Chapter 4 - Loved Ones and Other Things That Suck Big Time

"So, then he said 'people like you should be shot!'" Spike said. "Can't believe that people still give a damn!"

Angel chewed on some pieces of fiber-enriched bread he had found in the back of Spike's cupboard, most likely bought by mistake, probably while drunk. "You shouldn't eat stuff like that," he said. "It's not good for you."

"Don't worry, I won't get chubby," Spike said while futilely trying to wipe away the maple syrup that had gotten all over his hands and face. "I've got a killer metabolism. It's my superpower."

"I meant that it's not healthy," Angel answered, looking at Spike's plate with distaste as Spike added more syrup to the sticky pancake. He folded it to a bundle and squeezed it into his mouth.

"So, ayay. E os: 'hot ik ogs!'" he mumbled with his mouth full of food.

"Swallow, Spike."

Spike chewed for a moment before he finally managed to swallow the big chunk of pancake. "So he said: 'shot like dogs!'"

Angel rolled his eyes. "I hope you taught him a lesson."

"Actually, Buffy beat me to it. She went Xena on his ass." As Angel raised an eyebrow Spike knew that he shouldn't have mentioned her.

"Buffy?" Angel leaned closer.

"Just a new co-worker," Spike said quietly, looking down at his food.

"Seems like she cares enough to come to your rescue."

"Give it up, Angel. I can't spend all my life avoiding girls just to make you happy." Spike poked at his food with the fork. "Or, technically, I should avoid people, I guess," he mumbled.

"Is she beautiful?" Angel asked, lifting Spike’s chin with his finger. "Is she nice?"

"Um... I don't..."

"Do you want to fuck her?" Angel stared him straight in the eyes. "Do you miss getting some pussy, huh?"

"No, Angel! I love you... why would I...?"

Angel looked at him in silence for a moment. "Don't know. Just have to know I can trust you if you're going to be my boyfriend."

"You can trust me!" Spike leaned forward and pressed his lips against Angel's. As they broke apart he looked at Angel desperately. "Please, don't think those things!"

Angel’s face softened. "I just love you so much." He caressed Spike's cheek. "Don't want to lose you."

"You won't." Spike leaned his forehead against Angel's and closed his eyes. "You won't," he whispered.

* * * * * *

Many years earlier

"Loved Bauhaus last night." The black-haired, shabby guy blew out a small cloud of smoke.

"Sure, but if they hadn't been so stoned they might have remembered the lyrics," a blasé looking girl answered. She was pale with dark makeup around her eyes, making her almost panda-like. A strange dark dress and spiked hair with bright blue streaks completed her outsider look.

"Yeah," Spike said, grinning. He pulled her close with the hand that wasn't holding his cigarette. "But then again, Amber, we didn't really pay much attention to the music, so I guess it didn't matter." He kissed her intensely for a while, then pulled away and took a drag on his cigarette. Amber took what was left of it and slowly inhaling the soothing dose of nicotine.

"Too bad this is just a regular smoke. I could use some better stuff," she said toneless as she put out the stub with the sole of her boot.

"Come on, luv. You don't need that stuff." Spike said with a seductive voice. "You've got me." He kissed her again, tangling his fingers in her hair.

The three of them were standing in a dusty corner outside the back entrance to the gymnasium. This was where they went on their breaks, usually to avoid the teachers’ eyes while getting a smoke, but often just to hang out. Small piles of dead leaves and trash were lying around their feet but nevertheless this was their spot, their little home on the school grounds.

Like every school, the property was strictly segregated. Not in the barbed wire way, of course, but as most teenagers know, social borders can be just as effective. The popular kids gathered at the benches outside the cafeteria, the brainy types in the library, the geeky ones around the fountain. And the weird and scary ones outside the back entrance of the gymnasium. This was never questioned; it was just the way it was.

"I'm going now. Got math class," the other guy said. "And, get a room or something," he continued, looking over at Amber and Spike.

"Whatever. See ya, Kyle," Spike murmured against Amber's mouth as Kyle headed towards the main building, leaving them alone.

As they pulled apart, Amber reached out her hand to pull some strands of hair from her eyes. As she did so, her sleeve slid down, exposing parts of her arm. Spike inhaled sharply. "No, Amber!" he said and grabbed her arm, staring down at the partly healed cuts on the pale skin. "You said you weren't doin' that anymore!"

"Well, I wasn't..." She ducked her head. "But everything's just so bad right now." Her eyes started tearing up. "It just feels good to do it."

"Feels good?" There was distress in Spike's eyes. "How can it feel good to cut up your own bloody arms?!" He pulled her into his arms and held her tight. "Is it your dad again?" he asked quietly as he caressed her hair.

"Yeah," she said, burrowing her face against his chest. "He keeps shouting at me. Tells me I'm a crazy slut, that I should be locked up."

"Jesus," Spike mumbled. "You should talk to someone. Like a teacher or somethin'. Tell them what's goin' on."

"No!" She pulled away quickly. "And you can't tell anyone, ok? It would only make it worse."

"Oh, look, the freak is sad," someone shouted while passing by.

"Fuck you!" Spike shouted back without turning around.

"Just ignore them, ok?" he said, wiping her tears away. "They're all idiots."

"Yeah," she sighed.

Out of the corner of his eye, Spike spotted Xander heading their way. He looked a bit nervous, like he always did when he was hanging with Spike and someone from the goth crowd was around.

"Um... hi," Xander said, putting his hands in his pockets.

"Hi, mate," Spike said. "How's it goin'?" Spike tried to sound cheerful. Behind him, Amber mirrored Xander's gesture and put her hands in her pockets, looking a bit lost.

"Fine and dandy," he said. "Just wondering, have you finished reading my history notes from last week?"

"Sure, Xan. Wait a sec." Spike dove into his scruffy backpack, digging around.

While Spike was looking for the notes an uncomfortable silence descended between Xander and Amber. "So... nice necklace," he said, pointing at the fork-like piece of jewelry that was hanging around her neck.

"Yeah." She said quietly. "It's the death rune."

"Oh... great," Xander said, squirming a little. Then they were quiet again.

"Eh... nice... space ship," Amber said, looking at Xander's t-shirt.

"It's a Bird of Prey. A Klingon ship." Silence.

"It's... it's got a cloaking device," he stuttered.

"Um... ok." More squirming.

To their relief, Spike finally pulled out a few crumpled pages. "Aha!" He straightened the papers against his thigh. "They got a bit wrinkly. And..." He licked on his thumb and wiped on a dark spot. "A bit of soy sauce. I think." He squinted. "I hope."

Xander took the pages. "Well, I guess reading it in its original state wasn't really challenging."


"Never mind," Xander sighed. "Time to go, Will... um... Spike. We have to get to class."

"Yeah, right." He turned to Amber. "You're gonna be ok? Not gonna do anythin' stupid, right?" he said, caressing her cheek.

"I guess," she said quietly.

"I'll call you tonight." Spike gave her a quick kiss. "Love you," he whispered.

As he and Xander walked through the hall on their way to home economics, Spike noticed a few pairs of eyes following them. Or rather, following him. Teenagers’ memories were sometimes ridiculously long, but other times they were flashes in the proverbial pan. Nowadays a lot of people seemed to think he was pretty damn cool. There were even a few kids who seemed to be afraid of him, even though he never had done anything more sinister in his life than skipping English class a few times. Others thought he was an annoying slob, but he didn't really mind. Either way, people knew who he was. To his surprise, he had heard that there were a couple of girls who had his name written in ornate letters in their notebooks.

The whole thing felt weird. Good but weird. At the end of the day, if people wanted to see him as a bad boy, he wasn't going to tell them any different.

As they continued down the hall, Xander's eyes darted to Spike. He hesitated for a minute. "So, Spike," Xander said, speeding up to keep up with Spike's pace. "How's it going with Amber?"

"Great." Spike nodded to a passing acquaintance.

"I was just thinking... Since she made out with that guy at Sarah's party."

"She made a mistake, ok?" The muscles in Spike's jaws twitched. "She's really sorry, so don't bring that up again." They proceeded up the stairs to the second floor in silence.

Xander took a deep breath. "I just... Don't get mad, Will... It's just... " Spike stopped in the middle of the stairs and glared at Xander.

"I..." Xander gulped. "It just seems like she's not really serious about you. There are these rumors about her and other guys. And it's like she only wants you around when she's miserable and needs a shoulder to cry on."

"She loves me!" Spike said, pointing a finger at Xander. "And yeah! She sure needs a shoulder to cry on if you haven't noticed!" People around them started watching their discussion, and they heard scattered whispers.

Spike turned sharply, and headed down the stairs with quick steps, coat fluttering behind him like a big slaughtered bat.

"I just don't want you to get hurt!"

"Fuck off, Xander!" he shouted, catching the hurt expression on Xander's face before he turned the corner.

Xander sighed and slapped his forehead, not caring about the small audience that still was watching him. "Stupid mouth," he mumbled. "Mental note: keep it closed at all times."

Two hours later, Spike was standing behind the gymnasium, now smoking his fourth cigarette. He let his head fall back against the brick wall and closed his eyes. He had told his best friend to fuck off! The memory set off a dull ache in Spike's chest.

As he heard the scattered voices of people leaving their last classes, he peered around the corner, trying to spot Xander, but without success. He put out his cigarette and rubbed his face with his hand. With a sigh he headed back to the school to get his books.

As he walked through the empty corridors, he suddenly heard a familiar sound. He stopped and listened. His body slowly tensed up as he walked towards the nearby supply closet. When he opened the door, he stopped abruptly. It was just like one of those Matrix-esque slow motion scenes where something really dramatic is happening but everything appears almost frozen in time.

"A... Amber?"

Kyle stopped pounding into Amber, and stared at Spike's pale figure in the doorway. Amber slid her legs down from Kyle's waist and straightened her dress. "Um... sorry?" she said without enthusiasm.

Kyle zipped up his pants and held up his hand as he passed Spike on his way out. "Whatever."

"You just...?" Spike felt like someone had pulled out his gut through his navel. "You slept with him...!" He barely stopped his lip from trembling.

"Well, yeah." Her eyes studied a stack of paper towels.

"But... but I thought..." He stared closely at her, almost like he was expecting to discover the whole scene had been an elaborate mirage.

"Sorry." She studied her nails, and picked at the flakes of purple nail polish. "I just got bored, you know."

"I..." He grabbed her hand, holding it firmly. "I forgive you. We'll deal, just..."

"No, Spike." She pulled away her hand from his tight grip.

He stared at her in disbelief. "But Amber, I love you!" he said, gripping her shoulders. He felt like there was no oxygen in the small room, like he was slowly suffocating to death.

"You don't have to get all dramatic on me. It was fun but, you know..." She squirmed away from his grip and exited the supply room.

"Please, I love you!" he hollered after her.

"See ya, Spike," she said without turning around.

Xander was staring blankly at his sandwich when the doorbell rang. He stiffened and looked to the door before he reluctantly got up and opened it.

Outside stood Spike. His face was flushed and wet with tears. His bright blue eyes mirrored a hurt that Xander never had seen in his friend before. Several strands were sticking up from the gelled down hair, like it did when Spike had pulled his fingers through if without minding his precious hairdo.


"I'm... I'm really sorry," Spike sobbed. "I'm such a jerk!" He stared at Xander, begging silently for Xander not to hate him.

Xander, not really the world champion of emotional stuff, stared back, mouth agape.

"You were right!" The feelings welled up within seconds, turning Spike’s small sobs into full-fledged crying. He closed his eyes tightly and wiped his face with the sleeve of his shirt. "She doesn't want me! And she fucked Kyle!"

Xander blinked. "God!" he managed to say. "Come in! Sit down, so you won't... fall over or something."

Spike slumped down in the sofa, hiding his face in his hands. His entire body was shaking. Xander sat down next to Spike, and looked at him with both compassion and fading anger. Not knowing what to say, he hesitantly put his hand on Spike's shoulder. "I'm sorry," he said quietly.

* * * * * *

"So, any new competitions?" Dawn asked.

"I have one in a few days."


Ever since Buffy had picked Dawn up at Joyce's she had been talking non-stop. Buffy was tired and annoyed.

"Can't believe you get to beat people up, like, legally."

"Well..." Buffy squinted against the afternoon sunlight, wishing that she had remembered to bring her sunglasses.

"What’s it like to be knocked out?" She looked at Buffy with a big smile. "Oh! Do you see stars? Or birds, like they do in cartoons!"

"Dawn, for your own safety: you know that anvils aren't good for you, right? And that if you run off cliffs, hilarious air-jogging will not ensue?"

"But you can draw doors in mountainsides, right?" Dawn asked, grinning.

Buffy sighed.

As she noticed that they were almost at their destination she started getting tense. They turned down a smaller road and turned left, and she was soon looking out over the big, beautiful houses on her father's block. As they drove down the street she could feel the observing eyes of the neighbors who were outdoors, cutting the grass, barbequing, playing with their 2.5 kids, and doing other stuff that respectable people did in their lawns on late afternoons. They stopped outside an impressive white house with a neatly landscaped garden. As they stepped out of the car they looked at each other.

Hank had called Buffy out of the blue that morning, awakening her from her peaceful slumber to ask her over for dinner. And, of course, one problem with drowsiness is that you don't always have the presence of mind to make excuses.

"Come in, come in!" Hank urged with a tense enthusiasm as he opened the door. "I'll take those," he said, grabbing their shed jackets. "You can go to the dining room; the food is ready." Buffy and Dawn couldn't help noticing the vague but distinct smell of alcohol coming from their father.

They passed a roomy hallway, painted a subtle green hue by Hank’s former girlfriend, the only one in the lot Buffy had actually liked. The same ex was responsible for the matching drapes and the tasteful carpets. It had been ages since she had been in this house, but she noticed that it hadn't really changed since their last awkward visit.

Before the divorce, many years ago, Hank had worked almost non-stop. For long periods of time he had barely been around at all. But it was his constant affairs that had finally split Buffy's parents apart. Not that Buffy had known about that at the time; she was, after all, just a kid. She had blamed her mother for letting him go, and had made an art of sulking and glaring. She had found out the truth only a couple of years later. Dawn had only been an infant when Hank left, and for her the whole situation seemed hard to grasp. She felt like she was an alien to her estranged father.

As they entered the dining room, they stopped by the table. The dishes looked like they were prepared with effort but lack of practice. "Oh, please, sit down," Hank said.

They started eating in silence. Buffy noticed that Hank was glancing over at her vegetable-and pasta-covered plate. "Have some steak, Buffy," he said as he held out the tray in her direction.

"Um... no thanks," she said, stabbing another piece of broccoli with her fork.

"Come on, dear. You can't just live on vegetables, can you?" he said, still holding out the tray.

"I have a competition in a few days," she said shortly. "I can't eat steak."

Hank put the tray down, but continued studying his daughter. "But you need some real food." He reached out and grabbed her waist. "Look, skin and bones!" he joked.

Buffy twisted away from his grip. "Don't," she murmured.

"What do you say, Dawn? Isn't your sister too skinny?" he continued.

Dawn looked down at her food without answering. Hank looked at his daughters, fiddling with his napkin.

"So, Buffy, still boxing, huh?"


"You're... you're not getting hurt, right?" He furrowed his brow.


"’Cause I watched this documentary on Discovery. About... you know, brain damage."

Buffy closed her eyes tightly for a moment.

"Just worried, that's all." Hank looked nervous. "I mean... aren't there safer sports? I'm not sure it's a suitable activity for you, dear."

"No!" Buffy said sternly.

Hank leaned back in his chair, shifting a little as he tapped his fingers on the table.

Dawn had stopped eating, and was watching their interaction. She inhaled a few times, getting ready to talk. "I... I won first prize in the science fair last month!" she finally said, smiling at her father.

"That's great, Dawnie," he said, reaching for the milk.

"Um... I made some cool atoms out of toothpicks," she said cheerfully. "Miss Anderson said I'm Nobel Prize material."

Hank nodded, chewing on a piece of steak. Dawn turned silently, looking down at her food.

"So, Buffy, how's work?"

Before Buffy could answer, Dawn cut in. "You're still coming at our school musical next week? I'll be Juliet, remember."

Hank turned to Dawn, taking her hand in his. "I'm sorry, Dawnie," he said with an apologetic face. "I had to schedule a business trip to New York for next week." Right away he reached for his wallet. "Do... do you need some money for stage clothes or something? He pulled out two hundred-dollar bills and put them in front to Dawn.

Dawn stared down at the bills on the table. "What's wrong with you?" She stood up quickly, the chair falling to the floor behind her.

"Dawnie?" Hank stood up and touched her arm.

Dawn yanked her arm away and dashed off towards a guest room. "It's DAWN! I'm not five years old anymore!" she shouted before she slammed the door shut behind her.

Buffy looked at her father with both pity and irritation. "I know you're trying, but..." Buffy sighed. "Try harder." Hank was looking back at her with sadness in his eyes, but Buffy ignored the lump that his expression created in her gut. She walked over to the guest room, Hank watching her in silence.

Closing the door and locking it behind her, she looked over at Dawn. She was sitting on the bed, her arms wrapped around her knees and her chin resting on her hands, folded up like a teenaged bundle. "Don't let it get to you," she said as she sat down next to Dawn.

"I told him about the musical months ago. He doesn't give a damn about me!"

"I think he does, in his misguided way." She put her hand on Dawn's arm. "He's just awkward with this father stuff. Like he flunked out of parenthood class or something."

Dawn leaned her head against Buffy's shoulder. They sat, silent, for several minutes.

Hank finally knocked hesitantly. "Dawn? Buffy? Please come out so we can talk."

They looked at each other. Buffy reached for the remote, and the TV lit up, its sound drowning out Hank’s voice. "I've got to be at Willow's in an hour," she said looking at her watch. "How about we sulk here for half an hour longer, then we make a dramatic exit?"

Dawn nodded and her head fell back at Buffy's shoulder.


Leave feedback

Chapter 3 < > Chapter 5