"Checkmate. Again," I tell her.
Buffy's not even looking at me. She stares down at the chess board the way she has all evening, her green eyes empty of anything I can read, as if some answers for whatever questions are plaguing her might be found in the smooth ebony and ivory pieces. She doesn't care about the game, or that I've trounced her thoroughly nine in a row, or even that she's sitting in her mother's living room playing chess with a creature who not so long ago was her arch enemy.
Really, she's had this look for a couple of weeks, now. Sort of vacant, distracted, never quite present in attention where her body is.
I hate to admit it, but seeing her so lost tears me up inside. I've always been drawn to her light (much like that old moth to flame thing), that bright joie de vivre and particular flair with which she does everything, including kick my ass. I'm always helpless in the wry amusement that sparkles in those eyes, the searing commentary of that sarcastic smirk and those biting remarks. But lately, it's like her spirit -- that whatever it is that makes her Buffy-- has moved out, and I'm looking at nothing but barely animated Slayer Shell. The Buffy Zombie.
It's bloody creepy, is what it is.
I wave my hand in front of her distant gaze, which is still fixed on a game now long over. Ass kicking number nine in Spike's column. I should be happy, right? After all, any small victory against my most formidable foe is something to covet.
But mostly, I just want to bring her back from wherever she's gone.
"Hello... Earth to Slayer. You lost. Again."
Her eyes come up slowly from their unseen focus, and she looks into my face, but somehow, her gaze never really manages to meet mine.
"Oh," she mumbles absently, "Play again?"
I have to struggle against the urge to growl in frustration. She sounds like a damn computer or something. I want to shout at her. Ask her why she's so damn lifeless. I have very hard time believing that Captain Cornflake's departure could possibly have this deep an effect on her.
I won't lie and say I had her best interests in mind when I exposed the dunderhead's nighttime hobbies. I won't try to tell you I had even the faintest of good intentions. Fact is, I hated that stupid Neanderthal. I hated his big, caveman head and his floppy hair and that goofy, 'aw-shucks' grin. The way he looked at her with that hang-dog infatuation, scrambling like a starving puppy for scraps of affection from her that he would never get -- and never had any right to expect, if you ask me. I hated the idea of him having those big, clumsy paws all over the Slayer, and I hated the fact that she let him hang around.
So I got rid of him. Or at least, I did my part to help the process along.
Hell, truth be told, I'd rather have her with my fruity Pseudo-Sire. Much as I hate the wanker, there's something comforting about knowing that someone of my blood is looking after her, even if it isn't me.
I stare at her, and for a moment she looks just like him, which throws me. The scrunched brow, the pinched lips, the shadow of sorrow and self-pity dragging her face down into a sorry brooding mask that Angel has spent a hundred years honing into an art form.
"Why bother?" I reply at last, "I'll just hand you your pretty ass again anyway. Gets boring after a bit."
Buffy says nothing. Her attention has already drifted away again, and the only way I know she's heard me at all is by the barely perceptible shrug of her fine shoulders.
Ever since I've declared my self "Pathetic Watch Demon of the Slayer", it seems I've acquired a few handy, and neverendingly annoying skills. One of which is empathy, which comes along with a healthy dose of sympathy.
I've thought about that a bit. About what this effin' chip has done to me. I figure it's something like this -- I have to think a lot more carefully nowadays about what or whom I kill, and that forces me to think about creatures as individuals a bit more, which is a sort of enforced empathy, I guess.
Those Soldier Boys sure know a bit about torture, I tell you. Imagine my great chagrin to find I've got an electronic soul, of all things. When I first figured that one out, I promptly went out and got myself good and snookered. A soul. William the Goddamn Bloody with a USDA electronic soul. Wouldn't Angel be proud?
Point is, I've managed to minimize the empathic damage by focusing only on the Slayer, and it's some measure of relief to realize that I don't really care about her in some mushy, fuzzy-bunny sort of way, but in a "Damn, I miss the smart-ass, fiery bitch who beats the Hell out of me on a regular basis" sort of way. It's nominally better.
"So, what's your problem, then?" I ask her, playing it cool, getting up to grab a pint I've brought from where I've stowed it in the Slayer's fridge, warm it up quick, and bring it back. Sort of a fun irony, I think.
She watches me return, and I see a glimmer of something flash in her dead eyes.
I don't think Buffy's fully comfortable with the new, improved me, either.
"Why would you think anything's wrong?" Her voice is as flat and totally unconvincing as her demeanor. "For that matter, why would you care?"
I lean back against the door frame and give her a nonchalant shrug. "Bored, is all. Telly's out."
She snorts, but doesn't answer my question.
I sit back down in the chair across from her, and lean forward like bloody Freud with my mug of blood in my hand. Buffy stares at me like I just sat down like bloody Freud with a mug of blood in my hand.
"You're really freaking me out with this nice routine, Spike."
I roll my eyes at her. "Stop avoiding the question. You're the one who's been dragging ass around this place for two weeks like somebody ate your damn puppy. It's annoying. When's the last time you even picked up a stake?"
Her empty look turns into a glare. That's something, at least. Shows maybe I can goad her into some semblance of life.
"That's none of your business," she snipes, jumping to her feet in outrage. I'd swear she was getting ready to bolt in a snit, but then, of course, she comes to the realization that this is her house, and that would just be stupid. So she sits down again, her indignant fury making her shake as her eyes drop back to that damned chessboard.
I sit up straighter and gulp down my dinner. After wiping my chin, I add, "Listen, pet, you're not the first person to lose a lover, you know... and it's not like you haven't been abandoned before."
Her head snaps up in shock, and her mouth falls open like she's going to argue. Of course, she can't, because I'm right, so she shuts it again.
Having woken her up a little, I plunge on.
"I have to tell you, I have a really hard time believing you're this broken up over that wussy farmboy."
I can smell her rage snap up a notch. Her body goes a tiny bit more tense, and her scowl scrunches a little further. Yeah... that's what I'm looking for. Stoking the fire. I set my mug down and get ready to run, because I have every intention of pushing her to the snapping point.
"I mean, you barely knew the wanker, for all the scroggin' you did. And he couldn't have been too bright, if he was out playing snack bar to a bunch of demon whores to get your attention! Really, Slayer! I just don't get it!"
"SHUT UP!" she barks.
Oh, yeah! That's my girl. It's not gonna take much, now. And I know just the thing to put her over the edge.
"Quite a come down from the Eternal Ass-Twitching Angst that is my Sire, eh?"
That's it. She's on her feet again, her cute little face all red, and she's advancing on me with murder shining in those...
Oh, shit. Now's where I bolt, if I want my ass to stay a solid and not turn to a fine powder.
"YOU FUCKING BASTARD! WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT IT?" She screams.
Okay, so maybe I pushed the wrong button. I grab my coat and flee out the front door before the "it" even finishes echoing off the living room walls. But Buffy's out of her mind pissed, now, and she's right on my heels. 120-something years as the Big Bad Predator, or no, she's going to catch me. Really, I don't mind so much. I could do with a good spot of violence. So long as I don't get staked.
I haven't run so damned fast in I don't remember how long. And I know for a fact that I've never run like this from her. It feels good, the chase, even if I'm technically the prey. Wind whipping my face, leaping hedges and white picket fences like bloody Jessie Owens, and I have to laugh. I can still hear her cursing from behind me, including something about forgetting a damn stake and how she doesn't need one anyway, because she's going to rip my damned head off with her bare hands.
Buffy catches me just inside the walls of Sunny Rest, and I can smell the rage on her. She tackles me fit for a good rugby match, and I'm still laughing as I crash face first into the wet grass. This is the most fun I've had in forever.
She grabs me by the hair and flips me over, and now I'm laughing so hard, it's all I can do to raise my arms in self-defense. She's panting and growling like a rabid animal as she rains Slayer strength punches down on my face, and in a moment, I'm not laughing anymore, because her hot body is straddling me, and I'm so hard I could probably fuck her right through our clothes.
I've got a little thing for being dominated, you know.
I grab hold of her wrists and finally still her. Her wrath is palpable in the air between us, and her hot breath smells sweet, like candy.
"There. Now don't you feel better?" I manage to choke.
The Slayer freezes and stares down at me, dead silent. Her eyes are wild, her mouth turned down in the most delicious, murderous scowl.
She stinks like madness... and sex. Funny combination, really. Like my old Sire, in fact, but without the blood and the promise of torture implements.
"You did that on purpose," she growls.
I give her my best leer and a shrug in response.
She hauls off and cracks me a good, stiff right in the jaw.
"You ASSHOLE! I FUCKING HATE YOU!" she screeches, and swings again. But this time I'm ready for her, and manage to stop the blow with ease.
She's so close... so close I can fell the heat of her on my skin.
"You really need a new line, Slayer," I say, but my voice isn't quite right... sort of too high and scratchy, with lust or hunger, I'm not sure. And in a split second, I don't really give a witch's tit, because her hot lips are smashed against mine, her sweet tongue violently plundering my mouth. Hands made to tear my kind in two are tearing nothing but my shirt, and then that mouth is on my bare chest, licking, biting hard enough to draw blood. I yelp in spite of myself at the pleasure of it -- it's too much, her mouth, her scent, my blood, her crotch grinding against my hard-on.
My only thought is, "What the Hell is this?"
Then she wipes that thought away by ripping at the button fly of my jeans and yanking them down to my knees, her little hand grasping my rod too hard (not hard enough) and too hot, and I gasp out loud.
"I FUCKING HATE YOU!" She rages on, "You TASTE like Him! I can SMELL Him all over you! I can't STAND IT! I CAN'T STAND THAT YOU KNOW HIM AND YOU HAVE HIS BLOOD IN YOU AND I FUCKING HATE IT!"
She's crying now as she dives down and vacuums my cock right down her tight throat. My brain has checked out, and all that's left is mouth (Slayer mouth. Mouth's been on His mouth, His cock) and her hot tears splashing on my crotch as she sucks with a fury fit to draw a golfball through a garden hose.
"GAH!" I shout. Never was one much for poetry in the sack.
She's hauling me right along to the gates of a Heaven I don't believe in, and it's my every wild dream come true -- the Slayer blowing me right in the middle of the cemetery where just any fledgling (or He Himself...) might come along and see. I tangle my hands in that thick mane of honey hair, and ignore her sobbing, focusing only on the slurping mouth, the grasping hand on my balls. I try not to hate the fact that it's Him she's blowing, and that I'm wishing it was Him that was blowing me. Pretty soon I'm not seeing blonde hair, but sable, not hazel eyes, but melting chocolate, and I can't fucking STAND the idea that I'm in love with the bint because she belongs to Him. Why do I always have to fall in love with His possessions? Can't I, just once, have something of my own?
I grab her by a fistful of that hair, and yank her off my dick, using the momentum to flip her onto her back, eliciting a pained yelp from her chest as all the air leaves her lungs. (He can't fuck her. I can.) I don't have anything to say, because half of me's focused on ripping her clothes off, and the other half is fighting the overpowering compunction to just shred that fine throat and drink Him right out of her veins. God, I want to taste her! So much worse than I want to fuck her. (Her heart will taste like Him.) But I can't, because that would hurt her, and subsequently, hurt me (hurt Him) like Hell. So I'll settle for this.
I finally have her naked and writhing beneath me, tiny hands forcing my mouth back to hers, crushing grip of legs around my waist, heels digging into my ass, commanding me home into that dark, wet, tight, pulsing passage that cost my Sire His soul...
My Sire. My fucking bastard son of a whoring goddamn Sire. My beloved. My Master.
Now I'm fucking his mate, driving my cock so deep and hard (He was here. He felt this.) and damn it, now I'm weeping right along with her. I ram her hard -- it's painful for me, so it must nearly be killing her. But the chip doesn't go off. Buffy wants it. She loves it. She wants me to rip her in two. She meets my every thrust with unbridled viciousness like she knows it hurts me, too.
This is not exactly the coupling I had in mind with the Slayer. We're both sobbing and grunting and fucking each other bloody. I arch myself away from her and watch her throw her head back and howl like some rutting Hellbeast. The sight of it is too much. Her heat, too much. Her blood roaring loud enough to split my skull as she comes. I ram myself in once, twice, again, her throbbing cunt milking me beyond agony, beyond ecstasy, beyond even the tears, and for that single moment, when the world explodes, my balls tighten and release and my cold seed jets into her heat, there is no Angel. There's only us, our shrieking, our orgasm, the stars and the gravestones.
When it's done, I fall onto my back in the grass beside her. She doesn't look at me, she just lays there, panting, staring up at the sky with tears streaming down her face.
I reach for my coat, snatch out my cigs, and light one up. I look over at the Slayer, and now I find she's staring at me. I offer her a smoke. She shakes her head. I shrug. She sits up and wraps her knees in her arms like she's not buck naked in the middle of Sunnydale's biggest graveyard.
"He left me. He promised he never would, but he did."
Her voice has some life, at last -- not quite sorrow, not quite anger... just not understanding. I know she's not talking about pasty fish face commando boy, either.
I stay right where I am. I don't want to touch her again, and have all that pain come back. A goddamn century of repressed pain.
"Yeah, well, you're not the first one he left."
My voice is bitter, a surprise even to me -- but apparently a bigger shock to her. Buffy stares at me like I just told her I'm the Tooth Fairy or something.
(*Gypsies, lad. My lovely mate has brought us some Gypsies...*)
"You were lovers," she observes, like it's something she's suspected for a long time, but only now believes.
A fury washes through me. How can she, the most dread killer of my kind, not know this? Something so simple about my species? Something so fundamental to what we are?
(*Lower, my boy... ahhh, yessss... that's it. Ye grow more skilled everyday...*)
"He was my SIRE, ya bloody TWIT! That's a DAMN SIGHT MORE INTIMATE THAN THIS!!!" I shout at her, waving my cigarette at her naked form, "YOU DON'T KNOW A DAMN THING ABOUT MISSING HIM! You've been apart for, what, two YEARS? HE'S MY BLOOD, AND I'VE BEEN WITHOUT HIM FOR A *HUNDRED*!"
I can't believe how mad I am. Mad with jealousy, loneliness, that old, long-forgotten longing, and now resentment. I clutch the cigarette between my teeth and yank my pants back on, leaping to my feet in the same motion. I want to kill her. I want to rip her apart, limb from limb. As much as I wanted to be inside her a few minutes ago, now I can't get far enough away fast enough.
And she's still sitting there, staring at me with that funny stupid look on her face in all her unveiled Slayer (Sire's Mate) Glory.
"WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT???" I scream at her. There's nothing left of my shirt, so I just pull on my coat and start to stomp off.
"Spike! Will... wait."
Her use of my given name -- the name He always used -- freezes me in my tracks, just like it's Him that said it. An order I can't ignore. But I refuse to turn around.
I hear her get to her feet and put on what's left of her outfit, and then she's beside me, her little hand on my arm.
I finally look down at her. She's so small, so young, and I can suddenly understand my Sire's mind-numbing desire to protect her. But I still hate the bitch. I'm so jealous of her, I could spit. I love her, too. Much like my psychotically confused feelings for Him. Like they're one and the same goddamned being.
"You love him too," she says.
I snort. Demons don't love. And they sure as Hell don't love cruel, sadistic (tender) progenitors who'd just as soon peel the skin off your carcass as look at you. Even less their whiney, simpy, soul-eyed do-gooder alter egos.
"Yeah," I reply, so soft, I'm not sure if she could have heard.
She nods. "It's funny. I don't miss Riley. I mean, I do... I miss having... someone..." She shakes her head a little, probably realizing how fucking pathetic that sounds. Then her eyes meet mine again, and there's the life I was looking for. It's sorrow, it's pain, but it's life.
Oh, the cost. I feel like my dead heart's been ripped wide open. Is it for her? For Him? Does it matter?
"Riley left me," she goes on, "But all I can think about is Angel leaving me. Why?"
I don't know if she's asking why her head's all fucked up and her priorities twisted, or why my bloody idiot Sire abandoned her. I shrug and take a wild guess.
"Probably figured it was the best thing for everyone."
(*He's gone, Spike, so just stop ASKING ME! Believe me, it's for the best, what he is now... you don't want to see him.*)
Buffy gives another wise little nod. "Yeah, I guess."
We walk back to her house in thoughtful silence. I thought I was over this decades ago. Haven't given the plonker more than a passing thought in what, 2, 3 years? Some demons just can't be exorcised, I guess.
But why now? That's what I want to know. Obviously everything that's happened in the last year has led up to this very night, me and the Slayer walking down the street with our guts hanging out, both missing the same damn ghost. Why this tickling in my blood? Why did a simple scrog with the hottest woman on the planet end up opening some floodgates into my Sire issues?
The phone is ringing as we walk through the door. Her mum and the chit are off on some weekend getaway or something, so she rushes in to answer it. I follow, locking the door behind me, and help myself to a good, tall glass of her mother's finest double malt. Then another. And another, in quick succession. Less than the time it takes for her to say "Hello?"
I down another quickly. Buffy's quiet, listening. Don't like that one bit. Her face drops. I pour myself another, try to pretend it's the booze or the sex that's making my skin too tight, and my blood even itchier. Another shot.
"What?!" she gasps, "When?"
I stop with my seventh glass halfway to my lips. I turn slowly, and by the stricken look on her face, there's only one thing that whoever's on the other end of the line could be talking about.
"What do you mean, you don't know where he is? How could you just let him go?!"
She's shouting, frantic. I'm frozen to the spot. But not too frozen to drink that whiskey. I have a feeling I'm going to need it.
"No, I know. I'm sorry, just... Okay... Cordy, calm down, please. We're coming. We'll leave right now. Don't go anywhere."
Buffy slams the phone down at the same moment that I set my glass on the counter.
She moves like lightning, grabbing me by the hand and pulling me back toward the door. I grab the Scotch on the way.
"What the Hell is this then?" I managed as she drags me out, scratching a quick note and tossing it on the foyer table as we pass.
I'm asking, but I already know (no, not Him...), and I know it's bad -- world off its axis bad--because that's what the itching and humming and all the rest have been about.
The Slayer stops. Looks at me. "Where's your car?"
My... I haven't thought about the DeSoto in months. Dunno if the damn thing even runs anymore. "At the mansion."
I finally pull back. "Hey, wait, there, pet. Don't you think you better tell me what the Hell's going on?"
She looks at me again. Fire in her eyes. Fire, always, for Him. "Angel's in trouble. He's disappeared. We have to find him."
I don't argue anymore. That's all she had to say.