Speaker-to-Customers (speakr2customrs) wrote,
Speaker-to-Customers
speakr2customrs

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Deep Blue Something

I'm very late with this, but here it is at last. The fourth chapter of "Life In Shadow". If any readers spot places where I have English idioms coming out of American characters' mouths (except where the Americans are quoting things said by English characters, and that does happen in this chapter) please let me know and I'll amend it.

Previous chapters are in Memories, contrary to my usual practice, and also HERE


Life in Shadow


Chapter Four: Breakfast at Tiffany’s.


Giles wedged a chair under the handle of his bedroom door before going to bed. He put a cross under his pillow, placed a stake within easy reach, and made sure that the glass on his bedside cabinet was filled with Holy Water. The Slayer of Slayers, one of the most feared vampires of all time, was downstairs, and despite the precautions Giles doubted if he’d sleep. He was ill at ease, even though Spike had done nothing more aggressive than grumble because the Watcher didn’t have cable. He should have insisted that Spike be restrained, chained up in the bath perhaps; as it was, the only thing preventing the vampire from going on a rampage of carnage and destruction was some tiny piece of technology, and Giles had little faith in such things. If it even existed. Spike could be making it up, faking the painful reaction, trying to worm his way into their confidence so that he could catch them off guard and slaughter them all in their beds.

Although Spike was famous for his lack of patience. It was hard to imagine him resisting the temptation of a sleeping Slayer, passing up the immediate gratification for the sake of some longer term strategy. Angelus, yes, but not Spike. To give him his due, Spike wasn’t really one for treacherous murder; he was more straight out, in your face, coming right at you with fists and fangs, and his quixotic gesture of sparing Tara’s life because she wasn’t enough of a challenge was more in character for him than some devious plan. Giles fell asleep still debating the issue with himself.

He woke up in the morning, somewhat to his relief, and made his way to the bathroom. He could hear the television downstairs, where Spike had presumably been watching it all night, the volume low enough not to have disturbed his sleep, and he took no notice for the moment. His first priority was to check himself in the bathroom mirror to be sure that he had indeed woken rather than risen as a vampire.

Seeing his reflection set his mind at ease, and after washing, shaving, and brushing his teeth he felt awake enough to realise that his first fears had been illogical. The chair had still been wedged under the door handle, for a start; eight thirty in the morning would be a very strange time for a vampire to rise; and surely his first thoughts would not have been an urgent desire to empty his bladder and check his reflection, but would have been a ravenous hunger for blood and carnage, the mindless desires of an inhuman monster like the one downstairs who was – watching videos of ‘The Water Margin’?

Giles dressed and went down the stairs. Spike was sprawled on the couch in front of the TV, grinning at the exploits of Lin Chung and Hu San-Niang as they hacked and slashed their way through a company of the Imperial Guard. “Mornin’, Watcher,” the vampire greeted, without taking his eyes from the screen. “Heard you in the bathroom, so I stuck the kettle on for tea. Appreciate it if you’d pour me a cuppa while you’re at it.”

Giles grunted a non-committal reply and made his way to the teapot. “I see you’ve been nosing through my things,” he remarked as he made the tea. “Have you been watching that all night?”

“Pretty much. There was sod all decent telly on, apart from an X-Files episode I’d already seen, and then I found this. Bloody brilliant, this was. Missed some of the episodes first time round. Clever bit of kit you’ve got here, being able to play British videos in America, innit? Surprised me, really, thought you were a bit of a Luddite, not into anything invented after Isambard Kingdom Brunel.”

“Whom you’ve met, I presume. Milk? Sugar?”

“Milk and two spoons. Course I haven’t met him. Was five when he bleeding well died, wasn’t I?” Spike chuckled. “You brought these videos over with you when you moved here, and you forgot about the States having a different telly system, didn’t you? So you had to get the gadget or you’d have been stuck with a bunch of useless vids, which would have been a bloody waste.”

Giles raised his eyebrows. Spike had been five years old when Isambard Kingdom Brunel died? That didn’t correspond with the dossier on the Slayer of Slayers held by the Watchers’ Council; they had him down as being over 200 years old, whereas Brunel had died in the mid nineteenth century. It was Spike’s defeat of the Slayer in 1900 that had first brought him to the Council’s attention, and they must have padded out their scanty hard information with guesswork. Interesting. Of little practical value, perhaps, but it would be an intriguing titbit to pass on to the Council, with perhaps more disclosures to come. He took the cup of tea over to the vampire without further comment and began to dish up his own breakfast.

‘That’s odd,’ he thought as he got out his cereal. ‘I thought there was more Weetabix left than this.’ “Spike, have you been eating my Weetabix?” It hardly seemed likely, but it was the only possible explanation.

“Yeah, I like a bit crumbled up in my blood, y’know,” Spike replied absently, his attention still fixed on the TV screen. “Gives it texture. Yeah! Sodding nitwit Kao Chu forgot to bring any archers! Serves the pillock right. Great episode. Dunno why Lin Chung keeps on moping over that dead wife of his, she was a useless wet thing, he should just shag that Hu San-Niang blind. She’s well up for it, and she’s a smart bit of crumpet, bloody smashing bird, what with the two swords and all.”

Giles poured milk over his own Weetabix, resolutely trying to ignore the stomach-turning thought of Spike eating it with pig’s blood. His comments about the heroine of ‘The Water Margin’ threw an interesting, and possibly disturbing, light on Spike’s tastes in women. His alliance with Tara might be based on attraction that was not totally one-sided. An unpleasant thought, and something that must be squashed as soon as possible.

The episode came to an end and the theme music began to play. Spike switched off the video and stood up. “I’d better grab some kip,” he announced. “Suppose I’d get in the way if I crashed on your couch, plus I’d get fried if you opened the sodding curtains, so what say I crash on your bed? On top of the covers, of course, don’t want to sleep in your bed any more than I reckon you’d want me in it. I’ll take my boots off.”

The Watcher’s lips curled with distaste. However, he had to admit it was an eminently sensible suggestion. “Very well, Spike,” he assented. “If you are continuing with your nocturnal lifestyle then you may do that.”

“Course I’m staying nocturnal. Creature of the night here, mate. Creature, of the night. Wake me up before three, there’s a telly program on then that I want to watch, and then we could take a look at how you’re going to get me my car back, maybe. See you later.”

“All right, Spike,” Giles agreed reluctantly. “I’ll call you at half past two. Oh, and Spike, don’t drink the glass of water beside my bed.”

“Why not? You keep your false teeth in it?”

“I’ll have you know I still have all my own teeth, thank you very much. No, I just don’t think drinking it would be very good for you. It’s Holy.”

* * * * * *

“Is Giles treating you right?”

“Yeah, he’s not so bad, really. Got some classic British TV on video, I was watching it all last night. Sodding brilliant stuff.”

“And are you behaving yourself? Have you thanked him?”

Spike looked at her blankly. “Thanked him?”

“Well, yes.” Tara frowned at the vampire. “He’s feeding you, giving you somewhere to sleep, keeping you safe from those soldier guys who want to catch you again, least you can do is say thank you. Maybe help him out a bit, wash some dishes, you know?”

Spike frowned, cocked his head to one side, and stared at her uncomprehendingly. “I’m a vampire, pet. I don’t do dishes. Don’t say thanks. Evil, remember? Grrr.”

“That’s no excuse for not being polite. The villains in James Bond films are always polite.”

“I’m not bleeding Ernst Stavro Blofeld, love. Not going to get a poncy white Persian cat and sit around explaining my evil plans. Oh, sod it, I suppose I could wash my cup out, not like it’s going to kill me.” He smiled at her ruefully. “Not scary any more, am I, love? I need this damn thing out of my head. Can’t get taken seriously while I’m, err …”

“Incapacitated?” she finished for him with a smile.

He growled at her, a genuinely angry sound, and his eyes flashed. “Not funny. I spent three months in a sodding wheelchair courtesy of Buffy Summers, bloody humiliating it was, helpless and being pushed around and patronised by that Angelus git. Not fond of being reminded of it. This is too damn similar. I hate it.”

“I’m s-sorry,” Tara told him softly, looking up at him with sad eyes. “I know it m-m-must be awful for you.” She put her hand in her pocket. “Look, I’ve got something for you. W-won’t make up for what you’re going through, I know, but it’s something.” She handed him a steel Zippo lighter.

“Thanks,” Spike muttered grudgingly, and then his eyes lit up. “Bloody hell! This is my lighter! Where’d you get it?”

“Found it near where you said they caught you,” she told him. “I went and searched round, looking for clues, and I saw it under a bush. You must have dropped it when they tazered you.”

“Fan-bloody-tastic!” Spike grinned. He grabbed Tara and planted a smacking kiss on her forehead. “Ta, pet. That’s great. Had that a long time, hated to lose it. Makes me feel a lot better, having it back.” He released her and she stepped back, blushing deeply. “Okay, pet, I’ll make nice with the Watcher. Do the dishes. Maybe give him one or two of the albums out of the car when I get it back, I took a peek through his record collection and I think I’ve got a couple he’d like. Captain Beefheart, Chicken Shack, got a rare Janis Joplin bootleg, couple of others. Happy now?”

“Yes,” she told him, smiling. “Very.”

* * * * * *

Willow wasn’t happy. Oz had sent a messenger to collect his belongings; it appeared he wasn’t going to be returning to UC Sunnydale any time in the foreseeable future. He hadn’t even been in contact with her; she’d heard about his actions through his former bandmate Devon. That made it even worse. All her distress at his departure came flooding back multiplied ten times over. She’d been dealing with the break-up by denying it to herself, treating it as a temporary situation and insisting that he would be back before long; now she couldn’t do that any more and she fell to pieces.

At first she tried to hide her feelings and pretend that everything was fine. She’d promised Giles that she would come over to his apartment, question Spike, and use her hacking skills to try to find information about the secret installation that seemed to be located in the vicinity of the College. She arrived at the agreed time, carrying her laptop, and set about her task with faked enthusiasm. Eventually the enthusiasm became real as she became caught up in the work.

Evidence began to accumulate. A Fraternity house had been “closed for maintenance” during part of a semester, with generous accommodation allowances for the students who had been displaced. The first choice site for the new Cultural Centre had been vetoed for no clear reason. There were some inexplicable discrepancies in the Admissions records. An odd gap in the academic record of one of the Professors. Little jigsaw pieces that meant nothing in themselves, but that were beginning to show signs of how they fitted together to make a disturbing whole.

Willow always enjoyed using her mind and her computer skills, and the task was absorbing, and it became fun. One of the things that made it fun was, oddly enough, Spike. Not only did he co-operate unreservedly but he made it entertaining. He recounted the tale of his capture, his imprisonment, and his escape from the facility with the flair of a natural storyteller. His portrayal of himself as a dashing and heroic figure was interwoven with wryly humorous digs at his own stupidity for ending up in that predicament. Willow found herself thinking how likeable Spike was if you were prepared to overlook the biting people and drinking their blood factor; and the device implanted in his brain had removed that from the equation, at least for the time being. No reason not to relax and enjoy his company.

Giles seemed to be thinking along similar lines. “I must say you’ve been remarkably cooperative, Spike,” he told the vampire. “We really have made substantial progress. I’m quite pleasantly surprised.”

“Ta, mate,” Spike grinned back. “It’s like they say, innit?” He broke into song. “Watcher and the vampire, each must play his part. To bugger up the soldier boys, and keep stakes out of my heart. Stakes out of my heart.”

Giles burst into laughter. “Rush,” he explained as he saw Willow’s perplexed frown.

“Where?” she responded blankly.

Giles laughed again, joined by Spike. “Canadian rock band, pet,” Spike elaborated.

Willow pouted. “This is another ‘Kiss Rocks’ thing, isn’t it? Why do Eighties bands have such dumb names?”

“Yeah, like ‘Matchbox 20’ and ‘Blink 182’ are brilliant names,” Spike retorted.

“Blink 182 are great!” Willow protested.

“Not bad, got to admit,” Spike conceded, “but it’s the names we were talking about.” He glanced at a clock. “Look, is it okay if I take a break in a little while? ‘Passions’ is on soon, like to watch it if that’s okay with you, Watcher.”

“I don’t see why not,” Giles replied. “I have to go and see about retrieving your car, I might as well do it now.” He pursed his lips, raised an eyebrow, and looked at Willow.

She guessed his thoughts. “Yeah, you go,” she told him. “I’ll stay here and keep an eye on Spike, no problem. I can be putting this stuff into order to print out, ‘cause I know you, you won’t be happy until it’s on paper.”

“If you're sure you don’t mind, that would be most helpful,” Giles said. “There are some other errands I have to run, if that’s all right with you?”

“Sure, Giles, take as long as you like,” Willow smiled. After he’d gone she turned to Spike. “You watch soap operas? Weird.”

“Not most soaps, Red, pretty much just ‘Passions’. It’s got a witch in it, and a living puppet, and spells and such, so it’s much more realistic than most, innit? Got into it with being stuck in motel rooms during the day.”

“It just seems so normal, which is weird, if you see what I mean. You like human food too. Not like you’re a vampire at all. You even know about computers.”

“Like to keep abreast of the times, pet. Got into computers back in the Amiga days. ‘Lemmings’, you know? Dru used to love that. ‘Course, I had to get through the first few levels for her, get to a point where there were lots of lemmings on screen, ‘cos she wasn’t too hot on the problem solving. She just used to like the little buggers falling off things and going ‘splat’, and going ‘oh, no!’ and blowing themselves up. Liked ‘Worms’ better myself, but I had to play against the machine, Dru couldn’t get the hang of it, and the minions were always so shit scared I’d dust them if they beat me that they didn’t bloody try. No fun at all.”

“You’re pretty web-savvy too, I noticed.”

“Well, got to stay in touch with Man U, haven’t I? Internet’s about the only way to do it in this country. Fancy a cuppa tea, pet? Or coffee? I’ve got time to make it before ‘Passions’ comes on.”

“Coffee, thanks.” Willow watched Spike as he went to make the coffee. He was easy on the eye, definitely. “Spike,” she said hesitantly. “You’re being really nice, you know. Is it, like, some evil plan, or are you really a nice guy – well, apart from the eating people bit? ‘Cause, I think I kinda like you.”

“Thanks, pet. Look, got to admit, when I found I couldn’t bloody bite people I was feeling sodding angry and depressed, y’know, would have been all snapping and snarling like a wolf in a trap. But Tara had a word with me, said I should make nice, and I could see her point. I’m pretty much at the mercy of you lot, doesn’t make sense to get your backs up, so I did what she said, and I got to admit it’s a damn sight more pleasant for me too. I play nice with you, you play nice with me, and it’s not that bad. The Watcher’s actually a pretty good bloke now I’m getting to know him.”

“And the rest of us?” Willow prompted.

“What, you wondering if I’ll be ripping your throats out if I get this thing out of my head?” Spike stood stock still for a moment, his head tilted to one side, and his spoon poised above a coffee cup. “Nah. Wouldn’t be bloody right.” He came to life again and began to stir. “’Course, if there’s any attempts at staking me all bets are off, but otherwise I’ll leave you lot alone. Might bugger off to Argentina or somewhere.” He saw Willow’s brows descend and her lower lip protrude, and laughed. “Don’t tell me you’d actually miss me? Well, maybe I’d miss you too, but I eat people, love. Can’t see the Slayer, either of them, overlooking that little failing and letting me stick around.” He took his coffee and set off for the couch in front of the TV.

Willow picked up her coffee. “Yeah, you’re right, but hey, rather not think of that right now, okay? ‘Cause, eating people, a bit of a turn off for me.”

Spike ran his tongue over his teeth. “Oh, I don’t know,” he smirked, bringing a blush to Willow’s face. “You sound as if there’s a turn on involved along the way, pet. You fancy the Big Bad?”

Willow hesitated for a moment and then nerved herself to take the plunge. “Maybe I do.”

Spike almost dropped his coffee. His eyebrows shot upwards. “Bloody hell! I was just kidding, Red.”

“Well, what’s to be surprised about? I mean, okay you won’t have seen yourself in a mirror, but hey, you’ll have seen photos, right? And, Oz is a werewolf, so the vampire thing, not that big with the no-no.” Willow swallowed hard. “Umm, since Oz left I’ve been, you know, kinda lonely in a missing a guy way, I, umm, maybe you might, that time in the factory you said you kinda wanted me, and hey, I might not be so big with the no having of any kind this time round.”

Spike hastily set his coffee down on a table. “Are you making a pass at me? Christ on a bleeding bike. You’ve got to be having me on.”

Willow was beginning to regret having said anything but decided to press on. “I just thought we might maybe, you know, do something, maybe make out, even go a bit further?”

“Bloody hell!” Spike said again. “Look, pet, you’re definitely shaggable, and if things were a bit different I’d have your knickers down like a shot and I’d be up your ginger minge like a ferret up a drainpipe. But with this thing in my head I’m not going to lay a sodding finger on you. The Watcher would stake me in a heartbeat. Summers’d beat me to a bleeding pulp and then stake me. Harris would stake me, too, which would be bloody humiliating for me as well as fatal. And Tara – she’d be upset, and she wouldn’t stop them staking me.”

“They wouldn’t have to know,” Willow suggested, and then lost her nerve. “Okay, bad idea. You’re right. But it might have been nice.”

“Yeah, definitely a bad idea. Not keen on trying to hide it, pet. I’d want any girl I shagged to be proud enough to put it on a T-shirt.”

“What, ‘I shagged Spike and all I got was this lousy T-shirt’ sorta thing?”

“Well, I’d expect her to have ‘and a damn good shagging’ across the back,” Spike smirked. “Look, pet, thanks for the offer, but it’s not on. Daren’t risk it. But I wouldn’t mind calling you a friend, and as far as I’m concerned this isn’t just a truce with you while I’ve got this thing in my brain. You’re on the list of humans I wouldn’t eat unless it was absolute life or death, alongside Man United, and John Lydon, and the Ramones, and Joyce, and Tara.”

“And I won’t stake you unless I really have to,” Willow agreed. “Friends.” I just got the ‘just good friends’ speech from a vampire. I’m not ever going to get another boyfriend now Oz is gone, am I? “But the same’s gotta go for Xander, and Giles, and Buffy. Oh, and I suppose Anya, and my parents.”

“Fair enough, I will if they will,” Spike replied. He switched on the TV. “Now shush, Red. ‘Passions’ has started.”

Willow left him to it, and went back to her laptop. She spent the duration of ‘Passions’ in sorting through her findings, separating out some false leads to incorporate into a project for class so that she could claim the research time against it, and organising the genuine leads ready for printing out. She didn’t consciously pay attention to the TV, but couldn’t help noticing some of the show.

“So ‘Passions’ is set in a town called ‘Harmony’?” she remarked during the commercials. “Is that what attracted you to our Harmony, her name?”

Spike chortled. “Probably bloody was. Daft chit was driving me up the wall in no time.” He pursed his lips. “Wonder what happened to her? I went looking for her when I got out of that place, she had a pretty nice pad and I thought she could maybe shelter me for a bit, if she’d forgiven me for trying to stake her that is, but there was no sign of her. Couple of strange vamps had moved in, didn’t dare go near them ‘cos I didn’t know I could fight them. I left a few things there, so now I know I can kick vampire butt I might pop in and stake the buggers and get my stuff back. Anyway, don’t like to think of her having maybe got caught by the soldier boys and experimented on. She might be annoying but nobody deserves that.”

Willow bit her lip. Her idle comment might have opened something of a can of worms. “She attacked Tara the night you were here with the gem, and Tara staked her.” Much to her relief Spike reacted with a broad grin.

“Good for Tara. She didn’t take long to get the hang of what I taught her. Well, that’s a bit of a weight off my mind. Wouldn’t really have wanted Harm dead, but better that than down in those sodding cells. At least it’ll have been quick and clean.” His attention turned back to the TV as the commercials ended, and Willow went back to her laptop.

* * * * * *

“I don’t believe it!” Xander exclaimed. “You’ve brought Spike to the Bronze?”

“Yeah, good to see you too, mate,” Spike grumbled.

“I don’t see why not,” Tara muttered. “Not like he’s going to do any harm.”

“You’re missing the point, Xander,” Willow grinned. “Spike’s over twenty-one. He can buy beer.”

“Hello, my pal Spike,” Xander changed his tune. “Have a seat. You play pool?”

“I’m over twenty-one too, by more than a thousand years,” Anya sniffed resentfully, “but they still won’t serve me.”

“Yeah, well I look it, and I’ve got a driver’s license says I’m twenty-seven if they are picky enough to card me,” Spike pointed out. “Lucky I’d left it in the car and it didn’t get nicked, innit? Hope I don’t get chucked out for passing drinks to you lot.”

The atmosphere was strained at first. Buffy was wary of the vampire. She refrained from being openly hostile, but that was all. Xander was willing to be reasonably polite in return for beer, but his effusive greeting had been only in jest and he hardly spoke to Spike in the next half hour. Eventually, however, he loosened up and included Spike in the conversation. Anya followed his lead, and Buffy broke off from her conversation with Willow to ask Spike serious questions about local vampires. Tara, of course, had been talking with Spike from the beginning, as had Willow, but as the conversation became more general Willow dropped out and slipped away from the group.

Her absence went unnoticed for a while, as did the fact that she had drank far more than her share of the beers. When the others did realise that she had left they looked for her, saw that she was talking with a group of people all of whom were human, and thought nothing of it. Xander took advantage of her absence to ask Buffy how Willow was coping with her break-up with Oz.

“I think she’s dealing,” Buffy told him. “She was pretty upset when she heard he’d sent for his stuff and not even called her, but hey, she’s doing okay now.”

Tara looked uncertain. “Are you sure? I mean, you know her better than me, but I get the impression she’s forcing it, you know?”

“She’s hanging on by a thread,” Spike put in. “Look, don’t stake me for this, right? She gave me the come-on. Can’t tell me that’s normal behaviour for her. She’s lonely and hurting and if I was you I’d be worried about her.”

“If you laid one finger on her …” Xander growled.

Spike raised his hands defensively. “Course I bloody didn’t. Knew it would get me staked. Just saying, can’t see her doing it if she wasn’t off her game.” He picked up his beer bottle and tipped it over his glass. Nothing came out. “Funny,” he muttered. “That should have been a full one.”

“Oz treated her very badly,” Anya delivered her verdict. “If I had my powers I’d liquefy his entrails for her.” Xander winced.

“She was pretty down before I went to LA, but when I got back she was perky Willow again,” Buffy frowned. “Just putting on a front?”

“Damn right,” Spike agreed. He reached for another beer bottle and attempted to pour it out. It was empty, and he frowned. “That’s bloody not right. I thought we all had one bottle left.”

“If it’s a front it’s a good one,” Xander remarked. “There she is on the dance floor, having what looks like a wonderful time.”

“Way to rebound,” Buffy commented.

“Yeah, well, the bloke looks like he’s ready to run,” Spike said cynically. “Who’s drunk all the bloody beer, then? You, Harris?”

“Not me,” Xander replied without turning round. “I believe that’s the dance of a brave little toaster.”

Willow glanced in their direction, saw that they were looking at her, and turned and waved at them. Her dance partner took advantage of her distraction to leave the floor and slip away. Willow turned back to where he’d been, pouted, and left the dance floor to return to the Scoobies’ table. “Hey guys,” she called. “They’re playing Blink 182. One of you should come dance with me. C’mon. Hey, Tara, I was talking to this cute guy, and he’s got a friend. Wanna join us?”

Spike growled deep in his throat and stared across the room.

“I d-d-don’t think so,” Tara stammered, looking nervously at Spike.

The vampire relaxed. “Your ‘cute guy’ is making a getaway,” he informed Willow. “Think you’ve scared him off, Red. Came on a bit too strong, maybe?”

“Oh, poot!” Willow pouted. “Oh well, plenty more fish in the shea, right?”

“Willow, are you drunk?” Buffy asked, suspicious.

“Drunk? That’s such a strong word. Kind of a guttural, Anglo-Saxon word. Drunk.”

“Hey! It was you drank all the sodding beers!” Spike accused.

“So what if I did?” Willow shrugged. “I’m having a good time for once. No big.”

“No big? Anyone remember when Buffy had the fun beer fest and went all One Million Years BC?” Buffy reminded her.

“Sadly without the furry bikini,” Xander muttered, provoking a glare from Anya. “Will, not loving the drowning of the sorrows.”

“Not drowning, wading,” Willow replied. “I’ve got big time, legitimate, pain here. What’s so wrong about me getting away from it for a while?”

“We all have pain, Will,” Xander said soothingly.

Willow didn’t respond the way he’d hoped. “Oh, like what? ‘Oh, poor me, I live in a basement’? Yeah, that’s dire. Or ‘poor me, I can’t eat people, can’t put it up your ginger minge ‘cause they made me impotent’? Like I should sympathise?”

Xander scowled and turned away from her. Spike’s lips drew back from his teeth in a vicious snarl and he seemed to be on the verge of going into game face. Tara grabbed his arm hastily, pulled him towards her, and put her arm around him. The snarl died away, although his expression stayed hostile.

“What’s a ‘ginger minge’?” Anya asked, and then worked it out. “Oh, your pussy.”

Buffy stood up and confronted Willow. “Okay, that’s it,” she said firmly. She took hold of Willow’s arm. “I’m taking you home.”

“Don’t wanna.” Willow pulled her arm from Buffy’s grasp.

“You’ll thank me when you still have a friend in the morning,” Buffy told her. She glanced at Spike. “And maybe someone who isn’t actively an enemy.”

“Ooh, scary, the big bad vampire’s upset,” Willow sneered. “Like I should care. What’s he going to do, give me a dirty look?”

Spike glared at her and clenched his fists so hard his knuckles went white.

Tara stood up. “That’s enough, Willow,” she said sternly, her voice free of any trace of stammer. “There’s no call for that. You invited him, you’re drinking his beer, you treat him decent, you hear?”

“The mouse can talk!” Willow raised her eyebrows. “I –” she stopped in mid word, her eyes rolled, and she swayed on her feet. “I – I think I’m going to throw up.”

Buffy caught her arm and rushed her away towards the rest room. They returned a couple of minutes later, Willow pale and shame-faced.

“I’m sorry, guys,” she told them. “I just can’t stand feeling this way. It hurts and I wanted you to feel it too. Sorry, Xander, Tara. Sorry, Spike.”

“It’s okay, you get some rest,” Xander replied, with a smile that didn’t entirely reach his eyes.

“Hope you feel better tomorrow,” Tara said politely.

Spike gave Willow an apparently genuine smile. “No problem, Red. It was the beer talking. Know all about doing stupid things when I’d been dumped and was drunk. No hard feelings. Want a lift home?”

“Thanks,” Willow muttered, holding a hand to her stomach.

“Oh, yeah, you’re Car Guy now. Might be a good idea, yeah, thanks Spike,” Buffy agreed. She assisted Willow out of the club, accompanied by Spike and Tara, and they left Xander and Anya to enjoy the rest of the evening alone.

“I hate feeling like this,” Willow whined in the back of the car. “I just want it to be over, you know?”

“Strong coffee might help,” Spike suggested.

“I mean feeling alone. Want the pain to be over.”

“It will, I promise,” Buffy soothed her, “but it’s gonna take time.”

“Well, that’s not good enough,” Willow frowned.

Tara felt like giving her a slap and telling her to snap out of the self pity, but restrained herself and kept quiet.

“It’s just how it is,” Buffy told Willow. “You just have to go through the pain.”

“Well, isn’t there some way I can just make it go away?” Willow moaned. “Just ‘cause I say so? Can’t I just make it go ‘poof’?”

* * * * * *

“Willow said some pretty bad stuff to you. Are you really okay with it?” Tara asked, after Spike had dropped off the other two at Stevenson House. “You were pretty mad.”

“Yeah, it got to me,” Spike admitted. “It’s so bloody frustrating. Part of being a vampire is not taking any shit, y’know? Having to just sit there, not being able to smack her one, burned me up. Still, last year I held a broken bottle to her face, I owed her a bit of payback, and we got on fine this afternoon. I can let it go. Think she was a bit ashamed afterwards, that makes me feel a lot better about it. Thanks for sticking up for me, pet. Hate it that you had to, but thanks.”

“She was really w-w-wanting you to, umm, you know?”

Spike tilted his head and smirked. “What can I say? I’m irresistible. Nah, knew something was up when she made a pass at me. Was damned whatever I did, really, couldn’t take her up on it, ‘cos I know for sure the other Scoobies would have staked me good and proper, but turning her down was a bit of a bugger what with the ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ bit.”

“So you only turned her down so you w-wouldn’t get staked?”

“Come on, evil vampire here. What do you expect? ‘Course I’d have shagged her.” He glanced at her again, observing her reaction.

“No reason not to, I guess.” Tara tried to keep the hurt out of her voice, but didn’t think she’d been successful.

“But I didn’t. Like I told her, Buffy and Xander would’ve staked me,” he paused, “and you’d have been upset. That was the clincher.”

“Really?” A smile spread across Tara’s face and she could feel herself blushing.

“Really. You’re about the best friend I’ve ever had, pet, don’t want to upset you.” They came to Tara’s dorm building, and Spike pulled the car to a halt. “Okay, love, see you tomorrow, we’ll go and sort out those two vamps in Harmony’s old lair, okay?”

“Okay,” Tara agreed. Feeling suddenly bold, she leaned across and delivered a swift peck on his cheek. “Good night, Spike.”

Spike’s eyebrows climbed high and he touched his cheek with his fingers as she scrambled from the car. “G’night, Mighty Mouse.”

* * * * * *

Willow woke in the middle of the night, stumbled to the bathroom, and vomited. Afterwards she splashed cold water onto her face and stared into the mirror. “Sick of this shit,” she mumbled. “Sick of hurting. Not gonna take it any more.” She made her way back to the bedroom, raided her trunk for spell components, and returned to the bathroom. Hastily she set up candles, a bowl, herbs, a goblet, and a censer. She shook away the cobwebs of drunkenness and concentrated hard as she chanted.

“Hearken all elements,” she recited. “I summon thee now. Control the outside, control within. Land and sea, fire and wind. Out of my passions, a web be spun. From this eve forth, my will be done. So mote it be.”

* * * * * *


The characters in this story do not belong to me, but are being used for amusement only and all rights remain with Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, the writers of the original episodes, and the TV and production companies responsible for the original television shows. BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER ©2002 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved. The Buffy the Vampire Slayer trademark is used without express permission from Fox.




The next chapter will follow as fast as I can manage.
Tags: fic, life_in_shadow
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