For rating, setting etc see Part 1.
Heroes in Hell Part 4
She must have fallen asleep again. It was easy enough to do. She was tired and sticky and well-fucked and his weight half on top of her was comforting. When she woke, she lay staring at his face close to hers – the jutting nose and the spectacular V of cheekbones, narrowing towards his jaw. She could see the structure of his skull under the skin, which was inhumanly smooth and pale.
He was gazing back at her, long cat-like eyes half-closed and sleepy. But he didn’t look happy – quite the opposite. Instead, his face was set in an expression of subdued misery. Giles would probably have said he was morose.
She propped herself up on her elbows and, as if he couldn’t help himself, he put out a hand to cup her breast. Soon he was rubbing his thumb repeatedly over the nipple and she was damp again between her thighs. Then suddenly, his hand dropped and he rolled over onto his back.
“Spike.” She touched his cheek with a gentle finger, squirming closer, willing him to continue. But he lay still, staring up at the ceiling.
She frowned and sat up. Her nipple was tingling and swollen and the ache between her legs in urgent need of soothing, yet he just lay there. She put a hand on his flat belly, like a slab of cool marble. Maybe he still needed some encouragement? But when she moved her hand lower, into soft golden-brown hair and ran one finger down his semi-tumescent length, he put out a hand and grabbed her wrist.
“Why not?” She shook him off. “You’re beautiful. I like touching you – I want to.”
“Well, I don’t,” he said. “In fact, I want you to go.”
“What?” She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
Abruptly, he sat up. He was still wearing his boots and his jeans flapped absurdly round his knees. When he got to his feet to pull them up, he gave her a grandstand view of his ass – and a very fine ass it was. She managed to resist the urge to reach out and squeeze one cool cheek, though it was difficult. But it didn’t look as if he was in the mood.
He wrestled with his fly but couldn’t button it because his half-hard cock wouldn’t let him. Swearing under his breath, he reached for his discarded t-shirt and pulled it on over his head.
“Bugger this!” he muttered.
She sat watching him with her mouth hanging open. What the hell -?
“Spike, what’s wrong?”
He was already lighting up again.
“Bloody everything, that’s what.”
Suddenly, she felt very naked and didn’t like it. Wincing her way across the slimy floor, she ran a hand over her clothes. Her jeans still felt damp but at least her shirt was dry. She dressed quickly while he paced the crypt and smoked. While she was buttoning her shirt, she noticed the mark on her hand was even more faded. The sight made her blood run cold. It couldn’t last much longer.
Dressed, she set herself in the way of his pacing and folded her arms.
“What’s happened? Tell me.”
He gave her a wild look. Then he said, “I dunno how you could do that to me. Come here, say you love me then make it all bloody meaningless. Might’ve known it was all bollocks. After all, this is Hell.”
“What?” She gaped at him. She hadn’t a clue what he was talking about.
He smoked furiously and she coughed. The air in the crypt was thick with cigarette smoke and idly, she wondered if there was a different Hell for non-smokers. If so, she was putting her name down stat.
“Sex,” he said, suddenly. “It’s just bloody sex to you, isn’t it? It doesn’t mean anything. You – whoever you are – you think I didn’t learn my lesson back in old Sunnyhell?”
Now she could only stare at him.
“What do you mean, whoever I am? It’s me – Buffy. And what lesson? Spike – this wasn’t just sex, I swear.” There was a pleading note in her voice that she didn’t quite like because he was being a jerk. “I wanted to show you I love you and trust you. Why can’t you understand that?”
But it seemed he couldn’t because he just laughed, finally succeeded in buttoning his fly and turned his back on her.
“I need a drink,” he said.
He got down on his knees and rummaged in the trunk again, throwing shirts and t-shirts this way and that. “There it is,” he muttered. “Bloody knew it would be.”
When he stood up, he was holding his black leather duster – the one Nikki Wood had been wearing when he’d killed her on TV.
Buffy watched him put it on. It draped gracefully around him as if it had been made for him, like a second skin. Suddenly, the sight made her feel a little queasy. She wanted to ask him how he could bring himself to wear it, but now didn’t seem like a good time for that either.
He marched across to the crypt door and lifted the heavy metal bar while she watched him, speechless. But then, with the door half-open, he paused and looked back at her over his shoulder.
“Okay.” She sat down on the rumpled bed to put on her socks and her still-damp sneakers. The sheets still smelt deliciously of sex and she felt a pang of loss go through her. But she shouldn’t have done it – she could see that now. Like he said, she should have remembered this was Hell and that everything she said or did would end up twisted out of its proper shape. It seemed she was further away from persuading him to come with her than ever.
“Get a bloody move on, Slayer.”
“All right, already!” She finished tying her sneakers and hurried after him out into the sullen not-daylight of the cemetery. Now she could see the place a little better, it was plain how neglected it was, tombstones all laced with ivy leaning at odd angles like rows of broken teeth, unkempt grass all brown and dry and parched-looking.
“‘Heaps of dishonoured graves and stones, hemmed in by filthy houses… on whose walls a thick humidity broke out like a disease’.”
Spike was gazing around him with a dull look on his face – grey like the rain had been. He intoned the words rather than spoke them.
She went to stand beside him. “Sounds like a quote.”
“Bleak House.” He stuck his hands in his duster pockets before she could grab one. “Not inappropriate here. Come on.” And he led the way across the cemetery back in the direction of town.
He didn’t make any concessions to her shorter legs and she had to walk fast to keep up. In the end, she caught hold of his sleeve and tugged it hard and when he didn’t shrug her hand off, kept hold of it and they continued arm in arm.
“I looked for a bar yesterday,” she panted. “Didn’t see one, though.”
He gave her the head-tilt – and even with that grim expression on his face, the effect was pretty devastating. She sighed, thinking how good it was that she didn’t have to fight her reaction to it any more now that he wasn’t evil.
“Thought I’d be drowning my sorrows, did you?”
“Something like that. Anyway, in the end, I went to City Hall and they told me where to find you.”
He raised one eyebrow. “Yeah? And you actually got information out of those jumped up bureaucrats who call themselves Management round here? Nice one, Slayer.”
“They were very helpful actually.”
She thought of the Housing Allocation demon. The demons in this place were soft and used to getting their own way. They didn’t know what to do when someone stood up to them, which made them easy to menace. Who needed the Scythe anyway?
“Next time you want to find something here,” he said, “don’t look for it, yeah? That’s the trick. There’s never anything here when you want it.”
She tugged on his arm. “I’m not thinking of staying – and you’d better not get too cosy because you’re not staying either.”
“Bugger that!” he said again, and he picked up his pace. Soon she was half-running.
“How are you gonna find a bar, then? If that’s what you want, you won’t find it, will you?”
“Depends what I want it for, doesn’t it?” was his surly response.
They were back on Main Street now, passing the dingy stores with their meagre displays. Again, she had the impression that the displays had changed since the last time she’d looked at them- not that there’d been any noticeable improvement. If anything, things were even worse. One store appeared to be a kind of Hell version of Home Depot – that is, if you wanted your home to look like the set of a cheap 1970s sitcom.
“Does anyone ever buy anything?” She tugged on Spike’s arm again.
“What do you think?” His tone was edged with sarcasm and suddenly she felt her eyes prickle. Did he have to be so hateful?
“You could be a bit nicer. It’s not every day your lover –” and she emphasised the word –”comes to Hell to try and bale you out.”
“Didn’t bloody ask you to, did I?” But he slackened his pace.
Across the street, the smartly dressed woman from yesterday was hurrying by. She wore the same clothes and her arms were crossed over her chest to hide the bloodstain on her jacket.
“Hi!” Buffy waved at her. “Remember me?” She indicated Spike. “Thanks for your help yesterday. Look, I found him.”
Pantsuit Lady just gave her a sour look and hurried on.
Buffy frowned. “What’s her problem?”
“She’s in Hell, Buffy.” Spike’s voice was bleak and when she looked up at him, his face was bleak too. Then he shrugged. “Not that she doesn’t deserve it – the murderous bitch.”
Buffy glanced back at Pantsuit Lady, who was almost out of sight. “What did she do?”
“Killed her mother. Seems the old girl was gaga so she kept her in a cage like an animal – used up all her savings living the high life.”
He made a disgusted face. He did seem to have a Thing about moms.
“Then she wanted to liquidate all the assets so she killed the poor old cow. See that bloodstain on her jacket? Her mum’s blood. She takes the jacket to the dry cleaner’s every day. They get the stain out, and the next morning there it is again.”
“Forever?” Buffy realised that she was clinging to his arm very tightly now.
He shrugged. “This is Hell. Just because it’s not your classic eternal fire and brimstone Hell but instead the Hell where everything’s shite doesn’t mean it’s not Hell.”
They were passing the side street where the exit was. Buffy glanced longingly in that direction. If only she could hit him over the head and take him through it right now – sort things out on the other side -but the check-in demon had said he had to come willingly or it didn’t count. It’d be even worse to get him out of here and have him snatched away again.
Suddenly, Spike exclaimed in satisfaction.
“There it is.” He led her down a flight of rickety cast-iron steps to where a metal door splashed with lurid unreadable graffiti opened out onto a small courtyard piled high in the corners with a scurf of discarded fast food cartons and other trash.
At the door, Spike had already raised his hand to pound on it, when she stopped him with a tug on his arm.
“Spike – do you have something like that lady’s jacket that keeps coming back to haunt you?”
She already knew what he would say.
“‘Course I do. I’m bloody wearing it.”
Then the door opened.
The bar reminded her of Willy’s – or at least of how Willy’s had gotten when Willy himself had gone on his extended leave of absence and left the hired help to run the place. The ceiling was low and the walls were stained yellow with nicotine. The ugly brown naugahyde seats in the booths were torn, their stuffing all exposed – and it didn’t look as if anyone ever wiped the tables.
Spike stared about him with satisfaction.
“This’ll do,” he said.
He walked up to the bar, elbowing the other customers roughly aside while she trailed after him, fighting the urge to apologise for him.
Not that any of these guys looked like they’d know what to do with an apology if one up and bit them on the nose. They seemed to be demons to a – well, to a demon, so she supposed they must be Management. Most of them had horns, some had tails and all of them had claws.
They parted for Spike, but there was an angry muttering and the crowd closed in behind him, looking hostile even for demons.
“Sorry – excuse me.” At last, she fetched up at the bar, to find Spike with his elbows already planted on it lighting yet another cigarette. Behind the bar, a demon with a huge belly and legs like tree trunks was polishing a glass with a bit of dirty rag.
“Whiskey – straight-up.” Spike indicated Buffy with another head tilt. “Make that two.”
“Out of whiskey,” the bar-demon said, in a voice that sounded like boulders rolling down a hillside.
Spike’s eyes narrowed and he blew smoke through his nostrils like a small, angry dragon. “‘Course you bloody are. JD, then.”
The demon spat on the rag and polished harder.
“JD’s out too.”
“Whatever the fuck you’ve got. And make it a double.”
The demon muttered something under its breath – pebbles shifting over pebbles – and slammed the glass down on the counter. Then it bent over and began rummaging under the bar.
“I am not drinking out of that.” Buffy pointed at the glass.
“Suit yourself.” Spike sounded like he couldn’t care what she did. He didn’t even look at her. Instead, he stared at the empty glass and kept staring when the bar-demon resurfaced with another glass that didn’t look any cleaner than the first, and a cobweb-covered bottle without a label. As the demon slammed the bottle down, a big black spider burst out of the cobwebs and skittered back under the bar.
In view of the surroundings, Buffy couldn’t blame it for not liking the change of scene.
“This here’s all we got.” The demon poured a meagre shot of a dull brown liquid into both glasses. “Like it or leave it.”
The liquid was hard to look at somehow. Plus, it was smoking gently. Buffy laid a hand on Spike’s arm. “What is that stuff? You’re not gonna drink it, are you?”
For answer, he picked up one of the glasses, tilted his head back and emptied it in one long convulsive gulp. She watched his Adam’s apple bob up and down in his throat as he swallowed – so fast, like he was dying of thirst or something.
He wiped his hand across his mouth, put the glass down and turned to look at her. Then he belched loudly, breathing fiery fumes in her face.
“Now that’s what I call Fire Water,” he said.
“Eww!” She wrinkled her nose in disgust while he reached for the other glass. That one was emptied as quickly as the first and then he was demanding a refill.
Around them, the crowd had never really dissipated. Instead, the assembled demons stood in threatening groups, quiet for the most part, staring at them with open hostility – or rather, staring at Spike. No one was taking any notice of her, Buffy realised, almost as if she wasn’t there at all, which was kind of insulting.
Meanwhile, Spike was on his third glass and his second cigarette, and he was busy ignoring her too.
She frowned. She was getting mad now. How dare he treat her this way? It occurred to her too that he hadn’t even asked about the others – Dawn and Xander, Giles and Willow and the new Slayers. Didn’t he care at all?
Thinking of the others reminded her of Anya. He’d had sex with Anya once, for crying out loud, and now it seemed he didn’t care to know whether she was dead or alive. What was his problem?
She watched as he downed a fourth glass of the nameless brown liquid, her anger simmering. If he was going to be this way, what was the point of prolonging the agony?
“Spike –” She put a hand on his arm to attract his attention, but the face he turned on her was so closed-off, so devoid of hope, that she drew in a sharp breath. Abruptly, she realised he was doing the big Could Care Less act on purpose to drive her away. God, even in Hell, he was so transparent!
She seized his hand as it reached out for a fifth glass.
“Enough of this. We’re going.”
He looked at her, eyes sickly bright in a face gone brittle as broken glass. But as he opened his mouth to retort, they were rudely interrupted.
“Not leaving already are you, vampire?” It was a particularly huge, particularly huge-horned demon at the front of the crowd. “Didn’t think you were whipped as well as yellow.”
“What the f-” The word died on Buffy’s lips as Spike’s expression changed in an instant. Suddenly, he was grinning a feral grin. Then he was in vamp face and pushing her out of the way as he bellied up to the demon, who towered over him by a good head and shoulders.
“Not whipped,” he sneered, “and not yellow. Just waiting for you gents to stop wetting your knickers at the very sight of me and get down to bloody business.”
Then he leapt for the huge demon’s throat.
This seemed to be the signal for a general melee, as if some invisible film director had suddenly yelled, Action! Buffy staggered back against the bar and then jumped over it to safety as fists bigger than her head traded blows with each other.
She tried to keep Spike in sight. It shouldn’t have been hard, what with the white hair and the swirling black duster, but everyone except her was taller than him and twice as wide, and soon he was lost to view.
“Spike!” She shouted his name as loud as she could but there was no way he could hear her above the uproar.
“Forget that loser,” a voice said right next to her ear. “You want a real man, baby? I’m standing right here.”
“What?” She turned to stare incredulously at the bar-demon, who was leaning on the counter way too close to her, surveying the fight with open enjoyment. When he saw her looking, he actually winked at her.
“He’ll never amount to nothing.” The demon tilted its head in the general direction of the fight. “Great dark warrior, my ass. He’s just a damned soul here, same as all the others – always picking fights he knows he can’t win. Me now –” and it winked again –” stick with me and I can hook you up to the good stuff, none of this crap.” And it waved a hand at the empty glasses.” Know what I’m saying?”
“Actually,” Buffy closed her hand into a fist, “I think I do.”
Her right jab caught the bar-demon on the point of the chin, and though its face felt like rock and for a moment she thought she’d broken her fingers, it went down at once, not gradually with a sagging of the knees and a groan, but sideways like a tree toppling in the forest. The ground shook as it hit the floor.
Buffy kicked it in the head just to be on the safe side but it looked like a kayo in the very first round. Pleased, she licked her sore knuckles and turned back to the fight.
While she’d been distracted, something about it had changed. The lesser brawls had petered out and stopped. The assembled demons were gathered round one spot, yelling encouragement while one of their number grunted with effort followed by the sound of a horrible squelching impact.
Spike! Buffy was over the bar and into the midst of them before she’d even processed what she was seeing.
“Out of my way!” There were no thoughts of apologies now. One demon went down to another punch, which gave her room to deliver a roundhouse kick to the jaw of yet another, then another, and in spite of their size, they went over like ninepins.
Now they were giving way before her and she was out in an open space, empty except for herself, the huge horned guy who’d started all the trouble – and Spike, who lay curled in a foetal position on the floor, arms over his head, trying to protect himself from the rain of kicks and blows.
She was shaking with fury as she faced the last demon.
“Step away from him – now!”
For a moment, the demon peered at her as if it couldn’t quite make out who was speaking to it, which was weird since she was standing in plain sight. Then, it seemed to get her in focus. Then, its huge knobbly face split apart in a gap-toothed grin.
“Who’re you, little girl? Some kind of vamp groupie? Take my advice and leave now. This ain’t your fight. This is Management business.”
It turned back to where Spike was trying to push himself to his feet. Buffy couldn’t see his face but the floor where his cheek had rested was dark with blood.
“Had enough yet, bloodsucker?” The demon’s foot went back all ready to deliver another bone-shattering kick.
“Excuse me.” Buffy tapped it on the shoulder, which was quite a stretch. “That vamp-groupie thing? Kind of debatable – unlike this.”
It had lumbered round while she was speaking so she punched it straight in what she hoped was the demon equivalent of the solar plexus.
“Oww!” Her hand really hurt this time. She shook her fingers hard while the demon doubled over, gasping. Fortunately, this brought its chin in contact with her knee and then, when she’d danced back a pace, the side of her foot straight to the jaw.
This demon didn’t go down quite as easily as the others so she followed up her initial blows with a flurry of well-placed kicks, knocking it sprawling onto the floor. She was good and mad now and it took all her self-restraint not to do a Faith and just go on kicking and punching – with maybe the odd gouge for variety – until the demon was unrecognisable.
“Slayer –”Spike had put a hand on her arm. She didn’t look at him – couldn’t make herself, she was so angry with him. Instead, she took his hand firmly in hers, ignoring the sticky dampness on the palm, and addressed the assembled demons, who were gathered around them in a ring, like the crowd at a boxing match.
“We’re leaving. Any of you want to take on a pissed off Vampire Slayer, you’re welcome to give it your best shot.”
But it didn’t seem as if anyone did. They shrank back before her as she moved towards the door, none of them meeting her eyes. If they hadn’t really noticed her before, now it seemed they couldn’t bear to.
Outside, it was raining again – sheeting down in filthy torrents that swirled trash into the gutters and blocked them. As Buffy and Spike emerged onto the street, a car went by, spraying them with water.
It felt like the last straw. Buffy closed her eyes. She took a couple of deep breaths. Then she turned and glared at Spike ready to let him have both barrels. This was all his fault.
But her angry words died on her lips when she saw his face, which was contorted and bleeding, its beauty in ruins. One cheekbone looked to be smashed, and his nose, while one eye was sealed shut under a huge purpling bruise. He was almost unrecognisable – except that she’d seen him look this way before once.
She put her hand to her mouth. “Oh God!”
At that moment, he swayed on his feet and nearly fell and she moved instinctively to support him, though there was nothing much there to support. He felt almost insubstantial. Before she’d even thought about what she was doing – about what he might think of being treated this way – his manly dignity – she’d swung him into her arms and was heading back towards the cemetery at a fast jog.
She couldn’t say she was glad to be back in the crypt but it did feel like a haven of sorts after the perils of the outside. The sound of the iron bar clanging into place was oddly comforting.
Spike lay on the bed where she’d put him, sprawled on his back with his muddy boots dirtying the comforter. His limbs looked all spiky and odd, as if things were broken underneath the surface.
“Spike- can you hear me?” She could hardly bear to look at his terrible face as she pulled his boots off. He looked even less human now than he did in vamp face.
He didn’t respond to her words, though his chest continued to rise and fall as he breathed shallowly. His body was limp beneath her fingers as she stripped him. Under his clothes, he was a mass of bruises, blood pooling in his elbows and behind his knees. She could see broken ribs. If he’d been human – if he weren’t in Hell – this would have killed him.
She was still angry with him but abruptly tears filled her eyes again. How had he come to this? Was it something to do with her? Had she conditioned him somehow to need the pain? Suddenly, it seemed only too likely.
Her face was wet. She ran the back of her hand over her eyes but they just filled up again – and the mark was little more than an outline now.
“Spike – please!” she tried again. He had to listen to her before it was too late.
But there was no response. He was deep inside somewhere, healing. Had she even told him about the mark, she wondered – and if she had, was he deliberately stalling her -hoping she’d give up and leave him? After all, he’d walked through that door, hadn’t he – abandoned hope? She hadn’t managed to give it back to him yet.
“I need more time,” she said aloud, but the dank air seemed to smother her words, stuffing them back into her mouth so that she felt choked on them. She was cold now too and beginning to shiver uncontrollably.
“Slayer?” It was the merest thread of sound – his voice, as if heard from a million miles away. “Buffy – you there?”
“I’m here.” She began to strip off her wet clothes. Then she got into bed with him and pulled the comforter over them both.
“Love – you’re freezing.” An arm enveloped her, drawing her close, and she allowed herself to rest against him, feeling his lips on her hair like a blessing.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/227736.html