AUTHOR'S NOTE: Housekeeping, basically. Cleaning up old documents, realised I never posted this here - decided to post it for reasons of vanity and convenience :) Comments and criticism are most welcome.
SPOILERS (I guess?) for the season 5 finale - There Are Crocodiles. If you've seen that, you probably know the spoiler I'm talking about :)
DISCLAIMER: Please. I only wish I could be as awesome as Steven Moffat. All things Press Gang are his, not mine.
1) Stage Five: Acceptance
See, the thing about Lynda, the big thing, the thing most people miss, is not that she's a completely amoral, psychotic bitch. That's an important thing, yeah, but it's not the big thing. The big thing about Lynda is that she sticks. Sometimes literally, as Spike knows from experience. Lynda's not crazy about letting go, and she's got a killer grip.
So it's no big surprise when she shows up at the restaurant. His date - blonde, pretty, great sense of humour (well, she laughed at all his jokes, didn't she?) goes to freshen up, he looks down at the dessert menu, and the next time he glances up, there she is, sitting opposite him, studying Janette's menu.
She puts it down as soon as she feels him looking at her, stares unconcernedly back and says, "So, what are you having?"
"A nightmare, apparently," he shoots back, and pulls his phone out of his pocket and holds it up to his ear. Being caught talking to an empty chair is not the way he wants to end the evening.
"I'd go for the chocolate mousse, if I were you," she says, scanning the menu again. "But the ice cream looks good as well."
"Lynda," he says.
She looks at him again, apparently interested in whatever he has to say. Of course that means that he can't think of a single thing to say, not until she jerks her head impatiently at him, when he finally manages -
"Okay then, let's hear it," and leans back in his chair.
"Hear what?" she asks, widening her eyes, admirably nonplussed.
"Why are you here, Lynda?"
She shrugs. "My sources told me you had a date, and I wanted to see how it was going."
He blinks at her. "Your sources?"
"I have a few people covering you. Notifying me of any significant developments. You know."
He stares at her until she says, defensively, "Well, it's not as if I have the time to follow you myself!"
"So you've employed others to do your stalking for you."
"It's effective management," she argues.
"I suppose I should be flattered. Thanks for taking such an interest in little old me." He smiles very widely and bats his eyelashes at her.
"Don't mention it," she says, and leans forward, elbows on the table, ready to get down to business. "Now, Spike" -
"Can I ask you a question, Boss?" he interrupts, because he's not in a business mood. "Hell…is it as hot down there as people say?"
"Moderately warm, yes," she says, unamused. "Now Spike" -
"Fun and all as this is," Spike says, leaning back in his chair and looking over his shoulder. "I'm kinda expecting my date back soon, and no offence, but introducing her to the ghost of my last girlfriend probably won't create the romantic mood I'm going for."
"She'll be a few minutes," Lynda says, with a confidence that puts Spike's back up.
"Lynda," he says too loudly, and a waiter glances at him. He covers the mouthpiece of his phone and shakes his head, "The ex. It's so sad when they can't let go."
The waiter smiles politely, and moves a bit farther away.
Spike turns back to Lynda, who has her arms folded.
"What did you do?" he asks, glaring.
Lynda rolls her eyes. "The bathroom lock is faulty, all right? Do you think we could focus on what's important here?"
"What?" he asks in frustration. "I'm listening Lynda. What could be so important that you just had to butt in on my date? Again. Is one of my shoelaces untied? Did I forget to buy milk? You can tell me."
Lynda ignores him and leans forward. In a frighteningly reasonable voice she says, "Look, I realise that you're trying to get on with your life, and that's fine. That's absolutely fine with me."
"But?" Spike says.
"But is it too much to ask that you find someone whose brain power exceeds their bra size to replace me?"
It takes him a second to figure out where to start.
"Firstly," he says, "It's not about 'replacing you'" -
She raises her eyebrows. "If you say so."
"Second of all, Janette just so happens to be a great girl."
"Jean," she says.
"It's Jean. Not Janette."
He opens his mouth.
"And feel free to check that, but I warn you my sources are extremely reliable."
Spike shrugs it off. "The fact remains, she's got potential. I'm thinking longterm here - two to three weeks at least."
"Spike, I just don't think she's" -
"My type?" he interrupts, sarcastically.
She shoots him a withering look. "Oh please. You don't even have standards, let alone a 'type'."
"Then what is it?" he asks, switching the phone to his other hand.
"She's blonde, she thinks a tabloid is a shape and a broadsheet is something you sleep on. And she laughs at your jokes, indisputable proof of below average intelligence."
"In other words, she's not you."
"Well, it's a definite minus," she says. She stares over his shoulder, then looks at her watch.
"I've got to go," she says. "I have a meeting. We'll talk about this soon," she promises.
A moment later, a hand on his shoulder makes him jump. When he looks again, Lynda is gone.
"Sorry about that," his date says, as she brushes past him to take her seat. "There's something wrong with the toilet lock."
He shoves his phone into his pocket, saying, "Hey, no, don't worry about it Jean."
There's a silence.
"Janette," she says frostily.
2) Stage Four: Depression
There are always messages on his answering machine. Hey, Spike's a popular guy. Nothing new there.
Julie calls a couple of times a month, but he just deletes those messages. It's nothing personal, it's just that he gets enough of the Junior Gazette from Lynda.
Tiddler (who comes round every so often) doesn't get it. She thinks Spike's upset that the Junior Gazette's managed to limp along, without its fearsome leader.
"She wouldn't want the Gazette to end, Spike. Someone had to take over, and Julie was the best qualified." Tiddler looks right into his eyes and says, "Lynda would have wanted us to keep going, Spike."
"Yeah, she's cheering you on, pompoms and all," Spike says. It's just a joke (though it comes out harder than he'd meant), but Tiddler doesn't take it well.
"I'm sorry Spike," she says quietly. "I am. But that's not fair."
Sarah calls too. In the beginning she left messages that were full of pauses followed by a string of quick nervous sentences. She's gotten better lately though, and her voice is clear and stammer free whenever Spike listens. He tries not to though, because the last few messages have gone something like
'Spike. Sarah here. Please answer the phone. Come on, please answer. All right then. Fine. Listen, I'm coming down for a weekend soon, and I think we should meet up. We need to talk. It's important. Do you hear me, Spike? Are you listening? You can't hide away forever. You can't keep avoiding things.'
Spike has a feeling she's been talking to Julie.
"Avoiding things?" Lynda says. "From someone who couldn't even work up the nerve to tell me she wanted to resign from the paper?"
"Boy does she have it wrong," Spike agrees, bolstered by Lynda's support.
Lynda studies him critically (nothing new there, either). "Actually, I meant that if Sarah thinks you're avoiding things, then you must really be in trouble."
Colin drops by once, and somehow manages to get past the front door, all the way over to the couch. He opens the conversation with, "Lynda was good people, Spike."
It's possible he would have said other, much worse things (hell, it's Colin, it's inevitable), but Spike distracts him by waving a five pound note in front of his face.
Colin licks his lips, but shakes his head and manages to look at Spike. He sounds affronted. "That's not fair. I'm trying to articulate a profound thought here."
His eyes veer away from Spike's face to look back at the note, which is now balled in Spike's hand.
"You're crumpling it!" he says, in horror.
"All right, that's it," Spike says. He gets up, pulls Colin to his feet (Colin protests - but only until Spike shoves the five pounds into his hands), and pushes him out the door.
"You have to treat money with respect, Spike!" Colin shouts through the door. "I know you're going through some tough times, but there's no need to get violent…I think you tore one of the corners."
Colin probably means well, Spike thinks. He leaves Spike a sample of his latest sideline product (a cat toy that supposedly increases feline intelligence), at a price Spike's almost certain has been marked down.
Frazz is at least open about his visits. "Julie sent me to check up on you. She thinks you're masking your feelings of sadness and soul-rending depression, and you need someone to talk to," he recites, and holds up a videotape. "Want to watch something?"
"Okay," Spike says.
After an hour and a half of staring silently at the television, Spike says, "So, what are you going to tell Julie we talked about?"
Frazz shrugged. "I'll think of something," he says, and turns the volume up.
Having Frazz around is actually not too bad. The most demanding thing he ever does is request food.
"He's sort of relaxing to watch," Lynda says. She's sitting next to Frazz, watching him stare blankly at the television. "It's like having a fishtank."
Without taking his eyes off the screen, Frazz unerringly finds the bowl of crisps and transfers a handful to his mouth.
"And, I mean, maybe I'm getting carried away, but there are times he almost seems to display some signs of rudimentary intelligence."
"Frazz," Spike says suddenly, surprising himself. "What do you think it means, if you…see someone who's…passed on."
Frazz considers it. "Means you're crazy, mate," he says eventually, and turns back to the screen.
Lynda frowns. "It's probably just me."
3) Stage Three: Bargaining
"I don't believe this," Spike mutters to himself as he catches sight of her.
"Sorry, did you say something?" the girl next to him (Amanda, definitely Amanda) asks.
"No, I, I just remembered I have to make a phone call," Spike says. "Do you mind?"
"Not at all," she says, so he leaves her standing in the line for popcorn.
Lynda is standing over by a poster for the movie. She crosses her arms as Spike takes out his phone.
"Faith in the human race," Spike says.
"What?" Lynda shakes her head.
"It's a little thing I used to have before I met you," Spike explains.
Lynda just looks at him.
"If I still had faith in the human race," Spike continues, "I might think there was a reasonable explanation for why you keep interfering in my life."
"Are you finished?" Lynda asks. "Good," she says, before he can reply. "Not that it's important, but it so happens that there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for why I'm here." She tilts her chin at him challengingly.
"And that would be?" Spike says.
"I've been looking forward to seeing this film," she says, gesturing at the poster.
"You have," Spike says flatly.
"Yes," she says firmly.
"Yes, me. And I don't get why you're so amazed. I mean, you're the one who told me I should get out more, do fun things."
"Lynda, that was two years ago, and my exact words were 'Lynda, you need to get a life'. Not an afterlife."
"Well, I didn't have time, then," Lynda argues. She stops. "So, how's Annabelle?"
"Amanda," Spike corrects.
"Are you sure?" she asks. He pushes up the sleeve of his coat. On the inside of his wrist 'AMANDA' is written in capital letters and underlined twice.
"Damn," says Lynda. Spike smirks.
"So?" Lynda says. "How's the date going?"
"Not," he stares at her, "that it's any of your business, but very well, actually. You got anything else to say?" He looks at his watch.
Lynda starts picking at the cuff of her jacket. "Not that it's important, or anything, but I was wondering…"
"Yeah?" Spike says.
She looks at him again, dead on. "What's she got that I don't?"
Spike raises his eyebrows. "A pulse, for one."
"I object," Lynda says, practically before he finishes his sentence.
"I object," she repeats, as if it should be obvious to him. "That's not my fault."
"Well, in spite of your objection, let me tell you, a pulse is now pretty high on my list."
"Very discriminating of you," Lynda mutters. "You might actually consider a brain to be important next."
"Slow down there, Boss," Spike says, and winks.
"All right then. What else?"
"What else has she got? Come on. Bet you can't think of three more things."
Spike suddenly feels very very tired. "You can't keep doing this, Lynda."
"What's it going to take, huh? To get you to butt out of my life? Not that I'm surprised or anything, old habits die hard…" he swallows.
"What?" he says, confused.
"You want me out of your life? Just ask," she says.
He stares at her. "Just ask?" he repeats.
"You say that as if the thought never occurred to you," she says, sounding offended.
He's only half listening. "No," he says, shaking his head. "It's not that easy. With you? It's never that easy."
"Well, don't say I didn't tell you," Lynda says.
"Just ask?" He says again.
She shrugs her shoulders. He can't read her face.
"Lynda, I…the movie's going to start soon, I have to go."
He's a few steps away, when she calls him.
"Yeah?" he says and turns around.
She has the same impenetrable look on her face. "You haven't asked."
He walks away.
4) Stage Two: Anger
"It's nothing to be ashamed of," Lynda says, as Spike turns the key viciously in the lock.
"It's something that happens to a lot of men. According to Julie, anyway."
"And there are probably support groups. I think," Lynda muses. "Probably. I mean, let's face it - men who can't perform are probably the only people who'd want to spend time with other men who can't perform."
"First of all," Spike says, through clenched teeth, "Not kissing a girl on the first date does not automatically mean 'can't perform'. For your information, I'm a regular one-man band." He pauses to glare at her. "And secondly, if, at the end of every first date, when a guy goes to kiss the girl, his ex-girlfriend shows up and starts criticising his technique, those support groups would have to be held in Yankee Stadium!"
"I was only saying what she was thinking. Your lower lip work can be a bit sloppy at times." She stops. "Are you going to see her again?"
He explodes. ""Is this seriously all you have to think about? My love life? I mean, you're dead, Lynda. D-E-A-D dead, and I'm top of your agenda? I always knew you were nuts about me, I just didn't know how nuts!"
"Most people would take it as a compliment," Lynda argues.
"Yeah, well I'm not most people."
"I know. You're shorter." She stops for a moment, but only to attack on a different front. "Anyway, what else is there to talk about, Spike?" she asks. "Hmmm. Let's see…Your career? The position Julie's keeping open for you until you decide what exactly it is you're going to do? All right, let's give that a shot."
She pauses. "Well that didn't take very long, did it?"
"Lynda," he says, simply. "You can't keep doing this."
"What?" she asks.
"You're not welcome." He says. He feels very tired.
"Then stop dreaming me up," she says irritably, crossing her arms.
"Dreaming you up?" He is too tired for this conversation, not that this seems to matter to Lynda, who amends, "Or whatever it is you're doing."
"Whatever it is I'm doing? I love that. Like it's all gotta be my fault. Well, maybe you're the one haunting me…you ever think of that?"
"No," she says with a quelling look.
"Well you should," Spike says, unquelled. "For one thing, I'd never dream that skirt with that…that," he gestures to her cardigan. "And for another…you have a history of doing this!"
"A history of doing what?"
"Harassing me until I surrender."
"Like your strategies were so much better. Every time we hit the slightest snag you caught the next plane to America!"
"The slightest snag? Lynda, you broke up with me!"
"Never stopped me," she says.
"Yeah, well, we're not all like you, Queen of Denial. Well, for your information, Cleopatra got bit in the ass!" he says. "My life is no longer any of your business, and I would appreciate it if you would just butt out!"
She pauses. "Are you asking me to leave?"
"I'm telling you!"
"I'll take that as a no, then?" she says. But when Spike blinks, she's gone.
5) Stage One: Denial
It's dark but he hasn't moved from the couch when she appears again. She sits down next to him, and when he looks over, her face is in shadow. It's so like the first time that it makes his eyes sting.
"Lynda," he says, in a rough voice.
"Spike," she acknowledges.
"So," he says. His voice isn't as steady as he'd like it to be, but if he doesn't speak, Lynda will. "Turns out you're really just a figment of my imagination."
"Looks like it," she says quietly.
"Who'd have thought, huh?" he says. "I always thought I didn't have one. I was the only kid I knew who never had an imaginary friend."
"I never had one either," Lynda says.
"And I thought all your friends were imaginary," Spike zips back. He laughs, sort of. "Looks like I was saving it all up for an imaginary girlfriend."
They sit in silence for a while. "Although," Spike says, when he can't bear the quiet for a moment longer. If you are my hallucination, shouldn't you follow my rules?"
"Where's the fun in that?" she asks.
He glances over at her. His eyes are more accustomed to the dark, now, though he doesn't trust them absolutely. Lynda's expression looks kind in this lack of light, so his eyes are still capable of playing major tricks on him.
The outfit though – no tricks there - is pure deadpan Lynda.
"I would have thought my imagination would have improved your dress sense. Or at least removed the dress."
"Are you implying I have no sense of style?" Lynda asks, frowning down at her skirt.
"Don't worry about it, you're still my favourite hallucination," Spike says, and winks.
"Well," Lynda says. "Now what?"
The truth is, he'd sort of half-believed it. Just, if anyone were capable of coming back from the dead, it'd be Lynda. She's always had trouble letting go.
"I can't keep doing this, Lynda," he says, too tired to lie.
"Then say it. Tell me to leave," Lynda says, and it's not a challenge or a game or a competition. It sounds, shockingly, as if Lynda's being honest too.
"Tell me," she says again.
She'd always been there, that was all. He guesses this is the way people feel about home. Maybe if his dad weren't dead, if his mom hadn't walked out, it wouldn't be such a big deal.
Maybe it would. Either way, he can't say it. He rests his head on his clenched fists.
"All right," she says. He can feel her eyes on him. "I get it. You need someone else to make the call. You're not very good at playing tough, Thomson."
He can't think of anything snappy, so he just shakes his head.
"I am," Lynda says, in that same calm voice.
"What?" he says, startled into looking at her. "Lynda…"
She gets up and smoothes her skirt. "Right," she says. "Well. Goodbye forever, and all that." Her tone is matter of fact. She turns and walks towards the door – why, Spike doesn't know, after all, hallucinations don't need regular exits, do they?
She has her hand on the knob when he stops her.
"Lynda - wait!"
She faces him. "Yes?"
"I never said it," he says.
"No," she agrees, "You didn't."
"So - will I see you again?" he asks.
"I don't know," she says. "Will you?"
It's funny, because, see, the thing about Lynda, the big thing, the one most people miss?
It's the thing about Spike, as well.