This is the story that takes place in a time-shifted AU 4th season where Spike escapes, chipped, from the Initiative just as Beer Bad Buffy goes on a rampage. As Te told me, it's like two or three stories fighting for dominance. But it's one of the very few things I've written in the last seven years that actually comes to a natural stopping point.
DISCLAIMER: Not my world, not my people, not my property.
I'd expected some new horror, truth be told; there was one every time I visited this town. But a clean, well-lighted cage and a lead role as a lab rat , that honestly hadn't occurred.
What the hell was wrong with the Slayer? Not satisfied with dragging in her friends and family, she was outsourcing her job to Mad Scientists, Lld? Laughing now, no doubt, imagining me penned up with all the other poor suckers in that fluorescent-lit nightmare hospital. Well, I was out now, and I was going to find her, and I was going to finish this. It was going to end the right way, with her blood on my hands and in my mouth. All the proof anyone could ask --
And there she was. Out on the prowl, or actually crouched on the ground waiting for the right monster to come along, but she didn't see me coming because she was too busy...
Drawing in the dirt with her finger?
"So it's spells now, is it? You should leave that to the little witch. Time for you and me to fight. Pay attention, I'm only going to kill you once."
She looked up at me with a strange attentive blankness, not at all the way she usually began a fight. More like the way she was in the middle, more instinct than thought. No smart talk either, not a word. Well, down to business then, we both wanted the same thing. Finally.
I threw myself at her, knocked her onto her back, and she continued the roll to throw me over her head. But I'd got a grip on her hair, right at the back of the neck where it was thick and strong, and I pulled her down with me. The back of her head hit the ground hard. She blinked, and in that blink I was at her side, striking for the throat --
And someone set off a grenade in my head. There was a burst of black pain so bright I couldn't see or think. When I could, it was me on my back and the Slayer straddling me, pinning me down for that final slam of stake into heart. I tried to backhand her away from me but the pain had sapped my strength and it was no good, she had me this time, well, then, it had been a marvelous ride, all in all, though too bloody short -- I felt the tremendous impact over my heart, tried to get the words out before I went to dust -- *thanks for the good times, love* -- no sound, tried it again and heard myself, not as light as I'd hoped but not bad...
...especially with this miserable bloody headache, and the way she kept hitting me, thump thump thump over the heart...
...with her fist.
No stake. There had never been a stake. And now she tilted her head in that infuriatingly perky way she had, opened her mouth, and said,
God. She was brain-damaged. Had she really been working a spell, one that backfired? Or -- why hadn't I noticed it before? -- was she just unbelievably drunk? She smelled like she'd been rolling around in a locker room and had finished up with a nice beer bath. Had more than was good for her, obviously. Well, this wasn't quite the way I'd imagined it, me recovering from a case of migraine, her all stupid with drink, but that was hardly my fault. And oh, was I done with waiting for the perfect moment. This moment was good enough. Buffy had stopped punching me and was leaning over me to puff air at my neck, her tangled hair brushing my chest, rather distracting until I realized she was trying to blow my dust away. "You think that's funny, do you?" I asked her, but she was ignoring me. Right, then, ignore this, I thought, and brought both fists down on the back of her skull --
But the little man in my head, the one with the grenades, was still on the job. Just my luck. And when I stopped clutching my head and opened my eyes, Buffy was patting the ground on either side of me, apparently having twigged to the need for a stake, or at least a stick. The other hand was gripping my throat. No chance for me to get away and regroup (and figure out what the hell was going on.) And the trouble with this staking business was that pieces of wood weren't all that hard to find. Sooner or later she'd do me, unless I stopped her, and ripping her guts out wasn't currently an option.
A harmless distraction might work, though. I twisted under her, got my thigh between her legs, and pressed. Slowly. No headache this time; that was a start. No immediate reaction from Buffy either. I bounced her gently, gave her a little ride. Go on, Slayer, dirty nasty stuff, you know you hate it, now jump up all revolted and give me a chance to get out of here...
But she didn't jump up. Nothing like. She made a little pleased sound, as if she'd found money in the street, and then she snuggled into me and clung tight. It was as if she'd -- melted -- and stuck to me everywhere, like taffy. Like (toothache sweet, slightly grimy) salt water taffy. And while I tried to figure out how to pry her off me without getting myself staked, I remembered. Because, whatever *she* might think, it was Drusilla in my head, wasn't it?
... a day at the beach. Dru and me, curled up in the shadow under the boardwalk, dozing and nibbling on each other by turns. The ocean and the sunlit sand were one long low stretch of painful light. Hard to see anyone coming. Not the safest hidey-hole, no, but the humans on the beach would have just as much trouble seeing us, unless they came under the boardwalk themselves, and then we'd have them while their eyes were still full of sun. Actually, when we'd parked the car and strolled down here last night, I'd expected a meal to come our way by noon. Hadn't they been listening to the radio? But no one was making love, or anything else, under our boardwalk that day. Maybe they didn't like the cool hard sand in the dark, colder than Dru's skin. No one showed, and the day wore on and on. Late afternoon now, and the sun seemed to be stuck like hot glue just above the horizon, until Drusilla was humming with hunger, the way she does, and looking at me expectantly.
I never could say no to that look, and I was feeling peckish myself, so I put a finger to my lips and went over to wait under the stairs, the ones furthest from the parking lot, for a snack. Got lucky at last; a girl in a gaudy flowered swimsuit came running up, giggling, looking over her shoulder to see if she'd lost the bloke she was teasing. I looked too, saw that she had, and snagged her by the ankle, ignoring the momentary sunburn to my hand. She was down in the dark with me before she knew who'd caught her, and I broke her neck next moment, business-like. I would have liked to let Dru play with her, but I wanted her well and truly hidden before her honey could come seek. I carried her back to Drusilla and set her down on the sand like a bouquet.
By the time Dru had taken the edge off and I had had a good drink, it was twilight and the beach was quiet. Dru got that gleam in her eyes that meant she was ready for a real hunt. She walked out onto the open beach like an empress, dark against the glowing sky, and spread her arms to the breeze. The sand was still hot with sun; she laughed at the pain. I wondered, again, what I'd done to deserve her. I closed my eyes for a second, remembering things, and when I opened them she was about a mile down the boardwalk, stalking the arcade.
She'd caught a scent, no doubt, or a wisp of emotion, from someone good to eat. Drusilla was always stronger and faster than she looked. I followed more slowly (not crashing along oblivious like our last meal's idiot boyfriend, who'd run right by us a moment after we'd taken his girl) and let her hunt in her own way. From a distance I saw them act out the plot: the lost child, the eerie friendly lady, the reassuring embrace. I could hear Dru whispering but not the words. She had him in a little alley, just out of plain sight, and they both looked up at the sound of my boots. The kid's neck was wet with tears, and just a little blood running down to the collarbone, but his eyes were as wide and tranquil as hers. "We saved you some," Dru said, and the boy held up a crumpled bag.
Afterwards it was dark and deserted enough for a quick tumble on the lawn at the edge of the parking lot. I had stashed the kid's body under a tangle of wild roses and got nicely scratched for my trouble. Those buggers may smell sweet but they've got about a million more thorns than the kind you give to ladies. So now I was bleeding too. When we were done we were such a mess that even Drusilla noticed it. She stood on tiptoe and held up both arms as though she were afraid of them. "He sticks," she said mournfully, and danced away from me when I reached for her.
"It's just the sweets he'd been chewing, love. Nasty stuff. It's all right, Dru, we've got the biggest bath in the world right next door."
She looked at me dubiously. Going to make me work for it. Nothing new there. I shook my head till I came out in fangs, and I leaned into her, playing menace so she could play fear. "Or I could cut you up a bit, make you bleed like me, until there's blood enough to wash in."
I felt Drusilla's pleasurable shiver more than heard it. "Oooh, Spike. Naughty. Not the black lamb, that won't do for washing." And she tilted her head, challenging me to read her mind. (Oh, yes. For that she always came to me. Her own sire couldn't catch her drift the way I could.) But this was an easy one. I moved fast and caught her, held her wrists behind her back, growled in her ear. Told her she was my tender black lamb, you know the sort of thing, I'm not writing it all down. (It sounds silly when you say it out flat. You have to be there.) And then I picked her up and walked her into the sea.
Dark water spread over the sand at each pulse of the waves. Yeah, it was like blood, but it was more like Guinness, heavy and black, striped with foam the color of old ivory. Quiet and almost calm, now that twilight had turned to night and the shore breeze died down. The salt got into every tiny scratch, of course. Dru wriggled in my arms, twisting until she was upright, my hands gripping her waist. She was reaching for the water with her toes like a ballerina. "Let me, let me! I want to walk on it." Oh, she wanted it badly, to say something that sounded like blasphemy even to me and not stop to play with it. So I walked in deeper, still holding her high, until her bare feet touched the water, white against the glassy blackness, and the foam catching at her ankles like thick lace.
Sometimes I think if I went back to that beach I'd find us still standing there.
So that's how I know about salt water taffy, and how to wash it off -- eventually I did drop her in and we got cleaned up somewhat, though Dru kept talking about sand in her things long after the last grain was gone -- and I suppose that brings us back to the present. By which I mean me on my back and a drunken (at the very least) Slayer melting dreamily all over me, mumbling about the way I smelled. And me without a way to kill her, or even hurt her, or get her the hell off me, unless I wanted to hand her a stake and try to get what was left of her mind back on her business.
And then I smelled smoke. I turned my head to look, and she looked too, and we were both staring at some miserable bit of the Sunnydale campus going up in flames. When I turned back to Buffy she had her noble heroine face on, despite the twigs in her hair. "Fire bad!" she told me earnestly, and then off she went, forgetting I'd ever existed. Saved by the fire alarm. It was too much to hope that she'd get herself killed, even in her current state, but maybe the amnesia would be permanent.
I thought about getting out of town. I did. But the wankers who'd messed up my head were here, and they might be the only ones who'd know how to fix it. They came after me all right, but I kept out of their way, and I kept out of the Slayer's way as well, but she wasn't looking for me, so apparently all was forgotten. Home free. All's well that ends, et cetera. Until the day I sat up and heard myself say out loud, "How could she forget? I can't."
But that's another story.