Era/Season: Season 4 (post “Harsh Light of Day” and “Fear, Itself” but before “Beer Bad”)
Rating: Mature/NC-17 (strong language, sexual situations, adult content)
Betaed by: goblin_dae , yakimama , and subtilior
Summary: She'd kicked his butt, taken the Gem and sent it off to Angel. Buffy thought she'd seen the last of Spike. Clearly, she’d been too optimistic. That he was in her house, in her room, waking her out of a sound sleep and asking for (okay, demanding) her help meant that something had to be majorly wrong. They weren't due for another apocalypse, but ... why else would a vampire make a truce with the Slayer?
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all recognizable characters, locations, and dialogue belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and the various writers. This is written purely for fun.
Willow looked peaceful, curled up in her bed. Buffy wasn't sure what she'd expected to find in their dorm room, but it must have been something—she was that relieved that Willow was simply asleep in her own bed.
"Wondered if the witch had done it," Spike muttered from the open doorway behind her. He paced restlessly back and forth on the other side of the threshold. "Guess not."
"Why would you think Willow did it?" Buffy asked, irritated more at herself for thinking the exact same thing, even though she'd never admit it to him. He shrugged, absently testing the barrier with one hand.
"Seems like you and your chums are at the root of most of what goes wrong here in Sunnydale. If it's not targeting you, you're usually causing it. Feels like a spell, and as far as I know, Red's your only witch. Unless you've got another stashed somewhere?" Spike leaned one shoulder against the invisible barrier, arms crossed.
"No," Buffy said. "And stop that. It's weird."
"Let me in," he said, arching an eyebrow.
"No." She turned her back on him and gave the room a hard stare.
It felt strange, to be so absolutely on her own for this—almost worse than her first week in college, because then there had at least been people around. There was a tiny part of her that was screaming in panic. Spells gone wonky were not Buffy's domain. You couldn't hit a spell over the head, or stake it, or bash it with an axe. Usually Giles or Willow were the ones to deal with problems of the magical variety; at the very least they could tell her how to stop them.
But Giles and Willow were both caught in the spell, and Buffy was not. She was totally on her own when it came to fixing this, unless she could figure out how to wake one of them. She shook Willow's shoulder.
"C'mon, Wills. I need you to wake up," she said.
Willow didn't respond, other than to snuggle deeper into her pillow.
"Think it's because you're the Slayer," Spike said behind her.
"What?" she asked, turning. He wasn't leaning on the barrier anymore; now he was scuffling his feet against the worn hallway carpet and fiddling with his lighter.
"Reason I could wake you," he said, not quite meeting her eyes. "I think it's because you're the Slayer. Every time I got near you, you'd get ... twitchy, in your sleep. Instincts, maybe."
Buffy remembered the jangle of alarm her nerves had sent up when she'd finally awoken; that inner knowledge that not only was there a vampire in her room but also touching her and, moreover, that it was Spike. Even in her sleep she'd known it was Spike.
Was it possible that her Slayer instincts were strong enough to overcome the spell? If so, that meant she wouldn't be able to wake up the others the same way Spike had woken her. It also meant she probably ought to be grateful that Spike had an invitation to her house and had, for once, used his advantage to do the right thing.
Sinking down on the edge of Willow's bed, Buffy weighed her options. She could try to wake Giles, using every trick there was in the book if she had to. If that didn't work, she could try research. She wasn't exactly the best at hunting down bad things in books, but she could do it if she put her mind to it. But without Giles’ big librarian brain to tell her which ones to check? Buffy winced at the thought.
Then there was option three: wander around town and see if she could figure out what had happened—her way; a way that hopefully involved breaking things. Option three was hit or miss; there were a few thousand people living in Sunnydale, and it would take ages to check on every single one of them and investigate every little nook and cranny. Still, it had the benefit of feeling like she'd be actively doing something, even if that something probably wasn't the fastest way to solve the problem.
If all else failed, she'd have to try to get help. The phone lines were down—she'd already checked a couple of payphones on the way back to her dorm, and then the phone by the bed; none of them worked—but that didn't mean she couldn't go for help. It would leave Sunnydale unguarded, she thought, but she might not have a choice.
It was still so hard to wrap her head around it: she'd been asleep for nearly two weeks. And now here she was, the only person awake ...
"So what are we gonna do?" Spike said, startling her. Oddly, she'd almost forgotten he was there. Not that he counted as a ‘person.’
"We?" she asked, slowly turning to look at him. "I thought you said I had to fix this?"
Spike rolled his eyes and stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Yeah, well, I'd like this solved sometime this century, Slayer. Figure it'll go faster with two of us on it. Besides, not like it'd be the first time we've worked together."
"Spike, the last time you were in town you tried to kill me. Now, for you that might have been almost a month ago, but for me it was almost yesterday. I'm really not in the mood to play nice with you," Buffy said, exasperated. "Besides, what are you complaining about? This isn't your problem anymore. You woke me up. Isn’t this the point in the story where you make with the hasty exit?"
"Can't," he said. He was eyeing her but his gaze had turned … strange. Flat.
"What do you mean 'can't'?" Buffy asked, already feeling nervous.
"Exactly what it sounds like, Slayer," Spike said, slowly, as if he were speaking to someone incredibly stupid. "I can't leave Sunnydale. Soddin' spell won't let me."
"Huh?" she said.
He sighed, and for the first time she noticed that Spike looked, well, awful. His eyes were red-rimmed, with dark circles underneath, and his cheekbones more prominent than usual. He kept clenching and unclenching his jaw, making the muscle in it pop. He seemed twitchier than usual, too—a real gold star for the poster boy for undead ADHD. Even his clothes looked rumpled, and his hair ... Spike had curls, she realized, adorable little cupid curls that looked absolutely out of place on a vampire.
"You look like hell," she said.
"Thanks ever so," Spike sneered. "Looked in a mirror lately? Guess two weeks wasn't near enough beauty sleep."
"I mean you look—When was the last time you fed?" she asked, tamping down on her temper and refusing to check her reflection in the mirror. Instead she studied Spike. He looked hungry, and the last thing she needed was a hungry vampire in a town full of sleeping Happy Meals. Sunnydale was practically an Old Undead Country Buffet right now. Not everyone was safely in their homes; there were plenty of people still sleeping out in the middle of the street, or in bars and diners, or in their cars.
And Spike had been in town for at least three days. There was no way he hadn't taken advantage of the situation. She was just surprised that he'd bothered to wake her. Wouldn't this be like a vampire's dream come true: an all you can eat people picnic, without the hassle of hunting down your meal?
He narrowed his eyes, as if reading her thoughts. "Why? Gonna stake me? You promised, Slayer. We had a truce."
"One that came with conditions. How many?" she asked, reaching for her stake.
"Bloody hell," he muttered, slinking further down the hallway without turning his back to her. "Try to do right one time. Fuck."
"How many?" she asked again. Somewhere, she was certain, was a pile of corpses with Spike's fangmarks all over it. People who had fallen asleep, never to wake up again.
"How many?" she asked, stepping out of her room and into the hallway.
After four years of Slaying, it wasn’t easy to surprise her. The popping muscle in his jaw should have been a hint, but when Spike lost his temper, she jumped.
"NONE! I haven't had a bleedin' meal in days! Not since I set foot in Sunnyhell, I'll have you know! Showed up, sussed out quick what was going on, and went to track you down. Full stop. Knew you wouldn't help me if you found out I'd been snackin’ while you were sleepin’ on the job. Haven't laid a fang on any of your soddin' humans. Haven't slept in days. I'm tired and starvin', and I've had way too much bleedin' caffeine, and I did the right thing! So, you can take your fucking stake, shove it up your bloody tight arse, and spin on it, you ungrateful BITCH!"
Spike had vamped at some point in the middle of his tirade, and now he glared at her out of yellow hellfire eyes. Still, she got the sense that he was holding something back, something he didn't want to tell her. Something, she suspected, that had something to do with his statement that he couldn't leave Sunnydale.
That was a lot of somethings.
"Show me," she said finally, lowering the stake. She wasn't certain she believed him; lying was part of the job description when you signed up for the Evil gig. Still, he did look like he hadn't eaten in awhile, or slept …
"What?" he growled, glaring.
"We're going to take a walk," she said, deciding for the moment to play out their truce a little longer. She needed more information, and Spike had been awake longer than she had. "You're going to show me what you meant when you said you couldn't leave town. And then you're going to tell me what has you so scared that you're willing to play Lassie instead of Cujo."
He snarled at her, baring his fangs and looking like a cornered animal. "Not your bleedin' dog, Slayer."
"Spike—" she started, but he just clenched his jaw, trembled for a moment with indecision, then turned and punched the wall hard enough to leave a hole in it. Drywall dust rained down on the carpet.
"Sod it," he said, his voice thick around his fangs. "Fine. Fine! But you come near me with that stake and all bets are off. Not gonna play Angel and be a tame little vamp. I might need your help, but if I have to, I'll break both your twiggy legs and see how well you do stuck in a wheelchair."
Spike led her to a playground just within town limits. Nearby, a big, black, and ridiculously old car crouched on top of the flattened "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign like a predator guarding a fresh kill.
"Yours?" Buffy asked, rolling her eyes. "What, were you too drunk to see the sign?"
"That was only the second time. This time I was just keeping up tradition," Spike said. "Besides, I was brassed as hell; mowing it down was therapeutic." He was still in a sulk, she noted. He'd been mostly silent as they walked, his hands shoved deep in his pockets and his jaw set.
He led her out past the sign, through the last block or two of houses that teetered on the edge of the Hellmouth with little but desert for their backyards. Ahead, the road stretched out into the dark landscape, barely illuminated by the quarter moon overhead and the last of the streetlights.
Buffy hurried to keep up with his pace. It was sort of eerie out here, with the silent, sleeping town behind them and nothing but dark sand and sky ahead. More so since there wasn't even the chirp of crickets or the buzz of insects—apparently they were all asleep, too. There was nothing but the clomp of their shoes hitting the pavement, the slap of Spike's leather coat against his legs, and the soft susurration of the wind over the sand and the dry desert grass.
Just when Buffy was beginning to rethink the wisdom of following a dangerously pissed off vampire into the dark desert, Spike started singing. His voice was low, soft, as though he were singing more to himself than to her, and it was only because of the silence that she was able to make out the words at all.
"Take a little walk to the edge of town and go across the tracks,
Where the viaduct looms, like a bird of doom, as it shifts and cracks,
Where secrets lie in the border fires, in the humming wires,
Hey man, you know you're never coming back,
Past the square, past the bridge, past the mills, past the stacks.
On a gathering storm comes a tall handsome man
In a dusty black coat with a red right hand ..."
It was a creepy song, but somehow appropriate. His voice suited it perfectly: deep and growly and tired. He sang it mockingly and it ought to have made her mad, but Buffy knew why he was singing. Out here there was the temptation to fill the silence just so that it wasn't so empty and lonely, and even a creepy song sung by a vampire was better than walking quietly into the hollow dark.
She found herself edging closer to him. He noticed and shot her an indecipherable glance, clamping his mouth shut, his expression full of seething hatred. She glared back. Though they'd toed it on more than one occasion, they both knew that there were some lines you simply didn't cross. It was acceptable to walk beside your mortal enemy, so long as you were both clear that you'd rather be anywhere else, with anyone else, rejoicing over the other’s recent and painful demise.
Just when Buffy started to think that the sun would come up before Spike turned around, lights appeared ahead: streetlights. She frowned, trying to remember if there was a town so close. It was only as they got nearer to the lights she realized that things were looking familiar; things like the house on the corner, and the big black car hulking over the "Welcome to Sunnydale" sign at the end of the block.
Somehow, they'd turned around and were headed back into town ... without ever turning around at all.
Halting in the middle of the road, she turned to look at Spike. He was watching her through eyes that glittered dangerously, his expression clearly saying 'told you so'.
"Is it just this road?"
“No.” Spike lit a cigarette. “Not just this road. Hell, not even the bloody road.” He took a drag, then gestured with the cigarette to where a few pairs of tire treads still marred the sand along the roadside. "Tried driving out cross country, same result. All roads lead to Sunnyhell. Except the ones that don't."
"Huh?" He sighed and nodded towards town. With no other options available, she reluctantly followed, casting a glance back at the road that had done the impossible.
"You wanted to know," he said. "So I'm tellin' you. Here's how it went: five nights ago I was sittin' in a bar in LA, cozied up to a bottle of some truly fine bourbon, and contemplating exactly the best way to kill you. Four days ago I left LA and headed for Sunnydale. Only it wasn't there. Or, at least, it wasn't where it should have been. Kept finding myself five or six miles past the exit, no matter which direction I was going. Thought I'd missed it the first couple of times, then I realized I was blanking out somehow. Forgetting where I was going, forgetting Sunnydale even existed. Was so bleedin' angry when I sussed that out, I could have spit nails."
He took a drag on his cigarette and wandered into the nearby playground, taking a seat on one of the swings. Buffy followed, drawn despite herself. "Took me nearly six hours, driving across the desert at one point, getting turned around every time I got close or somehow shunted away. Kept thinking that you and your soddin' Slayerettes had somehow put a spell on the place to keep me out. Then something gave, dunno what. All I know is I was brassed as hell, picturing all the ways I wanted to do you in, and there I was roaring into Sunnydale, straight at that bloody sign."
Blue smoke streamed from his nostrils as he took a long drag and exhaled again. His hand shook, she noticed with a frown. "Mind if we move this indoors, Slayer?" he asked. "Sun'll be up in a few hours."
Buffy glanced toward the horizon where the sun would rise. For now it was still dark, but Spike was eyeing it as if it were a clock and he was counting the minutes. She was tempted to keep him there, whatever was making him nervous had something to do with this place and maybe if she kept him there he'd spill faster. Only she kept seeing his hand shake as he lifted his cigarette. It wasn't right for Spike to be scared of something that wasn't her.
"Okay," she said, and he got up and they headed back into town.
"So, you got here, and then ... what?" she said. If it were true—and their weird little desert jaunt made her think it probably was—it meant that she wouldn't be going for help anytime soon, and the likelihood of outside rescue was slim to zilch. Somewhere in the back of her mind she'd entertained the idea that Angel would miss her and come looking, but Angel hadn't called or come back since last spring. He'd moved on with his life (such as it was, being undead and all), and there was no guarantee that he'd try to check up on her anytime soon.
Spike seemed less fidgety now that they were moving. He still kept glancing at the sky, as if he expected the sun to somehow sneak up on him. When he'd smoked his cigarette down to the filter he lit another from the embers of the first before flicking the dead butt out into the street.
"Took a walk," he said with shrug. "Was hungry and angry and needed to kill somethin'. Thought I'd head into town, pick up a late snack, then hunt you down. Only that's when I started noticing that somethin' wasn't quite right. It was too quiet. Too still. Nothing moving. No bugs, no birds, no cars. Started finding them, passed out wherever they'd stopped. Knew something was wrong, then."
"How come you didn't feast like a king?" Buffy asked, choosing for the moment to believe him when he'd sworn he hadn't bitten anyone. It was easier to get answers out of him when he was being all cooperative, and pissing him off wouldn't help right now, she thought. "All these juicy humans laying around ..."
He stopped and stared at her, his jaw clenching. "C'mon," he said and nodded toward a nearby alley.
She followed, not sure what she'd find but knowing that it would explain ... something.
At the end of the alley, lying near a half-full dumpster that reeked with old garbage, was a young woman. In the flickering light of a dying streetlamp, Buffy could see that the girl was asleep, her dark hair spilling across the dirty ground, her blue dress stained and scuffed. There were partially healed fang marks on her exposed throat.
Buffy saw red.
"You said you hadn't snacked." She reached for her stake. Spike caught her hand, his eyes gleaming gold in the dark alley.
"I didn't. Look," he said, pointing.
So she looked closer this time.
There was dust in the alley. Buffy had seen enough of it in her life to recognize that it wasn't just your ordinary alley grime. It was the last remains of a vampire, scattered on the pavement like a dark smudge, some of it even lying undisturbed across the woman's chest like a shadowy arm pinning her to the ground. There were faint burn marks on the girl’s skin, too, a red patch against her throat around the fang marks, another around one of her wrists, and her dress was singed and blackened where the dust lay.
"Wind doesn't move much down here," Spike said. "Too deep between buildings. Sun wouldn't have reached this spot 'til midday. Poor sucker probably laid there, snoring, fangs still buried in her when the sun lit him up like Guy Fawkes." Spike shuddered, took a final drag on his second cigarette, then tossed it to the ground and stubbed it out with the toe of his boot. "Least he got a last meal."
There was something in Spike's voice. Something scared.
Answers clicked in Buffy's head to questions she hadn't even known she had.
"You haven't slept since you got here, have you?" she said, turning to face him.
Spike looked at her, flexing his jaw and narrowing his eyes. She thought, for a moment, he wouldn't answer.
"No," he said, finally, surprising her.
"Do you think ... do you think, if you fall asleep that you'll ...?" she wasn't sure how to word the question, even if she already knew the answer.
"Don't know, do I?" he said quietly. "Wasn't here when the spell took hold, but that doesn't mean it's not waiting for me to slip up. Might nod off and not wake up. Worse, I might wake up as a big pile of dust."
"You can't 'wake up as a big pile of dust'," she said.
"Don't be thick," he said, sourly. "You know what I meant."
Buffy just rolled her eyes. "And you haven't eaten because you don't know if you can catch it, do you? Not because you were worried about me not helping you if I found out.” He didn't answer, but she could practically see the truth on his face. Spike was scared to feed. "You can't leave town, you can't eat, you can't sleep ..."
Spike’s smirk was self-mocking. "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi," he said. "You're my only hope."
*Spike's song lyrics from "Red Right Hand" by Nick Cave.