All About Spike

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Around the Block
By Gwyneth Rhys

She eyeballs him in the low light, sizing him up, assessing his mood and wondering if she's making the biggest mistake of her life. But isn't fifteen like the best time to be making huge mistakes? All everyone will say is oh, you know, she's just fifteen, and let her go on a technicality. And anyway, how big of a mistake could it be if it pisses Buffy off? A lot of things are worth that. Maybe not a punch to the head by an angry bitch demon from another dimension, or doing dumbass things like cutting your arm to see if you bleed real blood, but still... a few things are worth the pinched look on her face and the smoke that comes out of her ears.

Spike has that look: annoyed, like being pissed was the latest fashion fad and he was trying it on to see if it worked for him. The lips pursed together, the brows knit, the cheekbones so sharp he could probably use them as weapons. Which, of course, only makes him look hotter. He's been standing there watching her since she came in uninvited, his head tilted to one side, tapping his fingers restlessly on the marble. He hasn't talked, waiting for her to say something instead. Probably because he keeps getting in trouble when he talks to her. Buffy looks for any excuse to beat him up these days, and if she doesn't have one, she'll just beat him up anyhow.

Finally Dawn breaks the silence. "So, like...anyway."

"Eloquently expressed," he says, and again she gets that spazzy twitch in her stomach at how dumb this really might be. Dangerous, too. He's such a jerk sometimes. Cool, but still a jerk. But you could say that about Josh, too.

"Well, there's this guy."

"Mm-hmm." His eyes are narrowed, like an animal's when it hunts, even though he's obviously paying attention to her. Like if he listens hard enough and gets her to let down her guard, he could move in and eat her. That gives Dawn a strange feeling, lower down than her stomach. Spike often makes her feel that way.

"In my class. And I like him and I think he likes me. We were talking about going to a game or something. Only, he's dated a lot of girls. Hot girls. You know what I mean."

"No, I don't. Hot to trot, or hot as in smoking?"

"Both."

"Ah."

"And at first I was like, what's he paying attention to me for? We sit next to each other in art class. He's a really good drawer."

Spike rolls his eyes. "One isn't a drawer," he says, mocking how she says it. "One draws. One sketches or illustrates. Paints, even. Drawers go in chests."

She frowns at him, suddenly understanding why Buffy's constantly annoyed about Spike. Why she wears her feelings like some kind of scratchy coat. "Yeah. WHAT-ever." He lights a cigarette, blowing the smoke up towards the ceiling. Hops up on one of the tombs and smiles at her. It's hard to stay pissed at him, though, because he's so gorgeous it hurts. Buffy would kill her if she knew she was here, thinking like this.

"And is this tale of Juliet and her Romeo going anywhere?"

"Um. Well. See, the thing is... I'm not. Hot, I mean, in either sense. Experienced. That especially."

He snorts. "That's usually quite easily rectified for a girl of your looks."

Okay, so it's stupid to feel like that, but it makes her so happy she can feel sunbeams breaking out through her skin from inside her chest. Big fat happy sunbeams of Spike compliments. Because, after all, he compliments people so rarely. "That's the problem. See... I was wondering if you..."

"If I... might what?"

He's going to make her say it. Oh god. "If you'd maybe... you know... show me--"

Spike leaps off the tomb and is across the room so fast she nearly spins around in his wash. His fingers are digging into her shoulder and for a brief, heart-stopping moment she expects fang-face, which admittedly she has never seen, but knows enough to know it will scare the crap out of her.

"Are you out of your fucking mind?" he bellows at her, and then seems to pull back inside himself. Takes his hand off her shoulder, doing this funny shift of his body that makes him look smaller. Kind of like how cats shift their bodies and fluff their fur to look larger. "How daft are you? For God's sake," he says, while laughter creeps out around the edges of the words. "You are, aren't you? Mad."

For a moment she's torn between crying and anger. Uncertain which one to choose, she just stares at him. Dawn had never credited him, not really, with being impulse-controlled enough to actually say no. She'd figured that of course he would. Because he's that kind of guy. Vampire. Whatever. Then she understands.

"I meant kissing. Not going... all the way. Geez, Spike." The fire of embarrassment consumes her skin.

Then he really starts to laugh and backs away towards the tomb, hopping back up. "It doesn't matter what you meant, it's not like either notion's a bloody good one. What in hell could you be thinking?"

"I was thinking that you're cool and you seem to at least tolerate me, and I bet it's not like you get a lot of chances now to have sex or kiss someone or whatever, since you're chipped and all. Sex with a human, anyways, because if you can't bite them..." she trails off, knowing she's reached the danger line.

He narrows his eyes and smiles ruefully. "You're a clever sausage, aren't you? Figured that out on your own?" He nods to himself. "True, it isn't half the fun without that." He looks at her like she's a bug in a jar. "Happy?"

Embarrassed is more like it; she must be totally red by now. "It's just... I'd like my first real kiss kiss to be with someone I like, and someone who could teach me how to be good at it so I don't, you know, make an idiot of myself with Josh. If he ever decides to kiss me, which I mean he might not but you never know, and I want some... experience. Just a little."

"And why not simply wait for Josh to kiss you, and let that be your first? It's not something you'll be tested on later, you know. Most of us don't have the chance to practice first." He lights a cigarette.

No one's going to understand this, but if anyone could, it'd be Spike. "Because of the not real thing. I feel like there's stuff I missed out on because of the... you know."

"Mm." He points the cigarette in her direction. "You should really go now. If your sis found out about this convo, she'd kick my arse so far down the street I'd need a passport."

"She won't. She'd never expect me to come here."

"Look, Pet. I understand, maybe more than you reckon. You feel isolated and strange now that you know... what you are. Been there, done that. Don't think the chip didn't fu -- mess with my head."

She giggles at his unintentional joke and he glares hostilely at her. He's so not used to this kind of thing, really. All this interacting with humans, let alone a teenager. A really screwed up teenager. It was always about him before, just him and whatever her name was, Dru. Now he's hanging around with people and they do and say things he doesn't expect.

"But this is a bit of one step beyond, you know? You don't ask a vampire, chipped though he may be, to give you snogging experience. And you especially don't hang about the crypt of a vampire your slayer sister loathes, because you'll get him dusted. Why would you think this is a good idea?"

"You know stuff. And you've been around the block. A lot of blocks."

"Too right. But none of them are blocks you want to walk in, believe me."

Dawn can tell there's something else he's not telling, something he's keeping all to himself, but she just sits down on the bench and puts the book bag beside her.

"Why are you dressed like that?" she asks, suddenly aware of his clothes. "You look like a Gap ad."

He glances down at himself. "What? What's odd about this? I've lots of clothes."

"No, you don't. You always wear the same thing. Black T-shirt, long black coat, black jeans, and those gross beat-up boots. Sometimes maybe a red shirt."

He grins wickedly at her. He has sharp teeth, even the non-fangy ones, and his smiles look dangerous. "Noticed, eh? Tell me, does anyone else notice, or is it just you?"

Fiery heat again creeps up her face and she stares at the floor so he won't see her blush. "Just me." This is all so humiliating. She thought he'd want to kiss her, just because she offered. Smell the blood in her, all of that stuff he never gets to enjoy anymore.

"So big sis has never commented on my wardrobe?"

"No. If she comments on you, it's not about stuff like that. Believe me, she wouldn't want to notice stuff like that about you." As Dawn speaks, she finally looks up from the floor. She probably looks more hurt than she'd prefer to. And he's looking at her so intently as she talks about Buffy that the big Acme anvil falls right on her head, boom. Blinking a few times, she stares at him. It starts to form a picture from all kinds of blurry, fuzzy images, as if they'd been swarming around, scattered, and now all came together into a whole. She can see it, at last.

"Oh my god. Oh."

"What?" He looks at his hands, around the room, anything but at her eyes.

"Ohmigod. You're... you have a thing for her. For Buffy."

"Don't be ridiculous," he laughs, but it's totally phony and hollow.

"You do. You're wearing different clothes and asking about her because you like her." All this time she'd thought it was just that he had a weird thing about her, a kind of love/hate obsesso thing. Not a liking thing. Liking is so... so different.

"As we've already established, you're daft."

"No! No, I'm not. It all makes sense, the way you hang around the house, and the stupid smashed candy, and the... the clothes, and why you're..."

"Why I'm what?" he asks in a weary voice. As if she's just beaten him at a game.

"Why you're nice to me."

Spike rolls his eyes and laughs harshly, flashing those sharp, even, white teeth. He leans forward, as though sharing a secret from all the way across the room. "I'm nice to you because I choose to be. It's nothing to do with the slayer."

"But you like her."

When he doesn't answer, Dawn knows just how much he really does. If it was only a little bit, he'd shrug it off with a casual and snarky English insult. Still, Dawn's touched that he insists he likes her for herself. Sometimes she wishes she could bring other kids here, or drag Spike somewhere where other kids could see her with someone so cool, so... vampirey. No one would ever think she was lame again. All the girls would want to hang out with her so they could be around him, get to know him. That happened once to Paula -- her older brother Ruben was so hot, plus he was a musician, so all the girls pretended to be Paula's friend just so they could be around Ruben. Finally, though, Paula got wise and stopped letting them into her house. Still, that's the kind of risk Dawn would want to take -- Spike could give her street cred.

"God, Spike, you may be evil, but you're a lame liar." He exhales the smoke -- how does he do that? If vampires don't breathe, how can he even smoke, let alone draw out a big long puff of it like that? -- and stares sadly out the barred window. Dawn feels so sorry for him sometimes. But he'd kill her dead if he knew that.

"I don't care enough to put the energy into being a good liar. That's the key."

She flinches at the word, though she doesn't know why. It doesn't mean the same thing, even she knows that, but just hearing it...

"Oh, now, don't get that way. I hate it when women come over all weepy. It's so... "

She shakes her head. "It's not that. It was just... you said 'key' and it reminded me... and I know I'm being a doof. None of this makes sense."

"Course it doesn't. It's the sodding Hellmouth, what were you expecting? They gave you that memory, those monks, and you know what it's about. Doesn't mean you're not real now, just because you weren't before. "

"Huh?"

"Never mind," he says with resignation.

They sit in silence for a long while. For the first time Dawn thinks that Spike really is painfully vulnerable, as vulnerable as she is. He's heartsick and lonely and weak, covering it all up with his punk 'tude and the whole me-vampire-you-food thing. Only it's not working anymore on anyone, least of all her.

"It really bugs you, doesn't it?"

"So many things bug me, Little Bit, that I wouldn't know to which you're referring." He drums his fingers on the tomb, starts humming under his breath. He looks like he wants to crawl out of his skin; she can almost see it twitching.

"Being here, stuck with us. Hanging around, just waiting."

When he does that little thing where he cocks his head to the side, she recognizes the gesture: that's how he'd looked at Buffy the other night after the fight with Glory. After they all left the hospital and everyone was standing around stupidly not knowing where to go.

Dawn gets it now. There was something about him she couldn't put her finger on before, something that made her feel connected to Spike in spite of everyone's drama-queen warnings. And she's not totally sure that if she explains it, he'll understand. Everything gets kinda hinky when she tries to explain, and he's not the best audience because of his short fuse -- plus he's pretty immature. Considering he's over a hundred years old and all.

Even though he is like a century older than her, they're the same beneath the skin. Neither one of them really exists. They take up space, appear to be human on the outside, but on the inside there's something non-human. They're of their kind, but not. And they're both here for the same reason: Buffy. Doesn't matter if it's for different reasons, doesn't matter that his kind of non-human is evil, Buffy is what they have in common.

"What am I waiting for, in the world according to Dawn?"

"For things to change." Dawn remembers a night a few weeks ago; she was awakened by Spike's stinky cigarette smoke, and looked out on the back porch to see him sitting there with Buffy, his hand over hers, just listening to her talk. Later Dawn thought she was dreaming for sure, because no way would Buffy have allowed him to touch her.

But now she knows it was real and why he was there. He's so stupidly hopeful that Buffy will like him too, if he's good enough.

His face is so serious and tragic as he looks at her. "You need to go home. Now."

He gets up and takes a beer from his goofy little refrigerator. As he drinks she watches his throat, the way his Adam's apple moves up and down, the muscles of his neck moving in a slinky, sinuous line. Even the guys at school who are really cut don't have the look of pure muscle and energy that he does. That must be what he looks like when he kills, something she's never really seen.

"Spike. Do you think you could bite me?"

It's like he's both baffled and enraged. His dark eyebrows come together, and his mouth, wet from the beer, opens.

"Because, you know, I'm not real. Maybe you could. Did you ever think that -- wouldn't you want to if you could?"

"For fuck's sake, Dawn! You're real. Stop bloody saying that. You're as real as I am!" His voice is choked with emotion, cracking as he shouts at her. "Just because you weren't here in... corporeal form before doesn't make you any less real now. And just because I'm the sodding living dead doesn't mean I'm not here, walking around, seeing and feeling and thinking." He's pointing his finger at her, jabbing at the air while still holding the beer, so it sloshes around in the bottle, little sprays flying out of the neck occasionally. His face is so twisted up, and Dawn almost wonders if he could be on the verge of tears, but Spike would never cry, right? "Just because you were made for a different purpose, or you didn't exist in this form before... it doesn't make you less alive. It doesn't mean... that you're worth saving only if Buffy says you are. You are here. You are alive. So pack it in, right now."

She could be a smartass and say, oh yeah, that little pep talk was all for my benefit, but she keeps her mouth shut. Because she aches for him: he'll never be anything but disappointed, Buffy will never do anything but hate him, and he's just doomed.

Everything that made him boastful and proud, cocky and funny, dangerous and sexy is gone now, erased by these cruel twists of fate. The same ones that twisted Dawn's own life. Suddenly she wants to be his friend in the worst way.

He turns away. "Go home, Dawn."

"Can I come back?"

"No." He turns around and glares at her.

"I don't really want to go ho--"

"I don't care. Go home before Big Sis and Mum start worrying. There's a bitch on wheels out there with your name stenciled on her forehead."

Dawn scowls at him but pulls her book bag up and starts for the door. She should have kept her big mouth shut, of course. He's not the kind of guy... vampire... whatever that you can say anything to. The more you know about him, the more pissed he'll get. He'd doesn't like being known.

But when she's at the door, he's abruptly there by her side, so swift and silent she can hardly believe it. Vampires really are creepy; all the gang forgets that most of the time because of Spike's chip and Angel's soul and because it's all so ordinary to have vampires around.

"Never tell anyone." And he puts his fingertips on her chin, tilting her head up. "Least of all that bitch queen of a sister."

When he kisses her, she expects that he's going to taste icky -- like a dead guy. That he'll be cold and kind of moldy or something. But instead he tastes a little bit like beer and a lot like tobacco, which is bad, but underneath there's nothing, really, nothing bad anyway. His lips aren't cold, neither is his skin -- it's not exactly warm, but it's not cold. His mouth is soft, his skin is smooth. Her heart is beating so fast she feels like she might be having a heart attack, but of course she's much too young. Or maybe the monks made her wrong. There probably aren't blueprints for that kind of thing.

There's nothing super sexy about the kiss. He doesn't do anything except press his lips to hers, holding her chin in his hand. He slides his palm across her neck, but that's as far as it goes. None of the tongue stuff; just enough to give her an idea of how to move her head, breathe through her nose, how lips move against lips. She marks that all down in her mental notebook. Then finally he pulls away and smiles tenderly at her. His eyes are so blue they're like... whatever that stone is that Willow always uses in her spells. Lapisoozooli or something like that. Looking into those eyes, for a second she forgets where she is. Vampires can hypnotize you, she remembers Buffy telling her. Don't look at the eyes.

"Now get out," he says, but his voice is teasing, and she can tell he's enjoying himself. Spike has a funny sense of humor; it's like he's the only one in on his jokes, and he laughs at stuff inside himself so you can never laugh along.

"You kissed Buffy before, didn't you? I mean, I know it's not a real memory I have, but I remember that you guys thought you were getting married. And you kissed her." Did he kiss her like this, or was it more passionate? Did Buffy get weak in the knees?

He grins his sharp, feral grin and places his hands on her shoulders, shoving her through the door. "She kissed me," is all he says, and the door clangs shut behind her.


End

2/11/03

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