No. No, I haven't quite decided what I'm going to do with all this rot. Might just move."
"Moving can be good. Very cleansing."
Cleansing. Right. Used to be, a good killing spree was all he'd need to cleanse himself. Got Angelus's ghost out of his head right quick. At least temporarily. But that's not really an option nowadays. A new place might be just what he needs.
Maybe a new place in a new city. New sodding country might do the trick.
"You like it here in Sunnydale?" he asks her. "Wouldn't wanna relocate to, say, Sweden? Or Detroit?"
She giggles- a light, awkward, tingly sound that's somewhere between delightful and irritating.
"No, I've got too much homework to do," she says, and he smiles for the first time in...he doesn't even know. "Speaking of which, I should probably be hitting the books right now. Um, let me know if you move. I've still got some candles looking for a good home."
She starts to leave, and he should really let her, but there's one thing he needs to know.
"Why did you invite me to that party, anyway?"
She turns on her heel and looks at him questioningly. Like the answer is obvious, and he's a fool for not knowing. For a small, pathetic moment, he's convinced that she's in love with him, and that's the reason.
"Well...I mean...you're- you're part of the team. Sorta. You're a Scooby. Kinda," she says. He raises a cynical eyebrow. "What? You are. You're like...Scary Scooby. Like Scary Spice, you know?"
He doesn't know. Not at all. But it's really nice to hear, even if it's absolute rubbish.
"Well, thanks. For the invite. Can't say it was a good time, but I sure didn't wanna leave."
"Kinda like life, I guess," she says. He can't decide if that's profound, or the stupidest thing he's ever heard. After she's gone, he realizes it's just sad. She's sad. They're all sad. What a sad, sorry lot.
And maybe Willow's right. Maybe he does fit in, because none of them could possibly fit anywhere else. Scary Scooby and Geek the Girl and Droopy Boy and his Demon love and, of course, the Slayer. Nothing like them in Detroit, that's for certain.
A few hours later, he finds a Dead Kennedys album in one piece, with the cover and linar notes. He decides to stick around Sunnydale at least a little while longer, and maybe ask Willow along the next time he plays poker with Clem.