Spike hadn’t thought that a person, even a vamped up person, could be truly cognizant of something that lasted a mere fraction of a second. He’d allow for a half second, and perhaps even a quarter of a second, but what had happened to him occurred in a moment between thousandths of a second.
Even though he was aware of just how quickly it had all taken place, that infinitesimal sliver of a time had expanded into a lifetime of lifetimes. He experienced every molecule of his body slam together, then tear apart.
Presence. He’d never truly understood the term until now. Looking down at his body, he fully understood both presence and absence.
There had been a fight, bodies, smoke and dust flying everywhere. Willow had thought Spike was trying to kill Xander. Suddenly her voice was tearing through the confusion. Before her words were halfway out, her intent plowed into Spike with a thundering force, knocking him out of himself…or had it knocked himself out of him? Now there was corporeal Spike, and ghost Spike.
When the spell struck, Spike was running on momentum, his body, his weapon, and his strength stayed on their path and took the head off the demon that was about to kill Xander. Then Spike’s body hit the floor and rather than rolling and flipping back to its feet it lay there slumped and loose.
“Spike, NO!” The words were screeching through the air, even as Spike’s form was crumpling into uselessness. Spike’s ghost body DID roll, then…he just sat there. He knew immediately what had happened. For all the stories of ghosts being lost and confused about what was happening to them, he was fully aware that his body was over there and he was no longer in it.
“Spike?” Xander gave the vampire a shake.
Buffy glanced over, but there was still work to be done, and Spike would certainly spring to his feet in a minute and be right back into the fray.
Giles threw Buffy a sword, Willow called forth a cloud of black smoke. Xander dove at one of the remaining demon’s feet knocking it over and ghost Spike sat and admired the view.
The Scoobies were an awkward mixture of poetry in motion, slapstick comedy and weekend warriors. Buffy, of course, was the poetry in motion. At this moment, Spike was…well, actually he was none of the above, at least not until a few seconds later when his body served a purpose; a demon tripped over it, stumbled and gave Buffy a clear shot to skewer its heart from the backside.
“Thanks, Spike!” she said chirpily. “Every now and then you come in handy.”
No one seemed particularly upset that Spike’s body hadn’t moved. It just lay there. Buffy toed it. “Spike?”
Spike’s ghost winced. Buffy wasn’t kicking his body, but seeing it from a distance, it looked like a violation. It was the sort of thing that came right before she did something angry and painful. He waited for the inevitable. “Get up you moron, if you think this is going to make me feel sorry for you…”
On cue, she rolled her eyes. She kicked him harder, then put her foot against his side and jostled him. His body didn’t shake or jiggle the way it would have were he still inside. There was no tension now, the muscles were completely slack, dead weight. His body resisted, but passively. Her foot moved his jacket and caused his arm to flop to the side, but his body lay like a pile of wet blankets.
“Spike?” Buffy and Xander said at the same time.
“He can’t be dead right?” Xander stated the obvious. Spike was already undead and if his vampire self was dead, he would be nothing but dust. But here his form was, nondusty but somehow not undead either.
Giles approached. Buffy attempted to shake the body again. She gave a hard shove with her foot and Spike’s head lolled to the side. His tongue lolled out from between his teeth and both Buffy and Xander drew back.
Spike winced again, not in pain, but in shame. Was this how he looked? Was this what he was reduced to? He had not seen himself for over 100 years.
He moved towards the group now, gliding in spite of his ghost form making walking motions.
There he was, looking absolutely nothing like he recalled and even less like what he’d imagined. There was his white hair that people so often remarked on, but he had never seen. It certainly was arresting, and very unlike the sandy curls he’d had as a man.
One eye was half open the pupil rolled to the side in a most undignified and disturbing manner. Drool was coming out of his mouth.
Spike had never realized just how oversized his coat was, or how pale his skin truly looked against the black of his clothing. All his clothing seemed oversized on the limp puppet that was his body. He looked like a boy trying to be a man. Funny, that was what both Angelus and Buffy had accused him of.
No wonder. In his defense, it hadn’t merely been brag and bravado he possessed strength and cunning. He’d earned the right to swagger. Still, what had Dru seen in him, as either a man OR a vampire. He didn’t look dangerous. He looked like something to be dragged to the road for the ash man to collect, not even a corpse, just a used and broken prop.
“What’s wrong with him?” Xander again, showing a strange amount of curiosity for one who claimed to despise Spike so much. Maybe he just wanted to be sure that Spike was truly gone, or that some new spell, gadget or trick wasn’t at work that might suddenly unwork and cause the body before them to roar into a violent killing fury. Spike would have liked to see that and know if he looked more like a man, more like a big bad vampire, when his body was in motion.
Now Buffy got on her knees beside him and peered into his face. She pulled his head to face upwards and closed his offending eye. She frowned at his open mouth and lolling tongue and moved to fix it.
“Not sure you should do that Buffy, So close to his…teeth…” Xander said, but towards the end, his brow furrowed, then fell. His tone petered out as he realized his caution was probably pointless. Buffy continued her ministrations, shoved Spike’s tongue back behind his teeth and closed his jaw.
Spike found this more disturbing than her toeing and jostling his body. This was personal, and done with knowing, like tending to the dead. The other…she’d been treating Spike like Spike, “Get up you stupid moron.” sort of thing. That was their dynamic, this was something else again.
“What do you think it is?” She looked to Giles “Some kind of vampire coma?
Giles's face was folded into its familiar pattern of concern and scholarly interest. To his benefit he didn’t look the slightest bit amused, none of them did. Even in the state he was in they didn’t quite trust him. The stiffness of their motions was testament to the fact that they expected him, any second, to either vamp out and grab one of them, or call them all stupid gits and stomp off.
Even Willow’s face was creased with concern. This was her doing, yet she looked as if she wasn’t sure whether or not she HAD done it, or what exactly she’d done.
She’d shot a magic bullet aimed at him, in a moment of terror and frustration. It hadn’t been a premeditated spell, she had believed Xander was in danger and did SOMETHING to stop it.
She had only meant to knock Spike back or off his feet, or to put him out for a minute or two. Apparently, she’d been more successful than she planned on.
“He’s not dusty,” she said. Spike wasn’t sure if her tone was one of relief or disappointment. He doubted that any of them would be sorry if he was killed accidently on purpose.
Something in her tone caused Buffy to turn. “Will, did you…?”
“He was going to kill Xander…I thought.” Willow admitted. “He had the ax.” As she spoke, Willow’s eyes moved to where the demon lay, ax in the back of its head.
“So what did you do to him?” Xander asked, touched that his friend had acted to protect him. No one mentioned that clearly, Xander wasn’t the object of attack.
“I stopped him.” She motioned towards the body. “I mean, I hit him with power…magic..I thought it would just knock him down, you know?”
“Well, it worked.” Buffy shrugged, then, “Will he come back?”
“I don’t know.” Willow looked around helplessly. Spike knew it wasn’t out of concern for him. It was distress that she had lost control of her power; she had done something significant without clear and focused attention towards the outcome. She had the skill to work such magic, but lacked discipline and control. She also lacked discernment, clearly Spike had not been after Xander.
“So we don’t know where Spike is? I mean…this IS Spike but..Is he in there Will?” Buffy gave Spike’s shoulder a useless jiggle. Even with her Slayer strength his flesh barely moved. His head lolled to the side again, but his tongue remained in. “I mean, it seems like he’s not in there.” She frowned at him.
“I didn’t kill him, Buffy,” Willow said, with more than a little uncertainty in her voice.
“No, he would be dust if she’d killed him.” Giles agreed, relieved to be able to make a statement with conviction.
“So, what do we do with him?” All eyes were on Giles.
Xander’s mouth began to work as if it was preparing to say something he wasn’t sure of. “This might be a good time to…you know.” He nodded towards the body. “I mean, he’s not…he can’t. You know what I’m saying right?”
“Dust him.” Willow supplied.
“Well, yeah.” Xander’s voice was anything but steady. Spike looked at them all. They looked from the body, to one another, to the dead demon, and back to his body.
They weren’t immune to the fact that he’d done them a good turn, but good turn or no he was a vampire. He understood, and had long counted on and played upon, the fact that they had qualms about staking him because they knew him so well. He wasn’t a friend, and they knew he wasn’t a person, but still…there was always just a moment of hesitation on their part that had allowed him to hang onto his skin, at least until now.
“We’re not going to stake him,” Buffy said firmly. “Yet.” She sounded a little less certain.
“I think Buffy is right. We should try to find out what’s going on before we make any more decisions.” Giles said.
Spike stepped forward. He stood right there in front of all of them and waved his hands. “Hello. Big Bad here.”
They ignored him. Well, actually MORE than ignored him. Ignoring a thing is an active decision. You know it’s there but choose not to acknowledge it. There is a certain type of body language involved. There was none of that here. He didn’t exist to them. As far as they were concerned the body was Spike.
Fine, he’d get back into the body, again, why hadn’t he thought of that? He stooped down. He hated the slack face. The drool was still there. He went to wipe it away but his hand passed through his own flesh. Spike leaned closer. He could see the roots of his hair, his pores, eyelashes, creases at the corner of his mouth, so many things he hadn’t seen in ages, literal ages. He was shocked he still looked so much like a man. He felt so little like a man.
Maybe he could crawl back in and fill his body once again. There must be some part somewhere where a body and spirit connect and if he put them together they would spring back into place like two magnets. But how to get in?
They were talking again, but he couldn’t be bothered with listening. He needed to get home. Maybe if he concentrated he could will himself back in. He shut his ghost eyes…nothing.
OK, he would simply lay down inside himself. But try as he might he couldn’t get his ghost body into the same conformation as his corporeal body. He knew he had to get it just right…but it wouldn’t go. He couldn’t feel how to do it and once he was lying down he couldn’t see how to do it either.
He sat up, in the midst of their group, in the midst of his own flesh and clothing, and he roared. No sound came out, not even to his own ears.
“Hello. Hey.” no sound at all.
Buffy moved away from the body, now clearly disturbed, she wasn’t used to seeing him this quiet or this still. It wasn’t like him.
“What should we do with him? We can’t just leave him here.” She frowned at the dead demons. Thing was they could just leave him here. They were in an abandoned building, no clean up required. There were broken windows all around; if the Sunlight came in just right he’d burn up come morning. He wondered if his body burned up, would ghost him burn as well?
It appeared that they thought went through each of them, that they actually could leave him, be done with him. They owed Spike nothing, he was an evil vampire, there was no obligation to save him. They had failed in their obligation to kill him, but this they could, and probably should do.
“I mean, it’s Spike.” Buffy continued, and though it was clear that she meant to offer it as a reason why they couldn’t leave the body, but instead it came out as a reason they probably should.
“Or should we, you know…watch him. He could come back or wake up anytime. He might be able to tell us something.”
“Tell us something about what Buff?” Xander asked.
“Well, I don’t know…just something,” she said helplessly. Then her face took on an expression of anger. After all, couldn’t she always count on Spike to cause trouble, even dead, or whatever it was he was? “I mean, we don’t want to leave him here and then he comes back all violent and ragey.” She looked at all their confused faces. “Will, is he IN there? You can tell that, right?”
Ah, yes, here it would come, Willow would use magic, SEE him, and then…well he wasn’t sure what would happen then, but something would happen. At least they’d realize he was here.
“Buffy, wouldn’t YOU know if he was here? Slayer tingles or something?” Willow pointed out.
Buffy frowned. “Not feeling it, and Spike gives off some PRETTY strong tingles.” she said knowingly. Then seemed to notice the possible implication of what she’d said and gave a little shake of her head.
Spike was pretty sure it just meant that she was well acquainted enough with his vamp tag that she could discern him from others, but he liked the other idea better.
“I think we should leave him,” Xander said, but not with malice. “We can drag him over there, away from the windows and do some research, see if Willow can figure out what she did.”
He looked at his friend with soft, grateful eyes. He appreciated that she’d been trying to save him, and also realized that she was freaked out by what she’d done unintentionally.
The group agreed and moved back. Xander grabbed the body’s ankles and began to drag it across the floor. Spike sat there while his body moved away, leaving a trail across the dirty floor. Clearly, the weight was more than Xander anticipated and Giles stepped over and took hold of one ankle.
Buffy could have moved him easily, but she stood there, watching, her face unreadable.
Spike got up, pulling himself off the floor, then realized that he was suddenly floating several feet above his body, watching them drag it. He was still thinking and moving as if he had a body, but he didn’t and merely thinking of being someplace or doing something, made it so.
He might rather like that part, but for now, he didn’t like it. He didn’t like the way they were dragging his body off to a corner like so much old mail. He didn’t like the way his head bumped against the floor.
Apparently, neither did Buffy. She stepped forward and grabbed his coat at the shoulders and lifted enough to keep his head from banging over refuse or dragging on the floor.
Spike smiled in gratitude. He didn’t deserve any respect, and he realized it wasn’t about him or the fact that it was HIS body, it was simply who and what Buffy was. A decent person, a good person.
Then they were leaving, and he wanted to follow, but he couldn't, not now. He couldn’t leave himself propped against the wall, alone. What if something happened to him? Even if there was nothing he could do to protect his body from baddies, he still wanted to be there should anything happen. So he sat with himself, an attendant at his own wake.