Title: Anywhere But Here
Season/Era: A Season 2 that veered sharply from canon around "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered." Set shortly after that episode.
Warnings: Spike/Dru (at least nominally), referenced physical and psychological torture (none of which actually happens during the course of the story), vamp!Buffy, suicidal ideation, and canon typical ableism
Word Count: 8,163
Summary: Buffy’s the reason Spike’s miserable, the reason he’s in the chair, the reason Angelus is soulless and sleeping with Spike’s girlfriend. But at the moment, she’s also the only person he can really talk to. Shared unhappiness is bringing them closer, but is there anything more to it than that?
Author's Note: This was originally started for the Night and Day round of Seasonal Spuffy, but I wasn't able to finish it at the time. Thanks so much to thenewbuzwuzz for her exemplary service as beta! Any remaining errors are, of course, my own and conscrit is always enthusiastically welcomed.
Also, just a heads up if my summary and warnings don't make it clear, this fic definitely deals with dark themes. But this is a fic about people bonding in difficult circumstances and is ultimately more or less hopeful in its outlook. I hope to eventually continue this story, but for now this is meant to work reasonably well as a stand alone.
Spike slouched in the wheelchair and scowled out at the courtyard garden. At its beds clustered with weeds and tight-budded crocuses closed up against the dark. At the tangled vines growing up the walls which Angelus had assured Dru were night-blooming jasmine, or at least would be when the weather turned warm enough for them to open. At the three vamped sentries and single exit (Spike didn’t think the flight of stairs was worth counting.) And at the great pile of dark, unsettled dirt to one side, a stark reminder of Angelus’ little stunt last week.
He heard the ring of footsteps through the hall, Angelus’ arrogant stride and the more dreamy pitter-patter of Dru’s heels. The two flowed around him like water around a rock, moving past without a word or gesture. Not long ago, Dru would have at least stopped long enough to give him a parting kiss him. But now…
“Dru…” he called out, not sure what to say but feeling that he should say... something.
She froze in the middle of the courtyard, pivoting with an eerie grace that reminded him of one of those little music box ballerinas. Her wide eyes were dark and dilated. It seemed to take a minute for them to find him.“Spike,” she said, drifting towards him, smiling a miles-away smile. “Did Angelus tell you? We’re going to have such fun games tonight.” She leaned over the chair and whispered in his ear. “We’re going to capture one of her friends.”
She clapped her hands together in glee and straightened, swaying to music that only she could hear.
“Such pretty, pretty prey. All bright and full of hope. And we’re going to suck it out like lemonade through a straw. Mmm… such sour sweetness.” She licked something invisible off a finger. “Want to come?”
With that Angelus, who had been standing by the courtyard’s exit wearing an expression caught between amusement and irritation, strode to Drusilla’s side. He wrapped hulking arms around her waist in a gesture that made Spike want to throw himself at him, pummel him to the ground.Spike knew he couldn’t, but the mental image was a decent distraction from Dru’s delighted cooing at Angelus’ touch.
“Ah, no Dru,” Angelus said as he walked his fingers in a leisurely path up her torso. “That wouldn’t exactly work out. I’d love to have him along, but we have to move fast. I mean, one sidewalk with no curb cutouts and our boy here’s out of the running. Well, wheeling.”
“Yeah mate,” Spike said, “those wheelchair jokes just get funnier every time. ‘Sides, you’re one to brag considering that this is, what? The fifth night that you’ve gone after a bunch of school kids and a middle-aged librarian without catching a single one. One might almost say that all those years of soulsearching have thrown you off your game.”
Angelus growled but recovered with a dashing smile.
“Oh, some things take time to be played out properly. Not that you’d know much about that. You never did have the endurance for the long game.”
“Our poor boy has always been delicate,” Dru said.
“Oi! I am not delicate!”
Angelus smiled.“You know, she has a point. We wouldn’t want you to get broken… -er.”
“I had half of a burning church dropped on top of me. I’d like to see you do better.”
Dru slipped out of Angelus’ arms. For a moment, as welcome to Spike as a glass of cool water to a man dying of thirst, he felt the brush of her fingers across his cheek. The burned one, of course, making his flesh tingle.
“Poor Spike. Missing out has made him bitter. But don’t worry, my darling. We’ll bring something back for you.”
“Yeah,” Angelus said with a sadistic smile, “I’m sure we can find some little morsel for you to sink your teeth into.”
Sure they would. Last time Dru had brought him a scrawny alley cat. She’d meant well but Angelus hadn’t. He’d tossed the damned thing at Spike, and even vampire reflexes hadn’t been enough to spare him a few deep scratches on his already burnt flesh. The flailing claws had stopped after Spike snapped its neck, but the pathetic creature hadn’t had more than a few sips of blood in it. Spike would never get out of the damned chair at this rate.
Which would suit Angelus just fine.
“You can play with the dolly while we’re gone,” Dru suggested. “A lovely tea party with lace and knives and bits of broken porcelain everywhere.”
“Yeah,” Angelus said, “a nice tea party. That sounds about your speed. But I’ve got big plans for her later, so don’t tire her out too much.” His eyes raked cruelly across Spike’s body. “Well, guess there’s not much chance of that, now is there?”
Spike shot him a murderous look, but Angelus had looped his hand around Drusilla’s waist and was leading her away. Spike saw that he was already invisible to her eyes, which gleamed with nothing but excitement for what lay ahead.
Impulsively, he grabbed her wrist a moment before she was out of reach.
“Be careful, my love,” he said, his tone sincere (and hopefully not too desperate.) “The Slayer’s little gang of friends may not look like much, but they can be tricky.” He laid a delicate kiss on the back of her hand. “I couldn’t stand it if anything happened to you.”
“Oh, don’t worry, Spikey.” He grabbed Dru by the shoulders, pulling her back toward himself, causing her hand to slip out of Spike’s grip. “I’ll take good care of Dru. I always do. You guard the home front. I’m really counting on you. If anyone tries to get in just, you know, wheel them over or something.”
He seemed to be putting even less effort into his insults than usual. Less interested in Spike now that he had his new toy, though Angelus’d never been the kind of vamp to resist an opportunity to inflict some casual pain. But the casual nature of it only seemed to make it worse. Spike wasn't his rival, he was the family dog to be kicked or ignored as Angelus saw fit.
With a dismissive wave over his shoulder, Angelus sauntered away, giving Dru’s bum a sharp little smack right before they vanished from sight. Spike could almost have ignored this twist of the knife if Dru’s delighted shriek hadn't echoed back through the courtyard.
He sat for a few minutes after they left, idly sizing up the state of the minions in the garden. One by the door; another in one of the decaying lawn chairs, fiddling with an over-long knife; and a third leaning against the wall next to a pile of jagged concrete slabs that had been pried up from the courtyard ground last week. This last one wore a dreamy expression on his vamped face which suggested he was mentally playing some kind of pathetic greatest hits list of his accomplishments in the world of slaughter.
Spike wondered what would happen if he were to try to leave. Technically, there was no reason they should stop him. Right, technically.
Still, ‘long as Angelus had Dru, it was a moot point, wasn’t it? Spike had no choice but to wait it out. Dream of the day when he could drag Dru away, kicking and screaming if he had to. And give Angelus a few solid kicks on the way out.
All this staring was starting to feel as depressing as it was pointless. So Spike turned and wheeled back into the mansion’s central hall.
And there she was, slumped against the back wall, the slim figure wrapped in chains thick enough to strangle an elephant. The girl behind all his problems.
It was her fault that he was stuck in this chair which had turned into a symbol of defeat and humiliation. Her fault that his lower back was a grinding nexus of pain. Pain which stopped with unsettling abruptness – only to be replaced by an even more unsettling nothingness below.
Her fault that they’d had to leave the factory, where he’d still had at least a margin of clout. But her little gang of friends had already known that location too well and Angelus couldn’t have them bursting in and ruining his fun. And wasn't it lucky that he’d had already had the perfect place scoped out? That'd made for an interesting little road trip too, stuffed in the back of the DeSoto next to his (heavily drugged) mortal enemy with Angelus at the wheel and Dru at his side. Mummy and Daddy in the front and kiddies in the back. A bloody perfect little family.
And Angelus. It was her fault puppy dog Angel had broken his chain and now Angelus was all soul-loose and fancy-free.
Oh yes, it all came back to the slayer.
‘Course, of the two of them, she was the one chained to the wall. It’d be so easy to take it all out on her. He could land a few solid blows, channel the anger and frustration through his fists into her flesh. Everyone seemed to think he was harmless, but he still had more than enough of what it took to make her hurt. He could get creative, have fun with the rusty implements left behind in the long-abandoned kitchen. Or there was always the old classic of holding burning a cigarette to her skin and watching how long it smoldered... But the bugger of it was he didn’t really want to do any of those things. Hurting her while she couldn’t fight back? When all she could do was look at him with those eyes? He was forced to recognize, much as it felt like a failure on his part, that he’d get no pleasure out of that.
So Spike would just wheel past her, retreat to his room. He’d lie out on the bed (‘cause at least lying down it was a little easier to pretend nothing had changed) close his eyes and play The Ramones at a volume loud enough to blast away every shred of conscious thought. “I Wanna Be Sedated,” indeed.
Chains rattled as he wheeled by and, almost against his will, he turned toward the sound. She'd raised her head from her knees and her gaze had locked onto him. Damn. Those eyes… He didn’t like the look they’d taken on: deep wells at the bottom of which a desperate creature paced.Once, a very long time ago indeed, Spike had been taken to see a lion at the zoo. It’d been one of the biggest disappointments of his young life, expecting a fierce predator and instead finding a defeated creature in a tiny cage. But then the lion had paused in its pacing. Its eyes had locked onto the assembled crowd in a way that spoke clearly as if it’d uttered words, “You may feel safe now, but just take away these bars and see what happens.”
The girl was like that, fierceness flashing through the despondency at unexpected intervals.
Spike realized that he’d frozen, his hands stiff on the wheels of the blasted chair. Just move on, he told himself. Don’t stop. Don’t engage.
Then she smiled at him, a tiny smile that only touched a corner of her mouth and did nothing to wipe the sadness from her eyes.
And Spike groaned inwardly. Only Angelus would be crazy enough to turn the bloody Slayer.
“Spike,” she said, sitting up a little straighter, causing the chains to clank again.
She looked so small amidst those massive iron links, her white dress dirty and torn from her little courtyard interment. A piteous thing, even with all her buried ferocity and chained strength. Good thing Spike was immune from pity. Dru had inoculated him against that particular disease the night she sank her fangs into him.
“Slayer,” he responded gruffly.
“The others…?” She asked in a quiet voice.
“To hunt for my friends.”
Her friends. She cared about them too damned much. A good deal more than your average fledge would, that was certain. But then, the girl wasn’t exactly your average fledge. There was a reason most vamps didn’t turn slayers.
They came out wrong.
“Mm,” Spike said, wheeling up to a spot just outside of her reach. You could never be too careful with caged beasts or superpowered prisoners. “I wouldn’t worry much for the moment anyway. They’re taking precautions, your friends are. From the sound of it, they never leave their homes at night in groups of less than three. They’d be wisest not to leave after sundown at all, but…”
“They’re still looking for me. I wish...”
The girl stared intensely out at the courtyard, her hands moving to wrap around the chains that bound her, gripping as if to yank them out of the wall. It wouldn’t be the first time she’d tried. The skin around the manacles was still covered in purplish bruising and pink-red abrasions from her efforts. She'd have to break the bones in her hands if she wanted to free them. But even if she did, there'd still be the manacles around her ankles. Angel had done a thorough job, Spike’d give him that.
The slayer dropped the chains, the strain going out of her face and body.
“...I wish I could tell them not to bother.” She said, finishing a sentence Spike had almost forgotten she’d started. “That it’s too late. Do you think any of them have guessed by now?”
“Watcher probably knows that at this point they shouldn’t hope to find you alive. But hope’s a funny thing. Distorts the mind.” He tapped at his temple for emphasis. “And as for the others… In my experience, people never believe the worst until they see it for themselves.”
“Yeah. I think you’re right there.”
She gnawed at a frayed fingernail, a habit Spike was almost sure she hadn’t had before.
For a long moment, the two sat in silence looking out toward the courtyard. Spike should just wheel away, leave the girl alone to her unhappiness and wallow privately in his. No good could come of getting too attached. He’d almost worked up the motivation to leave when she spoke again.
“Anywhere but here,” she said, turning to Spike, that little un-smile on her lips again.
Spike sighed. God, did no one around here take the idea that he was the Big Bad the least bit seriously anymore?
“You know, as much as I’d love to stay and play children's games with my prisoner…”
The slayer let out a short, harsh laugh.
“Please. I’m your prisoner? We both know you’re almost as much a prisoner as I am.”
“That’s bloody well not true!”
“Oh yeah?” She asked. “Prove it. Wheel out that door.” The chains clanked as she lifted her arm to point. “I noticed you looking. Think they’d let you leave?”
“There’s no let to it. I’m their bloody boss and they’ll do what I say if they value their unlives.”
“Sure. How many do you think you could dust before they stopped you?”
“At least one. Two with a bit of luck and strategy.”
“See? I knew you’d thought about it. We both know they don’t exactly answer to you anymore. So. Anywhere but here?”
“You know the answer,” Spike said, reaching into his duster to fish for cigarettes. “I don’t much care where, long as it’s just me and Dru. No Angelus, no minions, no…” He inclined an eyebrow at Buffy. “No complications. Just us and the open road. The way it used to be.”
“Oh, yeah, I know. You and Dru forever.” She rolled her eyes and Spike was about to launch a biting retort when she continued. “Come on, Spike. You know how this works. Come up with something interesting so that we can spend a few minutes not thinking about how miserable we are.”
How miserable we are? So now they were in the same category, were they? He was on the verge of snapping at her that he was perfectly happy, thank you very much, but what would be the point? She’d only laugh that humorless laugh.Though if misery was a contest, there was no question who’d win. The girl put on a brave enough face most of the time, but when Angelus set out to hurt you, you hurt. And she and Spike both knew that the worst was yet to come. Bloody Angelus and his “big plans.” Ever the fucking artist.
Not that Spike cared what happened to her. If Angelus would just bugger off with the girl to torture her somewhere else, Spike wouldn’t exactly shed a tear. It was only this forced companionship, this shared misery that left him feeling… uneasy. Still, it was a shame that Spike hadn’t been the one to take her out. He’d told her the truth that night back at the school; he would have made it quick. He wished he could have at least done that for her.
He growled in frustration under his breath. When had he gotten so bloody sentimental?
“OK, OK. Give me a minute to think.”
Sure, he’d play her silly game one more night. But only ‘cause he was bored. And he was getting sick of his Best of The Ramones tape anyway. Most of Spike’s good albums were either back at the factory or in the bottom of a box. Angelus had given them bugger all time to pack with his spontaneous “Oh look, everyone, I’ve turned the slayer, isn’t that just marvelous?” decision.
Spike located his smokes and proceeded to glare at them as if he could change the brand by willpower alone. They were those long skinny ones, the kind that used to be marketed as some kind of shite empowerment for the modern woman. A gift from Dru, stolen from a victim’s purse no doubt. It was funny how you missed the simple things, things you’d never even thought about before. Like trips to the store for fags and booze and a taste of the dead-eyed service employee behind the counter. It wasn’t as if he couldn’t manage on his own. But Drusilla seemed to be having a little too much fun treating him like a child and Angelus had gone to great lengths to emphasize how “heartbroken” he’d be if poor defenseless Spike went out on his own and got hurt. God, Angelus' faux-protectiveness was infuriating. Though Spike had had to privately admit that it would be an embarrassing end to a century-long career of mayhem and bloodshed: staked by a Slurpee-wielding Slayer Pal in a 7-11.
He supposed he could ask one of the minions to pop out and grab a proper pack of ciggies. But what if the minion refused to do even that small thing at his command? Spike didn’t think he could handle the humiliation. So he shook out a cigarette, hating the wrongness of how it fit between his fingers as he lit it. At least it was mentholated. He drew a huge breath of icy smoke into his lungs.
Finally, he looked at the slayer again. It was easier through the haze of smoke.
“Alright, let’s see. I did Lima, Bangkok, and Marrakech yesterday and before that… Tokyo, Athens, Vienna... OK, got one.”
“Mm-hm?”“Night market, Jakarta.” She gave him a blank look. “Indonesia? God, don’t they teach you any geography these days?”
The girl just rolled her eyes and gestured for him to get on with it, chains clanking lightly at the movement of her wrist.
“Wonderful thing is, it’s so bloody hot here that people spend a good chunk of the day holed-up inside. Things only start to really wake up as it gets dark.
“Place is a mess of color, noise, and busy humans rushing about. Vendors selling all kinds of things. I buy a bowl of this spicy meatball soup they have there. So hot it almost burns the eyes out of your head, but if that doesn’t wake you up nothing will...”
“Wait, you eat? I mean, actual food?”
“Hey, blood’s a food. But yeah, sure I do, when I wanna. Human food loses a bit of its flavor to us so stuff’s gotta be pretty salty, spicy, or sweet to be worth it, but why not? It’s not like being a vampire automatically means you have to give up everything you enjoyed as a human.”
She shrugged with an apathy that Spike found irritating.
“So,” he continued, “I weave through the market. There aren’t many foreigners here, so I can’t exactly blend...”
“Not to mention the fact that you’re not exactly Mr. Inconspicuous.”
“Right you are there. And normally any obvious foreigner’s gonna get swarmed with people hawking wares or asking for a little dosh. But when you’ve been a vamp long enough you learn you don’t need to flash the fangs to get left alone. Though sometimes that can be fun. Most of the time though, it’s just sort of an impression that you give, body language more than anything. Enough to make people uneasy, inclined to give you a little extra space, but not enough to stir up a mob.
“Anyway, mixed among the canopies are beggars and street performers. One catches my eye. A fire dancer. I stop to watch for a minute. Flame weaves around his body like some living thing.”
Spike gestured with his cigarette as she spoke, the glowing end leaving a trail of light in pale imitation of what he described.
“And then I go off to find something really satisfying to eat…”
“Aaaand I think you should keep the rest of that story to yourself.”
“Right,” she said, “my turn.”
“Oh, by all means.”
“OK. Venice Beach. I used to go all the time with my friends back when I lived in LA.”
“Oh yeah. Been there once or twice. Veritable buffet of idiot kids and drunk tourists. Ate a roller skater there back in the early 80s. Tasted like cotton candy. And then the coke in her blood kicked in… That was a fun night.”
“Spike. You’re ruining it.”
“Sorry,” Spike replied in a way that made it clear he wasn't the least bit sorry. “Carry on, then.”
“Right. So I’m at Venice Beach with Willow and Xander. Neither of them has been to LA and I’m taking them to see some of my favorite spots.
“We've walked along the path for a long time, watching jugglers and living statues and window shopping in the seedy little shops. And we've just stopped to buy these seriously oversized ice cream cones. Xander has a huge smudge of chocolate across his cheek but he’s having such a good time that I decide not to tell him.
“And then we walk out onto the sand. Willow and Xander are arguing over whether to make a sandcastle or play in the surf. I tell them I’ll be with them in a minute. I sit down and lean back in the warm sands…”
She let her weight fall back against the wall, closing her eyes as if catching invisible rays. Which was Spike’s cue to change the subject, and fast-ish.
“Yeah, well. Venice Beach. That’s rubbish.”
She looked up at him in startled indignation.
“Now, the real Venice…” he continued. “Well, the place is also swarming with tourists, ‘specially if you go around Carnivale, which I guess is about now, isn’t it? But let’s ignore that for the moment.
“So picture this: it’s a quiet night. All I can hear is the lapping of water in the canal and the soft creaking of a boat moored nearby. Oh, that and the satisfying ring of my boots against marble paving stones and the lighter footsteps of my girl beside me. She’s dressed in something light and summery, a skirt that billows with every step she takes. We’re both relaxed, open, in no rush to do any particular thing. It’s late, but not so late that we have to worry about morning for a while yet. A thin layer of mist’s creeping across the water.
“We walk up onto one of those tall arched bridges and Venice spreads out in front of us, this big net of dark water weaving around all those pretty Italian buildings, connecting everything. White moonlight and the orangish glow from the windows dance together over the water.
“On the other side of the bridge, we hear music coming from one of the buildings. A peal of pretty laughter rings through the air. Someone’s having a party. We could slip in if we wanted, mingle among the warm bodies, steal the wine and canapes. But for now, we’re just happy to be where we are. I take her hand and we dance, swaying to the soft music and the lapping of the waves.”
Buffy’s eyes had taken on a dreamy look as she listened, her chin leaning on the palm of her hand, her elbow digging into a half-bent leg. Then she looked up at Spike and seemed to shake the clinging tendrils of Venice away.
“Sounds nice,” she said, her voice hollow.
“Is nice,” Spike said, around an exhalation of smoke from his almost burned out cigarette. Skinny ones burned too damned fast anyway. “You won’t be here forever, you know. You’ll get to see it someday.”
His hand started to reach for her, to pat her on the shoulder or something and he froze, drawing it back almost guiltily.
She opened her mouth as if to say something but then closed it, nodding in an unconvinced sort of way.
“Right,” Spike said after a moment, “guess it’s your turn again.”
“Yeah, OK. Nowhere exotic this time. I’m in a park, there’s this big pretty one on the edge of Sunnydale. Lots of trees, a little lake. It’s peaceful. My friends are all there with me. Willow and Xander, Cordy and Oz, Giles… and Miss Calendar I guess. And my mom. We’re having a picnic. The sun is shining so bright that the grass and all the leaves on the trees seem to glow this vivid green.”
Buffy closed her eyes, phantom sunbathing again. Spike winced.
“And I’m just sort of savoring the moment. Enjoying being there.” Buffy continued, a wistful expression dancing across her face. “Listening to my friends, watching their little familiar gestures. Xander and Cordy are bickering over some little thing but, under the barbs, you can tell they really care about each other. Oz is telling Willow some kind of deadpan joke and Mom, Giles, and Miss Calendar are deep in this boring conversation about cultural and decorative practices in Ancient Greece or something like that. I soak it all in, feeling the warm sunshine on my face…”
Buffy’s head tumbled forward into her hands and she began to cry. Her tightly bunched shoulders shook as each sob wracked her thin body.
Spike took a long draw at his cigarette, only able to get a small lungful of harsh and burning smoke. He stubbed it out against the side of his chair, leaving another dark streak in the shiny chrome. Her tears meant nothing to him.
So why the sudden desire to go closer? To slide out of the chair and sit beside her, pulling her head against his chest? It must be some misdirected twinge of the affection he would normally share with Dru. A symptom of the bizarre fate that had caught him and the girl up like a tornado, twisting them around till they couldn’t tell up from down. Enemy from friend.
Still, he couldn’t quite bring himself to watch her cry and do nothing. God, he was a sorry excuse for a vampire.
So this time when he found himself reaching for her, he didn’t pull his hand back. He awkwardly placed it on her quivering shoulder. She looked up at him in confusion.
“Why do you keep doing this to yourself, pet?” Spike asked, brow furrowed. “All these sunny days you’re dreamin’ up? Are you trying to torture yourself? Think Angelus isn’t doing a good enough job and you’ve gotta help?”
“I… You wouldn’t understand.”
“Oh yeah? And why’s that?”
“Because you don’t mind. Being what we are.”
Well, that was certainly true. When Spike had been turned, it’d been like a weight he’d hadn’t even realized he’d been carrying all life had been lifted from his shoulders. But it wasn’t like that for her.
If this one was anything to go by, a turned slayer was able to drop neither her savior complex nor her sense of righteousness. There were stories about vamps stupid or crazy enough to think they could control a turned slayer. They never had happy endings. The slayers’ inbuilt hatred of all things that went bump in the night made them dangerous companions for any vamp. And over time they tended to become reckless, blindly destructive, or straight-up suicidal. Spike hadn’t heard of a slayer lasting longer than a couple years as a vamp. But then, Buffy’d always defied expectations. She might defy that one too.
But not with this attitude.
Spike felt a sudden surge of anger toward the girl. He withdrew his hand, leaning back and lighting another cigarette, taking in a long inhale before blowing it all out in the general direction of the girl’s face. She scowled at him, wrinkled her nose in irritation.
“So that’s it then,” he said flatly. “You need to get one thing straight. You’re never lie in the sun on a beach, in a park, or in the bloody Mojave for that matter. Never ‘just feel the warm sunshine on your face’. The sun will never be anything but a big, scary ball of death for you.
“But you know that. Makes it easier, does it? Cause then it can only be a fantasy or a memory. You’re not letting yourself imagine something you could actually do in the future. Cause you’re not planning on having one. You’re not thinking to survive this, are you?”
Her voice when she responded was quiet yet steely.
“I already didn’t survive this.”
“Well, not in the technical sense, no. But look, pet, there’s a whole world out there for you to explore. Being a vamp… you’ve only seen the worst of it so far, believe me. It can be a terrifically freeing experience. There’s nothing to hold you down, no rules to shackle you.” She scowled at him and lifted her chained arms. Spike shrugged unapologetically. “Poor choice of words. After this is over, you can go where you like, do what you please…”
Buffy laughed a joyless laugh.
“After this is over? You mean after Angelus is done with me.”
Somehow, Spike found he couldn’t quite meet her eyes as he spoke.
“Guess I do, yeah.”
“You know, I’ve been wondering. Why he did so little, back when I was human. I mean, I’ve read up on him. The things he did to his victims…”
“I know. Witnessed some of them myself back in the day. Never much cared for them.”
She nodded thoughtfully.
“But on a scale of one to Angelus, what he did to me was almost nothing. A little light stalking, murdering a classmate here and there. I mean, it was horrible and terrifying and I felt so, so guilty that I was the reason all this was happening. But it wasn’t exactly his best material. I mean, no puppies nailed to doors, no corpses of best friends delivered like presents. He turned me first.
“And then he started with his little games. Ever more creative ways to make me suffer.”
There was a long silence as her eyes drifted out to the courtyard and Spike knew that she was thinking of Angelus’ hilarious ‘bury the slayer’ gag.
Then her eyes met his and Spike realized how frightened she was.
“He wants to pull a reverse Drusilla on me. Doesn’t he? Turn me and then drive me crazy.”
“Yeah. Reckon you’re right.” It occurred to him that he should be defending Drusilla. “Not that there’s anything wrong with my Dru. She’s… unique.”
“Which is one way of putting it. Honestly, it’s kinda sweet the way you care about her. Especially since she’s not exactly making a secret of the fact that she and Angelus are sleeping together.”
Spike gave her a low warning growl.
“What?” Buffy asked. “You know it’s true, I know it’s true, the friggin’ minions know it’s true. As I said, not exactly a secret.”
“No. Suppose not. But it’s not as simple as it sounds. I mean, sure Dru and I are going through a rough patch...”
“I’d say that’s an understatement.”“Shut. Your. Mouth.” Spike said, his voice dropping to a dangerous register. “Dru and I, we’ve been together for a century. We’ve seen things together, done things together, that you can’t even imagine. We’re eternal, she and I. This thing with Angelus is… He gets inside her head, you know? After everything he’s done to her…”
“And that’s just it. Everything he’s done to her. You love Dru as she is – which again is weirdly sweet – but if you could go back in time and stop everything that happened to her, wouldn’t you?”
Spike wasn’t quite able to meet her eyes.
“I dunno. If none that had happened to her, I wouldn’t even be here. I’d have lived and died in human mediocrity. But, suppose if I could spare her the suffering... ‘Course I would.”
“Well, what about me then?” For such a little thing she generally never sounded small. She did now though. “Nevermind. Forget it.”
There was a long moment of silence which Spike felt he should fill. But for the unlife of him, he had no idea what to say. So instead he contented himself with taking a heavy drag from the skinny cigarette.
Buffy was chewing at a thumbnail as he smoked, till she abruptly stopped, a pained expression flashing across her face. Her arms wrapped around her knees, which she pulled up to her chest. Her face rippled for a moment before she got a handle on it, forcing it back into human shape.
“God I’m so hungry I could gnaw my own arm off.” She frowned. “And I’m kinda worried that might not be a figure of speech.”
“It’s like that sometimes at first,” Spike said. “Though it would be easier to control if you were getting what you needed on a regular basis.”
He didn’t tell her that he was hungry too. He couldn’t admit to what he’d been reduced to, begging for scraps from Angelus’ table.
“And there’s that,” she said in a voice so quiet that if Spike hadn’t been a vampire he would have struggled to make out. “Angel... lus. He fed me human blood. Got me used to it and, OK, wanting it.”
She seemed ashamed, though Spike couldn’t work out why. Angelus had fed her from cups at first. Then he'd moved on to the leftovers from his own meals, dead or almost so. Which meant that, by Spike’s estimation, Buffy had yet to be responsible for a single human death. And that was what you were supposed to care about, right? If you had a working conscience and all? But Spike didn’t even bother asking her this. He was sure she wouldn’t see things his way.
“You’d want human blood no matter what he did.” Spike reminded her instead, not unkindly. “You’re a vampire, pet.”
“Yeah. I know, I know. I do. But... he’s been feeding me less and less each night, enough to keep me hungry, but not enough for me to ever actually feel satisfied. And the longer I’m going hungry, the louder the demon part of me gets and the quieter the ‘me’ part of me is.”
Spike thought about telling her that the demon part was as much her as any other, but decided that this wasn’t the time.
“So you know,” she continued, “I figured out why he hasn’t killed any of my friends yet.”
Yeah. Spike was pretty sure he had too.
“I mean,” she continued, “what if they do catch one of them tonight? Or tomorrow, or… I’m not sure how much longer I can stay in control.”
“Look, Slayer, your friends are resourceful and they’re onto Angelus’ game. They’ll likely be fine for now.”At least until Angelus got the bright idea to use her as bait for a trap.
“Sure. For now,” she said sounding unconvinced. “ But I… I don’t know why I’m telling you any of this. You don’t care.”
No. So why did he need reminding of that?
“That’s right,” he said, making his voice harsh, “I don’t.”
They sat in silence for a minute while Spike smoked the rest of his cigarette, flicking it across the room in a trail of fiery sparks.
“Spike?” She finally asked, her voice cautious.
“Do you ever think about getting out of here? For real, I mean. Cause you know, he’ll never let us go. Any of us.”
“You know how many vamps recover from serious spinal injuries, pet?”
“Basically none. Oh, we can heal from anything. Up to and including a broken back. But a vampire that can’t hunt? Well, he’s pretty much dependant on the kindness of other vamps. Which, as you know, is in short supply. Angelus, twisted fuck that he is, has a certain kind of family loyalty, which means he’ll keep me alive. Oh, half the reason he’ll do it is to torment me. But here I’ve got an at least decent chance of staying around long enough to heal my back. Out there? My odds aren’t as good.”
“You could? So this is a joint escape plan is it?”
“Well, I thought…”
“You thought, what? That I’d run away with you? And why on Earth would I do that?”
She looked as if she’d been slapped in the face.
“It’s just, I know you’re not happy…”
“Not happy? And you think some kind of half-baked escape plan with the object of Angelus’ current obsessions is going to somehow fix that? I mean, you do realize that you’d be more of a liability than an assistance? Sure, you could bring me blood though, given your sodding conscience, it'd be pig or some other undrinkable slop. Meanwhile, Angelus would have the entire vampiric population of town looking for you. Our only real shot would be getting far away from Sunnyhell as quickly as possible. Preferably in separate directions, so we’d be harder to track. But there’s still a more than decent chance they’d still hunt us down. Besides, I can’t abandon Dru and I’m willing to bet that you’re not about to leave your mates to Angelus’ tender mercies.
“No, I’ve gotta play it safe. Wait it out till I’m healed enough to grab Dru, by force if I have to, and get the hell out of here. And I’m sorry, luv, but that means that you’re just gonna have to tough it out on your own.”
“Spike?” Buffy asked, leaning forward as far as the chains would allow. “Seriously shut the hell up.” For the first time in a long while, she sounded completely like the slayer. “First off, I’m not asking you to ‘run away with me’. God, you make it sound like I want to elope or something. And secondly, when did you start playing it safe? Mr ‘I had a good plan but I got bored’?”Spike had to smile a little at that.
“Got me there, pet.”
“I’m not done.” God, the slayer-fury was burning in full, glorious intensity in her eyes. “I’m not asking for you to help me get out of here so that we can run off with our tails between our legs. I’m asking you to let me out so that I can kill Angelus. Cause that’s the only way any of us are ever gonna be free.”
The old restless excitement shot through Spike’s limbs. Well, the ones that still functioned. He liked the sound of that. But it couldn’t be that simple. Could it?
“Do you honestly think that you could take him out?”
“Right at this moment? Not sure. I can’t deny that I'm a little weak. If I were to actually stand up I might even feel light-headed. But I’m guessing by the size of these chains that a bit of extra strength might come with the whole slaypire package. Maybe speed too, though I haven’t had a chance to test it. So, maybe not right away. But give me a little time to recover and, oh yeah. I can definitely take him out.”
“You sure? He’s your sire. That’s a powerful bond. Not to mention the fact that up till a little while ago he was the bleedin’ love of your life, wasn’t he?”
“Angelus buried me. While I was awake and struggling and begging him not to. If I needed anything to convince me that the man I loved is gone, or I don’t know maybe never existed quite the way I thought he did, it was that. As for the sire thing? Won’t know till I try I guess. But I think my hatred and desire to stop him from hurting anyone else is way stronger than any weird vamp/sire mumbo jumbo. Angel staked his sire. And if he can do it, I can.”
The girl was practically incandescent now. She really was magnificent. The chains themselves seemed to shrink before her righteous anger as if no mere twisted metal bars could contain her.
“You know,” he said, “I’m inclined to believe you could. But there’s also Dru to consider. She’ll jump into the fight for sure, and I don’t think even you could take the two of them. Especially not since they’ve been feeding well and you haven’t. And also, if I were to agree to do this, there’d have to be absolutely no staking of Dru.”
Buffy shrugged.“Fair enough. But I guess there’s no chance that you could talk her into sitting the fight out? Or even maybe helping us? I mean, after everything Angelus put her through...”
“No chance. She’s too bloody devoted to ‘Daddy’. If I were in a bit better shape myself I could at least knock her out or something so you could focus on Angel. But at the moment...”
“Yeah, I guess neither of us is exactly ready to jump into a fight. But, oh! Maybe you wouldn’t have to be able to physically overpower her? What if you drugged her? Injected her with something, like they did to me when they moved me from the factory to here?”
“Suppose that could work.”
“But for the moment we just need to get out of here. Find someplace in Sunnydale to hide out and keep an eye on the situation while we recover. Then I’ll kill Angelus and you can grab Dru and head out of town like you wanted.”
“Sounds good in theory. But where would we go? Wouldn’t take Angelus and his minions long to find us.”
They sat in silence for a minute as they pondered this. Then a thought came to Spike’s head. A horrible, horrible thought which he should definitely keep to himself.
“What about these mates of yours that you keep going on about?” Damn it, Spike. “Think they’d take us in? I mean, I’d almost rather take up parachuteless skydiving at high noon than hang out with that lot of do-gooders, but it might be the best shot we’ve got. If we could stay somewhere that required an invitation... at least we wouldn’t have to worry about Angelus or his goons nabbing us in our sleep.”
To his surprise the fierce warrior seemed to evaporate from her, replaced by the cornered animal.
“M-my friends? A-as in, Giles and Willow and Xander?”
“Right. Yeah. Unless you’ve got a whole ‘nother set of friends that you’ve been keeping mum about.”
“B-but wouldn’t we be putting them in danger, if we tried to stay with them?”
“Possible. But truth is they’re already in danger, just for knowing you. If you were around you’d at least stand a chance of stopping Angelus if he came calling. But you don’t seem very excited about the idea. You made it sound like you’d do anything to see them again.”
“I-I’d do anything to go back to the way things were. But to see them now? And have them see me? No. That’s not exactly part of the plan.”
Yeah. He could just picture her plan. Kill Angelus and then slink off into some alley somewhere, feeding off rats and fighting every demon she could till something finally put her out of her misery. But the girl drew strength from her friends, that much had always been clear. And if she was going to defeat Angelus and defy expectations she was going to need every ounce of strength she could get.
“I mean,” she continued, “what if I can’t control myself? What if I hurt them?”
“A freshly turned vamp is driven by hunger, I’ll give you that. Some let it rule them, become mindless beasts. But that’s not the only way. And it’s not your way. You’re stronger than that. And you’ll feel a hell of a lot more in control once you’ve got some fresh blood in you.”
The slayer nodded glumly.
“But…” she said. “You know that thing you said a little bit ago about hope? Right now, they’re hoping the Buffy they know is still out there somewhere… and for all they know she is. Maybe it’s best to let them keep thinking that. ‘Cause if they see me now? That hope’s gone forever. I’m really dead.”
Tears were in her eyes. She was clutching her knees with her hands, the fading scars from where she’d punched her way out of the coffin a stark white against her pale skin. Spike impulsively leaned forward and grabbed her hands in his own.
“Buffy, I didn’t know you too well before you were turned. Probably something to do with the fact that every time we met we were trying to kill each other. But I saw that fire in you. The way you always thought of protecting others first in a fight. Your pigheaded determination to do the right thing and sort out the consequences later. And I’m seeing all that now. You’ve been through a lot. And only an idiot would say that none of that has changed you. But not in the ways that matter. And if your friends are too blind to see that, well, they’re an even bigger lot of fools than I’ve taken them for.”
A tiny amused grin had broken through her tears.“What?” Spike asked.
“You called me ‘Buffy.’ I think it might be the first time you’ve done that.”
“Oh. Guess I did. Don’t make a big thing of it, Slayer.”
Spike realized that he was still holding her hands, which he hastily dropped, focusing instead on finding and lighting another cigarette.
“So does that mean you’ll do it?” She asked.
Yes, he realized, it did. What could he say? He thought the girl could pull it off. Besides, he really didn’t feel like sticking around and watching as Angelus fucked Dru in every corner of the mansion and Buffy in every corner of her mind.
“Yeah. The hell with it. I’m already sick of this place. Course, we’ll have to at least wait until Angelus and Dru get back. He’s got the keys. And these…”
He grabbed Buffy’s nearest wrist, careful not to cause manacle to shift in a way that would dig into the raw patches of her skin. Faint blue lines traced their way around the keyhole.
“Angelus had ‘em made special. Got some kind of magic warding. Only the keys or a very powerful witch could open them.”
“Think you can get the keys from him?” She asked.
“Please. I could steal the crown off right the bloody queen’s head.”
“OK, but she is really old.”
“In the middle of a public speech. Surrounded by her loyal toadies.”
“Hey, what can I say? I’m a man of many skills.”
“And modest too.”
Spike only grinned at that.
“Right. So I guess it’s a plan then. Or at least the beginnings of one.”
“Yeah,” said Buffy, a slow smile forming across her mouth. “Guess it is.”
Buffy’s grin widened and Spike thought it must have been the first true smile he’d seen on her since that night at The Bronze when he’d watched her dancing, what felt like an eternity ago. And he decided not to question, for the moment at least, why the sight made him so happy.
End Note: Will post this to AO3 and EF when I've had a chance to give it one last check for errors. Please let me know if you find any!