DISCLAIMER: The characters are Joss’, of course, and the chapter title comes from Sting’s, “Something the Boy
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Xander has tried to communicate with Spike, with no luck…
Xander spent the night on Hanif’s couch, his too-long form folded awkwardly so that his feet didn’t poke out over the wooden arm. His dreams were roiled with bleached vampires mocking him from a perch atop the “Welcome to Sunnydale” sign, ghosts of both demons and people littering the landscape behind, and more than once, his eyelids shot open, convinced he could smell Anya’s perfume. He finally gave up on sleeping altogether about an hour before dawn, lying in the dark and listening to the quiet rhythms of the house while he tried to process what he’d seen.
When Spike had stopped in mid-step, Hanif had tensed, watching him intently while Xander asked quietly what was going on. There was no time for a reply, not when Spike’s voice started to rise, the babble he’d been spouting all night making an eerie kind of sense as he seemed to call out to someone ahead of him. His words became shouts, and Xander had forgotten about the earlier punch to reach out to him one more time.
The touch made Spike collapse in on himself, crumpling to the ground with his hands covering his ears. When he’d started begging for forgiveness, Xander had been thrust once again to Sunnydale, and those nights when he’d wake up to Spike’s tortured cries echoing through the walls from the next room. He couldn’t not help, not when the specters were so real around him again, and scooped Spike up in his arms, struggling with him for only a moment before Spike lapsed into unconsciousness.
“I don’t know what’s wrong,” Hanif had said. He followed on Xander’s heels, his gaze intent on Spike as the three went back to the car. “This has never happened before. He seemed like he was in pain tonight. That is not usual.”
“Do I want to know how often he goes out for there to be a ‘usual?’”
“Every night. William falls asleep, and within the hour, he has risen again, walking toward the hills.”
So, not only was Spike alive, but he also seemed to be sleepwalking. Xander’s head ached trying to keep it all sorted.
The heavy lumber of Hanif’s mother coming down the stairs made Xander sit up, alert as she stepped into the room. She didn’t say a word, just jerked her head toward the kitchen for him to follow, and then disappeared down the hall.
Ten minutes later, Xander was leaning against the kitchen counter, sipping at a cup of steaming tea, when Hanif appeared in the entrance.
“William wakes early,” he said. His face was drawn, his bleary eyes divulging his own restless night. “We can go speak with him now, or wait until after you’ve had some breakfast.”
“Now,” Xander said. He wasn’t hungry for food. All he wanted was answers.
“I must warn you,” Hanif said as they walked out to the car. “William is rather…recalcitrant. Though he can speak, as time has passed, he does so less and less. It may take some effort to get him to open up to you.”
“You keep calling him William. Why not Spike?”
“When he first arrived, I addressed him as such, but stopped at his request. The name seemed to…agitate him, and as I was still attempting to decipher why exactly he was human, I felt it best to yield to his demands.”
The car bounced along the dry earth, the rising sun casting orange fingers across the horizon behind them. “Why didn’t you ever ask him how it happened?”
“I did.” Hanif stared out his window, watching the scenery pass. “He doesn’t remember.”
They finished the journey in silence, each lost to his own thoughts. Xander was sure that Hanif wasn’t even aware of Spike’s sacrifice in the battle against the First; if he had been, he would’ve known about Willow’s spell to turn all the Potentials into Slayers. To him, it was probably just a fascinating conundrum to wile away his time, Watcher-style.
To Xander, though, the issue of Spike/William was a door that opened into a whole wealth of pain and trouble. There was no way to keep something like this a secret from the others, even with as little as contact as Xander maintained with them. Giles and Willow would want to know for the same reasons that Hanif most likely found it so interesting. And if Giles and Willow knew, how would it be possible to keep the information from Dawn and Buffy? They didn’t need this kind of disruption in their lives, and Xander most definitely didn’t want to be the one to deliver it.
His mind drifted to Buffy. She had been the only one to truly grieve for Spike’s death, but even then, her mourning had been one of pride. The night after the funeral, she and Xander had ended up at a tiny hole-in-the-wall bar, getting drunk in a corner while listening to classic country on the jukebox. They told stories about Anya and Spike from the past year, stuff that nobody else would’ve known. Buffy almost fell out of the booth from laughter when she heard about how he’d walked in on Anya giving Andrew his own assertiveness training course, complete with whiteboard and a pissed-off Kennedy.
Most of Buffy’s had been of the look-how-far-Spike’s-come variety, each time going back to the issue of Spike seeking out his soul for her. It was obvious it still amazed her, and Xander had to bite his tongue about it being the least Spike should’ve done. He knew he was the last person who would’ve agreed with her on the Spike issue, but he’d seen firsthand just how far the vampire had gone over the course of those months, pulling himself out of the split personality crazy phase and becoming a reliable member of the team again. It didn’t mean Xander necessarily liked him any the more, but by the day of that last fight, there was a certain amount of begrudging respect. Spike could’ve run at any point, and he’d stuck it out. There was something to be said for that.
But, as far as Xander was aware, that was as far as Buffy’s grieving had gone. After she’d moved to Rome that fall with Dawn, she’d started dating again, falling into the relationship with the Immortal before moving on to others after their apocalyptic break-up. Not once had Spike’s name come up in conversation with any of the old gang. Of course, Anya’s didn’t come up, either, and Xander was more than aware of just how much she occupied his thoughts.
How would she react knowing that Spike was back in the world? Would it even make a difference in the grand scheme of things?
When they pulled up in front of the small house, Xander waited for Hanif to lead the way to the front door, staying just behind as he knocked. It was opened almost immediately, but the man who stood on the threshold wasn’t exactly what Xander was expecting.
It was still Spike, and he still wore the white shirt and khakis he’d been walking the night in. His clothing was rumpled, far more than if he’d just been sleeping in it, and there was a weariness to the fabric that was mirrored in Spike’s shoulders. By the light of the day, it was possible to better see his features, the familiar scar in the eyebrow, and tiny lines around his eyes. Now, though, Xander could also make out the tan from being in the sun, the slight flush from a fading burn across the aquiline nose.
This was most definitely a human, not a vampire. Part of him had hoped Hanif had been lying about that.
“I hate to disturb you so early, my friend,” Hanif was saying. “Did we wake you?”
Spike shook his head, running long fingers through his unkempt hair. “I slept rather poorly,” he said softly. “I’ve been up and about for an hour now.”
The voice was different. Gone were the harsher rhythms of Spike’s speech, replaced with a quiet reserve that was more fitting an early Giles than any incarnation of the vampire Xander was familiar with. The accent shift he’d detected in the night was stronger as well. He could almost understand why Hanif would be so adamant about this not being Spike. Almost.
Hanif’s tone was gentle, a man used to being so, and Spike’s head bowed as if from unseen weight.
“Worse than normal, I’m afraid,” he replied. “There was…another, and it…he…” Words failed him, and he passed a tired hand over his eyes.
“I know it’s much to ask,” Hanif said, “but there is someone here who would like to speak with you. A friend.”
It was more than Xander would’ve characterized himself as, but he kept his gaze level as Spike looked up. In spite of the change in his appearance and voice, he still expected to see the disdain in Spike’s eyes, or to hear a cutting remark. What he didn’t expect was to see the frightened shadow darken the blue irises before Spike visibly pulled himself together.
“Of course,” he murmured, and stepped aside to allow them to enter. “Please, excuse my disorder. I haven’t…”
But he didn’t finish. Xander got a feeling he didn’t finish a lot of his sentences.
The room looked almost exactly as it had the previous night. The only thing that was different was the open notebook on the desk, and the frantic scribbling that covered its pages. Hastily, Spike crossed to it and snapped it shut, sliding it into a drawer and out of anyone’s line of sight.
“I shall make us a pot of tea,” Hanif announced. “It will allow the two of you time to…get to know one another.”
Xander frowned. Hadn’t he already made it clear that he was perfectly aware of who this was?
Once they were alone, Spike seemed to forget that Xander was in the room, turning to the piles of books on the floor with a newfound interest. It took a few minutes of quiet for Xander to realize that the other man wasn’t going to speak to him, more concerned instead with squaring the corners on his books than actual conversation.
“So,” Xander said jokingly, his voice sounding too loud in the small room, “saving the world wasn’t enough for you, huh? You just had to find a way to top yourself.”
Spike jumped at the words, as if he hadn’t expected to be spoken to, and straightened from his fussing to gaze at Xander in confusion. “Pardon?” he asked.
“You know. The Jean Grey act. Rising from the ashes? It’s OK. Buffy told me what happened down there with the amulet and all. She---.”
The mention of the Slayer’s name acted like a physical blow, and Spike staggered backwards, knocking over a pile of books and falling to the floor. Like a shot, Xander was at his side, scooping his arm behind his back to help Spike sit up, shocked at feeling the violent trembling reverberating through the other man’s body.
The crash of the books brought Hanif from the other room, and he rushed to help Xander guide Spike to the desk chair. “What happened?” he asked.
The question was directed to Spike, not to Xander. “I don’t…I don’t…” he stammered, fingers knotting in his long curls as he buried his head in his hands.
“What did you say to him?”
This time, Hanif demanded the answer from Xander, surprising him with the vehemence of his tone. “We were just talking,” Xander said.
“He spoke of…her.”
Though Spike’s voice was barely a whisper, the desperation in it cut through Xander’s confusion, driving him away from the other two men to watch them with growing doubt. Hanif had his arm around Spike’s shoulder, protective, sheltering as he tried to soothe what was clearly bothering the Englishman. Spike didn’t say a word, but with each passing second, the calming effect began to manifest in his body, the visible shaking receding, the fingers slowly unknotting from where they’d rooted in his hair.
“Is he OK?” Xander finally asked. Just because he didn’t care for the guy, didn’t mean he couldn’t feel bad about upsetting him so much.
“My…apologies, sir,” Spike stumbled. He took a deep breath and lifted his chin in order to meet his eyes. “I…I’m unaccustomed…to guests. Please. Do continue with…whatever it was you were saying.”
That was the final straw.
“What kind of stunt are you pulling here, Spike?” Xander demanded. “What’s with pretending you don’t know who the hell I am?”
“Because he doesn’t,” Hanif replied. “I told you. He doesn’t remember.”
“You said he didn’t know how he became human.”
“He doesn’t remember anything of his existence as William the Bloody.”
Spike winced at the nickname, causing Xander to roll his eyes.
bullshit,” he said. “He freaked out when
I mentioned Buffy. If he didn’t remember
anything, it wouldn’t have made a difference to him.”
Hanif glanced at Spike at that, but it was Spike who answered Xander’s accusation.
“I…dream of a woman,” he said softly. His blue eyes were pleading. “She is not someone I recognize, but…I know her voice before she speaks to me. She…I don’t know how, but…she knows me. She tells me that…that she believes in me. And I can feel her strength. I can…feel her, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever felt before.”“Well, color me not surprised,” Xander remarked. “You’ve been obsessed with Buffy since you first hit Sunnydale. Why should a heartbeat and a new hair color make a difference to that?”
“It’s not as you think.” Spike’s voice was growing stronger, though it still carried an unmistakable ache in every syllable. “In my dream, this woman…she does things I cannot imagine. She bears a weight that smothers, and when I try to give her my assistance, I feel…hands clawing me down into the earth. I can’t breathe, and…time seems to stop. If I reacted poorly to your comment, it was due to your reference to…” He shuddered slightly, a tremulous hand rubbing at his eyes. “The coincidence of the similarity between your ashes analogy and the…the…suffocation that occurs in my dream was unfortunate. My deepest apologies.”
It was hard not to believe him. There was an artlessness in the way Spike spoke, an innocent belief in the legitimacy of his claim. Considering what a lousy liar Spike had always been, Xander’s first instinct was to accept the story at face value, even if he didn’t know the reasons behind it. Normally, he trusted that instinct; it had always served him well in the past. Now, however, he was torn between what his gut was telling him and what his heart remembered.
“Tell Mr. Harris why it is you stay here, William,” Hanif prompted.
For a moment, he looked terrified. Well, more terrified. And then…
“Because I fear I’ll find her,” Spike whispered.
“And…I don’t wish to die. Again.”
To be continued in Chapter 4: Take Me Where the Wind Blows…