Author's notes: My first, and only, magic-free fic. Despite the plot, this is a fantasy fic. This and one other fic are the last Buffy ones I will start posting until I'm much further in. Don't want to make the same mistake as I did with my Harry Potter fics. In case no-one got the notification or something, I did update Foreshadow a couple of days ago ... and got no reviews for it. Please review! Thank you.
Thanks to Dawn for beta'ing.
Dedicated to my almost-beta nikkilicious. You're in my prayers, Nikki.
Chapter One: Modesty and Metaphors
William let out a yell as he tripped and fell sprawling onto the pavement. He barely noticed the pain, just scrambled to his feet and continued running, occasionally turning his head to see his pursuer, which caused him to collide with someone.
"Watch where you're going!" the young man snapped in an Irish accent. He was a couple of years older than William, dark-haired and handsome, dressed in black leather and had two women about the same age hanging off his arms. William silently uttered a prayer of thanks – he was saved.
"I'm being followed," he gasped. "He's got a knife!"
A delighted smile broke out across the dark-haired woman's face and she dropped the man's arm to clap her hands gleefully. "Nobody messes with my Willykins!" she said in a strange sing-song voice, and laughed like a child.
"He won't be able to take all of us at once," the man said, a twisted smile breaking over his own face. "Darla?"
The other woman smiled, and picked up a loose brick off of the pavement. William stared at it. That could kill him.
They probably would.
Not surprisingly, he found that he didn't care.
"Here comes the naughty boy!" the first woman, Drusilla, said.
William's breath caught in his throat as his pursuer rounded the corner. Somewhat dishevelled and dressed in a hooded tracksuit, he was running slower than usual because of the amount of alcohol he had consumed. Darla took aim.
The brick connected painfully with his shoulder and sent him down to the ground.
"Get him!" Drusilla cried gleefully. "Get him, Angelus!"
Angelus picked up a plank of wood.
William was usually on the lookout, but this time but he wasn't watching for passers-by or the police. He stood very still, blood pounding in his ears, as he watched Angelus beat the crumpled man while Darla kicked him and Drusilla egged them both on. William didn't flinch, outward or inward. No guilt. Not then. Just a deep, burning fury.
Finally, they stopped. "How's that, William? Don't think he'll be getting up for a while." Angelus removed the knife from the ground, and William finally looked away. The hot emotions surging through him were too much.
"I think I've got him enough, Dru." Angelus knelt down beside the man and felt his neck. "I can't feel a -" He broke off with an expletive, jumping backwards as if he had been burned.
"What is it? Is he dead?" Darla asked.
"He's dead all right. And he's something else too." Angelus pulled his hood down, and the women both gasped.
"It's the coach!" Darla whispered, horrified. "But – why would he -"
Angelus' eyes narrowed as he turned to William, who gulped.
"You little -" Angelus grabbed William by the collar and slammed him against the brick wall. "Have you any idea what you've done? You useless, pathetic kid; how do you think we're supposed to get away with this? We know the guy! The cops'll link him to us in a heartbeat!" Angelus rammed a fist into William's face, threw him on the ground and kicked him. "You stupid--"
"Angelus!" Darla stopped him. "Leave the kid alone; we have bigger problems! What do we do?"
The leader glanced around at his gang; the two women watching him anxiously and the younger teen crumpled on the ground, clutching broken glasses.
"We split. We run. Get as far away as possible. Don't get caught; if one of us goes down, we all do."
William got to his feet slowly as the others fled in different directions. The adrenaline rush had gone, and other feelings – ones he didn't want to feel - were starting to sink in. He looked down at the sports coach.
"I hate you," he whispered softly.
William took the coach's wallet and headed for his secret hideaway. He had figured out the security codes for his old school years ago, and there was a blind spot where the cameras didn't reach where he could get inside the place. As a student he had created a den, a kind of retreat, in the attic-space above the art classroom. No one had ever found it. He kept a supply of food and drink, some books, Walkman, torch and a few other personal possessions there.
Once inside the school, he headed for the toilets, and washed his hands in the sink. They were covered in grit, and scratched and bloody.
At least some of the blood was his own.
The teenager staring back at him out of the mirror looked awful. His brown hair was all over the place; his eyes looked hollow and had dark shadows under them. Dressed in an imitation of Angelus, the clothes were scuffed, dirty and in some cases ripped. His glasses were ruined. William removed them and stuffed them inside his jacket pocket. There was blood and dirt on his face as well, and bruises were starting to sprout.
He washed up as best he could and started shaking as the events of the evening began to sink in. He couldn't believe it. What was he supposed to do now?
The echo of a door slamming shut had him quickly turning off the tap and swearing under his breath. The caretaker must still be there. He wiped his hands on his jeans as he left the room. There was nobody in the corridor, so he made a break for it.
No one called out or came running. William shut the Art room door behind him, climbed onto a table, pushed aside the loose ceiling tile, and hoisted himself up through the gap.
The space was fairly cramped, dark and shadowy. William couldn't stand up straight. He replaced the ceiling tile and felt his way to the corner, where he kept a pillow and several blankets, and curled up in them, still trembling.
He wouldn't have been surprised if he'd been unable to sleep all night, but after a while he fell into a restless slumber.
Sunnydale, Ten Months Later
"Question Four," Buffy Summers read out loud to herself. "Identify and explain the metaphor in the text." She frowned and re-read the poem on her bed in front of her. "What metaphor?"
The telephone beside her began ringing, making her start, but as she reached for it, hoping it was Willow calling back, it stopped, and she heard her mother's voice downstairs.
Buffy hesitated, listening for a call of "Buffy, it's Willow for you!", but none came. Sighing, she turned her attention back to her English homework.
"Oh, I give up," she muttered ten minutes later. She would ask Willow for help when she saw her. Or maybe one of the cute nerdy boys. She knew she wouldn't be ready for dating again for a long time, but there was nothing wrong with starting new friendships. "Wonder if Mom's off the phone yet?"
Buffy made her way downstairs. Her mother, Joyce, was in the kitchen with the door shut, but it sounded as though she were trying – and failing miserably – to keep from raising her voice.
"This is insane, Hank!"
Buffy paused, suddenly hopeful. Her father was calling? Maybe to arrange another weekend visit?
"I don't care what your woman of the week thinks, this is your daughter we're talking about. Does she really mean that little to you?"
Buffy froze. What?
"Don't drag me into this please, Hank. Try and do the decent thing for once and settle this between the three of you, for her sake. The poor child's been through enough without you rejecting her."
Buffy stood stock still, unable even to gasp, hurt and betrayal crashing over her in waves.
"No, Hank, I'm hanging up now. All I'm going to do is advise you to put your daughter first instead of yourself for once. If you can't get your priorities straight, that's your problem." With that, she slammed the phone down and opened the kitchen door, jumping at the sight of her daughter frozen on the staircase.
"Buffy!" Joyce hovered uncertainly, looking awkward. "How long have you been there?"
Buffy attempted to smile, but it was a weak attempt. "Dad's not coming next weekend?"
"No, honey, he's … really busy at the moment. Buffy--"
"I'm going to stay over at Willow's," Buffy said, finally moving, hurrying past her mother to the door and grabbing a jacket on the way. "I'll see you tomorrow, Mom."
"William, wake up."
He groaned and turned over.
"Do you want to be late on your first day?"
A sleepy pair of blue eyes opened in a glare. "S'Spike now."
"Do you want to be late on your first day, Spike?"
"No," Spike mumbled. "M'getting up."
There was the sound of kitchen utensils being handled and his stomach growled.
"Breakfast's in ten minutes."
Spike sighed, yawned, and pushed back his blanket before sitting up and sliding off the camp-bed. "Um, Giles? Did you move my clothes?"
"They're under your coat. I wish you wouldn't leave that thing lying about, someone could trip on it."
"I'll move it," Spike grumbled. He hung his leather duster up with Giles' coats and rummaged in the holdall for something to wear. He didn't have a lot in the way of clothes, just two pairs of jeans, dark blue and black, and a few plain shirts and t-shirts in mostly dark colours. Being comfortable was the main thing, but he didn't want to make the wrong impression. In the end he picked out his only light coloured item, a white t-shirt, with the black shirt to wear open over it, and the blue jeans, and proceeded into the bathroom.
"Don't use all the hot water!" Giles called after him.
Spike ran the shower and stepped inside, letting the hot water flow over him. It was soothing, and calmed his nerves about the day. It was not only the first time he had been to an American school, but it was the first time he had been to any school for a long time. Part of him wished that he had just got a job, but Giles had had none of it.
"You're an intelligent young man, William; it would be a waste if you spent the rest of your life delivering pizzas or mopping floors. Do you want that, or are you going to turn your life around and make something of it?"
He had a point. Spike reached for the shampoo. It wasn't that he wasn't grateful for everything Giles had done for him; he just wished he didn't have to face this particular inner demon.
The smell of sausages and onions permeated the flowery scent of the shampoo. Spike finished washing his hair, turned the shower off and stepped out, wrapping a towel around him. He sighed as he looked in the mirror. In ten months, Spike had changed into quite the handsome young man. After his arrival in America, whilst waiting to be enrolled at the school, he had taken up both swimming and karate and developed an enviable physique. He had cut his hair shorter, dyed it peroxide blonde, and wore it gelled back to get rid of the curls. He also wore contacts now instead of glasses. But he still felt the same useless William inside.
"Oh, well," he murmured to himself. "Nothin' I can do about that."
He dressed and joined Giles in the kitchen, who looked him up and down. "That's what you're wearing?"
"Well, I could wear all black if you would prefer."
Giles handed him a plate. "Just eat your breakfast."
"Buffy, I know you're upset, but you've been talking about your dad all night and all morning," Willow said gently as they walked up the school steps. "Please can we talk about something else? It's not good for you to obsess like this."
"Who's obsessing? I'm not obsessed. Not one bit."
"Yes you are. Come on. Let's go to the library."
"Is anyone even in yet?" Buffy looked around. The campus was practically deserted. It was just the two girls. There was bound to be someone inside, but they had arrived far earlier than usual.
"You know how early Giles is, he'll be there. Come on, Buffy."
To their surprise, the library was just as empty as the rest of the school. Willow and Buffy sat and pulled out their school books.
The two of them, and Xander Harris, had all been best friends since kindergarten. The girls lived next door to each other, and Xander's house was across the street. Their parents were all friends, and the three of them were almost inseparable, despite their differences.
Buffy challenged Cordelia Chase for the title of the most popular girl in school. She was pretty, blonde, on the cheerleading team, and was liked for her general kindness and equal respect. Although she and Cordelia could almost be called friends, there was a definite underlying rivalry, especially as Cordelia seemed to resent the fact that Buffy could remain as popular as she was when she "hung around with those losers", meaning Xander and Willow. The two of them were largely regarded as nobodies, especially as Willow was very shy and had a bit of a stammer.
"I'm not helping you guys with your homework any more, Buffy," Willow said firmly, folding her arms and glaring across the table. "Find the metaphor on your own."
"I've tried," Buffy moaned. "Please come off strike, Will. I … I promise not to talk about my dad for a whole ten minutes."
"Sorry, Buffy. You're on your own."
"Meanie." Buffy sighed. Maybe Giles would help her out. He knew everything about everything, after all. Except synchronised swimming, he had once mentioned.
To their surprise, Giles continued to be absent, even as the rest of the students and teachers straggled into school, and Xander eventually turned up.
"Where've you been, late guy?"
He grinned as the bell rang. Xander repeatedly diagnosed himself as allergic to being at school longer than necessary and had a different excuse for not joining them, many of the times the girls stayed late or arrived early to study. "I was washing my dog."
"You don't have a dog, Xander," Buffy reminded him.
He mock-pouted. "Don't burst my bubble."
"C'mon, we'd better go to class."
As the three of them settled in their seats for History class, Amy leaned in and said to Buffy, "have you seen the new guy?"
"What new guy?"
"Eighteen. Totally hot. Heard him talking with Principal Flutie. He's British."
"What's his name?"
"Stake, or something weird like that."
Buffy raised her eyebrows. The conversation died down as the teacher entered. Before the lesson could begin, there was a hesitant knock on the door.
"Come in," the teacher called.
The door opened, and most of the females in the class sat up a little straighter. The young man there was definitely good-looking and hovering unsurely.
"Oh, you must be our new student." He nodded. "Come in, sit down. Class, this is Spike Williams."
"Knew it was something pointy," Amy muttered.
There was a spare place just in front of Buffy, and for one heart-thumping moment she thought he might sit there, but instead Spike was given a place at the front of the class by the teacher's desk. He never even looked in her direction.
"Thought you said he was eighteen?" Buffy whispered sideways.
"That's what he said to Flutie. Guess he must have been held down a couple of years."
Buffy kept half an eye on Spike all through the lesson. He certainly seemed to want to take part in the class, but there was a lot of the material he didn't seem to know. Of course, Buffy suddenly thought. He's British; he must have just moved here, and doesn't know American history very well. She made up her mind immediately to introduce herself and offer help. It must be horrible to move to another country and not know much about it.
History ended, and they went straight to French. Spike was in this class too, but unlike previously, he had a quiet word with the teacher before class and sat out of the general discussion, just listening and following the textbook. Buffy failed to catch his eye again and when the bell rang for break, he ventured outside. Buffy decided to get her things out of her locker and go back to the library to try and persuade Willow to help her again, and save the introductions for lunchtime.
That hadn't been so bad, Spike thought, breathing a sigh of relief. He'd known he would be still be behind in everything, despite whizzing through what seemed like every school textbook under the sun with Giles since he'd arrived in America. The thought of the rest of his classes, though, made him wish desperately that he had a cigarette. But the thought of being caught smoking on campus on his first day had been enough to make him pack the nicotine patches Giles had presented him with instead. They didn't stop him from wanting a smoke, but they took the edge off.
He had barely taken a step back inside when he was accosted by a girl he thought he had seen in his class. She was tall, brunette, and fairly pretty, with a wide smile that made him take an involuntary step backwards.
"Hi!" She extended her hand. "I'm Cordelia Chase. On behalf of all the cool and popular, welcome to Sunnydale High!"
Spike stared at her. "Er … thanks?"
Someone behind Cordelia laughed and remarked, "Don't listen to her, she just likes to think she's the school queen." Spike's mouth practically fell open. The girl who had spoken was breathtaking. Before he had time to admire her properly, she shot him a small smile, turned and left, calling after a friend to wait.
"Who's that?" he murmured in wonder.
Cordelia frowned. "Oh, that's nobody. So, you're the new English kid, right?"
Spike shook himself. "Uh, yeah, that's right. I'm Spike, Spike Williams."
Cordelia slipped her arm into his, and Spike stared at her as if she had grown an extra head. "Would you like the grand tour?"
"Actually, I've already seen where everything is … but I appreciate the offer," Spike said, keen to get rid of her but not wanting to be rude.
He was suddenly aware of many pairs of eyes on him and turned to see several groups of students watching the two of them. As he stared at a group of girls, they all turned away, breaking into giggles.
"Er … do I have something on my face or something?" he asked Cordelia.
"Don't pay attention to them, they're just giggling over the new hottie." Spike started to feel hot in the face as she smiled charmingly at him. "But if you stick with me, you won't have to deal with them."
"Hottie?" Spike said blankly.
"Dish. Eye candy. Good-looking guy," Cordelia translated.
"I know what it means, I meant, me?"
"Oh, my goodness, are you one of those guys who's just oblivious to his own attraction power? Or are you just really, really modest? Either way, that's so sexy."
All right. That was it. "Cordelia, for the record, you're not really my type." He smiled at her and dropped her arm. "But it was nice to meet you."
Maybe no guy had ever turned her down, Spike wondered as he escaped, leaving Cordelia staring after him with her mouth open. He found his locker, opened it and started piling in the books he wouldn't need for next lesson, when someone strode behind him, calling loudly, "Hey, Buffy!"
What kind of name is Buffy? Spike thought, as he automatically turned his head before freezing. The girl who had been addressed was the one who had told him not to listen to Cordelia. She was gorgeous, blonde and slight, with a good-humoured face and, he remembered, a warm laugh. Buffy was chatting with two students next to her, a red-haired girl and the boy who had called her. A book slipped from Spike's hands to the floor and landed on his foot. "Ow!"
He knelt down and picked it up, but when he'd straightened and looked back, the three of them were gone.