Six summers of Spike's life, 1998-2003, in short. Angst, spoilers through all of BtVS plus casting spoilers and speculation on Season 5 of Angel. Rated R for language and violence.
He was hunting, every sense alert, cool and focused and alive, more alive than he had ever felt when he had actually been alive. The summer night in Texas was warm and sweet and he was getting a present for his dark mistress.
He'd show her he hadn't gone soft, despite the humiliations of the past year, despite the alliance with the Slayer. He'd show her.
He found what he was looking for in a crowd of teens outside a multiplex. Blond ponytail, short skirt, ridiculously impractical shoes. Surrounded by a crowd of Abercrombie pretty boys, chattering up a storm; perky breasts, big eyes. The resemblance was uncanny.
He felt hatred welling up just looking at her, his eyes narrowing. He watched as she flirted, watched until she linked arms with two of her girlfriends and the giggling group of them began to walk home.
He followed, dark in the shadows, soundless, prowling until she split from the group and walked down her street alone.
Pretty neighborhood, he thought idly as he clamped his hand over her mouth. Welcome mats on every doorstep and tricycles on the lawn. Probably inspirational sayings hanging on the walls inside the split-level houses.
When he got back, Dru wasn't at the warehouse. But the girl cowered on the floor where he'd thrown her.
He walked towards her slowly, casually, murder in every step. She whimpered.
"Not so tough now, are you, Slayer?" He flashed his game face. She gave a muffled scream. "Now you know who's on top. Who's going to be on top." He grabbed her, unbuckling his belt.
By the time Dru returned, just before dawn, the girl's broken body lay on the cement floor, her blood spreading outward slowly and seeping into the concrete. Spike had a manic gleam in his eye and arms red to the elbows as he approached his lady, holding the girl's head by its blond hair. He tossed it in the air casually and caught it again, holding it out to Drusilla with a smirk. Blood dripped slowly from the severed neck.
Drusilla clapped her hands and smiled.
Summer of 1999
No one had touched him in five weeks.
Five weeks before, on a Tuesday, he had grabbed Dru's wrist as she walked away.
"Drusilla," he said, serious and desperate. "Don't go." His voice was low and urgent, pleading, as he looked up at her. There were a hundred and twenty years between them; years of sex and death, violence and joy.
She gave him a pitying look and turned away without speaking. The thump of the door closing behind her echoed through his head for days.
No one had touched him in five weeks.
Before that final, silent, horrible moment they had yelled and screamed; he had thrown things. An ashtray, and a book. For the first time he wished she talked sense, didn't give him bollocks about what the stars said and lambs galloping about. They had yelled and screamed but this time she had walked away.
He wanted desperately to see her and he never wanted to see her again. He'd catch a glimpse of long dark hair on the street and turn, thinking it was her. But it never was.
No one had touched him in five weeks.
He rolled his eyes at the Valley girls prattling away vapidly at the end of the bar. Their voices seemed vaguely familiar – they had a Sunnydale lilt to them, that oddly homey accent.
"...totally gave me the wig, so I was, like,..."
He finished off his beer, waved for another one. One of the girls moved to sit on the stool beside him - blond, he could see from the corner of his eye. He didn't look over.
"Hey, you look familiar," she said. "Have we met?"
"I seriously doubt it," Spike said. He looked down the bar away from her.
"No, I really think... look at me," she said. He didn't. She reached out her hand, touched his face. Straightened his head so they were eye to eye. Her hand was cool and smooth against his cheek.
No one had touched him in five weeks.
"I'm Harmony," she said.
Summer of 2000
Bronze was almost as miserable as his crypt. Almost. He wasn't sure if it was worse to be near all the young bodies pulsing with blood and unable to taste any, or to be alone in a silent crypt. Again. Least at the Bronze there was music, such as it was.
He was up in the balcony, leaning against the railing, sipping his drink and looking down at the crowd. No Scoobies; that was something to be thankful for. Nothing he hated more than a know-it-all, snot-nosed, pathetic Scooby. Unless it was a Scooby making impotence jokes.
Where were they, anyway? Not like there was anywhere else to go in this two-bit town. Probably all off shagging their irritating paramours, and that was a thought that should come with its own vomit bucket.
Not that they were an unattractive bunch. So long as they didn't distract you from it by, say, opening their mouths and letting words come out.
So naive, too, always acting like he was part of their little club. Just because he was chipped didn't mean that he wasn't still their mortal enemy, and their domestic pet attitude couldn't have been calculated to be more infuriating. But on the other hand, the way they would forget that he wasn't one of the gang, the way they acted like he kind of belonged, just because he was around a lot... well, it was all right.
In a maddening sort of way.
Spike had never been one for belonging to groups. He'd been part of a couple and bossed around minions, but was always the outsider in groups, always the punk. He liked it that way.
Ah, there was an impossibly loud shirt, followed by a red head - Scoobies had arrived. He downed the rest of his drink and headed down the stairs, smiling to himself.
"How's the career, Harris? Saved up for a stick of chewing gum yet?"
"Oh look, it's Evil Light, now with only one calorie. Get lost, Spike."
He suppressed a smile. Night was picking up.
Summer of 2001
Spike remembered when his sister had died, his favorite sister, how impossible it felt that the world kept going, the sun kept rising. How ludicrous it seemed that he kept breathing, one breath after another, marking out each moment he moved farther from her. The tyranny of time, of breath, moving you forward when you wanted to be still.
It had been 51 days since Buffy had jumped. 51 days, 7 hours and 8 minutes.
Time may still hold its tyranny, days ticking forward relentlessly, but he didn't have to breathe anymore. So he lay on the vault in his crypt, hands crossed on his chest, not breathing, without heartbeat. Pretending he was dead instead of just undead, and pretending that without breath he did not move forward. He thought nothing; he was empty. A dried out husk.
"Spike?" a small, terrified voice said from the door. Dawn. Of course. He sat up quickly.
"Yeah, Bit?" Her eyes were big and her lip trembled. "Hey now, was just... sleeping, is all. Don't panic."
"I hate it when you're sleeping. You look..."
"I know. I know." She was wiping at her eyes angrily and her breathing was rough.
He lit a cigarette to reassure her that he was still him, still kicking. Show her that he hadn't been lying there thinking about taking a nap in a sunbeam.
He hadn't been smoking so much lately. Didn't like the breathing, he supposed.
"So what're you up to, Niblet? No good, as usual?" She gave a weak smile and shrugged, coming to sit next to him on the vault.
"I dunno. No one's home."
"Yeah. Gets empty feeling, I imagine."
"Yeah," she said. He took a drag on his cigarette. "Can I try?" she asked, looking sideways at him. He almost choked.
"What, smoke? No! Are you crazy?"
"You're really just not evil at all anymore, are you?"
"Giving you lung cancer wouldn't exactly fall under the category of protecting you, now would it? I promised her..." he trailed off, his throat closing.
They sat in silence, smoke from the cigarette drifting up between them.
Summer of 2002
The first few weeks with the soul were disorienting. Later, Spike didn't remember much about them at all. When he came back to himself, it was with a thump. Cairo. The Clash playing from a music vendor's stand in the sukh. He stood very still, frozen in place, as warm bodies pushed past him on the crowded street, listening and remembering. He was Spike. Where was his coat?
A fragment of lyrics. "He who fucks nuns will later join the church." He winced, remembering a convent in Italy. He was Spike. He had a soul. Fuck. Fuck.
What a fucking stupid thing to do. Hey Buffy, I got you a soul! Now will you love me, even though I tried to... oh God.
He managed to make it into an alley before he started retching. Dry heaves, really. Didn't seem that he'd eaten anything for awhile. Took a few more days before he could bring himself to stare into a mug of dark blood and drink it.
Later that summer he came across a couple of vamps in Athens, prowling on a narrow street. He considered leaving them be; even violence against demons felt bad to him now, a remnant of his past joy in destruction. But he knew if they killed it would be on his head, so he palmed a stake and approached them.
"Spike?" one of them asked, peering at him.
"Sorry, pet, we met?" Spike asked, trying to sound bored and casual.
"Uh, Rome, back in the '80s, man. We killed those girls and then tossed their teeth over our shoulders into Trevi Fountain. Good luck, right?"
"Right, yeah," Spike said, feeling sick.
"He smells funny," the other vamp, the short one, said, looking at Spike suspiciously. Spike walked up to him, giving him the evil smirk.
"Got a soul," he said, plunging the stake into the short vamp's heart before he had time to blink.
"What the hell'd you do that for?!?" the first one said, staring at his friend's dust, apparently too stunned to react rationally. Spike shrugged and dusted him too.
"No bloody idea," he muttered.
Summer of 2003
He hadn't remembered the sun being so... bright. Yellow, yeah. Warm, sure. But he'd forgotten how at midday you couldn't even get your eyes to look anywhere near it, it was so bright. Like lightning, all concentrated in one spot.
It was a little much, to be perfectly honest. Felt vulnerable, having the sun all beating down on you, that unblinking stare of it, nowhere to hide. A fragment of verse drifted across his brain from boyhood Sunday School – "...light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil...." A memory of peppermint candy and uncomfortable clothes, fidgeting on a hard bench.
The whole shanshu, champion thing was all well and good... for the poof. A bit of an uneasy fit for William the Bloody, though. Sure, soul, redemption, but... well, come on, right? He hadn't been the one looking longingly at sunlight and brooding, wishing Buffy could have a normal life. He hadn't spent 100 years eating rats and helping the helpless, wearing a hair-shirt and self-flagellating. Wasn't really planning on doing any of those things. Well, if the helpless, you know, bumped into him, he might... but no rats. Period. End of discussion.
Being human was different. Not just the heartbeat, the breathing (reassuring, soothing, those were – he had forgotten). Not just the sunlight. But not being a monster, an unclean thing. No blood lust, no game face. Just blue eyes and big nose, clear forehead, blunt teeth. He had a reflection – he existed. Human, even if sunlight did still make his skin crawl.
That first week he went to a church. Felt amazed by the lack of revulsion he felt walking through the doors, by the peace there in the sanctuary, dust motes and stained glass. He touched the crucifix and felt only smooth wood, touched holy water and felt only cool and wet.
The only burn he had was from the sun, ruddy color on his face, and soon that would pass. It would itch and peel and look ridiculous, and human. Then it would tan, wouldn't burn again. All a matter of becoming, of getting used to being this new creature.
He squared his shoulders and walked out into the sunlight.
NOTES: The verse quoted in Summer of 2003 is John 3:19 (King James Version), and the Clash lyrics quoted in Summer of 2002 are from the song "Death or Glory", on the album "London Calling", which I highly recommend.