All About Spike - Print Version
[Back to Main Site] [Back to Story Page]

Some Years Later
By Indri

SUMMARY: First part of the Some Years Later series: four short pieces about Buffy's exes. Written in May, 2002 while I was watching the end of Season Five, knowing a single spoiler from "Smashed". Rated PG-13.



Angel: Parting Gifts

Angel stands in the shade of the garage, a step from the open door. In one hand he holds a bucket of soapy water and in the other a squeegee. Out on the drive is his car, his convertible, baking in the California sun. He wants to move forward, but his motor memory is screaming Sun!Flee!Sun! and complaining that the bucket feels too heavy and that his nose is blocked with cotton wool. His hearing has dulled, his sight has dimmed, and all he can smell are tins of old paint and lemonfresh windowcleaner. And for a moment he feels slightly dizzy, because none of his memories of humanity have anything to do with greenlawn suburbia and lemonfresh scent.

Then Dawn pops her head around the door---"Watcha doing?''---and he gestures sheepishly with his full hands. "Nice day for it,'' she says. "Want some help?''

But she's not really there to help, he realises, once he's managed to actually walk out into the sunlight and start washing. She's there to talk, bouncing up and down, her mouth a verbal waterfall. He finds it hard to concentrate on what she's saying, she talks so fast, even faster than Buffy, her speech peppered with idioms and references he doesn't get. He's scraped the bugs from the windshield, and started on the caked demon blood, before Dawn finally says something he can follow.

"So-so-so-so-soooo, if I have to stay in Sunnydale for college I should at least be able to go away for summer, dontcha think? I mean, if I get good grades, which I'm gonna, cause I'm really concentrating this year, even though I'm like doing double-duty helping you out with demons and washing dishes and stuff.'' He doesn't disagree so she leans in further. "So can you talk to Buffy? She still doesn't think I'm a real grown-up and she thinks I'll get in trouble. I mean, Mom would have let me! I know how to drive and I can look after myself. So can't I, Angel? Will you ask her?''

He gazes at her a little blankly.

She looks downcast. "You never listen.''

He straightens up. "I'm listening, Dawn. I just think that it's up to Buffy.''

He turns to get a better angle for the driver's side window and his foot catches the edge of the pail. Water slops out onto Dawn's shoe.

"Bloody hell,'' she mutters, in that way that Angel finds so jarring, as she gives him a Look. "They're just my best sneakers.'' And she flounces back inside.

Angel finishes cleaning the car. His face feels hot in the sun and his neck is prickling with sweat. A hat, he has to remember to get a hat. He's not sure what kind. Not a baseball cap, anyway. Or maybe he could just take up washing the car in the dim safety of the garage.

*

Buffy showers after she comes home from patrol and says she wants a quiet night in. Tomorrow, Saturday, they'll go to the Bronze to hang out with the gang. But tonight she'll sit curled up in his lap, flicking from channel to channel, as he tries to read.

It's not that he doesn't understand the point of television and it's not that he doesn't sometimes like it. He'll watch documentaries now and then and the travel shows, often startled by how much somewhere has changed. But most of the shows seemed made for idiots, too easy to follow, too unchallenging. Buffy can often watch four shows at once, switching between them, without missing anything. And even the current affairs shows seem to exist in some world very different from the one he knows, some hallucinated consensus that has nothing to do with what he has seen, of Los Angeles, of New York, of anywhere. He doesn't understand how one is supposed to process this mass of perfectly superficial information or even why one would want to make sense of it all.

Buffy slides an arm around his neck and leans up to kiss him. "Enterprise reruns or Brotherhood of the Wolf?'' she asks and he can only shrug helplessly. She dangles an arm down to the floor to retrieve a TV Guide. "Werewolves, martial arts, sex and black magic---sounds a bit too much like work. But, hey, set in period France! That's a plus.'' She rolls her shoulders as if they are stiff, so he puts down his book, and presses his mortal fingers into her tired muscle. "Mmmm,'' she says, wriggling a bit, "I could get used to this.''

He smiles.

*

He still doesn't believe he deserves her, that he deserves this, now, so soon. He had centuries of bloodshed to wash from his hands, a hundred thousand memories of the taking of life, of the scent of burning flesh and the feel of eye-whites under his fingers. But perhaps all those years in hell had counted for something, and the time in LA was just to reintroduce him, to remind him of what being mortal felt like. More likely, he doesn't deserve this at all, despite all the prophecies and Big Shining Omens that pointed him this way, that finally persuaded him to leave his new family and come back to her town ("You've done your part,'' Wesley had told him. Cordelia: "Go on, shoo!''). It was more likely that Buffy deserved him, that she had finally been rewarded for all those years of sacrifice and dedication. Buffy deserved a happy ending, so Angel would get one too.

And he loves her, completely and absolutely. He had once thought that the years apart would change that, but no---as soon as he saw her (standing outside her house, waiting for him, elated and astonished at the sight of him in daylight)---he felt as he had always felt about her. And everything that had happened, that might have separated them (Darla, death) was unspoken but understood.

Except...

Except that there is something that he doesn't want to admit to himself, much less Buffy, some deeply unpleasant part of him that he can't quite get rid of. Because she has changed, mostly in ways he admires. She's less sprightly but more assured, and she's comfortable and capable in command now. And sometimes a weariness creeps over her, when all she wants to do is rest her head on his shoulder, as she had at her mother's grave. None of this he minds, it just means that she's getting wiser without losing her sense of self. He loves her for it.

And she's still just as affectionate and spontaneous, reaching out for him in bed with hesitant hands as he covers her with kisses. He still feels so large next to her, he's almost apologetic about it (and he's so used to apologising for his existence). But she's as warm and sweet as he remembers from that disastrous first time.

Except that sometimes, when they're making love, if he, well, keeps her up there too high and too long, something will steal over her. Her movements become more fluid, her hands lose their hesitancy and her eyes glow mischievous. And then she takes him as hard as she can, until it hurts (he's only mortal now) and she doesn't seem to notice. She's beautiful, moving in the joy of her own body, with the grace of someone who is utterly confident of perfect coordination and strength. But Angel loathes it.

He loathes it because old-fashioned Liam still thinks that true love is chaste, because Angelus has already had his blonde whore. And because it reminds Angel of Spike, the same careless precision of movement and utter lack of inhibition. Which Angel desperately, desperately does not want to think of when he's in bed with Buffy.

It's as if Spike is still somewhere in the house, slouching from room to room and dropping cigarette ash into the house-plants. He's in Dawn's speech and Buffy's body and there are still two bags of mini-marshmallows in the pantry, well past their use-by date, because Joyce once bought them and no-one else will eat them. Spike would have known how to pick between Enterprise and the movie, he probably even knew what they were, the characters' names, which actor had been married to whoever in some other show. He'd always been like that, had instinctively grasped what few humans and even fewer vampires do---how to change with the times, how to keep up with them, how to avoid becoming the old fossil that Angel sometimes feels himself to be. (Angel has a century-old memory of the four of them going to the theatre for someone's private box, and while three took their time and pleasure with their kills, Spike had drained his quickly and then settled down to actually watch the play.)

And Angel wonders if this isn't actually Spike's revenge, his comeback for Angelus stealing Dru, if Spike hasn't finally won the set of mind-games he's fought with Angelus from the beginning. Somehow Spike has tainted even this Powers-ordained happy-ever-after that Angel lives in now.

Even Dawn's argument with her sister is about Spike---he hasn't written for months and Dawn wants to look for him. She worries that he's dead.

"Dawn,'' Angel had once told her evenly, "Spike is surprisingly hard to kill.''

And Buffy had laughed. "Tell me about it,'' she'd said.



SUMMARY: Second part of the Some Years Later series: four short pieces about Buffy's exes. Written in May, 2002 while I was watching the end of Season Five, knowing a single spoiler from "Smashed". Rated PG.



Riley: Real Me

Riley remembers every last thing in this house: the plain furniture, the patterned drapes, the indian rug next to the hearth. He knows, without looking, how many china cats sit on the mantelpiece behind him, and which ancestor is in which photograph in the hall. He knows where his mother keeps her collection of spoons (one from each of the forty-eight contiguous states) and he could find, in the dark, the door to the basement, its stores of canned goods and candles. Down the corridor to his left is his old room, still much as he left it even now. Aging science texts and books about basketball stars line the shelves, propped up by trophies. And framed on the wall and still dusted daily by his mother, is a certificate: Riley Finn, Valedictorian.

It all seems such a long time ago.



His father brought him an ant farm once, just a small one, when Riley was twelve. Riley had sat it on his desk and watched while the ants tunnelled and fed. After a week, he went out to the garage and built himself a much larger farm out of leftover glass. He took to keeping notes on their behaviour and read books on entomology. He thought about taking it up as a career.

His mother had been delighted by this studious and serious streak. "The little scholar!" she said. "Do you remember, when you were little, how you tried to read all the way through the Webster's?"

"Aadvark to zooplankton," he recalled. (It had been abridged.)

His mother had hugged him. "We're proud of you, Riley," she'd said.

In the dining room, where Riley sits, there is a cuckoo clock on the wall. His grandfather brought it back from Germany after the Second World War. It ticks steadily and noisily while his father carves the roast.

"You remember that Casteen girl?" his father asks him. "Married someone in your class."

"Marcia," Riley says. "On the athletics team. She married Tom after we graduated."

"Well, she's back in town. Came to ask about you last weekend."

"Almost divorced," his mother says. "But she has this darling little son..."

"We told her you were a doctor now," says his father, "and that you had a good job in the city."

"I'm not exactly a doctor. I have a doctorate, but I'm not a physician."

"She's working in the bank," his mother interjects, "but she doesn't seem to want to stay here. Would you like to see her while you're here?"

The clock ticks loudly while Riley thinks. His father places slices of meat on their plates and his mother portions out salad.

He remembers Marcia: her shiny round face, good teeth and brown hair. Did well enough in class and could outrace any girl he knew at the time.

"Why are she and Tom getting divorced?" he asks.

His father nods, as if this response has settled everything. "Boy's right. We've gotta know. It takes two to tango and Tom was a good boy."

His mother is a little deflated. "We just wondered, that's all."

The dinner is served and Riley bows his head while his father says grace.

*

He sent them a photo of Buffy once; they put it up on the piano, next to his model of the Columbia. When he came home, a year later, the photo was gone. He wonders sometimes if they still have it.

*

After dinner, Riley helps wash up, and then he goes to sit out in the yard. The sun hasn't quite set and the moon has just risen over the line of the shed. A light wind rustles the leaves of the trees and if he concentrates, he can make out the sound of the main street traffic. He breathes in the air of woodsmoke and dust.

It's all so familiar, every last thing, and yet he can't quite believe that it's real. Are there really still places with gingham kitchen drapes and basketball hoops hung from trees, where kids play kickball out in the street and old men sit in rocking chairs out on porches? His memories must be borrowed, they must belong to someone else, or maybe he saw something once on TV.

Sometimes he looks at his trophies and his certificates, or at the fresh piece of paper that makes him "Finn, Ph.D.", and he thinks to himself, see, I'm smart. He remembers (unless those memories are borrowed) feeling young and bright and self-assured, confident that he was able for anything life could throw at him. But if life has only ever thrown you bouquets, how can you tell? And now he knows---when the going gets tough, Riley Finn falls apart.

So these days he tries to take things easy. He's a big fish in a small pond, the bright young thing at a second-rate college, teaching psych to freshmen girls who think he's handsome. He dates a little and he thinks one day he'll settle down with another member of staff, or maybe one of the grad students. It's a small and unambitious life, not that his parents can tell, but it's not what Maggie would have wanted.

He thinks about Maggie sometimes, why she did what she did to him. He used to feel betrayed, but he's long since realised that her sins were the sins of a parent. She knew about the darkness and complexity of the world and had simply wanted him to survive it. So she had given him every last medical and technological advantage and the naive belief that his successes were still all his own. And her lies of omission had been to relieve him from the more difficult moral decisions. And so he had remained boy-Riley, untouched by regret or any real understanding.

Because while Riley is smart, in an ant-watching, book-learning, sharp-shooting sort of a way, he gets lost as soon as anyone tells a half-truth or says something that they don't quite mean. He's too honest for his own good---always has been, always will. So he couldn't tell when Maggie was lying or when Buffy was maybe telling the truth.

*

At one a.m. his alarm goes off softly and Riley gets out of bed. Ten minutes later he's dressed, armed, and stepping out of his window and into the yard. He wouldn't normally do this---the town's too small for most HSTs---but he picked something up on his tracer when he drove in, some kind of demon pheromone.

The town's silent at this time of night, its dutiful citizens sleeping. No-one stops Riley as he walks through the streets, his tracer in hand and his tazer rifle slung over his shoulder. (He has a surprising array of equipment left over from his Initiative days---the clean-up crews were less than thorough in the aftermath of the carnage.)

He finds them at last on the outskirts of town, a small group asleep in a ditch. He can't see what kind of demons they are and he doesn't much care. Buffy had tried to persuade him that there were demons you killed and there were demons you didn't, but it's pretty clear to him now what she meant: those that she killed and those that she slept with. Sure, Oz may have been human once, but even he admitted that the wolf was taking more and more of him over. Eventually there would be nothing real, just the shell of his personality, a kind of disguise for the monster underneath.

A single tazer shot stuns the demons; Riley finishes them off by decapitation. As he watches, the three deliquesce without having once made a sound. Then Riley heads home, back to his parents', for a night of sound sleep until daybreak.



SUMMARY: Third part of the Some Years Later series: four short pieces about Buffy's exes. Written in May, 2002 while I was watching the end of Season Five, knowing a single spoiler from "Smashed". Rated R.



Spike: What's My Line?

Spike has the woman pinned against the brick, one of his hands against a shoulder, the other holding down an arm. She's screaming just as hard as she can, her head thrown back, her makeup running, and her throat is beginning to tear from the abuse. Won't make any difference---the repair shop's closed and the thud thud thud of the band next door drowns her out. She's so frightened that she doesn't even think to kick him (he'd only break her legs) and he begins to smell the scent of urine over the gasoline-and-motor-oil stench of the air. She doesn't plead---she's well beyond speech---but just emits these panicked, gasping shrieks like some sort of car alarm, the kind that he'd kick in the doors of a Mercedes to disable. She's really a great screamer, so Spike holds her there to listen until she grows hoarse. And all the while he marvels at how this just doesn't seem to do it for him anymore.

It's conditioning, he knows, like those animal experiments, and he's pissed to think that he's not so much love's bitch anymore as Pavlov's dog. But you can break conditioning, if you're smart and you're willing to make the effort. So he will.

*

Later, he sits in the mall, slurping down strawberry milkshakes and eating fat wontons out of a cardboard box. The food court is thronged with humans on a Friday night: shitty parents slapping their bouncing ADD kids, bored teens bitching about one another as part of their storm-in-a-teacup home dramas. Tired, puffy mallworkers clearing vacant tables of coleslaw and baby spit.

He thinks about how he'd do it. Start with the ADD kids first, just hoist them out of the way when their parents' backs were turned. Quick snap of the neck to shut them up, drain them and dump them. They're small enough to fit in the ThankYou! bins without any trouble. Then the parents---''Kid, 'bout so high? Headed down there.'' Grab them in the corridor leading to the loos. You can stack four or five corpses in one cubicle, if you know what you're doing. The teens? Too easy. They'll go to the carpark later, for some stolen hooch or a bit of a grope. The number he's done in the back of a car---all unappealing, goose-bumped teenflesh, though. And the mallworkers, coming out all alone at the 3am exit outdoors, they don't even struggle.

Yeah, he could still do it. Take them all out in one go.

Not tonight.

*

He finds a liquor store that's shut early, row upon row of coloured bottles visible through the glass. He thrusts a boot through the window, steps in, braces himself for the alarm. The noise is shattering, but he won't stay long. He grabs a single bottle and stashes it in the pocket of his coat before settling in for some serious property damage. He just walks along the aisles, his arms outstretched, toppling every last bottle off the shelf so that the floor is covered with shards of broken glass and the fumes are making him drunk.

*

Dru found him one time, because she's bloody psychic. She'd turned up late one evening at his motel room door, just as this game show was ending. He'd blocked the doorway with his body and asked her what she was after. "My Spike,'' she said, cooing and purring, leaning over to kiss him just above his belt. She'd licked her way up over the fabric from his nipple to his neck, digging her fingers into his sides in a kind of embrace. And he'd thought, why the hell not?, and had started kissing her mouth.

She'd known that he'd finally left Buffy for good. "She was bad for you,'' she scolded as Spike closed the door and started stripping her. But she was feeling a bit playful and wouldn't let him take her frock off straight away. Instead she'd sat back on a chair and pushed his head down under her long skirts, wrapping her legs around him. "You shouldn't have gone away,'' she'd admonished as if it were all his fault that she had left.

Then for a while, when he was fucking her on the floor, everything had seemed almost alright. She'd felt cool and familiar and if he closed his eyes he could pretend they were in that little room in New York, the only space they'd had out of the view of the minions. It had been just a five-foot concrete cell, and they'd had to do it standing up or lying diagonally. Good times and occasional concussion.

After they'd finished (all too quick) Dru had hauled him up onto the bed. She'd held him there with his arms outstretched and started biting him: pleasant, shallow cuts on his belly and inner thigh. Then she gave his cheek an affectionate peck with her demon-face and started to tell him what it was that she wanted him to arrange. He was too out of it to take it in---something about New Zealand---and he got to thinking about those giant birds they used to have there, all eight foot tall and killer beak, like evil Big Birds, and he wondered how you'd go about killing one of those. They were probably too tall for a good kick to the neck, but maybe if you took out a kneecap first you could wrench off its head. The thought interested him so much that he almost said to her, "Yes, we'll go to New Zealand.'' But those birds had been extinct for a few hundred years---amazing the crap he knew---so it just wasn't going to be worth it.

He turned to look at her as she prattled on: her pale skin, her dark hair, the curiously old-fashioned contours of her face and her long body. He tried to remember why he'd loved her. Because he'd thought that she needed him, because she'd picked him out when no-one had ever picked him out before. Because he'd been pathetic. Still, he couldn't really hold that against her. She had loved him just as much as she could---only it had turned out that that hadn't been very much at all.

Eventually she had stopped talking and sat up a little to rub her hand down his chest. He'd smiled then with his eyes closed, breathing in her scent, as if she smelt of old and happy holidays, like brandy and plum pudding. But then she had hopped out of the bed to rummage in her little bag and sure enough, when she came back it was with her box of knives. She laid three out, in ceremonial fashion, in a row across Spike's chest. Then she settled back against the bedhead, with her hands in her lap and with an expectant air. And Spike could only hate this, because this part was always really about Angelus, and it wasn't something he'd ever actually enjoyed for its own sake, even when he'd been really really angry with her about the chaos demon and he was trying to win her back.

So he lay there (like someone dead, hah hah) until he heard her snort with frustration, and then he turned away from her, tipping the scalpels carefully onto the bed and then onto the floor, because Dru wasn't above stabbing him with them when she got pissed, which was going to be about---now. She started pounding his back with her fists as he leant over to pull on his trousers. Because they really were through. Because after a hundred years together they'd found out that Dru preferred Angelus and Spike preferred dog-racing.

*

By 2am Spike is in the graveyard, killing his own kind. It's the only bad habit he still has, now that he's stopped sending postcards to Dawn. Demons fight back, and that, for Spike, is the point. He feels a need to reach limits, test skills, risk himself. Humans are too feeble, piss-weak, no challenge there. He figures that's why, hours earlier, when he slapped that woman about, he didn't enjoy it at all. No glory, no thrill. But that's the conditioning again, just something he's got to work at until it breaks.

*

He'd felt nauseous when he'd finally left Sunnydale. For three days he'd knelt in front of a motel toilet, wanting to vomit but not sure if he could. He'd wanted to upchuck Buffy, puke her and her friends all the way out of him, round the U-bend, away to those sewers. He'd violently wished that he'd never met any of them.

And he wished that he couldn't remember what she'd felt like, her slick skin, her warmth, how her breasts had been just the right size to hold onto when he'd taken her from behind. Muscle against muscle, push against shove, and no fucking around with little knives and petty rituals. Just violence and desire.

He can't imagine how he could ever get there again, so he's not going to try. He's on his own now. No more laughingstock attempts at relationships, no more humiliating himself for no reason. It isn't worth it. You just never get out as much as you put in.

*

It's late, late at night now and the city streets are dark and empty. The only sounds are of his boots on the pavement and apartment airconditioners. This used to be his favourite time, when he would know, with a fair amount of certainty, that there was nothing faster, or stronger, or more skilled in the whole bloody town. He could go anywhere, break in anywhere, take what he wanted. The place was his.

The place is his.

He's in an older part of the city now, narrow apartment blocks with not enough parking space. The streets are lined end-to-end with cars and SUVs. He leaps up onto the boot of one of them, feels his foot sink just a little into the metal, steps up onto the top then back down onto the hood. He walks from car to car, just because he can, because the damage feels good beneath the soles of his feet.

If only he'd worked out before what his problem was, why his unlife had been so fucked-up for so long. But it had always been a bit of a blind spot for Spike---bit of a blind spot even for his human actually---no matter how many times people had tried to beat it into him.

It was all about knowing your place.

And Spike, well, he'd never much cared for rules and strictures, never really bothered with what he was supposed to do, only with what looked fun at the time, even if he knew (and he almost always knew) that what he wanted was not what was good for him. So he hadn't paid attention and it had all gone wrong.

Somewhere, Spike believes, the Powers That Be have a filing cabinet, probably (because he remembers what offices are like) somewhere in hell. And inside there is a list with his name on it which specifies his place in the universe. And it says "Evil.''

Which is fair enough, because he's a vampire, yeah?, and he's not sodding-sainted-he-always-gets-to-be-the-exception-bloody-Angel, is he? But it's meant that every time he's stepped out of line, even a little bit---WHAM---he gets hit. And what had he been doing? Hanging out with humans, getting to know them. He'd taken to beating up demons, even helped to save the world a couple of times. So no wonder he'd been crippled, dumped, sneered at, experimented on, tortured and abused ever since. He hadn't been doing what he was supposed to do.

And Spike hates that, he hates that he can't just do as he likes. But never let it be said (by anyone except Angelus) that Spike can't learn something when it's beaten into him, repeatedly, with a large stick. He's got the message now, thank you very much, he gets it. No-one wants a vampire that thinks for itself, that doesn't so much reject the script as doesn't bother to read it. Demons don't want it. The Powers don't want it. And Buffy and her crew sure as hell don't.

So he'll make it simple for them, then, if that's how it is, even if the coat doesn't feel as if it fits anymore.

'Cause it's not a bad gig, all in all. He knows he'll never make it to the realm of Mr Really-World-Destroying Evil, but if that means he's neither Angelus Mark II nor the God of Bad Home Dye-jobs, then that's fine. He'll stick with what he's good at, what he knows.

He'll be the everyday death of the unwary, the one who kills you for those little mistakes that don't seem much of a risk: the alley short-cut, the ride you accept when the last bus has gone, the man who picks a fight with you in the bar. He'll be at the funfairs and the truckstops and the late night stores, waiting for people to slip up. And then he'll punish their tiny misdemeanors even harder than his have been.

So he walks smoothly from car to car, looking out for someone to practice on, because he's knows he's not back at full strength yet, (but please know that he's trying and that they can stop kicking him in the teeth). Wondering why this doesn't feel fun any more.

Spike wants his unlife back.



SUMMARY: Fourth part of the Some Years Later series: four short pieces about Buffy's exes. Written in May, 2002 while I was watching the end of Season Five, knowing a single spoiler from "Smashed". Rated G.



Parker: Living Conditions

Parker has the perfect house: single-storey, open-plan, architect-designed. It is filled with perfect furniture that he paid someone else to choose. There's a fat leather sofa, a pine-and-wicker coffee table, a huge bed. The decor is all neutral and the rooms are filled with light. It would look a little too like a magazine spread, except that he carefully places a few homely objects here and there, to make the place look lived in and to act as conversation pieces. There's some magazines, a stuffed toy, an SFMOMA mug, and a photo of his oh-so-conveniently-dead father.

Outside the house is a perfectly-groomed garden that he never sits out in and a finely-manicured lawn that has never known his feet. He has an expensive car parked in the garage, and he drives it to work six days a week. He's made quite a name for himself in advertising these past few years, making good of what's left of the dotcoms of San Jose: the cheques keep rolling in. He's thinking of buying a holiday home out near Carmel, maybe a boat.

And if someone (he thinks maybe it was the brunette from a few weeks ago---she looked unstable) has recently poured weedkiller over his lawn and thrown paint over the garage doors, then it was nothing that the gardener and the janitor couldn't fix for him in an hour or two.

So he has a right to feel pleased. He's exactly where he wanted to be. Exactly where he expected to be.

And this is what Buffy fights for, the normal turning of the world.