TITLE: Imitation Of A Man, Chapter 1: Woman Bites Vampire (continued)
SUMMARY: Remember how Fool For Love transformed your view of Spike? Ever wish Buffy could have seen that ep? Buffy goes back to the alley to collect the pieces after her assault of Spike in Dead Things, and does something that lands the two of them in FFL land.
NOTE: Imitation of a Man is a 300,000 word novel. Only the first chapter will be posted at seasonal_spuffy. The remainder will be posted at my LJ, in its entirety, later this year. Many thanks to enigmatic blues for letting me make the first chapter available here.
IMITATION OF A MAN
Chapter One (continued)
Woman Bites Vampire
It took her a minute to get her bearings, to remember how to get back to the cemetery. She felt a bone-aching weariness as she wandered toward it. And so alone. She’d never felt more alone in her life. Trapped in a lost-soul isolation with the cancerous knowledge that she’d played her part, her small but — how had Warren put it? inspirational? — yeah, her small, but inspirational, part in murder.
When she finally stepped through the cemetery gate, she dropped to the ground by the first marker she came to. It was a brisk night, chilly even, but she was drenched in sweat. She rested her forehead against the marker’s cool marble. She’d never felt so vile, so dirtied by evil in her life. And it wasn’t an evil that had come from outside her, it had come from inside her, a grimy little human venality completely her own that had led to the death of someone she didn’t even know.
Suddenly, a wave of nausea rocked her, doubling her over. Her stomach churned and, in one violent spasm, emptied itself. Dew sparkled around her, and she pulled up a handful of clean, dew-moist grass and used it to wipe her face with a weak hand. Then she rolled onto her back and looked up at the stars, too limp and shaken to do anything but lie there.
She tried to grasp what had happened. Her affair with Spike had led to Katrina’s death. It was weakness that she was with him, but when she thought, even for a second, about breaking it off, it felt like life itself was slipping away from her, beyond her reach. A dead thing makes me feel alive, she thought. Why? Why should a dead thing without a soul, an evil thing, seem more alive to her than any man she’d ever been with or even looked at?
She’d never wanted any man the way she wanted him. When she wasn’t with him she was thinking about him—thinking about him while patrolling, while filling out the pointless, never-ending job applications, while waiting to meet with loan officers, social workers, welfare workers when things were bad enough, trying to hold life together for her and Dawn. How many shifts at the Doublemeat had she gotten through because she knew at her break, she’d find him waiting for her in the parking lot? Find him, like she did every night, beside the dumpster, ready for a quick round of sex standing in the parking lot of a drive thru burger joint. Yeah—she shook her head miserably—sex in a parking lot in the middle of crumpled burger wrappers and empty paper cups and half-eaten bags of fries, with an elderly couple in a pickup truck sitting nearby and a car full of teenagers shouting into the microphone of the drive thru and on the dark edge of it all him, shutting out the world so all she saw was him, all she heard was the soft, rhythmic moaning that was him, and all she felt was him, that sweet, sweet flesh she stole from the night.
Riley had refused to swing for the bleachers — his manly choice of euphemism — on a sofa once. Something about how hard it was to get body fluid stains off upholstery. She gave a weak, half-hysterical laugh, remembering.
And Angel… Her thirty minutes of fumbling intimacy with Angel was starting to feel a lot like the memorable first-time thrill of eating peas—pretty much not. And wasn’t your first time supposed to be unforgettable? Spike had erased it. Wiped the hard drive, as Willow would say.
The truth was, after just one coupling with Spike, she’d known she and Angel, she and Riley, had never really had sex, not the way sex was meant to be for her—brutal and tender and beating with the knowledge that this was her mate, ritually and eagerly reaffirming with his blood, and sweat, and the moisture of his lovemaking that he was hers and hers alone. When she and Spike did it, she was the center of his universe. Sex created a bond between them, and she hated herself for it, and for wanting that steady-as-an-artery connection to keep on pumping. And it would keep pumping unless she broke off their sorry, two-bit affair. Until she called it off, it would keep right on goin’, ’cause there weren’t enough blows in her to drive him away. The sheer weight of his endurance was just too much for her.
If, for even one day, she’d treated Riley or Angel the way she’d treated Spike for the past three months, they’d have left town on the first bus instead of waiting for the second. Whatever it was Spike felt for her and called love, it was steadfast. She knew, bone-deep, that she couldn’t make him leave her or turn against her.
Behind her, the edge of the moon broke through the limbs of a pine tree and washed a cold ghost-light over the cemetery, turning the gravestones a grainy gray and her skin an ashy white. She got up, swaying, and moved to the shadow of a large marker. She nudged a sharp-looking rock out of the way with the toe of her tennis shoe, then tucked herself against the stone monument: her back against its granite base, her knees drawn up, her arms roped around them. There was no sense being an open target for whatever strolled by. No sense playing vamp bait.
Vamp bait… Her mind reeled back to the time she’d punched Angel to get him to feed from her after Faith’s poisoned arrow archery practice with him as the target. One minute he was refusing—refusing even though slayer’s blood was the only antidote — and the next… She shook her amazed head, still shocked to think that, even with a soul, just a few punches could make Angel go for her throat. And tonight? Tonight she’d given Spike a beating second only to the one Glory treated him to, and not once had he offered to hurt her. He hadn’t even stayed in game face. For that matter, how many times in the last three months had she hit him, and never gotten back more than an “Ow!” or “Bloody hell!” She’d pushed him every chance she got, wanting the face she struck to finally be his demon face. And yet he’d never shown her the out-of-control savagery Angel had. Instead, she was the one with no control. And now a woman was dead because of it.
She had no choice. She had to do something soon — tonight even! — to get back in charge of her life. She held her hands up in front of her and looked at them, at her outstretched fingers crusted at the knuckles with blood. Some of the blood was probably Spike’s. His blood on her hands… You take him out of the box when you want him, then you put him back. I’ve watched you fuck him, then punch him, then fuck him some more… She’d done just what Warren had said she’d done.
Thank God Warren hadn’t caught tonight’s performance! She flexed her fingers and a fresh red line cracked open along her knuckle. Even apart from the shame of having an affair with Spike, it mortified her to think of anyone knowing how she treated him. She couldn’t imagine Willow or Xander — or worst of all, Dawn — finding out she, Buffy, was the source of the nonstop shiners and recurrent black and blue mottling that Dawn called “Spike’s Bruise of the Month Club specials.” Them learning she made him a whipping boy for her own guilt would be ten times worse than them finding out she slept with him. Worse even than them knowing her shameful suspicion that in some sick, weird way he was her ideal mate. Yeah. Hiding that she used him as a punching bag mattered even more than hiding that she screwed him.
Did it get any lower than that?
Tears welled into her eyes and stung her scraped knuckle as she wiped the wetness away. She looked at the raw, throbbing joint, then pressed it to her mouth, and as her lips closed around it, the thought came to her out of nowhere, like a steady, clear voice in the silence: my relationship with Spike didn’t cause Katrina’s death; the WAY I relate to him caused it.
Her injured hand dropped to her side, and her gaze wandered off into the night, lost and searching, while gravestones, pine limbs, moonlight, the scent of damp grass, the sound of a car accelerating past the cemetery… all slid quietly off the map edge of her awareness.
The way she treated Spike — that’s what Warren had seen. You fuck him, then punch him… Warren’s inspiration hadn’t been that she slept with a vampire, but that she’d acted like that choice of bedmate blew every nice-girl restraint out the window. That’s why Warren had literally dehumanized Katrina, made her into a sex toy… and killed her when she resisted.
But Warren had been wrong — crazy-wrong! — thinking that banging Spike and then belting him in the jaw ’cause he was evil was a cue for how to relate to a human! She sat up, heart pounding, mind racing to explain it away, to find a way out. Warren had ignored that Spike was a vamp, not a person, that’s what! He’d missed that critical difference. The thing that made what she did to Spike and what Warren had done to Katrina so totally different! Warren had it all wrong. He hadn’t understood! Hadn’t seen! Hadn’t… Hadn’t…
hadn’t really seen, had he?
Another car passed the cemetery. Its high-beams swept in a searchlight arc across the gravestones and trees, then swung away, letting the night close behind it. A breeze rustled faintly in the pine tree.
She slumped against her granite backrest and looked out across the graves. It didn’t work any more. She couldn’t go on fooling herself. Warren had seen what he’d seen: first the sex, standing against the oak outside her bedroom window, their clothes rumpled, no words exchanged; then the blow just before she grabbed her panties from the ground and while Spike still fumbled at his open fly; Spike falling against the tree or onto the ground; her striding off in disgust and revulsion, the door slamming, ’cause once the fucking was over, the show was over; she couldn’t spend time with him, no goodbyes, no when-will-I-see-you-again. How many times had Warren watched that scene play out? And that Spike was a vamp was irrelevant; it was the rock ’em, sock ’em trysts, not fangs and forehead ridges, that had inspired Warren’s abuse of Katrina. Ten times better than any ’bot ’cause he’s alive… Getting her jollies off Spike while giving nothing back, while punishing him because, even harmless, he was still a vamp, had been a blueprint for evil Warren had read with no trouble at all.
How had this happened? She’d never meant to hurt anyone. Not even Spike, really.
She shivered in the chilly air. It had never been a case of wanting to hurt him. Or of hating him even. It was just… hitting him felt like the only defense she had left. So long as she could punch him after sex, she was still in control, hadn’t been seduced, wasn’t his girl. But after tonight? It had to stop. It had to, and maybe… maybe she should apologize to him. Not for his sake. After all, he wasn’t human, so an apology might mean zilch to him. No, she needed to apologize for her sake, to make a clean break from the evil she’d been blind to and that Warren had seen instantly.
But… shouldn’t she also break off their relationship?
Just asking the question made her heart cramp in her chest. She thought of how he made her feel: how just the line of his throat could arouse desire, the way her tongue knew the inner contours of his mouth by heart, the way the rare, reckless, throw-caution-to-the-wind alchemy of his skin against hers could stop time in its tracks, and then… those brief, quiet flashes, lying next to him, when everything hurtful and troubling in life seemed to disappear.
Like the last time they’d had sex. Not the sex itself, but afterwards: a moment of sweetness and forgetfulness, a moment when it slipped her mind that he was a vampire, a moment that was better even than the sex. Thinking about it now reminded her of something Giles had said once: how he wondered if the chip wasn’t serving some higher purpose that would eventually let Spike fight not just the demon thuggery rampaging past outside him, but the demon inside, too. If only she could believe some higher purpose was piloting her affair with him, believe fate had set their vamp-slayer fling in motion as part of some grand experiment or design. Then maybe, instead of leaving him, she could stay with him, try to help him change. She’d given him her usual two scoops of scorn the time he’d told her he had changed. You mean that chip in your head? she’d said. But in some ways, it was true. He really was different. Not that he wasn’t evil. But still… he’d done things, good things, like helping the Scoobs while she was off being dead. Things that a vamp shouldn’t be able to do.
She couldn’t count the times she’d told herself, and him too, that there was nothing redeemable in him, trying her best to convince herself it was true. A vampire who could be good? She didn’t want to have to think about it. But maybe it was time to. Maybe — she rubbed the ache forming between her eyes — maybe, deep down, deeper than the evil, there were bits of humanity surviving in him, humanity that had let him develop feelings for her and her mom and Dawn. God, it was confusing. But she was certain — just as an example — that his willingness to be a 24/7 on-call babysitter as protective as a guard dog wasn’t just a performance scripted for her benefit. No, it was real, real and based on, well… being protective of Dawn. Even tonight, whaled on so bad he could barely stand, he’d thought about Dawn. “I’m a good babysitter, therefore I’m not… totally evil. Or something like that,” she said, thinking out loud.
Her gaze roamed aimlessly across the tops of gravestones. Yeah… What if he wasn’t totally bad? What if the countless times she’d said he was, she’d been dishonest, narrow-mindedly trying to shoehorn him into the small black and white world of textbook vampires that made slaying a simple matter of sinews and reflexes and muscles and speed.
A shiver of surprise and discovery, like a fever breaking after some hugely nasty flu, ran over her.
She hugged her drawn up knees to her chest. A vamp, but not totally evil… The thought threw her world out of balance, and at the same time sent a small thrill of longing through her. She let the idea settle, let it come to rest in a place where she could pick it up, hold it, turn it in the light, decide it wasn’t one hundred percent, howlingly, over-the-top laughable, and then carefully, gently, set it aside so she could move on to the next question: if there was good in him, could his feelings for her be a way to tap into that buried inner nice guy? Could his feelings for her—with her support, plus the chip’s help, of course—enable him to actually be good?
Everything he’d done so far—caring for Dawn, being kind to her mom, helping defeat Glory—he’d done on his own. She hadn’t been trying to help him do the right thing.
What if she tried?
She reached inside her coat sleeve and rubbed her arm, soothing away the chill bumps tingling there, a strange mix of exhilaration and fear working its way through her. Just say she tried, crazy as it sounded, to help Spike be good, or at least not be any worse than the small-time hoodlum he’d probably been when he was human. What would she have to do?
Well… for starters, she’d have to come up with incentives for him. And that almost certainly meant she’d have to be honest about their relationship. She’d have to admit to the world that she wanted him, even if telling the gang, and Giles and Xander in particular, had all the appeal of going one on one with a Flatulus demon — something she’d avoided ever since she first heard about the species three years ago. Well, painful or not, there was no other option. She’d have to be honest. Completely — excruciatingly — honest. Starting with admitting to Spike himself that she wanted him.
She cleared her throat and spoke out loud, test-driving the words. “Spike, I want you. I want you as my…” She groaned to a stop. “Boyfriend” was too much. It was going too far. “I want… a relationship with you,” she substituted, then looked around, half expecting some passing vampire to wisecrack at her. That’s what usually happened if you talked to yourself in a Sunnydale cemetery.
And what would she do if he screwed up, or — more likely — when he screwed up?
Then it’s over, she thought. Zero tolerance, and I’ll tell him so. You say you’ve changed, and I believe you, but if I ever learn I’m wrong, I’ll whip your ass fifty different ways and leave you broken. Understood? Probably he’d wait till she told her friends be-fore fouling up, make it really bite. She let out a long sigh, already hearing Xander, sarcasm in overdrive, saying it: “Wow. Never saw that coming. After all, it’s not like you knew the guy was a vampire or anything,” followed by “Oh, wait. Actually, you did know that, didn’t you?”
If only there was some way to insure Spike would be good, send him to Vampires Anonymous or something.
She looked into the distance, at the shadow shapes of markers and gravestones. A marker with an angel on top, his profile turned to her, stood taller than the rest. The moon-lit sky silhouetted the angel—wings folded behind him, hands pressed together in prayer, eyes looking down at a grave that had been empty ever since the man in it clawed through six feet of dirt and the best satin-lined casket money could buy only to find Mr. Pointy waiting for him.
She glanced away from the stone figure, and like a bubble rising through murky water, a memory floated toward consciousness. Something she’d seen in one of Giles’ books once…
Her muscles jolted awake and she sat up, straight-backed and riveted, as the Saturday afternoon of flipping pages during a slow week on the Hellmouth popped into focus: Giles in tie and sweater vest, being nasal and British and saying, “Buffy, you must learn to think of a break in slaying as a golden opportunity to study the various species of demons”; Anya behind the register, wondering out loud while sorting the currency so George, Abe, and the rest of the Presidential mug gallery were face-up whether it would be safe to use spray starch the next time she irons the money; Xander hunched over the table eating something green, probably chocolate chip mint ice cream, which was as close as Xander ever came to the leafy green veggie food group; Willow at her laptop, bouncing in her chair in excitement, saying, “I did it! I did it!” followed, as everyone looked at her, by a sheepish, “Oh, sorry. I um, don’t win too many solitaire games”; and then, on the table next to Willow… the book. The book… All about vampire culture and customs, including — another shiver ran over her — something that just might, if she was lucky, be a failsafe system for keeping Spike’s nose clean.
The book was at The Magic Box. She’d seen it just a couple of months ago, worn red leather binding and faded pages spread open on the table while Willow researched a vampire sect that ate their victims’ livers as well as draining their blood, but then it had turned out the vamps doing that in Sunnydale weren’t members of the sect at all, just Hannibal Lecter fans, and—
She grimaced and slammed the brakes on the runaway train of thought, then made a quick mental note to spend less time hanging with Willow for a while and more time hanging with Tara. She was pretty sure you couldn’t pick up a stutter from someone else. That resolution made, she went back to thinking about the book. She had a clear mental picture of it; if she could find it, she’d recognize it.
Itching with sudden impatience, she got up, gave the seat of her pants a quick dusting, and set out for The Magic Box for some extracurricular research, courtesy of the key that, right before he left, Giles had issued to her along with the advice that it might be best not to mention it to Anya.
Twenty minutes later, she was slipping the key into the Magic Box’s lock and giving the lock’s tumbler a clockwise twist. The door swung open, jingling the little bell that let Anya know a fresh opportunity to add to her net worth had just walked in.
The shop was dark except for the thin reflection of a street lamp in the big plate glass window in front. She closed the door behind her, dropped the key into her pocket, then slipped around the counter and behind the register. She groped along the shelf under the counter till her hand encountered a ribbed, hard plastic cylinder. Hoping the batteries in the old, heavy-as-a-lug-wrench Coleman were good, she headed upstairs where the remnants of Giles’ private collection were shelved.
She kept the flashlight between her and the books, blocking its beam with her body so its halo’ed glow wouldn’t be visible from the street as she trained it on the shelves. The beam skimmed across titles etched in gold leaf on cracked spines of ancient leather: Latin, Arabic, twelfth century Low German, a translation from Mandarin. At the middle of the top shelf, her hand froze. The small, round spotlight wavered on gold lettering on red leather: I Costumi dei Vampiri. Her heart sped up as she pulled the book from the shelf.
She sat cross-legged on the floor and opened her find. The pages under the flashlight’s glare were yellowed with age and stained in places from unwashed hands and careless spills that might be wine, blood, the elixirs of medieval sorcerers, or—given the book’s more recent history—diet Pepsi. The musty incense of old books rose from the soft, fragile pages as she turned them. She leafed through them gently, restraining herself from turning them as fast as she wanted.
She’d just turned a page showing a dramatic lithograph of a vamp emerging from a grave, when she found what she was looking for.
Flushed with nervous excitement, she began reading, not stopping till she’d read it all — what she’d have to ask — no, demand — from him, how he’d have to respond, how his yielding would have to be without hesitation. And what she’d have to do then… if she could.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/314911.html