Dru was right.
Dru had always been right.
But the stars that Spike heard did more than speak.
They screamed, and they slithered, and they wormed their way into his ears to wrap around his skull and whisper their wrongs over and over and over again, until he prayed for the chip to fire and silence them, once and for all. Pain, he could deal with.
The horrors of truth, he could not.
Respite was infrequent and unpredictable. At first, Spike tried sleeping to block them out, but with sleep came dreams, memories recast with skeletal puppets from the past and present, dancing to the stars’ songs until their frenzy left him dizzy and dazed. So for the long trip back to the reason for his damnation, he chose the one method proven to work, drawing the blade he found in slippery patterns over his skin until the blood washed away every whisper.
They clamored again once he was on dry land and surrounded by pulsing flesh and not the groans and skitters of the ship’s hold. He wanted to stay behind, to hide in the dark where it was wet and warm, but purpose denied him that freedom, driving him from the ship to run and run through streets that went nowhere. If he listened to the pounding of his feet on the concrete, it was harder to hear the stars.
It didn’t rid him of them completely, though. At least Spike finally understood why Drusilla had worn the garland of rose stems in Prague.
The sound of his steps changed, becoming hollow and unheavy. Spike slowed, but when he saw the dark gate, tall and black and leading to nothingness, he stopped, staring at the iron bars. Another gate in another time floated over the one he stood in front of, similar enough to make him forget the stars for precious seconds. Wrong continent, of course. Wrong century. Just wrong wrong wrong.
“Oh, William, my dear boy…”
The hair on the back of his neck prickled at the ghost given voice, but Spike refused to turn around and acknowledge that he’d heard it. It wasn’t the first time a memory had demanded an audience. It would not be the last.
His gaze slid sideways, to the narrow door embedded in the brick façade. The door of his past had been higher, without the electric doorbell at its side, but still, the resemblance was enough to make him pull himself straighter, to lift his chin and square his shoulders. He almost squinted before the rational thought of You don’t need the soddin’ glasses any more, you git cut through the fog.
“They were simpler times, were they not?” Her voice was low and musical, and when he saw her slight form out of the corner of his eye, more vibrant and more relaxed than he remembered her being towards the end, a small corner of Spike’s mind whooped and hollered with relief. Not all his memories of his mother were painful. “Do you wish for them?” she asked.
She chuckled, and for a second, Spike’s wistful reverie faltered. Its timbre was harsher than he recalled, scraping across his damaged soul rather than soothing it. Unconsciously, he took a step away.
“And do you fancy yourself the gingerbread man now, William?” Anne said. Her head tilted back to allow her to look up at the night sky. “Foolish boy. You can’t escape your own mediocrity. Magic only masks the truth. It doesn’t make it go away.” She was smiling when she turned back to gaze at him with eyes of silvery moonlight. “Only death does.”
His mouth was open to argue, to protest against such a vagary, but the stars began to sing again, this time with new voice, new purpose.
“Early one morning, just as the sun was rising, I heard a maid sing in the valley below…”
With each word, another veil was lifted, freeing his obscured vision until he saw the true nature of the night around him. It was pointless to cower in fear of that which he could not change. The past was gone, dead, cringing in a white-tiled corner with honeyed skin and butterfly bruises, and no amount of hair-pulling and skin-tearing would ever alter that. All that mattered was now. All that was real was death.
When the woman came to the not-his-door smelling of sex and alcohol and teetering on heels that begged her to fall, he separated from the night to catch her in his embrace, dragging her back and pressing her to the iron barred gate as he sank into her pliant flesh. She tried to slither out of his grasp, and she tried to scream for help, but Spike knew all the tricks, stopping her almost before she started.
And it was good.
Hot. Pounding. A memory given life more salient than any of the nightmares that had plagued him since Africa.
The blood washed away all his doubt.
He hid her body in the alley blocked off by the gate, pocketing the wad of bills from the canvas billfold in her purse like it was payment due. When he turned to leave, Anne blocked his exit, making him hesitate for the first time since offering her words of wisdom.
“From beneath you, it devours,” she said. “Join it, my sweet William. You are the same.”
Spike blinked. She was gone.
And the stars were speaking again.