DL 1.1

Aug. 13th, 2005 01:00 am
[identity profile] eee1313.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] dancing_lessons_archive
Lesson the First: Stages of Grief

by cousinjean
Do What You Have To Do by Sarah McLachlan | Lyrics

Continuity notes: This story begins immediately following the events of the Season 5 episode, "The Body." Spoilers for S5 follow, except for the episode "I Was Made To Love You." We're pretending that one never happened.

Shout outs: To all of my fellow MBTV Redemptionistas - thanks for letting me go first!


*
The vampire reclined on top of the stone sarcophagus, his pose emulating that of the corpse that had once rested inside. His eyes vacant, his flesh cold, his form unmoving, not even to draw breath, anyone venturing inside the mausoleum would most certainly have mistaken him for a corpse, albeit an extremely well preserved one. The only sign of life about him came from the stream of smoke rising from the cigarette he clutched between two fingers. From time to time he would break out of his trance-like state just long enough to raise it to his mouth and take a drag, just to prove to himself he was still capable of drawing breath, even if he had no physical need to do so. When it burned down he would light another one from the pack at his side.

He couldn't tell how long he'd been like that. Days, surely, perhaps even weeks. He wondered how long he could stay like that, before his basic instincts took over and forced him to seek out blood. He wondered if he could stay there until the one who'd hurt him ceased to exist, her life reduced to forgotten entries in the Council's archives. He wondered if he could fight the thirst and stay there until he dried up and died.

Not for the first time since returning to his crypt, he wished he was dead. Really dead. He couldn't even count on the Slayer to do that much for him. The girl had a soft spot for helpless creatures, and she definitely considered him helpless, if not altogether harmless. He didn't know which was worse--her hatred, or her pity. It was only her pity, he knew now, that had kept her from staking him all this time. Not love, not a secret, repressed desire... not even a little bit of bleeding nostalgia over the thought of not having him around. Just pity. She regarded him as a lame animal, one that she refused to put down.

He wondered at what point it had all gotten so bollocksed.

"Chaining her up, threatening to sic your ex on her... that was bloody brilliant," he muttered. His voice echoed off of the crypt's interior, emphasizing the loneliness of the place. He shuddered, suddenly cold, and pulled his leather duster tight around himself.

No. Not wrong with her. Wrong with himself, with his unlife. How the bloody hell had he, William the Bloody, the notorious slayer of Slayers, one of the most dreaded vampires to have ever roamed this planet, been reduced to pining away, alone in this sodding crypt, over the rejection of a human girl? And not just any girl, but a bleeding Slayer?

He'd tried to blame Drusilla. If she hadn't left him for that chaos demon, he'd never have returned to Sunny Hell, never have wound up with a piece of U.S. Grade A government plastic shoved up his brain, leaving him about as threatening as a declawed kitten, and dependent on his enemies for his survival. Without the chip, he'd never have gotten to know the girl, never have fallen in--

No. That wasn't true, and he knew it. His love for the girl had come before the chip, before his break-up with Dru--in fact, Dru had left him because of it. One hundred and twenty years with his sire, his lover, his mate... all undone in one encounter with the girl they had come to kill.

For he'd loved her even then. He tried to put his finger on the exact moment the seed had been planted. He remembered the first time he'd laid eyes on her, dancing at the Bronze with that idiot Harris. He'd been struck by her beauty and vibrance, her obvious lust for life; but those were nothing he hadn't seen before, in her predecessors, including the ones he'd killed.

After, watching her in the alley, in a fight he'd orchestrated, she'd been defiant, quick witted, and had displayed an impressively smart mouth... but even those were nothing new. Nothing about her had marked her as being particularly special, as Slayers go; but then he had stepped out of the shadows, introduced himself, told her point blank that he intended to kill her, and she had met his gaze with a complete and utter lack of fear.

That was new.

His reverie was interrupted by a burning sensation between his fingers. His cigarette had burned down and threatened to set him on fire. He took one last drag before tossing the butt to the ground. He didn't bother to light a new one.

He smiled with wonder at the memory. That had to be it. In that moment, as much as he'd craved the sensation of feeling her life drain between his lips, a small part of him had also become her biggest fan. When they'd finally fought, at the school, even though she must have known by then about his reputation for killing Slayers, she'd come at him with the same unwavering confidence, and the seed had begun to take root, and it had grown steadily ever since, eating away at his evil heart like a cancer.

In the four years since, she had never seen fit to stake him; but she had effectively destroyed him, nonetheless.

For about the umpteenth time since Dru left, he regretted not going with her. It would have been the sensible thing to do. Surely her pet lawyers would have been able to arrange a chipectomy, and then he could have joined her and Darla in painting the town red, literally. Hell, they succeeded in driving Angel mad, and it could have been the four of them, back together, just like old times.

He could go to her even now, he supposed. Even in a town as big as Los Angeles, a wonder such as Drusilla shouldn't be too hard to find. She'd no doubt be cross with him, too cross to take him back as a lover. After all, he had threatened to stake her to prove his love to the Slayer. But they were still family, and family had always been important to Dru. She wouldn't turn him away.

It's not like he had anywhere else to go.

Spike growled furiously as he forced himself to sit up.

"Who the bloody hell are you trying to kid?" he asked himself.

He wasn't going to L.A. He wasn't going back to Dru, and he wasn't going back to old times. He didn't want to. Truth was, he didn't want any of it. He only wanted her. Her and her world, to live in it even if he could never be a part of it. It was ridiculous, he knew. He couldn't help but laugh at himself. "You pathetic sod," he said, lighting up another cigarette.

Suddenly he couldn't stand the sight of the crypt. He still felt sorry for himself, but realizing the absurdity of his situation put him in a good enough humor that he no longer wanted to die. He needed to eat something. He stood up, but lightheadedness forced him back down again. Once it passed, he tried again, slowly this time, and made his way over to the minifridge where he stashed the pig's blood he'd been reduced to consuming since the chip. He opened it up and grimaced at the contents. Only two pints left, and neither of them fresh. Still, blood's blood. Maybe after his dinner he could head out to the Bronze and get some spicy wings to take the edge off.

And maybe she'd be there.

She'd told him to stay away, and he'd intended to respect her wishes. After all, she'd felt strongly enough about it to have Teen Witch revoke his longstanding invitation into her home, a final blow to drive the point home--and the one that had hit him the hardest. The initial invite had been a thing of necessity. He was going to help her save the world, in exchange for his and Dru's unhindered escape, and they'd needed a safe place to discuss their plan. He was surprised when he'd returned to town to find his invitation hadn't been revoked. Surprised, but honored. Not taking him off the guest list had been a show of faith, or so he had thought. He'd always tried to honor it as such, at least as far as never entering her home to do harm. But he was beginning to suspect he'd read too much into it. Now that he was barred from entering, he realized how much the privilege had meant to him.

So if she wanted him gone that badly, he would try to oblige. Still, coincidences happen. Two people, living in a town the
size of Sunnydale, were bound to bump into each other eventually.

And it wasn't as though he had anything worthwhile left to lose.

***
"Y'know," Xander grumped, "it pisses me off that we have to be out here. I mean, can't the evil undead just give us one night off, under the circumstances? Is that really so much to ask?"

"Evil is kind of inconsiderate that way," Willow said.

"Yeah, that vamp at the morgue sure proved that." Xander kicked a rock and culled a small amount of satisfaction from the rattle it made as it ricocheted off of a tombstone. "It's just that, we should be with Buffy. And Dawn."

"Well, Giles is there with them," Willow reminded her friend, "and their dad's coming. And Anya and Tara are making sure they've got everything covered in the food department. The best way we can be there for Buffy right now is to cover Slayer duty."

"I know. It's just that, I kind of want somebody to be there for us, too."

Willow stopped. "Xander, we're here for each other."

Xander turned to look at his oldest friend, and managed a smile. "I know, Will." He put his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. "We always are. I was just saying--"

"Vampire!"

"Actually, that's not what I was saying."

"Xander, behind you!"

Xander spun around to see a new vamp clawing it's way out of a fresh grave. It seemed to be having some trouble, for it was moving a lot more slowly than your average blood-crazed vampire. Xander pulled a stake out of his pocket, strolled over, and dusted the creature before it could make it all the way out of the grave. "That was easy," he said, brushing the dust off his pants. "Maybe the forces of evil are gonna give us a break tonight, after all."

"Um, it doesn't really look like it," Willow said.

Xander stood up and turned towards Willow.

"Oh, swell." Beyond her were five more vamps, and they did not look happy.

"Hey, you killed Kenny," one of them said, pointing at Xander.

"You know," Xander said, "that joke has become so unfunny that even the South Park kids have stopped using it."

"Xander, that was really his name," Willow said, pointing at the tombstone.

"Oh. Hey, Willow?"

"Yeah?"

"Let's run."

"Good idea."

***
Spike didn't make it a hundred paces from his crypt before spotting a commotion out of the corner of his eye. The Slayer fighting off some big nasty, most likely. He paused, but then decided to keep walking. She wouldn't want his help. Never did, unless she was desperate, or of course if it was simply convenient for her. And even then she was never the least bit grateful for it. So let her do her job without him, if that's the way she wanted it.

He slowed his pace. On the other hand, it would be an excuse to see her, even if all she would do is yell at him, maybe rough him up a bit. And at least he'd get the satisfaction of killing something. With a resigned sigh, he threw his cigarette on the ground and turned to see...

Not the Slayer. It was her friends instead, set upon by five vampires, and not doing so well by the looks of things. Three were on the boy, and though he was doing a fairly impressive job of fighting them off for such an average human, he wouldn't last much longer without an assist. He wouldn't be getting one from the witch, she was too busy leading the female vamps on a game of cat and mouse through the gravemarkers. In both cases, it didn't look good.

Spike shrugged, and turned away. "Why the hell should I give a bloody damn?" he muttered.

Because Buffy did, that's why. Besides, he liked the redhead well enough, and he supposed she'd tattle on him if he saved her but didn't help out the boy as well.

The decision made, Spike leapt into action, reaching Xander in the blink of an eye. He was on the ground, the vamps piled on top of him like a rugby tackle. Spike grabbed the topmost vamp and twisted his head right off his neck, relishing the tearing sensation and the sound of bones being ripped apart, but it was over all too quickly as the nameless vampire exploded into dust. The other two vamps leapt up from Xander to face Spike. Xander looked surprised, but he kept his wits about him enough to scramble for the stake that had apparently been knocked out of his hand when he'd been taken down. He picked it up and ran to Spike's side.

"I've got these two," Spike told him, "but I think Red could use a hand over there." As he pointed, the two vampiresses cornered Willow, and one managed to grab her from behind and hold her as the other lunged for her neck.

"Xander!" she shouted.

"Oh, my God, Will!" Xander exclaimed, and rushed to help his friend.

"Now then," Spike said, putting on his game face, "which one of you blokes is first?"

"You're a vampire!" the smaller of the two said, obviously surprised.

"That's right," Spike said. "What of it?"

"I've heard of this one," the big one said. "Spike. The Slayer's lapdog. Can't kill humans anymore, so he follows her around, begging for scraps."

"Right," Spike said, "that's it, then. You can go first."

He lunged at the second vamp, but as he did the first one rushed him. Spike dodged his attack, and grabbed him by the collar, snapping him back and grabbing him in a choke hold.

"You're just going to have to wait your turn," Spike snarled in his ear. He snapped his neck, paralyzing him but not killing him, and dropped him to the ground. The big one was on him then, and before Spike knew it he was on the ground, the vampire sinking his fangs into his cheek.

"Ow, bloody hell!" Spike shouted. "That hurt!" Angry, he grabbed the vamp by the hair and jerked his head back, exposing his throat. Spike tore a chunk out of it with his teeth, and grinned in spite of himself as the vampire howled in pain. "I'll chew right through your neck if I have to, you stupid git," he said, but before he could carry through on the threat the vampire exploded into dust.

Xander stood over Spike, stake in hand. Their eyes met, and it occurred to Spike that the boy could kill him then, if he wanted to. And Spike couldn't think of any reason for him not to, if it occurred to him to do so. But instead he reached his empty hand down to help Spike to his feet, just as the girl ran up beside him.

"I think that was all of 'em," Willow said.

Spike looked over her shoulder at the one who's neck he'd broken, trying to crawl away.

"Not quite," he said. He took the stake from Xander and strolled over to the injured vamp. "Roll over," he ordered the creature. "Don't make me put this in your back."

The vampire rolled to look up at Spike, hatred and fear apparent on his face. "Traitor," he hissed. "I hope the Slayer's worth it."

"She is," Spike said quietly, and plunged the stake into the creature's heart.

"So," he began as he dusted himself off, careful to turn his face back to human before turning to face the Scoobies, "what are you two doing out and about in the cemetery at this time of night without the Slayer? Where is she, anyway?"

"None of your business," Xander replied, "and give me back my stake."

Spike handed him the stake. "No, I don't suppose it is," he said. "None of my business at all why I had to take time out of my busy social schedule to keep two of her nearest and dearest from becoming midnight snacks. 'Sides, it's not that hard to figure out. What, she's got you picking up the slack while she makes time with that bloke I saw her flirting with at the Bronze a while back?"

Before Spike knew what hit him, the boy had him shoved up against a tree, stake poised over his heart. "Hey, what's this, then?"

"Shut up, Spike. Just shut up! You know what? I have had it with you. You, and vampires, and the Hellmouth..."

"Well, you could always move, y'know," Spike said.

Xander ignored him. "Like it's not hard enough to get through life with all of the things that nature throws at us, bodies breaking down, brains exploding..."

"Xander," Willow tried to interrupt.

"No. We also have to worry about getting our throats torn out, or worse, by your kind. And I'm tired of it. So tell me why I shouldn't kill you right now. 'Cause I don't have a problem with it. You chained Buffy up, that proves you're still dangerous. Tell me why I shouldn't rid the world of one more vampire before I call it a night."

"Honestly, Harris," Spike said, "I can't think of a reason."

"Well I can," Willow said. "Xander, he just saved our lives. You can't just turn around and kill him."

"Why not?"

"'Cause it's icky, and rude. And besides, I don't think he knows."

"Knows what?" Spike asked. Xander met his gaze again, and he realized for the first time how spent the boy looked. In fact, they both looked like they'd been through hell, a lot more hell than just a routine vamp attack. "Is it Buffy? Has something happened to her?" He didn't even try to hide the fear in his voice.

Xander backed off, and shoved both his hands in his pockets. "Buffy's mom died," he said.

Spike stared at him in disbelief. "What? Joyce?" He shook his head. "When?"

"Today," Willow said.

"Was it Glory?"

"No," Xander said. "She had an aneurysm."

"But... she was so healthy," Spike said. "So young. She was all better."

"We thought so too," Willow said, "but I guess we thought wrong."

A long silence passed between them. Spike couldn't believe it. He was surprised at how hard the news hit him. Not just for Buffy's sake, either. Joyce was one of the handful of humans he'd encountered during his existence whom he actually liked. More than that, she was one of the select few whom he'd actually have fought to protect. He'd always enjoyed her company, whenever he'd had a chance to share it. She'd always treated him like a person, never like a monster. Well, not counting the first time they'd met, at least.

He tried to imagine what Buffy must be going through. And Dawn. The poor little nip had been through so much lately, this couldn't be good for the child.

"How are they?" he asked at last. Off of their confused looks, he added, "Buffy and Dawn. How are they? They holding up?"

"About as well as can be expected," Willow said. "Which is to say, not very."

Spike nodded. "Right, then. See you around." He started off in the direction of Buffy's house.

"Whoa!" Xander cut him off. "Where do you think you're going?"

"To offer my condolences," Spike said.

"Spike, I hate to break this to you," Xander stopped and seemed to consider something. "No, actually, I really don't. You're the last one Buffy wants to see right now. She's got enough to worry about without also having to deal with you. So how 'bout we just give her one night without any vampires, so she can deal with her mother's death. Okay?"

Spike let this sink in. "Okay," he said.

Xander looked incredulous. "Really?"

"Yeah, really. You're right. I have no business going over there."

"Good," Xander said. "I'm glad we cleared that up. Come on, Willow, let's go back to Buffy's."

Spike watched them go, and fought the urge to follow them. The boy was right. No matter how much he wanted to be there for her, now was not the time.

But the time would come. And when it did, he would damn well make sure that he was there for it.

Date: 2010-08-22 06:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kipje-p.livejournal.com
Great to see this up again. Couldn't find it anywhere, still makes me tingle 5 years later :D

Date: 2012-11-23 01:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] red-satin-doll.livejournal.com
Here on a rec from [livejournal.com profile] blackfrancine and whoa is this long! But I'm enjoying it so far - I think you've got Xander and Willow's voices down pat.

Date: 2016-06-04 06:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thenewbuzwuzz.livejournal.com
Thanks so much for sharing this. :) I've never read it before, and I expect I'll like it a lot!

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