Tthis chapter took FOREVER to write. I think I had so many different directions that I could take this in, and I couldn't decide on the right direction or figure out how to get there, and I was writing in short bursts instead of cohesive chapters and... yeah. I'm sorry.
I've decided, as I re-read, that it's not as unforgivably hideous as I thought. It's just not particularly close to the skin.
I do not own Buffy, and aren't we bloody glad of that! The first 38 chapters are here
_________________________The manacles were standard-issue Sunnydale; chilly steel that bit into his wrists with every stud-rattling blow his corpse absorbed. A metaphoric body blow, in the final analysis, was appreciably less painful than the pointedly literal kind. Not for the first time, Spike found himself in a position to acutely observe the contrast.
Spike lost himself in a fantasy, tuning out the warm sharp fingers that skittered down his flesh. He was going to hunt down the bastard who invented Tasers, string him up by the thumbs, and shock him over and over until his heart gave out. He could almost hear the chains creaking in his imagination, breathing in the smell like roast pork while he jerked and jerked, clanked and twitched and screamed tooth-breaking tension into a glossy rubber ball gag.
A hard hand crashed against his already swollen mouth, breaking his lip open. “Y’know, lover, I don’t think you’re in this with me.” When she was right, she was right.
He ignored her and drifted back to the fantasy, wondering if the blood would eventually curdle, and how long it would take for the body to rip itself apart. The things were low amperage, after all, and they didn’t exactly hurt – not the way Spike liked to hurt things – just made every muscle spasm and contract, then fall limp and useless. It hurt nothing but his pride, really, and the two little spots on his belly where the darts had gone in and stuck there like burrs – but those only stung coming out, when the hooks on the ends ripped dimes of his flesh through his wrecked t-shirt. Tasers were really something special. Because while he was a live wire, jerking helplessly in 30-second arcs of white-hot uselessness, hit again and again until the batteries ran out, anyone who hiked him up over their shoulder to cart him off was safe as houses. Spike fucking hated Tasers. Hated that he thought he could have fought it harder. And it was a sad day when the demon world was taking hints from the government because he was sure that somewhere down the line of that logic were Initiative soldiers – or maybe just its victims.
He almost shared that thought with the hellbitch, about tricks from a dirty playbook, but thought better of it. His silence pissed her off.
Everything about him pissed her off. Everything about everything pissed her off; a beast who beat to the old war drums, the red-blood shadows on the edges of the tribe-fire. She was ancient and powerful; she knew the earth when it was young; she was the berserker in mother-warrior flesh. She was stuck inside an ineffectual 20-something who made it his life’s mission to undo her work. Spike had no idea what that last bit meant, but the rest of it he got. Intimately. Old and thrumming with it. The single-minded desire to rend and tear and be in her most pure form – eighteen dimensions at once and still enough to shake the red earth. Trapped. Chained, and for the first time in millennium a mind more than a purpose, the past and all its wonder pressing less than a skin’s-width away. She could reach, but ever touch. Yes, Spike understood that. And the older a body was, the harder it was to adapt, to accept. No wonder Angelus had gone insane. No wonder this blonde was clearly cracking apart at the seams.
He made an effort to smirk.
“Give. Me. My. Key!” She beat it out in a rhythm against his chest while Spike did his best to ignore her, burying his mind somewhere in that null place that he visited when pain was an inevitability and there was nothing to distract himself with.
It was the same endless song since the little toadstools dragged him into this typically ostentatious penthouse where they dropped him in front of Glory’s pointy red Pradas. The first words out of her mouth were a typically feminine complaint about the color. “This is a vampire.”
“Yes, your magnificence. The one who keeps company with the Slayer, your divine-ness.”
“No, moron. I wanted my key. This is a vampire.”
“My apologies, your most sublime deliciousness…” Spike felt himself snort, and that was the beginning of his problems, “You requested the inhuman one.”
“Fits me well enough…” He’d told her, sitting up and rolling the stiffness out of his neck, pretending there wasn’t a care in the world. She was just a girl, for pity’s sake. Five-five and stamping her foot hard enough to make her blonde ringlets jiggle. Spike was a far cry from stupid enough to underestimate the power of fragile looking women, but he had a hard time believing that this was the monster who had the Slayer shaking in her bunny slippers. She was an impatient little girl – a parody of actual power. And he didn’t understand it until she hit him. “Inhuman.”
The sudden smile was something a shark might wear and equally unsubtle. “That’s right,” she purred at him, “You’re not. Maybe this isn’t a total loss…”
Spike picked himself off the floor with all the dignity he could muster, wryly smoothing down his crumpled uniform and slipping his coat off his shoulders to sling it across the back of a chair because he didn’t need armor for this. “So why’d you drag me here?” It was the old strength – the warmth of confidence that spread through his belly – a weapon in his hand and cool calm laying against his skin because this was demons. Demons he could deal with. Demons, in their way, were simple and fun, and would only rip his guts out in the literal sense; demons were so much easier than humans. The leer was automatic. “Lookin’ for me to unlock your roller skates?”
“Well, I am looking for a key…”
He had smirked. He remembered smirking. “Your key… mystical is it? Shiny thing?”
“Mmm Hmm” Glory nodded, all sweetness and sex appeal now that she was getting her way.
“Do I look particularly fucking shiny to you?”
She moved fast. In his face before he could blink. A warning. “Vampires. You all think you’re so special.”
“Oh, I am, pet.”
“Mm maybe.” She had her kitten’s claws resting against his shirt now, perfume swirling in his nose and promising so much more than a conversation, and a sliver of him was revolted, but the rest was simply along for the ride, enjoying the back and forth and the way her tits pressed against him, soft and warm until the inevitable moment when it was going to all go up in flames. “But I am looking for something… unique. And I think you know what I want.”
“Maybe I do.” It was cliché, but effective. “Maybe I don’t. What’s in it for me?”
Not because he meant to betray his people. Not because he would ever give this bitch the satisfaction of prying Angelus’ shorts size out of him. Just because it was the game. They all learned to play it eventually, even the Slayer – violence and control and measuring with a big stick, all wrapped up in power plays and flirting – it was fun. Good, after so many years of singing for his supper like a bloody castrato and pretending – may the devil take him – that he was a Scooby, he’d almost forgotten that the verbal dance was just foreplay for the real thing. They were feeling each other out, was all, and her hands on his shoulders were fun. Fun was the whole point, but only if he played nice. And maybe it was petty, but he needed it just now, needed to feel like a demon and he let himself have that. Because what he wanted, maybe what he needed, was unavailable – hadn’t Xander just been in the process of saying so? – so he was settling for what he’d got.
Routines and subroutines. It didn’t surprise him in the least that she played like a bastard. “Give me what I want, and maybe I won’t suck your brains out. I’ve never tried it, but I bet vampire would go straight to my thighs.”
Spike was saved from sputtering any kind of response to that by the patient lift of an eyebrow. He took the time to rake his eyes down her body – milky and curvy and covered in red – and found his inspiration there. “So I’d really be doin’ you a favor then.”
The blonde narrowed her eyes and very haughtily refused to dignify that with a response, but she backed away, no longer willing to play the sex-kitten role quite so thoroughly, and back to whining like a child. “All I want is a little key. I just want to go home. Is that so hard? Why will no one help me?”
“Now, now. Didn’t say that.” Spike wasn’t exactly subtle. He found that, for the most part, subtlety didn’t have much truck with demons, he certainly hadn’t ever had a use for it before the fucking initiative got their hands on him and he’d had to learn to be nice. Most of his kind were shit liars, and terrible spies – there was no point in espionage when the most effective opening move was to punch a stake through the trusted first lieutenant. And betrayal was more common than salt, but they survived by knowing who and how and when, by carving out courts and hierarchies that they held on blood and bravado alone. Things like Angelus were ugly, twisted, anomalies, but even he wasn’t as good an actor as he liked to pretend. And Glory, for all the mod-cons in the fancy pent-house suite, was a beast of the old school. He didn’t have to be subtle.
Besides, it wasn’t the first time he’d worked for an unpalatable egomaniac long enough to get himself out of a scrape. He just needed to get out the door and he could disappear into the underground. But Glory was fast, one hard, sharp little hand gripping his bicep. He was beginning to suspect that this hadn’t been random after all. Of course not – because she was watching the Slayer and he spent all his bloody time the last few weeks living in her pocket.
“Tell you what, Princess, you make it worth my while, I’ll have your key back here in an hour.”
Her fingers in his head were sharp and cold, press and crunch and wriggling inside his skull. He felt himself screaming – long, silent roars that ripped out of his throat and made the air between them vibrate – until she pulled them out and the slurp was just as bad. He collapsed in a heap at her feet, clutching his head in an all-too-familiar position of supplication, hoping please – please – that this time his skull was still intact, and miraculously, it was. It always was.
“Ugh. Empty calories. I can’t even eat you.” He almost couldn’t hear it over the rushing in his ears, “I have a different plan. You stay here and tell me what I want to know, and maybe I’ll be gentle when I kill you.”
Not much incentive to be good, then. He woke up in chains. Hours ago. Maybe weeks.
“I think I’m going to tie your guts in a bow.” Glory murmured in the here-and-now, contemplative, almost ignoring him while her fingers dragged in gentle patterns over the flesh of his belly beneath the shredded scraps of his shirt. The wandering fingers found a bruise so fresh it still carried the illusion of heat, blossoming over the arc of his hip, and twisted, digging until he jerked like a fish on a line. “Would you like that precious?
He didn’t engage. Let himself be lost in his head, drawn back to a place where he really was precious and pain was for the sole purpose of pleasing his lover, his princess, who sometimes just wanted a body to writhe on her fingertips, to dance to the songs in her head. It was always best, she said, when it was him. Because she loved him best, because his skin was her skin and his bones were prettiest and sometimes she could almost see the fish again, the ones she’d drained away and into the sky in her tummy, the ones that scorched her throat on the way down. When he’d loved her most. Because only he could – or would – give her what she needed, and she could always taste that moment of purity and sacrifice because she’d giggle like he’d lit a dollhouse on fire for her – set her free – and press her tongue to the inside of his skin.
He didn’t have to. He’d never had to. He’d always been stronger, even at the height of her powers in her fits of madness and her inhuman strength, Spike was stronger. Just powerless to say no. Not when she needed him. He heard himself holler – somewhere far away from memories that were sweet and wistful as they were agonizing – felt a sick lurch, slick-pop of his muscles fighting the intrusion of Glory’s fingers, felt the swoop and gray fall when his guts were dragged out through his belly button, and the crash of the tide over his head. It was a thick clot of hosepipe, and she really did tie it into a bow.
He tried to get Dru back – the anise sharp scent of her, the memory of the last time; when she still cared, when she was still his – when they were in London together, when they were in Delhi – before the sickly green fairy lights took her mind away and led the mob to their door – before Prague – but the image danced away from him. The curve of a lipstick-black smirk, the rustling lace hem of her dress, and then gone. Buried under effluvia and pain and blonde ringlets that reeked of strawberry shampoo; drowned out by the perfect clarity of his pink-grey intestines when she audibly popped them back in.
“Shh shh shh.”
He fought the air that pressed like soft, chilly little needles against his innermost parts. Fought not to breathe – not to suck in heaving gasps that would rip apart the tenuous grip of his stomach wall and spill his guts onto the marble floor with a wet patter. Spike lost that place in his head, the one where things were calm and quiet and pain was an act of love – his or someone else’s, it was all the same and all a laugh – but he was dragged away by the flaring of his own nostrils as his lungs struggled to expand and his body heaved with the effort of not letting them. His blood dripped, slick and chilly into the waist of his jeans – Spike could smell it, gritty and porcine and thick in the back of his throat, rasping on the air he was trying to still.
“Isn’t that better?” She fucking licked her fingers, grimaced just a bit as though his viscera were sub-standard. Greasy. “I think it’s better… you don’t agree?”
He wanted to spit.
“No?” It was the pouting and the posing that made it unbearable. Or un-something, because he was bearing it, would bear it to the end of the world. “You can make it stop. You can make it all stop whenever you want… just one little name and it goes away.”
But that was why he would never give it. One reason. One of a thousand, not the least of which was the simple fact that she pissed him off. But for all the raw strength of her, Glory was powerless. She could stomp her feet and shake her fists until the sky bled, but she still needed him. Or what was in his head, at least, and she couldn’t get to it from the usual route. She could beg and plead and beat his head against the bricks of her hands, but he really would die first, and if she wanted to keep him alive as long as it took, that was just fine by Spike
She didn’t know the first thing about vampires, that much was clear. Didn’t understand that they would cling to life by the ragged shreds of their fingernails before dropping, screaming and clawing, over the edge. Because this was the afterlife. Maybe it was appealing to a mortal creature – to an animal that broke and bled and healed slowly – to die, to escape, even if it meant escaping into the unknown. Xander, wonderful, naïve, sweet Xander, thought that death was a relief and proved it every morning with that lurch into consciousness and disappointed slump with the realization that the skin he’d been riding hadn’t taken him with him. He thought that throwing himself off a cliff could end the pain – and it would, because what was a gut wound when his guts and all the rest were ash blowing in a stiff breeze? – but pain was knowing you were alive. Pain was the power to get a little of his own back, eventually. Dust was just dust. And a vampire – Spike – knew what was waiting for him when his luck ran out, and it wouldn’t be pretty. He clung to what he had with both hands. Even when what he had was the slow, cold spread of his laid-open belly.
Glory couldn’t understand that. Xander couldn’t understand that. Too human by half. Always reaching, half-curious and altogether too destructive – and even he could see the irony in that – for something that couldn’t be seen. Not that Spike intended to stick around any longer than he had to, but his ideas about escape were a little more literal. He worked at it for near an hour, surveying the penthouse as closely as possible under Glory’s careful scrutiny. He was in no shape to deal with the guards on the door – not even the squadgy little mushroom monsters that Glory employed. The presence of guards at all suggested they were obviously expecting an attempt, so Spike would do the unexpected. Except the windows were out too. Somehow, the sun had come up when he wasn’t watching and even if he could get to the far side of the room and through the double paned glass, he’d burn to nothing before he hit the ground. Which left the distinctive double doors he’d spotted on one of his many dizzying circles around the room when Glory hit him hard enough to send him spinning. Elevator doors. Which meant elevator shaft, and less than ten feet behind him. She grabbed him by the hair – yanking out half a handful, and he felt himself yelp.
After that, there were too many variables. If there wasn’t sewer access in this building, he was fucked, but he couldn’t afford to wait until sundown. He thought he was hurting now, but it wasn’t a stretch to imagine what he’d look like in four hours’ time. Glory was impatient and brutal, and by the time the sun was down, he’d be pudding. Too many variables. But he was leaving. There was a knife. Somewhere. Burning a line from his nipple to his hip. “How is a vampire who won’t talk… like an apple?”
Spike twisted his fists, hearing the creak of the crossbeam in the ceiling but feeling no give in the steel around his wrists. Even if he could pop his thumbs out of joint, the meat of his hands would hold him in place, useless and in unnecessary pain. But that creaking was promising. It would take him hours of swinging like Tarzan to loosen the bolt, or bouncing on the chains with as much energy as he could muster to crack it loose, but there might be other ways. If she just hit him hard enough… if he could just get her riled up enough to lose control, that bolt would come free – and hopefully take him with it. Simple physics. Or something. Tension. And Spike knew all about tension.
“Think I can do you in one long strip?”
It was his stupidest plan in years. Probably. With so many holes he could use it to fish with, but it was all he had, and damned if he’d be hanging around here any longer. Besides, if there was one thing Spike was good at, it was pissing people off. She was in his face again, sticking one of her elegantly painted nails through his ribs and yanking it out again with an agonizing crunch. He was getting the hell out of here, “Enough. No more. I’ll tell you who the sodding key is… I’ll tell you…”
When she smiled at him, he almost wished he could. If just to avoid what came next.
The force of her foot snapped the chain in half. He heard the cross-beam crack and the bolt came back and smacked him in the face while the ligaments in his wrists and elbows twanged and snapped like the elastic on a fat girl's panties. It threw him through the elevator doors with a crash of steel and concrete – he dropped like a rock down the shaft, followed by fifty pounds of rubble and plaster dust. His hands were useless, broken in the steel grip of his bracelets, but he managed to pry open the emergency hatch and fell through it into a swirling gray pit, trying not to puke or pass out or fall to dust. Just enough to get to a sewer, to get out, to get anywhere… but nothing was working and his body wouldn’t obey him. Wouldn’t come back to the land of color and he heard a sigh just before he passed out into the black. “Go get him…”
There was a hole in the ceiling and spider webs of cracked plaster that arced away from his new home dangling above a hastily kicked aside rug. Glory liked to kick things. He would probably never heal right – not without weeks and weeks of rest that he could never seem to manage between arse kickings and – probably not at all. He resigned himself to it. Resigned himself to Glory’s attention and waited for her to get even a little bit creative.
Glory was pants at the whole business. He’d certainly been tortured by a defter hand than hers – hell, he’d been the defter hand. Ripping people apart for information, for Dru, just for the sheer fun of it, and he was a hell of a lot better at it than this idiot because the trick wasn’t how much it hurt, or how it looked in the final frames of consciousness – that was all window dressing. The trick was the belief. The best kind of evil – the best kind of victim – lay in the belief that it was for real and forever, that he belonged, solely, to the whim of his current mistress and that his life and death, pain and pleasure were hers. After that, a little piece of information was nothing. He couldn’t keep a name locked away in his head because all the keys were part of her and his entire being was laid out like a buffet to sample.
Dru had done it. Easier than breathing, she plucked him off the streets and kept him; he was hers completely. Even in the moments when she gave him back to himself, he was hers. Dru and Angelus, who was convinced he owned the sodding universe so what was one little fledge. And no wonder Spike was so shattered when they abandoned him because back then it was all family and all perfectly, wonderfully ordinary. His murderers and masters and makers and the only people who loved him.
The initiative had tried it. May have beaten him into nothing eventually with their total inability to see him as a man and their absolute disregard for the individual. The machine may eventually have swallowed him whole, reprogrammed him along with the piece of plastic in his skull, and it was genuinely impressive, the consistency and the language that they used to reduce him to nothing, but their thoroughness was their failure too. Because his psyche was tougher than that. Because they assumed that their pandemic faith in hierarchy and authority figures was enough to keep him in a box ticked “hostile,” so lateral thinking went right out the window. They underestimated him and he was so fucking glad of it he almost sent flowers.
Spike had belonged to a hell of a lot of people over the years, but Glory wasn’t one of them. Never would be, treating him like there was a choice – like there was somewhere to run to. Even if the way out was dust. He knew he was going to die here. Knew it when Glory hoisted him up again, a few measly feet from where he’d been and in infinitely poorer shape. He knew it would be ugly and undignified, and likely he’d start squealing like a stuck pig once this bimbo realized there were other ways to hurt him… but he’d die with Dawn’s name still tucked safely away in his head – not on his lips.
Because when it came right down to the bones of things – to that place in his head where love and agony were part of the same ravenous beast… he belonged to them now. To Xander, who was easily as much a mess as he was, to Dawn and the Slayer – family. Whatever that meant.
Family. And it made him sick to think that Xander – his Xander – may’ve been through this. Even the palest, shadowy replica of this with Dracula. Not hurt for any purpose but simply because he was there, because he was owned, until the pain became an end in itself. It was so much easier, holding on, staying calm and staying himself when there was a reason to be bleeding. And so much easier to lose himself when the whole purpose of life was master and his whole universe began and ended with being worth keeping a little while longer or – please oh please – put down like a dog. And it was no fucking wonder, Spike managed in a rare moment of clarity, that the boy didn’t love him. Couldn’t. Or didn’t know how any more, and if he did, whether he’d only be telling Spike what he wanted to hear. It was almost a kindness.
One that hurt and left him hollow inside, even though Glory had been very careful to stick his guts back in him. Hollow. And he ached to fill it up. Reaching for the company of his mind and any way out of his body. His long streak of throbbing, painful mash. And there was always some part of his head that was somewhere else – the quiet part that mocked him with questions there were no answers to, like “Maybe Harris would like...?” He reached for Xander. The one in his imagination, and found him smiling. That open, endearing grin full of mischief and sunshine. The one that he used bounding in from the roof, extoling the virtues of his future garden, the smile Spike privately imagined was only for him – because in his head, there was no one else worth smiling at and Xander smiled, was happy, all the time. Even when he was begging – panting uselessly – Xander was smiling.
Xander filled in the white space – leaned against the walls wherever his eyes fell – loved him so hard that Spike could actually see it. Was warmed by it. Xander was there with him, an almost touch when Glory pulled him off the ceiling again and carefully rolled each of the fingers on his right hand around at the second joint and showed him the glossy black scraps of nailpolish glinting above his palm. It was indescribable, stomach-rolling agony, made worse when she.... But Xander was there. Golden warm escape helping to hold onto himself, helping him keep the name, sharp and bitter as arugula, trapped behind his teeth. Xander smiled, because Spike didn’t like to see him worry.
Time wove in and out, like a single thread of flute music in a vast amphitheater of other sensation. Pain, question, Xander. Pain, question, Xander. Pain. Question. Xander. Time had no place in the pattern. Spike thought maybe Glory was taking a rest at one point, exhausted by the effort of ripping his back to ribbons then carefully coaxing strips of skin away from his spine. It was a trick Angelus had liked – something to demonstrate his infinite patience and Spike’s helplessness as his captor stretched out, comfortable and noisy about it on the chaise lounge.
The details of Glory’s presence were a little muzzy – largely because he didn’t give a damn but also because he was lost remembering how much Xander liked to touch him. Innocent, obscene, perfect touches, how he reached for him in the night, seeking comfort, how he’d reach for him here, offering it. Xander would touch his flanks, gently and warm, he would find the only places he wasn’t broken – just to make contact.
Not would – was. He let himself sink deeper. There were worse ways to die, probably. Wore than holding his lover in his mind, of seeing him even in the thin drizzle of blood that left a swinging spiral under his feet. Seeing his face and his hands and the soft notes of him. There were worse ways to die than escorted there by Xander Harris, and if he was headed down, he could take this Xander with him. Keep him real and safe.
It was a good way to die. Because Xander would never ask him to – but Spike could do it anyway, to keep him safe. Because Xander wasn’t in love, but Spike was, and that was all he had ever needed anyway.
She got angry when he smiled, but he couldn’t help it. Heard Xander when she asked, “Did I knock something loose in there? You ready to tell me who my key is?” And he smiled wider because he hadn’t told her.
She broke his jaw.
She stomped her foot then kicked his knee in.
It leapt in staccato bursts. He thought about Xander; noticed that even the curtains were red; entertained a brief daydream about The Price is Right. Pain happened.
And abruptly it wasn’t happening anymore.
He wondered if he was dust. If he would become one of Xander’s ghosts and maybe if he could get in a quick kiss and grope before being sucked into the flames of hell. But dust didn’t ache. Probably.
It took a long time to realize he was on the floor – nice cool marble that soothed where it didn’t sting and the edges of a rug that hadn’t been beaten out in a decade. He felt like he was thinking through wet concrete, but his ears still worked, full of too many voices at once. He hoped he was hallucinating. “We have found him, your most creamy splendiferousness! We have found him! We have found the human!”
He jolted with horror, coughed on it – the ice-white adrenaline that, for a long, spinning icicle second, sucked the ache and twinge of his body into a void of terror. Had he said something? Had he let something slip while his mind was traipsing idly through a daydream? “I think you’ll find that I discovered him.”
He smelled Xander in the room. Over the blood and the sticky cruor, smelled that sharp clean burst of spice and grass and groaned low and despairing into his chewed through tongue.
“Oh, you know each other?” The triumph in her voice was sickening. He was almost glad his eyes were swollen shut and he didn’t have to witness it. “How sweet…”
“It’s always my pleasure to serve you, Mistress.” He knew that voice. Knew its dusty undertones and the slightly nasal erudition. But never so servile – it was revolting.
“Spike, are you okay?”
Xander. Xander, love. Despair.
“The vampire came to me some weeks ago with someone… precious in mind. I caught a few glimpses and thought he might be… interesting to you.”
“You’ve done very well.” His fault. Maybe today, maybe weeks ago, but his fault. He knew better than to share the contents of his head with demons. He knew. And now Xander was here, roughly a thousand miles from anywhere he’d be reasonably safe, and Spike would carry the guilt and panic into ash. “I’ll see to it you’re rewarded. Now!” The tone changed, rotated thirteen degrees towards perky, “My key… how nice of you to join me.”
Xander was there. Xander was there and now he was going to die too. And the worst part was, some slice of him was glad it was the real thing there with him.
So... really terrible? Do you want to cut my head off with a knife