My offering for today is a new completed fic, which is about 11,000 words in total and spread across five short chapters. I had many grander plans, but it was suggested to me around the time I was stressing out about having nothing that it would be sensible to do something straightforward. What this meant was finding one of the beginnings in my WIP folder and winging the rest of the story, which has resulted in something fairly indulgent of my fic predilections. Which is surely in theme with all of the random shite I have presented to this community over the years!
So, where does this story come from? Well, fans of the comics may remember that a few months(?) ago, there was an issue previewed and then released about Buffy going inside Spike's head. I don't actually read the comics, but I love all of that stuff, so I was intrigued. Of course, it seems as though the comic writers and I disagree about how that sort of storyline should play out, so I was inspired to do my own version. As a story actually about the plotline of the comics, this thing pretty much stalled, so what I've done instead is really a riff on the basic premise of that issue. It's a story that could be set in a much more generic futureverse, but hopefully it also fits within the comics canon, for people who would like it to! There are kittens. Also tarot...
The Page of Wands
Post-Series/S10 | PG-13
It's an odd place, Spike's head. The heart of it is difficult to find.
It seemed like the obvious solution, really. Possibly, Spike was killing again (again). Absolutely, even this year’s kinder, kitten-cuddling Spike was not going to let them magic a piece of molten rock into his brain. Quite probably, they all needed to stop trusting twelve year-old Giles with any decisions more important than next month’s brand of washing powder.
Once all of that had been taken into account, though, it became very difficult for Buffy to see any other solution than sending herself into Spike’s head. Willow and, try as she might to forget, Ethan, they’d been in hers, so it seemed like it was her turn to go walkabout.
Besides, Buffy thought, as the two of them drifted off into their trance – hands clasped and tingly; a sacred circle of chamomile around them – it couldn’t be that complicated, what with Spike expecting her and all.
And, actually, when she felt like she’d woken up, it wasn’t.
Trippily enough, they seemed to have found themselves back in Spike’s crypt from Sunnydale. It was… In its younger incarnation. A little bit dolled up, as Spike would have said, but not quite the way Buffy usually remembered it. Of course, memories were deceptive, but it was weird nonetheless.
“Well…” the vamp himself was saying, climbing up from the lower floor. “Fancy meeting you here.”
He looked a little less care-worn around the eyes; the whole of him was a little bit leaner, his shirt a little more red; the cut of his jacket was different. Funny, the things she didn’t really notice, but nonetheless never forgot. Like the hunger in his eyes when he looked at her – it was different, but definitely the same.
“Huh,” Buffy asked, though she was almost certain she knew the answer, “so, are you Spike-Spike or some sort of figment-memory-subconsciousness spirit guide?”
The figment-memory-subconsciousness spirit guide gave her the long-patented Look of Sarcasm, eyes boring into hers down his nose. “But you can ditch the ‘sub’,” he pointed out. “Far as I can figure it, I’m the Spike who knows who he is and does what he wants.” He cast an eye around the décor. “The rest of this place is a bit less subject to my will.”
For the moment, Buffy decided to park the question of why Spike’s conscious self was such an asshole. Instead, she took a slightly closer look at where she was standing. Mortar and slimy stone was the general theme, just as it had always been, but as she took a step further into the room she realised what was missing – the comfy, familiar Restfield vibe she’d failed to not associate it with. Beneath her feet, the ground wasn’t quite so sure and the old brown chair, when she touched it, that seemed to react. Or, maybe, the room seemed to react; it was like the candles were lit, that gentle heat taking the edge off the chill.
She remembered now why and when this place had felt cosy.
The feeling remained as she took her hand away – and somehow, without her noticing how it happened, the candles were all lit. Not at once, but right then, the crypt felt welcoming. Like she was a guest it would rather keep.
Buffy caught the eye of the asshole in the corner. He looked more than a little embarrassed. “Yeah, well,” he said. “Don’t get used to it. Can’t have you in my brain forever. I’ve got bad, evil, pornographic thoughts to be getting on with.”
Of course, that statement was undermined a moment later, as one, two, no, three kittens chose that moment to scamper up the ladder from downstairs, darting between Spike’s legs and over to the armchair. A tabby and a ginger kitten curled into the cushions, while the last, with black and white patches, leapt onto Buffy’s shoulder and threatened to nuzzle her into submission.
It was all Buffy could do not to break down into the longest laugh she’d had in her life. She settled for a giggle. “Yeah; you’re such a tough guy.”
Of course, like most of her jokes, it came out a little cutting. And its subject wasn’t amused: the asshole’s face turned stormy; the kitten clawed her neck; the lights guttered out. Because apparently some things were more connected in here than Buffy had fully realised.
Before she could apologise, Spike’s conscious will had retreated, dropping back down into the lower floor. Buffy started after him, the kitten long gone. She felt, as was often the case, like a tool. It was way too easy to punch needles through Spike’s act of indifference, and yet for some reason she had to prove she could do it every single time.
They were getting off-track, already distracted (which, dammit, mini-Giles had warned her would happen, ‘because minds are distractible things’). But she was dropping down into the lower crypt anyway –
– because how could any Buffy miss the experience of dropping from the first floor up onto a second, apparently sliding down an attic ladder into a dilapidated house she didn’t recognise at all?
“Spike, wait,” she called out. He was ahead of her, on the landing at the end of her corridor. He clearly heard her, glancing over his shoulder, but he didn’t stop, circling to descend the curving stairs.
Buffy dashed after him, taking the slats herself at a run. Of course, she needn’t have bothered, because he was waiting at the bottom. His gaze was caught by the halls that were in a different style again, and this time fit together in Buffy’s head.
There was the smell of sulphur in the air; magic and mineral soap. The clash of swords sounded, but it sounded odd, because when this had happened the first time around, Buffy had barely been able to hear a thing with all the blood rushing around her ears.
Yep, they were in the mansion, and apparently they were watching Spike of old, Drusilla in his arms, looking back on the fight she was having with Angel in front of Acathla. Her guide to Spike’s brain was doing nothing but watching, his steady, calculating gaze on his own other face. Spike from the memory shared the exact same look, before breath rushed through him.
“My god; he’s gonna kill her…”
For a moment, Buffy thought she was going to learn something – a different side to this guy she remembered. But then the concern seemed to wash right out of him; he shrugged, blinked, and without a glance backwards headed out towards the sun.
The sound of her fight with Angel dimmed – it was only her and the memory left; the part of Spike who could talk to her. “That was the last time I didn’t care what happened to you,” he said darkly. “The last time I felt it, a complete lack of care. Give me half an hour in the car and it’ll be gone.” A small smile crossed his face. “I ain’t done for yet, but it’s over – my head without you in it.”
The burn of embarrassment curled up to Buffy’s cheeks. “Why are you showing me this?” she asked, determined to put girlfriend!Buffy on standby and get on with the mission.
Spike – whatever part of him this was – turned and looked at her. Sarcastic again, but old around the eyes; tired. Not so much care-worn like she wanted him, but as though he’d been beaten up bruises had yet to have a chance to form. “I told you,” he said, trying to make her see the point. “I don’t have barely any power in this place… You, on the other hand, can make it ashes with a whisper.” He turned away. “Every now and then I need to remind myself that there was a time, once, when I was free to walk away.”
“Spike, that’s…” For a moment, Buffy wasn’t going to say it, but then she decided it needed to be said. “That’s kind of pathetic. You do get that, right?” Because who was she now? The Dark Willow of Spike’s head? That was never going to end well.
“Well, as you would say, duh,” Spike replied, rolling his eyes. “If you haven’t figured out that at the heart of me lies one of the most pathetic sops that the world has to offer, well – you’re really bloody slow.”
There were ways to respond to that, more words she could use to fill the echoing mansion halls. But the magical thing was, Buffy was sleeping with this guy she wanted to make feel better, so she didn’t have to beat him over the head with the blunt instrument she called speech. Instead, she put a hand on his arm, let her fingers sink gently into cool leather, reached up and kissed the grim lines on the mouth that turned her way.
Maybe you’re a sop, but you’re my sop.
It was quite something to be swept up into the undertow of her own romantic attention. The world tilted – actually tilted – then was upright again, with music, the sticky smell of beer, people passing by not ever so far away. They were at the Bronze, but Buffy didn’t want to be at the Bronze. Nothing ever good had happened from kissing at the Bronze. Thinking quickly, at least in the moments that didn’t catch her in them, she grabbed Spike’s hand and shoved it in her hair, which was neither post-resurrection, split-end chic, nor else post-hack-job, best-of-a-bad-situation bob. It was, in fact, her special my-shift-partner-has-a-roomie-who-works-a
With a small amount of gentle handling she managed to move them kind of effectively to Spike and Xander’s apartment, back in San Francisco. It turned out that manipulating Spike’s emotions wasn’t so much less predictable from inside his head than outside of it. Even if it did make her feel a little more dirty.
The kiss broke after she’d effectively pushed Spike onto the bed. He looked around, more than out of place when he was dressed the way that he was, all stark red and black with no washed tone in sight. It made him look brutal against the rumpled sheets.
For a moment he seemed surprised, his sharp blue eyes hunting down the corners of the room. But then, surprisingly, he smirked. “It’s good to know someone’s got this place figured out.” The sight of him leaning indolently back on the covers, legs spread invitingly – it didn’t seem right somehow, but Buffy couldn’t figure out why.
She crossed her arms. “I think you have more control over it than you think.”
His gaze wandered away, dark thoughts clearly returned. (The air felt like they needed to run the AC.) “Maybe…” Spike said grimly. “Guess I did always promise I could change.”
“Exactly,” Buffy agreed. Because he had done, obviously. “Anyway,” she reminded herself. They were back where they were supposed to be, living and dealing with the current time, so, “we need to figure out what’s going on with these killing dreams; is it you, is it not you – why the heck it’s happening…”
“Right,” Spike agreed, with more than a little lacking enthusiasm. The air was stale and thick, on the edge of smelling bad. Her boyfriend hung his head with despondency and when Buffy put her hand on the bed, between his knees, it was clear the sheets needed a wash. “Yeah,” he continued, shuffling back to accommodate her.
Crawling over to curl into Spike’s side, Buffy also realised that her initial plan wasn’t going to work. They couldn’t keep running around the corridors of Spike’s consciousness and expect to find the answers they needed. His subconscious probably had the answers, but they weren’t going to reveal themselves while Spike was only thinking of her.
“Hey,” Buffy said, as Spike’s self-image put his arm around her. It was like getting a hug from the entire room. “Why don’t you tell me a story?”
The figment frowned at her, down his nose where he was collapsing back against the headboard. The duvet was plump and fuzzy again; the air smelled a little bit like strawberry daiquiris, for some reason. Fresh. And fruity. “You what?” he asked, amused.
Buffy smiled, much happier in Daiquiri Land than with the ghost of guys’ dorms past. “I wanna story,” she insisted, as the ginger kitten hopped up on the bed to join them, warm and soft and alive where it curled itself into her fingers.
It would be like dreaming, she figured: think about something else and the answer would come to them. And hey, it was no crime to enjoy the process either. It wasn’t every day you got to literally snuggle in your significant other’s love.
Spike seemed to be on the same page. Or, at least, the image of his soulless self rolled his eyes and gave in. “All right,” he said, with forbearance. “If you insist.”