Disclaimers: Ave Joss.
Spoilers: Vague ones through season seven.
Summary: Spike takes a walk with the dead.
Ratings Note: R.
Author's Note: My *other* theory about recent events.
Acknowledgments: To my Webrain for helping me figure this out, and to Kita for audiencing, cheerleading, and general coolness.
Feedback keeps me aware. firstname.lastname@example.org
This is not news.
Well, perhaps to the very newest of vampires, still spiffed up in what their mourning families felt to be their best. And, of course, to all the people who walk the streets at night, throats and bellies bared in pure, innocent ignorance of everything that may look with something older and deeper than lust.
Still, when Spike thinks about how Angelus would've reacted to the sheer number of people who know exactly who and what Spike is, he has to laugh, if only a little. For a poncy Irish braggart, Angelus always had very much invested in staying hidden.
Just another rat in the walls, another worm in the earth. Nothing to see, little humans, fret not your precious pounding hearts...
So he can't say he's especially surprised to see more and more people around who look familiar in only the way people who spend an inordinate amount of time saying things like 'no, no, you're dead, please leave me alone' can be. It was really just a matter of time before Sunnydale had itself a good, old-fashioned haunting.
It's actually rather comforting. There's nothing quite like having a conversation with a bloke along the lines of:
"Did you see that? Tell me I'm not crazy, that you saw him!"
"Sorry, mate. Got me own ghosts right there."
To make you feel right sane. In touch with the zeitgeist, even.
He's reasonably sure that someone, somewhere, once said something quite pithy about the nature of reality and majority agreement, and if Dru would just stop with the bloody fucking *singing* he might even remember what it was.
"You don't want me to stop," she says.
"Says who? You're not even real."
"If I stopped, I might do something like..."
And suddenly Buffy's lunging at him, stake raised high and eyes cold and steady as they've ever been. He flinches, shuddering at the feel of her passing through him like the coldest, bone- achingest mist off the Thames and nearly falls into a stack of rotting crates.
What the hell is he doing in an alley?
He shakes it off, focuses himself as best he can against the hum and buzz of too many voices, inside and out, and heads back toward the town center.
At least the voices there aren't his own, even if they're all sounding a bit harried these days.
Ah, bugger that. How many so-called apocalypses has he lived through, anyway? Has the whole sodding world lived through? Tonight's a night for drinking, smoking, and a hell of a lot more of the same.
"And she always said you were imaginative."
Fucking hell. Angelus. "And look what your imagination got *you*. A soul, an extended trip to Hell, dumped --" Fuck. Shouldn't have brought that up. "And an addiction to fruity-smelling hair gel."
"And who's warming your bed now, Will?"
Angelus laughs like he always does. Did. Lazy and satisfied, as if there was no one and nothing in the world that could wipe the smirk off his face.
Spike really is going to have to kill the tosser one day. And he has the gut-churningly awful feeling that it probably won't even be slow.
"Ah, but it isn't *Angel* you want to kill."
"You're a bad liar, boy --"
Spike doesn't, does *not* strike out. The last time he tried, he'd put his fist right through a laughing ghost and broken three knuckles on a cement wall.
"... but there are ways..."
"Of *course* there are ways. More ways to get you to lose your soul -- or Angel. Fuck."
He has to stop. Hold his head. Focus a little. Thinking about the old family tree is always -- and has always *been* -- a fucking headache in a bottle.
Bottle. He was going to start drinking, and by now he should be... nowhere bloody fucking near the outside of a *frat* party, inevitable presence of alcohol or not.
"Oh, that's just fucking --"
"What's the matter, Will? Get a little turned around?"
"*You* shut up."
Angelus rocks on his heels, laughing without making a sound. At least none that the staggering hairless ape that walks right through him can hear.
Christing... all right. He's at the campus. He *knows* there are bars in his general vicinity, even if they're all a bit too brightly lit and full of collegiate-types --
"As if you could talk."
"You still here?"
"Well, you know, it's not as if there's all that much to do on the *inside* of your head, lad."
"Bollocks, but you're annoying. I knew I should've hit you a few more times with that crowbar."
Sharp, shiny grin. "I always did mean to ask you... Spike."
"How did it feel to have Drusilla dump you *anyway*?"
"Like being dead. But then, you'd have no idea what I'm talking about, because you've never been anything but." It's tempting to memorize that. There's no telling when he'll get to use it with an *actual* person.
"Not that any would bother spending this much time with you."
Spike whirls on him, staring into those coin-shiny brown eyes and waiting for a break he knows won't actually come. "Isn't it time for you to do your phantom game? Shift into something more psychosis-inducing?"
"Oh, I don't know. The others are pretty impressed with my ability to keep you... focused."
A middle-aged man appears next to Angelus, all rumpled suit and affable eyes. If Spike didn't recognize him from his other hallucinations, he'd think he was just another yuppie slob out to get knackered before going home to the wife and two point five kids.
"Oh, those cartoons were always my favorite," the man says.
"What the hell are you on about?"
"You know the ones, Will. With the mom, dad, dog, two happy kids, and one not-so-happy kid, sliced in half and bleeding all over the pavement."
The middle-aged man sighs happily. "Yes, those. Though they usually left out all the nice blood."
Spike scrubs a hand through his hair. "Fuck, who *are* you?"
"Me? Oh, I'm Mayor Wilkins. Well, former mayor. We were never formally introduced --"
"Then what the bleeding fuck are you doing in my *brain*?"
"Oh, my. If my mother were here she'd scrub your mouth out with *soap*, young man."
Angelus nods sadly. "The boy never did have poetry in his soul."
"Oh -- *bugger* this." Spike turns determinedly *away* from the tut-tutting phantoms and finds himself... in another bloody dark alley. "Wha..."
He can't even *smell* the campus anymore.
"You're really not very bright, are you?" Darla's leaning against one suspiciously damp wall, smirking her very own *special* smirk. Like she's fed on a busload of novices after getting them to renounce their vows, one by sniveling one.
"And you're a prettied up whore. A *dead* whore, I might add."
Casual shrug. "Never claimed any different. Unlike some I might name... Spike."
"No? Played the high lady a right lot, I seem to recall."
She doesn't so much as blink. "Artifice is the province of the whore. The good ones, at any rate. What's your excuse?"
"Maybe I just didn't feel like being the same bloody nance for a century." And there's the usual internal clamor at that, the twinge of hurt pride he's known and kept his own for as long as he's lived married to the gibbering wails of William, bloody *William* --
He snarls and advances on the phantom of his dear old great- grandsire, barely aware of the struggle to do it. There's a strange, familiar warm weight on his arms, against his body, and he knocks it aside to get to Darla... who only smirks, and waits.
"Fuck. You lot are acting like a bunch of Puritans. Can't even let a bloke get a bloody *drink*."
"Oh, I wouldn't say that..."
"Then what --" But she's gone with the barest flicker of a smile at the *ground* of all things, leaving only the mouth of the alley, the darkly active Sunnydale streets.
Spike shakes off the fog and strides out into the night, licking his lips absently as he goes.
The universe owes him one fuck of alcohol-induced blackout.