Rating: R, eventually
Disclaimer: All characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc. Only the lame plots and dialogue herein are mine.
Notes: This is a sequel to Sweet Lethe, a short story I wrote just after Chosen aired. At the time, I called it my Silly!Sappy!Amnesiac!Shanshued!Spike tale, and that still strikes me as a pretty good summary. I started writing the follow-up then, but never finished, although I kept adding bits from time to time. I suppose the delay makes sense, because the story picks up years later, when Buffy goes to visit Willow and Spike. She hasn't seen him since the events in Sweet Lethe, and he still has no memory of his past and no idea he was once a vampire.
Word Count: Still editing, but this got away from me. It's going to be a long one, folks, at least 25,000 words.
Thanks: To keswindhover andrevdorothyl for betaing, and enigmaticblues for reopening the comm and running this season in spite of having an incredibly busy life.
The story begins here.
"Spike can give you some ideas for curriculum and readings on Demonology." Willow was sounding suspiciously chirpy as she led Buffy down the hall, past a row of classrooms.
Great. She's playing matchmaker, I know it.
Okay, and after the way I behaved at the coffee bar, I don't have any right to complain about that.
Willow stopped in front of a door that rested slightly ajar. There was a small whiteboard attached to it with a marker dangling next to it and a list of times and names scrawled on its surface.
A nameplate was fastened to the wall just outside the door. It was old enough to have acquired a chip on one end and a multitude of scratches. Someone had covered it with magic marker once, and the stains hadn't been completely removed in the subsequent cleaning. It proclaimed that the office was inhabited by William Smith.
A sign just below the nameplate told a different story about the office's owner. It was a child's drawing on a piece of pale blue construction paper, and it was even more the worse for wear than the nameplate. It was considerably tattered around the edges, and, judging by the sneaker ridges embossed on one corner, it had fallen on the floor and been stepped on at least once. Someone had made an effort to preserve it by sticking it in a plastic report cover and inserting it in a cheap cardboard mat. It now looked as if it were as securely fastened to the wall as the nameplate.
The characters sketched on the construction paper were barely more sophisticated than stick figures, but somehow they created a vivid image. They showed a man dressed in black dusting a vampire. At least, that's what Buffy supposed the supine figure was, because only half the creature was there and the man was holding a huge stake that was positioned over the monster's chest. An axe and crossbow lay on the ground at the man's feet.
The words "Aka SpIKe" were scrawled at the top of the picture. Just in case anyone failed to get the pun, a broad arrow was drawn from his name to the stake and the word "HA!!!" written next to it.
A stick figure cat lurked in the lower right-hand corner of the drawing. Buffy raised an eyebrow and looked at Willow.
Willow grinned. "Katie. When she first came here, she wouldn't talk. Wouldn't communicate with anyone. Kept trying to get rid of the talisman I'd put around her neck to keep her visible. But she would sit and watch Spike teach his classes for hours -- not participate, just watch. That drawing was the first non-anti-social thing she ever did here. She apparently disapproved of the nameplate, because no one calls him William, or Mr. Smith for that matter. Spike tacked the picture up immediately, and it's been there ever since."
"But," said Buffy, "that must have been -- "
"Oh, nearly eight years ago," said Willow.
Buffy turned back to the door. Oddly enough, it wasn't the picture that seemed surreal to her. She could accept that Spike would treasure something as ridiculous as that childish drawing. The fact that her brain was really having trouble accepting was, "Spike has an office!"
The inside of the office eased her disbelief a little. It was a dusty warren, full of books and papers, a large desk with a small computer on one corner, and a TV attached to the opposite wall at an angle that indicated it was coming loose from its moorings.
Spike was sitting in an office chair with his feet up on the desk. He wore boots nearly as scuffed and worn as the ones Buffy remembered from their Sunnydale days, and the rest of his outfit consisted of jeans and a dark blue t-shirt.
Katie was sprawled in an ancient armchair that faced the TV, watching David Duchovny trying to fight off a pack of vampires in a trailer park, using something he'd shaped into the form of a cross.
"Bread sticks?" asked Buffy. "Even I've never used bread sticks."
"They're garlic breadsticks," said Katie, not taking her eyes off the screen.
A cheerful bark led Buffy further into the room. She gazed down at a large mutt, a lump of brown fur, lolling tongue, and waving tail. A moment later, she was on her knees scratching behind its ears as she had her face licked.
"That's Princess," said Willow.
"Oh." Buffy sat back on her heels looking at the dog. The dog looked back for a second before butting her head forward in a request for more petting.
"I know." Spike was grinning down at her. "Doesn't look much like an aristocrat, does she? But Katie was just a sprog when she named her."
"This is--?" Buffy glanced at Katie, who was still watching the TV intently and then looked at Willow.
Willow nodded, and Buffy went back to petting Princess. So Spike had adopted the puppy he'd used to sniff Katie out. I really should have guessed.
"She's the most spoiled animal you'll ever meet," Willow was saying. "I was worried we wouldn't have the time to look after her properly, but Spike made the students sign up for the privilege of walking her or feeding her, and she hasn't suffered a moment of neglect since."
Spike didn't say anything, but he tossed a biscuit down to Princess who caught it easily and chomped it down. Buffy assumed that the pet got lots of walks, because with a school full of kids and one Demonology professor offering treats, she'd be obese otherwise.
She stood up to find Spike was ignoring her again. He and Katie were both leaning forward, staring eagerly at the television set. Buffy followed their gaze to see Fox Mulder standing in an abandoned trailer park. He opened his mouth to speak and Katie and Spike yelled, "They pulled up stakes!" along with the figure on the screen.
Willow tapped her foot. "Now that the ritual is over, can we talk about school? And maybe Katie can get to class."
"Study period," said Katie, swinging a sneakered foot with the air of someone who has settled down for a long slouch.
"What's up?" asked Spike.
"I thought you could help Buffy with her Demonology syllabus," said Willow.
"Hey, she's a teacher? But Spike teaches Demonology."
Buffy realized that this was the first time Katie had shown the least curiosity about her. I'm just another grownup, I suppose. Not worth paying attention to until I interfere with the order of her universe.
A half-hour later, Buffy left with an armful of papers and the realization that Spike took his job seriously. She didn't know if he took her seriously, but she was pretty sure he didn't.
Even if she'd hadn't known the lovesick vampire he'd once been, it would have been startling to have someone who knew she was a slayer be completely unimpressed by her superhero status. But considering Spike regularly sent slayers to their rooms and assigned them detention, she realized it would take more than being a chosen one to gain his respect. And since he didn't, couldn't, and shouldn't know most of her history, and there wasn't a Big Bad around she could slay as a demonstration of competence, she had quite a task ahead of her.
Katie was another worry. The girl definitely didn't take Buffy seriously. She wasn't deliberately rude, but she made it painfully clear that Spike and only Spike was the ultimate authority on demons and that Buffy might be tolerated as a temporary substitute but she couldn't hope to compare to the real teacher.
Buffy wondered if all the students would share Katie's opinion. If so, she might need to flee Iowa for someplace less frightening. Giles had mentioned that there might be a hellmouth opening near Montevideo…
"She's okay, I guess," said Katie when she was sure Buffy was too far away to hear.
Spike was tossing some papers around. "Hmm. Oh, Miss America -- what's her real name? Ms. Summers. Yeah, Willow says she has a lot of experience fighting, but she doesn't know much about teaching. I hope you brats don't eat her alive. Keep an eye on her for me, will you, Kitten?"
"Sure." Katie smiled, pleased that Spike trusted her to make sure none of the stupid teachers messed up their school. She picked up a folder from his desk, intrigued by the neat tabs peeking out the side and the lack of dog ears on the cover. "What's this?"
"Oh, that. Ms. Summers ran into some real nasties a few months back, and I promised to see if I could find any references to them." He moved to a bookcase, still searching for something. "Haven't had a chance to do any real research yet."
Katie snorted. "I thought she knew all about demons."
"Nobody knows all about demons, pet. Some of us have been around long enough to know a bit, but there's more information out there than anyone could pick up in a lifetime."
"You know a lot. You know more than anyone else, I bet." She looked up and saw he was smiling. "You do. You must have fought more demons than any slayer."
"If I could, I would for you, Kitten." He got that vague look he did sometimes and held up a book. "Do you think the sophomores would like Tennyson?"
"No." Katie sighed, but she knew there was no point trying to bring his attention back to the subject of his past. She never used to care. When she was a little kid, all she had worried about was if he would always being there for her in the future. As she got older, she began to see why some of the other students referred to him as a man of mystery. He never talked about anything he'd done before he met Willow in Los Angeles and then helped her start the school. Even Katie, who had known him for more than half of her life, didn't even know the names of any of his relatives or exactly where he'd been born and gone to school. And, hello, trying to google "William Smith" to find out more was a cause way beyond lost.
She picked up the folder about Ms. Summers' demons and settled down to read it with one eye while watching an Addams Family rerun with the other. One of these days she'd figure out what Spike's big secret was.