DL 2.4

Aug. 13th, 2005 01:53 am
[identity profile] eee1313.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] dancing_lessons_archive
Episode Four: Fifth Column

by AurelioZen
Shame by Matchbox 20

Shoutouts to adjrun and Ehann, for being nice enough to read the earliest drafts and give me very helpful suggestions, to all those who commented in the Redemptionista fanfic thread, especially georgevna, whose constructive criticism made this all so much better, and most of all to cousinjean, who didn't let me chicken out, who gave me great feedback, and soothed my fears.


*
Buffy was the first to break the uncomfortable silence in the Magic Box. "Look, I know what you're all thinking. But it's not Spike. He had nothing to do with this."

"Why?" Xander said angrily. "Just because he's your boyfriend now? For all you know, Spike's just been cozying up to you so we'd all let our guard down. It's not like we haven't experienced the fallout from crazy undead love before."

Buffy glared at Xander, took a deep breath, and then went on. "No, not just because he's my boyfriend. Because it just doesn't make sense. There's no way he could have killed all those people by himself."

"I'm not sure how objective you're capable of being right now," Giles said. "I appreciate that Spike couldn't have killed all the people in the Bronze by himself, but I don't think we can rule out the possibility that he engineered it with the help of others."

"How? He hasn't exactly been the toast of Sunnydale's demon community since he started helping us. And especially not now that he's with me."

"Well, it could be imported out-of-town evil, Buffy. I'm not saying Spike did it, " Willow said, "and I don't want to be judgmental gal and all… but… well, Spike can be a little unstable sometimes… And there's that whole soulless vampire thing to consider too. Killing is kind of his profession." She paused at the look on Buffy's face, and then assumed a forced cheerfulness. "Or… maybe it could be some kind of a spell? You know, diminished responsibility or… something. "

"You too, Will?" Buffy sighed.

"Buffy, you still haven't answered my question. Do you have any idea where Spike was this evening?" Giles asked.

"No, I don't know. You think I'm his parole officer? He doesn't have to report back to me every twelve hours. All he said was that he would be back in a day or two."

"There you go," Xander said. "That's a pretty big clue right there. We've got one fully functioning member of the Order of Aurelius who mysteriously disappears for a day or two just before the biggest vamp attack in Sunnydale in years. It doesn't take a genius…"

"So that's it? Every time there's pointy teeth involved, you're all gonna assume it's Spike? It doesn't mean anything to you guys that he was willing to die to save Dawn from Glory? Giles, you'd still be eating bugs if it weren't for Spike, and the rest of us would probably be dead. You think he's what? The biggest faker in the world?" Buffy looked around the table, but no one would meet her eyes. "Fine. You know what - believe what you want. I'm going to find out who really did this, with or without your help."

Buffy left the Magic Box, slamming the door so loudly that Xander made a mental note to make sure the hinges were still secure.

***

She went out for a quick patrol of Sunnydale's cemeteries, in the hope that a good fight or two would dissipate some of her anger, guilt, and tension. No such luck. The demon population was frustratingly uncooperative. After the events earlier that night, the lack of action was in itself disquieting; and a couple of hours of contemplating the finer points of tombstone carving and jumping at shadows convinced Buffy that she would be better off going to bed.

Sleep, however, remained an elusive concept. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw the kids from the Bronze, their dead mouths screaming for help that never came, their blood tracked in footprints across the dance-floor. Finally, she gave up and went out to the back porch, where she stared blankly into the darkness, dreading the inevitable conversation with Dawn. Her reverie was interrupted by a leather-clad arm encircling her shoulders and a gentle kiss on her forehead. She sighed, and relaxed into Spike's embrace.

"I thought you weren't coming back till tomorrow," she said.

"Got done early, and I couldn't stay away. Disappointed? Not enough alone time for you?"

"No. I'm really glad you're back. Really, really glad."

"What's the matter, pet? Can't wait to get your hands on me again?" Spike noticed Buffy's reproving look. "Hard night's slaying?"

"No, actually. No slaying of vamps at all. Quite a lot of slaying of humans though. You heard about the huge vampire attack at the Bronze?"

He shook his head silently.

"You must be the only person in Sunnydale who didn't know about it. It's been all over the TV and radio tonight. A whole bunch of kids were killed. It looked like it was mostly for fun because no one even fed off of a lot of them. The worst part was that I was too busy being Mommy to Dawn to save any of them."

"Dawn? Did something happen…?" There was a rising note of panic in Spike's voice.

"No, she's fine. I brought her home before any of this happened. It's just that… if I hadn't been so focussed on Dawn… maybe I could have stopped this. Or maybe if you had been here…"

A visibly relieved Spike pointed out, "Or maybe you or Dawn would have ended up dead too. I know it's awful that all those other people died, but, well… I can't be sorry that you and Dawn are safe."

"Spike, I don't think you understand. I'm the Slayer. I'm supposed to protect everyone - not just my little sister. Those people died because I wasn't there to help them."

"It's not your fault, pet. You can't foretell the future. It's been so quiet since Drac left town - how could you have known? Anyway, it's no good blaming yourself for what happened, Buffy. You can't change it now. All you can do is try and find the buggers who did it. Any clues?"

"You mean besides the big 'Slayer' painted in blood on the stage, and the mark of Aurelius under it?" Buffy hesitated. "There's another thing. Giles… Xander… Willow… they all think you had something to with it. Since you… weren't… around last night."

"Huh." Spike frowned. "Will too? Always thought she had a bit of a soft spot for me." Buffy noticed that his hands shook slightly as he lit a cigarette. "The 'We Trust Spike' club is still very exclusive, isn't it?" He asked with an assumed casualness, "You don't happen to agree with them, do you, pet?"

"Of course not. I told them you had nothing to do with it. It might help if they knew where you were last night."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, love," Spike said. "We'll find out who it was, I promise, and then we'll kill 'em. Nice and slow and painful-like. Did you notice anything else about the bodies? Any other clues?"

"I don't know if I really saw this, or if it was just one of my nightmares, but it looked a little like some of the kids… the bodies… had something wrong with their eyes."

"Their eyes? But you said it was vampires."

"There's no doubt about that. Have you ever come across any vampires that have an eye fetish?"

He looked very thoughtful for a minute, but as he began to speak, Buffy went on in a rush, "Spike, you know I'm cool with your… doing your own thing. But I think it would make the gang a lot happier if they knew… if you told me… where you were."

Spike shook his head. "You know, I like 'em, but making nice with the Scoobies really isn't my raison d'etre." He smiled at her. "Anyway, it's a surprise. If I told you now, it'd ruin the whole thing. You'll just have to trust me on this one, pet."

"Yup. Whole lot of trust here. Can't wait for the big surprise," Buffy said, with an attempt at cheerfulness.

"Well, then, that's all that counts."

"Before… you were going to say something. I interrupted you."

"No. It was nothing. Now, I think I'd better be getting inside. Sun's coming up soon."

Buffy said softly again, "Spike, please. Where were you last night?" but the only response was the bang of the kitchen door. She decided that Spike hadn't heard her.

***

Dawn's school was unusually quiet and grim that day. Classes had been cancelled but there was mandatory grief counseling for parents and students. As Dawn and Buffy walked past little knots of sobbing teenagers and their helpless parents, Buffy vowed silently that the perpetrators, whoever they were, would suffer before she killed them.

After their session with the counselor, Dawn's principal asked to speak to Buffy alone for a few moments. Buffy thought that Mrs. Fernandez was a nice woman, who clearly had Dawn's welfare at heart. Still, the mere words "principal's office" were enough to make her feel like she was sixteen and had just burned down the gym again. The principal's comments did nothing to make her less nervous.

"Miss Summers," she began, "I know that you're doing the best you can as Dawn's guardian, but it must be hard to raise a teenager when you're not very much older than she is."

"We're managing OK," Buffy said, cautiously. "Dawn really wants to stay here with me, and she's working really hard on her homework now. No slacking at the Summers house. Also, lots of nutritionally balanced meals, and plenty of good clean fun! And a curfew - a really strict curfew."

"I'll be honest with you, Miss Summers. Social Services have already asked us to keep an eye out for Dawn. Today, I found out from the police that she was actually at the Bronze last night, and narrowly missed being one of the victims of that tragedy. Have they interviewed her yet?"

"Yeah, they stopped by our house earlier today, but Dawn doesn't really know anything. She… we… left before it all started," Buffy replied. "Hey, wait a minute. You're not suggesting that's my fault, are you? I can't lock her in the house -- she's fifteen years old, and she has to have some kind of social life. I picked her up at 10 so she could go to bed in time to get plenty of sleep."

"Oh, no, Miss Summers. Of course any normal teenager needs to have a social life, well-supervised, of course. It's just that you should be aware that everything in your lives is under intense scrutiny right now. Being linked to a grisly attack on the Bronze isn't too helpful to your cause, that's all. Believe me, I do think you're doing a very good job with Dawn considering your age and lack of experience. This was just a word to the wise."

"Thank you, I guess," Buffy said.

Great, she thought, as they drove home. There are new, extra-nasty vampires in town, they kill tons of people, my friends all think my boyfriend's involved, and to top it all off, I find out Social Services is doing round-the-clock surveillance of me and Dawn. Could this day get any worse?

***

The answer to that question, Buffy decided a few hours later, was that it certainly wasn't getting any better. Even a chokehold combined with the lure of cold, hard cash had failed to elicit any information from Willy. A short, uncomfortable conversation with Giles had revealed an equal lack of progress on the part of the crack Scooby research team. Finally, frustrated and no closer to figuring out what had happened, Buffy decided to go home, and think about her next move while fixing dinner.

***

After all that had happened to her in the last few months, Dawn figured she could have taught the counselor a thing or two about grief. The only useful thing she had gleaned from the whole experience was the knowledge that Doug was all right, and a determination to see him for herself. Buffy caught her as she was walking out the front door.

"It's too dangerous, Dawn! Can't you just talk to Doug on the phone?"

"I can't reach him. The phone's been busy all day. That's why I need to go over there."

"Maybe the phone's off the hook because he needs some time to recover. Either way, you are not going anywhere after dark by yourself, and I can't take you because I'm too busy trying to figure out where the shiny new vampires in town are hiding out."

"Well, what about Spike? Spike can take me there."

"No, Spike cannot take you there. I need his help tonight," Buffy said firmly.

"Uh, ladies, I'm standing right here. And, much as I appreciate the two of you fighting over me, I've got a prior engagement."

"Come on, Spike. Please?" and "What other engagement?" said Dawn and Buffy simultaneously.

"Sorry, Little Bit. I'd be glad to play chauffeur another time, but tonight's out of the question. For now, pay attention to your sis -- she's right. It's far too dangerous for you out there right now. Trust me, the boy'll call you just as soon as he can."

"What other engagement? Does this have something to do with where you were last night?" Buffy asked again, as Dawn flounced off to her room.

Spike gave her one of his maddening grins, and said, "I told you. That's a surprise, pet. You'll find out on Saturday."

His kiss, meant for her mouth, grazed Buffy's cheek as she turned her head away. Spike stared at her for a minute, shrugged, and then walked out the door.

***

Where are you? Where were you happy in Sunnydale? Spike wondered, not for the first time in a long night. He had already been to his crypt, and to the burnt-out remains of the old factory where he had spent so long trying to cure Dru of her weakness. In retrospect, perhaps not the brightest thing I've ever done.

His last stop was the old mansion on Crawford Street. He had less than fond memories of the time he had spent there, confined to a wheelchair, sick with jealousy and impotent rage. And then, burning for vengeance, he had made that fateful decision to seek out the Slayer, and that was the beginning of the end of all that he had once been. I must've already been a little bit in love with you that night, Buffy, he thought as he climbed the stairs up to the garden. Of course, that didn't stop me from being a complete sod and leaving you to die. Sometimes he wondered how it was possible for Buffy to love him at all.

His hunch had been correct -- there she was in the garden, all white and glossy black, swaying in the moonlight, scented with jasmine and the faint, mouth-watering odor of human blood. She saw him and smiled, and as always, her beauty unsettled him.

"I hoped you would come, my sweet William," Drusilla said.

***

"Honestly, Dru, I wasn't expecting this much of a welcome," said Spike, after she led him into the house. "But I can't say I'm not grateful. We didn't exactly part on the best of terms, but I'd never really hurt you, baby. You do know that, don't you?"

"Oh, I was very cross indeed. I was going to cut off all your fingers and toes and other things too," Drusilla murmured, as she slid his coat from his shoulders. "But then I remembered nasty soldiers put that piece of plastic in your head, and I knew why my boy had been so cruel to his mummy. So I forgave you - my mummy always said forgiveness was divine."

"That's very big of you, pet. Glad to hear I won't be losing any limbs. Tell me, what brings you back to Sunnydale? Nostalgia?"

Dru put her hands on Spike's chest and her face in the hollow of his throat. Somehow, he could no longer remember why he shouldn't take her in his arms. "Shh - it's a secret," she whispered. "And I'm not sure I should tell you. You smell of the Slayer."

Spike swallowed hard, and then said, "She still stops in and beats me up from time to time. Eau de Slayer's a scent that tends to linger."

At that, Drusilla pulled away slightly, and shook her head. "Mustn't tell stories, Spike. I know it's more than that."

"Well, yeah, you got me there, Dru. To tell you the truth, it's been a little less pain and a lot more gain with the Slayer since you were last in Sunnydale. But it's all part of my plan, pet. Remember, to kill this girl, you have to love her."

Dru's eyes sparkled as she said, "Ooh, that's a lovely plan! What a clever boy you are." Then doubt clouded her face. "But you wouldn't lie to me, would you, Spike? I should have to hurt you very badly if you did. Liars must be punished."

"Never, pet."

"Cross your heart and hope to die?"

"Cross my heart and hope to die," Spike affirmed, and flinched as Drusilla reached up and raked her nails across the side of his face. La belle dame sans merci, he thought. Just the way I always loved you.

"Mmm, you taste nice," Drusilla said, after she had licked the blood from his cheek.

"So, Dru, tell me again why you're here?"

"No, you have to guess. Three guesses, and if you win, you get a prize."

"You missed me?"

"Wrong," Dru said, laughing.

Spike winced at that candid admission. Dru was capable of many things, but the tactful lie had never been one of them.

"Something happened with Angelus in LA?"

"No, Daddy still didn't come back to us," she pouted. "Only one more left."

"You decided to retire to the Hellmouth and take up gardening?"

"Silly. You missed all your guesses, but you get a prize anyway. Give the princess a kiss, and perhaps that's the key to the hidden treasure."

"All right then, pet, kiss and tell it is," and then Spike felt the soft, familiar touch of her lips. He closed his eyes as a great wave of memories threatened to overwhelm him, and let himself drown in the sweet taste of his ripe, wicked plum.

"There, now I'll tell you - Grandmama and I came back to Sunnydale for a really big party."

"So that was you and Darla at the Bronze last night? That was quite a party."

"Mmm, yes, it was lots of fun, and I wanted to dance, but the music stopped."

"Tends to happen when you eat the band, love."

"But we can't start the real party without all the guests. When they're all here, we'll dance and sing for ages, and you'll tear out the Slayer's heart and feed it to me."

"Well, as much fun as that would be, pet, I can't commit to any social engagements until I know who else will be there. Who are the mystery guests?"

"Can't tell you now. You'll have to come back tomorrow night, when Grandmama is in, and she'll explain it all to you then. She's ever so much better at explanations than I am."

"Well, that's certainly true, pet," Spike said. "But you're the one with the visions. She needs you just like I do. Tell me, did you come here because of a vision?"

"Oh, yes, Grandmama always listens to me now. It was such a lovely sight. I dreamt the Priest and the Prince would join us here in Sunnydale, and the serpent would swallow the Slayer and all of those who fought beside her."

"The Priest and the Prince? Who would those blokes be then?"

She drew his head down between her hands, and whispered, "You'll find out tomorrow, my little Spike. Tonight is just for us."

Spike gently disentangled himself and kissed the hollows of her slender wrists. "I'd love to stay, pet, but I'd better be going. Wouldn't do to make the Slayer suspicious."

***

Even Buffy had to admit that they were beautiful together. Seen through the crack in the velvet curtain, they were like figures on a stage. Light and dark, perfectly matched. No, she thought, both dark. Both evil. There could be no more doubt about that. She watched, her throat clenching and her heart pounding, as Drusilla caressed Spike's face. She saw his look of utter contentment as he bent his head to kiss Drusilla. And, worst of all, she heard his contemptuous words. "Less pain, more gain with the Slayer… All part of my plan… To kill this girl, you have to love her."

No, worst of all, she still loved him, despite what he had always been, despite what he was, despite what he always would be. "You'll tear out the Slayer's heart…" was the last thing she heard as she fled from that haunted garden. "Done," she whispered.

I thought he would always tell me the truth. I thought he would never leave me. I was happy again. And it was all a lie. Why? Why did I trust him? Why did I think he could change his nature? Why did I think he could stop killing? How can I still love him? How can I stop loving him? How can I kill him? "Stupid, stupid Buffy," she muttered.

Somehow she found her way home, a tiny portion of her brain noticing that it was lucky she hadn't encountered any nasties, since she was in no shape to take any of them on. She came in quietly, and although she heard Dawn moving around upstairs, getting ready for bed, she made no move to make her presence known.

Dawn. She would have to talk to Dawn. Telling her about the Bronze that morning had been awful, but explaining Spike's betrayal would be agony. And Willow. She had to call Willow to ask her to do the disinvite spell again. Later. I can't do this now. I can't move. I can't breathe.

She sat in the dark living room, her eyes burning with tears that wouldn't fall as she thought about learning how to drive, and a night at a laundromat, a stake covered in his blood, intent blue eyes looking at her as though nothing else on earth existed, poems on her pillow, a slim grey suit and a bouquet of irises, the feel of his arms around her, and his body on hers, the taste of his mouth, the luxury of knowing that he was always there, watching her back and that the dance had suddenly changed its meaning… But had it? In the end, it was the same old dance after all, just with new steps that she had never learned, and did not understand. Maybe it's not what it seems. Maybe there's an explanation. No. I have to stop this. I can't think about those things now. I have to be strong. I have to do be ready.

***

It was after three a.m. when Spike tiptoed through the front door of the Summers' house, carrying his boots so as not to wake Dawn. As he began to climb the stairs, something caught his eye, and he was startled to see Buffy hunched on the couch.

"Buffy, I've been to every cemetery and sewer in Sunnydale looking for you. Where've you been?" he asked.

"Around," Buffy said.

"Well, at least I've found you now."

As Spike bent down to kiss her, Buffy flinched, and then choked out, "Don't touch me! Please, don't touch me!"

He backed away. "What's wrong, pet? Are you hurt?"

"No. I'm not hurt."

"Then what, Buffy? Tell me what's the matter!"

"You are, Spike. You're the matter." Buffy took a deep, shaky breath. "I saw you with her… with Drusilla."

"What? Oh God… you were never supposed to see that."

"That was pretty obvious."

"Wait a minute! You followed me?" There was a rising note of indignation in Spike's voice.

"I think we've already covered that."

"Buffy, whatever you saw…"

"I saw you kissing Drusilla. You looked pretty happy."

"Please, love, listen to me…"

"Oh, I did listen, Spike, and I heard plenty. To kill this girl you have to love her? Sound familiar? That was your plan? Hey, it worked pretty well so far. I was too stupid to figure it out."

"Buffy, it's not what you think. Please, let me explain."

"Why should I? What could possibly explain what I saw and heard tonight? You were just trying to get information? You sacrificed your virtue for the cause?"

"Well, yeah. Something like that."

"You couldn't come up with something a little less lame? You're not even trying."

"It's the truth. I'm trying to tell you the truth."

"The truth? The truth and you are complete strangers to each other. You know what really gets me? You sat on the porch with me last night. You pretended to be all shocked. And it turns out the whole time, you knew it was Drusilla. You probably helped her plan it."

"What? What are you talking about? I didn't know for sure that Dru was in town until tonight."

"I can't listen to this any more. I want you to go."

"Go where?"

"Anywhere. I don't care. Just go. I should stake you, but I… can't." With that Buffy walked past Spike into the kitchen

"You know what? Bloody just do it. You'd probably be doing me a favor." He grabbed her arm, and turned her around to face him. "But before you do, you're going to hear me out. You owe me that at least."

Buffy considered him for a long minute. "Yeah, I suppose I do," she sighed. "OK. Talk."

"First of all, why were you following me?"

"Because I asked you a dozen times where you were last night, and you wouldn't answer me. You wouldn't tell me where you were going tonight. What was I supposed to think?"

"So, you're what now, my probation officer? Must know my whereabouts at all times? Why don't you just buy me an ankle bracelet? Or better yet, get your Army pals to put another one of those homing devices in my shoulder."

"It's not that… it's just this vampire attack last night…"

"Right. I'm a vampire, so I must've been involved. That's a pretty easy train of thought to follow, isn't it, Summers?"

"I did not think that. I defended you." And then she whispered, "I loved you."

"But you didn't trust me."

"That usually happens when you lie and hide things… I just wanted to make sure you had an alibi."

"Which I only needed because I'm a vampire. That's what it all comes down to, isn't it? Deep down in your heart, you don't think I can ever change. Good for helping defeat a Hellgod and a couple of thank-you shags, but really, once an evil vampire, always an evil vampire. Is that what you think? Newsflash, Slayer. I'm not some kind of a peg for you to fit in a hole labelled 'vampire', and I'm not the slave of my nature. I can choose what I want to be, and who I want to be with."

"And tonight, you chose Drusilla."

"I keep trying to tell you that I went to her for information."

"How did you know she was in town?"

"You told me. That dream about the eyes -- that's sort of a specialty of Dru's."

"Then why all the secrecy? Why didn't you just tell me?"

"Because I didn't think you and your Slayerettes would ever believe that I didn't help plan Dru's little 'Return to Sunnydale' party. I thought if I found out what she was up to first, I could ride in and save the day like the U.S. Bloody Cavalry." He shrugged. "Yeah, I know. Stupid git. Besides, if you lot had gone charging in there with pointy sticks and holy water, you never would have gotten any information."

"If it was just for information, why all the kissage? Why didn't you find out what you needed, and then introduce her to Mr. Pointy?"

"I couldn't stake Dru. She wouldn't tell me everything tonight." Spike paused to consider his next words. "But it's more than that… I could never just kill her like that. I… don't think you understand… what she means… what she meant… to me. She's the reason I'm here. She made me. For a hundred years, she was my whole world. It'd be like you killing Angel."

"I did kill Angel." Spike winced at the ice in her voice. "Anyway, you didn't seem to have a problem with dusting Drusilla last time she was in town."

"That? I didn't mean any of that. It was all alcohol, and despair. I was no more serious about killing her than I was about killing you."

"You could have fooled me. It was a pretty convincing act. But I bet you know all about sounding sincere," Buffy said. Spike opened his mouth to protest, but she continued. "Say I believe you, Spike. You knew nothing about the Bronze. You figured out it was Dru from what I told you, and you just went to her for information. Even if I buy all that, there's still one big question left."

"And that would be?"

"Where does that leave us? You just told me you wouldn't hurt Drusilla. I'm going to have to find her and take her out. Are you going to be with me when I do?"

"You don't know the answer to that question?"

"No. I thought I did, but now I'm not so sure."

Spike stared at her disbelievingly. As he opened the back door, he turned, and gave Buffy a bitter smile. "You know, I tortured myself for months wondering what it would take to get you to notice me, to win your love. Turns out it was the wrong question all along. 'Why bother?' That's the question I should've been asking. What's the bloody point, if nothing that I do matters anyway?"

"Where are you going?"

"Back where I belong!" Spike said. "Oh, and by the way, where I was last night? I went to see about getting some sodding papers. So I could get a bloody job and stop having to steal." He laughed without mirth. "So I'd have a prayer of being good enough for you."

The door slammed, and Buffy watched him vanish into the night Then she slowly sat down at the counter, put her head in her arms, and let the sobs rip her chest in two.

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