Title: Now and at the Hour
Author: Lily Ann
Chapter 3: For My Sister
I met Spike more than seven years ago, in a dark alley on the Hellmouth. He looked like a slice of shadow, all sharp and pale and bright. I don't remember much else about that night, couldn't tell you who I danced with or what I wore. But, Spike stands out. I remember him clapping, a laughing dandy of a vampire. Stepping off the pages of history and into the floodlights of memory. It wasn't Hallmark material or anything, don't get me wrong. I could have lived without the death threat. But, that was our first contact. And it determined the way we would go.
Buffy wasn't a writer, knew she didn't have the brains of Giles or Willow. Dawn got all the smart genes, made better grades than Buffy ever did. Drew pie charts that rivaled Willow's and decoded hieroglyphics while she ate her cornflakes. Everything Buffy knew about Egyptians came from a Bangles video. They wore sandals and mummified people. That was all she needed to know.
Unless some spanky curse floated down the Nile, it was enough.
But Giles wanted her to contribute to Spike's chronicle. His new chronicle that would, hopefully, be more accurate than the last. More than two-hundred years old? Bah. Spike was young compared to Anya and Angel. The old records were riddled with misinformation. They were also gone, burned up with Quentin Travers in the council building. Centuries of carefully documented lies, and the occasional truth, gone with one violent act. What was it Spike had said when she told him?
"Stubborn, proud bastard. Probably shuffled off declaring himself master of his fate to the very end."
But, for Lydia, his erstwhile biographer, he seemed to genuinely mourn, in his own fashion.
"A good type of bint, that Chalmers bird."
High praise from Spike, who hated the council with an unrelenting passion. Almost as much as Buffy did. For Angel, the trials, and all the help they'd never offered her, except as a bargaining chip.
Now, here she was, years later. Writing about Spike for Giles and the new council. Reluctantly, at first, because she wasn't proud of a lot of it, didn't want to admit that she'd ever been so lost that she punished another for her pain. Punished him, with her fists and words and white hot contempt.
And never said she was sorry in words.
So, she said it on paper. Filled pages and pages with the unhappy truth. Once begun, Spike's chronicle became her penance, a cry for forgiveness, offered too late in the day. Spike had wronged her and apologized with a soul, went round the world for love and come back changed. All Buffy had to offer was their tale, as unvarnished as she dared make it without crossing into porno territory. Even edited, it was shocking. A trip to the sun and back. Hot, exhilarating, and violent.
Dawn, sneaking up and reading over her shoulder: "Riley walked in while you were naked? On the sarcophagus? With Spike? Did they, like, duel?"
Willow, thoughtfully: "It's kind of an un-love story."
She had the last years of Spike's life, from Prague to the cavern, could write that story from memory. The beginning was more difficult, had to be cajoled out of Angel, in fits and starts, when he was drunk or sentimental, which was almost never. Buffy wheedled and prompted, played on their friendship and past love, all to no avail.
The story of William didn't tumble out until the night Drusilla died.
She'd been drifting, it seemed, since Spike went, living in the past a lot. Even stopped eating the delivery boy. Just danced and talked to her dolls about Spike, starlight and endings. Became even loopier than before, which was a scary thought. Then, on a bright New Orleans morning, the minions found her dust on the steps of a downtown church. It was the sixth of August. Transfiguration day.
Angel: "She got as close as she could to God, I suppose."
He drank a lot that night. By morning, she knew Spike wasn't a pickpocket or a robber baron, like he'd made himself out to be. A poet! It all made sense. The sensitivity and the eloquence. That volatile, vibrant nature. His doomed life. William Black was a scholar, Cambridge-educated. On his way home from a party when Dru, and fate, intervened.
Angel, opening another bottle: "He was a virgin, too, but not for long."
What followed was...painful. A brief but vivid tale of Angelus's conquest, It was a miracle Spike survived at all.
Buffy excused herself, went to the bathroom. Dry-heaved for a good five minutes. By the time she came back, Angel had passed out.
So, the middle of the story still remained untold, all those lost years of killing between the gypsy curse and that hallway reunion on Parent Teacher night. Buffy sought it in old books and photo albums, ransacked the Hyperion's attic for clues on a rainy Sunday. Looked for pictures, documents, receipts from the sailing ships that used to regularly cross the ocean. There was nothing. Spike left no trace on the world, no space for her to crawl into the dark corners of his past.
Just after the lights of Los Angeles appeared on the horizon. Buffy turned to her companion. "Why do I fall in love with killers?"
Faith choked on her Diet Coke. "Huh?" Keeping one hand on the wheel, she tossed the soda can out the car window before returning her attention to Buffy. "What the hell kind of a question is that?"
"The kind nobody wants to answer, I guess." Buffy chewed her bottom lip. "I mean, is there something wrong with me?"
Faith snorted. "There sure as fuck is. You're too skinny, take six hours to do your hair, and can't even microwave a burrito without putting the fire department on alert."
"At least the neighbors didn't think my French Onion soup was an attack by the Taliban."
"Point," Faith conceded. 'We really should do better. Dawn thinks Kung Pao Chicken is a food group."
"Right. We'll cook something non-boxed." Buffy crossed her arms. "Could we get back on topic, please?"
'Sure. Um...what were we talking about ?"
"Me. Having strange relationships."
"Getting pelvic with lost boys, you mean."
'Geez, Faith! Gross, much?" Buffy eyes flashed green fire across the darkened car.
"You brought it up."
"I was hoping for a little sympathy."
Faith fumbled for a cigarette. "Then call Willow. What I told you at the beach stands. If you can't handle Spike, let him go."
She wasn't saying she couldn't handle him. God, did she want to handle him. "I love him, Faith. I want him. It's just...confusing, you know?"
Faith maneuvered the car toward the exit ramp. "Can't say I do. I'm not in love with a vampire. I've never had one go get a soul for me. Or lose it."
"Big help you are."
"Sorry, B. You're on your own with that one. Oh...don't get all teary!"
Buffy sniffed pitiably.
Faith lost patience. "Poor Buffy. Two vampires have loved her in her life and made great sacrifices for her. Boo-freakin-hoo. She inspired one to the side of light and lit a fire under the other till he got a soul. Tragic and awful. Really. Vamp #2 even died for her, but only temporarily, it seems! He's back! And flirting with clerks! The other is helping the helpless, trying to earn his way to a heavenly reward so he can sit on a fucking cloud and play the harp for Buffy when the bell finally tolls." She slapped the steering wheel a little too hard. "Let's have a wake."
Silence reigned in the car for several minutes, made deeper by their passage from the noise and lights of the freeway onto city streets. "Thank you," Buffy finally said quietly.
"You're welcome." Faith pitched her cigarette out the window. "For whatever it was I just did."
Night had thrown a sparkling blanket over the city during their short drive from the ocean. Garish and glorious, always conscious of itself, LA teemed at night. It was, in many ways, a more dangerous place than Sunnydale. Bigger, brighter, too full of lost souls for any one person to rescue them all. That was why Buffy stayed. To have a purpose, some hand in helping the world, Freedom was a funny thing. Once you had it, there was nowhere left to go.
Buffy peered out into the darkened streets. "Where are we going? This is not the way to the 7-11. We agreed to try there first, remember? In case he goes back."
"Mmm-hmm." Faith cruised down a darkened side street. Pulling up to the curb, she cut the engine. "I thought we'd come here first. Shake the demon grapevine for information."
It was a good idea. In addition to having few brains and lots of hygiene issues, a lot of demons were insatiable gossips. Only...
"Faith, this isn't exactly a hot spot. This is–" Buffy leaned out of the car, "–a Fravolian pasta house." She pulled her head back in. "Angel doesn't even bother with this place, Unless Fred wants Frav-style meatballs. They have the best in town."
Faith pursed her lips."The Frav, I'll have you know, are extremely unattractive, with very short life spans. They are the natural enemy of the vampire."
Buffy eyed her. "You just want to hit something."
"Well, yeah. Some rigatoni would be nice, too." Faith grabbed Buffy's arm. "But, hey, Spike could be in there right now, a hostage of vigilantes. Subject to Frav justice without counsel."
Buffy's look of horror stopped Faith in her tracks. "Or..or he could be just having a meatball," she trailed off apologetically.
But, Buffy was already out of the car, moving toward the brightly lit storefront.
'Wait!" Faith scurried out of her seat. "Buffy, are you listening to me? Wreck the kitchen last, OK? Don't hurt the meatballs!"
Dozens of shaggy heads turned, saucy forks halfway to their lips, when Buffy banged the door open. Aware of just how non-menacing she looked in jeans and a halter, with her hair hastily braided, she conjured up her best bellow.
'I'm, uh, looking for somebody. Tell me what I want to know and you can go back to your pasta!"
It wasn't very good, as far as bellows went.
Faith rolled her eyes. "I know I'm scared."
"You can do better?"
"Absolutely." Faith stuck her fingers in her mouth and whistled shrilly. "Hey, all you Fravolians! We want information about a vampire and we want it NOW. A short, mouthy little guy with hair as white as that tablecloth. Fancies himself a poet." She stalked closer to the paralyzed diners. "Unless you all want your Fravolian man parts in the ravioli maker, I'd sing out right now!"
No one moved for the longest time. That is, until Faith took another step forward. Then, the room exploded into a flurry of overturned tables and fleeing bodies, all of them headed for the door and safety.
Buffy shrieked as she was trampled under big, Fravolian feet. Faith was faring a little better, having made it behind the take-out counter, where she was wrestling down a waiter to keep him from joining the stampede. Her face, which kept popping in and out of view, was liberally smeared with some kind of red sauce.
The chaos finally died down when all the half-fed Frav had escaped, swarming out onto the street like a vertical wolf pack. Buffy rolled over and groaned. "Ouch," She muttered. "Just...ouch."
Faith crawled toward her, dragging the furry waiter by one large ear. "You okay, B.?"
"Oh, fine. Just stepped on and kicked and sitting in..." She rolled over slightly to look at the seat of her jeans, "Meatballs."
"House specialty," chirped the manager.
"Yeah, whatever." Buffy got to her feet. "That ravioli threat was just brilliant."
"Well, you weren't getting anywhere. And we still have," she peered at the terrified waiter's nametag, "Fredrick, here, to tell us what we want to know. So, Freddie," She pulled a noodle off his head. "Let's talk about vampires."
"No vampires. Meatballs."
Frav demons originated from south of Palermo, Buffy remembered. Fredrick, it seemed, wasn't long off the boat.
Buffy dropped her head into her hands. Great idea, Faith.
They left ten minutes later, with no more than they came with, except stained clothes and a tablecloth for Buffy to sit on so she wouldn't smear sauce on Faith's seats.
"Not even a slice of garlic bread,' Faith muttered, just before a furry body shot past her and dove into the driver's seat. The door locks immediately clicked down.
"Hey!" Faith pounded on the window. But, when the car pealed away, she was forced to leap back or be run over. "Hey!" she yelled again, seemingly unable to articulate anything else until it rounded the corner and disappeared. Then, she turned to Buffy. "Fredrick just stole my car!"
"I can see that." Buffy suddenly felt very tired. "My cell was in there. We'd better find a pay phone."
"But...Fredrick just stole my car!"
They were sitting on the curb, weary, bruised, and reeking of tomatoes, when Dawn came, half an hour later, shuddering up in the four hundred-dollar beater she'd purchased with her very own money. The car was a nightmare. Dawn was immensely proud of it.
"What happened to you two?"
Buffy ignored the question. "Hey, learner's permit girl. I don't see any responsible adults in that heap."
"Hmm. Don't know any of those." Dawn pulled Buffy to her feet. "No offense, but you look like a big Spaghetti-O."
"Thanks," she muttered. "Can we just go home, please?"
"No, somebody's been tackled, stepped on and thwarted by an immigrant demon waiter. Pardon her for not smiling."
Faith pulled open the passenger door, careful not to yank too hard, lest it come off in her hand. "At least Fredrick didn't steal your car."
Buffy leaned her head back and closed her eyes. This isn't going well. No Spike, no clues, just an ass full of Frav meatballs. We need more help.
Halfway home, she spotted a grocery store. "Stop there, Dawnie."
Buffy was already climbing out. "I'm going to get a pie."
Dawn looked alarmed. "Why? What's wrong?"
Faith cut in."Um, Buff? I like pastry as much as the next gal, but you're a little too...splattered...to be shopping right now."
"I'm going to get a pie," Buffy repeated. She turned and walked toward the store.
Dawn was hot on her heels. "We only have pie when something's wrong. On the edge of apocalypse. Or a major Buffy meltdown. Tell me."
Buffy stopped in front of the freezer case, stared vacantly at the frosting stacks of blueberry and pumpkin and lemon meringue. How do I choose? Which is the right one?
"I'm going to get a pie," she told a woman passing by with a cart full of food and toddlers.
"That's nice, dear." The lady hurried on.
Dawn was almost hysterical with fear by that point, "Is someone dead?"
"No." Buffy tore her gaze away from the desserts and laid a hand along Dawn's soft cheek. "Not anymore." She pulled open the glass door. 'Does any store in California stock the egg custard kind?"
"What are you talking about?" Their two bodies were wedged inside the freezer door, holding it open and blocking a good part of the aisle. People were starting to rattle their carts in complaint.
"Spike, I'm talking about Spike, Dawnie." Buffy was still rooting through the pies, and wasn't even aware that she was crying until the tears froze to her skin. "There's no Key Lime in here!"
Dawn grabbed her by the shoulders. "Did you do a spell?"
"No! It's not like that. He's just...back. I don't know how or why. Not yet. But I'll find out."
Dawn released her and stepped back, face pale. "It..it can't be."
"It is. He made it somehow."
Dawn swallowed, looked away. "Or was brought back."
A twisting sensation, like baby snakes, spread through Buffy's gut. Grabbing her sister's chin, Buffy forced her head around. Looked into those wide, guilty eyes. And understood.
Dawn shook her head. "No. I...suspected. There was this prophecy, you see. I ran across it in a book of African lore."
There's always a prophecy, Buffy thought.
Dawn grabbed her by the elbow, steered her away from the freezer. "I thought I had the translation wrong. It was proto-Bantu, you see. Hard to read. All about how life's a cycle and death is, too. It's a whole big cycling thing..."
Dazed, Buffy let herself be led.
"The prophecy goes like this. After he fulfills his destiny, a souled vampire gets to Shanshu. Become human. But, first he has to survive plague and darkness. And fiends released on the world. Spike shared a house with the potentials, right? So, I figure the last one's already taken care of..."
Spike loved my sister, called her petal, platelet, little bit, like her real name didn't do her justice. What little girl could resist a cute guy with cool hair and nicknames? They were fast friends, to my horror. I thought he would corrupt her, hurt her. Didn't really understand the depth of his regard for both of us until Glory came and he suffered torture in our name. The night I died for the second time, he promised to watch out for Dawn. That promise was kept. He went on to fight the good fight, even fell off a tower trying to save her life. Was he a hero? That's a tough question. In the end, certainly. He died for the life of the world. Full circle from the shadow boy I first met. Golden, radiant, at peace with it all. Spike, preparing to go. He was ready. I was not.