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The Streets Aren't For Dreaming Now

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His boots rang hollowly on the wet pavement as he meandered through the heart of Times Square. The late spring night was cool on his bare arms, and for a moment he missed his duster. A relic from his last visit to this godforsaken pit. Last seen lying on the stair railing of a certain house in California. Another thing he’d given her, that she’d taken from him.

It had taken him three nights of hard riding to get to New York, ignoring speed limits and stealing gas or the money to pay for it as he went, sleeping in any dark place he could find just before the sun came up. He’d gone straight to the docks and bribed a drone in the harbormaster’s office for the departure time of the next tramp freighter to Africa. It would take over a week to get there, but there were no nighttime flights to the west coast of Africa, and without someone to meet him shipping himself was a risky option as well. So it would be a week of hiding in the hold with aging bagged blood and all the rats he could eat, and cheap paperbacks and his memories to keep him company.

Wasted and wounded, it ain't what the moon did
Got what I paid for now

So with two days to kill, he wandered the streets of New York, remembering. The last time he’d been here had been with Dru, back in the seventies. Dru had loved New York, all the people and the lights and that indefinable quality that made this such a unique city among all its sisters. Times Square had been one of their favorite places. They had milled among the whores and the tourists and the junkies, feeding and fucking and partying. Hunting the Slayer had been a bonus. He had stalked her for weeks, studying her, knowing her. Seeing the responsibilities of her life wearing down on her. She was ripe, and he had been hungry to pluck her.

She had fought like a creature that knew it was doomed, and he got hard feeling her fighting for her life, knowing he’d be feeling that life draining down his own throat. He’d broken her neck and stripped the body before feeding, draining some of the precious fluid into an old beer can he found in the train car to take home to Dru. Even cooled, the life force ebbing from it, it had been enough to drive her wild with lust, and he had pounded her for hours, days, before either of them thought about needing to feed again. But that had been before Prague, and Sunnydale. Before everything had gone to hell.

No one speaks English and everything's broken

Sunnydale was supposed to be the garden spot of the planet for them. From the moment he and Dru had heard about the Hellmouth and the du Lac Cross, all they could talk about was how different things would be when they got to Sunnydale. Better than they were before. Dru would get her strength back, and between them they would rule the Hellmouth like royalty. The chance at another Slayer? Bonus.

They couldn’t have known the cosmic joke the Hellmouth made of the lives of anyone aware of its presence.

Had no way of knowing Angel was there. Waiting to draw Dru away from him as the bastard always did without even trying.

Had no way of conceiving how different this Slayer was versus all the others. Unorthodox, independent, and far from alone. She became his obsession as much as Angel was Dru’s.

It made them vulnerable, weak in a way Dru’s incapacitation hadn’t. The trip to the Hellmouth had destroyed them. He never should have gone back there. Not the first time, and certainly not the second.

After that, the Hellmouth wouldn’t let him go.

I begged you to stab me, you tore my shirt open
And I'm down on my knees tonight

He couldn’t say when the change started. With the chip? Or was it the moments of bravery and compassion he had been privy to before that?

Joyce of course was the first. Standing over him with a fire axe in her hand. He had laughed at himself after that. If he hadn’t been so startled, he could have gutted her where she stood. What a coup that would have been, to butcher the Slayer’s mother right in front of her. Instead he had run. Only to be invited into her house months later, despite her knowing what he was. She had been a kind ear when he needed it, regardless of what he was.

Dawn had never been afraid of him. He knew the memories were false, planted there by the monks who created her. But he could still see her, a coltish, skinny twelve year old staring him down through her front door, not knowing he’d already crushed the skull of one of her sister’s friends that night. Saw the burgeoning thirteen year old sneaking into his crypt to poke and prod him about the damn chip. No, she’d never been afraid of him. Was that still true?

Even the stodgy old Watcher had the heart of a lion when challenged. Spike still treasured the image of Rupert pounding on Angelus with a flaming baseball bat. No fear, only rage and revenge.

They had treated him no worse than his undead family had. Their insults had been no worse than the derision heaped upon him by Angelus over the years, and without the violent abuse that had always accompanied his words. He plotted, and they foiled, and things had gone on like that.

He didn’t know when it had begun, but he knew when it ended. When all thoughts of them as enemies, as rivals ended and his descent ended with a heart stopping crash.

The dream.

When he surrendered himself to her, knowing the truth of his heart, and knowing he was love’s bitch yet again.

Now I lost my Saint Christopher now that I’ve kissed her

It was her kisses that had finally destroyed him.

The first, eager and innocent despite being coerced from her by Red’s spell, had lured him

The second, soft, grateful and brief on bitch-pummeled lips, had hooked him.

But it was the third, passionate and hungry and fully aware, there in the musty alley behind the Bronze, that finally did him in, wrapped around him and sunk him into the dark depths of a sea of emotion. All chance of the illusion of friendship died between them in that moment, and all that was left was possession.

He should have known she would possess him, not the other way around.

She snipped off little pieces of him over and over and over until he forgot who he was, forgot just what he was capable of.

Until he reminded her.

Reminded them both.

Now he was going to make sure he never forgot again.

And it's a battered old suitcase to a hotel someplace
And a wound that will never heal

Times Square was transformed now, the seedy decay covered up with glittering billboards and Disneyland butter cream, safe for the whole family. But he could see the cracks, the places the darkness and the filth lingered on, despite all the window dressing.

Could see those same places in himself.

But he was going to change that, wasn’t he? Make the illusion reality.

Become what she deserved.