Spike

You can't quite remember what you're supposed to be called. Sometimes a name will flit in and out of your mind, but you can't hold onto it long enough to own it. But that's okay with you, since names carry meanings, and you're afraid of what the meaning of your name might be.

Why you're afraid, you couldn't tell. You'd likely ignore the question if you were asked. All you know is that whenever you come close to knowing your name, you run.

Sooner or later, you run back home. "Home" is an odd name for the place, since you can't name it, either, but you know it must be. You recognize every nook and cranny of the town, know what to expect of it. You know the places to avoid, the places where others might recognize you. You know where to get the blood you need to keep living. You know intellectually that you're a vampire, but can't quite connect yourself with the others you see. Something's different about you, even if you can't name it.

And there are your ladies.

You see them one night, walking down the street, and know they are yours, or perhaps you are theirs. One has rich brown hair, fair skin, and blue eyes. You call her the Fair One. The other one, the smaller one, is golden of hair, skin, and eyes, so you call her the Golden One. They are your ladies, and you cannot stop yourself from watching them.

At night, you watch as they stalk the graveyards, staking newborn vampires before they can feed. Then you watch as they go back to their house, talking and laughing. You're always just a little too far out of range for even your sharp hearing to catch what they say, but you love the sound of their voices.

The Fair is the apprentice to the Golden's warrior and the younger of the two, in spite of her greater height. Sometimes while you watch through the windows at night, the Fair One cries and moans in her sleep. The Golden One almost always hears and comes in to comfort the younger one. It is good, you decide. It is as it should be.

One night, though, the Golden is too deeply asleep to hear the Fair's distress. Cautiously, you move in through the Fair One's open window, move to the side of her bed. You gaze down at her young face, pained at what you see there, and one of your hands moves to stroke the soft hair spread over her pillow. She is soothed by your touch and settles into a deeper sleep. Gratified beyond what you can explain to yourself, you leave, feeling peace settle into your troubled soul.

And it is troubled. When you sleep—which is as little as you can manage—you dream of terrible things. You see blood and fire, smell fear and pain and rage. And you feel . . . you don't want to feel that. It can't be you.

There are others you feel you know in the town. One is a young man you call Angry. Whenever you see this man, you see dark eyes filled with killing rage and hatred. You know to stay far away from him.

The other you know in the town, you call Friend. She is slender and blond and constantly wears a particular pendant around her neck. Something eases within you when you see her. Occasionally, you are even tempted to go to Friend and speak with her, as you grow more troubled each night and feel that a friend would be a good thing to have.

But she would know you, and you cannot be known. Not yet.

You keep watching. The Fair and the Golden are out almost every night together. You realize that you've always stayed too far away from them to see the colors of their eyes, yet you know the Fair has blue eyes, and the Golden's eyes are green flecked with gold. You know what they smell like. You know the feel of their skin. You know what it is to have them smile at you, say your name . . .

You almost hear it, so you run. But not far. Just to the other side of the town.

You don't see them for a few days. In that time, you sink into your dreams. There are people there, too.

One is a tall man, darkly beautiful, a man who is cruel and cunning and whom you love and hate with equal measure. One is a woman, beautiful and cold. She looks at you with disdain, dismissing you with a flick of her eyes.

And there is the Dark One. You are drawn to her in a way you can't explain. She is a dark mirror of the Fair One. Her hair is darker, her skin paler, and her blue-gray eyes are empty, insane. Yet she draws you.

The Dark One dominates your thoughts in the few days without your Golden and Fair divinities. In your more fanciful moments, you imagine them as the Fates, or the Moirae. The Fair is the Maiden, fresh and beautiful as the morning. The Golden is the Mother, bright as the sun at midday. And the Dark is the Crone, opaque as midnight.

You are drawn to them all. The Fair you feel toward as you would a child, someone to protect and rear. The Golden you love with an all-consuming love. You want her in every way, body and soul. The Dark, however . . . she draws you in the darkest of ways, whispers to you in your reveries, makes you feel an insatiable hunger for blood and lust and violence. It disturbs you in ways you can't name, any more than you can name yourself.

One night, you hear a woman's cry from an alleyway. A vampire has a young woman no older than your Fair One in his grasp and is sinking his teeth into her.

You cannot ignore her cries. You rush in, pulling the demon away from the girl, and fight it. This one is young and stupid, and you end the fight quickly, thrusting a piece of wood through his heart.

"Thank you!" cries the girl, throwing herself at you. She sobs, words tumbling out of her mouth, and you want to comfort her, you truly do.

But the blood. The blood on her neck calls out to you, and your hunger grows, and you can see yourself sinking your own teeth into her, draining her life into your body . . .

You push her away, and you run.

You run, and you run, and you run, until finally you find yourself back where you began. The Golden and the Fair are asleep at this hour, so you perch in a tree outside their house. You can see both their windows from your vantage point. Just being here, being with them, soothes your agitation, and soon, you've put the violence and bloodlust behind you.

By daybreak, you feel much better. Still, you don't want to leave them again. You feel guilty, in an abstract way, for having stayed away even for a few days. That's why you begin to seek out places you can hide during the daylight hours, places where you're safe from the sun's scorching rays and your ladies' searching eyes.

So it is that you're able to watch them play in a park a few days later. The man you call Angry is with them. You don't like that, as anger seems out of place next to their loveliness, but as you watch, you see how gentle and loving Angry is with them. You put it down to their charms and alter your opinion of Angry not a whit.

You watch as they eat a picnic lunch together. It's interrupted by Friend, who joins them as soon as they open a package of cookies, and helps herself. They accept her presence happily. You watch, then, as they play, tossing around a Frisbee and chasing about with a small herd of Springer spaniels that seem to be owned by another picnicking family. You watch as the Fair grabs the remaining cookies and uses her greater height to keep them away from Golden, and you watch as Golden wrestles her to the ground to get at the cookies.

They blind you with their beauty, and their laughter deafens you.

Some days later, it is the Fair One's birthday. Sweet sixteen, you know without even being told. Fair, Golden, Angry, and Friend all descend on the Bronze, along with a group of teenagers who know your Fair One. You're able to find a dark corner and observe the festivities. It lightens your heart to see your lovely Fair One so happy, downing cake and soft drinks and ripping into her presents and dancing with anyone who will partner her. You wish, oh, how you wish, that you had the courage to approach her.

Yet somehow, you cannot. You know that were you to do so, you would be turned away. The happiness on the faces of your Golden and Fair Ones would drain away in your presence. You know not how you know this, but you don't doubt your instincts.

So you just watch. You watch until it's time for everyone to go home, and then you shadow the Golden and the Fair away from the club. You note that each one holds flowers in her arms, two bouquets apiece, and it makes you curious.

The reason for the flowers becomes obvious as they enter a cemetery. Instead of stalking through the graves, keeping a close watch for rising vampires, they head straight toward one particular grave. You watch from afar as each one lays a bouquet on the grave. They kiss their fingers and press them to the gravestone, then stand, arms around each other, looking at the final resting place of one they loved. Then they leave, carrying with them the remaining bouquets to perhaps place on another loved one's grave.

They leave, but you stay. You cannot stop the tears that roll down your face as you comprehend that a beloved soul has been taken from the Earth—a soul beloved by the ones you love. You resolve to pay your own respects, and walk to the grave where the flowers lie. You look at the flowers, and you look at the headstone.

TARA MACLAY

Your legs give out from under you, for you know this name. Tara Maclay is the name of one who is soft and sweet-smelling. It is the name of one with a melodic voice and understanding eyes. Tara Maclay is a shy smile, a gentle presence, a friend.

The tears are uncontrollable now. Her soul has left the Earth, never to return, and how your Fair and Golden Ones must miss her! Tara was almost a mother to Dawn—

One name has opened the floodgates. You remember Dawn, fair as the first light of morning. You remember Buffy, golden and gleaming. You remember Drusilla, who led you into your eternal night. You remember Xander, and Anya, and Willow, and Giles, and Angel, and Darla, and so many others from so many places and so much time . . .

You remember William. You remember Spike.

Do you know what I find works real good with Slayers? Killing 'em!

You remember death.

One. Good. Day.

You remember blood.

Do you want it?

You remember screams, pleas for mercy.

Spike! Stop! Please!

You remember . . .

Ask me again why I could never love you!

Evil, soulless thing!

Ask me again why I could never love you!

How could you do that to her?

ASK ME AGAIN WHY I COULD NEVER LOVE YOU!

. . . everything.

And you run.

The voices continue to shriek in your mind as you pelt aimlessly through the streets, through the alleys, through the woods, and you cannot outrun them. You can't outrun Spike. Because you are Spike.

A construction site looms ahead, and you continue running until you fall into it, falling deeper and deeper until finally, the ground meets you hard enough to give you a blessed few moments of unconsciousness.

When you awake, you are in near-total darkness. You know this is a place no light will reach in the daytime. Slowly, you roll over onto your back, arms splaying out to your sides in a cruciform position.

You are Spike. You are everything he was, but now with the addition of a soul. A soul that you sought out, believing it would make you worthy of Buffy, your Golden One.

The irony is thick enough to make you laugh.

You recall receiving the soul, and the madness that enveloped you afterward as your mind broke down under the weight of the realization of what you were, what you had done. It was a neat way to handle it, you think: conveniently forgetting who and what you are. The past, it seems, is never polite enough to stay where you put it.

There's plenty of wood around. It's a real temptation, staking yourself. And even if you can't do that, the sun will be up in only a few hours. You can walk into it. The pain will all be over if you do so.

One thought stops you: You wanted this soul. You requested it. And you're bloody well going to live with it, even if it drives you insane. Again.

So resolved, you look up, think over the route you took to this place, and realize you're under the construction of the new high school. Another irony. You realize that Dawn will soon tread the floor above you.

And a new memory surfaces:

I'm counting on you to protect her.

'Til the end of the world.

It's a good thought. It gives your screaming soul some kind of comfort, knowing that you protected a child out of love. Perhaps, then, there is something you can do now to mitigate all the evil you've done in the past.

Hours later, you're still having trouble with your name. You realize what an elegant solution it was that Angelus came up with, altering the name he'd taken as a newborn vampire to express that he was no longer the same. You're no longer William—you haven't been for a long time—but you don't want to be Spike any longer, either. Perhaps you can come up with a solution in the days to come.

It torments you, who and what you are. But you're through running.

***

That's the end, unless a particularly strong Willow muse blindsides me. At this point, I'd like to give credit to my amazing beta team of Tanja, Gyrus, Chris K., and Aurora (my Xander guru), all of whom helped out at various times. Thanks for being there for me, guys!