Note: Thanks to my beta t_geyer for her unending patience, perseverance and support.
SECTION 4 - ELSEWHERE
I love the time and in between
The calm inside me
In the space where I can breathe
I believe there is a distance I have wandered
To touch upon the years of
Reaching out and reaching in
Holding out and holding in
This is heaven to no one else but me
And I'll defend it
As long as I can be
Left here to linger in silence
If I choose to
Would you try to understand?
(Sarah McLachlan, Album - Fumbling Towards Ecstasy)
Thanks also to Emma for suggesting this way back
when I started FTE, even if it did take me three
months to follow through.
Hope she's still reading.
Sunday, May 19th, 2002
Tara pinched her nose and rested her head against the PC's monitor. Wes had called up the Council's database on poisons using his father's ID and password. There were, as Wes had said, relatively few poisons that were effective against vampires, so you would have thought that her task would have been an easy one. However, it would seem that installing any sort of search engine was either beyond the Watchers' capabilities, or more likely, not considered an appropriate use of Watcher resources. Nevertheless, Tara was confident that she had found all the references to poisoning vampires. The problem was that none of the toxins listed seemed to exactly match Spike's symptoms.
Tara had a couple of theories as to why that might be. Either way she had more or less reached the limits of her capabilities. She could try to isolate the poison from the blood they had found in the fridge this morning, but freshman chemistry didn't really cut it and she had no idea if whatever Willow had done might have altered the poison as well as the blood. Tara tried a mental review of the people she knew from the Wiccan Society and from her dorm, trying to think of any chemistry majors she might be able to approach with a suitable cover story and coming up blank. Even if she did find someone who could help, without samples of the relevant materials to compare against, there was little they could do to identify the poison, assuming they could isolate it.
She supposed that at least they could now rule out a few of the possible suspects. She neatly added a few brief notes to her notepad on the last of the poisons she had found and switched off the computer. She could hear the microwave humming in the kitchen and made her way through to check with Dawn on how their patient was doing.
“How are things on your end?” she asked the teenager.
“No better than your expression says they are on yours... but Brandon's coming over. He said if nothing else he can at least keep me company.”
“Is he still drinking? ...Silly question, sorry. You wouldn't be heating more unless he was drinking it.” The Wiccan answered her own question before Dawn could. “He's still asleep though, right? You would tell me straight away if he woke up again.”
“Still asleep. Muttering away to himself... but as far as I can tell he's still out of it. At least Rogue's stopped growling at things that aren't there. This is the second to last pint of that stuff that Wes brought, though, and there's no sign of the fever breaking... So... what's with the database?”
“I guess I know a few things it can't be.” Tara's smile barely merited the name. “That's something, I suppose. The thing is I think they might either be using a cocktail of a few different things... or-.”
The phone rang before Tara could finish what she was saying and both girls dashed for the receiver in case it was Buffy or one of the others calling with some news.
“Summers' residence,” Tara answered as she put the handset to her ear.
“Might one inquire if I am speaking to Miss Buffy Summers?” the voice on the other end of the line asked in clipped, formal tones.
“I'm sorry, but I'm afraid that Buffy isn't at home and we don't know how long it might be before she comes back.”
“No matter. It's not actually her who I'm trying to reach. I'm trying to contact Rupert Giles. The young lady he employs told us if he wasn't at his hotel to try this number.”
“Giles is actually with Buffy. Wes, too. I assume he was going to be your next choice...” Tara wished the Englishman would hurry up and get to the point.
“Wesley Wyndam-Pryce? His father never mentioned that he was in Sunnydale... Nevertheless, my message was supposed to be delivered to Mr Giles himself. Perhaps you could tell him that he was correct and that the Council is looking into appropriate action. They are most anxious to speak to him to ascertain how he came to know about this.”
“Well, when he gets back here, I'll be sure to pass on the message. Do you have a contact number Mr...?”
“Howarth. Everard Howarth. Mr Giles will know where he can contact me.”
Wes's eyes met Buffy's in the rear-view mirror. “Are you alright, Buffy?” The slayer looked somewhat paler than normal, and Wes remembered the story about the night that Spike had been kidnapped by Drusilla.
“I will be...”
Wes couldn't say he was happy with Buffy's answer, but he could see her point.
“Look, Wes, it's not like if it came to a fight any of us could do much against Willow's magic, anyway. You know how the link works. As long as it keeps hurting I know he's still hanging in there, and the fact that it seemed to get worse the second I walked out the door is just because I'm more aware of it when I can't just check up on him directly. It's just psychosomatic. It's not that bad ...really.”
Giles turned in his seat. “Buffy, you really should be careful. It seems as if you may be at a disadvantage until this thing is resolved.”
Buffy rolled her eyes. “Have I suddenly had 'Poor, defenceless female' tattooed on my forehead or something? I mean love you guys, all of you, but Spike's enough with the over-protective for all the women in that house, never mind little ol' me. So much so, that I'm the safest of all of us.” Buffy dipped her hand in the pocket of her creamy suede jacket, pulling out the pouch containing the orbs. “See, all protected and invulnerable. Now can we go do this thing so that I can get back home and give these back to the guy who actually needs them?”
Buffy clambered out of the car waiting for the two men to join her. “Willow's room has its own door. If we go round the back we should be able to get her to let us in without having to disturb her parents.” Buffy led the way around the side of the house, but what she could see through the patio door, caused her to revise her plans. The room that had belonged to her friend had been refitted. It now hosted a large desk, several bookcases and an armchair, but there was no sign of a bed or any of Willow's computer equipment. In fact, there was nothing in the entire room that she recognised as belonging to her friend.
“Change of plan. I guess we need to go to the front door. If Willow is living here, then she's not in her old room.”
Giles barely had time to ring the doorbell before a figure appeared on the other side of the glass expanse. It was obvious that she hesitated before she opened the door a scant six inches and took position blocking their way into the house. “Well, what d'ya know? Didn't think you'd have the nerve to show your face around here after your little display of solidarity with the undead...”
“Willow, we so don't have time for the amateur theatrics.” Buffy's tone warned all present that she was at the end of her patience.
“Willow?” Giles conveyed his astonishment at how much the witch had changed, even since they had brought her back from the clock tower. His dealings on the following day had been principally with Xander, Willow having stayed in the car outside Buffy's house, and her ongoing ageing had passed the elder watcher by. If the watcher hadn't known differently, he would have assumed the woman who barred their entry was in her late sixties. Her hair flowed to her waist, where it looked to have been hacked off fairly roughly, but the mass of hair had none of the lustre of the auburn locks she had sported less than a week before. Most of the hair looked a dull brown which caused the man to wonder if the girl had ever been a natural redhead, and the grey hairs that gave her a salt and pepper look outnumbered the Watcher's own. The witch's cheeks looked hollowed and when she spoke there were occasional gaps visible in her teeth. It seemed that Evie's curse took account of forty years worth of wear and tear, but not forty years worth of regular dental and hairdressing appointments.
“I think you would be well advised to invite us in,” Wes suggested in a tone that made it sound more like an order.
“And if I don't choose to?” the Wiccan asked, lines etched deeply into her face as her lips twisted into a bitter grimace. “After all, it's hardly as if you've made me welcome in your homes.”
“Will you get off the self-pity train for one moment and just consider how cranky I get when people mess with my boyfriends? And then multiply anything you've seen in the past by at least a factor of ten and you might get some idea of what I'm prepared to do,” Buffy warned. “...And the way I remember it, I made it perfectly clear that I still wanted to be your friend. I just couldn't keep putting our relationship above Dawn's safety, and as far as I could make out all Spike told you was to call first before you came round so that you didn't upset Tara or Dawn or the dog.”
“So now you're threatening me? Again? You have a strange definition of friendship. All over a vamp you've wanted to kill for more than half the time you've known him,” the witch sneered. “It's real good to know that I've got at least one friend who'll stand by me.”
For a fraction of a second Buffy was tempted to punch the twisted look off of Willow's gap-toothed face. Giles' hand resting softly on her shoulder was all that kept her from it.
“Willow, there's no point prolonging this display of petulance. The way I understand this curse to work, it judges your actions against your own standards i.e. the Wiccan code. 'An' it harm no other do as thou wilt.' Every minute that you keep us waiting out here, Spike is suffering, possibly dying and Buffy, Dawn and Tara are suffering because strange as it may seem to any right-minded person, they care about him and they have to watch. We already know that you intervened to prevent Spike from drinking any more of the blood that was at the house. We just need to know why you think it's tainted and whether you know who is behind it.”
“What makes you so sure that I think the blood is tainted? How do you know I'm not just going to see to it that Buffy's necrophilia-enabling sex toy starves to death?”
“Because people don't fundamentally change to that sort of extent. You may have made mistakes, but, so far, you've never been malicious, and I happen to feel that if you were to act in such a manner you would come to deeply regret it.”
Willow gave a sigh and stepped backward holding the door wide. “I suppose you better come in, then,” she told the group.
“I know you’re awake, my William. You can fool the little girl but mummy knows when her boy is faking. It’s not nice to try to fool mummy.”
Even with his eyes closed Spike couldn’t mistake the voice with its hint of the East End that no amount of elegant dresses or fine jewels had been able to hide. Even after a century away from the place of her birth, she managed to make girl rhyme with foil.
“Dru, go away, you’re dead dead. You can’t be here, kitten.”
“But I can. I am here. Look… Even the bow wow knows I’m here.” The figure at the bottom of the bed tutted at the growling canine and waved a finger, keeping the metal bedstead and several feet between her and it nevertheless. “Naughty doggy! …And I know what you need to make you better.”
“You’re dust, Dru. Dust an’ ashes, feedin’ the bloody jasmine in Peaches' yard.”
“I can still look after my beautiful boy. All this blood, but it won’t help. Like filling a bath with no plug in. Not good enough to fix my golden childe.”
Spike finally opened his eyes, unsure which would hurt more, his sire’s presence or her absence. The sight that met his eyes tore at his heart strings. Dru wore an elegant white blouse and skirt. Her hair was pinned away from her face, but then fell in curls over her shoulder. He recognised both the clothes and the hairstyle and could remember clearly the last time she had worn them, that long ago night in China when he had claimed his first slayer. His bloody hand prints on the white cloth had never washed out and the garments with their delicate lace trimmings had been discarded.
“Dru, love, s’always the blood. Never anything else. Now run along like a good spook. You belong back with him, now. You need to go. She’ll be back with more soon,” he almost pleaded.
“You think you can be good? When the pain is eating you from the inside as if you swallowed a live rat then my wicked Spike will come home. He’ll take the pretty peridot.”
“Kitten, it’s been a long time now since I’ve jumped through your hoops and worked out your riddles. You don’t own me any more, princess. My best night with you is just an echo of a whisper of the worst night with her. I’d rather her fists than your kisses.” Spike twisted his head as he spoke, trying to keep Dru in sight as she turned to pace the room, but weak and barely conscious he couldn’t keep up and in that instant the voice of his tormentor changed.
“Still so tender, William? At least you’ve given up on that poetic twaddle. That would be truly disgusting, wouldn’t it? To have you touch her, pretending she was me, and to make her listen to your pathetic spouting while she waits for you to sink your teeth into her. Does she realise where she fits? A limp... sentimental fool indulging his oedipal urges on a trollop his own grandsire deflowered and who’ll only stay with him because no other man would want her…”
Spike watched aghast as his mother once more spouted the vitriol that had poisoned his unlife almost from the point he was turned. Like Dru she was dressed in white cotton and lace, this time the nightdress she had worn both times he had killed her. Her hair spilled around her shoulders like pale spun silk and as she turned toward the window Spike was horrified at how much it looked like Buffy’s luxuriant tresses before his remarks had driven her to cut her hair short. As if the thought had fed his dreams when the woman turned from the window she wore Buffy’s face and the white nightdress was a silken wedding gown.
“…How could I not know? You cling to me like an infant trying not to slip from that place between his mother’s legs. Or the other place between her legs. What sort of sick, twisted freak dreams of doing that to his mother? My dark little prince. You pretend… you tell yourself that you can be good, but when you feel it …when you know that all it costs is an image, you’ll do anything to keep fucking me and pretending it’s the one who got away…”
“Noooo! It’s not true. It was never true. It never will be true.” Spike wanted to shout, but all that came out was a hoarse croak. He screwed his eyes up, determined not to look at the women who tormented him, but this just made it easier for them to switch on him.
“Really, I think I’m lucky that tumour came when it did. If I’d had to watch you with my daughters… Debasing one and pretending to care about the other so that you can paw all over her while she thinks you protect her…”
Spike pressed his eyes tightly shut and tried to cover his ears, but it was as if the words came fully formed into his brain, swirling pools of hatred and humiliation eddying unendingly around him in the voices of those he loved.
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