Chapter 4 - That Kafka Thing

Soft fabric against the back of his neck. Fringes tickling his hand like little bugs. Hot, surface against the palm of his hand. The scent of pig’s blood. He blinked, feeling naked and exposed in the bright light, overwhelmed.

There were voices coming from the other room. They spoke in whispering voices, but they echoed through him. Heartbeats, breaths, scents of skin and hair. Fragments of humanity. The frailty of their existence so apparent. He looked down into the crimson fluid in the mug. It was the color of death. He closed his eyes.

* * * * * *

“Glowing birthmarks and apocalyptic revelations? Time to tape an X on the window.” Xander, always the one to bring the popular cultural reference.

“Yeah, aliens, that must be it”, Dawn said sarcastically, slapping Xander over the head.

“They'd better be one of those nice little hobbits with glowing fingers and not those who snatch bodies. Because I like mine. It’s all smooth and firm, and they can’t have it!”

The others looked at the demon girl in the sofa.

“Why the hell are you still here, Anya?”, Dawn snapped.

Anya suddenly was reminded that she was the enemy now. She came to bring pain and death, at least, she thinks she would have. If she could. Dammit.

Immersed in the chaos regarding the Summer’s house-guest she had sort of forgotten. Old scoobie habits die hard. The vengeance thing had been like slipping into a comfortable pair of pants, but now she felt like a sulking child who didn’t get to play with the other kids in the playground.

“Hey," she stood up, almost pouting, "You don’t yell at the undead guy! He gets to stay in your house and drink your pig’s blood! He’s evil, too - and his body count is much higher than mine!"

"OK, no," she reconsidered, "but he’s still of the mass murderer variety! And he gets hospitality and blood! What’s up with that?”

“Anya, you don’t drink blood”, Xander said softly.

“Well...that’s beside the point!”

Dawn looked at Anya with rising irritation.

"A:," she began, "Last time Spike tried kill us was, like, two years ago. How about you? An hour? Remember, you went all Freddie Krueger and pointed fingers and stuff?"

"And the:“Oh, oh, I will make you pay!” “ Dawn mocked her, imitating Anya with savagely-accurate gesturing.

There was that feeling again.

It wasn’t that Dawn lacked good reason for being angry with Anya. Something inside of her raged, like she wouldn’t really mind having a baseball bat in her hands - right then and there - so Anya’s dress could have a few more nuances of red. Big dark spots that soaked through the fabric, brown ones with coagulated blood, some pale spots from tears spilled whle begging for mercy...

She paused for a moment, to shake those disturbing feelings off.

“And B)" she resumed her list, "Spike has a chip...and a..."

“A soul.”

The others looked over at Buffy. She hadn’t been taking part in the Spike-speculations. In fact, she really hadn’t said much since they brought him down to the kitchen. The others quit their bickering, realizing that the discussion now had taken a serious turn.

Shocked, Anya opened her mouth to speak, but Buffy cut her off.

“Listen," Buffy gazed into the kitchen, "I'll talk to him, find out if this means something, or if it’s just crazy ranting and radioactive body-paint.”

She looked at Dawn.

“Dawn, could you go to your room?" she asked, "I’m sure you’ve got some homework to do. I need to do this alone.”

Then Buffy was quiet, looking down at the floor with crossed arms.

Since it was Friday night, homework wasn’t an issue, but Dawn went upstairs without complaining. If Spike was going to stay in their house for awhile, Dawn would be eternally grateful if Buffy could sort out some of the issues that had created more tension than having a really large tesla coil in the basement.

Dawn felt a lump in her throat as her feet skipped up the soft, fitted carpet on the steps. As she closed the door to her room behind her, she sighed, then threw herself onto her bed.

Buffy was miserable, Spike was completely fucked up, and together they had always created cataclysmic matter/antimatter reactions, usually in the form of violence and/or sex. Unfortunately, for Buffy and Spike that almost seemed to be synonyms, which wasn’t a good thing.

* * * * * *

Once Dawn disappeared up the stairs, Buffy turned to Xander.

“Take our little door-breaker home," she told him, "Or to her hell dimension motel room or wherever she lives.”

“Well, as a matter of fact, I don’t exactly live anywhere," Anya directed herself to Xander, "I got re-employed around lunchtime. You kind of were the number one item on my to-murder-list.”

“Nice to know that I’m in your thoughts," Xander replied, "Anya, but don’t you think the others will feel neglected when you leave them out of your elaborate assassination plans?"

“Whatever." Anya got to her feet, her hair flowing around her determined face as a sudden gush of cold air from the tarpaulin-covered doorway swept across the room, "I need somewhere to live for a while. Give me your apartment keys, Xander.”

Xander’s eyed widened, “Give you my huh?”

“You left me at the altar, so you owe me," Anya explained, "Consider it a downpayment on your eternal debt. A very small downpayment."

“And then," she added, "I might only order you crippled when I get someone else to do my job. And perhaps I can give you one of those "Captain Pike" chairs, so you can dictate your heart-breaking memoirs with a cool red lamp.”

Xander burrowed his face in his hands, shook his head, then reached for the keys in his pocket. He lifted his head and looked over at Buffy, but she obviously didn’t want to touch this discussion with a ten-foot stake.

“Can I stay here for a while?”he asked weakly.

“Well, the couch is vacant.”

“Come on," Anya tugged at Xander’s shirt, "Drive me to your place and leave Buffy to her interrogation."

Defeated, Xander nodded, then he walked to the plastic sheet and pulled it back, "opening" the door for her.

As the plastic sheet fell back to place behind them, Buffy heard Anya's shrill voice disappearing down the driveway.

“By the way," Anya was asking, "what the hell is up with the whole vampire/soul thing? Does Buffy collect these guys or what? Should I get a few of my own and trade with her on the lunch break?”

It was a good question.

* * * * * *

He seemed so small and frail. He sat there with his eyes closed, clinging to his mug as if it was the only floatation device in a sea of panic, and for the moment it was hard to remember the Spike that they all had learned to know and despice.

The cocky poses, the way he, a bit too conscious, used the dramatic effect of the way his black duster fell around him when he walked, and how he always had something annoying to say, that, it must be admitted, often was on-the-spot. But now he sat in her kitchen as a broken vampire.

Angel had never really said much about how it was for him when his soul was returned, but he had told her enough to hint that it was a trauma that went well beyond what people who had lived all their lives with an intact super-ego could fathom.

She felt a pang of compassion in her heart before she reminded herself of the situation:

Why the hell should she pity the psycho mass murderer for grieving his victims? Or was this a different person? Was he William now?

She wished that USC had had courses in vampire psychology 101 during her short period as a student, then maybe she would have some useful answers. Professor Walsh had, after all, a cool specimen collection that surely could reveal some interesting information. Buffy couldn’t help continuing this line of thought with the images of a primed hostile 17 drooling at the sound of a bell.

She remembered her former boyfriend’s sex-related Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde change, and tried to apply it to Spike, but it just didn’t make any sense.

And she felt guilty for trying to compare Spike with Angel.

Her cheeks flushed as she thought of how Angel would react if he had known about her and Spike. He had given her up so she could have a normal love life, and even if she had grown to think that his big gesture had been a totally misguided action, she still wanted Angel’s approval.

She wished that this situation demanded beating something up.

Damn, that would be good.

And it would have been easier if Spike didn’t look so much like something left in a basket with a bow at her doorstep with a note attached:

“please take care of me, I’m an orphan ensouled vampire.”

* * * * * *

He opened his eyes.


He hadn’t said, or even thought, her name since that night in Africa. And now she sat next to him. Even in the bright, unflattering light of the fluorescent kitchen light, she was the the most beautiful thing in the world.

She was the sunlight, the sky and the moon, wrapped in flesh and bone. She was the reason for living.

She was the reason.

He didn’t deserve to love her. But he couldn’t help himself. Her presence filled him with the sparkling warmth that only Buffy could bring. It was unmistakable Buffy-flavour that seeped through the cracks of the pain and the dark voices. It tasted like raspberries and cinnamon, and he couldn’t help loving it, as if he was a starving man, saved from a barren wilderness.

But he didn’t deserve the sweetness of her presence.

He deserved ashes.


Her eyes. He quickly looked down into his now lukewarm blood.

“Spike, we need you to tell us," she said, "about what you said earlier. About the darkness? If something is going to happen, I need to know.”

Her words again, like bright snowflakes through his mind, twirling
about as in a child’s snow-globe.

Finally the subtitles caught up. She needed his help, she said so.

God, she spoke to him. She was real, flesh and bone, raspberries and cinnamon.

“There was," he made his dry lips answer her, "a bloke in the room.” Good, almost a decent sentence.

“Or a ghost or something," he continued, "Dunno. He poked at me, through my chest. A lotta pain and images. Bad ones.”

He swallowed. Tried to remember, tried to make words out of it.

There was a moment of silence. After a while her voice stirred him.

“What did you see?” she asked.

Rewind. Pause. Press play.

And then there was Hellraiser in surround-sound. His fingers clenched the mug, making the tip of his fingers turn white.

“Blood on the streets," he whispered, "Corpses. People were killin’, hurtin’ each other. Takin’ what they wanted. Nobody cared. Soddin' Armageddon, it was. Dunno why or how, just that it was gonna happen. Soon. It’s all kind of a blur."

“What do you mean? Armageddon?”

“It just..." he didn’t want to remember, “Like everyone was evil, goin’ insane. Everyone”

“Any useful details?” Buffy asked.

Her voice was surprisingly steady. At this point in her career, she didn’t succumb to shrill yelling in the style of them female 50’s movie characters, when "Apocalypse" was mentioned. She wasn't really sure why that should help against the aliens and the mutated ants anyway.
Perhaps it worked as some sort of high-pitch frequency sonic weapon.

“This groping guy," she asked, "did you recognize him? Can you describe him?”

Spike blinked. He struggled for a second, as he reacquainted himself with speaking. Like riding a bicycle.

“Black bloke," he lifted his head a little bit, "Not African-American or anythin’, just regular black. With a cloak. Kinda melted together, the cloak and the guy. All black, even the face. Like a shadow. Just appeared and poked, then, poof...”

“And what do you mean with that "you are the one who will bring it"?”

“I dunno, I just know that I will. It sorta fades away. Can’t remember
much of it all, lo… slayer.”

He almost slipped up. In the corner of his eye, he saw Buffy become tense.

It was quiet for several minutes. The low buzzing from the lamp filled the silence, sounding like large numbers of small, hungry, fruitflies waiting for a banana delivery.

Finally Buffy spoke.

“Why did you do it?!” Her voice was sharp and cold and cut through his very being.

He didn’t have to ask, he knew what she meant.

Then the world of pain and guilt came rushing back from its hiding place. It engulfed him and buried him, soaked his fresh new soul. He fought his instant impulse to break down like the wreck that he was. He had no right to throw the weight of his emotional burden in her lap. He fought the tears, fought his body going tense, fought the impulse to throw himself at her feet and beg her to punish him, hurt him. She deserved that he at least looked at her. God, he didn’t want to, he was sure he would loose all his resolve, but he had to.

She was crying. What did he see in those beautiful hazel eyes? Pain. And disappointment?

A strand of her hair had gotten caught in the track of her tears. He wished that he could reach out and pull it away, touch her cheek and tell her that everything was going to be OK. But he was the reason she wasn’t.

The world was whirling around him now, and he was sickened by the motion.

“Because I’m evil.”, he replied.

She didn’t answer.

“Because I’m the scorpion on the tortoise’s back," he said bitterly, "It’s my nature, innit?”

The room fell silent, deathly still. She stared at him as if it would all finally make sense if she could only look hard enough.

“I dunno," his whisper broke the silence, "I loved you more than life itself. I don’t see how I could..."

His lips was trembling as he looked into her eyes.

“I’m sorry.”

It sounded so stupid. Like an apology would make it all ok. He could no longer hold the tears back, and with a broken voice, interrupted with sobs, he asked her.

“Are you going to kill me now?”

She realized that he actually meant it.

He really believed that she could drive a stake through his heart.

And he really believed that he deserved it.

Inside Buffy's mind, a feeling that until now had been buried and silent started to make itself known. She'd kept it vague and distant, but now she couldn’t push it away any more.


Buffy tried hard to make it go away, tried to make him the sole bad guy again, but watching Spike break down in front of her broke down the last of her barriers. She'd directed her energy to hating him so that she didn’t have to listen to that inner voice.

The fact was that she had hurt him. She was the hero who saved the world in the name of everything good and right, and still she had used him for months. She had abused him over and over, both physically and psychologically.

And she was the one who had had a soul.

In the end, who was the Big Bad?

She reached out her hand and lifted his chin to make him look at her again.

“No. I’m not gonna stake you.”

“Don’t you remember," she removed her hand, but held his gaze with hers, "what Dawn said that night at the Bronze? “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it”? Dying is easy, believe me, I know. It’s living that’s the challenge. I won’t give you a “Go to hell without passing Go”-freecard.”

“And I," there was pain in her voice, "have no right to throw the first stone.”

He looked at her, trying to understand what she was saying.

Buffy felt she couldn’t continue the discussion any further. She felt tired and worn.

She got up from the table and left him with his mug of blood. He looked confused, but didn’t speak up as she turned from him.

As she walked away from him, she heard Xander at the front door. She put on her happy face, quickly wiping her tears away.

“So you’re still alive?” she called out to him, trying to sound cheerful, but missing the mark.

“Well, for now at least," Xander walked directly to the kitchen door and peeked past her, "How was the interrogation. Could our undead guest provide any useful information? Should I book some time in my filofax next week for a brand, new, exciting Apocalypse?”

Still aiming for cheerful, succeeding a little bit better this time, Buffy tried to sum up the intel.

“Well, it seems like a mean ghost will bring on “28 Days Later”. Spike was a little vauge on the details, but I’ll do some research tomorrow, and I’ll see what I can find..”

Then she herded Xander back to the living room, pausing briefly to check the fridge. Inside, there was Dr. Pepper there that Dawn had bought earlier that day. Buffy knew Dawn would be furious if she took it, but as she reached for it, she noted that she really didn’t care.

* * * * * *

Outside the window, the bushes twisted and swayed in the wind that blew across the deserted suburb street. The block tended to become something of a ghost town when evening fell. After all, this was the time where all the hard-working, white, middle-class families that populated this part of town stayed indoors and pretended that the world was a safe place, that the monsters under their well-mannered children’s beds were figures of their imaginations, and that the growing body count among their acquaintances was surely due to drug-related incidents (It happens in the best of families).

It was the hour when parents sat by the kitchen table and together agreed on the fact that their quarterback son, who'd just won a scholarship to Berkeley, was regularly waking up naked in the woods, with no memory but the smell of wolf in his nose, was simply going through some sort of phase, and that the pentagram on the floor in their daughter’s room will come right out with a little bit of soft soap and some scrubbing.

In the living room at 1630 Revello Drive, the Interdimensional Key rolled a two.

She grimaced in disappointment as the Slayer removed her last red plastic Australian soldiers with a malicious smile.

“You’re totally cheating!” Dawn accused.

“Don’t be a cranky," Buffy looked pleased as she inspected the world map that was slowly becoming more and more covered by little green men, "Just because you're losing."

“I think that sore looserism is a genetic defect in the Summer’s family”, Xander commented with a little laugh.

From the armchair at the other side of the room the vampire watched their game. Spike felt like a tennis racket in the grocery department. All the time he had spent on Planet Angst these last days that made board-games and fun seem like a strange contrast.

Reality had started to settle down around him, at least as long as she was with him. She was the anchor for his frail psyche.

He was really grateful that she allowed him to sit with them in the living room during their game, but he had turned down Dawn’s offer to join them, since playing Risk pretty much demanded access to all your mental abilities.

And besides, he now had a strong belief that evil beings and world domination should be kept far apart.

The struggle of the three colors surged back and forth on the board, and as the game progressed, the atmosphere of competition between them became more pronounced, especially when the red areas started to grow bigger and bigger.

Buffy never liked getting her ass kicked, neither metaphorically nor literally.

“Hey!" Buffy asked, visibly irritated, "Why do you never attack Xander?”

“Well, perhaps because most of his countries are on the other side of the world, with you in between!”

“Whatever, it’s just not fair!”

Xander’s ears were getting sore from their increasingly high-pitched voices.

“I’m gonna make some more popcorn”, he said and walked to the kitchen.

Happily away from the bickering, he picked up the bag of microwave popcorn and sent a prayer to the housing deity for a short stay at Revello Drive. The Summers’ girls had been even more difficult than usual lately, and he didn’t want to get in the middle of it.

In the background, the sound of arguing continued, and Xander sighed as he put the bag in the microwave and set the timer.

Suddenly a loud noise came from the living room.

Xander ran to the living room and saw Dawn pinned up against the wall. She was choking and struggling to break free from the hand that was brutally gripping her throat. On her neck, several trails of blood ran out from under the fingers that was holding her in place. There were cracks in the wall behind her, stained with more blood.

“Give me back South America!”, Buffy yelled without loosing her grip.

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