By Barb Cummings
Sequel to A Raising in the Sun
Disclaimers: The usual. All belongs to
Joss and Mutant Enemy, and naught to me.
Rating: PG-13 for language until Chapter 11,
when it abruptly becomes R. (I caved, all right? So shoot me.)
Setting: AU Season 6
Pairing: S/B, and about damned time
Distribution: Ask and you shall receive, I'd
just like to know where it ends up.
Feedback: Why not?
Author’s notes: More or less a sequel to “A Raising
In the Sun.” Thanks to Aurelio Zen for lettin' me play with her
Zagros demon, and many, many thanks to LA Ward and all the folks at the Redemptionista
Writers Group for beta reading.
want to wake up.
Consciousness had hold of him now, and the sweet bliss of knowing who he
was dissolved into the familiar crawling itch inside his head. Tanner
huddled inside his ratty sleeping bag, only his eyes visible. (Important,
very important; the Things couldn't get through the cloth.) Sun was
down. When no place was yours, no place was proof against the
things that prowled the Sunnydale night, it was much safer to sleep during
the day. No one visible. Which didn't mean much; he could only
see the invisible ones sometimes. Jerk the zipper down, back up, down
again. (Very important.) Sit up, slowly, while the fingers crawled
through his brain. Check the perimeter.
in the park, in the little cave formed by the overhanging myrtle bushes.
Tanner twisted round in the sleeping bag, counting off: the rock with the
hole in it. The yellow rubber dog. The three matchbooks with one match
left, the one on the right-hand end of the back row, bound together with
red string. Wards and bounds, marking his territory. Some of
the others used crosses, one, two, three, four, planted in the ground, head,
feet, one to each side.
crosses for him. What point when any smart vampire could use a stick
and knock them away? He had his own methods. Sometimes he thought
he remembered which ones were really magic (The bundle of rowan twigs?
The phonograph needle which had only been used once, to play Scriabin's...
what?) The knowledge was far away now. Twitching, itching...
time to hunt. Past time. He'd put it off too long already.
He'd be no help to the others if he didn't do it soon. He struggled
out of the sleeping bag and rolled it up, tucking the charms away in its
folds as he did so, muttering the right words in the right order.
outpost was near the playground, a good safe spot, well-lit even at night.
Near the squat cinder-block building which guarded the entrance to the public
pool. There were showers in there, and bathrooms, and sometimes in
the summer you could get good stuff from the lost and found box in the lifeguards'
dressing room. The parking lot by the pool house was almost empty,
just one lone motorcycle parked there. Tanner eyed it warily as he
walked by, lest it pounce. It growled, but it was well-trained, he
could see that. It only watched him as he walked up to the pool house.
The lock on the main door was broken and the parks
and recreation people had given up trying to replace it long time ago--gangs,
they said, or vagrants. Everyone knew it was really vampires.
The others just took advantage of the vampires' vandalism, jackals following
lions to the watering hole.
vampires wanted with a men's room Tanner didn't know--probably the same thing
he did, a convenient place to wash up when you wanted to pass for human.
Look clean and you could get into the Espresso Pump, scavenge some change,
spend the evening drinking coffee. They couldn’t see the crawling in
your head if you were clean.
filtered in from the parking lot outside through high windows paned in heavy
pebbled glass. Tanner picked his way past the front desk, placing his
feet just so on the spiderweb of cracks in the echoing hall. Men's
showers and dressing rooms were on one side, bathroom on the other.
Faint scents coiled about him, plucking at his coat sleeves. Chlorine
and wet concrete and stale caramel corn, whispering ghosts of summer.
A sharp, astringent scent--a stranger--nipped at his ankles. There was
water running in the bathroom already. A dark shape loomed over by
the sinks. He realized what the sharp smell was. Peroxide.
man at the sink straightened carefully to avoid banging his head on the tap
and sluiced water out of his hair with both hands. He looked over his
shoulder, sized up and dismissed Tanner in a glance, and went back to washing
the excess bleach out of his hair. He had one of those little traveling
shaving kits laid out on the edge of the sink. Tanner recognized him
as someone he'd seen around downtown Sunnydale before. One of the night
people. Vaguely punkish, Doc Martens or motorcycle boots, black jeans
and T-shirt and a black leather longcoat which must have been damned expensive
when it was new. And a definite aura of don't-fuck-with-me.
memory surfaced--that too-handsome face a-snarl with rage. Tanner's
hand went up, touching his nose gingerly. It still hurt when the weather
changed. The blond guy falling, strings cut, puppet no more use.
But it had hurt him first. Tanner's first impulse was to back
away, let the guy leave before going in himself. Second impulse...
"You were there. When the air bled lizards."
blond guy frowned. "No offense, mate, but I lost my taste for deciphering
raving loonies a year or two back. Go ahead and use the loo if that's
what you're here for."
didn't move. Manna from heaven. Guy here, alone. Guy’d
hurt him. The dogs wouldn't bark for him. That was the singular
occurrence, Watson. His fingers jerked at his sides. Three
steps. A grab. Fingers twined in bone-white hair. The right
words in the right order. Faster than lizards flew, the strings would
be cut again and for awhile he, Tanner, would be whole, the crawling itching
twitching stilled... Then he heard the voices behind him, out by the
front desk. He froze.
guy at the sink looked up again, irritation twisting his features, and shook
water out of his newly-bleached hair. He cocked his pale head to one
side, listening. "You expecting company?"
shook his head, mute, backing into the room and sliding along the wall past
the urinals, towards the stalls in back. The blond guy, though obviously
tense, took his sweet time turning off the tap, packing up his razor and
shaving cream and tossing the plastic gloves and bleach package into the
big metal trash can in the corner. That was fine with Tanner.
He could play macho. There had been a time when he could have done
the same, said a word, made a gesture--but the magic took time now, time
to gather scattered thought and marshal them in neat rows. Time you
didn't get in a fight. Tanner would hide in the bathroom stalls and
if it was human punks maybe they wouldn't find him, and if it wasn't...
they wouldn't be hungry enough to want him too.
voices echoed down the damp concrete halls. "Where'd he go?"
showers. Geez, what stinks in here? Smells like a laundry."
in the short hallway, louder, closer. Spike heard scrabbling noises
as the homeless guy, whoever he was, clambered desperately up onto the toilet
seat, clinging to the wooden partition. Spike sighed and finished
his washing-up, not bothering to look at the big sheet of burnished stainless
steel they had bolted to the wall in lieu of a mirror. Too dark to
see a reflection, even if he'd possessed one, and he had a lot of practice
at doing without.
They sauntered around
the corner and into the bathroom, yellow-eyed, faces twisted into nightmare
shapes. The only heartbeat in the room was the one he could hear thudding
violently away in the stall at the back of the room. Spike relaxed.
A gang of human marauders he might have had trouble with. Other vampires
he could handle. Not that, in the case of these two, he really wanted
to soil his hands.
wasn't unusual for a vampire to pick a style they liked and stick with it
for decades, if not forever. Spike did it himself. But sod all,
why did so many of them have to pick a look that screamed 'complete git'?
The one in front was middling tall and olive-complected, with dark curly
hair in a sort of brillo-explosion halo. He was wearing a collection
of gold chains and a lemon yellow polyester leisure suit, horrifically wide
lapels and all. Very likely the same suit he'd been turned in; that
stuff was even more indestructible than the average vampire. The other
one was fortyish and balding, with a sort of hunched, apologetic look even
in game face. His grey suit was unobjectionable, if dull, and plenty
of living humans of his sort would have had the exact same air of having
slept in it for at least a week. He looked like an undead chartered
first vampire pointed to the stalls. "He's right in--" Then he
noticed. His lips twisted in disgust over bared fangs. "Spike."
other," Spike replied, squeezing a judicious amount of hair gel into one
palm. He set the tube down on the sink, rubbed the gel briskly into
his hair and ran a comb through the unruly curls, testing deftly with the
other hand to ensure everything was in place. The patent-leather look
was easier to keep up, but he'd gotten bored with it. Besides, Buffy
had made the off-hand comment after she'd gotten back that she liked the
new look. He'd been too embarrassed to admit that the 'new look' had
originally been the result of a week's worth of not giving a shit, but rabid
wolverines couldn't have made him go back to slicking it completely flat
after that. Oh, well. What time he lost getting the hair right
he saved on not hanging about waiting for his nails to dry.
the hell are you doing here?" the disco-era vampire asked.
rinsed his comb off and put it and the hair gel back into his shaving kit.
"Taking advantage of this brilliant invention that came in last century.
Indoor plumbing. P'raps you've heard of it?" He sniffed ostentatiously,
wrinkled his nose and turned off the faucet. "Guess that would be a
ignored the insult. "Look, in your condition I don't blame you
hanging around and hoping for scraps, but this one's ours."
smaller one smiled. Nasty expression. "If you're nice we'll let
you have sloppy seconds once he's good and dead."
studied him with interest, wondering if he looked that purely evil with a
grin on. He hoped so. With a martyred sigh, he pulled his duster
off the hook by the sink and shrugged into it. The black leather flared
dramatically about his shoulders as he turned to confront the interlopers
again. Grinning. The two of them flinched, stepping back in spite
of themselves, and then took a belligerent half-step forward.
Damn, but he loved doing that. "Just had to do it, didn't you?
Here’s poor Spike, completely biteless, and you lot come barging in and not
only want to snuff someone right in front of me, you want to tell me all
about it in nauseating detail."
looked at Accountant. Accountant looked at Disco and pursed his thin,
colorless lips. "I suppose that is inconsiderate of us, considering
right it's inconsiderate. Think of my feelings." Spike picked
up his shaving kit and tucked it into his duster pocket. "D'you think
I enjoy playing white hat?" His grin broadened as his hand found the other
item in the pocket. "You could have shut your gob and I could have
left nice and peaceable, don't ask, don't tell, but no--here you go, forcing
my hand." He withdrew his hand, now grasping a wooden stake, from his
pocket and swung it in a short sharp arc that terminated in Accountant's
chest. "Downright rude, I call it."
had time for one wounded glance downward before crumbling into dust.
"Can't abide bad manners," Spike said cheerfully.
roared, batting the stake out of his hand with one lightning blow and shoving
him into the wall. All right, this wanker was older than he looked.
Older, and faster, and stronger... ah, well, keep things interesting.
His own eyes flaring gold, Spike pushed off the wall and launched himself
at the other vampire with a joyful roar. He landed two solid punches,
took three, got the bastard into a headlock and rammed his forehead into
the edge of the sink a couple of times. Disco managed to hook a foot
around his ankle and send them both tumbling to the ground, rolling over
and over with fangs snapping inches from one another's throats. Spike
freed one arm long enough to flail for the dropped stake. Disco grabbed
him before he could get a grip on it, heaved him up into the air and slammed
him into the wall by the trash can. Spike dropped to the ground, head
spinning. Bloody hell. This wanker was as strong as Angel, and
he'd never been able to take Angel in a fair fight...
just meant he'd have to fight dirty.
leaped for him. Spike rolled to the side, grabbed the fifty-gallon steel
drum and heaved it upwards, catching Disco full in the face. Disco
staggered and the drum fell back to the ground with an ear-splitting CLANG!
Spike grabbed the bigger vampire's ankles and yanked his feet out from under
him, flipping him head over heels into the still-rocking trash can.
Before Disco's scream of rage ended Spike had flung himself across the floor
and grabbed the stake. Disco's struggles tipped the can over completely,
and as he came scuttling out backwards, Spike drove the stake into his back
before he had a chance to get his head free.
knelt there beside the pile of dust which had been Disco for a moment, wondering
idly why he always started breathing during a fight. "Now that," he
said with great satisfaction, "is the way to wake up of an evening."
Shaking off his game face, he fished his lighter and cigarettes out of another
pocket, tapped one out of the pack and lit up. After a few contented
puffs he got to his feet, went over to the paper towel dispenser and repaired
the damage the scuffle had done to his clothes. As an afterthought
he set the trash can upright. "Oi, mate," he yelled towards the back
of the bathroom, "All yours."
answer. Spike cocked his head to one side. Funny, he couldn't
hear the bloke's heartbeat any longer. Had he had a stroke or something,
keeled over in the stall? Curious, walked back and opened the door.
was no one there.
stood there for a moment, scratching his head. Either the blighter had
walked out while the two of them were fighting, and he hadn't noticed, or
a dimensional portal had opened up and swallowed him whole. In Sunnydale,
both possibilities were equally likely, and which one it was was no business
of his. Spike shrugged, and strolled out whistling.
lion roared. Something went flying, sharp baseball-bat crack against
the wall. Smack and thud of fist meeting flesh, gasps and snarls, right
outside the door it sounded like. Trapped. Fear knit the frayed
edges of his thoughts together, and he looked up at the windows, but there
was no escape in that direction. He stood balanced precariously on
the toilet seat, gripping the edge of the partition with both hands, layers
of heavy flaking paint rough under his thumbs.
was another guy standing beside him in the stall. Tanner didn't remember
him walking in. Maybe the guy'd been invisible. The guy didn't
have eyes, but that was OK. Or not OK, but Tanner didn't mind because
he was missing things too, more important things than eyes. An eerie
calm settled over everything. He couldn't hear the fight going on outside.
Couldn't hear anything. Except the guy with no eyes.
with me, Tanner," the guy without eyes said. Some niggling inner voice
told him that he ought to be afraid, but the calm felt so good, novocaine
for the soul... Tanner shrugged. Not like he had anything better
to do. The guy with no eyes opened the door to the stall and walked
out, and Tanner followed him. The two combatants were locked together,
motionless, in the center of the floor. Be damned. The blond guy was
a lion too. "Observe," the guy without eyes said. "Two creatures of
perfect evil, existing only to bring..."
Tanner interrupted. Nasty sharp pointed teeth.
guy without eyes shook his head, impatient. "No. Death is neither
good nor evil. Death... is. They exist to bring pain. Destruction.
Chaos. Death is only one means to that end." He stood there,
contemplating the frozen tableau. "It's all part of the balance, you
hurt me,” Tanner agreed. Then he frowned. “He helped me.”
guy with no eyes nodded. “Yes. The balance has been perturbed."
Tanner shivered. Bad, very bad, worlds out of kilter. The evil
geometry of the monkey bars on the playground, black and stark against the
understand," the eyeless man murmured. "Balance must be restored.”
others," Tanner choked out. "Gotta hunt for 'em."
eyeless man paused, then nodded. "Yes. I know. That's why
we have chosen you. Come with me. There is much yet to do."
look like a ratbag.”
and Willow, who’d been poring over their respective homework in the Summers’
living room, exchanged cautious looks. The words had been spoken in
tones of hushed revelation. Buffy was standing in the middle of the
Summers’ room, sans makeup, her hair pulled back and knotted at the nape
of her neck in what Dawn referred to as ‘Buffy’s skinned weasel look’.
She was staring down at her stunning ensemble of baggy sweatsuit and grungy
tennis shoes as if she’d really noticed what she was wearing for the first
time in weeks. Buffy was clean, Buffy was neat, but Buffy was a far
cry from the older sister Dawn remembered agonizing for two hours over what
to wear to a fifteen-minute appearance at the Bronze.
looked up from her exquisitely boring English homework. If she’d realized
that her class-cutting last spring would result lowering her GPA to the point
that she didn’t qualify for AP classes, she’d... well, she’d still have cut
the classes, but... She gave her sister a once-over. “Yeah, you sure
do.” A demon of mischief prompted her to add, “So what? It’s
only patrol, right? You're gonna go out and get covered in demon guts
and vampire dust anyway." She paused before delivering the coup de
grace. "Besides, Spike’s seen you look way rattier than this.”
frowned, not rising to the bait. Darn. “If I’m going out, I should
change.” She reached up and touched her cheek tentatively. “I
don’t even have any lipstick!”
could have jumped on the coffee table and cheered; Buffy showing any sign
of interest in mundane things like what she looked like was cause for major
celebration. “So go buy some,” she said, maintaining a tone of sisterly
boredom. “That’s what I do.”
sister’s hazel eyes sharpened for an instant in a ‘my little baby sister is
wearing lipstick?’ expression. Honestly, sometimes Buffy acted as if
she were still twelve. But she didn’t go into freakout mode, just frowned
some more. “It’s not in the budget,” she said, and turned and climbed
slowly back up the stairs.
could borrow some of mine,” Willow called after her.
turned for a moment, her eyes already regaining that distant, abstracted look
which Dawn had grown to hate with a passion in the last month. “Thanks,
know, I could come along on patrol tonight if--”
didn’t wait for her to finish. “Spike and I can handle it.”
bit her lower lip, her eyes suspiciously bright, and bent over her own book
as Buffy disappeared up the stairs. Embarrassed, Dawn tried to lose
herself in the exciting compositional possibilities of the gerundive.
It didn’t work. The silence in the living room grew thicker and gluier
by the moment, until Dawn was sure that if she did get up the nerve to say
anything, the words would be trapped like flies in amber and go unheard.
The knock on the door was a positive relief. Dawn flung her notebook
to the floor and ran for the door. “Hey, Spike! You’re late.”
Bit,” Spike said, breezing in past her. He was carrying a lethal-looking
axe over one shoulder and looked to be in a very good mood. “Ran into some
old mates, had to catch up, have a pint, kill them, the usual.” He peered
up the stairs. “Where’s your sis? Don’t tell me the Slayer’s
still powdering her nose.”
though it may seem after weeks of Amish Buffy, yeah,” Dawn said. “She’ll
be down in a minute.”
Spike yelled up the stairs. “Get your arse in gear!”
snickered. “Or maybe she’ll stay up there for an hour to piss you off.”
She went back to her chair and draped herself sideways over both arms, in
the hopes that the unorthodox study position would make her homework slightly
more interesting. It didn’t.
followed her into the living room and began roaming restlessly about, picking
up pieces of bric-a-brac off the TV and setting them down again, staring
at the family photos on the walls, and finally coming to rest on the end
of the couch opposite Willow. He shoved his hands in his pockets and
sat there for a few minutes, jogging one booted foot against the coffee table.
“Hullo, Will,” he said at last.
Willow said neutrally. The vampire’s expressive face fell and Dawn
winced, but before anything further could be said Spike’s keen ears had picked
up a noise upstairs and he had turned away. A moment later Dawn heard
Buffy’s footsteps on the stairs.
clothes had all been donated to Goodwill after her death. So far she’d
been hewing to the constraints of The Budget with iron determination to make
the utilities payments and continued apathy towards fun in general.
Dawn, on the other hand, had shamelessly played on their father’s tendency
to resort to retail therapy as a method of assuaging guilt feelings before
he returned to L.A. As a result, Buffy was not entirely without wardrobe,
even if, so far, she’d been restricting her dressing up to job interviews.
She wasn’t dressed up now--at least, unless you compared her blue tank top
and jeans to what she’d been wearing earlier. She’d done her hair up
a little differently, too, and was wearing a touch of Willow’s lipstick,
but the big difference was in her expression.
couldn’t really say Buffy’s face lit up when she saw Spike. Not the
way Spike lit up when he saw Buffy--it was painfully obvious that no matter
what he said about accepting that there could never be anything between him
and her sister, he was still hopelessly in love with her. But Spike
seemed to light some kind of a fire under Buffy nonetheless; the distant
look hardly ever crept into her eyes when he was around. She looked
interested, as though being alive were more than just a duty she had
to carry out. Maybe it was only because Spike’s boundless supply of
nervous energy tended to fizz over and infect everyone in the same room.
But maybe, Dawn thought, the fire was starting to smoulder a little even
when he wasn’t around.
bloody time,” Spike said, bouncing to his feet. “Why it takes a frigging
hour to apply a square inch of face paint...”
rolled her eyes. “Like you have room to talk. Back in the day
you wore more eyeliner than I do.”
Spike snorted. "Yeh, and I put it on in three minutes flat with no mirror."
ten miles uphill through the snow, too? Let’s go, smartass."
picked up his axe. "Later, Bit. We'll bring you some demon guts."
Buffy turned back for a moment. "Dawn, do what Will tells you to for
once, OK? Will, if...”
be fine,” Willow said tightly. She pulled her feet up under her and
buried her nose in her sociology text. “Not like I’m out doing anything
that might be dangerous, unlike you and Spike.” There was a
little more resentment in the last word than seemed warranted by anything
Spike had done since entering the house, and the muscles in the vampire’s
jaw twitched as he visibly bit back a retort.
frown returned for an instant, more perplexed than angry. “I’m sorry,
Will, it’s just that... I mean, you’re not really recovered yet, are you?
Look, I have an interview tomorrow morning, but I’m free after. What
say we meet for lunch? We’ll do the whole girly thing.”
hesitated, then nodded, summoning up a smile. “Sure.”
Buffy smiled back and went after Spike, who was already standing impatiently
at the door. Willow’s smile faded as she watched them leave.
“Do the whole girly thing, sure,” she muttered, adding, almost too low for
Dawn to hear, “Not good enough to go on patrol, but when lunch is on the
line call Willow!”
least she had the tact not to bring up babysitting duty. “Hey, I
never get to go on patrols,” Dawn pointed out. “You’re just, like,
recuperating from the resurrection spell, and then you’ll be back on the
witch retrieved her smile for a second, but it didn’t reach her eyes.
“I’m totally recuperated now. If Buffy ever decides she can stand to
be in the same room with the awful person who brought her back to life for
ten minutes at a time. She sure forgave you and Spike fast enough for
helping me.” She ran one hand over the arm of the couch, picking absently
at the spot where the upholstery was beginning to wear a little thin.
“But it’s not your fault, I guess. I shouldn’t bite Spike’s head off.”
She looked rueful. “Cookie time again.”
chewed on the end of her pencil. If Buffy’d remained equally distant
from all of them Willow might not be taking this so hard. She didn’t
understand the continuing tension between Willow and her sister herself,
or why Spike hadn’t come in for the same treatment. She suspected Buffy
didn’t know either. Maybe didn’t even realize it was there. Her
sister could be stunningly clueless when it came to understanding her own
reactions, much less other people’s. “She’s going to be in a restaurant
with you for more than ten minutes tomorrow.”
sighed and tucked her hair behind her ears, picking up her textbook once
more. “It’s a start.”
Continued in Part 2