Song 1: Tom Waits: Big Black Mariah (2:44)
Like a disjointed demon, the ancient hearse struggled up the hill. Men ran around, before and aft, barely missing a rocky death as they urged and begged it around the gravel switch-backs up to the wealthy farmhouse atop Black Fork Mountain.
Spike leaned back, enjoying the show while he rolled fresh Kentucky tobacco into cigarettes. Drusilla danced, jerking like a puppet on strings, the fringe of her short dress smacking her legs as her arms reached forever to the sky.
They’d come to Kentucky for the bourbon and the promise of easy drinking during prohibition, far from the policeman’s gaze.
The rich –for these parts anyway- landowner and his sons had been an unexpected treat.
The big black Mariah rolled back on its clutch, and men scrambled like ants from a fire. There was a shout that carried over the valley to them. Someone was going to die, getting the hearse up that hill. How beautiful was that irony?
The car, he thought, was much like his Drusilla, and killed with as little thought.
Song 2: Blondie: Heart of Glass (4:35)
She lit up a room when she walked into it – her gowns shown like jewels, her smile like the sun, and her conversation was always witty, always propelling everyone around her forward. He thought, when he met Cecily, he knew what love was. He thought, when she rebuffed him, he knew heartbreak.
She was dark and mysterious and sudden and knew strange things and spoke to him like she could see inside him, inside destiny and dreams. He thought he knew love at last, when he died in Drusilla’s arms. When she left him, he thought, he’d learned the true heartbreak.
She was bright and deadly as a dagger. She burned him with her emerald eyes and broke him with her fists. Her heart never wavered and when she smiled at him, once, accidentally, he realized that this was love. When she fell from the tower, lying so peaceful on jagged rocks, he felt his heart shatter with her bones and really knew heartbreak.
She came back, though, and sure, yeah, a little worn for wear, a little tired for the trip round the proverbial and metaphorical bend, but she was still lovely, and he no longer loved for surface details or wit or grace. He loved her for her, for wanting her always. And he was sure his heart could never break again. Until she looked at him with such shame, hate, disappointment – he can’t describe the look she gave him, but he felt his stupid old heart crack again, falling into jagged pieces inside him until all he could do was reinvent himself.
Song 3: The Clash: Rudie Can’t Fail (3:31)
A high kick swings to the side – he feels the burn and pull in his hip-socket, as he always will, not having been blessed with enough flexibility in life, he fights his own healing tendons always. It adds spice.
The slayer dodges. Sweat sheens her cheeks, dark and lovely, like the fluorescent light on the leather wings of her coat. She kicks high too; they twist around each other. They smash chrome bars and glass and everything rattles so beautifully. All motion and force, rattling down a blind tube in the dark. Ruthless. Feckless. She nearly gets him, holds him through the window, the pipes and textures of the dark subway tunnel barreling past, any one threatening to take his head off. He laughs so hard. It’s so bloody rich. He’s never felt so alive.
He doesn’t want the dance to end. He wants to feel her hair, soft, none of the crap products some dark beauties use to burn their hair straight. She’s lovely and her fist hits with all the hard, perfect punch of a steel spike. This moment, he has won, won at life or unlife or whatever you call it, just to be here.
Song 4: Stone Roses: Love Spreads (5:46)
It was a hot summer night, a night of cicadae and sweat, that made dead flesh almost as warm as live. It was a night made for drinking beer on the front porch swing.
Spike looked out into the streetlights, and thought about nights like this, with Drusilla, in Italy or New Orleans, where the heady night led to blood and death.
“It’s like this, Niblet,” he said. Dawn was sitting on the steps, arms wrapped around her knees. Feeling small and inadequate and, in her words, “not even a mystic key thing anymore.”
“You stood on that tower,” he said. “You took the cut and didn’t scream.”
“I screamed,” she corrected him.
“Stood brave in the face of it all, a queen,” he said, watching the smoke curl from his own cigarette into the filtered sodium light of the street lamp. Dawn got the distinct feeling he wasn’t talking about her, anymore. If he ever was.
“My sister’s the chosen one. I’m nothing. Not even really her sister, and you wouldn’t be here, watching me, if it wasn’t for her.”
“Love is a woman,” Spike said, flicking the ash from the end of his cigarette. He took a drag and looked at Dawn. “Not just because some patriarchal knobs decided it’s so, you know, because men love women so love must be a woman. No. ‘S ‘cause women are tied to life, yeah? You put forth physical life, in pain and tears. That’s love itself. And love, Niblet, is stronger than death. Believe the guy who died, here. Your heart can stop beating and not stop loving.”
“Vampire off the deep end again,” Dawn muttered, head sinking into her fist as she turned to watch the more interesting pebbles glitter in the streetlight.
Spike chuckled. “No. That’s why you’re special, love. You’re a woman.”
Song 5: They Might Be Giants: Birdhouse in Your Soul (3:16)
Lights danced around the club, yellow, pink and blue. Fred bounced around gracelessly between Wes and Gunn, her head back and laughing loud while both men watched with the appreciative eyes of love, that brooked no judgment of skill.
Spike sipped his beer, smiling and thinking of the carefree girls he had known in his day. They came up now and again – the Freds of the world. Precious. They were why the fight had to be fought. To have more Freds in the world. More happiness.
He remembered a sweet-faced student in Prague. Damn. Souls sucked.
Fred pushed Gunn and Wes back like she was opening doors. “Spike!” She hopped up to his table and grabbed his beer-holding hand. “Come ON! No one likes a sourpuss!”
He smiled and drained the last of his beer. Or, perhaps, to have a little more Fred in each of us. “Sure, love. Let’s cut this rug.”
Song 6: Pearl Jam: Better Man (4:32)
His skin is sore, aches into the muscles and bones. He touches his face and feels the sting of salt from his fingertips. His nose is broken. Again. Vision is a little blurry, and the dawn is coming.
But he picks himself up, he gets himself home, and he’s not mad. Not hardly. She cared enough, didn’t she? Hate is close to love. And he’d never find a better woman. She’s the hero. She died to save the world. If this is what it takes to know, to learn how to please her and be hers, he’s prepared to wake up in a hundred alleyways.
She might think him incapable, but to be worthy of her, he will be a better man.
He watches a broad-shouldered back walk away. His soul is heavy in him now, bringing shame and regret with its morality. But Angel’s been a champion longer. He must know, somewhere in that thick skull, how to live like this. How to make it all right. He must know better than Spike, who has only a year of conscience to his name since his death.
So he picks himself up, and he follows. He’s prepared to take a hundred punches, if it will make him a better man.
Song 7: Cream: Tales of Brave Ulysses (2:49 – damn it, isn’t ‘art rock’ supposed to be long?)
“Admit it - you get tired of hanging around these children.”
Giles rolled his eyes. “Don’t kid yourself, Spike. You ARE one of the children.”
“Yeah. But I’m a kid who remembers hearing this song live.” Spike smirked and held out his hand.
Giles ignored the gesture and kept up his slow, meticulous rolling.
Spike sighed. “The dirty secret is, you’ve got a bit of punk kid in you, too, and you know it.”
“Yes, well, I have the maturity and experience to guide my actions now.” Giles twisted the ends of his joint and sighed, handing it over to Spike to light. “Even if they are juvenile.”
The vampire said nothing, bent on the task of taking the first hit while blueish smoke joined the psychedelic music in the air.
Spike handed the lit joint back. “You know, I think Drusilla predicted that tiny little fishes line. She was always sayin’ mad stuff like that. Think she was foreseeing acid rock, mate?”
“Bugger if I know,” Giles said, watching the wet shine of vinyl spinning. Like a black river, flowing, creating music from inscrutable texture, filling the air with images, flowering lace from waves and the lithe form of the nymph in the surf.
Christ, and he wasn’t even high yet.
Song 8: K.M.F.D.M.: Leid Und Elend (6:08)
Streetlights slipped over the windshield like lasers shooting through a futuristic fantasy. LA from the freeway at night was no less mystical – vague shapes of blue, brown and black with sudden light interposed, the pulsing neon of the club district, the snaking tail lights of the homeward-bound like a river of lava or souls slinking off to hell.
“Do you have to drive so fast?”
Spike glanced over at Angel long enough to make the other vampire panic and reach for the steering wheel. With a smug grin he resumed watching the road, slapping Angel’s hand away and reaching for the stick shift. “You own this bloody penis-enhancement, Peaches. You really have to ask?”
“I can’t believe I let you drive.”
Spike couldn’t hear the bitching – it slid over him as effortlessly as the light gleaming on the Viper’s sleek exterior. The beauty of night and speed and skill held him in thrall, mind and machine perfectly in tune, responding to each other, darting through traffic as lithely as a lace-maker’s needle, sewing light patterns for the traffic helicopter to see.
The radio was playing some mellower techno – quiet enough that Angel finally stopped whining about it. And Spike’s smile grew like a puddle of blood as he heard the old poof relax, stop breathing, and start enjoying the ride.
Song 9: Tchando: Ussak Ndja (5:00)
Paper lanterns and chilli-pepper lights turned the silvered wood and tin of the seaside dive into a magical space, a carnival of color in the darkness thrumming with insects and humidity.
Young local girls danced the mambo in short, colorful skirts very much in last decade’s style.
They had a special talent, in these parts, not to see things. Spike had to hand them that, as he sat in a corner getting slowly drunk. Dru had just left… with her new whatever-the-fuck.
Spike wasn’t a vain man, but, antlers? Slime? Was Dru really not that picky? What did it say about him, that she was able to embrace such… such…
He threw his nearly-full corona, enjoying the explosion of piss-colored liquid against the wall and the irate shouts.
Good at not seeing things, here, but with little enough to lose that they didn’t pause to tell a stranger he was an ass. Yeah. He could love this place, love the tinny speakers and the overly-enthusiastic music, the shaking backsides of too-young barflies. He could love it. But now he hated it. This bar was hell, plain and simple. And hell had shit for beer.
Song 10: Iron & Wine: Woman King (4:20)
Wondering what Illyria thought of you was rather like wondering what a preying mantis thought as it ate its spouses’ head.
If she had any regard for him – and hell if gaining that was anything but random – it was the regard a shark has for a tasty mackerel.
Still, it was something else, like touching pure vacuum and coming away unscathed – and Spike had his share of forbidden experiences, what with surviving death and all, twice.
Illyria laid on her side, half over almost on her stomach, her blue-tinted fingertips running over his arm with a scientist’s curiosity, not a lover’s intention. Her wide, unblinking eyes: did they take in faults or admire? Was he just an interesting arrangement of molecules?
Best not to think of it. He picked up her hand and brought it to his lips. She didn’t recoil as he kissed, tasting a cold absence that was once Fred. There’s a little of her taste, still, like fruit flavor left in the wax-paper packaging. A hint of Fred, who would never be here, with him, when there was smart Wesley or wholesome Gunn to fulfill her needs.
Illyria shifted, came up to straddle him, watching his lips on her fingers with fascination. Her lips slightly parted and he could see the darker blue inside them.
He can’t decide if he’s unfathomably lucky or cursed, if she is the apocalypse personified or a savior just born.