1. Chapter 1 by Blackoberst
*Munich, Germany, August 21st, 1997*
Spike had gone out for a smoke. It wasn’t something he had to go outside for, but he needed to clear his head. The nest they’d found was full of sycophants, and wannabes, and old masters. ‘Masters’ with their delusions of grandeur stemming from having been minor nobility centuries ago, in countries deader than they were. It was exactly the kind of scene he’d tried to avoid ever since he’d offed his fist Slayer.
What was worse was that Spike had to act like one of those sycophants, and play by the rules he usually ignored, because he needed help. Or, more importantly, Drusilla needed help.
He pushed off the wall he was leaning against, turned around and kicked it in frustration. The pain in his leg helped ground him in reality. He needed something to cling on to, since he was going through the worst summer of his unlife. That mob in Prague had really done a number on his Princess. And it was bad. So bad, in fact, that he was now looking for information about what could be done. It was almost a week since the attack, and he was in the arse-crack of bloody Munich, looking for anything to get his Dru back on her feet.
He hated all the rituals, but he’d had to use his clout as the Slayer of Slayers to get Duke von Prick to use his lousy skills at speaking Latin to perform an invocation that was supposed to reveal what it was that could help his Dark Plum.
He threw away the spent cigarette and lit up a new one. It was getting close to midnight. The witching hour. The Duke was very specific that he needed to do whatever it was he was about to do at midnight. Talk about clichés. Dru never needed to wait until a certain time to have one of her visions.
Only she was so weak now, she could barely speak, let alone make even as much sense as she usually made. Which, of course, left Spike in the position he was in. He really hated being beholden to anyone, especially someone as generally useless as Duke von Ponce.
He finished his cigarette and took a moment to calm himself down. He needed to play the part, do anything, for the chance of a cure. Anything, just to get through this horrible time.
*Sao Paolo, Brazil, June 27th 1998*
Spike watched the clouds move across the night sky with his legs half-dangling off the edge of the building. He was upset, and sad, and mad, all at the same time. Every single day and night seemed to be the same lately. He would wake up to an empty bed, go out to find Dru, who either yelled at him, or ignored his presence. He wasn’t sure which was worse. Then things would only go downhill from there, until, at some point, he’d end up dropping from exhaustion, booze, or both, in some random person’s bed, but always alone.
Back when she’d gone off with the Immortal, or when she’d left him looking for her all over war-torn Europe during the Second World War, things hadn’t been this bad between them. Sure, being left behind back then had been bad on so many levels, but at least he was certain that when he’d find her, she’d welcome him with open arms. Which she did. Every single time.
Not the case now, though. He was next to her, and yet he couldn’t reach her, however hard he tried. No matter what he said, or did, no matter how many presents he offered her, or what orgies of violence he set up for them to indulge in, it was never enough.
He knew he wasn’t the same kind of monster as Angelus, but he’d made up for it in other ways. Or at least, that’s what he’d always thought. He was the bloody Slayer of Slayers, for fuck’s sake.
But he wasn’t monster enough for his woman. Probably never had been. Possibly never would be.
Peaches. It was always him. Even dead he was fucking with Spike’s unlife. And he had to be dead, though Spike hadn’t stuck around to watch the Slayer do the deed. The world was still in place, and no hordes of demons had started slaughtering everything in their path, so she must have won. And if that wasn’t self-evident enough, Dru’s screams and insults were a sure sign.
Of course, worse than those was when she was calm. Having the love of your unlife tell you, while lucid, that you cost her the life of her Daddy, and that she’d never forgive you for it, is a whole other level of despair he hadn’t ever reached before. He felt he was drowning, and that is a weird thing for a vampire to be afraid of.
He got up and looked around. He needed to go out and find something to eat. He needed to put his head on straight. Once you hit rock bottom, there’s no way but up, right?
*Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, July 14th, 1999*
Spike rolled over and squinted to clear his vision, only to be met with a brick wall. He blinked a few times to clear the cobwebs from his brain. Not much luck. He couldn’t remember the name of the town he was in. Sure smelled rank, though.
He focused on his surroundings again. The back alley of a bar somewhere. Had to be a bar, considering the amount of broken bottles, and the tell-tale smells and sounds. Well, at least part of the mystery got solved this way.
On the ‘when’ front, that was a different story. The only thing he was certain of, was that it was ‘after.’ After Dru kicked him out, for good this time. Or he stormed out forever, he wasn’t exactly sure which was which right now. He’d never thought such a thing could happen, his brain couldn’t have processed such a notion as ‘after Dru.’ Ever since he’d clawed his way out of his grave to embrace his unlife, she’d been his everything. Through famines, world wars, his becoming a legend among vampires, and everything in between they’d been together.
Of course it was Angelus’ fault. Again. The rift created by Spike’s supposed betrayal of the family patriarch had never really healed, and even his coming back, all soul-having and righteous again, didn’t help patch things up with Dru. Nor did his torturing her just the way she liked.
And her reasoning? For all of her crazy, she’d always made a kind of sense to Spike. But those final things she kept throwing in his face over and over again? So who actually gives a bloody fuck that he’d helped a Slayer for half a fucking night? Nobody but his Princess. And whatever he did, she would never forgive him that slight.
Leaving Spike with the daunting task of trying to figure out where that left him. Other than in some god-forsaken alley.
He spat on the ground and wobbled to his feet. It was broad daylight, so he was stuck here for the time being. Unless there was a sewer entrance nearby. Thinking about it triggered a half-baked, half-remembered memory that was gone almost as soon as it appeared. He shook his head. If only the sun wasn’t a problem anymore.
*Sunnydale, USA, August 8th 2000*
The walls of the crypt were silent. Spike had turned off the TV, and was sitting on his sarcophagus, chain-smoking. He looked around at the place he’d ended up calling ‘home.’ He felt sick.
His last hope, tenuous as it was, of getting his chip out was gone alongside the pile of Frankenstein monster’s bits and pieces. The army had come in, after the Slayer did their job for them, and had cleared out almost everything from the old Initiative labs, leaving behind yet another warren of tunnels and caverns under Sunnydale, for the human inhabitants to ignore. Well, that, and a formerly Big Bad vampire who was unable to as much as defend himself from one frat boy who’d had one too many drinks, and who’d sunk one too few billiard balls to keep his parent’s money in his pocket. Spike had escaped, once more, but only just.
Being a creature of the night in a city custom built for them had its perks. Of course, having to play hide and seek in order to avoid a beating over a game of pool was depressing. Hiding from humans was more depressing.
He finished off his fag, and stumped it in an ashtray. He looked around. The crypt he was living in, despite his efforts, still looked like a fucking crypt. There were empty bottles in a corner, waiting to be thrown out, and the ashtray was half full. He’d have to empty that, too.
Because that’s what he did, now. He had to keep his filthy crypt at least partially clean in order to be able to stomach living in it. And he had no minions to do the chores, so he was stuck having to take out the trash. The place needed all sorts of stuff to start resembling something as advanced as a shack.
Like a lamp. He needed to go and find a lamp.
He started laughing, and the sound of his crazed laughter echoing off the barren walls only made him laugh harder. Until he ended up on the floor, his back to the sarcophagus, his legs spread out, looking at the bloody ashtray he’d knocked over. Great. Now he’d have to sweep his crypt, too. A vampire, a master at that, reduced to sweeping a crypt in a cemetery would have been something he’d have made fun of for weeks, back in the day.
He felt like crying. He’d never felt so hopeless. No matter how bad his life, or unlife, had gotten, he’d always had at least an inkling of a plan about what his next step would be. Even if that was ‘get rip-roaring drunk,’ it was still something. More importantly, it was something he wanted to do, so he’d do it. His existence now was a collection of insipid needs that he had to fulfill while tip-toeing around humans, lest he get staked.
He needed to sweep the floor so he wouldn’t cut himself on the ashtray fragments, and spill more of the blood he could ill afford to lose. Especially since without Frat-boy’s cash, the next blood run would have to wait until he was more solvent. He needed to replace said ashtray so that he wouldn’t fill every available surface with cigarette butts. He needed to get a new lamp.
What he really needed was to find something worth unliving for.
As he gazed at the thing that had become his home, he wasn’t sure there was much fight left in him, if things didn’t change.
*Sunnydale, June 30th 2001*
Spike dropped to his knees, and stood there, in penance. He thought he knew loss before. Everything he’d experienced paled in comparison. The depths of his despair knew no end. The enormity of his failure was crushing him.
‘She saved the world. A lot.’ Such an understatement. Then again, how could someone put into words everything that Buffy Summers was? What words would do her justice?
God knows he’d tried to find them. Even before he realized he was in love with her, she’d been a muse. Dragging his poor excuses for poems out of him, forcing him to put pen to paper in order to make sense of his thoughts and feelings.
No matter how hard he tried, he still couldn’t find the right way to phrase things, though. How could he? He was a failure as a man, as a poet, and as a protector. Why couldn’t he have been just a little bit faster, more clever, something? How could he have let that lizard ‘Doc’ get the better of him?
Buffy. Oh, God, Buffy. She’d given him one job. Protect the girl. Ask anybody, ask bloody Peaches, and they’d tell you that the one thing ‘Willy’ was good at was protecting the girl. Not even that, anymore. The girl had bled, so Buffy had been forced to…
His Buffy was gone. He made a half-choked sobbing sound. No, not that. She’d never been his. Not that a creature such as her could ever belong to anyone. She belonged to the world. Its savior, its keeper, its stalwart defender.
The world didn’t deserve her. Not that he did, either. He wasn’t worthy even of the small kindness she showed him at the end. He’d proven himself weak.
He wanted to scream, and cry, and rage against the injustice of a world without Buffy in it. But all he managed to do was shake all over.
Gone. Dead. Her light extinguished forever. He’d have died for her, but wasn’t able to. Now, he was cursed to live and try to make amends. As if anything he could possibly do could make up for how he didn’t save her.
He looked up at the sky. At least she was at peace.
*Entebbe, Uganda, July 21st 2002*
There was too much noise. It was too hot, and too cramped, and too bloody loud. Spike whimpered. He shouldn’t complain. He had no right to get any comfort. William was a bad man, and he deserved to be punished.
He opened his eyes, but couldn’t see the walls of the crate he’d stuffed himself into.
His inner clock was so messed up by the whole experience with the wish giving demon, he couldn’t tell with certainty what time it was, though it was definitely still day outside. Maybe he should just walk out into the sun?
Not like anybody would miss him. Dru off somewhere with, what must undoubtedly be, another of her slimy lovers in tow. Angelus probably would be glad to finally be rid of someone he saw as a pest, and a reminder of his past wrongs.
Image after image, memories all, assaulted his mind, and made him close his eyes in the futile attempt to shield himself from the onslaught. No such luck, of course.
So many faces. Those weren’t even the worst ones. The worst were the ones he’d just sucked dry as you would a carton of juice and discarded without giving them a backward glance. Came up from behind, like a thief in the dark, stolen all their life, and left them there for their loved ones to despair over.
He was a monster.
He really should just dust himself. Only that would be a sin, too, wouldn’t it?
What’s one more sin on a pile as high as Everest? But it still felt wrong.
If only the screams would stop. He could hear every scream of every one of his victims loud and clear as day, over and over. He couldn’t think clearly.
Why had he done this? Why had he done any of it? For her? To punish himself for her? He wasn’t worthy enough to speak her name after what he did.
Oh, God, what had he done? Her face in that bathroom took center stage in the theater of despair that was his past. She should have dusted him then. Maybe she’d do it now.
Maybe this way they could both find solace.
Maybe he was just a bad man who didn’t even deserve that much.
If only he could rest a bit without the nightmares, without the screams, and the blood, maybe then he could make a decision. His head was pounding. He tried to hold his brain from exploding with his hands, but it didn’t help. It never helped, no matter how much he tried.
He’d just get to Sunnydale. Everything would end in Sunnydale, one way or another.
*LA, USA, June 10th 2003*
Walking through walls was fun at first, but it got more frustrating as time passed. He couldn’t feel the particles as he passed through them. He just wasn’t.
Not a ghost, not a spirit, but still not there. Stuck in some hellish limbo between worlds, anchored to the object of his destruction, and cut off from any friendly face.
Counting Xander as a friendly face spoke volumes about how alone he truly was.
What was worse, nobody would pick up a phone and call her. She was alive, he knew that much.
So were most of the crew, though who exactly hadn’t made it nobody could tell him. He couldn’t mourn properly, anyway. No tears for the pass-through vampire. He only knew Anya didn’t make it.
Poor Demon Girl. Xander must be a wreck. Spike knew the feeling all too well.
No. She probably wouldn’t. No matter what she said there, at the end, it didn’t count. She didn’t. She couldn’t. Could she?
Sometimes the idea that she could was the only thing keeping him going. The thin line between himself and meeting the sunrise. Now, even if he tried to dust himself it wouldn’t happen. Sure, the building was necro-tempered, but he’d stuck his head outside anyway. Sun couldn’t burn what it couldn’t touch, either, apparently.
He couldn’t call her and tell her this is all that’s left. He’d finally done it. That thing he’d sought that was just a bit quicker, and maybe not clever in the least, but it worked. And even that, his greatest achievement, was all for naught, since he was stuck here, in this building, with these people who were so indifferent to him, it hurt. Metaphysically, that is.
How long until the vampire apparition in the evil law firm became nothing but a scary story to tell around the water cooler? At least a quarter of the personnel were demons. They didn’t deign to look at him. The rest? So jaded from the work they were doing, they barely batted an eye, even if he poked his head out of their coffee cup.
Coffee. And a cigarette. He’d kill for anything to put in his mouth. Blood, chocolate, a blody pineapple slice, anything.
Mostly, though, if he could just manage to touch a phone.
*Sunnydale Crater, USA, June 3rd, 2079*
Spike kicked a rock into the crater. It didn’t make it as far as the center lake, so it just ricocheted off of other rocks and vegetation on its way down. He hadn’t been here in what seemed like forever.
He let out his senses, and was glad to find there wasn’t any answering thrum from the now extinct Hellmouth. Seems he did a good enough job of closing that, at least.
He took a seat, his legs dangling off the edge and gazed into the distance.
“Well, love, here we finally are. Full bloody circle.” He smiled, though the tightening in his chest, and the pinpricks around his eyes, betraying his desire to cry. “Won’t be long now.”
He put the thermos next to him and placed his hands behind him for balance.
If he were to tell someone nowadays that here used to be one of the most active gates to hell in recent history, not many would believe him. Not many were left to remember, is why.
Shaking off his gloomy thoughts, he got back up, picked up his thermos, and started his long descent into the crater. As his body went through the motions of getting him to the bottom, his mind played a reel of all his memories from his over two centuries of existing, both as a human, and as a vampire.
There were some definite high points, though his soul gave twinges whenever he thought of his earlier, blood-soaked days as a member of the Whirlwind, and then as the Slayer of Slayers. Of course, that had all changed when he’d made the fateful decision to come to this God forsaken place, and some of his worst years followed.
Some of his fondest memories were from here, too. He stopped to look at a broken utility pole, with its rusted rebar sticking out. It was one of the few things to remind anyone that there used to be a town here. He gave it a kick and watched as a few pieces of concrete fell off, then resumed his trek.
He only stopped when he got to the lake’s shore. It was beautiful, if you ignored the sunken crater all around, or the collapsed Hellmouth underneath. Guess that’s why it had become a tourist attraction over time. Not Grand Canyon caliber, mind you, but it still got its fair share. Too bloody well that he’d managed to not find any pulsers milling about.
He moved first in one direction, then changed his mind and went the other way, only to stop and look up with a short laugh. “What the hell am I doing? This is as good a place as any. Can see the whole crater, and the lake’s nearby.” He turned his head and squinted. “I think Rovello used to be somewhere near here.”
He raised the thermos to eye level. “You always said you wanted to be closer to your Mum when time came.” He stopped as a sob choked him and his eyes got blurry with tears. “We’ve had a good life together, yeah? Took us long enough, but we made it work. I wanted…” He raised his eyes heavenward. “I wanted so much more time with you, but you were right. It was time to rest.”
He looked over at the former Hellmouth again. The lake looked even prettier in the new light of dawn. Yeah, this was a good place. A peaceful place made out of all the struggle. She deserved to rest here.
He unscrewed the lid of the thermos and peered at the soot inside. No burial for his girl, not after last time. Only fitting that the greatest slayer of all times become ashes herself in the end. It was poetic, in its own way. At least she’d thought so when she asked him to incinerate her after…
There was a knot in his throat. He swallowed and kept talking. “I hope those bastards let you back in. If they don’t, I’ll storm the bloody pearly gates myself.” He half-laughed, half-sobbed. “Maybe they’ll let me in to visit, sometime.” The tears were running down his cheeks, some of them falling off his nose to mingle with her remains, so he wiped his face. “I’ll always love you, my Golden Girl.” An inner warning system was blaring at him, so he finally looked up. The shadow of the crater’s edge was rapidly retreating from the edge of the lake. “Goodbye, Buffy. Hope to see you soon.” He cradled the thermos against his chest as he stepped forward without fear, or hesitation.
Due to the changes morning brought to the temperature of the air inside the crater, there was a slight breeze that blew their intermingled ashes toward the lake.