By L.A. Ward
RATING: PG-13 (at least for now)
DISCLAIMER: Not mine. Never mine and if they were I'd be nicer to them than Mutant Enemy.
SUMMARY: Because non-core Scoobies are special too (especially the ones I like). And, darnit, Spike is going to get a happy ending even if it's not the one he's expecting.
SPOILERS: Finale spoilers... twisted to fit my own evil designs (so don't take the spoilers too seriously. I made up my own ending and purpose to it all)
FEEDBACK: If you want to give it, I can take it.
AUTHOR NOTES: If I was choosing a sountrack for this chapter..."Mourning" by Tantric
Firelight cast shifting patterns onto stone walls, highlighting and obscuring ancient symbols as a voice said, "I am Temu. I came into existence in Nu before the Pillars of Shu had been created-- "
"And I thought William the Bloody Prat's poetry was awful."
Spike paced the width of the chamber, his boots making no sound on the sand as he moved from one corner of the room to the other, doing anything to avoid looking at the creature he had traveled to this place to find. It was easier to concentrate on his surroundings, on the low, wide room with its massive columns and darkened doorways, on the deep shadows cast by the torchlight and the scent of musk and smoke in the air -- anything but the unmoving face of the battered statue standing in the center of the room. Talking to it made Spike feel like that artificial boy wishing to the Blue Fairy in that Spielberg movie Dawn had insisted on seeing last summer. She said Jude Law was 'hot.' Spike said the boy was stupid.
He glanced at the statue, wondering if it could read his thoughts. And if it could, how could he tell? Its stone features, scarred by the passage six thousand years, stared impassively into the darkness, unmoving and unexpressive. Its nose was missing and its pendulous beard had been hacked away, but only the eyes mattered anyway. The eyes glowed with eerie light -- violet, indigo and green. "I am the lord of two lands."
=Not the great and powerful Oz?=
"I am the registrar of --"
Spike's patience ran out. "We've done this bit all ready."
"This is the ritual. This is the way."
"This is bloody boring."
The omniscient presence lost its Darth-Vader-more-powerful-than- thou composure. "Shesmus! This is why your kind is not allowed--"
"We've done this bit too. Not allowed. Not supposed to. What can I say? I'm a rebel."
Rebel or traitor? Spike wished he knew. In fleeting moments of honesty Spike admitted he had no idea what he was doing, what he was wanting, or why he was here. He didn't understand his motives -- which was bloody ridiculous because they were *his* motives. He should understand them even if no one else did, but Spike admitted he didn't understand anything any more. His world made no sense. His choices made no sense. He was grasping at straws and notions and anything that might put an end to the confusion boiling inside him.
Was this a mistake? Would this be one more disaster in his unending list of disasters? Spike would be the first to admit this trip to the Dark Continent was not the culmination of a plan but an act of impulse and desperation. It was the only choice he had left.
The creature's eyes brightened, becoming pure white light, then dimmed to the previous phosphorescent green. "If you want to be Ptah--"
"Who said I wanted Ta? What is Ta? I told you what I want and it bloody well isn't something I'd say if I buggered off for tea."
"I know what you want."
"What I *earned.*" Spike lowered his brows and frowned in what he knew was an intimidating glower. "Let's not forget the fiery trials and torture. I think my coat was singed."
"So be it, Shesmu. What you earned."
"Better." Searching for a distraction, he lit a cigarette, took a deep drag and released a smooth, even stream of smoke. It calmed him. "Bloody well get on with it." Spike resumed pacing.
"Certainly. Where was I?"
"The Pillars of Shu."
"Of course. The Pillars of Shu which dwelleth in Khemenu."
"Have any names that don't end in a sound of disgust?"
The creature did not react. "I am he who cannot be repulsed. I am yesterday. I am to-day."
"Hurry it up a bit. I didn't bargain on this taking forever."
"QUIET!" The being's earthshaking voice caused dust to rain down from the ceiling. "Have you no patience? You wished to be Ptah. You earned the boon. Now let me finish!"
"Fine then." Spike dropped his cigarette and stamped it out. "No reason to be all tetchy."
The entity continued its introduction or incantation or whatever it was it needed to work its mojo. It added titles such as Lord of Amentet and the Scribe of Ani. It spoke of the 'Lake of a Million Years' and the 'Great Green Sea,' and it ended by saying, "Make the word of Amentet true in the presence of the Tchatcha on the night of the battle with the Saibu fiends and the day of the destruction of the enemies of the Neb-er-tcher. Make the word of Amentet true on the dawn of the Senti for Heru-khent-en-Ariti."
The creature paused, leading Spike to think it expected a response. "Uh, yeah, sure." Spike had no idea what he was agreeing to but it seemed to satisfy the misty glob of energy who now nattered about "things made of Eternity, and things made of Everlastingness."
Spike looked down, idly noting his Doc Martens had seen better days. They were worn and scratched and, after considering the nasty gash on the left toe, he decided they had seen better decades.
"Shesmu. . ."
He should look into finding a new pair. After all, the Slayer managed new leather pants and cashmere sweaters despite being dead broke. Surely, he could work out something.
Spike lifted his head. "Sorry." Apologies did not come easily to the soulless, but Spike decided it was best not to piss off the unimaginably powerful more than was strictly necessary. "You do tend to rattle on." Ah hell, pissing creatures off was what he did best.
Spike moved to cross the room. It should have been easy. There were only a few feet of floor separating him and the statue, but the moment Spike took a step he experienced some strange kind of horizontal vertigo -- which was a horrible contradiction in terms, and well he knew it, but it fit.
The room appeared to stretch . . . only it didn't stretch at all. Objectively speaking the room stayed exactly the same. It only *felt* like it was moving, like the distance between where he stood and where he wanted to go expanded even as he moved forward.
=What the bloody hell?= This felt strange. This felt . . .
This felt like walking down a corridor filled with cobwebs, passing through gossamer barriers whose partial remains clung to him in successive layers. Only it wasn't the handiwork of spiders clinging to him, but thoughts and memories.
He saw his father stretched across a massive mahogany bed. Wine velvet drapes blocked the daylight spilling through the windows as candles guttered in pools of white wax. He could see gold guineas had been placed over his father's eyes and his mother sat sobbing into a linen handkerchief.
She looked up, a startled expression on her tear-stained face before reaching for him, clutching him tightly to her breast. "William."
He was a child again, filled with the lilac scent that had clung to his mother's hair and the feel of black bombazine beneath his cheek. He heard the rustling of her crinolines and the choking, sometimes hiccupping sound she made as she cried. "He is gone, William."
"But Papa is here. He would not leave us."
"He is gone and can never--" She stood, leaving William behind as she crossed the bedroom to throw open the draperies. Light flooded the room blinding him, leaving him to see his mother only in dark silhouette. "I am nothing without him."
He ran to her, throwing himself at her skirts and wrapping his arms tightly around her legs. "I love you, Mama. You're not nothing. I love you. . ."
William remembered squirming beneath the headmaster of Charterhouse's impatient stare. "Finish your recitation, William."
"A gentleman never insinuates evil that he dare not say out. He has too much good sense to be affronted by insults. He submits to pain, because it is inevitable, to bereavement, because it is irreparable, and to death because it is his destiny. . ."
There had been a party where he had overheard a woman say, "Have you heard? They call him 'William the Bloody' because of his bloody awful poetry." And Cecily Addams had descended the stairs, a vision in lavender and white. When she had sat beside him on the settee he had been acutely aware of the way a single chestnut-colored curl had caressed her cheek as she asked, "Your poetry. It's. . .they're not written about me, are they?"
"They're about how I feel."
"Yes, but are they about *me*?"
Later Drusilla had approached him in a hay and dung scented stable. "I see what you want. Something glowing. Something glistening. Something --" She had paused, looking startled by the voices which whispered in her head. " -- effulgent. Do you want it?"
"Yes. God, yes." And she had touched him, taken him, possessed him.
Passion. Bliss. Pain. Hurt. It had *always* hurt. There had been a tugging. . .a tugging in his mind and in his chest. Pulling. Pulling so hard it snapped. Something snapped. Something broke, leaving him feeling. . .
It wasn't peace. It had never been peace. It was freedom and surcease from pain. Exhilaration. Exultation. Strength. Power. Rage.
Rage had flushed Angelus' features. "Remind me, William. Why don't we kill you?"
And Drusilla's childlike laughter had filled with demented glee. "The king of cups expects a picnic, but today is not his birthday."
Other memories surfaced--salt and soy and blood flavored with rice wine, the forlorn yet strangely peaceful face of a Slayer when the battle had been lost.
Triumph. Accomplishment. Success.
Houdini and Valentino. Flappers, the Ziegfeld Follies, and bathtub gin. Cigarettes and sex and dark movie houses. Drusilla petulantly demanding a new doll.
"Wicked you are," she had whispered late one night. "Wicked and cunning and kind."
"Kind, love?" He had been torn between affront and surprise.
"A kind like no other." Spike had smiled and nuzzled her ear, making her sigh. "Neither here nor there, but all in between. It hurts you and drives you. Makes you do things you shouldn't."
"I do things I shouldn't because I'm bad."
Dru had cupped his cheek and stared into his eyes. "Poor thing. You have no place to be. No one to belong to."
"I have you, pet. You're all I need."
But her attention had strayed. "Look, young lovers. Let's have them for dinner."
White linen covered tables and Cotton Club jazz. Billie Holiday's whiskey-soaked voice filled the darkness. "I thought for awhile that your poignant smile/was tinged with the sadness of a great love for me/Ah yes, I was wrong/Again, I was wrong/Life is lonely..."
Screwball comedies. Boris Karloff as Frankenstein. A boat trip from Calais as they departed Vichy France. Bombs over London. Humans fleeing down Charring Cross Road. The humans were right to fear.
Spike grabbed Dru's hand as her face lit with odd ecstasy. "Can you feel the chaos?" she asked. "Isn't it grand? It feels like the end of the world."
"It could be the end of us, pet, if we're not careful."
A high-pitched whine ended with an explosive percussion causing bricks, glass, and dust to fly through the air. Drusilla screamed and Spike stared with startled disturbance at the sight of wood splinters embedded into the wall.
"'Bout time, you discovered we're in danger," he muttered while wrapping his fingers tightly around Dru's. He dragged her through a doorway and down stairs to where all manner of Londoners huddled in an Underground station looking at one another with terrified eyes.
War and peace. Liverpool mop-topped four.
"It's a mini-skirt."
Dru's dark eyes widened with dismay. "Oh no, I couldn't wear that."
"It's the middle of the twentieth century, Dru." He wrapped his arm around her, snuggling close, angling his hips suggestively as he tangled his fingers in her hair. "You'd look smashing."
"Miss Edith would not approve."
They had drained a pair of hippies over Jim Morrison's grave, adding the boys' blood to their offerings of alcohol and mescaline. Dropping their corpses over the tombstone, Spike deviated from his path of destruction to examine their new- fangled eight track player and lost himself in the dead poet's slurred words. "Strange days have found us/strange days have tracked us down/they're going to destroy/our casual joys/we shall go on playing or find a new town."
CGBG and the Summer of Sam. Acid washed jeans, safety pins, and Ultra Light Blonde #4. A Slayer's coat taken in token and tribute.
"Killed another Slayer, you did." Dru had been so sure even before Spike had said a word. She had circled him saying in low, dire tones, "They'll curse you for that. Hold you and claim you and make you their whipping boy."
"Not me, love."
"Yes, you. . .and not you. Strange creature you are." Dru touched his coat. "So dark." She touched his head. "And so light." Suddenly she pulled away. "What *are* you?"
Prague. And daylight was coming soon. The night was over and there was a crowd on their heels, a crowd that knew what they were or at the very least suspected. He had to find Drusilla. How had he lost her? Then, he heard laughter which sounded delighted and pained. "Dru?"
Within a courtyard behind an archway of rusticated stone, Spike found a handsome young priest with his neck crooked in a way which said he was quite dead. Drusilla sat next to the corpse, half draped over it, laughing and crying all at once. A cold wave of dread washed over Spike as he approached the scene. There was blood on the ground. . .and not just the priest's blood. Dru was bleeding as well. A bright river of scarlet ran from the gash on her arm and across her face. The priest had gotten his licks in. The sign of the cross was burned into her forehead, a stake protruding from her chest. The weapon had missed her heart by less than an inch.
Spike could hear people coming, footsteps running down the street. Voices cried murder and monsters and death. "Dru, we've got to go!"
She looked at him blankly and didn't seem to hear.
"Pet?" Spike knelt and rested his hand on her shoulder. Dru screamed. She screamed and screamed. It was an ear splitting, horrifying sound. "What has the bastard done to you?" Spike noted her welts, blisters, and blood and tenderly touched her ruined face. Something burned his hand. =Holy water too?=
"He tried to drive the demon from my soul. Said words and prayers. I hurt, Spike. Disappearing into thin air. Do you see me fading?"
"You're not going anywhere, pet."
"What do you see?" She pushed at the corpse, which toppled down the cathedral's steps to land with a dull thud, the motion sloughing most of the remaining skin from her hand leaving her more red, raw and damaged. God, what had the priest done? "Not up to you."
Dru struggled to sit, to pull herself aright. "Stupid man," she railed at the dead priest. "What else can I be? There's nothing else in me!"
She rose, trying to stand, and it was a painful sight. Drusilla was weak as a kitten, and unsteady on her feet, and Spike could hear the angry voices drawing closer. The night was full of shouts, threats, and screams. Shaken, she wobbled, collapsing almost before Spike could sweep her into his arms.
"The angel will come for me," she said softly. "Black heart and heavy brow."
"No angel, pet."
She looked Spike dead in the eyes. "Things will change."
A road sign toppled beside the road. Home, sweet, home. Pounding music and he saw *her* early one night.
The Slayer had moved with the music, young, lithe, and strong. He had watched her dance inside the club and later with the vamp outside the door. Spike had introduced himself and had almost been polite. Hunter and prey had met face to face and neither was really sure who was who.
"Tell you what," Spike had said. "As a personal favor from me to you, I'll make it quick. It won't hurt a bit."
"Wrong," Buffy had answered. "It's gonna hurt a lot."
She always had been clever when she wanted to be.
Later, Joyce had stood over him, a lioness protecting her young. "Get the hell away from my daughter!" And later still, Angelus had mocked, "Things change, Spikey, got to roll with the punches."
Spike had fumed with impotent fury because he had been trapped in a chair, and he had heard noises made in other rooms, sounds made by Angelus and his beloved Dru--traitorous sounds and sighs accompanied by the smell of sex. Spike remembered with a smile the way Buffy had looked at him with shock and disbelief after he had punched a cop and announced, "I want to save the world."
Then on another night in another year he had sat forlorn and defeated with Willow at his side. The young witch had been nervous and frightened as he confessed, "Dru said I'd gone soft. Wasn't demon enough for the likes of her."
Joyce had nodded with understanding. "Well, she sounds quite unreasonable to me."
Joyce had been such a nice lady. She had offered him marshmallows and hot chocolate and had listened. No one had ever listened.
But the vision of Joyce's kind face was replaced by the memory of Buffy's sneering one. She had pushed him to the ground, stood over him, and tossed money in his face. "You're beneath me."
But Bit, like her mother, had listened too. She had gazed at him with big blue eyes, wanting to hear his words and stories, wanting to know about *him*--what he thought, what he knew, who he was. A beautiful little girl was his Bit. He liked her.
"You don't even know what feelings *are*," Buffy had spat with contempt.
Then Dru had returned, offering a path of escape that he had refused. . .sort of. "Poor Spike. So lost not even I can help you now."
Joyce had died, making death real.
"She never treated me like a freak."
"Her mistake," Harris had said through clenched teeth.
And Buffy had died, making death personal.
But in Sunnydale, miracles happened. . .or at least black magic did. She returned and turned to *him.*
"I can be alone with you."
She had said one thing and he had heard another. She had kissed him and told him, "I was depressed. That's all it was, okay?"
Blind, foolish wanker that he was, Spike had thought he'd known her, thought he'd known the kind of girl she was. He'd believed he'd meant. . .something, that there was still such a thing as hope.
"A man can change." "You're not a man." Buffy had hit him. Hard. She'd driven him to the ground. "You're a thing."
But their dance hadn't ended there. It had all become more complicated than that. She had taken him, taken what he had been so willing to give. Her eyes had widened and her lips had formed an astonished 'O,' and Spike had thought she'd seen him. Then morning came and reality with it.
"Last night was the end of this freak show." She had been so insistent. "What do you think is going to happen, Spike? We're gonna read the paper together? Play footsie under the rubble?"
Anger and impatience had fueled him. "So what? You go back to treating me like dirt until the next time you get an itch you can't scratch?"
"It was a mistake." And she had cut him to the quick. "You were just convenient."
Convenient? He was the bloody least convenient thing in her world.
"Only a complete loser would ever hook up with you." Harris had looked so incredibly self righteous as he said the words, as self righteous as Buffy when she had stood in a shadowed alley and screamed, "I am not your girl!"
Buffy had hit Spike over and over again, hard, harsh, punishing blows. She had been merciless. "You don't have a soul! There's nothing good or clean in you. That's why you can't understand!" He had been lying bloodied on the ground, not fighting back but absorbing the impact of her fists and her words. "You're dead inside! You can't feel anything real! I could never be your girl!"
She had meant it. Why had he not allowed himself to see that she meant it?
"Tell me you love me," she had said.
"I love you. You know I do."
"Tell me you want me."
"I always want you. In point of fact, I -"
She had told him it was over, that being with him was killing her. Buffy had left him behind in the shadows as she walked into the light of the sun.
Sunlight blocked his gong to her. Her expression had been cold and withdrawn, telling him more clearly than her words. "You're not a part of my life."
Spike had protested. He had tried to make her understand. "But you won't see it. Something happened to me. The way I feel about you. It's different. No matter how hard you try to convince yourself it isn't. It's real."
"I think it is, " she had conceded. "For you."
But not for her, for her it was a 'thing,' something left unnamed because she was ashamed of what she had done, ashamed of him and of herself. It had been written across her features as she and Harris and Anya had talked over his head as if Spike wasn't there at all.
"You let that evil, soulless thing touch you," Harris had yelled. "I look at you and I feel sick because you had sex with *that.*"
Buffy's gaze had filled with hate, all of it reserved for *him.* She hated him for telling the truth. She held him in contempt for doing what she had ordered. Spike had tried to move on. He had tried not to care. He had tried to change, to do, to be whatever the bloody hell was necessary to just make her, to make anyone *see.*
He was real. He existed. He was not just a thing.
He had wanted to apologize for his mistakes. He had wanted. . .
"No, Spike, stop!"
He had wanted to hold on, just to hold on, to not lose *everything.*
"Oh, God, Buffy. I didn't. . ."
"Because I stopped you. Something I should have done long ago."
What had he done? How could he have done it? And if he was *only* what she thought he was, why did he care?
Buffy was there whenever he closed his eyes, screaming, yelling, crying, looking at him with contempt. He couldn't escape, not the thoughts, the feelings, or this. . .this stabbing pain in his gut. It wouldn't go away, and it wouldn't stop. It was killing him. It had to end. If his feelings weren't real then take them away. If they could not exist then purge them because they burned in his chest and behind his eyes. Rip out these emotions because they felt like guilt, remorse, and love...and that was impossible.
These feelings were not real. No one heard them or saw them. They were trees falling in the forest that made no sound.
They were not real so kill them. Kill them dead so they would stop tormenting him, stop making him dream of things that never were and could never be, stop making him long for something that was out his reach, something he shouldn't want and could not stop wanting. Just make it stop, because it wasn't what he was supposed to be and he couldn't be anything else.
He was nothing.
"You are Ptah."
Startled Spike looked up at the damaged, blank-faced statue with its glowing eyes. Its deep, resonant voice dragged Spike out of the nightmares of the past and into the present, into this smoke filled hall.
Then Spike felt heat. It swirled around him. It permeated the air. It permeated *him,* burning him, scorching him. . . incinerating him. Oh, God! What had the bloody bastard done? This wasn't what Spike had wanted, this was heat and light and pain and. . .what the hell was this?
Agony crashed down upon him, weighting him, crushing him, bringing him to his knees. Spike screamed. The sound filled his throat and emptied his lungs. It echoed through his mind, obscuring all thought, emotions, and ideas. There was nothing left, only pain and heat, darkness and light, whiteness and black and the sound of his own screaming.
Continued in Chapter Two: Coughing Up Feeling