DL 1.4

Aug. 13th, 2005 01:13 am
[identity profile] eee1313.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] dancing_lessons_archive
Lesson the Fourth: The Meaning of 'Intent'

by Dynagirl
A Night Like This by The Cure | Lyrics

Shout-outs: To Manu and Fool IV, whose contributions to the MBTV "Let's Get Philosophical" thread are the best things I've read on the web this year, and to LJC, whose encouragement is invaluable.


*
Spike stumbled a little as he waded through the sewer, heading toward his crypt and his nice warm sarcophagus. He felt slightly dizzy, and every so often he stopped and shook his head, as if to clear it. Bloody hell, he thought, that was weird. A fellow could get hurt, hanging around that hospital.

Ever since he'd found himself alone in the locker room, Spike had been feeling a bit off. He'd sat there for a while, trying to process what had just happened, but just getting more and more confused. Finally he'd staggered to his feet, and like a sleepwalker, had found his way to the blood bank and slipped a few pint bags into his pockets. He'd been back in the sewer almost before he knew it.

Now, as he made his slow and uncomfortable way home, Spike struggled to clear his head and think about what had just happened. He had a feeling it was important, but he felt so tired. I just need some sleep, he thought; that'll put me right. A little shut-eye and maybe a snack. A growling in his stomach reminded him that it had been hours since he last ate. He pulled a bag from his pocket and bit into it, savoring the metallic richness of the blood filling his mouth. Human blood; it was so much sweeter and more satisfying than the pig's blood he'd been living on. He hadn't had any for so long, not except for that one night, that night at the Bronze with Dru. There had been something else about that night that was important, too--only he couldn't think what it was right now.

After what felt like hours of walking, Spike finally emerged into the gloom of his own crypt. "Home sweet home," he muttered to himself, as he collapsed in the chair. He pulled his duster more tightly around him, and in another moment he was dead asleep.

***

Spike didn't wake up until long after sundown, and when he did, it was with the groggy start of someone who'd overslept. He yawned, stretched, and stood up, a little wobbly on his feet. He felt slightly hung over, though he didn't exactly remember when he'd been drinking, or why. He noted with mild interest that he was still wearing his duster, a fact that struck him odd. Sticking his hand in his pocket for a cigarette, he pulled out a bag of blood and regarded it blankly. Oh good, he thought, food. How did that get there? He examined the bag and recognized it as being from the blood bank. The hospital--he'd been at the hospital. It was starting to come back now.

He rummaged in his other pockets, dug out a cigarette, and lit it. Yes, he had definitely been at the hospital. He remembered seeing that pajama-wearing poofter there. In fact, he was pretty sure they had been fighting. Spike ran his tongue over his split lip. Yeah, the guy fought pretty well for a human. He remembered that much, at least.

But--that wasn't right, was it? Spike frowned and rubbed his forehead, struggling for the details. He'd been surprised by something, and he vaguely recalled thinking he should warn Buffy. If only he could think of what it was…

That had been a good fight, anyway. Spike smiled with remembered satisfaction. It had been so good to cut loose, to just deck the guy and keep on hitting. He hadn't had a fight like that in a long time. Sure, Buffy would punch him and throw him around, but it wasn't the same when he couldn't hit back. Yeah, I could have fought with that floppy-haired git all day, he thought with pleasure. I could have, except--

Except he shouldn't have been able to fight with the poofter at all. That was the thing he'd been trying to remember. He'd hit the guy, and nothing. No pain, no shock, not even an irritating tingle. Whatever the guy was, he wasn't human. That was it; that was what he had wanted to warn Buffy about.

Oh, right, Spike thought, frowning darkly. Like she's going to believe that, coming from me. I might as well save myself the trouble and the beating and just let her figure it out in her own time.

But what if she didn't? There was no telling what that guy was, or what he was up to. He might be after Buffy, or Dawn. Most likely Dawn--she seemed to be attracting all kinds of nasties lately. Somebody had to do something to protect her. Buffy had said she was tired; if something was after Dawn, Buffy might not see it coming.

Spike paced the crypt, dragging nervously on his cigarette as he considered the possibilities. A non-human something, all got up to look like--well, not handsome, but kind of bland and athletic and not too bright--definitely Buffy's type. Spike had an involuntary mental picture of Buffy with her arms around Riley, looking at him with love, or maybe lust. Whichever, the thought of it made Spike cringe. At least I don't have to see that anymore, he thought. Unless, of course, Buffy was planning a repeat performance with the pajama boy.

Well, that can't happen, Spike thought. I don't care if she believes me, she's not going to come back to me later and say I didn't warn her. I should go find her now; no telling what the poofter might be up to. Who knows, he might even be in league with that Glory chippie--

Glory. Now, that was weird. At the thought of her, Spike had felt the strangest sensation, like something was nagging at him from just outside his consciousness. There had been someone else there at the hospital today. Spike tried to focus his memory. Blonde hair, not Buffy's. An annoying voice. An especially revealing set of blue pajamas. Being hit really, really hard…

Spike stopped in mid-pace as if frozen, the cigarette falling from his fingers. Glory. He remembered now, really remembered. How she'd come out of nowhere just when he was about to finish off the poof. How she'd pinned him down and given him a good beating, then stuck her fingers right into his head. She'd pulled out the chip. One minute it had been inside his brain, the next he was looking at it in her hands.

The girl had her hands inside your brain, he thought. That can't be good. Better hope they were clean, at least…

"Never mind that, you sodding git!" Spike said aloud. The chip--that's what was important, not the bloody sanitary precautions. The chip was out. He was free.

Maybe he was free. There was really only one way to tell, wasn't there? He'd have to try it out--hit someone, maybe get in a big, nasty fight, maybe--

Maybe feed on someone.

Yeah, it was the feeding that really mattered, not the fighting. The fighting was just for fun. The feeding was serious business. Feeding meant killing, but also survival. He'd managed to get by on pig's blood and the odd filched pint from the hospital for a while, but really, how could that be his plan for the rest of his unlife? No telling where he'd end up, and what he'd find there. Sure, now there was the Slayer to think of, but what about a hundred years from now? If he ended up living in a cave in bloody Siberia, he'd better still know how to hunt for himself, hadn't he?

Spike sank into his chair and stared, unseeing, at the wall of the crypt. That night with Drusilla hadn't been that long ago; the memory of it still made him feel queasy. When she'd thrown that girl to him--the girl Dru had killed, but whose final heartbeat he had felt in his own arms, and whose body was still hot with life--he had been nearly overwhelmed by hunger and misery. He had wanted it so badly, and still he had hesitated. And when he finally gave in and sank his fangs into her, he had swallowed her life's blood with no satisfaction, just a grim determination to see through to the end what he could no longer control or stop. There was no triumph there. It had been more like--surrender.

Come on, mate, he told himself, that's no way to be thinking. You're a vampire; it's what you do. One bad experience doesn't change that. It was probably just Dru that was throwing you off. She always did have that way of pressuring a bloke, making him feel like he's being evaluated, like he's not measuring up to some other guy she's been with. Dru could be hell like that. It'll be different when it's just me. I just have to get my confidence back, that's all.

No, that's not all, Spike reminded himself. There's the Slayer to think about. What would she do if she found out? But that's an easy one, he thought. She'd be after me in a second if she knew I was even thinking about feeding.

Spike stood up and resumed his pacing. For that matter, Buffy might be after him regardless. Dawn had said Buffy always worried about what she would do if he ever got the chip out. Spike knew Buffy well enough to know that if she had doubts, they weren't of the "should I kill him?" variety. Probably more like, "how fast can I kill him, and how much can I make it hurt?" Whether he fed or not might not even matter--just getting the chip out could be enough. After all, if it was only pity that was keeping her from staking him before…

"Bloody hell!" Spike shouted, and kicked the sarcophagus, hard. This was no way for a vampire to live--following the Slayer around like a housepet, worrying about what she'll think. It was the chip that had done this to him. The chip had made him vulnerable, left him open so she could just walk in and take over. The real Spike--the one he'd been before those scientists got hold of him--the real Spike was never afraid of getting staked. He hadn't had to rely on the Slayer's kindness to keep him alive. He'd just lived, and had a bloody good time of it, too.

And now the chip was gone. That little bit of plastic that had made it possible for Buffy to touch him was out of his head, and soon he'd have her out of there, too. "Not a minute too soon, either," he muttered to himself. He stood for a moment, looking around the darkened room. Then he set his jaw, turned abruptly, and strode out of the crypt.

***

The Bronze was crowded tonight. A band was playing, the dance floor was full, and the air was thick with the sounds of talking and laughter. Groups of young people stood around, checking each other out, flirting, pairing off. Couples wandered by, their arms around each other. People were standing four deep around the bar, buying drinks. Everyone seemed to be having a good time.

Spike stood alone in the darkness along the wall, drinking a beer and watching the crowd. A young girl would be best, he thought. They faint so fast--makes things easier. Spike had thought he was in the mood for a good fight, but now that he was out, he found he didn't have much stomach for it. I'll just get it over with, he told himself. Just one little girl, nice and quick and painless, and then I can go home and be my old self again.

Spike was so engrossed in his thoughts that he didn't notice a girl approaching him until she spoke.

"Excuse me-Spike?"

Spike turned to her, surprised. He looked her over, trying to place her. Timid, crooked smile; shiny hair; kind of flushed and succulent looking. Oh yeah, one of the Slayer's friends. Which one was--

"Tara," the girl supplied. "W-Willow's friend."

Spike narrowed his eyes, remembering vaguely. "Didn't I punch you in the nose once?"

Tara blushed. "Yeah, you did." She was actually kind of cute, Spike thought. Probably tasty, too. He glanced at her throat, noting the delicate flutter of her pulse beneath the skin. She was nervous; he wondered, idly, if she'd ever been bitten by a man before. Instantly his mind was filled with images of her swooning in his arms as he buried his fangs in her throat. Spike closed his eyes for a second, pushing the thoughts away with difficulty. When he opened his eyes again he fixed his gaze on the dance floor, avoiding Tara's inquiring look, willing her to go away.

Tara didn't leave. She just kept standing there, as if waiting. Finally, Spike broke the silence. "So, what do you want?"

"Nothing, I--I saw you here--" she trailed off, uncertainly.

"You want to tell me to stay away from the Slayer? Because if you do, I've already got the message." Spike leaned against the wall and took a long swig of his beer. Why couldn't he have one night without having to talk about the Slayer?

Tara shook her head. "No, I just--I wanted to tell you that I understand…"

Spike gave her a hard look. "You understand what?"

Tara smiled slightly and took a deep breath. "I'm not saying I think what you did was right--you know, chaining Buffy up and all. I just, I understand how a person could get desperate, and need to have somebody listen to them. And, you know, how love can make you do stupid things."

Spike suddenly found himself in need of a cigarette. He fumbled in his pockets, trying to think of a response to this strange new development. He lit the cigarette and stood, turning the matchbook over in his hands.

Tara continued, a little more firmly now. "I know we don't really know each other, and you have all this history with the others that I can't understand. But--I've seen you trying to help us, to help Buffy. I was thinking--I hope you won't give up trying, just because things with Buffy didn't go like you wanted."

Frowning, Spike turned to face her. Damned strange girl, coming up to him like this. He stared at her for a moment, trying to get a bead on what she was thinking. "You understand all that, do you? Think you understand what I'm doing here tonight?"

Her heart was pounding. He could sense it, the quickening in her pulse as their eyes met. Tara swallowed hard, but she didn't look away. Finally, she said, "I understand you have a choice. A lot of people don't get that. Just--don't do anything you'll regret." She blushed again, more deeply, and looked down at her hands.

Spike felt a little dizzy. Who was this girl? He clenched his jaw, fixing her with a dark stare. "I'm a vampire. Vampires don't regret things."

"Maybe vampires don't," she said, her eyes still downcast. Then she raised her head and looked him full in the face. "They don't--but you might."

Spike blinked in surprise, but didn't answer. He couldn't think of anything to say.

"I have to go," Tara said at last. She gave Spike a little half-smile, turned, and in a moment she had disappeared into the crowd, leaving him alone again.

What the bloody hell, Spike thought. This night was not going like he planned--at least, as much as he had planned anything. With a growl he stamped out his cigarette. Enough fooling around, now, he told himself. Time to get down to business. He scanned the crowd again, trying to refocus. There had to be somebody here he wouldn't mind biting--a nice pretty girl, gentle, intelligent, not too talkative. He headed for the stairs to the catwalk, still making his mental list. Blonde hair, that would be nice. Petite, like Buffy. Maybe been dancing, so her blood is nice and warm. That brought him up short for a moment, recalling how Buffy had been dancing the first time he’d seen her. There she was, all flushed and perspiring, and he had watched her, fascinated. He had wanted her, even then; though he didn't know how much yet, or in what way. There was just her, dancing. Just like all these girls here now--but different, somehow. Very different.

Spike had reached the catwalk, and stood at the railing, watching the crowd below. There was no sign of the Slayer or any more of her friends. Luckily, he thought. I don't know if I could take any more Scoobies tonight. Or rather, lucky for them--

"Hey! Evil dead! Didn't we tell you to find somewhere else to hang out?"

Spike turned slowly to face his inquisitor. It was that pillock, Xander Harris, with his weird ex-demon girlfriend, Anya, hanging on his arm. Xander walked up to Spike and poked him in the chest. "You know, Spike, don't think because Buffy isn't here, there's nobody around willing to kick your ass. 'Cause there is." He stuck his chest out and gave Spike what was probably intended as an intimidating look.

Anya tugged at Xander's arm. "Who, Xander?" she whispered.

Xander gave her an annoyed look. "Uh, me--I meant me." He turned back to Spike, who was still staring at him impassively. "So Spike, maybe you should move it along before I have to try out some jujitsu on--gahhhh!"

Xander's threat was cut off abruptly as Spike shot out his hand and grabbed him by the throat, lifting him slightly off the floor. Xander struggled to free himself, but Spike only gripped him tighter. He smiled in a grim imitation of cordiality. "Harris! How are you, mate? You and your lovely lady out for a little fun tonight?"

"Ch-ch-ch-" Xander squeezed out, his eyes bulging.

Anya broke in, helpfully. "Yes! We were dancing. It was very enjoyable." She smiled at Spike, and gave Xander's arm a protective hug.

Spike took his eyes off Xander for a moment to smile back at her. "How nice. He improved much as a dancer?"

Anya gave Xander an adoring look. "No, not really. I just look down at my feet a lot so his rhythm doesn't throw me off."

Xander kicked his feet in frustration and glared at Anya. "Gh-ch-hrk-" He mimed pulling Spike's hand away from his throat. Anya turned to Spike, looking a little concerned.

"I think you might be hurting him. Are you hurting him?"

"Of course not, pet," Spike assured her. "You know the chip won't let me hurt anyone--I can't even intend to hurt someone. This here is just a little horseplay between mates, right, Harris?" With that Spike released his grip on Xander's throat, allowing him to drop to the floor. Xander doubled over, clutching his neck and gasping. He tried to speak, but was interrupted by a fit of coughing.

Anya patted Xander on the back. "Oh well, that's okay then." She tugged lightly on the tail of Xander's shirt. "Honey, can we go dance some more now?"

Xander looked up at Spike, still rubbing his neck. "You're crazy," he gasped out.

Spike stared back at him, his face impassive. "Careful, mate, or I'll horseplay with you some more." He took a step toward Xander, who quickly backed away.

Anya smiled apologetically at Spike. "Oh, that's probably enough male bonding for one night. Xander is somewhat physically weak." She put her arm around Xander's waist and gave him an affectionate squeeze.

"Excuse me?" Xander said, but Anya was already tugging him toward the stairs. Xander glanced back warily at Spike, who stood, arms folded, watching them go. Now, that was fun, Spike thought. A fellow could get used to that.

Spike looked back down at the crowd of dancers. He had almost forgotten why he was here. It would be so easy to pick someone out now, the easiest thing in the world. He could almost feel it already--the weight of the body in his arms, the strange current of feeling that ran between him and his victim, the moment of pure connection that always ended too soon. It was all right there; all he had to do was take it.

But he couldn't. Not tonight, anyway. Whatever mood he'd had, it had passed, and there was no getting it back.

Spike turned away from the railing with a mixture of relief and regret. He didn't really want to examine his feelings; he was afraid of what he would find if he let himself think too much. Right now he just wanted to go back to his crypt and be alone. Later he could worry about what it all meant. He pulled his duster more tightly around him, and with a last glance down at the dancers, Spike headed for the door, and the long walk home.

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