|Story Title:||Miles To Go Before I Sleep|
Spike takes a trip into Buffy’s mind to try and find the cause of her distress and self-destructive behavior. Will he be able to find what happened to her? Will she let him see? Will he be able to fix her? Will he forgive her?
Fix You, Coldplay http://youtu.be/pY9b6jgbNyc
|Thanks:||Thanks to YOU for reading! Without you none of this would mean anything! Giant thanks also to Anona for the song suggestion (awesome song!), betaing this chapter, including her grammatical and punctuation corrections, wonderful commentary, and final review. Also thanks to Capella42 for her insightful suggestions that made the whole story better. All mistakes are mine because I simply cannot stop fiddling right up to the last moment.|
|Rating / Warnings:||
Late night, Monday, July 4th, 2011 – July 5th, Willow and Tara’s back yard.
Buffy had stalled as long as she could, putting Spike off with excuse after excuse. But now, with the older kids tucked away in a couple of tents in the backyard and MacKenzie sleeping in her portable crib in Eddie’s room, Buffy really had no more cards to play.
Spike took her hand and dragged her away from her latest ‘busy work’ of straightening up the chairs around the fire pit and the patio. Buffy started to protest. She wanted to insist the chairs be put back as they had been before the kids had gotten hold of them and strewn them about, but she knew it was no use. She suddenly understood the saying, ‘rearranging chairs on a sinking ship’. She was standing on the bow of the Titanic and no one was going to save her.
As Spike led her by the hand towards their own backyard tent, she felt like a prisoner being brought out to face a firing squad. She was literally that frightened of whatever Spike might find within her. The only thing keeping her from pulling free and fleeing was the small hope that he wouldn’t be able to find the cause of her distress anymore than she’d been able to. On top of which, she reasoned, if she didn’t let him in, she would surely lose him anyway. How long did she expect him to put up her acting like a maniac … a complete crazy woman? She felt, quite literally, damned if she did, and damned if she didn’t.
Spike pulled her inside their tent, which was set a bit apart from the kids’ tents, and zipped the flap closed. Buffy just stood in the center of their polyester room and waited while Spiked turned on a small, battery-powered lantern. It was barely more than a nightlight, really – you could see just enough to get into your sleeping bag.
When that was on, he turned around and faced her. Buffy began absently scratching at her arms with her fingernails, drawing blood.
Spike closed the small space between them and grabbed her hands. “Stop. Stop hurting yourself.” It was a command, but said in such a way that made Buffy suddenly ashamed of herself.
She nodded and pulled her hands away from his grip, wrapping them around her torso as if she were freezing. “Maybe … maybe we … maybe this isn’t such a good idea,” she finally stammered out, unable to meet his eyes.
“Buffy, I don’t know how else to say it: there is nothing you could do to make me hate you. But this …” He pulled one of her scratched and bleeding arms away from her body and held it out. “…this bloody well has to end.”
Buffy pulled her top lip into her mouth and held it between her teeth as she tried to keep her chin from quivering with fear. If she opened up and he found the cause of her craziness … She shuddered at the thought.
Spike took hold of her shoulders and dipped his head down until he could look into her down-turned eyes. “Do you trust me?”
Buffy released her lip from the grip of her teeth and licked her lips nervously. She nodded slowly, blinking back tears.
“Then there’s nothing to worry about, yeah?”
Buffy gave him a nervous smile and nodded slightly. “No worries,” she murmured past the lump in her throat.
Spike nodded and stepped over to the blow-up mattress tucked against one wall of the tent and the sleeping bag that lay atop it. He pulled her with him as he sat down on their bed. Buffy was beyond objections now – he wasn’t going to let it go. No amount of arguing was going to stop this now. If she didn’t let him in, sooner or later, she’d lose him; if she did let him in … She didn’t want to think about what he might find in there. She prayed that he wouldn’t be able to find anything; just as she could only get the feeling of it, perhaps that was all there was. Maybe the actual memory of whatever she’d done was completely gone and all that remained was the feeling.
Buffy took a deep breath and lay down on the soft air mattress. She lay on her side facing Spike and he lay down next to her, also on his side, facing her.
“I love you, Buffy. Just let me help you – that’s all I want, pet,” he assured her as he ran a hand gently down the side of her head, caressing her hair and then her cheek.
Buffy breathed in a deep breath, trying to still her fear, and nodded. “I know … I’m just … Spike, please. Maybe I can stop. I’ll try harder … I’ll … I’ll take pills. Maybe there are some pills…” she began in a last-ditch, panic-stricken effort to stop this.
Spike pursed his lips and shook his head as it lay on his pillow. “No, pet. You don’t want that and I don’t want that. We just need to work through this together. Trust me, Buffy.”
Buffy closed her eyes and nodded in resignation. She could feel him pushing on the bond, trying to connect with her mind – she instinctively resisted it.
“Let me in, luv,” he murmured aloud.
Buffy held her breath and steeled her nerves. After a few moments, the pliable, spiritual ‘door’ that kept him out split and then peeled back. She could feel him push through the barrier, and the image of the alien bursting out of Kane’s chest in ‘Alien’ washed through her mind.
“Trust me, pet,” Spike assured her, seeing the image flash in front of his own eyes as well. “I won’t attach m’self to your face unless ya want me to.”
Buffy actually laughed slightly, but it was more of a nervous laugh than humorous.
Spike felt like he was pushing through heavy-duty plastic wrap – pliable but strong. The more he pushed, the more it stretched, but wouldn’t tear, wouldn’t open. For a minute, he didn’t think she was gonna let him in, but finally the resistance gave way and he felt his consciousness flow into hers.
Normally, they didn’t connect this way with the bond. Typically, they'd ‘send’ feelings or messages to the other, or they'd meet on the fringes of their subconscious minds in dreams. As a rule, one person doesn’t actually ‘invade’ the mind of the other. Buffy had done it with him one time when Dru had put him in a thrall. He'd thought that they were both gonna die that time fighting the effects of Dru’s spell, but together they had found a way to break Spike’s sire’s hold on him. Buffy had also done it when Spike had been haunted and terrorized by the plethora of victims he’d amassed during his century as a vampire. She’d helped him face his ghosts and find peace with them. Spike had never been inside Buffy’s mind like this before now.
The first thing he encountered was a room that was both dark and bright at the same time. It was as cold as Nome, Alaska in the dead of winter and as hot as Death Valley in the summer, as wet as Niagara Falls and as dry as the surface of Mars. It was a place of constant struggle – it was where the Slayer and the demon met; it was heaven and hell, angel and devil, good and evil. Colorful lights swirled against a background of complete darkness and a wind whipped around Spike’s body, one second frigid and the next burning hot. Spike began to move through this realm – he had no desire to get entangled in a battle between Buffy’s demon and the Slayer. Even here, though, he could feel her fear and an overwhelming sense of guilt and remorse. If he hadn’t been ready for it, been expecting it, it would’ve easily knocked him to his knees; it was that powerful.
He moved quickly, although it was hard to really say how fast he was moving or how far it was out of this chamber where the balance between good and evil, between power and compassion was maintained. It seemed at once to go on forever, and in the next instant to be only a momentary blip.
Suddenly, he stepped out of the bright darkness and a beam of sunlight momentarily blinded him. He raised his arm up to shield his face and began looking around through narrowed eyes. His brow furrowed and he turned back to look behind him, expecting to see some sort of barrier that would lead back into the checks and balances realm, but instead he saw a sea of cars. He was standing in a parking lot – a huge parking lot that spread out in every direction as far as the eye could see. When he turned back around, a trolley pulled up in front of him. It was empty save for the driver: Xander.
“Don’t got all day, mister,” Xander called, reaching up and pulling a rope, which sent a brass bell dinging at the rear of the trolley. “Ya’ comin’ or not?”
Spike scratched his head in confusion, but climbed aboard the trolley. Xander rang the bell one more time before letting the clutch out and starting down the long rows of cars.
“We are now leaving the Snickers Bar parking area, rows twenty and twenty-one,” Xander announced over a speaker system, as if there were a hundred people on the long trolley. “Make a note of your row number in the Snickers Bar parking area. You may also download our free app onto to your smartphone, which can lead you directly to your car at the end of your visit.”
“Uhhh …” Spike began when Xander stopped talking. “Just where are we going?”
“Main gate,” Xander replied as he brought the trolley around a wide curve in the aisle.
“Right,” Spike agreed. “Main gate t’ what?”
Xander didn’t answer Spike; he was busy making a new announcement on the PA system. “Be sure to have your tickets out and ready before reaching the turnstile. Check around you and make sure to collect all your belongings before disembarking from the trolley. Keep children well clear of the trolley after disembarkation. If you leave the park, you may have your hand stamped for re-entry within twenty-four hours. Enjoy your stay.”
The trolley lurched to a stop and Spike got off. In front of him was a line of turnstiles nearly as long as the parking lot had been. He looked up at the sign above them. “Welcome to BuffyLand!” it exclaimed in large, bright yellow letters that were carefully painted in a cheerful, ‘Disneyland’ font. Below that it again admonished patrons to have their tickets ready before reaching the attendants.
“What the bloody hell did I expect? Somethin’ sane?” he muttered to himself as he started walking towards the entrance.
As he neared the turnstiles, he noted that, although there seemed to be hundreds of them, stretching as far as the eye could see, only one actually had an attendant. He headed for it. When he pushed on the bar that blocked his path, it didn’t move. “Ticket please,” Angelpie purred, holding out her paw to him.
Angelpie was perched on what could only be called a gilded, bejeweled throne. It was gold, pure gold, Spike was sure, and the arms were studded with glittering emeralds and rubies the size of baseballs. The seat was cushioned with crushed velvet in a royal purple hue, and where the gold back rose above her head, giant diamonds sparkled, casting small rainbows of color off their many facets.
“Don’t got a soddin’ ticket,” he retorted as he planted a hand on each side of the unmoving bar and began to lift his legs up to jump it.
Angelpie suddenly growled like a lion and projected a giant, gaping mouth full of razor-sharp teeth at him. Spike fell backwards from the jaws, which were nearly as tall as he was, and landed with a thud on the walkway outside the gate. “Bloody hell!” he exclaimed as he scrambled backwards to make sure he was clear of the kitten.
“Ticket please,” Angelpie purred again, back to her normal size. She seemed to be smiling at him – or was she laughing at making him fall?
“Bugger!” Spike cursed, patting his pockets down to see if he had any money to buy a ticket. From inside his duster pocket, he pulled out a plastic card about the size of a credit card. “BuffyLand Lifetime Pass,” it said on the front in the same cheery font as the sign up above them. Spike smirked and handed the pass to Angelpie, who scanned it. He heard the turnstile unlock and he pushed through easily.
“Enjoy your stay,” Angelpie purred again, handing the pass back to him.
“Slayer, you’re gonna owe me for this,” he muttered as he put the pass back in his pocket and walked onto ‘Main Street’. He stood in the center of the deserted street, hands on hips, as he looked up and down at the buildings that lined both sides.
The street, sidewalk, and the storefronts were all pristine – not a speck of dirt on any of them. Each storefront looked like a separate building with its own personality, although they were all jammed together, like there wasn’t enough room in here for alleys or walkways between them. The shops were constructed with a variety of textures, colors, and materials. There were buildings made of wood, stucco, stone, and brick. The architectural styles ranged from Victorian to Georgian to Romanesque to plain ole Americana; there was even one that looked like a Swiss chalet. They all had wide, bright windows in front, and most had colorful canvas awnings covering the doorways and/or windows.
The colorful signs above the bright windows announced: Homemade Fudge, World’s Best Cinnamon Buns, Old-Fashioned Donuts, Best Chocolate in the World (that was the Swiss Chalet), Carmel and Coffee, Taste Temptations, Bavarian Tortes, Hand Churned Ice Cream, and Cheeses of the World. Spike was beginning to see a theme here. Buffy may not be eating, but she was certainly thinking about it – or at least something inside her was.
Spike turned around and looked at the shops on the other side of the street. One bright, red sign caught his eye immediately: Pick Your Pleasure. He crossed the street and headed for the shop. Maybe Buffy’s new hardcore S&M obsession was in there, he reasoned.
When he opened the door and stepped in, he stopped short and his jaw actually dropped open. The store was full of … him. Or well … lots of … hims – life-sized … hims. Lined up along one wall was: Policeman Spike, Navy Officer Spike (ala Richard Gere in ‘An Officer and a Gentleman’), Surfer Spike, Hitchhiker Spike, Stripper Spike (nice g-string!), Burglar Spike, Rock Star Spike (it was the whole Billy Idol look), Cowboy Spike, and Pirate Spike. Along the second wall was William: Professor William, School Boy William, Musketeer William, Chimney-Sweep William, Carriage Driver William, Doctor William, King William (why does he get to be king?), 007 William, all dapper in a tux and tails, and Stevedore William. Along the third wall were ‘Ready to Dress’ Spikes and Williams: all completely nude and perfectly correct – anatomically. Eat your heart out Ken and Barbie! In the center of the store were racks of clothes, or, perhaps more accurately, costumes or personas for the 'Ready to Dress' selections.
“Bloody hell…” Spike murmured as he took it all in. “Bloody degradin’, that is. More than just a pretty face, I am,” he groused, but he couldn’t suppress a cocky smirk. If his ego were to inflate even a fraction of an inch more, he wouldn’t be able to get back out the door.
“Oh no, that won’t do at all! Who dressed you?” Anya exclaimed, clicking her tongue in disdain. “Well, come on – let’s get you fixed,” she continued, pulling Spike by the sleeve of his duster. “I swear – someone really needs to get a little imagination. Some people think black on black is classic, but really it’s so passé.”
“OI!” Spike objected, pulling back from her. “Not one a’ your little dollies. And black on black is classic, you barmy bint.”
Anya cocked a brow at Spike and folded her arms across her chest, looking him up and down. She shook her head slowly as she did so. When she got back to his face, she sighed. “Well, I can see why she keeps all these boys here now. No imagination – that’s your problem, buster.”
“Balls! I got imagination! I got imagination leaking out m’ ears! Did she ever tell you ‘bout the hot air balloon over the Alps? What about that buggerin’ big Ferris wheel in London? Oh! And the bandstand in the Common? Huh? How about that for imagination? We did it on a barge going down the Nile once … right at the foot of the pyramids! And how about that pole dance she did? The one at the North Pole! That was my soddin’ idea!”
Anya took in a deep breath and let it out loudly. “But did you ever throw her a surprise party in the backyard, then make love under a full moon after waltzing all night?” she asked as she began to waltz around the floor of the shop with an unseen partner to unheard music.
Spike gave her a skeptical look. “Buffy wouldn’t do that … said neighbors and the bits could see.”
Anya stopped moving and snorted sarcastically. “Don’t know her as well as you thought, I guess.
“You need to run along now,” she told him, flicking her hand at him in a shooing motion. “You’ll scare off my customers.”
“How many bloody customers you got?” he asked, looking around at the empty street outside.
Anya smiled at him like the Cheshire Cat. “You’d be surprised.”
Spike rolled his eyes and started for the door. There weren’t any hard-core S&M props in here anyway. As he walked, he called back over his shoulder to Anya, “Uhhh … if you were something big and scary, where would you hide ‘round ‘ere?”
Anya stopped tidying up the shop and considered this for a moment. “Hmmm, well, there’s The Dungeon or Sewer Rat Maze … umm … Death Knell Hospital, The Master’s Church, The Hellmouth in the Basement, The Tower of Terror … or possibly The Initiative.”
Spike stopped short. “Bloody hell – how many ‘attractions’ ya got ‘ere?”
Anya smiled brightly and shook her head. “I don’t really know – lots. Those are just the biggest scary ones. There are lots of small scary ones – like the Spike-less World; but that’s just like about the size of a breadbox, because there’s nothing in it. I really don’t want to know how many there are – you probably don’t either.”
“Don’t suppose ya got a map?” Spike asked hopefully.
“Oh, sure! What do you think this is? Some kind of low-budget, road-side attraction run by shysters?” she quipped, producing a map from thin air. “We can afford more special effects than Disney, Universal, Sea World, Busch Gardens, and Leg0Land put together. Maps are easy … it’s the rivers of blood and tears that get hard to conjure sometimes.”
Spike stepped back towards Anya, took the folded map from her hand, and opened it. It was on heavy, glossy paper – no expense spared. The map itself was colorful and mimicked the maps you would get at Disneyland or other large theme parks. There was a large “X” next to the ‘Pick Your Pleasure’ shop on Main Street and the words ‘You are here,’ printed clearly next to it.
He scanned the large map and his eyes settled on an unlabeled, triangular area that was well off in one corner near the very back of Buffy's mind. The triangle was black with no notations next to it at all. There appeared to be some sort of ‘rides’ or ‘realms’ lining two sides of the triangle, with the third empty.
“What’s this?” he asked, holding it up for Anya to see and pointing to the triangle.
“You don’t want to go there,” she advised as she turned away and began dusting a display of fur-lined handcuffs and cotton ropes with a feather-duster.
Spike grabbed her arm and pulled her attention back to the map. “What. Is. This?” he asked again emphatically.
Anya swallowed, then blinked, and finally looked at him. “Death.”
Spike followed the map to Death. As he went, the ‘X’ and the words ‘You are here,’ moved with him. See – no expense spared. Eat your heart out Mickey Mouse.
The further from Main Street he got, the darker, more rundown, and grimy the streets and buildings became. Where Main Street had been pristine, colorful, bright, and cheery, the roads and buildings near Death were … well, not. The buildings were all derelict, in grave (no pun intended) disrepair with peeling paint, broken windows, shutters hanging askew, and sagging porches. The awnings, once bright and colorful, were faded and tattered. Doors to some of the buildings stood ajar, revealing contents that appeared to have been looted, or at least vandalized. The planters along the fronts of the buildings were full of nothing but dead sticks that, he had to assume, at one time were flowers. The streets were dirty, as if they hadn’t seen a street sweeper, or even a good rain, in decades, and the sky was a dull grey. He also noted that the temperature had gotten discernibly colder.
Only because the ‘X’ on the map told him that he’d arrived, did Spike know that he stood, literally, at Death’s door. Or one of them, anyway. It was in the same manner of disrepair as all the buildings in this neck of Buffy’s brain. It looked very much like an archetypical haunted house with dark, arched windows and overgrown shrubbery. It was an old, ornate Victorian with sections of steep hip roof, a high center tower, and a widow’s walk. The shiplap siding had the requisite peeling paint, and many of the shake shingles were missing from around the dormer windows. It could’ve been the Weckerly house from the 1800s, except it was a bit more ornate and quite unkempt.
What else would he expect to find as Death’s door but a presumably haunted house? He took a deep breath and walked up to the old house. The stairs to the front porch creaked loud enough to, well … wake the dead. He paused a moment, half expecting something to jump out at him. When nothing did, he continued up. He found a window that was devoid of curtains and used the sleeve of his duster to wipe the grime off the glass so he could see inside.
What he found within wasn’t exactly what he expected. The interior of the house, which from the outside looked like it should have many rooms and lots of period furniture, was actually empty. Well, as far as furniture and rooms go, it was empty. In the center of the large space was what looked like the holograms that he had been shown during the PTB’s trials. Inside this house was The Master’s underground church. Spike watched as the Master pulled Buffy into a thrall, then easily took her life, using the power in her Slayer blood to free himself of his prison.
Spike hadn’t been in Sunnydale when this had happened. He’d heard of it, of course – but from Buffy’s point of view. This seemed to be from … a third party’s point of view. From someone watching on the sidelines. The PTB maybe? He didn’t know. He watched as the Master took only enough blood to power his escape, and then dropped the Slayer, face first, into a shallow pool of water.
The representation was so precise and realistic that Spike could actually hear Buffy’s heart rate slow, then stop. He could feel her die. Spike could see Buffy’s essence, her spirit, swirl up and out of her body.
Spike’s jaw clenched and his stomach tightened in fear. He knew this was past. She had ultimately survived. But still, it was painful and frightening for him to watch.
Suddenly, Angel appeared and pulled Buffy from the water.
“Do something, you git! You can tell she’s not breathin’!” he screamed at his grandsire. Nothing changed; the little play continued to roll forward, as it had done that night so many years ago.
Suddenly, all around the walls of the Master’s church, grainy films started playing and snapshots in time flashed and danced across the rough walls. They were memories, Spike realized. Buffy’s memories. They were the things that were flashing through her mind as she died. He could see a scene with her with Joyce; it looked like they were playing ‘dress-up’ together – Buffy must’ve been only five or six. Then on another wall there was a snapshot – a moment in time that showed a sleeping Hank in a recliner, a sleeping Buffy of about three cradled in his arms. As each memory ended, another would take its place. Some were just quick flashes of a single moment in time; others were longer – like short video clips. The pictures were grainy, like old, faded film, and they sometimes jumped forward jerkily, as if there was piece missing.
“She's dead!” Angel yelled, looking up at Xander, who came in just behind him.
“No. She's not dead,” Xander insisted, on the verge of panic.
“She's not breathing!”
“But if she drowned, uh, there's a shot! CPR!” Xander suggested, his brain finally kicking into gear.
“You have to do it. I have no breath,” Angel replied forlornly.
“Oh you bloody wanker!” Spike raged against the glass barrier. “How the bloody hell do you talk if ya’ got no breath!? You yellow-bellied, two-faced, son of a good for bloody nothing bastard.”
As Spike watched, Xander began CPR. Finally, Buffy began to cough and breathe again and Spike watched her spirit, her soul, swirl back down from the ether and return to her body. As she came back to life, the images that had filled the walls of the church stilled and then faded. Then she and Xander were talking and he was helping her up. At that point, everything went dark; it was perfectly still and quiet for a moment. Then, as if someone had dropped a penny into a mutoscope, the whole play started anew, running in a never-ending loop within the confines of a dilapidated house in this nearly abandoned corner of her mind.
Spike took a deep breath and backed up from the window. He ran a shaky hand through his hair and looked back down at the map. He wasn’t sure why he’d been drawn to this area – perhaps only because of the large, black triangle, which seemed so out of place on the colorful map. Spike walked back down the steps and out to the street, then started walking around the perimeter of the triangle of Death. When he came to an apex in the road, he made a sharp turn to the right. There was another house, just like the last one, on the bisecting street.
Spike went up on the porch to inspect it, as he’d done the last. This time he was prepared for what he saw. Inside the house was the alley behind the Hyperion. He watched as Buffy pried her hand away from his and fell backwards off the fire escape. As she fell, all around her, projected on the walls of the buildings lining the alley, were short films and snapshots of her life. This time they included him and Annie. Spike could hear himself screaming as he clung to their small daughter with one arm and watched helplessly as his wife fell to her death, taking Glory, now morphed into Ben, with her. His chest tightened and tears came unbidden to his eyes as he watched himself fail to keep her safe. He blinked the guilty tears back and quickly turned away from the scene. He’d seen it enough in his nightmares; he didn’t need to see it again.
Still fighting back tears, he descended the steps of that house and continued around to see what lay on the last street that lined Death. The map showed that the last side of the triangle had no building on it. He should be able to see into Death itself from there. He came to the next apex in the road and made another sharp right, but to his surprise, there was a house there – just like the others.
Spike looked from the house to the map and back again. Then he checked the ‘X’ and the ‘You are here’ note. According to the map, he was standing next to Death – there should be nothing between it and him. But there was.
“Ain’t that interestin’?” he asked himself as he continued down the street to the front gate. Once inside the gate, he started up the walk, but hadn’t gotten halfway to the front porch when he saw movement from the house. Not from the windows … not someone moving inside the house – movement from the house itself. He froze in his tracks and looked again, trying to figure out what it was. Then he saw that it wasn’t the house moving, but creatures, which seemed to have been embedded in the very structure of the building.
Several large creatures were pulling free of the house and moving slowly towards him. They were tall humanoids, easily eight feet, with glowing red eyes, skin the color of eggshells, and unexpectedly bright red lips. There were four demons stalking towards him, but he could see more disengaging themselves from the facade of the house. Spike took a step back and held his hands up in the universal signal of peace … or surrender.
“Not lookin’ for trouble, mate,” he offered, backing up another step.
“No trespasssssing,” the closest demon hissed at him, pointing with a long, bony finger to a weather-beaten sign that hung haphazardly on the wrought-iron fence.
“Right. Sorry … just … uhhh. M’ map seems to be a bit outta date,” Spike tried, holding the map up for the closest demon to see. There were easily ten of them now, all stalking slowly forward as he backed up towards the gate. “Could you tell me the name o’ this…”
Before he could finish, the closest red-eyed demon jammed the flat of its palm into Spike’s chest and sent him flying back out the gate and all the way across the street. “No tresspassssing,” it hissed again as it slammed the front gate closed.
“Unfriendly lot, you are,” Spike grumbled as he picked himself up off the garbage-littered street and brushed himself off.
When Spike looked back up after brushing the dirt off his clothes, all the demons were gone. Or, he couldn’t see them, anyway – he was pretty sure they weren’t gone far.
“Dr. Livingstone, I presume,” Spike muttered to himself, looking back down at the map. Whatever he was looking for – he was pretty sure he’d just found it. Now all he had to do was figure out what the hell it was and what it meant.
Spike went back to the Hyperion House, which neighbored this unmapped one. He climbed over the wrought-iron fence at the corner, where the yard of that house met the mystery house’s yard. He walked back along the fence that divided the yards of the two houses, back towards Death, which all the houses overlooked. Did having a view of Death increase the property value, like having lake-front property?
Spike looked at the unmapped house as he walked, dead grass crunching under his feet with each step. There was an eight-foot-high, wrought-iron fence between him and it. At the top of each upright, there were sharp points – sharper than what a normal fence would have. Sharp enough to cut him good, or even impale him, if he got caught up on top of it. He couldn’t see anything moving around the mystery house now, but he guessed that as soon as he stepped foot into the yard again, the built-in, wireless security system would be activated.
For the first time, he started to wonder if he got hurt in here, would his physical body be hurt and, would the Gem protect him here. He had to think that the Gem would protect his physical body, even if what happened here manifested in the real world. So then, that begged the question: what could those demons actually do to hurt him?
“I reckon I’m gonna find out,” he muttered to himself as he came to the edge of Death.
There was no fence at the back of the yard. The dead, brown grass simply stopped, and a gaping abyss opened up beyond it. Spike stepped to the very edge and looked in: nothing. He could see absolutely nothing but pure, raven blackness. Cold air seemed to seep from the blackness – it wasn’t a wind or breeze so much as just a slow leaching of frigid air. This must be why the whole area seemed colder than where he’d been before. The chill was oozing out of Death, like a slow fog rolling in off a wintry sea. He shivered involuntarily, not from the cold, but from the feeling of foreboding and bleak desolation that leached out of the blackness with the chill.
Buffy may have been ready for death at one time – been prepared to accept it and felt it was her destiny, but Spike was now sure she no longer felt that way. After they had pulled her back from heaven, she said that, in death, she had been at peace. She had finally told him that she knew, with complete certainty, that she’d done the right thing, for her family and the world. Spike’s experience told him that all Slayers had a death wish, but he was comforted to see, and more importantly, feel, that Buffy no longer did. Her family, as well as her friends, were steadfastly anchoring her here now.
Death was not a warm, softly glowing, field of flowers and fluffy clouds to her. Death was cold and lonely and black as coal. So, she didn’t want to die, she simply wanted to be punished. This, he suspected, was a clue, but the question remained: punished for what? And why was the heavily guarded answer so close to Death?
Spike drew in a breath and stepped back from the edge. If he fell in there, would he die? Would his soul leave his body, as he’d seen Buffy’s do in the grainy holograms? Where would it go? Were there any giant spiders down there, waiting to gobble up any unsuspecting souls that ventured too close? He decided he’d rather not find out.
He looked at the back of the house next door – the heavily guarded house that was not on the map. Could he fight his way in there? Those were some pretty big demons she had guarding it, and lots of them. It really would be better if Buffy would just let him in. She’d agreed to let him help her, but obviously some part of her was still resisting. As he studied the three-story Victorian behind the high fence, he saw something move in the highest tower. The curtain, he realized, had been pulled back, and now it swung slightly as it fell back into place. Someone had been looking out.
“Buf…” he began to call, but his voice broke in the middle. He cleared his throat, took another step away from the chill of Death, and tried again. “Buffy!” he called, looking up at the now empty window. “Buffy, pet! I need t’ talk to you,” he tried.
He stood and waited, eyes narrowed as he concentrated on trying to see through the curtain. He practically willed it to move again, to see her face looking down at him. He’d just taken another breath to call again, when the curtain moved. He could barely see the outline of her face, the curve of her nose and lips, in the grey light from above.
“Buffy!” he called again, meeting her eyes across the long distance. “Come down, we need t’ talk.”
Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair…
“Bloody hell,” he murmured, shaking his head. He was spending waaaay too much time reading fairy tales and watching kid’s movies.
The curtain fell closed again and Spike held his breath, letting his eyes focus on what little he could see of the back porch of the house through the overgrown shrubbery. “C’mon, Buffy …” he admonished her in a whisper. “You can do it, pet.”
After some time, he heard a loud creak, like a rusty cemetery gate being forced open. And then she was there, on the dilapidated back veranda of the house, looking at him.
“Buffy … please, pet,” he pleaded, reaching a hand out through the uprights of the fence. “Let me in.”
As soon as Spike’s hand crossed the plane of the fence surrounding the mystery house, the red eyes began to glow from the foundation and walls of the house – dozens of eyes. Within just a few seconds, figures formed within the wood siding and brick foundation and came to life, pulling free of the structure with cracks and pops, like wood and nails being torn apart.
“Go away, Spike,” Buffy replied softly, never moving from her place near the back door. “Please just go away.”
“Nooooo…” he drawled, pulling his hand back, but not moving away from the fence. “If I haveta’ fight these things, I will – but I’m comin’ in, dead or alive.”
Buffy stiffened and, for the first time, seemed to take notice of the Reds that were moving towards Spike. “No, Spike! Go away! You can’t fight them! Just leave me alone!”
“Balls! I came here to see what’s in that bloody house, and I aim t’ finish what I started, Slayer,” Spike retorted as he put his foot on the lower cross-member of the fence, his hands on the upper one, and began to lift himself up.
“No!” Buffy screamed. “They’ll kill you if you come in here!”
“Then stop them,” Spike challenged as he lifted up and prepared to propel his body over the sharp, deadly tines that lined the top of the fence.
“No! Don’t!” Buffy screamed at him as he sprang up, lifted his body and legs out to one side, and, like a gymnast vaulting over a pommel horse, cleared the fence easily. Spike touched down lightly on the dead grass that lined the other side of the fence. Then, without missing a beat, he rolled to one side to avoid the first Red that attacked him.
“Call them off!” he commanded Buffy as he rolled back to his feet and barreled through a thicket of long-dead bougainvillea. The long, sharp thorns on the brown bush cut and scratched at his clothes and skin, but it also made the three Reds that had started after him pause momentarily.
Spike emerged from the other side of the brush covered in cuts and scratches, but free of pursuers for the moment. That didn’t last long, as more of Buffy’s guardsmen had circumvented the nasty bush and were charging at him, racing forward along the overgrown, stone path upon which Spike was now standing. Spike ducked as the first one hurtled itself at him. The large vamp sailed over the smaller, faster demon’s head and landed with a thunk on the stone walkway. Spike dropped down to his belly and began to slither under the thick brambles and rose vines that were on the other side of the path. He crawled with elbows and hips – he couldn’t raise up enough to even get to his knees, the brush was so thick and heavy.
The Reds began thrashing at the dead vegetation, trying to clear it enough to get to him. He kept moving towards the back porch, towards Buffy, as the Reds reached long arms and bony fingers through the bushes to try and get to him. Spike kept his head and butt down, and continued to move through the crush of thorny bushes and sharp, claw-like nails that raked at him.
“Call ‘em off, Slayer!” he demanded again as he moved closer to her.
“I can’t! Please just go away!” Buffy screamed back at him. She’d moved away from the door and was looking over the railing of the back veranda, nervously watching the struggle between her guards and her husband.
“You can!” he insisted as he came near the edge of the bushes he’d been crawling under. He could see at least four pairs of large feet waiting for him to emerge and he knew there were more not far away.
“I can’t!” she insisted.
“Can’t or won’t?” Spike threw back at her. “Is the secret you got in there worth m’ life?”
Buffy looked from the house to Spike, who was still huddled in the bushes. The Reds on either side of him were tearing frantically at the brush, trying to get to him, while several more waited for him to emerge. The only color in the whole yard seemed to be the glittering, scarlet blood of the Reds, which dripped from the deep scratches in their skin, and Spike’s own blood – just as red, but without the sparkles of the larger demons.
“Spike, please! Just break the bond and go away!” Buffy begged him as panic rose in her voice.
“NO! Let me in or watch me die!” Spike retorted as he started moving again. He’d barely gone another foot when one of the Reds that had been waiting in front of him grabbed him by the nape of the neck and dragged him out of the underbrush. The brambles clung to his back and legs, tearing into this skin and ripping the heavy denim of his jeans as he was yanked out of the underbrush, painting the brown thorns with more brilliant red.
Spike kicked and punched at the creatures, but it was ineffectual. They were larger and stronger, and there were too many of them.
“Buffy!” Spike screamed at her as the one that was holding him flung him like he was nothing more than a bug. Spike flew through the air and crashed against the side of the house like he’d been shot out of a cannon. His whole body felt crushed and broken in that instant. He slid down the wall and landed like a bag of wet laundry, limp and lifeless, in what had once been a large planter that ran the length of the house.
“Spike! No!” Buffy screamed as the Reds descended on him like ants on a dead cockroach. “No! No!” she continued to scream in horror as the sounds of blood being spilled and slurped reached her ears.
“NO!” she yelled one more time as she vaulted over the banister and began pulling the Reds off him, flinging them back away like they were dolls. As she flung each one away, they disintegrated into glittering, scarlet motes of dust.
“Spike!” she cried when she’d pulled the last of her guards away from him. She dropped down next to him and cradled his broken body against her. “Spike, please … I’m so sorry. Baby, please…” she pleaded, rocking him gently and sobbing uncontrollably.
Spike moaned and reached one hand up to touch her face. “I knew … knew you would … invite me … in,” he stammered, spitting blood from his mouth with each breath.
“Oh God, Spike … I’m sorry … I’m just … I’m a bad, bad person and … I’m just so sorry. I never meant to hurt you … I swear I didn’t. I never meant to …” Buffy choked and dropped her forehead against his as she sobbed and continued rocking him gently.
Never meant to be unfaithful, she thought, unable to speak. She knew he could hear her.
Please don’t forgive me. I don’t deserve it. I don’t deserve your love.
Historical Note: The Mutoscope was an early motion picture device, patented by Herman Casler on November 21, 1894 and manufactured from 1895 to 1909. Like Thomas Edison's Kinetoscope it did not project on a screen, and provided viewing to only one person at a time. Cheaper and simpler than the Kinetoscope, the system quickly dominated the coin-in-the-slot "peep-show" business. In 1899, The Times printed a letter inveighing against "vicious demoralizing picture shows in the penny-in-the-slot machines. It is hardly possible to exaggerate the corruption of the young that comes from exhibiting under a strong light, nude female figures represented as living and moving, going into and out of baths, sitting as artists' models etc.” Mutoscopes were a popular feature of amusement arcades and pleasure piers in the UK until the introduction of decimal coinage in 1971.
What will happen when Spike looks into the last House of Death and sees what happened to Buffy, as well as Annie, in the other dimension?
More to come ...
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