He grins and laughs like a child on Christmas morning as he burns. It hurts, God it hurts, but he can feel it. His soul. A warmth snuggled down at his core, absolved of all sin by altruistic sacrifice. In that moment, he is a being of pure innocence and love. Love for Buffy, his feisty little Nibblet, all the girls, even the Scoobies. The whole bloody world, really.
Somewhere outside of himself, he thinks he hears Buffy’s voice, feels an impact against his burning body, but he knows it isn’t so. She’s gone, and he’s standing there alone, burning. The pain is suddenly so intense that he can no longer think, only feel as his skin burns away, his muscles following after, and he is drawn out and away, spiraling down, down, down into nothing….
Time stopes and then starts again, going backwards. Pain sears through him as he reforms from dust to skeleton, to muscle and raw nerves. There is no joy in this, only fear and pain, like being born into a vat of boiling oil. He screams in voiceless agony, vocal cords ripped to shreds several times before they’re finally strong enough to withstand his pain. It echoes in his sensitive ears as blurry figures appear before his newly regrown eyes.
Spike was doubled over in pain, panting desperately for breath he didn’t actually need. Where was he? What was going on? There were people all around him, fuzzy shapes all seemingly talking at once.
“Spike?” Quiet voice with an accent that he wanted to roll up in like a comforting blanket. “Spike!” Angry familiar voice. Hated/loved. “Blondie bear?” What the…? That couldn’t be. Was that…?
“What… what…?” he gasped out in confusion as his eyesight started to clear. Where the bloody hell was he? Who were these people? What was…?
They were talking again. Mostly hostile, one confused not-Harmony female voice, a male voice that was actually calm and soothing.
“Easy, slim, easy. No one’s gonna hurt you,” the calm voice said.
“Speak for yourself, green jeans,” said a dark skinned man Spike was pretty sure he’d never seen before. He didn’t really keep track though, so for all he knew he could have eaten the man’s entire family right in front of him or something.
“Okay, would somebody please tell me who –” not-Harmony started to ask.
“William the Bloody,” the Englishman answered. “He’s a vampire. One of the worst recorded. Second only to –”
“Me,” Angel interrupted angrily. Spike turned and focused on him, his own anger starting to overpower his confusion. “But you’re dead.”
Harmony was babbling something, but Spike wasn’t really paying attention. He was still staring at Angel. Bloody Angel. The wanker who’d given the bloody amulet to Buffy. It could have been Buffy who would have gone through all of that pain, and Angel had just handed it over to her. Rage boiled through him, and his features shifted as he launched himself at the smarmy prick….
Only to end up going through him and halfway through the big, fancy desk. He turned and stared down at where his body disappeared into the wooden surface. It was only then that he realized only his sight and hearing had come back. No wonder he was still so unfocused. He couldn’t bloody smell anything. As for touch…. Well, he was in the middle of a sodding desk, wasn’t he, and he couldn’t even feel it.
He swallowed hard, fear and horror a writhing mass in the pit of his stomach as he looked up at the people staring at him. “Bugger.”
“Weird,” the little science-y bird, Fred, muttered as she walked towards the nearby lab table to pick up a file. She was a sweet little honey with the twang of Texas in her words. She turned back towards him. “I’m getting electromagnetic readings consistent with spiritual entities, but there’s no ectoplasmic matrix.”
What the bloody hell is that supposed to mean? he wondered, pulling his coat even tighter against his body, though it barely seemed possible. He was hugging himself – had been for a while now – but it was just as distressing as it was a comfort. He couldn’t actually feel anything, not even himself. It was like touching his legs when he’d been in that bloody wheelchair, only without being able to feel anything against his hand either.
I’m in hell, he thought numbly. Had to be. He was here with Angel, unable to smell or touch anything, the two senses that had always defined his world the most. He was adrift, with no solid form, no home, and no Buffy to add any shred of light to his predicament.
“Meaning?” Gunn asked, drawing Spike back to the world outside of himself.
The man was standing next to the lab table while Spike’s sodding pillock of a grandsire sat there like a lump and Fred did most of the work. At least the ex-Watcher and the green demon were doing something presumably productive over at a high powered microscope.
Fred turned towards Gunn as she answered his question. “Ectoplasm’s what makes ghosts visible to the human eye. If he’s a ghost, technically we shouldn’t be able to see him.” She paused to write something down in her folder. “And I’m detecting brainwave activity.”
“On Spike?” Angel said with a derisive laugh. “That is weird.”
Bastard. As if the great lummox was any smarter than Spike was. Probably had more schooling and made better marks than he ever did, Spike thought resentfully. Fred gave Angel a slightly reproachful look, but didn’t say anything. At least she’d been nice enough to give the look, and it wasn’t as if he was speaking up in his own defense. There were advantages to playing at being the dumb blond, after all.
Fred turned back to Spike as she continued speaking, giving him all of her attention. “Also, ghosts generally absorb light and heat energy, making the area around them a few degrees cooler. Spike’s radiating heat.”
He couldn’t help the smirk that spread across his face. He knew she didn’t mean it like that, but…. “Think I’m hot, do you?”
“Mmm…” She looked him over with a slight, dismissive smile and then down at her clipboard. “Lukewarm. Just above room temperature.”
Oooh, shot down. “Well, what the hell am I, then?” Not that he had actually been serious, mind. Flirting and talking to girls had always been a sort of comfort action that made him feel better. It… wasn’t helping right now. Probably wouldn’t have even if she’d responded. Like anyone would give me a second look with the mighty brooding forehead about. Even Buffy…. God, Buffy.
Angel had said she was okay. That was all that mattered, not that he yearned for her with every part of his apparently not-ghostly being. None of them would even call her, not even Fred or Lorne, as nice as they seemed. For the best, really, he told himself. He was a hideous, disgusting monster, inside and out. Of course she wouldn’t want to see him again. He hugged himself tighter, even though he couldn’t feel it.
“Whatever he is,” Wesley piped up, “it’s clearly tied to this amulet. Spike’s essence, for lack of a better term, must have been held within it.” He looked up at Spike. “Do you have any memory of a strange sensation when it released its energy?”
Spike gave him a look. What a ponce. Any strange sensations? What the bloody hell had Wesley thought he’d been seeing the reverse of when the amulet had upchucked him into Angel’s office?
“What? You mean my skin and muscle burning away from the bone?” He kept his tone light and oddly distant, not wanting to think of it even as he described it. “Organs exploding in my chest? Eyeballs melting in their sockets? No. No memory at all. Thanks for asking.”
“Okay,” Angel said, “he’s connected to the amulet. Last I heard, it was buried deep inside of the Hellmouth. How did it end up here?”
“Maybe he’s here for a reason,” Fred suggested, looking at Spike compassionately before turning towards Angel. “You know, some higher purpose or something he’s destined for. Sent to us by the Powers that Be to help us or –”
“Who gave them the bloody right to do that? Keh.” Destiny. God, he hated that word. In that timeless moment between being sucked into the amulet and coming back out, he’d been at peace. Just a gentle nothingness and the vague feeling that he’d finally done something right for once. Now this. He started pacing, turning away from them so they couldn’t see that he was fighting back tears.
“Can’t a man die in peace without some high almighty deciding it’s not his time?” His voice was getting shaky and perilously close to breaking. “Let’s have a little more fun with him, eh?” He’d gotten just enough control of himself to add a mocking tone to his words as he held out his hand to measure a small distance. “You’d think that saving the sodding world would earn me a rest. You’d think –”
“Spike,” Fred called out suddenly.
“Hmm?” That’s when he noticed it. The horrible dragging, pulling sensation as something tried to tear him out of the world. He’d been bitching about being in it against his will, but this…. He looked down at himself. He was fading away. “Balls,” he whispered.
Sudden terror screamed through him with the conviction that whatever waited was even worse than the touchless, scentless, Angel tainted hell he was currently stuck in. Then he vanished.
“…without some high almighty deciding it’s not his time?”
Buffy turned away from Willow’s projection, wiping the moisture away from her eyes. God, Spike sounded so lost and confused. Lost and confused…. That really summed him up even before all of this. She’d used and confused him, twisted him so much as she clawed her way up from the depths by shoving him down.
He’d gone and gotten a soul for her, and she hadn’t been able to tell him how awed she’d been by that. Not really. There just hadn’t been time, and she’d been so afraid to tell him how she felt…. And when she finally had, it had been too late. He hadn’t believed her.
And even without that belief, he’d been prepared to die to save her and the entire world. And she’d run when he’d told her to, too confused at first to do otherwise. What would have happened if she hadn’t turned back? Would the W&H people have just left him there, singed and broken in the rubble of the Hellmouth, when they realized they’d caught the wrong vampire? Or would they have found a way to use him?
Her gaze drifted to the pale, still figure stretched out on the hotel room bed. He looked a little better now, after she’d forced some of her blood into him. He still seemed more like a lifeless corpse than he ever had before. Willow sat next to him on the bed as she projected his experiences for them all to see. It was horribly invasive, but they had to know what was going on in there or they wouldn’t be able to get him out.
She glanced at the man – Mathias Pavayne – sitting in a chair beside the bed, holding that damn amulet. She wanted to smash the thing, but she’d been told that would only destroy the soul and consciousness stuck inside, forced to endure a custom hell set up by Wolfram & Hart and influenced by Spike’s own mind.
Mathias tensed suddenly, then slumped and sighed in defeat. He looked at Buffy with the woeful expression of a kicked puppy dog. “I almost had him, but the damnable thing twisted my efforts and made him frightened of the path out.”
Buffy closed her eyes and struggled to keep her composure. It wasn’t Mathias’s fault he’d failed this first attempt. He was a psychometrist and old friend of Giles who had been called in to help. Shaking him and demanding that he do better wasn’t going to help anything. Well, the violence would offer her some much needed relief, but then she’d just feel bad about it.
She took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as she opened her eyes. “Okay, so what does that mean? We can’t just give up.” She wouldn’t give up on him. Even if her took her whole damn life, she was getting him out of that amulet.
“I’ll keep trying,” Mathias said with a warm – but weary – smile. “If nothing comes of it….” He hesitated. “Well, it’s risky, but if Willow could use her magic to enhance my abilities, I might be able to go in and force him out.”
Willow glanced at her sympathetically while her projection showed Spike popping back into the Wolfram & Hart lab. “Don’t worry, Buffy, we’re going to save him. I promise.”
Buffy nodded and turned away again, unable to watch. Spike had saved the world, and was being treated like an annoying and inconvenient mystery. She stared down at her burned hand. Some of the burning actually had happened, but not the extent the projection had shown. But that was what he felt. That was what Willow had said. That his soul and consciousness being ripped out would have felt like burning alive.
“You’re right, Will. We are going to save him.” She clenched her burned hand into a determined fist. They had been through too much for this to be the end. Hang on, Spike, she thought. I’m coming for you.
I’ll always come for you.
Leave a Review
Table of Contents