constance_b: (Default)
[personal profile] constance_b
Half term holiday last week. Tooth extracted Friday. (My eighth extraction - I have the stereotypical British teeth. Still swollen and f***ing painful.) No time to snatch more than ten minutes on line and I only have half an hour now. This chapter has been sitting in my inbox over a week. Thanks for the beta, Slackerace, and the prezzie.



Chapter Eleven

But I'm all tied up on the inside
No-one knows quite what I've got
And I know that on the outside
What I used to be, I'm not
~ Crossroads, Don McLean


Though he'd been sure he wouldn't, Spike went straight to sleep that night. Peeled off his muddy socks, downed the blood, stretched out on that lumpy old bed and dozed right off. Whatever the Slayer had said about chains yesterday morning was obviously just an empty threat, if she disturbed his sleep with manacles it was only in his dreams - a weird and unsettling collage of sex and real life worries that had culminated in a shotgun wedding with the Slayer’s little redheaded friend wielding the shotgun and the Slayer herself cheerfully planning a daytime ceremony.

It had taken more probity than a vampire should have left to walk out of that kitchen, and more still to offer to leave her home. And as Spike had walked down the stairs he'd fully expected the curiosity to keep him tossing and turning but a lack of sleep must have caught up, he knew nothing but his bizarre dream world until well into morning. A loud clatter overhead dragged him from sleep in the end and though he had no watch, the vampire could sense the bright sunlight that he couldn't see from his underground room. Though he must have had a good eight hours, Spike burrowed lazily back into his pillow, listening to what could only be the sound of a Slayer making breakfast, the occasional clang of metal and a single muffled curseword. Spike would happily have traded the solid meal he knew he'd be receiving to know what the team leader of the white hats had been about, taking up with the likes of him.

His side of it was easy enough to understand. She was a pretty girl, stood out even in a crowd of Californian pretty girls; and in movement she was absolutely entrancing. If she'd ever offered back in the day he'd not have said no, mortal enemies be damned. It was the idea of her offering that was harder to swallow. Maybe her watcher had got the wrong end of the stick, the dalliance he'd alluded to was nothing more than the attack the Slayer herself had told him about.

It was only twenty-four hours since he'd lain here unable to sleep and wondered if she was even real; maybe it was the drastic change in his circumstances but it felt like weeks. Like his mind was clearing after a long dream. Literally true, as well, and maybe the two were connected. Being permanently half starved must impair his ability to think properly and time had little meaning when you were strapped to a table, bleeding from every orifice and a thousand new holes.

He could realise it was over now, could grasp the fact that he was safe, but the future was still a huge and uncertain beast and he couldn't live off the Slayer's charity forever. He half wanted to go upstairs, enjoy the company, however quietly, while it was still on offer. Half wanted to hide away as far from her as he could get, before he got so attached to this enigma of a girl that he wouldn't want to leave when he was inevitably turned out. And all the time guilt, for the things he remembered doing to her and the things he didn't.

Couldn't remember being this indecisive in the good old days. In fact, could recall nothing but a century of charging in without a second thought for little details like consequence. He didn't know where this guilt was coming from. After all, the Slayer hadn't changed. Had forever been good and noble and unpredictable and he'd admired her back in the day, fancied her, liked her even, would have snapped her neck without a second thought and raped her too, if the mood was right. And it made perfect sense that he no longer wanted to, owed her far too much now to see her dead by his hand, but why he cared about a past full of doing the things vampires do was more than Spike really understood.

The bumping around upstairs stopped and Spike considered getting up but before he'd summoned the energy to actually move, the telephone rang. For several minutes Spike conscientiously didn't listen, but as Buffy's voice droned on in the background and she settled in for a long chat, curiosity overcame all else. Her side of the conversation drifted through the closed basement door loud and clear, when Spike put his ear to it.

".....you have to remember he's not the same vampire, okay? You can't...... No..... No!..... Well it's not his fault you stayed at Anya's last night..... Because I thought you'd do this and I was too tired..... No, of course he doesn't know, didn't you hear me say he doesn't remember..... Dawn! Please don't, you'll only scare him..... Yes, Spike! This is what I'm trying to explain... Well it was you that made me go get him in the first place... Okay, that's enough. It was an extra night at Anya’s, not banishment to Siberia..... Monday's tomorrow?..... I just forgot..... Dawn....."

Though Buffy was pausing more than talking, Spike didn't need to be able to hear the other side to guess either the other party or the subject, and from the tone of the Slayer's voice it wasn't an equable discussion.

"..... I'd forgotten that stupid car; you know I can't drive when there're other cars getting in the way. Couldn't Anya..... Oh, okay. I'll try..... He's still a vampire, Dawn, it's kinda sunny..... Okay, okay, when he wakes up..... Dawn, have you forgotten I'm unemployed..... But Anya can't..... We'll talk about it when I get there. Bye."

Spike gave it enough time to appear coincidental before opening the basement door. The Slayer gave him a cheerful good morning and filled a mug for him, setting the timer before returning to her own, er, breakfast. Spike thought it might have been some kind of omelette but it was hard to tell.

"Dawn was on the phone a little while back," said the Slayer. "Anya made her go into the Magic Box at 5 a.m. this morning because she had a delivery due. They reopen in a week and she's been working all sorts of odd hours. Dawn's pretty peeved at me so I said we'd go over in a little while, is that okay?"

Spike nodded. Seeing as a good half of that statement made no sense to him, there was little else to do.

"I've got Anya's car, which she wants back, so you can dive in the back with a blanket or something. That's what Dawn does, when I'm driving. Anya's got one of those little tourist picture maps of the town centre that shows the Magic Box, and she says everything we'll need is stocked up already, so we can do the spell there. And if you're there too, we can see for definite whether or not the spell is detecting you."

Spike nodded again - it seemed all that was required of him - and retrieved his mug from the microwave. There was something brisk and business-like about her manner this morning that discouraged questions and Spike was more or less resigned to not asking any. He had no right to pry if he wasn't 'her' Spike and maybe less if he was. And even though he suspected she would try and tell him if he asked, there was something disarming about the way she brazened it out.

Spike wondered if she knew how very transparent she was. One overly chirpy good morning managing to convey 'what answering machine message? I'm in no way avoiding anything and I dare you to comment on my Stepford wife smile, so there.' Transparent and unnecessary. As if she couldn't just tell him to shut the fuck up and mind his own business.

In the good old days, Spike might have had good fun with someone who put their insecurities on such prominent display. Before he killed them. Seen how quickly that brisk, plastically sunny attitude would melt away when he started with the crude questions. Not an option now, of course. He owed it to this girl to keep quiet. Owed her anything she damn well wanted. And beyond that, Spike was a little afraid of what the answers might be. Bad years for him and for her, she'd said, and Spike had enough bad years of his own to remember.

In a way this dance was reassuringly familiar. Aside from her rows of shiny white teeth he might have been back in Victorian England, politely avoiding all talk of the elephant in the room. He was more than willing to play along with the illusion of comfortable acquaintance.

So Buffy finished her mangled breakfast undisturbed and got up to tip the plate in the sink. "If you want seconds now would be a good time. I've got to get to Dawn before she actually turns into Anya, which would be scary. And I've got to take her shopping later, school starts back tomorrow and-"

"I'm good, thanks."

"Okay." Buffy twisted a tea-towel between her fingers that she seemed to have picked up for the express purpose of twisting. Looked him straight in the eye with unnerving suddenness. "You so much as threaten my sister and I'll make the last three years seem like a picnic before I dust you."

"I wouldn't-"

"I know. I think I know. Just... it's best to be clear about these things, right?"

Dishcloth discarded, Buffy headed out of the kitchen. She paused in the doorway but didn't turn around. "That said, it cuts both ways. As long as you keep your teeth out of people you're safe from me, whoever you turn out to be."

********


From under a blanket the journey to the Magic Box was a series of random hops and emergency stops to Spike, other cars evidently abounding. When Buffy finally cut the engine, he wasn't sure if they'd stopped or crashed until he heard the click of the car door. Then the mad dash over the sunlit pavement, ratty blanket smoking at the edges, Spike caught a vaguely familiar glimpse of a vaguely familiar shop and then they were inside. The blond that greeted him he was fairly sure he'd never seen before, and she certainly wasn't human, but the Slayer wasn't reaching for the nearest weapon so he returned her cheerful hello.

"I'm Anyanka," she said perkily. "You used to know that, but Buffy said you'd forgotten everyone. I would give you a hug, but I've noticed she doesn't like displays of perfectly normal and platonic emotions. Despite what she says, I think she's still angry about the time we had intercourse on the table. You and me, I mean, not me and Buffy. Would you like to shake hands instead?"

Obediently, warily, Spike held out his hand, not daring to look at the Slayer standing just out of sight to his left. Not for the first time recently, Spike found himself bearings free, wondering what crazy world he'd landed up in where the Slayer was on speaking terms with so many of her mortal enemies. He hardly had time to consider the demon's bombshell before they were interrupted by another voice.

"That table over there," said the teen coolly, pointing towards the partially stocked shop floor. "I watched, you-"

"Dawn!"

This would be Dawn then. He'd have recognised her anyway, cleaner now but undoubtedly the same brazenly confident girl that had caught him off guard in the slave compound. The Slayer gave her sister a look that would have had Spike backing away if it had been sent in his direction; she marched straight past Spike and dumped his leather coat on the table in question. He'd heard her say she had it, of course, but seeing it in front of him was another matter altogether. Proof positive that the Spike she'd talked about really had existed. And had once been him.

"Dawn, never say another word. Ever. Anya, the explaining is worse than the hugging, I suspect you know that."

"We've been waiting for hours," whined the human, unrepressed.

"And you had nothing better to do than think up embarrassing opening lines?" The Slayer was clearly trying to pretend he wasn't there, leaving Spike standing awkwardly just out of reach of the light from the windows. On a mere day's acquaintance the vampire could recognise that defensive set of her shoulders.

"Yes, actually," Dawn spat. "Getting ready for my sophomore year. No, wait, I'd need to be at home for that. Instead, I get offloaded onto Anya while you play nursemaid with a vampire you've never even met before. And even though he's all 'unstable' now, I have to share a house with him while you cross your fingers and hope he doesn't eat us while we're sleeping. But that would save you buying me any school stuff, wouldn't it?"

Though he couldn't see Buffy's face, Spike was fairly sure he could hear her eyes rolling as she answered. "He can't bite people, Dawn. He's still got the chip."

"That didn't stop him trying-"

"Dawn!"

"Fine! But it's not my fault he did Anya on live TV. And it was that table."

The more Spike learnt about this world the more he learnt to be glad that he was missing most of the details.

"For crying out loud," said the Slayer. "You'll scare him."

"I don't think a vampire is likely to be scared by the idea of a one-night-stand," chipped in the blonde demon. "He didn't seem-"

"He's standing right here." Three heads swivelled towards Spike in surprise. "And he's... a little scared," the vampire added.

There was a second of silence. Anya was the first to respond, stepping forward and clapping her hands. "Let's get right to the spell, then. I've prepared the circle already."

"Buffy," Dawn whined. "Shopping. I go back to school in, like, eighteen hours. We need to hurry." The Slayer glared at her sister, who kept right on pouting. "I've been here hours. And I thought out way more embarrassing comments than the whole table thing," she threatened.

From the look on the Slayer's face, they had the potential to be very embarrassing indeed, but she didn't immediately cave. "I've got about forty dollars left in my bank account, Dawn. It's not going to take all that long to spend."

But the teen was already assuming victory, scooping up her handbag and taking a few pointed steps towards the door.

"You can borrow the store credit card," said the demon with a sigh. "Dawn has been helping; I suppose she's owed some financial compensation. And do you realise your vampire isn't wearing any shoes?"

"He's not my-" But the Slayer seemed to give in to what Spike had already realised. Arguing with either of these females was an exercise in frustration. "That's very kind of you," she amended.

"Oh it's not. I'll mark it down as a watchers expense, and they come out of Giles' share of the profit. The items I can't add to the insurance claim, of course."

Buffy took the proffered card warily. "Wouldn't using this be like... stealing from Giles?"

"Well in the end it works out more to be stealing from the government. Or the Watchers Council. And they both should be paying you anyway, as you're the one girl in all the world who does all the work."

"Okay. When you say it like that, I have a duty to spend."

"So how is the job hunting?"

Buffy grimaced. "I've been a bit busy. Besides, Doublemeat paid my wages again last week. I think it's their way of making sure I never come in and ask for my job back. You know, when they've finished rebuilding."

"You did make quite a lot of mess with the Secora demon; I suppose they find it cost effective. You're welcome to come and work for me, even though you attract large and destructive demons and aren't very good with the customers. I have very good insurance."

"Thaaanks."

"And you could pick me up some things while you're out. I'll get you a list."

Anya headed behind the counter and the Slayer gave Spike an apologetic glance as Dawn tapped her foot impatiently in the doorway.

"We won't be long," said Buffy. "You'll be okay here?"

"'M sure I'll be fine."

"You can't kill Anya either," she added quietly. Spike would have liked to assume she was joking but she put her hand on his arm and looked up at him, quite serious. "She can be really annoying but she means well. Most of the time. Just... try and put up with it."

"Can't hurt her, remember," replied Spike, going with the safe answer again. "Not that I would."

"Well the chip wouldn't work on Anya, she's not actually human. But if you snap her neck in a moment of anger I'll be annoyed." Buffy softened the words with a grin and added: "I'd understand, but I'd be annoyed."

It took a second for her implication to sink in, when it did Spike frowned. "Can't hurt demons either. Whatever the hell she is."

"Are you sure? I mean, have you tried?"

"Of course I tried. D'you think I let them do this to me and never tried to fight back? The chip works on demons."

"Oh." She opened her mouth to say more, but Anya was returning with the promised shopping list and Dawn's impatient tapping had become more of a stomp. Spike didn't need her to speak; it was obvious from her warning and the surprise on her face that in her memory at least he'd been able to hit demons.

"We'll do the spell as soon as I get back," she said instead. She took her sister out before something blew and Spike was left to wonder.

One more nugget about what life here had been like for him. One more answer and one more mystery. And another check in the column headed 'who the fuck are you'. Spike remembered and clung to the Slayer's earlier quid-pro-quo. He had no choice but to keep his teeth out of people and it was no hardship, once not feeding would have been torture but maybe his body had adapted to its meagre diet because now the only time he dreamed of sinking his teeth into people was in nightmares.

Her Spike could hurt demons, which made him wonder why he'd even needed to throw himself on the Slayer's mercy. Maybe the Slayer was a demon, like all her kind she hit his senses on a level that wasn't human, no reason his chip couldn't pick up on that too. And it would explain how he'd managed to attack her. But no, Spike mentally corrected himself. If he'd been able to kill her he surely would have done, and she'd not have left him with an invite into her house, let him sleep in her basement, if she hadn't felt protected.

He'd just have to hope that someone would fill him in at some point, before his brain exploded with queries. He wasn't left to mull long, the blonde demon was back in front of him, smiling with a painful enthusiasm.

"You look like you need cheering up. Would you like to count the money?"

********


For Buffy, a trip to the mall would have been a nice opportunity to forget all about vampires and spells and old hurts. To do shopping with someone else's money and relax a little while. But she could tell just from the way Dawn closed the car door and the aggressive seatbelt fastening, that her sister wasn't ready to drop the subject of Spike for shopping just yet. Best to get that conversation over with, Buffy thought, as she slid behind the wheel with a sigh. At least, unlike Spike, Dawn could see the mortal peril Buffy's driving placed her in and that might make her reasonable.

"So, you wanna tell me what all that was about?" she asked, lurching out into the fortunately empty street.

"What?"

"You know perfectly well what, missy," said Buffy in her best mom tone. "That whole being-a-brat thing you had going on in there."

"Maybe I wouldn't be a brat if you would behave like an adult."

Maybe. Though Buffy suspected her sister could find reasons for brattiness under almost any circumstances. Still, in the interest of a peaceful life Buffy went with an apology.

"I'm sorry I forgot your new semester was starting. It's been a busy week and the days have just blurred together, I didn't even know it was Sunday. Are you going to hold it against me forever, or just the next decade?"

"I don't care about that."

"Why do you hate me this week, then?"

It was the wrong question to ask. She could immediately see Dawn adding 'not understanding me' to Buffy's rap sheet of sisterly crimes. "Spike!" she answered crossly.

"Spike?"

"Yes."

"You told me to rescue him. There was planning, remember? So I went and rescued him, just like you told me, and now you're pissed at me?"

"Yes."

"Right. And were you just sharing the hate with Spike, or do you have some well thought out explanation for-"

"It's not funny, Buffy. He tried to rape you and now you're all 'lalala, be nice to him, pretend he never hurt us, don't mention all the bad things he did because we might hurt his little vampire feelings.'"

Most days Buffy still missed her mother, but sometimes she simply missed not being the adult. It was so hard not to descend to Dawn's level and bicker like they might have done eighteen months ago. Instead she fought for the patience of a parent.

"He saved your life. And I don't know about you, but I place some value on your life."

"I would have gotten out of there somehow. And last year, that other time he saved my life, you were all 'one good deed doesn't change the fact that he's an evil vampire.'"

"Well it doesn't but... I don't think he's even the same vampire, what's the point in hating him?"

"What was the point of hating him last year when all the time you were making with the sweaty?"

Buffy gritted her teeth and gripped the steering wheel tighter, leaving Slayer sized finger prints in the molded plastic. "There wasn't a point. It was wrong. And I really don't see what it's got to do with now."

"It's exactly the same."

"How?"

But Dawn just pouted mutinously so Buffy quietly gave up, changed the subject. With a little coaxing, and the reminder of the store card safely in Buffy's pocket, the teen was soon happily chatting away about her wardrobe and stationery needs. It wasn't until Dawn mentioned school shoes and Buffy remembered the boots she was supposed to be buying that the sulk returned.

"We could buy him some flip-flops?" suggested Dawn meanly.

"Or, I could just phone the Magic Box and find out his shoe size," suggested Buffy with yet more forced patience.

"Ten and a half," Dawn answered automatically, then glowered as Buffy raised a surprised eyebrow. "What? Why shouldn't I know his shoe size? We used to have actual conversations you know. When you were dead," the teen added, rather cruelly. "Not that he remembers."

"Oh! You're jealous."

"Yeah, 'cause I want some retard following me around like a puppy. If it wasn't for me he'd still be there, you know."

If it wasn't for you getting kidnapped, again, Buffy finished in her head. But she decided that was another thought a parent would probably keep to themselves. And she could hardly deny the puppy comparison. She’d made the same analogy in her own head, the way Spike slunk around after her looking like he expected to be kicked.

"I'm sure he's suitably grateful," she tried. Wondered from the way Dawn harrumphed if she'd hit the nail on the head. Certainly the teen lapsed into silence. It was going to be another long day. Buffy clutched the credit card and the wheel and prayed a few shiny baubles would improve her sister's mood.



And thanks to everyone who recced me a book to fill in the sleepless toothache fillled nights. So far I've read Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen, Sunshine by Robin McKinney (think I've spelt that wrong) Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson Gabriel Hounds by Mary Stewart, and I'm sure there was one more but damned if I can remember what it was off the top of my head. Hopefully, I get to dump the child this evening and catch up with what the rest of you have been doing.

Date: 2007-02-21 03:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] petzipellepingo.livejournal.com
"You look like you need cheering up. Would you like to count the money?"
Hee! Wonderful Anya voice in this.
And last year, that other time he saved my life, you were all 'one good deed doesn't change the fact that he's an evil vampire.'"
"Well it doesn't but... I don't think he's even the same vampire, what's the point in hating him?"
"What was the point of hating him last year when all the time you were making with the sweaty?"
Buffy gritted her teeth and gripped the steering wheel tighter, leaving Slayer sized finger prints in the molded plastic. "There wasn't a point. It was wrong. And I really don't see what it's got to do with now."

Clearly Dawn is still quite upset about Season Six and she's a wonderful mix of "I hate him, I love him".
I'm going to be very interested to see what the spell reveals.
Sending good teeth vibes along.

Date: 2007-02-21 05:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] constance-b.livejournal.com
Thanks. But I don't need good teeth vibes, I need morphine!

Date: 2007-02-21 05:03 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] brunettepet.livejournal.com
You painted a very vivid scenes with the many lovely little details in this chapter. This world and this slayer are easy for Spike to read but impossible to understand. This was in perfect Spike voice, and also captured Buffy: "Spike wondered if she knew how very transparent she was. One overly chirpy good morning managing to convey 'what answering machine message? I'm in no way avoiding anything and I dare you to comment on my Stepford wife smile, so there.' Transparent and unnecessary. As if she couldn't just tell him to shut the fuck up and mind his own business."

I also loved the offhanded mix of violence and attraction in this statement: "After all, the Slayer hadn't changed. Had forever been good and noble and unpredictable and he'd admired her back in the day, fancied her, liked her even, would have snapped her neck without a second thought and raped her too, if the mood was right."

Adding Anya and Dawn into the mix peppered the Magic Box scene with a lot of humor, and I laughed at Buffy's response to them: "Dawn, never say another word. Ever. Anya, the explaining is worse than the hugging, I suspect you know that."

This was a wonderfully entertaining chapter and I'm really looking forward to whatever the spell reveals.

Date: 2007-02-21 05:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] constance-b.livejournal.com
I have to write Dawn and Anya, because every time I think about trying to write Xander or S7 Giles I have a panic attack! Anya in particular is so much more fun.
The spell is half written, I'm gonna try not to have any more month-long gaps between chapters.

Date: 2007-02-21 06:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] owenthurman.livejournal.com
Thanks for another fascinating chapter.

Date: 2007-02-21 09:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zanthinegirl.livejournal.com
Really lovely details in this chapter! Very nice.

And I enjoy your Dawn; she comes across as a real teenager; angry at her life, and taking it out on the adult in her life. Buffy attempting forbearance because she thinks that's what a parent would do is perfect; very in character!

Interesting look into Spike's head. So he can't hurt demons either? Intriguing. Looking forward to seeing what the spell shows!

Date: 2007-02-22 04:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kargrif.livejournal.com
yay!! updatey goodness! great chapter, gah, things don't seem to be in danger of sorting themselves out anytime soon, lol, and i can't help but wonder where the 'real' spike is, loved it!

Date: 2007-03-30 04:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chillypepper.livejournal.com
I found this story from a link provided by rahirah. I tore through the posted chapters yesterday afternoon, not realizing it was a work in progress (wah!). I do hope you keep writing, as it is a well done story so far. I'm anxious to keep reading your work, so I really hope you get a burst of energy and finish this soon!
Page generated Jul. 24th, 2017 12:48 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios