Never Alone by Lilachigh
Chp 8 Roses in December
High above her head, Buffy could hear the sounds of workmen hammering, sawing, welding, building the new giant mall that would replace the one that had vanished into the maw of the Hellmouth when Spike closed it.
Down in the dark of the basement, Spike moved swiftly ahead of her, the leather coat billowing out behind him. Buffy followed, still gripping her stake. She gave a wry smile, wondering how many times she’d had the same view during their relationship over the years. Dark tunnel, dusty boots, black leather coat, slim figure prowling ahead of her into the gloom. Only the hair was different today. Only the tips of the curls were platinum now; if anything it added to how sexy he looked.
But the old Spike would have been throwing sarcastic comments over his shoulder as they walked. Even the Spike of their last year together would have reached back to touch her hand. Just a touch. Skin to skin. Flesh to flesh. But this man didn’t know her, didn’t remember her. It was devastating. Of all the scenarios she’d imagined when - if - they ever met again, this was not amongst them.
Ahead of her, Spike pulled up a heavy iron plate and beckoned urgently. “God, I’m glad to get out of that room. I was going crazy shut in there. Here we go, Slayer. Straight down, turn left and keep going till you reach Willie’s. Unless you’d rather fight here?” he said hopefully.
Buffy shook her head. “I don’t want to fight you at all, Spike.”
“To me you’ll always be Spike. Listen, please - ” she reached out to him and he leapt back as the stake she’d forgotten she was holding, swung towards him.
“Hey! Watch it! Thought you didn’t want to fight?”
“I don’t! I just want you to sit still and listen to me for a couple of minutes. Is that too much to ask? We need to sort this out.”
Spike stared at her and absentmindedly rubbed at the vivid new scar that scored through his forehead and across his dark eyebrow. He was trying hard to sound as if everything was fine in his world. Being cocky and sarcastic seemed to come naturally to him, but underneath - he was scared. Terrified. What a bloody admission to make, he thought wearily. Whoever I am, I’m a vampire and as far as I know, being scared doesn’t come into the equation.
He stared at the thin, blonde woman standing looking at him. He didn’t understand the expression on her face. When she’d first seen him, her great greeny-grey eyes had filled with tears and he’d watched, fascinated, as the blood had literally drained away under her skin. Why would she need to cry over him? He knew instinctively that she was the Slayer. He didn’t know how. And, apparently, like the wrinkly demon Clem, he had been a friend of hers. But that was ridiculous. Vampires didn’t make friends with Slayers. He knew that as well as he knew he enjoyed watching football and drinking beer. So when had they been friends? And where? All he could remember was that his name was William, he was English, a vampire and he’d seemed to awaken as if from a deep sleep, walking down a dusty road, across a desert in the dark, heading south.
His head had ached. He knew he’d been in a fight - bloody hell, he was covered with cuts, bruises, there were broken bones still deep inside him that were only slowly mending. He knew he had to find a place called Sunnydale. He had to go home. But from that first moment of awakening, he’d been scared. And he didn’t know what he was scared of!
Buffy - bloody hell, what a stupid name - wanted to talk, not fight. For some reason that suited him. And that was a whole different sort of scary. He should be desperate to kill her, but oddly he wasn’t. The scar throbbed again and bright lights flashed across his vision. He was beginning to realise that every time he tried to think about the past, the scar hurt like hell. It was very tempting to not think.
“Please, can’t we talk for a moment,” Buffy pleaded.
Spike’s grin broke across his face, eyes sparkling sapphire, making her stomach churn with memories. “OK, Slayer. Just put that stake away. You’re making me twitchy.”
Buffy frowned. Facing a vampire who wanted to kill her without a stake was probably not the most sensible thing she’d done since she was sixteen. But - abruptly she pushed it into her waistband and sat down on an empty wooden crate.
Spike threw himself down on the ground. “OK, Slayer, talk. Why don’t you want to fight me?”
Buffy hesitated. She knew she could just make her excuses and go. Say goodbye to Clem and Elsa his wife and Tosh, their cute little son and head back to Europe, to take up her job training the young Slayers that were appearing everywhere. But her heart would always be here. Whoever Spike thought he was, she knew he was the man she loved. It had taken her a long time to admit it to herself. She’d tried telling herself that the teenage love she’d felt for Angel was real, that her feelings for Spike were based on lust and gratitude for how he’d dragged her out of the pit of depression she’d fallen into when Willow had brought her back to this world from whatever heaven she’d been in.
But she knew she was only lying to herself. What she felt for Spike was so deep, so powerful, her love for Angel paled beside it. That love had been right for the young girl she was then; this love was right for the adult she’d become. A fairytale love was no good to her now. She needed the strength of this feeling. It colored every minute of her life.
She would not admit defeat and go away, leaving Spike behind. She’d never given up a fight in her life and she wouldn’t start now. “I don’t want to fight you, because - ” it was impossible to tell him she loved him; she would sound pathetic - “we were friends, Spike. Your name is William. You used to be called William the Bloody, or Spike. You’re an English vampire. You’ve killed two Slayers in your life. You were sired in 1880 by a woman called Drusilla. She was your lover for over a hundred years. Her sire, your grandsire was a vampire called Angel.”
He started to interrupt but she held up an imperious hand and waved him silent. She was determined to get all this out.
“I don’t know everything you’ve done in your life, Spike. But you came to Sunnydale with Dru, and a couple of years later, some army boys put an electronic chip in your head. It meant you couldn’t hurt people, just demons and other vampires. Since then - I died, was brought back from the dead, we - we became friends, you got yourself a soul, we got the chip taken out of your head, you died saving the world, but, hey, back again, fighting with Angel in L.A. in a big battle. Now you’re here and - and you don’t remember any of it, do you?” she finished wearily.
Spike was staring at her, his face a study of bewildered puzzlement. He shut his eyes, and rubbed at the scar on his forehead. “I’ve got a soul?” he whispered, latching on to the most astounding words in the whole of her speech.
“You did when you saved the world.”
“Is that why I don’t want to fight you?”
Buffy fought back a smile. Oh, there were so many replies she could make. No, you don’t want to fight me because you want to make love to me, was the most honest answer, but she no longer knew if that was true. “I think some part of you does remember me,” she whispered sadly. “Not in your brain. That scar must have done some damage. Your memory has gone. But in your heart, in the soul you fought for, I think you remember me. You must remember me.”
Spike stared at her. Then he reached out and, curious, touched a tear that was running down her cheek. This woman was crying for him! The scar burnt wildly across his head and from somewhere, a quote came into his mind. “There was a writer, James Barrie, the man who invented Peter Pan,” he murmured slowly. “He said once, ‘God gave us memory that we might have roses in December’.”
Buffy reached up and curled her fingers round his. “I wish this was our December, Spike.”
“And are you my rose?”
They stayed there, green eyes meeting blue, questioning, searching. A clattering and banging brought them sharply back to reality. Buffy leapt to her feet as Clem came staggering along the passageway, his usually cheerful face haggard and distraught.
“Spike! Buffy! Thank god you’re here. You must help. Quick. Tosh is missing. Something’s taken my little boy!”
“Slow down, Clem. Calm down,” Buffy said, quietly freeing her fingers from Spike's. “You said something had taken him? When? What?”
“Kids wander off all the time,” Spike said briefly.
Buffy flashed him a mega watt glare. “Not helping,” she hissed.
“Elsa went on the bus to visit her family this morning,” Clem said. “Tosh had a bit of a cold so she left him with me. I only turned my back for a minute to get him some chips, honest, and he’d gone. And there were - Spike, there were Shades outside!” he ended in an agonised whisper.
“Shades? You mean those black demony things we saw at Willie’s?” Buffy said.
Clem nodded, every inch of skin quivering in despair. “What if they’ve taken him? What will I tell Elsa? Buffy, you’ve got to help, please.”
“Of course we’ll help. But Clem, why would they take a little toddler? He’s no threat to them.”
“I don’t know! I don’t know. Please come.” Clem set off back down the passageway towards the mall basement.
Buffy and Spike followed. Clem was a few yards ahead when Spike reached out and touched Buffy on the shoulder. A shock tore through her as if she’d been electrocuted. She’d used the expression ‘makes my blood tingle’ loads of times in the past without ever knowing what it really meant. Spike touching her, even through her t-shirt, made her realise exactly what it meant!
“Slayer,” he muttered in her ear. “Don’t tell him, but - Shades eat little kids.”
“What!” Buffy lurched to a standstill, then tried to look blank as Clem turned to beckon them on. “How on earth do you know that?”
Spike shrugged. “Just do. Shades are - ” he closed his eyes and rubbed at the new scar on his forehead. “Shades - inhabitants of a hell world not commonly seen,” he repeated as if he was reading it out of an encyclopaedia. “They exist around the immediate area of a Hellmouth. Shades are flesh eaters and prefer their prey to be very young and tender.” He stopped and stared at her, a puzzled expression in his blue eyes. “Don’t ask me where that info came from. My brain hurts too much as it is.”
“Sounds like something you heard my Watcher, Rupert Giles, say at some time, or a guy called Wesley, who you knew once, too,” Buffy said as they hurried after Clem. “Do you really think they’ve taken that little guy to - ”
Spike stared at her face. She’d gone very pale. It struck him as odd that a Slayer should be bothered about a demon baby. There was something not right there. She should have been happy that there was one less demon in the world, even if it was little. And yet, he found himself admiring the fact that this Buffy Summers did care. He knew - and again, he couldn’t have said how he knew - that in the world of vampires and demons, if they killed each other, ordinary people would be only too pleased.
“Right - ” Buffy had caught up with Clem at the doorway to Spike’s room. “I’m going to have a good look around outside. See if I can track them. Clem, you search the construction works. Ask the builders, the carpenters, everyone! He could just have gone exploring and got trapped somewhere. Spike - ”
The vampire lit a cigarette and looked at her through the smoke. Bossy little thing, isn’t she, he thought. All orders and tension. He could almost see the muscles flexing in her shoulders as she issue her instructions. She’d fished a little scrap of ribbon out of her pocket and tied back her long blonde hair into a pony-tail high on the back of her head. As she moved, the T-shirt clung to curve of her breasts and a faint sheen of sweat gleamed on her throat. And for the first time since he’d found himself on the road back to Sunnydale, Spike felt a surge of feeling flood through him. What the bloody hell! No, this was ridiculous. He was in no way going to get aroused by the Slayer. That was sick! Perhaps it was just because he was hungry. Yeah, that was it. He needed blood - and hers would be - Oh God, no! A blinding pain shot through his skull and he swayed on his feet.
“Spike! Are you OK?”
She was spinning round to him, hand outstretched. Oh God! Her blood! He could taste it on his tongue. In his mouth. At some time, some where, he knew how it tasted. No way. How could he remember her blood, but not her? And what was worse - he fought to keep his face from changing as he felt his demon trying to take over. The blood hadn't been tasted in battle - they’d been...he’d been....naked and - no! That was a load of crap. A vampire’s wet dream. She would have said if they’d ever been - well if they’d ever been lovers. And why in hell’s name would he have had sex with a Slayer?
“I’m OK,” he said thickly, throwing his cigarette away and stamping on it far harder than he needed. Anything to release the tension coursing through him in answer to her, this woman he didn’t know in his head - but in every nerve of his body, he did. Spike fought his way back to reality. He didn’t want her. He didn’t know her! He must go on telling himself that. It was just because she was the first woman he’d been close to since....well, since whatever had happened to him had happened. She was a good-looking girl if you liked little, thin women and, let’s face it, in some bizarre way he knew he hadn’t had any sex for a long time. That’s all it is, he thought angrily and closed his emotions down with a bang.
He had to help Clem. He liked the little tyke, Tosh. He had a secret bucket of toy cars under his bed that the toddler played with sometimes when he wandered away from his parents. Not that he was going to tell the Slayer about that! She’d think he was just a big girl’s blouse.
“What do you want me to do?”
“It’s broad daylight outside. You’ll need to go back through the tunnels and start asking around. Do these Shades have some sort of lair or den where they hang out? How many of them are there? We’ve got no idea what we’re up against - geez, this place! I thought once we’d closed the Hellmouth, it would stay closed.”
“It has, Buffy,” Clem broke in. “These things lived sort of round the Hellmouth, like in its suburbs. When it caved in, they just moved out into the desert and then headed back in when humans began arriving again.”
“Just wait till I tell Giles we’ve got suburban demons now! Do they drive nice cars and water their lawns and vote Republican? He’ll freak. But, hey, you say they’re not demons?”
Clem nodded his head, all his wrinkled skin moving at once. “Not demons and not vampires. Shades.”
“Well, whatever they are, we aren’t going to find Tosh by standing around gabbing about them,” Spike said.
Buffy winced. That touch of impatient arrogance had sounded just like the old Spike. But he was right. “OK, let’s get going.”
Clem vanished back up into the construction site. They could hear him calling Tosh’s name, his voice frantic with worry. Buffy looked across at Spike again. “Are you up for this?” she asked. “You still look beat. I can probably manage on my own.”
“Oh sure, Slayer. First sight of a good scrap and you want me to stay indoors and watch TV! Forget it.”
Buffy reached out a hesitant hand and touched his arm. He reared back as if she’d staked him. “Sorry! Just - take care of yourself,” she said, trying to stay calm. “I know you don’t remember being in a big fight lately, but believe me, you have.”
Spike’s face remained blank for a second or two and then he grinned and raised an eyebrow at her. “You’re a very odd girl, Slayer. I’d give a year’s supply of blood to remember what sort of friendship we had before. We’ll talk later. Perhaps you can fill me in a little about that. But, in the meantime - got a kid to find.”
He swung round and loped off down the passageway again. Buffy stared after him. She realised she was shaking. The last thing she wanted was to ever let him out of her sight again. But she had no choice.
She climbed up into the mall building site, her mind a whirling mass of thoughts and feelings. She’d never in her wildest dreams imagined a time when Spike wouldn’t remember her. She’d thought - when she’d heard he was back in L.A. - that he might have moved on with his life. She’d heard that Harmony was there and the girl called Fred. And always Angel. His grand-sire. No matter how much they professed to hating and detesting each other’s guts, she knew that the bond that bound them was, in some strange way, was nearly as strong as the one that bound her to Spike.
But he didn’t remember Angel either! She would have laughed if she’d had the time. Angel would so not be pleased about that. Well, she could recall when not remembering Angel would have been the biggest bonus any power that be could have bestowed on her.
And now? Now he was a nice memory of growing up and when they met or talked she felt affection and an enormous sense of irritation with the whole broody-champion of the worldy thing. And that reminded her, she hadn’t phoned him to let him know Spike was still alive. That was something she would have to do as soon as she sorted out the Shades.
The midday Californian sun was doing its level best to suck every drop of moisture out of the world. Outside the mall, the dusty road was empty. The glare from the glittering earth made her eyes ache and she pulled out her sunglasses. The workmen had vanished to eat their lunch somewhere cooler and it was very quiet without the constant hammering and banging. If there had been any Shades around, there certainly weren’t any now.
Clem’s car was parked where he’d left it the night before. Buffy hesitated then opened the door, moaning as the wave of hot air hit her and slid in. She needed to get down to Willie’s as soon as she could and see if she could locate the Shades that had attacked her the day before.
“You’d think at least one of them could have stayed around for a fight,” she grumbled, trying to see if the car had any AC. But as much as she hated the thought, she had to admit to herself that they’d probably vanished because they’d captured Tosh. “Oh God, let him be all right,” she prayed, turning the key Clem had carelessly left in the ignition. “He’s the only good thing that seems to have happened to any of us in the last few years.”
She pushed the gear lever forward, wondering how driving with a stick shift could be that difficult, glanced automatically in her rear view mirror and - the whole of the back seat was black with a vast, oily midnight cloud rose up and flowed forward, trying to envelop her in its nauseous folds.
to be continued