Full night has descended a few hours ago and moonlight cast harsh black shadows on tombstones and crypts in the gray-lit cemetery grounds. I move assertively through the darkness, constantly scanning the cemetery for anything to dust. There's a thirst growing inside me, yearning for the thrill of driving a stake through someone's heart and feeling the clouds of dust combusting against my face.
It's the boiling anger that soars and conquers every inch of me as I bathe in its power. My vision gets clearer as my eyes turn monstrous, but all I see are images of bloody Harris making me his nut case… that sodding git! Acting like he's better than me. Some twenty-something kid playing nurse to the lunatics he's housing.
Bollocks! I kick the grass and drive my fingers between the strands of my gelled hair, letting out an embarrassed growl.
Every sense in my body freezes at the sound of her voice. My embarrassment intensifies, and I quickly lower my hands to my sides and slip into my human features. My attempt at trying to appear casual fails miserably when our eyes meet. There she is, looking like she always did; ready to fight with her golden hair tied up in a tight ponytail and that sharp stake in her hand.
The atmosphere thickens with discomfort as she tries to find the right words to say. The sight of me is obviously a shock. I wasn't supposed to fly out of the cuckoo's nest. She'd have preferred I'd rot in there until I start cutting off my own testicles.
"What… what are you doing here?"
"Same thing you're doing."
"Xander didn't… I told him to…"
"Guard the crazy vampire," I finish for her dryly.
She closes her eyes tiredly and pulls a lock that has fallen behind her ear. "Spike, I'm…"
"No need for explanations,Slayer."
She winces. I haven't called her that in a long time.
I walk around the tombstone separating us and look directly at her face with more confidence now. In her eyes our past relationship is reflected clearly. Every destructive little detail; scratching my knee against the oriental rug in my crypt while burying myself deep into her, my nose digging into her blonde hair while taking her from behind on the balcony at the Bronze, draping her naked body onto a table at the Magic Box before we broke it in half. Physical and brutal, it's always been that way; exciting, exhilarating, it makes me feel… really…
Extremely tired. The sight of her still thrills me, her scent sends chills down my spine and thoughts of shagging her get my motors revving, but it exhausts the sodding hell out of me.
The lines of weariness are obviously apparent in my face, causing Buffy to look away, her finger feeling the edge of her sharpened stake. "So, how's… you know?"
"Thought you get your scoop from Xander."
She gives me a look. "Touché."
The wind starts blowing and ruffles the locks that have fallen on the sides of her face. How beautiful she looks wearing her usual resolved expression. There's something in there, though; a look she usually reserved for one of her loved ones, never for me. Until now.
My boot is beginning to turn white due to all the shuffling in the dirt. "Look, you don't have to worry about me. I can take care of myself."
"You don't have to be sensitive and caring on my account. It doesn't suit you."
She brushes those stray locks back, only to have them fall on her face again. "Your stay at Xander's is temporary. Once you stop talking to invisible people…"
"You can… you can do whatever you want."
I purse my lips, taking a few steps forward until I'm looking down at her. "I can do whatever I want now. I don't need your pampering."
"I don't pamper. I never pamper. You can ask Dawn."
"Then it's out of pity."
"You know it's not." I can feel her heavy sigh on my chin, so hot it sends shivers down to my hardening manhood. "Spike, you have to understand. I'm the Slayer. I need to protect the world from… well…"
"Me," I spit out, walking away from her when it becomes impossible to contain myself. I stop near a tombstone and try my best to hide my shame from her eyes.
"Well, yeah, there's something out there controlling you in a way. I need to stop it. Until then you have to stay at Xander's."
"Nothing is controlling me," I protest, turning around only to notice her eyes widening at the sight of something behind me. A heavy load falls on top of me and sends me crashing to the ground. I elbow the tubby vampire in the chin and then kick him in the bollocks. I jump to my feet and swiftly run a stake through his heart, earning my craved dose of exploding dust.
I turn my attention to Buffy leaping up into a roundhouse kick. She's obviously on top of things. Usually that doesn't stop me from lending my unneeded help, but right now my feet are frozen in place and my eyes are locked on the action. I watch her dancing around the three vampires, showering them with kicks and punches.
She spins and kicks.
Spins and kicks.
The taste of blood in my mouth is pure and strong, empowering me in a way I haven't felt in what feels like a lifetime. I lick what's left on my lips with the thirst of a starved animal.
I blink out of the addictive sensation and stare at the red brick walls surrounding me with astonishment. That dumpster, those broken pieces of wood, I don't remember being in an alley – looking down, my heart drops – I certainly don't remember seeing this woman.
No heartbeat. No breathing. But the bite marks are as clear as the foreign blood I taste in my mouth.
"You did it." She walks toward me from the shadows of the dark alley. Her hair is loose curls falling on her shoulders and her awkward gaze has dissolved into one of aversion and ridicule. "You think the soul turned you into a better man. But you're still a monster."
"You're not Buffy," I say in a low voice stripped out of confidence.
"Oh, I am Buffy. I'm everybody you've ever hurt."
Those blond curls darken into a full head of beautiful raven hair. Drusilla brushes her black locks back with a fair hand revealing a pair of dark blue eyes that are filled with revulsion. Black melts back into yellow and Harmony's tearful eyes regard me with pain and confusion. The body before me shifts to the Slayer I killed in Japan and then to the other one I killed in New York. One victim after another, all mine.
Eventually, the face of my newest kill smirks down at me – I realize I've sunk to the ground, shaking and whimpering. She leans down and whispers in my ear, "You will always be a monster."
Vague memories painted on a stretched blank canvas with a downturned brush, dripping black on the important details. Globs of black ink splash on every key element, leaving messy smudges and blurring the faces of the people walking by. So much happens but gets forgotten between the mass of ambiguous memories, and it all ends with tragedy.
Last thing I remember was talking to Buffy in the cemetery. We fought as usual. I think we did. I don't remember exactly what it was about. But there's one thing I know for sure; I shouldn't have come back to the asylum.
The flat is dimly dark with the moonlight streaming in through the opened windows. Harris Junior's wishes must be granted as usual. I shouldn't have come here. I don't remember why I shouldn't. But I know that I had stormed out of here, wanting nothing to do with the crazy lot running this place.
The problem is, I've got nowhere else to go.
Glancing at the clock on the wall, I can see that it's only a couple of hours 'til sunrise. I don't have enough time to find another place to be. Better suck it up and get some kip before Sam decides to make me his trampoline again. If I were human, I'd be supporting a broken ribcage right now. "When Mr. Sun is up, everybody wakes up," his loud raspy voice is still ringing in my ear.
I flinch when the bedroom door creaks as I open it. Dropping on my knees instantly, I look up at Harris, relieved to see him still drooling and snoring. On hands and knees, I make my way to the bed as quietly and slowly as possible, but the peculiar gust of wind that flows past me snaps the bedroom door shut with a bang.
Xander jolts up. "Spike?"
Perfect. Who keeps the window open on a chilly night like this?
He blinks down at me for a second before an annoying smirk lifts the corner of his lips. "Came crawling back, literally."
I jump to my feet and stuff my hands in my pockets. "Yeah, well…"
The sudden quick action does something to me. Flashbacks. Several of them appearing and disappearing fast, ending with a corpse of a blonde woman in a dark alley.
"Had another tantrum?" Xander's sarcastic voice distracts me from the frightening image.
"You could say that," I say absentmindedly, the dead woman still fresh in my mind.
"I better call Buffy."
I stiffen. "Why?"
He fumbles for the phone on the nightstand. "To tell her you're back. She called me earlier, gave me an earful about responsibility and proper vamp-sitting…" He pauses when he notices my diverted stare. His features soften into a gentle half-smile. "She was worried about you."
"Yeah?" I'm half-listening to him because my ears, eyes and thoughts are all preoccupied with a variety of flashing images; craned necks, fangs sinking into flesh, corpses and a shovel.
"Are you okay?"
I blink out of it all and meet Xander's worried gaze. Swallowing thickly, I try to form words but my whole body feels paralyzed.
"Spike?" He puts the phone down without dialing Buffy's number. His hazel eyes are filled with anxiety.
I lower my gaze to my boots. "You… you should keep an eye on me. That's what she said."
"Seen any ghosts out there?"
He stares at me for a while before making room in bed. "Get in here."
I kick off my boots and take off my coat, and then crawl into the covers with my clothes still on. My head hurts and my body aches, all I want to do is lie down and fall into a deep sleep. But a scary poisonous thought creeps into my mind, sending my body into a fit of tremors.
A warm hand holds my arm in a strong grip, spreading warmth throughout my limbs.
"Don't. I'm not your autistic kid."
The hand freezes on my arm. "Right."
The warmth vanishes instantly, leaving the spot bare and cold, just like my insides as I realize that the images of the dead people attacking my mind are forgotten memories. Memories that have happened.
It's impossible. The more I think about it, the more assured I become. There's no way those images are of victims I have killed. Chip, remember? That small device implanted in my head? The one that sends soaring electric shocks of sodding pain all over my brain if I as much as think of pinching anyone? If I'd killed those people, my head would have been a fried potato by now.
Eyes on the dartboard hanging on the wall, I throw a dart and it lands inside the double ring. Sam interrupts his usual circular strolls in the living room to point and laugh at me. I fight the temptation to switch to my vampire face and scare him shitless – not while his father is mucking around in the kitchen that's opened to the living room.
I turn my gaze to the dartboard, squaring my shoulders and trying to focus. I plant my feet firmly on the floor, resting most of my weight on my right foot. I hold up the dart, raising the tip up slightly, and then launch it smoothly forward. This time it lands in the red part of the bullseye.
Sam squeals and jumps in excitement. "Spike did it!"
I flash him a surprised smile, not used to him expressing any kind of emotion other than violent tantrums. But then he goes back to walking in circles and continues counting from nine hundred and forty-six and on.
The pleasant smell of bacon and eggs floats into my nostrils – never took Harris for a decent cook. Someone like him strikes you as a junk food junkie, but I have to admit he is chock full of surprises. First of all, he manages to raise and provide for a child on his own, not to mention a child who's got a damaged brain.
I glance one more time at the trotting gobshite thrusting his hand up in the air while talking in his flat, robot-like pitch of voice. I honestly don't know how Xander stands it. I don't even know how he managed to get the blinds shut in the living room. Probably because Sam woke up in a very good mood today. I haven't heard a single whine since I realized that no amount of tossing and turning can guarantee a good morning sleep.
The dart in my hand drops to the floor as thoughts about last night come rushing back. I pull out a chair and drop my bum on it, allowing my thoughts to take me away from the delicious smells and Sam's yapping. I just can't shake the feeling that I had something to do with those corpses. I don't think I killed them. It's not possible with the chip in my head. Could it be that it has stopped working? Still, if I'd have killed those people, I'd have known about it. I haven't murdered anyone for more than three years now, I'm sure I'd remember human blood in my mouth.
Human blood in my mouth… Buffy's soft blonde curls… Harmony's tears… a woman's body at my feet…
"What after nine hundred and ninety-nine?" Sam's face pops before me, a mini-copy of his father's except for his dimpled chin.
I stare at him for a second before answering, "One thousand."
"One thousand and one." He doesn't bugger off like last time. Instead, he just looks at me expectantly.
I feel myself growing more annoyed than confused. "What?"
"It's your turn," Xander translates as he walks toward us with two plates of bacon and eggs.
Sam's wide brown eyes are still on me, anticipating my answer, so I offer, "Uh… one thousand and two?"
He nods. "Yes! One thousand and three."
I stare at him for a moment. "One thousand and four."
"One thousand and five."
I throw a helpless look at Xander, who is placing the plates on the dining table. "How long will this go on?"
He smirks. "Until he gets bored."
I've seen the way this kid count. He never gets bored. "Blo… blooming hell."
Xander laughs while walking back to the kitchen area. "Yeah, that's better."
Lookie there, he'd made an omelette! A good looking one at that, neatly folded and glistening with butter and oil. Obviously I wasn't included in the breakfast meal, still Mr. Unwanted Guest.
Sam pulls on my arm and there comes the first dose of whining for the day, "What after one thousand and five?"
I push the kid away, but like an annoying fly he comes back and clutches my arm again. With a bored sigh, I seize the twonk's shoulders and look him in the eyes. "How about we play another game? I'm the cat and you're the mouse. You hide in your room or the cat will eat you."
Sam's eyes seem to be looking far away at nothing in particular. "No. Spike man. Sammy boy."
"Yes, but in the game, Spike cat and Sammy mouse." Bloody hell, just kill me now!
"No!" His tone grows more plaintive and he starts flapping his hands. "Sammy boy. Sammy not mouse!"
"I know, but in the game…"
"Don't even try it, Spike." Xander arrives with a glass of water and another of orange juice. "Sam has no imagination."
"Don't be silly. All kids have a wild imagination."
"Not Sam. He doesn't get pretense." Placing the glasses on the table, Xander claps his hands. "All right-y. Time for breakfast."
Sam pouts. "Sammy want nummy."
Xander shakes his head. "No nummy when it's time for breakfast-y."
Sam stomps his foot. "Sammy want nummy."
Xander shakes his finger this time. "No."
Sam runs toward the kitchen with his father trailing after him. "I said no nummy!"
"O don't deceive me. O never leave me."
"Spike? What the hell?"
A broken chair. I stare at the broken chair before me in confusion before a hand comes out of nowhere grabbing my arm and spinning me around to meet a pair of angry eyes.
"What the hell were you thinking?" Xander snaps in my face.
"How could you use a poor maiden so?"
I can feel it this time. I'm slipping. I try to fight it. It's no use. I'm blacking out and I can't do a bloody thing about it. Everything is pitch black and time fleets, and then… a whiny voice. A tiny hand grasping my arm. Whiny voice growing louder.
"What after one thousand and five? What after one thousand and fiiiiive?"
My head feels light and dizzy, and my vision travels from the ceiling to the broken table, to the shreds of broken glass on the orange juice stained carpet, landing on Sam's exasperated face.
The darkness attacks me again, but then…
"What after one thousand and fiiiiive?" Sam is pulling on my arm and jumping with aggravation, his annoying voice rises into an excruciating limit.
"Sammy, come here…" Xander is holding the phone to his ear and dialing a number, blood is streaming from his nose. "Hello, Buffy? …"
I'm slipping again, and my vision turns black, and my senses shut down…
"What after one thousand and fiiiiive?"
"Shut your bloody gob…" I squeeze my eyes shut and rub at my throbbing forehead.
"What after one thousand and fiiiiiiiive!"
"One thousand and six, you wanker!" Glaring down at the boy, my vision clears and all I see is the tiny face of mini-Harris.
He stops jumping at once and grins up at me. "One thousand and seven."
"One thousand and eight."
"One thousand and nine."
"One thousand and ten." It's over. I can feel it. There's nothing trying to pull me into the darkness. "It's gone," I whisper, overjoyed at the realization.
"One thousand and eleven," Sam says, mistaking my happy beam for enjoying his little counting game.
"One thousand and twelve," I exclaim with delight. Without a thought, I scoop the kid into a hug. He screams in protest. I let go of him.
Xander steps between us and stares me down. "Buffy is on her way."
The mess I made on his nose is glaring red. I swallow a thick lump and lower my gaze to my bare feet.
Buffy rubs her heavy-lidded eyes and brushes back her uncombed hair. She leans back against the couch to rest her head for a second, sparing one more embarrassed glance down at her rumpled pajamas which she's still trying to hide under her long coat. Those who don't know her would assume she's escaped some mental institution in the middle of the afternoon, but for a Slayer who stayed up all night keeping the streets clean from those who lurk in the shadows, she's an equivalent of someone clubbing all night long.
A heavy sigh builds up in her shoulders before being released, followed with Buffy leaning closer with her elbows on her knees. She stares at Xander with a look that promised torture. "You sounded the alarm because Spike hears a song?"
He points at the pack of ice on his broken nose. "Decisive evidence of assault!"
Buffy blinks away what's left of the sleep in her eyes and focuses on the damage to her friend's face. "Oh."
"Besides, if you take a look at the apartment you'll realize that's not why I called you."
"Second oh." She does take a look at the wrecked table and chair, shattered glass and stained carpet. She rubs on her eyes again in one last desperate attempt to chase sleep away. "So, what's this song you hear?"
They look up at me from where they're sitting on the couch. I have been standing in the same spot since the phone call was made. I can't bring myself to sit down after the harm I caused, all because…
Memory takes me back to fancy wallpapered walls decorated with a variety of gold framed pictures. The fire flickers in the old fashioned fireplace, sending waves of warmth throughout the room. Mother's soft hands caress my hair as I laid my head on her knees, listening to her tender voice singing that bloody song…
With a headshake and a great deal of effort, I focus all my attention on Buffy.
Her impatience adds to my nerves, so I force a hard lump in my throat down, and stuff my hands in my pockets. "An old folk ditty. It's called "Early One Morning."
"And when you hear it you get violent."
"I black out," I protest. One guilty glance at Xander's furious face, and I amend, "But, yeah, I guess I do."
"That doesn't make sense," what she says gets lost in the middle of a big yawn. She starts rubbing her eyes with the heel of her hand, so hard she almost pushes them to the back of her head. "You still have the chip in your head, right?"
"And you felt no pain?"
"Not a single zap."
"Does that mean it stopped working?"
"I don't know."
"Maybe we should test it. Xander?"
Harris jumps to his feet and shakes the ice bag in her face. "Broken nose!"
"We just want to make sure." She undoes her loose ponytail and gathers her messy hair back into a tighter hold. "You know Spike's chip doesn't work on me anymore."
Once Buffy sets her mind on something, no one can convince her otherwise. I have last year to prove it. Xander is forced to relent with a reluctant nod, and then shoots me his best glare. "But not the nose!"
"He's just gonna give you a pinch," Buffy says.
Well, I get a chance to hit the wanker, better make the best use of it. I punch him on the mouth. That's met with piercing shots of excruciating pain doing a number on my poor brain.
"Ouch!" mutual screams of agony fly out of our mouths.
"So, the chip still works." Buffy observes with a nod.
Xander feels his teeth with a wince. "Now I can't smell my food and eat it, is there anything worse than that?"
Buffy raises an eyebrow. "Hurting Sam, maybe?"
Attentions are turned toward the boy lying on the floor in front of the TV. He's sucking on the nipple of his empty bottle, snuggling into the cushion under his head and laughing his arse off at the same joke of the same sodding Mickey Mouse movie.
Xander turns his gaze back to Buffy. "Objection approved."
Buffy leans forward again, this time more focused and awake. "Maybe there's something in the song that sets off Spike somehow."
Still feeling his undamaged teeth, Xander gives his two cents, "Maybe it's a trigger."
Buffy gives him a look. "You think he's turning into a character from Winnie the Pooh?"
"I said trigger."
She yawns again. "Sorry."
"What's that?" I ask him, surprised that he'd actually bring something interesting to the table.
"It's a brainwashing term," Xander explains to Buffy, ignoring my existence as usual. "It's how the military makes sleeper agents. They… brainwash operatives and condition them with a specific trigger, like a song, that makes them drastically change at a moment's notice."
"Great," I spit out with disgust and walk away, only to stop on my tracks at the sight of the broken furniture.
"It's not just you anyway," Buffy says gently from her place on the couch. "There's something out there playing with all of us. Willow and Dawn had visits by dead people talking them into suicide."
Xander shakes his head. "This is too Hellmouth-y for me."
"You were the one who insisted on taking Spike. I think it's time Spike comes crashing in my basement." She gives a pointed glare when Xander is about to protest. "If Spike gets triggered again, his next victim will be either you or Sam."
"She's right, Harris," I say softly, glancing at the boy singing one of the many Christmas jingles in his favorite movie.
"I guess it's for the best," Xander complies halfheartedly. "But… be careful."
"You don't have to worry about me. I can take care of myself."
"It's not just you in that house. There's Willow and Dawn."
"Nothing will happen while I'm there." She gives him a gentle squeeze on the arm. "C'mon now, I think we better take you to a hospital."
"Nah, I've had worse. I can manage it at home." Xander rattles the ice cubes in the bag before pressing it on his nose with a wince.
"Where Spike going?" Sam flips on his stomach, narrowing his eyes suspiciously at Buffy and myself heading for the door.
Xander props his head up on the couch. "He's gonna sleep at Aunt Buffy's."
Sam jumps to his feet like he's been pinched by hell itself. "No. Spike sleep here."
With a tired sigh, Xander tosses the ice pack and hurries to catch his son who starts running towards me. The boy struggles in his father's tight grip, trying to get away and stop me from leaving. "No! Spike sleep here!"
"Sam, this is not the time…"
"Spike sleep here! Spike sleep here!"
I stand beside Buffy, speechless. The way I understands it, this boy isn't capable of expressing emotions of love and so on. He's usually in his room, silently arranging his cars or number blocks. To see him so desperate to keep me in the flat makes me feel a bit… well…
"It's all right, pet. Spike is here." I'm on my knees before him, grasping his shoulders into stillness. Xander eases his grip when Sam relaxes into my hold.
"Spike sleep here."
"Spike has to leave with Aunt Buffy, love. You understand, eh?"
"No! Spike sleep here!"
My helpless stare matches Xander's. I'm no expert on children all together, let alone someone like Sam. The boy has a thing for keeping every single detail in his life in order – he yaps about daily routines when he's not piercing our ears with numbers. He eats scrambled eggs in the morning, then watches his favorite movie at noon, then plays with his toys in the afternoon. He has to go to the supermarket with his dad on Fridays and eat dinners at Buffy's on Saturdays. Oh, and Dawn must come over to pick him up or all hell will break loose.
Xander throws up his hands in surrender when the wailing reaches full volume. "All right, fine, Spike will sleep here."
As expected, the wailing switches off right away.
"That's out of question, Xander. He hurt you," Buffy objects instantly with her signature crossed arms and parted legs.
"Then we'll find a way to keep him from hurting us."
I can't help the amused grin. The git would do anything to keep his boy on mute, even hosting a vampire he despises more than Satan in his own home.
"You don't have to deal with this stuff anymore."
"I don't mind the occasional swoop in to help out from time to time."
Despite her stance on the subject, Buffy responds to Xander's last comment with a small smile of gratitude. "Last time you helped out you saved the world."
I raise an eyebrow at the flushing loser I've known for years. "Ain't that interesting."
Xander gives a modest shrug that seems to be covering a geeky gleeful joy at the compliment. "I just talked Willow out of destroying it."
"Getting more interesting," I add with complete confusion. Willow attempted to destroy the world and Xander saved it? My quest for a soul should have been postponed.
"Maybe handcuffing Spike to bed will do." Xander gives Buffy an unsure look. "Do you think it'll do?"
"You want me to get you some?"
"No. I… I have a pair… for emergencies."
So there it goes. My life decisions are being made by a couple of twenty year olds. Again. Though this time, I have no right to complain, but it doesn't mean I have to stand there and listen to their bollocks.
I turn on the lights to the bedroom and gaze around in contempt. Where will bloody Harris handcuff me in his little bedroom? Too uptight to do it in bed, too decent to handcuff me to the foot of the bed. And I thought being tied up in Giles' tub was the most humiliating experience in my life.
"So, how about we head to your house right now?" Xander's contemptuous voice drifts from outside.
"Sounds great. How about it, Sammy?"
"Dawn take me."
"Dawn always did that," Xander says with a laugh. "You don't wanna see his stubborn side."
"I've seen it plenty. I'm used to it."
I let out a sigh and pad on bare feet to the bed. It's moments like this when I miss my fags the most. I'd have preferred being locked down in Buffy's basement instead of the upcoming humiliation, but something in the little bit's eyes… his desperation to have me stay… I'm probably reading too much into it, after all the kid is clinically insane. But it felt…
I shake my head to get rid of every silly sentimental thought. Just because I have a soul, it doesn't mean I have to think like a nancy-boy.
My solitude is interrupted by Xander barging in with a dopey grin on his face. "Just let me grab my…" Dopey grin is replaced with fish-gaping stare. "Spike?"
"Where are those handcuffs?"
He startles, red blood rushes to his cheeks, and suddenly he's turned into an awkward school boy about to score for the first time. "Um… they're right here."
I give a nonchalant nod, watching him dig into the lower drawers inside his closet. He's been hiding the manacles in a drawer filled with his briefs and boxers – naïve git unaware of Maggie snooping in his belongings like an overbearing mother.
Xander holds up the chains in his hands as if he's about to use them for the first time. I'm perfectly sure it is the case.
Then again, I can see where the confusion is coming from. Where is he going to use them? His bed doesn't have a headboard after all. I don't suppose he's hiding shackles under his underwear inside the drawer.
Xander places the useless handcuffs on the nightstand and scratches his head for a moment. He finally musters enough courage to stutter, "Do you… um… do you want to…"
"Save you the trouble, no." I didn't expect he'd go there. Guess he does have some hidden depths. "You don't have to be all proper and polite, it doesn't suit you either."
"Either?" He blinks; his moment of confusion dies when Buffy's laughter floats into the room. "Buffy. Right."
He's silent now, his face an open-book as usual; I can tell by the little twist on his lips that unpleasant images of Buffy and I are twirling in his mind. I don't think I'm painted well in all of them. He always reduced my feelings for her to be a tainted obsession. He sees me as a serial rapist, stalking his best friend and getting off on her panties – never mind that all of that is true, but who the hell is he to judge me? Only the dullest, blandest, most decent man who never killed a soul… bugger!
I watch him walk across the room to drag a chair out of his study. He nods at it, and I wordlessly obey. He brings out a rope from the closet and starts tying me to the chair – like that will stop me from tearing it off when the crazy episode starts.
Speaking of crazy, I never had the chance to think about what happened out there. I was about to slip. I did for mere seconds. He brought me back, the silly little runt.
"About… your boy?"
Xander tightens the knot on my wrist. "What about him?"
"How did you know that he's…"
"On the spectrum? It's obvious."
"Not to me. He just acts like a spoiled little whelp for all I know. What did the doctor say?"
"We went for a diagnosis but we didn't get through. Sammy hates hospitals and …"
"You mean there is no official word?" There's a shock. With the way Harris flusters about his child, one would think he'd have gone to a dozen doctors and then some.
A fierce glance and then, "No."
"But that's not right. Maybe…"
"I'm not gonna waste my time on 'maybe's, Spike." He pulls the knot on my ankle so tight that my skin is starting to bruise. "I also don't feel like discussing my son with you."
"Will he recover?"
He stands back and checks his fine work before fetching his jacket. "Why all the sudden interest?"
"He helped me out there."
His eyebrows fly to his hairline. "Sammy?"
"I was about to lose control again, but he brought me back."
"Kept whining about those bloody numbers."
A soft chuckle rumbles out of his mouth as he puts on his jacket.
"Can't let it get to me again," I mutter, testing the ropes with a tug. They're firm and tight, but I doubt they'll be much of use when it happens again. Though I don't mention that to Harris.
"At least now you know what triggers it."
"But how does that help? I hear that song and everything becomes dark. I wake up later and the damage is done."
"Then turn on the light. After all, you found the switch."
I give him a look. "Counting numbers?"
"Keeping yourself focused on something. If counting numbers helps, then so be it."
Laughter rises from outside. Sam's excited chanting announcing the arrival of Aunt Dawn is Xander's cue to leave.
I throw him a teasing stare. "Thanks for the session, Dr. Kik, but it seems that everybody is ready to take off."
There's a pause, a moment where it seems he's about to ask me to tag along. The moment passes, and the door closes shut after Harris. I sit alone and listen to their giggles and jokes disappearing with a door slam.
Tied to my chair, I sit alone and count.
"Two hundred and thirty-three, two hundred and thirty-four, two hundred and thirty-five…"
Thick clouds are hanging low in the sky throwing blankets of black on silver tombstones. The shrouded moon looms huge with its light completely blocked, leaving the cemetery as dark as a lamp-less crypt. So silent and still – not even the faint sound of newly sired vampires trying to dig their way out of their graves – nothing to be heard but the crunching of the grass against my boots.
I shouldn't walk alone out here like the easy target that I am. It's as if I'm asking to beits puppet.
"Two hundred and thirty-six, two hundred and thirty-seven …"
"Call me old-fashioned but I thought people counted sheep lying down in bed."
Her hair is soft curls falling on her shoulders – a moment of panic passes away swiftly when there's no corpse at my feet. She does wear her hair down from time to time. It's not always practical with her. She defies practical.
"Just keeping myself under control."
"Oh, anger management. Aren't you supposed to count to ten? How angry are you?"
"Apparently much less than I was last time we talked at the cemetery." I can feel her breath and body heat standing near me. A smile of relief touches my lips, and it's contagious.
I love it when she smiles. A rare gesture on her part, especially toward me. "Well, next time if you wanted to get out for some fresh air, you or Xander has to call me first."
The unusual hint of anxiety in her voice softens the disapproval in her words. My smile doesn't waver. "You're right."
"I know it sucks. Needing help," she admits with her finger awkwardly twirling one of her curls. "Last year, I'd have turned out better if I actually asked for help, but instead…"
"You came to me." Those nights when she'd kick her way into my crypt; posture firm, tone demanding, but her eyes always desperate for something I thought I had.
"It probably wasn't the right move, but at that moment it was what I needed."
The warmth of her tone touches me, even though I don't believe what she said. What we had… I think back at the times when I used to sneak up on her in the Magic Box. It was our game. She'd pretend to keep the shop open late at night, except it was open for only one customer. No one suspected. Everything was going fine until that fateful night when Willow caught the show on the camera that was hidden by the nerd squad. She had enough sense to keep it from the others but not Buffy.
The Magic Box closed early after that. Then she had come over to my crypt a few days later and told me it was over. I didn't understand. I couldn't understand. I didn't have the conscience. I went to her house, was arrogant enough to barge in into her bathroom, demand an explanation, too hurt, too angry to listen to her horrified cries of "No".
That was when Harris heard the screams and caught my crime. He almost killed me with an axe that night, but she stopped him.
I still don't understand why she stopped him.
The bruise on her thigh, her disheveled hair, the way she clutched her robe so close to her throat to hide herself from me – and yet she knocked the axe out of Xander's hands. Unable to look at me, she had ordered me to sod off; her trembling voice a thousand stakes repeatedly lunging at my heart.
It was then when I realized I could never be the man she deserved. The man that would never hurt her. I realized I needed a soul.
A vampire leaps off the tombstone and charges at Buffy, ramming into her midsection with his head. She slams to the ground as he pummels her with his fists. He doesn't know the vampire talking to the Slayer is her ally, and his shocked wide eyes are the last I've seen of him before I finish him off.
Other ones appear in the core of the gust, the moon fights its way out of the clouds and sheds its light on their hideous faces.
I miss this.
I miss fighting by her side. There was light in the midst of the dark – good times, laughter and jokes thrown here and there between the sex and the abuse. It wasn't enough to make what we had healthy, though.
The anguish desire we had for one another has left us desolated. She was right. She's always been. Wild love burns until there's nothing left. It never lasts.
She will always be in my heart, however…
She whirls and kicks, then leaps and launches a stake through another's heart.
She will never be mine.