Dead Men Walking - 1
Spike felt the usual tension grip his belly as he
approached the shop. He slipped on his Big Bad persona: squaring his shoulders,
taking all expression save uncaring disdain off his face, and pushed open the
door. He was not so immune to loneliness that he could stay away, but not so
sure of his reception to ever be happy coming here. Sometimes, he debated leaving
Sunnydale for good, making a new start somewhere else, but something held him
here… she held him, perhaps. He had not examined his feelings on the issue too
much, in case he discovered that nothing held him at all. He preferred to see
himself as a moth to her flame. A very, very strong moth that would one day
beat his wings just hard enough to extinguish her bright light and bring her
into the darkness with him.
He had to admit, however, that at the moment, she was the one doing all the beating. He could do nothing to cover his swollen eye, and mentally prepared for the interrogation it might elicit. Fortunately, his near-fatal wounds did not show. They were hidden inside his dead heart, along with all the other emotions that he could not, apparently, feel.
His reception in the shop was… unexpected. Instead of the usual glances that patently said, "Oh, you, deadboy, why are you here… again?" or the feared, "Hey, great shiner Spike… get beaten up by a teenage girl?" this time he was met by an almost official-looking greeting line. All the children strung out expectantly, all looking at him. All except the one he most wanted and feared to see. She was at work, handling dead meat of a different kind.
He was about to say in his most defensive tone, "What? Fuck off," but spied Dawn and changed it quickly to, 'What's this then? Am I bleedin' royalty now?' He already thought Dawn an anorexic, kleptomaniac with a bad attitude; he didn't want anyone accusing him of adding to her considerable teenage unpleasantness by encouraging her to swear.
No one spoke, but Anya held out an envelope to him. He felt obliged to take it. Just as his hand reached the smooth paper, Harris said with a distinct snicker, 'It's from Giles.'
Spike looked at the handwriting in wonder. 'The Watcher. The Watcher's written to me?'
Giles had; the letter was clearly addressed to him care of the shop.
Spike looked helplessly at the children. 'This is a bleedin' joke, innit?'
Harris took on the job of chief Spike tormentor. It was one of his favourite roles, and he thought he was getting pretty good at it. 'Why don't you open it then, Spike? Do you need some privacy?'
Spike didn't get this at first; he was too busy studying the oh-so-familiar English stamps with a surprising touch of nostalgia. He was trying to remember the last time he had received a letter and didn't want to have to admit that it had been well over one hundred years. Eventually, however, Harris' implicit jibe struck home.
'Hey! What do you bloody mean by that? Nothing the Watcher can say to me that can't be seen by everyone.'
He ripped the envelope and let it drop to the floor, pulling out a couple of sheets of paper. The curiosity of the children would have made him laugh had he not been praying to a number of Gods he had used successfully in the past that this letter was, indeed, as innocuous as he had declared it to be. He had shared a growing friendship with the watcher over that long summer of death and, once or twice, he had found himself staring into eyes that had held his gaze a little too long. He just waved the sheets at them with a challenging stare. 'Anyone want to read it first?'
Still not understanding irony, and happy to oblige, Anya put out her hand. With a huff of disbelief, Spike sat down at the research table to see why he had been so favoured by Mr Rupert Giles Esq.
He held the letter in a deliberately casual way, just to make the point that he was not all that bothered by its contents. After a moment, he propped his feet up and tilted back his chair, too. He pictured himself as one of the young humans might see him, decided he had achieved the right level of nonchalance, and started to read.
I hasten to state I use the above endearment for form's sake only. It looks as ludicrous to me, as it probably sounds to you.
I telephoned Anya and asked her to give this to you quietly, without any fuss, so I suspect you are sitting in the shop with all of them watching you. Sorry. I would have telephoned to speak to you, but I thought you might not take my call. I also needed to send you the enclosed map, in case you do accept my offer, so I decided to write it all down.
Anyway, I won't waste your valuable time, and I'll come to the point. Sorry, that sounded patronising; I presume you do have important things to do occasionally. That was even worse. Spike, I have a proposition that might interest you.
I have been approached to write a definitive textbook on religious mysticism as a driving force in the life of female vampires. Apparently, it is a great honour. It was rather more the exceedingly generous advance I have been offered that made me accept.
Clearly, I need to write a chapter, or possibly more, on Drusilla. I plan to make her my most important case study. However, writing books on vampires is notoriously difficult. This is real life. Vampires do not give interviews. If they do, you often wish they hadn't. So, not only do I not know where Drusilla is, I would not be inviting her here if I did. I suspect you are beginning to see the point of my letter now.
And, indeed, this is where you come in. You knew Drusilla for over a hundred years; you know about her siring and her human past; you shared much of that time together. Who better for me to interview? My advance includes a reasonable allowance for research costs. In other words, I could pay you. In addition, I will pay for your return ticket from Sunnydale to England and all other reasonable costs you incur whilst assisting me. Let me repeat that "reasonable costs" I'm not paying for you to go on a drunken binge with riff raff in London. I can offer you my spare room, and I think we should need no more than two weeks.
Don't instantly dismiss this offer because it comes from me. I have not forgotten my hasty and rude comment to you that 'I would never ask for your advice.' I suspect you were not on par that day either, and that you did not enjoy the self-revelatory results of your singing debut any more than I did. I apologise… rather late, I know, but I freely admit I need your advice, counsel, and knowledge now. If I don't write this book, I may be faced with taking up bowls or going to watch cricket and, as a fellow Englishman, I know you will now appreciate my desperation.
I await your response.
Spike smiled a very genuine smile. Giles had written to him as if writing to a fellow human, and that was something not lightly dismissed.
He allowed the others to satisfy their curiosity by reading the letter, too. He was more than a little curious to see what they would think. Again, debilitating loneliness chipped away at his hard exterior, but he held sway, and told himself he didn't need their opinions, he was merely interested in them.
His initial reaction was that he would go. He couldn't have rightly said why he had made this instant decision, he just had. Perhaps the seed had been sown by that nostalgic study of the profile on the stamp, perhaps it was just the promise of being paid, or perhaps it was a genuine desire to talk about Drusilla with someone. It may just have been a small measure of all of these, mixing with, and diluting his sense of desolation, but he suddenly wanted to be back in England where it would be cooler and calmer and further from the flame that burnt him more often than he admitted.
The general consensus of opinion was that he should not go. This pleased him immensely, although he kept any trace of this from his face. They didn't think they could manage without him; they needed him, and they wanted him. They didn't say any of this, of course, but Spike was good at reading between the Scoobie-lines and realised that, with Giles gone, he was now seen as something of a steadying figure for….
She swanned in with her awful dress sense and the smell of rancid fat. Even that couldn't stop the leap of his long-dead heart or the rise of his equally dead cock. She gave him a surreptitious glance, puffed up her self-righteousness at his broken face, and breezed up to Dawn. 'What's up?'
Dawn was reading the letter and handed it to Buffy. 'Giles wants Spike to go to England and write a book.'
Buffy gave one of her most disbelieving looks to Spike. 'Really?'
'Yeah, some of us can spell, luv, and know words of more than one syllable.'
Buffy read the letter for herself. Everyone else went back to business: doing the accounts, stocking shelves, and eating doughnuts. Only Spike sat tense and angry, waiting for Buffy to finish reading. Anger consumed him, burnt him from the inside, because he just couldn't do it… he could not stay immune to Buffy's reaction. He desperately wanted to know what she would say, desperately wanted her to say, 'Don't go.' Just those two simple words… don't go. Was that too much to expect from someone you had shared your body with for weeks? She had seen him laid bare, raw with emotion. She had watched him cum and heard the words he used. She had made him scream. She had seen him cry.
Don't go… it was all he wanted.
Buffy tossed the letter on the counter and stretched over Dawn to take one of Xander's doughnuts.
'Well?' He would find some way to punish himself later for asking that, but he had to know.
'Well what?' Visions of the killing fields washed over him, bodies lay at his feet, his victims still living screamed out their torment, begging for a mercy that would not be forthcoming… he should be all this, but she made him ask again.
Even Dawn heard the strain in his voice and looked up from her homework as he spoke. 'What do you think I should do?'
Buffy took a bite, the sugar sticking to her lipstick and, with her mouth full, said, 'You're dead, Spike, what does it matter what you do?'
Spike held her gaze, but in his mind's eye he saw his metaphorical wings swoop down over her. He realised that for the last few weeks he had been treading a fine line between loving her and hating her.
She had just moved the line.
He wanted to darken her brightness and take from her. He wanted to have her taste bile, not sugar. He wanted to take her into the dark with him, so she would know the ways of dead things.
He deigned to give her one expression, one look that he knew she would understand. She had the grace to look down, abashed.
He stood up slowly and stretched a little. He almost felt… better.
A moth with no candle can fly free. He decided to go to England.
There was one thing that puzzled him though so, a few days later, when he had steadied himself enough, he wrote to Giles.
Why the bleeding hell don't you ask the poof? He's the one who turned her. He knows far more than I do. And he actually is tame. I just appear to be.
The reply came swiftly.
I think you know why. I will not have him in my home. Again.
It could have been the "I value and trust you more than Angel" implicit in this letter, or it could have been the plane ticket Giles had enclosed with it that made Spike grin with anticipation. Either way, Giles was showing a much-needed level of friendship towards Spike that eased its way in through his current vulnerability.
It was depressingly easy to leave. No plants to leave with neighbours; no plants, dead neighbours. No pet to take to kennels, no friends to see, no food to throw away… nothing. It made Spike feel empty and dead, and he could not get the refrain out of his head, "Just like she said… just like she said."
He was glad to leave… but he thought that at least his body would miss her. He'd sated his passion with her, and she had always come back for more. He had thought his physical needs were separate from those of his heart… thought he could fuck without love. Apparently not, and now that he was so far over the line on the side where there was only hate; he felt no desire for her either. He could not have risen to the occasion even if she offered him her potent blood. His obsession for her was gone.
Giles' careful, thoughtful preparations enabled Spike to travel without fear of the sun, and so he returned one rainy spring night to his own country. There was a vast distance between England and California, a distance that had nothing to do with the physical miles that separated them. Spike felt the gulf. The moment he arrived, he shed a large amount of the pain he had been carrying around since losing her, gaining her, and realising he had never had her at all. Even as he made his way through the concourse, he began to wonder why he had wanted her in the first place. Her allure seemed very much… spirit of place: as if her brightness was only reflected light from the endless brilliance of that sun-baked land.
Here, if people shone, they seemed to do so from an inner light. Spike shook his head and laughed. He'd had too much to drink on the plane, probably had jet lag, and needed to feed. He was getting like the….
He never thought about….
Resolutely refusing to finish any of those thoughts and actually think about Angel, he grabbed his one bag off the carousel and went to find his hire car. He started to queue at the Avis stand when a hand rested briefly on his shoulder. He turned to find Giles smiling at him, clearly pleased by his own ingenuity.
'Hello, Spike. I thought I'd come and meet you instead. It's a long drive to Bath. You are probably tired. Bad fight, hey?'
Spike's hand flew to his eye before he could stop it. Too late to pretend nonchalance, therefore, he just nodded and gave a small shrug. 'I'll heal; I always do.'
'One of the major benefits of being dead, I'd have thought.'
Spike looked intently at Giles to see if he was having the piss taken out of him. He saw nothing but the confidence of someone who felt enough friendship to be able to say such things. Relief swept through him. He began to think he might enjoy this two-week respite from the shit that was his life. He laughed and clapped Giles on the back then followed him out to the car.
They were surprisingly relaxed with each other on the drive to Bath. Being night, the roads were relatively empty. Giles avoided the motorway and took a slightly longer but much more scenic route that he thought Spike would enjoy. They stopped once at a pub for a treat, and Spike could barely contain his glee. He savoured the thick, warm ale and closed his eyes to take in the musky, unforgettable smell of the stale atmosphere. Giles watched him with pleasure. They were both feasting on nostalgia: Spike for his own land, Giles for the glimpse of his old life that Spike had brought him. He looked around the pub, amused. Everyone was looking at Spike. He was rather… exotic. Giles pursed his lips and berated himself for such a thought, but it was true: in this surrounding, in this country, Spike was exotic. No one else in Marlborough had bleached blond hair, no one else wore a floor length leather coat and leather jeans. As for the bone-white skin and flawless….
Now Giles knew he had gone too far. They were all probably just looking at the bruised eye and wondering what the other bloke looked like. He ordered another orange juice, much to Spike's derision, and made his way over to a table in a less visible spot.
They only stayed an hour, both keen to be back on the road. Giles wanted his bed; Spike wanted to hit the clubs.
They arrived at the flat five hours after leaving the airport, and Giles realised with a sigh of relief that they had not argued once the entire time. Spike had been easy-going and pleasant. He had not sworn excessively; he had thanked Giles for the drinks; he had smoked out of the window. Five hours… it boded well for the forthcoming weeks. Giles tried to ignore the inner voice that kept asking him whether easy-going was actually subdued, pleasant was, in fact, depressed, and whether the five hours should be seen as a warning, not a successful trial.
Giles showed Spike to his room, gave him a telephone number for a taxi so he could pursue his clubbing activities, handed him a spare key, and retired to bed. When an hour or so later he had not heard the front door, he went quietly to Spike's room and peered cautiously in.
It made him feel old, but he couldn't help it… he just stood there grinning. Spike was flat-out, face down on the bed with his head turned to one side, as if he still needed to breathe. He had not even completed undressing, and still had on his jeans and one boot. It was as if he had fallen asleep over the effort of unlacing that one Doc Marten. Watching him, Giles felt a strange protectiveness for this bizarre houseguest. He knew that Spike was lying about the injuries to his face, hiding some crucial fact about his attacker. With a sudden jolt of anger, Giles realised that Spike had turned his face in sleep because of that very injury. It was clearly still too painful to lie on. He crept into the room, covered Spike with the warm duvet, and quietly turned out the light. He gave one backward glance into the darkened room and shook his head sadly. He did not sleep well, and in the morning he could not have rightly said who he was more worried for: Spike, who seemed so wounded, or the person whom he intuitively knew had done that wounding.
The day started fine and bright, which was good, as it enforced Spike's presence and made him a prisoner to the book. Even so, they made a slow start. The depression in Spike's mood seemed even more noticeable now they were alone without the distraction of the trip to occupy their minds. It was nothing he could specifically point to and say, "This is not the Spike I remember" but apparently insignificant details added together to tell Giles that all was not well with this familiar vampire. He started by outlining his overall plan for the book. Spike listened carefully and made one or two perceptive comments. Giles was pleased, and the task he had taken on to save himself from the senility his enforced retirement threatened, suddenly seemed less odious.
When he came back to the living room from making them both some tea, he found Spike idly flicking through the books he had acquired for his research. Spike took the offered cup then said casually, 'So, mate… how do you want this info on Dru then? Chronological, anecdotal, or what?'
Giles eyed the slim, pale creature sitting opposite him, looking to see signs of the volatile vampire he remembered. He decided Spike seemed docile enough to risk pushing him a little.
'I'd like the truth, Spike. Essentially, I just want the truth.'
Spike stood up and started to pace across the gloomy room. 'What do you mean by that?'
Giles did not flinch. 'I think you know what I mean, Spike. Let's not have the "Drusilla is my sire" version of the story, shall we?'
Spike kept his eye contact, and Giles could see rapid emotion flitting across his face. Spike was in something of a dilemma now. It was his rule… he never thought about Angel. So, dilemma - if he didn't use his "I was sired by Drusilla" emotional prop, and he never allowed himself to think about Angel, then that left him, effectively, an orphan.
This, however, was England. This was Giles. His emotions were so torn over other issues just now, he didn't have the strength to fight the insistence of those annoyingly wise eyes.
'Okay, pet. No lies,' but added with a cheeky grin, 'It'll be the first time, mind you.'
Giles responded by getting up to make them both a drink of something slightly stronger than tea and, as he passed Spike, he pressed his hand gently to his arm. He smiled, too, gave Spike a tiny squeeze of reassurance, and turned without further comment to the kitchen.
Spike leant against the wall out of the reach of the tiny beams of sunlight penetrating the thick curtains Giles had been thoughtful enough to invest in for the vampire's stay.
The truth… it was a huge commitment. The truth was a battering ram that might force its way through his carefully prepared defences. He shrugged slightly. He still had omission to rely upon. He would tell the truth, but he'd be bloody circumspect about just what he discussed.
By lunchtime, Giles was astounded at the detail Spike had given him. Brilliant reviews for his book flashed in front of his eyes. He did not question Spike again about the veracity of his account until Spike, halfway through a rather turgid article on Drusilla's activities in the First World War, laughed quietly and said, 'Bloody bollocks, this.'
Giles looked at what he was reading and frowned. 'He's a renowned Drusilla expert, Spike. I'd be rather surprised if he were wrong.'
'I know who he is; I've read his shit before.'
'These dates are wrong for a start. She never went to these places. He's made most of this up.'
'Spike, it is almost a century ago. How can you be sure? I've never believed the stories of vampire powers of recall; it's always seemed to me.…'
'I don't need to remember, Giles.'
'I don't need to remember it all. I kept a record, pet. Since I was turned… didn't lose me ability to write and, you know, days can drag when you have to stay inside all the bleedin' time.'
'You kept a record?'
'A journal, yes.'
'You have journals?'
'The journals of William the Bloody?'
Giles leapt to his feet with a rarely felt excitement. 'My God! Spike! The journals of William the Bloody. Do you know what those would be worth to the academic world? Bloody hell, Spike. Why am I writing a book about Drusilla? Let's just publish the journals!'
Spike was amused at Giles' enthusiasm. 'They're not posh, mate, only jottings and scribbles mostly, but they prompt me memory when I need it. I thought they'd be useful for your book, 's why I brought them.'
Giles stared at him. He felt almost dizzy. 'You have them… here?' He could hardly speak for excitement.
Spike's lips twitched. 'In me bag.'
'My God, my God, can I see them?'
'Giles, have you ever heard the popular Sunnydale expression… duh? ' He got up and went to his room, returning with a stack of bound notebooks and some loose leaves.
Giles eyed the loose bundle with horror. 'How on earth did you keep them safe all these years… when you moved around… the fire… my God! They might have been lost!'
Spike patted him patronisingly on the arm. 'Mate, I'm not stupid. I've kept 'em in a safety deposit box… safe as houses.'
Spike looked at the way Giles reverently took his books, watched his head bow over them, saw that for a while he was not needed or remembered, and left quietly for his own room. He lay down on the unmade bed and folded his arms behind his head, staring at the ceiling as if answers would be found there. He noted with some considerable anxiety that he could still not see out of his damaged eye. Being half-blind was more of a worry than he cared to admit.
He had more pressing worries than his eye, though. These two weeks were not going to be as easy as he had hoped. He had wanted the chance to remember Dru and to talk about Dru, as if perhaps trying to conjure up a time when love had not been so painful. He had not anticipated how other, less welcome memories would be stirred… and who would be stirring them. Why had he voluntarily given Giles the books? Why, if he steadfastly refused to think about… about him... had he just handed over the keys that would unlock the deep, private chambers in his memory where he held his sire? So much for circumspection.
Spike feared that, having extinguished Buffy, he had merely flown around terrified in the dark looking for another candle to hold him captive to love. He didn't need to watch Giles turning the pages of his history to know that an old, familiar flame was about to be re-kindled.
When he returned to the living room, it was already beginning to get dark. Giles' head was still bent avidly over the fine scribbling on the page. He looked up as Spike entered, his face glowing, almost reverential. 'This is incredible, Spike. Your whole history captured here in these documents. I had no idea… I'm… I'm, frankly, I'm speechless.'
Giles offered Spike another drink, frowned when he lit a cigarette, but didn't have the heart to complain.
'Drusilla wasn't so keen on you writing this, was she?'
'How's that then?' Spike squinted thoughtfully at Giles through the haze of smoke.
'Well, look here… and here. You're writing about something… you get disturbed and leave off… and then this elegant hand makes a comment on the page. It happens quite a lot in this book.'
Giles showed the section he was studying to Spike, but Spike kept eye contact and did not look down.
'I can't quite make out what it all says, something about your journal being as bad as your poetry, telling you to come back to bed, a rather lurid description of what's going to happen when you get there… I'd have thought some of that illegal, even for the dead… and then something about someone else. What's that name? It looks like… but it can't be….'
Spike still didn't look down, but said quietly to Giles' bowed head, 'It says Drusilla, Giles.'
There was a pause. 'Oh, that's odd.' Giles looked up at Spike's narrowed eyes. 'So… this isn't Drusilla's writing then? These aren't her additions?'
'No.' Spike finally looked down at the handwriting he had not seen for almost a century. 'That's Angelus.'
Giles could not have looked more awed if Spike had declared the book to be the authentic Dead Sea Scrolls, autographed by Christ himself. William the Bloody's journals were rare enough, but this was Angelus… come to life on the page.
'Hey! Giles! Breathe, mate. Don't forget to breathe!'
'Good grief, yes. Well… what a day this has been. What a day.' He carried on exclaiming about the rarity of the books for a while, oblivious to the true import of what he had just seen. It only hit him as he was warming some blood for Spike a few minutes later. He paused in the act of pouring, turned and stared at the wall that divided them. When he returned, he handed Spike the mug, sat down a comfortable distance away, and said casually, 'So, odd I should mistake Angelus for Drusilla, given what was written.'
Spike was playing with the TV remote, flipping it between his fingers, balancing it on his bent knee. 'You think so?'
'Well, I'm afraid it makes it rather clear that not only was Angelus undoubtedly your sire… he appears to have been a great deal more than that as well.'
'It was a long time ago, watcher.'
Giles did not miss the decreasing friendliness of Spike's nicknames for him. 'Do you deny it?'
'I don't deny or confirm anything. I'm just saying that it's all in the past.'
'How… how involved were you?'
Spike's eyes flew up at this, and Giles instantly regretted his question, saw he'd gone too far. Spike, however, kept his voice neutral when he replied.
'It was nothing, Giles. It was all meaningless vampire shit. You know how it is with us.' He took a deep drag of his cigarette. 'It is totally irrelevant now. It's no more important than what you undoubtedly did at your school with your little chums.'
Spike's jibe hit home quite successfully. Giles recoiled slightly, debated defending the issue, but decided that such candour on Spike's side deserved equal frankness on his. In other words, he lied, too, but also managed to keep the lie slinking close to the truth.
'As you say, Spike. A long time ago. We all grow up, eventually, don't we?'
They sat for a while both thinking about the past and considering the lies they had told. Both now realised that the figure across from them in the gloom knew the power and allure of another man's body. The past, closer but no more potent than Spike's, called to Giles like a long-forgotten friend. The sound of high-pitched boys' voices; the thwack of leather on willow; the crunch of gravel under well-ordered feet, and the furtive feel of warm, young bodies in the dark… each memory burst in his mind like a small, sweet bubble, and the truth undid him. He glanced up at Spike and saw the same knowledge in those ancient, unfathomable eyes.
The power and the allure of another man's body does not dissipate over time.