Hello everyone! So this is the reboot of a fanfic called Little Bird that I started for the first time ages ago (I think I was fifteen). It's been a solid seven years, and I think my handle on writing and characterization has improved a bit in that time. However, I've been trying to get back into writing and thought this might be a good place to get back into the groove as it were.
I'm changing the original fic (which you can find on my profile if you're curious, it was last updated almost two years ago) up quite a bit to give the the OC main better depth, backstory, and introduce the conflict that will surround her earlier instead of 75,000 words in haha. Instead of starting in season four with the gang, this starts in Brazil just before Lovers Walk in Season 3.
Chapter One - Souvenir
November 20th, 1998
"For what it's worth, I'm sorry," Spike said was an uncharacteristic sincerity that only made me feel even more terrified. His blue eyes met mine as he patted me down, pulling out a few rumpled, red-stained reais and stuffing them in his duster.
I wanted to say something back, thank you or fuck you or anything to break the silence.
I couldn't. A pathetic groan coming out in place of words.
"Seems your little chit's taken off," he continued, "With any luck she'll learn Portuguese between here and town. Find her way back to her pappy."
His voice started to drone into the background, drifting in and out of the early morning sunshine that pooled beneath the atrium's glass ceiling - just out of reach. It looked warm, like honey melting into the overgrown remains of the old colonial mansion. A jewel toned hummingbird fluttered about, busily checking each flower that creeped in through the broken windows.
It was beautiful. Maybe I could stay here awhile.
"Real rough way to go this is, Bird," he said, tapping the dark stain across my abdomen. I took a sharp breath as the pain pulled me back to reality, "I'd speed it up for you myself, but don't fancy catching a tan." He nodded towards the piles of ash on the floor around us.
I had done that, hadn't I?
My mind couldn't seem to hold onto the memory, everything lost in a violent haze of golden light. There had been a fight. Vampires like him...something else. My heart was going too fast, marching to a particularly suicidal tune given the circumstances.
Fuck. I was going to die.
He leaned over me, knuckles gently tracing my collar bone as he fingered the pendant at my throat. A sun with rays wrought from silver and gold.
"Think I'll take this, spent a pretty penny on it...and I don't think you'll be needing souvenirs now, will you?" The chain broke with a delicate pop as he tore it from my neck. Blue eyes met mine one last time, he nodded and stood. "Thanks for the help."
For the first time since I'd met him I didn't want him to leave me alone. I wanted to say something, blame him, tell him goodbye, ask him to stay even though I was certain that might as well be a joke.
I didn't though.
I watched in silence as he picked up his unconcious girlfriend, hefted a blanket over both of them, and darted out the door.
Alone, I closed my eyes and prayed it was worth it.
Rio De Janeiro
November 17th, 1998
Demon. She was a demon with blonde pigtails and a flamingo colored tankini. The latest of her evil schemes? Ruin what little fun I could make for myself on this bullshit excuse for a family vacation. If I had to be trapped in this hellscape of lazy rivers, tiki bars, and tacky sundresses I at least wanted to have a drink while I was at it.
"Drop it," I hissed, tightening my grip on my beer.
She pulled back harder, "I'm telling."
"What are you, ten?" I glanced nervously across the pool. Karen hadn't noticed yet. Once upon a time my mother wouldn't have cared that I was drinking but things were different now that she had a Craig.
A Craig - which I supposed was a distant relation of a knock off ken doll - had a pudgy face, an easy smile, a 401k, and an uncanny ability to remember every touchdown it had ever scored in highschool. It also came with a bonus, a daughter called Maggie that I could swear was half banshee.
Having a Craig meant moving to some tiny little town called Sunnydale. It meant missing Thanksgiving with Dad to masquerade as a normal family at a cheap resort on the other side of the world. It also meant previously approved activities, like having a beer, would be strongly frowned upon.
"Yeah, I am ten," Maggie snapped back,"but you're not twenty one."
"The drinking age here is eighteen," I said, trying to pull the bottle back.
She sneered, "You're not eighteen either."
"I will be in like two weeks. Just get that stick out of your butt and go play with one of the other kids or something."
She looked up with a thin, pretty smile as she held the bottle with a death grip and leaned back with all her weight. I pulled back harder, starting to get nervous.
"Let go," she growled.
"Or what?" Mistake number one, never challenge a ten year old.
"Or I will."
She dropped it, both of us tumbling backwards with the sudden loss of tension. The bottle shattered against the deck and Maggie let out a pitiful wail. I groaned, sitting up and looking across the pool. Everyone was staring. My mother's eyes were trained on me like a hawk, already halfway to us with Craig not far behind.
"Stop crying, stop crying, please stop crying," I pleaded, scrambling towards her. "I'll give you anything you want if you just shut up."
A mischievous glint appeared in her eyes as she stopped wailing and began to fake a simper, "Like what?"
I was going to regret this. "My landline. You can use it whenever you want for a month."
I rolled my eyes, "You can have three of my nail polishes."
I glanced back, Karen had almost arrived - eyes already honed in on the broken bottle, "Oh my god, what else do you want?"
"There's a festival in town tonight with rides and food and stuff. Dad will let me go if you promise to take me."
"Fine, you have a deal, but now you need to help me." Manipulative shit.
Craig brushed past me, kneeling next to his daughter. "Maggie? Maggie honey are you alright?" I kept my eyes glued to hers, pleading. "What happened, Pumpkin?"
She sniffed theatrically, wiping at her eyes, "I tripped...Marley tried to help me but she got knocked over too." She held out her slightly scuffed elbow for Craig to inspect, "It hurts."
I glanced up at my mother, trying to hide the guilt on my face. Karen raised a carefully arched brow. My mother was nothing if not beautiful - Vivien Leigh or Elizabeth Taylor if they'd had a penchant for cheap tequila and belly button rings. It was the tequila in her personality that I was counting on for salvation now. She tapped her nose twice, an old childhood signal for we're talking about this later, and walked past me to kneel next to Maggie and Craig.
Craig kissed Maggie's elbow, "All better?"
She nodded bravely and took a dramatic breath as her dad helped her to her feet and Karen kissed her cheek with a motherly tenderness.
I couldn't quite tell, but it looked like Maggie flinched just a little.
"C'mon, squirt," Craig said, "How about we go hit the beach, huh? Change of pace?"
"Okay!" Maggie said, 'cheering up' instantly.
Craig turned to look at me, "What about you Marles? Want to catch some waves?"
It took every ounce of my your-ass-is-on-the-line-don't-fuck-up will power not to roll my eyes. I had never asked him to call me Marles.
"Maybe later." I forced a smile, "I think I'm going to head back to the room, get some homework done. New school and everything...I don't want to start out behind."
"Alrighty then." He took Maggie's hand and looked at my mother, "Coming, Honey?"
Karen kissed his cheek and waved them ahead, "I'll catch up in a second, dear."
My mother looked different than she used to. Her make up was lighter, always in these peachy sunset tones. Together their family looked like a picture - a stock photo peering out of a frame in a Hallmark store. For the last year everything about her had been bright, and sparkly, and soft...everything except her gaze as it landed on me.
With a nervous, hopeful smile I tapped my nose twice.
She scowled, shaking her head.
"A couple summers ago in Cabo you let me -"
"I don't care what happened two summers ago in Cabo." She cut me off, "Two summers ago you didn't have a ten year old sister looking up to you."
"Looking up to me?" I laughed, "That girl's about to start her own chapter of the Temperance Movement. She'd rather burn me at the stake than do anything that I do. Why should she matter?"
"Marley…" Karen's shoulders dropped, fingers pinching the bridge of her nose, "I really love this man, I love this life, and I wish you could at least pretend you love it too. But please don't ruin this for me because you're angry."
I opened my mouth, closed it, slowly pulled myself up from the ground, and started picking up my things.
"I just want you to try to be more responsible."
"Maggie's asking Craig if I can take her down to the festival tonight," I said brusquely, ignoring her attempts at motherly scolding as I shoved my books into my beach bag and hiked it over my shoulder.
"I don't think that's such a good idea," Karen said hesitantly, eyeing the broken Corona at my feet.
"Cool," I said as I started to walk back to the hotel, "if you want to tell Craig why you're not letting us go, be my guest. I'm more than happy to stay in the room and study."
She wouldn't. It would ruin the picture.
"I promise. No peanuts, no mangos, and I'll just hiss menacingly at the stray cats," I said as Craig handed me a generous roll of Brazilian reais. My mother stood behind him smiling warmly, but her eyes had a very clear don't you dare fuck up written across them.
"Also no uh...no…" Craig snapped his fingers, brow furrowed as he tried very hard to remember something.
"Shellfish, Dad." Maggie sounded exasperated.
"Right," I said, smiling and ruffling her hair, "No shrimp for the shrimp."
She giggled sweetly, smiling and waving to our parents as we turned and headed down the street. Her gaze soured the moment we were out of sight, flattening her cornsilk hair. "Don't call me shrimp."
"I'll call you what I want...shrimp," I said, suppressing a smile. If she wanted me to play big sister I was sure as hell going to make her pay for it.
"I -" She started to snap but then stopped suddenly - mouth open, dumbstruck at the sight before us.
For a moment we forgot to hate each other.
A hundred paper lanterns wove a glittering net over the narrow street. Somewhere a band was playing, the drums laying a frenzied, joyous beat. The air was full of laughter, and the calls of vendors, and the smell of frying meat. It was a rainbow world lined with tapestries and paintings, brightly colored dresses and sparkling stones.
A woman bedecked in feathers and silver sauntered past, smiling at Maggie who smiled shyly back.
Maybe this vacation didn't totally suck.
"You hungry, boss?" I asked, elbowing Maggie.
Maggie grinned back.
"You want the last one?" I asked, pushing the mostly empty basket of truffles towards her across the cathedral steps.
"Nah, it's okay," she said amiably, licking the cocoa powder off her fingers as she watched the brightly colored dancers twirling through the square below us, "You're bigger than me anyways."
I snorted, trying to decide if I should be insulted or not as I popped the last decadent ball of chocolate in my mouth. I'd spent four hours alone with Maggie eating fried food, shopping, and taking three turns on the smallest yet most terrifying roller coaster I'd ever seen...and for once we weren't at each other's throats. For a smaller, more anal clone of Cher Horowitz she wasn't half bad - as far as ten year olds went.
At risk of destroying the tentative peace, I broke the silence. "So, why don't you like me?"
She blinked, looking like a deer in the headlights, and mumbled something unintelligible over the blaring music from the nearby stage. I raised a brow and she suddenly became very interested in the hem of her shorts as she said, "You're going to leave. You're the third step sister I've had. What's the point of liking something that's going to go away soon?"
It was quiet for a moment as I tried to ignore the stab of guilt in my chest.
"Why don't you like me?" She asked, looking up with big brown eyes.
I didn't have the heart to tell her the truth. I was kind of hoping I would get to go away soon - that Karen would get bored of playing house in some discount suburban hell in California and I could go back to Boston. I wanted to see Dad again, my real dad not Craig.
So, I took a deep breath and I lied, "You see, you've got this really big stick up -"
She punched my arm, giggling slightly as she glared.
I sighed. "Look, I spent an hour learning how to ask if something has peanuts in Portuguese for you. I don't dislike you...we'll talk about liking later."
"How much later?"
"Let's wait and see which nail polishes you decide to steal from me."
My eyes were drooping as I bent over the table, fingers grazing over the delicate metal jewelry. It was late - probably later than my mother would be pleased with, but Maggie hadn't exactly given me the time (or left me much money) to find a souvenir of my own. However, she had been more than happy to keep leveraging her dirt on me to get herself a very pricey porcelain doll and a necklace of turquoise beads.
"Marley come on!" She tugged my sleeve, "We're gonna miss it!" She anxiously craned her neck, trying to peer around the crowd gathering down the street. A jet of flame burst into the air and the crowd clapped appreciatively.
"Just a minute kid," I brushed her off, "You left me like five bucks, at least let me try to find something to spend it on."
She grumbled, but quieted down as I perused. My fingers wandered over silver chains and pendants inlaid with stones that shimmered in the lamplight before landing on a sun. It was beautiful, with rays wrought from intertwining strands of silver and gold. It was simple, elegant, and would look so nice with the white dress I had back at the hotel.
"Almost as beautiful as you are that is." I jumped a bit, meeting a pair of clear blue eyes and a teasing smirk. I hadn't been expecting a British accent this far south. "Though I suppose you don't need much more sunshine, do you?"
He raised a scarred brow, eyeing the sunburn I'd earned through one too many days pretending I was capable of tanning.
I glared, trying to ignore the heat in my cheeks, "At least I've seen the sun this century."
He laughed, lips twisting into a wry smile.
He wasn't my type, but I had to admit he was beautiful despite the eighties punk I'm cool cause I smoke cloves vibe. He had these cheekbones though, and a razor jawline, and a cocky smolder that made my insides go all liquid for a second.
His eyes flicked down to the necklace and he turned to the woman behind the table, transitioning into fluid Portuguese. They bickered back and forth for a moment before he rolled his eyes, gave her a substantial wad of cash, and handed the necklace out to me.
The pendant spun in the air, rays gleaming in the light.
"You didn't have to," I said immediately, letting it hang between us.
"Wanted to," he said with a soft smile and dark eyes. I didn't reach for the necklace. Something was off. His gaze just a bit too intense as he cocked his head to the side and watched me like I was something to eat, "Thought we could go for a bit of a stroll, see the sights...grab a bite?"
Major alarm bells started ringing.
He had to be what, ten years older than me? If he only had a bag of candy and a white van he'd be the picture next to Stranger Danger in the dictionary.
"I'm flattered," I said, putting my hands up and smiling way too hard as I started to back away, "Really. But I'm here with my little sis-" I looked back towards Maggie...Maggie who was quite suddenly not there.
Fuck. Oh fuck.
This was a new type of fear for me. I suddenly understood how my mom felt when I'd hidden in the K-Mart ball pit for three hours as a kid. This wasn't K-Mart though, this was Brazil in the middle of the night where there were no helpful old ladies wearing blue vests to go find her. What the hell was she thinking? Was she stupid? Was I stupid? What kind of idiot turns their back on a ten year old in a foreign country?
I looked back at the blonde man, mouth hanging open.
"I - I have to go."
Hunting this bint was like trying to wrap your hand around a particularly stupid bird. Loud, seemingly unaware of the threat walking placidly behind her, and somehow she still managed to flutter around enough that I couldn't quite sink my teeth into her. Felt like I was horse chasing a carrot with a mind of its own. Each time I almost had her in a dark corner, somewhere I could play the lover while I killed her nice and slow, she would see something and take off in the other direction.
It was bloody inconsiderate of her.
"Maggie!" She shrieked again, whirling about wildly as she searched the crowd.
Why am I bothering again?
Her hair - a pretty chestnut brown - flipped as she spun. Fuck she smelled good. Yeah, that's why I'd spent the last twenty minutes pretending I gave a shit about her sister. Smelled like no other person I'd had the pleasure of eating. Humans normally got that rich, tangy iron taste but this one smelled sweeter - like cranberries or pomegranate. I'd never really fancied myself the the pretentious sort of ponce that claims to know where a man was raised by the taste of his blood, but I really had to know with this one.
She stopped, running her face through her hands and muttering, "I'm going to kill her."
"What's this chit look like again?" I asked, scanning the crowd as if it mattered. Girl was almost certainly dead or would be very soon.
"Tiny, blonde, cute in an evil sort of way." She looked up again as if she'd had a revelation, "You speak Portuguese."
"Could you...could you help me ask around?"
I turned, put my hands on her shoulders, and stooped in a bit to give her those puppy dog eyes Angelus gave girls before he got around to killing everyone they'd ever loved. Cheap trick but this one was surprisingly hard to drag into an alley through more conventional means.
"Of course, love. Anything I can do to help."
She looked up at me with big, green eyes. She was sunburnt, with a smattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks. Her eyes were a little wide set, mouth a bit large, and her curls had gone all frizzy in the humidity. She was cute though, Dru would like her - would say her freckles looked like star shine.
Ah, now there was an idea. Me and the lady had been on the rocks since Sunnydale. An exotic snack might get me back in her good graces. Perhaps I could let Dru play with her a bit and keep her around like a nice sipping whiskey.
"Thank you," she said, sounding relieved.
Her brow furrowed, nose crinkling up, "What'd you just call me?"
I shrugged, smirking a bit as I started down the street, "Don't know your name, but you remind me of a bird."
She followed me, lips pursed. "My name's Marley."
God, that's almost as bad as Buffy.
I raised an eyebrow, "Your mum into reggae then?"
Her grateful expression was quickly turning sour, "Are you going to help me find my sister or not?"
I fought back the urge to roll my eyes, apparently if I was going to play with my food tonight I'd have to do it politely. I smiled, placed a hand on the small of her back, and pushed her ahead of me through the thick crowd.
"Do you want to back track?" I asked, "Start from the jewelry stand?"
She sighed and nodded.
For the next forty minutes I led her around on a goose chase - see how she liked being dragged about for a change. I'd talked to ten people but only mentioned the girl to three. The others got a rather urgent, somber speech on the benefits of frying food.
Each time I'd turn to Marley, shake my head, and lead her off a little farther away from the crowds.
I was starting to feel rather pleased with myself, a few more confused Brazillians and I'd have my gift home and wrapped up prettily in chains for my lady love. I could almost see Dru's smile, hear her joyful squeal at the smell, taste the girl's sweet blood on her lips while she kissed me down onto the bed.
Yeah, I'd be feeling even more pleased tonight.
Just down the block an old woman was sitting on the stairs watching the stragglers wander by, foot tapping to the distant sound of music from the festival. Her house conveniently jutted up against a nice, dark looking alley.
I touched Marley's waist, nodding towards the woman, "She might've seen something."
"Good idea." The Bird nodded.
The little old woman, who smelled of rice and milk and mothballs, actually had seen a blonde girl turn down a side street accompanied by a tall, thin white woman.
"Foi estranho." The grandmother frowned, brow furrowing, "Está oscura, mas ela carregava um guarda-sol."
Fucking brilliant. I had to suppress a chuckle.
Tall woman walking around with an umbrella in the middle of the night. I'd take a nice sunny stroll in the park if that weren't Dru. Rather neat trick if we managed to bag a couple of sisters - especially if the little one smelled half as interesting as the girl next to me.
Now all that was left was to take the Bird somewhere nice for dinner.
I thanked the old woman and turned to Marley with solemn eyes.
"Did she see anything?" she asked anxiously.
"It's not good, love. The Senhora here saw her with a couple of men," I lied, "and given the description I think I know 'em. Bad sort."
The color drained from her face and she looked sick. "W-We need to call the police."
I did my best to look pained as I shook my head, "These blokes work fast, she'll be halfway across the country by the time the cops even have an idea of who took her."
"Fuck." Tears were springing to her eyes as she started to pace. "Fuck, fuck, what am I going to do?"
"Look, I know a guy, might be able to point us in the right direction if we hurry." If I could just get her down that alley she'd be mine.
She came to a stop suddenly, narrow shoulders taught as she turned to me with narrowed eyes, "And how do you know so much about these men again?"
Bollocks, this was going sideways. I swallowed hard. Think, Spike.
The Bird leaned back a touch, muscles tense. "Why would you recognize child traffickers?"
"I'm - I'm undercover, erm...special, special agen -"
She wasn't going to get far. I lunged after her, cornering her back towards the alley with a snarl.
The demon was out and fuck was he hungry. I could hear her little heart pattering away as she saw me for the first time, smell the sharp spike of adrenaline. I'd done that bit a thousand times, but it never got old. Her lower lip quivered, staring at me like I was death himself.
"See something you like, pet?" I asked, stalking closer as she backed up. "You're getting a little breathless."
Marley screamed, turning to dash down the alley. The old lady had started screaming.
I grabbed her by the shoulder, yanking her hard into the wall.
She yelped, eyes rolling back in her head as she went limp, slumping into my arms.
"Ele a está matando! Ele a está matando!" The old woman kept shrieking and I rolled my eyes, hefted the Bird over my shoulder, and dashed into the darkness.
I hope everyone enjoyed. To any old readers I have coming back to check this out, I'm sorry for the long wait compiled with a total restart and I hope this was a promising enough start! To everyone else, thanks for reading and I'd love it if you could leave a review!