Get What You Want
you just might find,
you can get what you need.
The Rolling Stones
A shadow slips through the darkness - but not quite silently. Crunch. Crunch. Feet crunch fallen paint and plaster, the detritus of a decaying building carpeting the floors. Like fallen leaves, the paint has peeled off in millions of stiff flakes and mimics a bizarre indoor autumn with its own kind of beauty. The walls gleam with a dozen different hues from a dozen different paint jobs, each revealed in a random pattern and then dappled by light filtering through broken glass.
The shadow passes.
Light - streetlights, construction lights - makes its way in through shattered windows along with the sound of a bulldozer and men working through the dark on a job someone wants completed soon. The building shakes a little as the machine brings down some distant part of its structure. The shadow waits, listening, then crunches down the deserted hallways, through the kaleidoscopic drifts of paint chips and plaster pieces. The shadow brushes against a wall, and there's a small tinkle as more pigment flakes off the wall and shatters down to join the colors covering the floor.
The shadow stops at a door. There's a sign on it that says "Do Not Enter. For Emergency Exit Only." A hand reaches out and pulls. It's locked. The hand pulls harder, and the frame is wrenched out of the wall still attached to the now open door.
He slips through the forced door into the long, empty hall of a rundown (but not derelict) hospital, the slightly newer wing of the structure being demolished on its other side. It has the shiny floors and the stripped down look of all hospitals, but this hospital has bars and gates of thick mesh wire painted white.
Silently now, he glides along the hall, door to door. Each door is locked, but there's no privacy because each door has a window - wire mesh between tempered glass, a window that lets him look inside. He sees sad looking people. Some are just sitting on their beds; some are crying; some are strapped down; one is screaming obscenities.
He snorts and whispers, "Be like shooting fish in a barrel."
He looks in one window, tenses and stops. In that room, in that bed, curled into a fetal position, curled around a core of pain and desperation, is a mad girl named Dana. Right now she's little more than a feral animal, drugged, depressed, but still very dangerous.
Dana has spent most of her life in places like this. She knows their
rhythms, knows the sounds of shift change, of making rounds, of handing
out meds and of all the other patterns of this imprisonment. There was
a time they seemed a place of safety. The wire and bars and locked doors
kept things out. Things that hurt. Things that killed. People that killed.
[Stepping into the Past]
She was little and weak, and she liked the locks, liked the bars, and she wrapped herself around her madness, staying far away in a place where her mother and father and baby brother still lived and smiled and loved her. It was a place where suffering was locked out, and no shadowed stranger ever slipped in through an open door, bringing death and torture and pain.
It was a safe place, and she found she could stay there as long as she was still and quiet, never speaking to anyone outside her mind. Outside her madness.
But then the dreams started. Dreams where she was a superhero fighting evil. At first, the evil things frightened her. The dreams were sometimes filled with torture as monsters attacked and tried to kill her. Did kill her.
But even as she died, in her dreams, she exulted. She wasn't helpless. Even when she was killed in her dreams, she was still strong and dangerous and could protect mothers and fathers and baby brothers. She began to stay in these dreams more than in the dreams of her family.
She still remembered her first dream. In it a man with a beautiful face and bright hair smiled at her, delighted at something she had done. His smile made her warm. She was convinced he was there to rescue her from the man who had hurt her. Then, strangely, they began to fight, but it was more a dance than a fight, and the man was happy, and she was happy.
The floor shook, and she realized they were on a moving subway. Her long coat swirled around her as she fought, like Superman's cape. Then, and she always remembered this with pain, with loss, the beautiful face turned into the face of an animal - a cruel and vicious animal, the beauty gone, only evil and ugliness remaining. She always felt that the monster had stolen away her rescuer, somehow sucked out his essence and replaced it with something evil.
The fight continued, but it was no longer fun. She was no longer happy, and finally, the monster killed her and sank its teeth into her flesh. She woke up crying - crying more for the loss of the beautiful stranger than at her dream death. Her reality had been too bitter to cry at mere death, even her own.
She saw that face again. She fought it in a country where people were Asian and their clothes looked like something out of a movie or TV show about the past. The hair was not so bright, and the monster came sooner, but the face was the same. Then she fought the same face again and again somewhere in America, while wearing short skirts and skimpy tops, like the older girls she used to see passing her house on the way to high school.
She had many dreams where she was that girl, mostly dreams about fighting different monsters, but some of the dreams were even more bizarre. In one of them, she fought the man with the beautiful face in an alley and in a house. She threw him across a room, and then, strangely, he told her he loved her and then threw her against a wall. The fight continued until suddenly, she was kissing him. Then she woke up. She liked that dream. She had a woman's body, and although she was locked in a cage of bars and dreams, she had begun to feel desire.
She had these dreams for years. Had them till she put the man into every fight, into every dream. Till his face merged with the faces of all monsters, including the face of the human monster who had killed her family and tortured her.
Then all of a sudden, one night, she felt different. She woke up. She left the catatonia behind, sloughed it off like a butterfly leaving behind a chrysalis. She got out of her bed, walked to the locked door and pulled it open as if it was made of tissue paper. The locked doors, the bars, no longer gave her the feeling of safety, not if she could breach them so easily.
She walked down the hall, forcing gate after gate till a mass of orderlies brought her down and someone stuck a needle in her arm. That was when the people who had tended her so carefully through all her years of stillness, became her enemies: when they drugged her like her personal monster had drugged her; when they tied her up like the real life monster had tied her up; when they put her in straight-jackets and fastened her to beds.
She saw that they were just like him, like her personal monster, who, more and more, wore the beautiful face she always tried to see in her dreams.
One day, they forgot to drug her. She fought them, killed them and escaped. True, they didn't turn to dust the way her dreams told her that monsters must when you cut off their heads or pierced their hearts with wood, but they were still dead. They couldn't drug her and chain her ever again.
She wouldn't have to wait, weak and restrained, for them to come and give her pain for their pleasure. The waiting was the worst. Even if they never hurt her, even if they still tried to treat her gently, she still expected pain because he had taught her to expect it.
But that night, she escaped and finally encountered the real man whose face she saw in her dreams. This time, she drugged him. Chained him. Tortured him. But she hesitated to kill him. She kept thinking of that first dream and the dreams of kissing him. If she killed him, he could never save her. If she killed him, she would lose him.
If there was only some way to make him helpless, not dangerous; some way to remove the monster from the hero. So she cut off his hands. Then there was another fight with another monster whose face she remembered from her dreams and, again, she was drugged and tied down.
But this time, something strange happened. People in white didn't take her to a place of bars and locked doors. Instead, a small, silly man, who would always have a place in her heart, and a group of very strong girls took her to England. There, in a place of green, open spaces, she slowly got better. At least somewhat better.
She learned she was a Slayer. So they were all Slayers. All the strong girls. She was safe among them.
Dana took the training, learned the lessons, learned to live without bars and locked doors and cages. Some nights, she would even go out into the fields and sleep in the grass under the stars. She got better. But not well. When they tried to talk to her, it was hard to answer. She hadn't talked to anyone since she was ten years old. She'd almost forgotten how. She was also easily upset. Depression came easily. Tears came easily. Hysterical anger, easily.
Many times she struck out, and only the strength of the other Slayers could restrain her till she calmed. But she wanted to be a real Slayer. She wanted to fight the vampires and the demons. She wanted to do her job. But Mr. Giles and the others wouldn't let her. She'd killed humans. They were afraid she might again.
Andrew, though, Andrew encouraged her and told her Tales of the Slayers and Vampyres, and she listened carefully and never laughed at him. Andrew's stories seemed real to the woman who still carried the soul of the 10-year old child. Sometimes, Andrew was the only person she would listen to, the only person who could control her. He'd brought her from captivity into freedom, and she would always be grateful.
One night, as she was creeping through the house to go out and watch the stars, sleep in the fields and revel in her freedom, she heard Buffy and Mr. Giles talking. They talked about an important quest, about magical artifacts, and they mentioned various places, including Memphis. She recognized Memphis. Before life turned dark, she'd gone with her late grandmother to Memphis to celebrate Elvis' birthday, visited Graceland, seen Elvis' plane, seen his personal things. She and her grandmother, a rabid Elvis fan, had had a great time.
She approached Mr. Giles and Buffy and tried to convince them she was the one who should go to Memphis, that she could do this, that she could find the artifact. They refused to let her, saying she was better, but she wasn't ready for such a task. She had training but no experience. But they wouldn't let her have any experience. They didn't say it, but she knew they thought she was still crazy - dangerous and crazy and not to be trusted.
A few days later, Buffy and Mr. Giles and Andrew and Dawn and Vi left on the quest, leaving Dana with the Devon Coven. After two days, Dana fled back to the house and rifled through Mr. Giles' things till she found her passport and some money. She also found copies of some papers Andrew had left that described what they would be looking for in each locale.
She took the papers about Memphis, even though she didn't understand them. She thought it would come to her once she got to Memphis, like her Slayer knowledge had just come to her.
She remembered how often Mr. Giles or other Slayers had called a cab to take them to the airport, and she did the same. Once there, she got into a line, like the lunch lines she used to stand in at school. When she reached the lady behind the counter, a lady who asked, "How can I help you?" she said only, "Memphis".
An hour later, she was on a plane heading to the Memphis International Airport. One of the few flights, the lady said, that went there directly. She'd lucked out in coming when she did.
She was scared and exhilarated on the plane. She was finally fulfilling her destiny.
She had a window seat and spent the flight staring out in amazement, watching the city and the countryside shrink into beautiful patterns, watching the ocean far below, thinking how the tiny waves she could see must be huge mountains of water, watching the clouds, like blue and white glaciers, like snow, like ice, like cotton, watching the patterns of light as they moved over America in the dark. It was wonderful. It was magic. She loved it. She had been asleep when they flew into England, but now she was awake and reveling in every minute. The sky was like freedom.
Finally, the seatbelt sign lit up, and the pilot came on the intercom, announcing that they were coming into Memphis. The lights grew larger. She could see streetlights and cars and trees and a runway lined, at first, with blue lights like at Christmas. Then there were white lights and touch down. Memphis!!
The airport was beautiful. She had seen it coming in, concrete columns and a roof made like lighted martini glasses, just like the ones her mother used to have on a high shelf. Pretty.
She came off the plane, looking around, savoring the new experience, savoring freedom. Then she had to go through another line where security people looked at her passport, entered some information into a computer, then became - alert. She craned her head and saw her own face on the computer screen and words like "Escaped", "Criminally Insane", "Dangerous". She backed away and suddenly a horde of cops and security guards came toward her from, it seemed, every direction.
She found herself in a circle of men in black uniforms, all with weapons drawn, yelling at her to raise her hands and to lie down on the floor. Confused, she lifted her hands a little, and a guard came up behind her and grabbed one wrist. She heard the rattle of handcuffs. As the man pulled her hand down and behind her back, she bent over so he had to lean forward with her. She reached up with her other hand and seized him behind his neck and flipped him up in the air and over her body.
As he landed flat on the floor with a splat, the rest of the men gave an audible "aaaah" of shock and took a step back. They looked less eager for a hand-to-hand, but unless they wanted to play circular firing squad, they couldn't use their guns.
Dana spun around, trying to watch them all, and as she did, out of the corner of her eye, she saw one man pull a strange looking weapon from his belt. It was shaped like a gun, but there was no hole in the barrel. Then she saw something fly away from it, toward her, something followed by two tiny wires still attached to the weapon.
She went down in a blast of pain as she was tasered. She woke up in familiar surroundings. A locked door. A nearly empty room. A hospital bed. Chained to the rails. Drugged to the gills. She cried deep within her soul. She cried out, waiting for someone to come and hurt her, waiting, waiting, helpless again. Freedom lost, only pain ahead.
Her mind played over the tortures she had suffered as a child, trying to steel herself to what was coming, but she remained terrified of monsters who chained and drugged little girls, then played pain games with their flesh. She stilled into immobility, willing the catatonia to take her again.
The next day, she heard Andrew's voice, heard it raised in protest, heard his cries as he was dragged out of the hospital without being allowed to see her. She didn't move. She didn't speak. She didn't eat. She let the madness wash over her.
She heard an orderly who was trying to feed her say that she was to be shipped back to California, back to the mental institution she escaped from and how she might be tried there for murder.
She tried not to think of the people she had killed. Were they monsters? They were human. When she cut off their heads, they didn't explode into dust, but they had kept her prisoner. When she escaped, they had tried to make her captive again.
Was it wrong to kill them or not? She couldn't reason it out. Couldn't decide if she was a monster like the man who killed her family or just a soldier, like the soldiers trying to escape in a movie she saw on TV long ago.
The dreams came back. Darker dreams where she fought a new monster, but when she saw its face, she realized she was fighting herself, that she was the monster now.
She shuddered and wept. She wanted to talk to Mr. Giles and Andrew. She
wanted them to tell her what was right and she wanted most of all to be
a real Slayer, defending the innocent. But no one would let her.
[Back to the present]
As Dana washes her face in tears, a dark figure slips through the quiet halls until it comes to her door, looks through the window and then stops. It sees a slight girl with a mass of dark hair lying curled in a bed, crying.
He's here to get her - the monster and hero of all her dreams.
Spike, here to rescue her, coming in response to Andrew's desperate call when he found she was gone and where she was gone. Andrew couldn't reach Buffy and Giles, so he called Spike in Nebraska where his team was hunting for their first artifact.
Spike looks up and down the hall, then quietly forces the door and slips into the room, moving silently toward Dana. When the door pops, Dana groggily looks up and, disbelieving, sees a familiar monster.
She leaps up, staggering, drugged and weak but still instinctively ready to fight a vampire. She uses all her strength to snap the chain linking her hand to the hospital bed's rail and then, as it gives way, falls back over the wooden chair next to the bed, breaking it. She springs to her feet again, this time with a sharp piece of wood in her hand.
"Easy, love! Easy!" Spike says, holding his hands out in a calming gesture. "I'm Spike, you remember me? God knows I remember you. Didn't they tell you who I am? Didn't Andrew tell you? Didn't Buffy and Dawn mention me? I'm on your side now, on the side of right, fighting the good fight. I'm here to rescue you."
Dana doesn't respond but clutches the wood more tightly, looking, as if hypnotized, at his hands, trying to shake the drugged fog out of her mind. He shouldn't have hands, should he?
"Andrew called me to come get you out. I'm here to help. You don't want to stay here, do you, love?"
Dana flashes back to Spike - to cutting off his hands, to hearing Dawn and Andrew talk about him, about the vampire with a soul dying to save the world. But if he was dead, how could he be here? It seems ridiculous to her, but so many things don't make sense, haven't made sense since she entered her own personal hell when she was ten.
Then one day she was suddenly strong and the world was full of even more monsters than she could ever have guessed. It was like a validation. The world was as bad as she thought, but now she was strong enough to fight.
Now there is a real vampire in front of her. A vampire to fight. He has the beautiful face she saw in her dreams, but she knows there is a demon waiting to replace it.
She has a responsibility to kill demons and monsters. It's her duty. Like her mother used to tell her it was her responsibility to clean her room and wash the dishes and to lock the door whenever she came in.
But that terrible night she forgot her responsibility. Her room was dirty, the dishes were unwashed, and the door was unlocked. She didn't fulfill her responsibilities and bad things happened.
Now it is her responsibility to fight the vampires and the demons. Her Slayer dreams tell her so. She feels that she is all the other Slayers who lived in her dreams, especially the Slayers who fought this vampire. They merge with her, urging her on, telling her to kill him.
She lunges at Spike, but he turns her drugged, clumsy blow aside. The force of her attack sends her down awkwardly, and, as she falls, she drives the point of the stake into her own arm. But she's a Slayer and tough. She pulls it out and staggers to her feet, ignoring the blood dripping from the wound.
Stake in her hand, she backs away from Spike, who is still trying to talk to her, but she blocks out his words.
The stake spins in the air, and her blood soars through the air with it - human blood flying through the air toward Spike. He knocks the stake away but not the blood, which flies into his open mouth. He involuntarily swallows. His tongue licks his lips, and he immediately fills with lust - blood lust and sexual lust.
The Slayer blood is an aphrodisiac to the vampire, and the drugs in the blood send his soul to sleep. The demon takes hold of him, and his vampire face shows itself with a snarl.
He grabs Dana and forces her back on the bed. He's on top while she struggles under him, further inflaming him, giving his penis the friction it craves. He starts to bend over her neck as she thrashes under his body.
The blood maddens him.
His vision is blurred by the drugs, but the drugs in this blood loosen the bonds on his demon. He feels anger at this girl who had once cut off his hands and mutilated him. It's anger he didn't even realize he felt; it must have been hiding somewhere down deep within him. Within his demon.
Just as he is about to bite her, he stops. He puts his head down on her shoulder as she keeps fighting under him. She's still weak and drugged can't get him off of her, and he's desperately trying to get himself under control. The demon inside him continues to fight with his drugged soul as he tries to force the demon back.
Back to where it can't touch him. Can't control him.
He manages to change his face back to human, then fairly leaps off Dana, back against a wall, panting, his eyes wild, barely in control of himself. Dana leaps up, too, back against another wall.
They stand there panting, both crazed, watching each other like watching a snake about to strike. Each is the other's ultimate source of danger, of personal destruction.
For Dana, killing Spike would show she's still a murderer and insane. To Spike, his hunger for Dana, for her blood and for her flesh, would be a betrayal of his soul and of his love for Buffy. It would be a return to evil.
But he's drawn, so drawn. The Slayer's blood, human blood and the drugs have set all his demon desires burning. His recent sexual encounter with Buffy has made him want more, but Buffy is far away. There's no way to be with her.
This flesh is here. This woman is here. This Slayer is here.
Now it's so very hard to control his demon. He wants her so much, wants to feed on her so much as his soul staggers and his demon howls.
Their breathing slows. Spike hasn't said anything else, but Dana's head has cleared a little, and she's remembering Spike. She's aware enough to know he could have killed her, raped her, anything, but he didn't. So he's not a normal vampire.
She's calming. Her memories are coming into focus, but she's already revising them, deciding to misremember what just happened, thinking it might be, must be a dream. She's had so many dreams with Spike as the star, dreams much worse than this, so she's not that disturbed by what just occurred.
On a scale of one to ten, ten being the worst thing that had ever happened to her, being held down while she struggled barely rates a two. If it was even real.
But for Spike it's real. For Spike it's the opening to the pit of Hell.
Spike is afraid to even speak to her, afraid to come near her. He doesn't understand his feelings, doesn't understand why her blood has released his darkness, but he understands that she's a danger to him. He can't look at her without feeling desire.
He moves back to the door. He opens it, sticks his head out, looks both ways, then waves for her to come along and quietly slips away. He doesn't so much as look back. She follows or she doesn't. He can't risk touching her again.
As he creeps down the hall, silent, watching, he turns his head slightly and sees Dana following. Up ahead there's a male nurse at a desk. A big, burly guy, doing paperwork, the light over his desk making a puddle of white in the dim halls.
Spike steals past him unseen, but Dana makes a noise, and the man looks up, sees her, presses an alarm and runs around the desk and toward her. She grabs him by the throat as he rushes her, her anger at all the nurses and orderlies who hurt her, who drugged her, coming out as she lifts him off the floor by his throat and spins him around.
The alarm is still sounding as she presses him against the wall, her hand choking the life out of him.
Then Spike is there, telling her, "No, No!! He's human! You can't kill a human. Let him go!"
She looks at Spike but doesn't slacken the pressure on the man's neck as he turns gray and then blue. Spike hestitates then comes up behind her and gingerly embraces her, trying to force her arms down, increasing the pressure as he tries to compel her to let go. Dana finally releases her hold on the nurse, who falls unconscious to the floor.
Dana twists around and throws Spike off. He looks at her and at the nurses and orderlies rushing down the long hall toward them, then motions again for her to come and starts running.
They flee down the hall, Dana following close behind Spike, then through the door Spike had forced and into the old, wrecked part of the hospital, pursued by orderlies and nurses and a couple of guards.
Spike pauses and waves her into a room while the stampede comes pounding past them. They run again, and Spike gets lost in the labyrinth of the old hospital until a wrong turn leaves them trapped at the end of an old, half-demolished walkway.
The end is open to the night, broken brick and shattered concrete with strands of rebar frilling the bottom. Spike easily leaps down the three stories to the ground.
Dana stops, looking down. She's a Slayer. She could make the leap. But she's never done it before. She not sure she can do it even though she's been told she can.
Spike stands looking up at her, motioning for her to jump. Dana looks over her shoulder. A man in white appears out of the shadows of the walkway, a syringe in his hand. Dana leans out over the abyss, holding on the to wall, but still afraid, she doesn't jump.
Spike holds out his arms, gesturing that he will catch her. There are hands reaching for her, grabbing for her. She pulls away from them, looks down at Spike for a moment - then jumps.
He catches her easily and carries her for a moment, the feel of her flesh exciting him, the chance to save her stirring him as well. Spike fights a silent battle with his demon as he holds her light body in his arms. He doesn't want to release her. Her warmth is like a fire on a cold night, and he doesn't want to turn away from the flame.
Dana feels like a child, like when her father carried her. For a moment she clings to the memory of safety, of the days before the world turned dark. Then she remembers how the man who killed her family carried her, too, and she starts to struggle. Spike puts her down, his mind still in turmoil.
There are calls from the men above and the sound of more people approaching. Spike runs to a huge motorcycle parked in the shadows. Dana follows.
Andrew is there, waiting on the back of the bike, his heart leaps when he sees Spike and Dana coming toward him, thinking, "Spike did it! I couldn't get her out but Spike did it."
Spike motions for Dana to get in front of Andrew. She hesitates, and instead, climbs on behind Andrew, leaning away from his body as well. Andrew turns and tries to hug her in relief, but she fends him off, hurting his feelings.
The bike is so big, and Dana and Andrew are both so small that they both fit on the rear seat. Spike gets on the bike, starts it, and they roar into the darkness just as a dozen men in white converge on them, and slow their run as the bike speeds off.
Spike leans the bike to the right and turns them into the first alley they pass, then through parking lots, little deserted backstreets, and even down a grassy path that used to be a railroad line. Though he's been through Memphis a couple of times before with Drusilla, he doesn't really know the town. Dru and he had mostly stayed near Beale Street or the clubs in Overton Square, catching people going home late, tipsy, sleepy and not paying much attention. So now he just lets himself blindly follow his vampire instinct for concealment and escape. He doesn't need to know where he wants to go, just that he doesn't want to be caught.
They hear the whine of multiple police cars, and they all tense, Andrew
hugging Spike tighter, embracing his flesh for the safety the vampire
represents. Spike is cool. Spike will get them out of this.
Dana is terrified that they might be captured. She's planning a fight to the death. Never again. Never chained again. She can't bear the thought.
In the distance they see the flash of blue lights. Spike makes a sharp turn onto a broad street running next to a large park. After passing its golf course, they come to what looks like an old forest. Spike guns the bike up the curb, over a rise and into the leaves and brush of its understory. He turns off the motorcycle's headlight and, holding his legs out to balance the bike as they go over uneven ground, takes them deeper into the darkness under the trees.
Once they're about 100 yards from the road, he stops and turns off the engine. They all turn to look over their shoulders and see a procession of police cars racing past the park, their lights strobing and their sirens screaming in a cacophony of terror. They sit frozen, as if afraid the passing police might hear them if they speak. Silent running.
The sirens soften as they recede into the distance, get louder as they seem to be circling back, then go silent. They sit on the bike, Spike balancing it as the night slowly grows still.
There's a growing sound from the trees around them, a coarse, white-noise buzz that grows until it drowns out everything else.
Andrew, his voice rising in concern, asks, "What is that!!"
Spike answers, "Cicadas. Singing for love."
Dana whispers, "Cicadas?" Her heart pounding in her ears is nearly as loud as the cicadas.
Spike says, "Sort of a leaf hopper on steroids. Up to a couple of inches long. Make that song when they want to mate. Harmless. Dru used to love the sound. The sound of summer nights."
"Dru?" Dana asks to distract herself from the idea of huge, scary bugs. And scarier police cars.
Spike hesitates. Dana waits and even Andrew cocks his head in anticipation.
Andrew knows who Drusilla is but wants to hear how Spike will describe
his former love. He wants to know everything about Spike. He admires
him like he once admired his brother, Tucker. Well, not exactly like that.
Andrew's in awe of Spike. He always has been. From that first night when
Spike invaded the lair he shared with Warren and Jonathan.
"Xander said he didn't know how you could love her and stay with her as crazy as she was," Andrew interjects.
"I didn't mind. Dru was always a surprise. Kept me on my toes. Though if she had been human, I suppose she might have been your roommate back there, love," he says, pointing his chin toward Dana.
They sit silently for a bit. The cicadas hum to them in the dark, their discarded shells decorating the trunks of many trees, left abandoned when their new selves spread their new wings and flew to the tree tops to perch there, singing. The darkness of their youth is over, the long years of living buried, afraid of the light. Now they have realized their true fate, left their past behind, turned into winged creatures, free of the earth. Now they are creatures that can live in the sun and mate.
Spike is tormented by desire. It's fading a bit now but part of him still wants to snatch Dana off the bike and take her in the leaves. In the dark.
He finds himself wanting to drain Andrew as well. What is WRONG with him!! He searches his mind, trying to understand why his demon has become so strong and his soul so weak. A little Slayer's blood and he's mad with vampire desires, barely able to control them. He feels as if he has caught Dana's madness like a blood-borne contagion, and now it is burning like a fever through his soul.
Dana and Andrew sit quietly, not knowing the danger they are in. Spike wrestles with his demon and decides he needs movement. Change. Something to take his mind off what he is feeling.
Spike says, "If I remember rightly this is Overton Park. There used to be a picnic area," he pauses and points vaguely to their right, " somewhere in that direction."
He kicks the bike back to life, its noise drowning out the cicadas, and takes off through the dark, bouncing them over branches and bumps, the wheels sliding on damp spots, till they come to a narrow asphalt road winding through the park. Spike turns onto it, finding safe footing and allowing them a little speed.
As the motorcycle speeds up a little, Dana throws her head back, letting the wind run its soft fingers through her hair. She's surprised to see that the low clouds above her are almost pink from the reflection of the city's lights. Pink clouds.
When she was a child the smog sometimes made the Los Angeles sky yellow. She'd liked that, not understanding it was a bad thing. But she likes the pink clouds better. She holds on to their image, trying to hold onto reality, as her dreams fade in and out. This is real, she tells herself.
Even though she's dreamed before of this man rescuing her, she's never dreamed of pink clouds. They're new. Unanticipated. So this must be real. He has rescued her, leaving her thrilled but confused. And afraid. Afraid that at any moment he may turn into a monster - as he does in her dreams.
They pull into a picnic area dominated by a gazebo so huge it could have held a house. The parking lot is lit by a few small streetlights topped by acorn-shaped globes. There's a play area for children and lots of picnic tables, some 50 feet long. Spike maneuvers the bike behind a bush to hide it from a nearby street and points them toward a bench near the darkened play area where they will be invisible.
The picnic tables remind Dana that she hasn't eaten in three days. She's past the point of hunger and is running just on Slayer fumes. She pushes the feeling down, ignoring it.
Spike looks at her. Hungry for her blood, for her flesh. He pushes the feeling down. He used to like being hungry. Hunger made the feeding sweeter. But he's already eaten that night.
Andrew had bought pig's blood for him, had it ready when he reached their motel. Andrew has the typical nerd's compulsive need for efficiency, for controlling all he can. So he'd had everything ready for Spike - the motel, the blood, the information, even a rented car.He'd aslo had an explanation for the Devon coven, when they called and told him Dana had gone missing. "Oh, no. She's just joined me for further training," he'd told them, starting to cover for her immediately.
He'd called Spike for help, swearing him to secrecy. Bored, Spike was
happy for the chance at a little action. They had been spinning their
wheels in Nebraska ever since the artifact turned out not to be
In the parking lot Spike had seen a vampire on a huge chopper chatting up a girl, trying to get her to take a ride with him. When the girl declined and walked away, the vampire had followed, not noticing Spike on his heels.
Soon all there was left of him was the proverbial "Big Pile of Dust" - and the bike, which Spike had immediately appropriated as more practical for their task. A bike could go lots of places a car couldn't, get closer, park easier, hide easier, and thread through spaces no car could follow. Of course, bikes are a hell of a lot more fun than the practical sedan Andrew had rented. The choice was a bloody no-brainer. So they took the bike, and it had proved its worth.
Away from the lights, with a little breeze riffling the leaves till they went "ssssshhhh" to the cicadas, Spike's soul falls into another doze as he watches Dana twisting back and forth in a swing. She's picked up a freshly emerged cicada, soft and fragile, handling it tenderly, trying to examine it in the dark.
Though she's twenty-six and older than Buffy, she looks like a child - except for her mass of dark hair. She looks like a child lost in the dark, ready for the taking.
His demon snaps at him, and Spike stands up. It's been so many years since he's really fed. Well, he had fed when he was under control of The First, but he didn't remember that, and even Buffy didn't think it counted.
Buffy, his soul mumbles, turning in its drugged sleep. Buffy his demon answers, loving her as well and having loved her first. But the vampire can love Buffy and still mean to feed - and worse. At least while it is under the influence of Slayer's blood and Buffy is far away. As far away as a dream.
Slowly, so as not to frighten Dana, he closes the distance between them. His demon twists his face into a smirk, anticipating his descent into Hell, while his stoned soul snoozes, unable to stay awake in the quietness and the dark.
Dana, wary as always, looks up. She's been waiting for this.
Then a figure comes between them, chattering away, equal parts prudence and nonsense.
"Dana, I'm so relieved we got you out of that place!! I have a private plane waiting to fly us back to England, just like the giant eagle saved Gandalf when he was on top of Saruman's tower and flew him away. We'll be safe back home soon," Andrew adds quietly. "They won't even know we were gone."
"Won't go!!" Dana answers, her voice rising in distress. "Have to stay here! I have to find the artifact! My duty!"
"Dana, Dana, lovely Slayer," Andrew interrupts, "It's not your job. There are two experienced teams out collecting artifacts to try to save our friends and our world from disaster. It's very much like when the Death Star destroyed Princess Leia's planet Alderaan in the classic first episode of Star Wars. Of course, it really is episode four in the grand scheme of things as they exist in George Lucas' mind. And unlike what happened with the Death Star, not the whole of our planet earth would be destroyed, just the magical parts of it. Anyone who has ever been affected by magic, even so much as a spell. But it's not..."
"NO!!" Dana screams, shocking the cicadas into silence and waking up Spike's soul which seizes his demon, interrupting its stalking of Dana and Andrew.
"Won't go!! Staying here. Finding the artifact! My responsibility," Dana continues, now almost in a whisper but with an obvious edge of hysteria in her voice. She pauses to put the new cicada on the trunk of a tree and turns back to Andrew, a look of stubborn determination on her face.
Spike stands quietly, while his weakened soul continues to battle his demon self as it watches Dana from under lowered eyelids. The more he lets himself look at her, the more his desires torment him.
He wants to run his hands through that mass of dark hair. Bury his face in it. Her madness only makes her more desirable as he's reminded of Drusilla. And Buffy. The two women he's loved.
A mad Slayer who needs protection - and rescuing. Even with his love for and loyalty to Buffy, that's a potent combination. Buffy never seems to need him. Dana does. He can see that. She's a Slayer and strong, but as helpless and needy as a child and as easily confused as Dru at her most vulnerable. That need is a kind of trigger. It's waking up a bit of William, the Victorian gentleman, still buried within Spike.
"Dana, we have to go back. We aren't experienced enough," Andrew admits. "I'm not even sure exactly what or where the Memphis artifact is. They were still researching it in Ann Arbor. You didn't bring that research with you, did you, Spike?
Spike shakes his head no.
"Do you remember what it was, anything about it?"
Spike shakes his head no again.
"See, Dana We don't have enough information on the artifact. All we have are my preliminary notes. Come back to England with me. We have to go back. They will be mad at us if we don't. They don't trust us to do this," Andrew lets slip. It's true. Almost no one trusts the mad Slayer and the silly nerd.
But there is one person who trusts them both: Dana.
Dana shakes her head 'no'. She won't give up or give in. Andrew is afraid of Giles and Buffy being angry at him, of withdrawing their trust, but Dana isn't afraid of disapproval, and she won't accept that she and Andrew are useless. In her Slayer dreams she can do things. So she thinks she can do this.
Spike watches the argument, thinking of Dru. When Dru was at her craziest, opposing her impulses only made her worse. He just had to go with the flow, do what she wanted, let her have her way. He'd had some sweet times following Dru in her madness. Surprises. Adventures. The old ultra-violence.
The brawler in him loved that kind of fun: the rush, the thud, fights he didn't know he could win. Now he sees that Dana is in the grasp of her impulses, and he suspects that, like Dru, the more she is opposed, the more she will resist.
Andrew is getting more agitated. He feels humiliated that, after his success in recruiting Spike for this assignment and in getting Dana free, now he can't get her to safety. He's dismayed that she's rebelling and in front of Spike.
Andrew is desperate to be appointed Dana's Watcher, which he secretly thinks he already is. He's afraid if he can't control her, can't even keep her safe, that they will never let him be a real Watcher again. He's still worried that they blame him for Anna Maria's, his former Slayer, attitude problems. His inability to manage her resulted in the girl being sent back to London for more training. He suspects that if she goes back into the field, it will be with a stronger Watcher.
Now, as Giles had discovered with Buffy, Andrew's finding once again that being a Watcher doesn't mean that a Slayer will always follow his council, even when the alternative might lead to her death. Also, he cares for dear Dana, feels responsible for her, wants to help her.
Spike licks his lips, searching for some tiny taste of her ambrosial blood. He feels himself stiffening a little and tells himself, It's only the blood. It will wear off.
But that's only a hope, a prayer. If it doesn't wear off, he may not be returning to Nebraska, may never see Buffy again. If he can't get his demon under control, he can't risk endangering Xander, Mena and that girl Haley. Especially, he can't put Buffy in danger. Not from him. He loves her too much for that.
He can't work out why his feelings are so much stronger now than after the last Slayer's blood he tasted - Buffy's blood in that basement in Sunnydale where The First had him bury all those bodies. That blood had just shocked him back into himself; made him remember what The First had compelled him to do.
Maybe with her death and rebirth, Buffy's blood was changed, altered from the typical Slayer's blood. Or maybe it was just that he loved Buffy, and so her blood held a different kind of magic for him, the magic of love and self-knowledge. Still, any Slayer's blood was more potent than ordinary human blood as well as being an aphrodisiac to his kind. It never took much of the stuff to affect any vampire.
But Dana's blood is different. It's stronger. Or his soul is weaker. Or it has been so long since he truly fed - and so recently since he had buried himself in a Slayer's flesh. He doesn't want to just feed on Dana, or to have her, he wants to turn her, and he's never been one for siring new vampires. This compulsion is unusual for him.
When she clutched at him after she jumped, clinging to him for a moment, he had felt possessive - and protective. He had never felt that protective about anyone not named Summers. Not really. Not since Dru.
Now he finds he wants not just to protect Dana, but to see to it that she gets what she wants. He had wanted so often to protect Buffy, to give her things, but just as often she would refuse his help, spurn his gifts.
Andrew's voice breaks through Spike's thoughts. "Dear Slayer, please. We won't even have to tell Giles and Buffy you were gone. Spike won't tell, will you, Spike? Please, Dana, come back with me now!" Andrew pleads.
If they find out that Dana went off on her own, that she hurt innocents, and there was a guard hurt at the airport, it might go badly for her. Especially with her history. Andrew knows what happened to Faith after she killed a human, how the Council tried to lock her away. He has to protect Dana from that. He thinks if he can get her home before they find out she is gone, without anything else bad happening, then it may all be all right.
Dana becomes more and more agitated. She points to her chest, declaring. "Chosen one! Slayer! My job to fight against evil. Not to sit in England, never fighting, doing nothing but training. This - what I'm supposed to do!"
Dana is becoming more frantic, and the more the drugs clear from her system, the more the trauma of the last few days threatens to send her into hysterics. Part of her wants to fight. But part of her wants to curl up into a circle and never acknowledge reality again. She has to fight. Or she will go back into the dreamworld. Forever.
"Andrew," Spike interrupts, "would it be that hard to find the artifact, now that we're in Memphis? I know you're not Rupert, not a real Watcher, but you're a smart bloke, aren't you? Learned a lot from them, Ruppie's top man and all. Don't they trust you to be on your own?"
"Every Watcher must be trained. A Slayer might get by just on instincts, but a Watcher has to learn things. I've worked very hard, studied, learned languages, learned spells and done whatever was needed. Someday the torch will be passed to younger men than Giles. Or Xander. Not that Xander is a real Watcher; they were just desperate for enough Watchers to pair up with all the Slayers. He doesn't have all the training. He can't read anything but English and a little Klingon."
Andrew pauses to take a deep breath. "But I will be a real Watcher. The torch will be passed to me. I think I'm ready. I can do the job. I am Luke Skywalker to Mr. Giles' Obi-Wan Kenobi," Andrew hesitates here, suspecting he's giving himself too much credit, then goes on, "But Giles thinks I'm not ready yet. If we fail, he might never give me another chance."
"But we might as well try, shouldn't we, now that we're here? We could work as a team. We did okay on that trip to the mission, didn't we? Got what we needed. You and me. Like," and here Spike almost shudders in shame at what he is about to do, "Frodo and Samwise. Sometimes you have to go off on your own, leave the others behind, right?"
"Yes, that's true. Sometimes it's best to go off on your own. We did do well at the mission," Andrew agrees, but then remembers, "but sometimes disobeying can get you in worse trouble. Like when Pippen let slip Frodo's name at the Prancing Pony in The Fellowship of the Ring, and that made tracking the hobbits easier." Andrew pauses here, torn between pleasure at Spike's attention and a lack of confidence in his own abilities.
"It would show Giles and Buffy that you are ready to be a real Watcher, wouldn't it? Show them your skills. You and I, we could fight together."
This is what Andrew wants to hear. He agrees, swallows it whole, loves to hear it, preens, almost wiggles with joy.
"Yes. If we can find the artifact in Memphis, that would prove Giles and Buffy wrong. Prove that we can be depended on. Like Frodo, we can make our own way, just you and I and Dana. We can defeat the power of evil. I'm sure we can. Well, I think we can. Maybe I can figure out where the artifact is. On my own. If we can find it, then they would have to accept that I know my stuff, and that Dana is a real Slayer, and that we can be... "
Spike interrupts Andrew's verbal diarrhea to ask, "What do we do now? How do we find it?"
Spike turns to look at Dana. Some of the tension has left her face. She's thrilled at the idea of being a real Slayer, just as Andrew is thrilled at being a real Watcher.
"Could call Haley and ask for the information she got in Ann Arbor," suggests Spike.
"No," insists Andrew. "We can't run the risk of her knowing that Dana and I are here. She'd probably tell Giles or the coven."
."Don't have to let on you're here. Could just tell her that while I'm waiting for "an old mate" to sort something out here in Memphis, I might as well do some preliminary work on the artifact search, yeah? Save our team some time later on since we've eventually got to gather this artifact anyway."
"Let me see if I can figure it out on my own. Just give me a little time," Andrew responds hopefully. Ordinarily Andrew would call Giles or Haley, but tonight that might well bring them and trouble to Memphis on the next flight
Spike doesn't really care. Tonight he's focused on the danger he represents, on what he might do, what he might lose, not on a future apocalypse. He's only encouraged this search to calm Dana. It's his gift to her.
Andrew pulls out his notes and a big book from his bag. He moves closer to the lights as he tries to decipher the magical text. Now that he's made up his mind, he is determined to succeed.
Dana and Spike watch each other while Andrew reads.
"The text isn't clear, but there's something about a statue and about "a King shall show the way" or "point the way." I'm not sure what that means."
"A King? In Memphis?" Spike asks.
Dana speaks up, "Means Elvis. Elvis was the King. There used to be a statue of him down by the river. I remember seeing it with my grandmother."
"But Elvis? Elvis isn't magical," Andrew says.
Dana snorts in derision. "Of course Elvis was magical. Everyone knows that." Dana's grandmother would have been proud.
Andrew continues to pour over his book while Spike turns back to watch Dana in the dark. She sits down in the swing again, then turns to watch Spike watching her. She doesn't like it. Her Slayer instincts are telling her to kill this vampire. It's hard to control her instincts.
As for Spike, it's hard to control his vampire intincts, instincts that tell him to bury himself in her, tooth and bone. They tell him if he can't go back to his Slayer, to Buffy, to keep this one for himself.
He lingers over the delicacy of her hands, the smoothness of her skin and that hair.
They are cat and mouse. But who is the cat and who is the mouse is not clear. She's suspicious of him, but she's suspicious of everyone. Trust and love are things that Dana lost at ten. Now all she expects is pain and betrayal. Even from Andrew. Especially from Spike -and she should.
Spike, sick at the darkness rising inside him, is glad Dana's wary. He remembers Angelus taking over Angel and wonders if something similar is happening to him. He calls up Buffy's image in his mind, thinking of her and all she means to him, using her as a shield against evil.
Andrew thinks a bit then says, "Well, maybe it is Elvis. Dana, can you tell us where to go?"
Dana looks up worriedly. "I don't remember. Grandmother, me, on a bus tour. Remember it was down by the river."
Spike speaks up, "I think I know where it is."
Andrew looks up at Spike expectantly. He's done his part, given them a place to start. Now it's up to Spike to be the leader, to get them there.
Spike continues, "Dru and I went by it once. Right, down by the river."
Spike pulls the bike out of the bushes, and they climb on. Spike guides the bike over the grass, then into the parking lot, and follows the dark asphalt that takes them back onto the city's streets.
Spike takes a right at the light and turns them back onto the broad street that runs by the park. Andrew reads the word 'Poplar' as they zip past the street sign. Spike drives west, toward downtown and the river.
Andrew yells out complaints about them riding down a main street, three on a bike, with the cops looking for them. Spike ignores him. Lost in his own thoughts, Spike lets his impatient and reckless nature take control. He sees greater dangers than human police. He sees himself as a danger.
Andrew is worried now. Wondering if he made the wrong decision. Upset that Dana dismissed his concerns and that, sitting behind him on the bike, she seems afraid to touch him.
Dana is hyper-alert. Watching the night like a Slayer. Trying very hard to hold on to reality.
They skim through the dark, the huge bike growling like a lion, the golden streetlights lining their path down the dark asphalt. A ribbon of lighter gray twirls from one side of the road to the other, spreads under each light, then merges with the paleness under the next. Dana wishes that Spike would stay in the ribbon, turning them from one side of the road to the other, like a ride. She used to love rides.
The lights lead them down a hill then trail up its other side, up toward the bluffs along the river, up toward the bridge, part of its lighted arches outlined almost like a heart trapped between the buildings at the highest point in the city. They speed past the jail, and a cop turns his head, watching them pass, a stern look on his face. They go past the public buildings and the old churches lining Poplar, up the hill, up toward a bridge lit up like a Christmas tree in Germantown, an uptight white suburb where only white lights are allowed during the Holiday season.
They reach the last cross street running along the bluff. Straight ahead is an exit from the bridge into downtown. Spike stops at the green light, trying to remember which way to go. He makes a left, then a little farther on, by a small park, he turns right and heads down the hill to where Riverside Drive runs next to the huge, black dragon people call the Mississippi River.
The dragon is black at night, sporting silver sparkles of reflected light, but during the day, it's as brown as a mud puddle, a mud puddle that has eaten thousands more people than Spike. It eats them still - when it gets the chance. Walk a couple of feet into its swirl and it will snatch you down, never to return.
Spike crosses over the big road into a small parking lot, and there, ahead of them, is a small building. There's a sign: 'Memphis Welcome Center'. At the front is an octagonal projection with two stories of windows, and inside it, lit from above, the statue of a king.
Dana is off the bike before it comes to a stop, trotting up to the windows, walking around to the front to get a better view. When she last saw it, it was outside. She remembers that much. But it's the same statue. Elvis at his most beautiful, wearing a fringed shirt and carrying his guitar in one hand. She remembers how her grandmother admired it. It is pretty. The metal is dark, but the buttons and the decorations on Elvis' belt are detailed in gold.
Spike and Andrew come up behind her. Spike watches her as he leans up against the huge mosaic egg that's in front of the building, thinking that she has a Slayer's unconscious physicality and grace.
Andrew circles the egg, trying to read it. He can see 'Memphis', 'Home of the Blues,' and 'Birthplace of Rock 'n' Roll,' as well as musical notes and a stylized bridge, the same bridge that towers over them, the lights on its double arch making an "M."
They go to the glass entry doors, and Spike examines them. Dana is excited and flooded with memories. Real memories of her grandmother holding her hand, hugging her, laughing with her, all from the trip they took to Memphis. Real memories of real happiness.
"Think they are hooked to an alarm?" Spike asks Andrew. "I can break in or I can jimmy the lock. But if there's an alarm, the cops will be here pretty quick."
"There's probably an alarm. They might even have a system that is radio capable or hooked to a cell phone, but probably not. So if we can find the phone lines and cut them, even if we set off the alarm, the cops shouldn't come. We can disable the alarm speakers once we're in."
Spike circles the building. After a moment Dana follows. At the back is a concrete verandah with stone picnic tables. It faces a small river that empties into the great dragon nearby. Across the smaller river is a place called 'Harbor Landing,' the name spelled out on the side of a building and illuminated at night.
While Spike examines the building for phone lines, Dana goes to the railing and looks down. There's a small strip of nature between the railing and the river, thick with cottonwood poplar, willows, and black locust - water loving trees that always line streams, lakes and ponds in this part of the country. It's also overgrown with honeysuckle, the fragrance sweet on the night air.
The cicadas fill the night with their sounds. The lighted bridge towers above them, its structure humming as huge trucks pass over it. Tires whine and the bridge's metal cables thrum along with them. Concrete sections pop as heavier trucks pass over them. Mid-way across, where the arches touch down, Dana can see a sign that says 'Arkansas.'
There's a whine in the sky as well. Dana looks up and sees a plane pass, then another, and another, and another. So many. Dana doesn't know they are FEDEX planes, going to or from the Memphis hub, blighting the Memphis night with their whine as they ferry packages to and from distant cities.
The lights on the bridge dim as though someone flipped a switch. Someone has, dimming the bridge lights so as not to blind the pilot on a passing barge.
Dana follows as Spike continues to examine the building. She doesn't help. She has no idea how to identify phone lines. Spike, his head thrown back, stops to inspect something higher up. Using the faux stone walls, he climbs to the roof, pulls some wires loose and then jumps down.
"No more phone home," he jokes.
They rejoin Andrew. Spike forces the front door, and they enter the building. No alarm sounds.
The building is tall and open, one big room hung with long flags identifying various Memphis attractions: Graceland; Sun Studios; Beale Street; The National Civil Rights Museum; The Rock and Soul Museum and others. Just inside the door is a statue of a fat black man holding an electric guitar. A plaque identifies him as 'B.B. King.'
There's a wall covered with brochures for various tourist attractions as well as displays of large black and white pictures of the city. In the center of the building is a narrow spiral staircase winding its way up to an observation level.
Dana ignores it all and turns into the softly lighted alcove where the Elvis statue is displayed. There's a plaque saying 'Elvis Presley - King of Rock 'n' Roll'" as well as a couple of other brass plaques that say 'Do Not Touch - Alarm Protected'. She can't resist it though, and strokes the cool metal surface, thinking of laughing with her grandmother.
They all examine the statue, looking for a clue. They find nothing. Or if they do, they don't recognize it.
"What now?" Spike asks, looking at Andrew.
"I could do a summoning," Andrew suggests.
"No!!" Spike insists. "Don't you wankers ever learn anything? Magic is dangerous. There are always consequences!"
"It's barely magic. It's more a calling to the magical. You don't even have to do a ritual. No candles. No magic circle. It's sort of an invitation for anything strongly magical to manifest. Only something very strong would even appear at such a light pull."
"It's not dangerous?" Spike raises an eyebrow in suspicion.
"Not unless there is great evil here. Not unless he," Andrew indicates the great statue before them, "was evil."
"Elvis NOT evil," Dana declares.
They both look at Dana for a moment. Dana's getting more agitated, and that worries them both. Andrew's too young to know much about Elvis. Dana has all her knowledge from a grandmother who had been a fan, but Spike remembers it firsthand.
He recalls all the excitement back in the fifties, remembers seeing Elvis, boy and man, on TV. No, Spike thinks, Elvis wasn't evil. He might have been self-indulgent, but considering what he could have indulged in if he wanted, he was almost a saint. The only person he ever hurt was himself.
Andrew agrees, "If Elvis was evil there would be some sign. It's not like Memphis is a Hellmouth or anything."
"Elvis is good! Elvis made millions and millions of people happy! Grandmother loved him. He was good!" Dana tries to explain, an edge of hysteria creeping into her voice. She's worried that she won't be able to convince them, not realizing that they've already agreed with her. She's also worried she might be wrong. If Elvis wasn't good, then all her good memories of this place might be lies as well.
"Okay," Spike tells Andrew in hopes of calming Dana, "but be careful."
Spike finds he can't make himself resist Dana. She's sunk a hook into him. Not just the blood. Not just the lust. More and more, he can't stand her to be upset. It's partly guilt. Worry that he might have hurt this girl and disgust at what he's been feeling. But there's a growing sense of concern as well.
Andrew kneels in front of the statue, sitting back on his heels and looking up at it. Dana stands beside it, her hand on the cool metal. A summoning was simple. If you knew how. Andrew begins to chant a simple rhyme, keeping his mind on the man he is attempting to call.
Iin that moment the air seems to still in anticipation. Then, from outside, they can hear the wind picking up and the leaves clapping with joy. There's a feeling like an enormous door opening, sucking half the air out of the room and leaving them breathless and excited. Elvis steps off his pedestal and back into flesh. Looking as beautiful as Lord Krishna, he smiles at them.
They are all stunned by his presence. People always were. He's used to that. He seems more alive than most people, more in focus. He makes the rest of life seem blurry in comparison. The light seems always on him, as though Super-Trooper spotlights are following his every move. While the rest of humanity lives in twilight, he seems to bring his own light.
He turns to Dana as she looks at him adoringly. Her grandmother had given her permission to love him. Her love is suddenly so strong that it is like a blossoming.
Remembering what it is like to love - and be loved. Her grandmother. Her mother. Her father. Her brother. She examines the feeling and the memories, and in Elvis' light, she can see them without pain and loss blocking her memories. She remembers what it was like to live a life not dominated by memories of pain and fear.
Elvis reaches out his hand to her, but she moves away, afraid to be touched, even by him.
He looks at her and starts to sing, Don't be cruel to a heart that's true, and reaches out to her again. She slowly puts her hand in his and, at his touch, feels a rush of love for - almost everyone. For Buffy and Giles. For Dawn and Vi and Rona. For all the other Slayers and Watchers.
Even for the people who had cared for her in her madness, understanding that they did the best they could to help her. Most of all, she feels love for Spike and Andrew, her rescuers. Her very soul vibrates with love, and she realizes what she and the other Slayers were fighting to protect - people. Humanity. She finds she loves them. All.
Elvis pulls her closer and begins to dance with her, turning her around, his touch warm and light, barely there. Nothing fearful in it. As he twirls her and sings songs her grandmother used to sing, she recalls the days before she was so damaged, before she was afraid to love anything, afraid to be touched by anything.
But she starts to feel a little sad again because being a fan is often a bit sad when the fan realizes she can't get love from a star. Dana understands that she will soon be alone again, and that this time the loneliness will hurt.
Almost as if he can read her mind, Elvis sings an old song, changing the words a little:
Elvis was always kind to his fans. He could always speak to their hearts. Never so more than now, when he speaks to Dana's heart, and she feels life opening up before her. Now she believes she will feel love again, and that she will be loved. Elvis has promised.
As Dana dances with a demigod, her heart healing, Andrew interrupts, calling out a rhyme:
All Andrew gets for his troubles is a glare from Dana, though Elvis begins to sing to Dana again, a different song this time, about an angel:
Then he stops and, smiling, slowly lets Dana go. His figure grows and fades until he merges with the statue, silent, beautiful, shining. Dana starts to cry. She cries in sadness, cries to lose him and cries in happiness because she's gained a new world.
She stands there, weeping, holding herself, but a half smile on her lips, her heart open, happy, accepting, healing. Spike approaches and pats her on the shoulder, and she turns and embraces him. He's real and she clings to him, allowing herself to cling to him and to hope for a future kinder than her past.
A little later they realize they haven't found the artifact, not even a clue. Despite that, Dana is elated, smiling, laughing at Andrew's sour face, dancing around the building, twirling, and singing to herself. Part of Spike is happy to see her cheerful, and part of him watches, keeping himself tightly under control while wanting her and more, much more - his heart going out to her. His heart finds itself responding to her vulnerability, to her need.
Andrew looks around the empty building again, feeling a failure because they discovered nothing. He also feels rejected because Dana didn't turn to him. She chose Spike. He sighs, thinking that's only to be expected. No one would choose him if they could choose Spike instead.
Among the brochures on the wall he finds one that interests him. He takes
it to Spike and illuminates it with a tiny flashlight from his bag. On
the cover is a picture of the Memphis pyramid and, standing in front of
it, the statue of a king, Ramses the Great.
It's so late it's getting early, but the pyramid is so close they can see it just on the other side of the bridge. Despite Andrew's objections, Spike decides they should go for it, that there's enough time. They settle onto the bike, Dana sliding in between Spike and Andrew this time, willing to be surrounded by their bodies, to trust the connection she feels to them.
Dana is humming, but Andrew is quiet, his eyes shining with unshed tears. He's failed. He's gone on a mission without approval from Giles and Buffy, and now he's worried that he will be in serious trouble if they find out. And he screwed up in front of Spike, and Spike's good opinion means so much to him. Sighing, he wishes he was half the hero Spike is.
Andrew notices Dana seems different since her encounter with the statue, better somehow, which is definitely good, but Elvis gave them no information. They still don't know where the artifact is, and Andrew isn't sure that the Ramses statute will be any help.
Now Dana is paying more attention to Spike than to Andrew, and Spike is paying more attention to Dana than to him. Andrew finds himself jealous of them both. He feels as if he's become invisible, as if it's just the two of them, the Slayer and the vampire on this quest. Like he's not here at all.
The pyramid is only a few blocks away so it should have been easy to approach, however every street they try seems to take them near it but not to it.
In frustration, Spike turns them down a dark street that runs under a building - one side open to a tangle of roads leading to and from the lighted bridge and, on the other side, a series of glass doors leading into what looks like a convention center.
Coming out of the tunnel, there's no pyramid in sight. Then there it is, dark and elegant, its stainless steel skin as dark as the sky, the edges of the shining metal plates creating parallel lines of light on its sides. Its simple design makes it seem more drawn than constructed.
A red light blinks above a lighted observation deck at its top, the glass glowing like the eye at the tip of the pyramid on the dollar bill. When they saw it from the Memphis Welcome Center, its gigantic size made it seem closer than it was. From a distance it doesn't seem very big, but the closer they get, the more immense it becomes. It's colossal; but the perspective is so wrong that it's disorienting, and their minds keep trying to reduce it to a child's block.
It's surrounded by parking lots, and marching over them are the massive supports for roads leading to the bridge, skyscraper high, more impressive than any Roman aqueduct. In front of it all, facing the street, framed by the dark structure, is a huge statue. The plaque under it says 'Ramses the Great'.
Spike parks the bike at the curb, and he and Dana stroll over for a closer look at the pyramid and the statue. Andrew trails behind, feeling abandoned. Ramses is much bigger than the Elvis statue, probably twenty-five feet tall. They have to point their chins at the sky to see all of it. The statue is set above the street and flanked on each side by broad stairways lighted by sconces set in the stone.
The pyramid echoes not just Egypt, but also the step pyramids of Central America because the lines on the structure mimic steps going up its sides. They almost seem a continuation of the stairs on either side of Ramses. This statue is not so beautiful as the statue of Elvis, but it radiates power, even after three millennia.
A bus passes them, then with a fart from its air brakes, it stops at the next light. The light changes, and with a sigh, the bus starts to move. A couple of cars pass, their sound echoing in the street is almost "pant, pant." The birds are loud around them. They can hear people's voices in the distance as they walk to early jobs from inconvenient parking lots.
The pyramid is starting to lighten a little, reflecting the sky. Soon it will be silver from the sun, although now it's still dark. But not as dark as when they arrived. All around them, the world is readying for the dawn.
"Spike, we need to go. We can do this tonight. It's too near dawn," Andrew whines, worried about Spike.
Spike doesn't seem to hear. He is fighting the memory of Dana in his arms when she hugged him, the feel of her behind him on the bike, her hands on his stomach. The lightening sky, though, makes it easier for him to fight his feelings. Nothing like the prospect of bursting into flames to concentrate the mind.
"Go ahead. Do your thing," Spike tells him, indicating the statue. He doesn't argue about the magic or ask if it's dangerous. Unlike Elvis, Ramses wasn't a gentle soul. There's no one vouching for his goodness. Spike doesn't seem to care.
"We should wait till tonight. It's too late and anything might happen," Andrew tries again to persuade Spike.
"Damn right, it's late, with a wanker like you wasting time! Just do it!!" Spike explodes. Spike is angry and disgusted at himself but lashes out at Andrew.
Andrew, trembling with the force of Spike's disapproval, sinks to his knees on the wide sidewalk in front of the statue and tries to clear his mind. He's afraid of this image. He doesn't know what will happen when he summons its essence, but he can't stand against Spike anymore than he could resist Warren.
He thinks about Spike a lot. Spike is in his dreams, dreams he refuses to admit he has. Sometimes they are fighting together, comrades in arms. Sometimes they share a drink or a video game. Sometimes - other things. But they're just dreams. He can't control his dreams, can he?
He tries to empty his mind, to focus on the good, and begins to chant:
The surviving lights dim to their normal glow, and Ramses quietly turns his head and stares down at Andrew, a look of hauteur on his face, the look of a king annoyed at being disturbed. Andrew falls all the way back in awe, his head hitting the sidewalk. The statue has come alive.
The creature begins to stretch a little, as if stiff after a very long sleep. Small moves. Andrew scrambles up to his feet and backs away from the stirring monster.
Then there's a shout, "Police!! Put your hands up! You're under arrest!!"
Andrew lowers his eyes to human height and sees one cop coming down the stairs to the right of Ramses and one to the left, neither having looked up or noticed the statue's new animation.
Behind him he hears another voice repeat the order, "Put your hands in the air!!"
Andrew's warnings had been sound. It is too near dawn, the sidewalk is too public, and they fit the description of three people the police are looking for far too well.
The police have been searching downtown Memphis since they passed an officer coming out of the city jail, an officer who had been at the hospital earlier. Now there are three cops with drawn guns, one pointing at each of them.
Spike isn't usually much concerned with guns. He doesn't fancy getting shot, but he's more worried about Dana and even Andrew than himself. Even a Slayer can be killed by a gun. As for little Andrew, an iron filing could take him out, much less a bullet.
Dana is terrified, feeling she would rather die than go back to the iron bars, leather restraints and drugs, but she finds she's helpless. Elvis, that most human of all the gods, has awakened her love of humanity, and that means she can't bring herself to kill the people menacing them. She can't tolerate the idea of even fighting them.
The thought sickens her, bringing up the memories of the people she killed in her madness. She's deluged with guilt and regret. She's killed human beings. She cut off their heads while they screamed. Her back against the wall, she wraps her arms around herself, willing herself to go back into her dreams. But the dreams won't come. Part of Elvis' gift to her was a terrible one - reality.
Andrew is the most afraid. He's noticed the lightening sky, and that there's no shade anywhere near them. If Spike stays here much longer, he'll die. If he's tasered by the cops, like Dana was when she was captured at the airport, he'll die. Dana, he barely considers. They got her out before, they can get her out again. As for himself, as soon as he ccould contact Giles, the council would get him out. But Spike. Spike could die on this shadowless ground. He completely forgets about Ramses.
The cop behind Spike pokes him in the back with the gun, and Spike makes a fast step to the side. Before the cop can pull the trigger, and as the barrel slides off Spike's back and under his arm, Spike grabs the man's wrist with one hand, pulling the arm forward and shifting the man to the side so the gun is pointed harmlessly down an empty street. Then Spike raises his other arm and elbows the guy in his face. The cop collapses.
As the cop goes down, Spike snatches the gun out of his hand and skims it down the street, the metal grating on the pavement as it slides along.
The other cops haven't fired, fearful of hitting their partner. As they pause, Spike leaps up the stairs to the cop on the right, seizing his gun arm. With his free hand, the cop grabs Spike's coat at the shoulder. Spike punches him in the face but, as he goes down, he takes Spike with him, and they both roll down the stairs, the cop losing his gun. Still struggling, they get to their feet and the man brings his hands to Spike's neck, trying to choke him.
The second cop is approaching from behind Spike, his gun up, butt first, ready to club the vampire. As the cop raises his hand, Andrew launches himself into the man's legs, wrapping himself around them and holding on for dear life, causing the cop to topple over and land elbow first on the pavement, giving one of those damn-but-that-hurts cries and losing his gun.
Spike swings the other cop around by his uniform shirt, then brings his own hands up between the man's arms, breaking the cop's hold on his neck. Spike throws him against the statue's base then leaps up and kicks him in the chest. Then he grabs him and throws him against a railing running down the middle of the stairways.
Tenaciously Andrew continues to hold on to his victim, who isn't doing much of anything but holding a broken arm and moaning. Dana stands as if pinned against the wall beside the stairway, frozen in place.
Recovering now, the first cop gets to his knees, then to his feet, and starts toward the struggling figures. Seeing him searching, trying to reach the gun on the sidewalk, Andrew lets go of the man he was playing barnacle to and starts toward the other cop just as the man picks up the gun and raises it toward the perp in his line of sight.
The cop fires, and as he does, time slows, and Andrew can see the bullet speeding, or slowing toward his chest, but something picks him up and moves him aside. He can see the bullet going past him, through the space he so recently occupied, and can see Spike slow-motion struggling with his opponent. Then Andrew finds himself in the air, looking down at the face of the giant holding him and time in its grasp.
Time seems to have stopped for everyone but Andrew and the image of the ancient king. Ramses examines him critically. Andrew is brought close to the broad face, delicate lips and huge eyes - eyes whose surfaces are mirrors. He sees himself reflected in them, a small, frightened man.
As Ramses searches for the truth that Andrew needs, Andrews sees bits of his life unreeling before him, beginning with him always in the background while Tucker is center stage. Then he sees himself pretending to be a supervillain, dressed in a cat-burglar outfit and hanging from wires, pretending to be Spike, all in black and a long leather coat, pretending to be a Watcher, all in tweed with a pipe. Pretending, pretending, pretending.
The deeper Ramses looks, the less Andrew likes what he sees. Pretense is all there is. He can feel Ramses wondering if there is any Andrew at all. Any essence that is truly him. Any core of reality. Any truth.
He sees himself going with Warren and Jonathan to use the invisibility ray to get a look at naked girls, feigning interest. He sees himself faking desire for Katrina but secretly relieved when Warren keeps the bespelled girl for himself. He sees himself watching Spike and Anya on The Magic Box hidden camera, feeling aroused as he watches Spike on top of the girl. Wishing he was Anya. He sees himself in Rome going out to clubs with beautiful girls, and hears someone tease them, telling them they are faghags.
Ramses bores through layer after layer of masquerade until he finds a spark that is truly Andrew - a small man who no one has ever cared much about, but who is trying to be useful in the fight against evil. He's sorry, so sorry about Jonathan and is trying to make amends for killing him. He cares for Dana and wants to protect her, wants to serve her well.
Under that, he's a man who has never lusted for any women but who loves Spike desperately and doesn't mind that Spike will never love him in return. He realizes that he might find someone to love him back, if he can admit to himself what he is.
He isn't a supervillain or a vampire or cat-burglar or even a Watcher. Andrew admits to himself that he's gay, likely to remain a virgin, but understands that he's a man with a good heart.
Ramses seems satisfied that he has seen some truth. Then again he looks
deep into Andrew's eyes, and this time Andrew doesn't see himself reflected.
He sees an ancient Egyptian goddess with wings.
Ramses closes his shining eyes for a minute, a look of concentration on his face. Then he opens them, and Andrew sees a series of numbers. He repeats them over and over in his mind, trying to remember them. Andrew closes his eyes, saying the numbers aloud, and finds himself falling and time speeding up and his speed increasing till he falls directly on top of the cop with the gun in his hand, knocking him out.
The remaining cop is still bent over the railing, trying to catch his breath. Spike brings his foreman down hard on the man's back and he falls to his knees on the stairs. Spike pulls him back by the shirt then punches him in the face. The cop goes limp, rolls down the last few steps and is still.
Andrew tries to disentangle himself from the unconscious cop and feels himself lifted in the air again, this time by Spike, who stands him back on his feet. Andrew finds himself looking back at the pyramid. It's paled to a light blue, reflecting the sky above it which is pale, too, with gold showing around its eastern edge.
Terrified for Spike, Andrew shouts, "We have to get out of here NOW!!"
Spike nods in agreement and looks toward Dana who is staring down at the injured cops in horror.
Pulling Andrew along, Spike goes to her saying, "They'll be all right. I didn't kill them. They'll just have headaches." Then he grins at Andrew, and says, "Well, I don't know about the two you took out."
But all three cops are showing signs of life.
"We have to go. The sun. Come on," Spike urges but Dana doesn't move.
Spike can't wait. He picks Dana up and carries her to the bike. Andrew gets on it, and Spike slides Dana in front of him, telling him, "Hold on to her."
He guns the bike and heads down the street, back the way they came, back toward the darkness where the road ran under that building.
The sky is all Andrew can look at. Where half an hour earlier the world was dominated by street lights, now it's dominated by a pale blue sky. Darkness and safety seem far away.
As they race down the street toward the dimness of the tunnel, they start to hear the whine of police cars. Spike looks down at his rear view mirror and, in the distance, sees one behind him. Just as they are about to reach the protection of the tunnel's shadow, two police cars turn into the same darkness, lights flashing, coming straight at them. His way blocked, Spike is forced to turn right, and they find themselves on a road leading to the bridge.
They start to race across it, three police cars close behind, the sky getting lighter and brighter with each second. There's a concrete divider along the middle of the bridge so there is no way to turn around and go back. Mid-river they pass the Arkansas sign, hoping these Tennessee police cars will stop, but they don't even slow down.
Spike expects to die and starts yelling to Dana to be ready to take the handlebars. Andrew is crying and trying to think what to do. Then he does what he did with his first exploration into magic, what he did to disrupt the Sunnydale High School play, what he did to compete with the hellhounds Tucker trained to attack the prom.
Remembering the spell more clearly than anything else he's ever done, Andrew summons flying monkeys to the bridge, into the middle of the road, in the path of the oncoming police cars. The driver of the first car breaks hard, swerves to the right and starts to skid. The demon monkeys fly in every direction as the first car is hit by the one behind it and that one by the car behind it. No one is hurt, but the police cars are out of commission, and the bridge is blocked to traffic.
Andrew glances behind them, elated that it worked, seeing they are no longer being pursued. Except by the sun. It gets lighter and lighter. Andrew reaches over Dana and pulls Spike's jacket up over his head.
They are off the bridge, but they find themselves on an elevated highway surrounded by flat, treeless Mississippi River bottom planted with cotton and soybeans. No buildings, no shade, not even trees. And the sun is rising.
Spike is hunched down, his jacket over his head, his hands starting to smoke. All of them are desperately looking for any refuge at all. There's a small side road - gravel. Spike takes it, hoping to find a little shade, but there is none till the road makes a sudden plunge under the highway, through a break in its embankment.
Spike barely makes the turn, but there's no time to break. He yells to
Dana and lays the bike down in the road, jumping off in the shadow of
the overpass as Dana pulls Andrew off the bike, cushioning him from the
fall, and the still moving motorcycle continues on back into the sun in
a flurry of sparks and scattered gravel, then noisily grinds to a halt.
Dana and Andrew aren't hurt beyond a few scratches though Spike is a little singed. But they are trapped under this overpass until dark.
The road isn't used often, and the overpass isn't so much a road for cars as a path for water. It allows flood water from the Mississippi to find its way downriver without washing out the embankment that carries the interstate. It's at least a thousand feet long, row after row of concrete columns, four abreast, each pair linked by concrete walls to direct the torrent that flows by them in the spring of high water years. But this is summer. It's dry and cooler here. The overpass is a secret place, invisible from the highway. Its pillared shade mimics an ancient Egyptian temple, dark and mysterious.
Trapped by the sun, Spike sends Andrew to check the bike and get it undercover. He can't budge it, so Dana helps him stand it and roll it back to Spike. The motorcycle starts up when Spike kicks it, so he drives it through the weeds and broken glass and stashes it behind one of the far concrete walls. It can't be seen from the little road, and there are bushes on either side of the overpass, blocking the view from the fields.
They are surrounded by fields, row upon row of cotton and soybeans. Surrounding the fields are distant trees where cicadas buzz lazily. It is already starting to heat up although it's cooler in among the concrete columns than in the open sun.
"Andrew, what happened with Ramses?" Spike asks. "I thought I saw the statue moving right before the fight."
Andrew explains about the time slowing down and the figure and the numbers.
"Think you can suss out what that means?" Spike wonders.
"I hope so. I'll start working on it," Andrew answers, already taking off his tweed coat and tie as the heat starts to get to him. Soon both Dana and Andrew shed everything they can, but the temperature doesn't seem to phase Spike at all.
They spread out down the colonnade, each lost in their own reality.
Spike watches the girl. She had seemed better after Elvis. Happy. Dancing. Now she's silent and sad. Something happened at the pyramid. He isn't sure what. Something turned her cheerless again. Spike feels drawn to her. He yearns to help her, to comfort and ease the pain.
Dana sits on the ground, knees up, arms circling them, her face between them, her hair over them in a curtain. She sits and looks down at the ground beneath her, her hair blocking out the world, thinking of the ground over graves.
"What's the matter, love? You seem down," Spike asks gently.
Dana pulls the hair back from her face and raises her head but won't meet his eyes.
"I killed them," she said, with a catch in her voice.
"No, love. You didn't kill anyone. The cops, the people at the hospital, none of them died."
"They died. People at the other hospital. People in a store. They died. Cut off their heads with a saw, and they died. They screamed, begged me to stop. But didn't stop," Dana answers, her voice a whisper.
Ah, Spike thinks. So that's it. Yeah, he really couldn't deny this one. "You didn't know. You couldn't help it," Spike tries to comfort her.
"Why didn't I know? My dreams showed me vampires and demons. I knew about them. Why did I think people were vampires? Why did I kill those people?" Dana's voice is softer than the distant cicadas. "Is it because I'm crazy?"
Of course it is Spike didn't say. Instead, he says, "It wasn't your fault. That man who did things to you. He was human. But he was a monster. Probably made you think all people were monsters."
Dana sits and takes that in. Digests it. Wants very much to blame her murders on the man who murdered her family and tortured her. In the end she can't. In the end she blames herself, thinks if she had been a genuine Slayer she would have known. She wouldn't have done it. Now she will probably never be a real Slayer.
Because she's too damaged to do her job. She's killed humans when they were who she was supposed to protect. Then, she couldn't even help Spike and Andrew fight when they needed her. She is useless. Not a Slayer. She lowers her head to her knees again, wrapping her arms back around her legs. She starts to cry. Silent shudders shake her body. Reality. This is part of the gift from Elvis. To see what she has done.
Spike sits down next to her, softly going, "Ssshhh, sssshhhh. It's alright now. Don't cry." He pets her shoulder, thinking of another Slayer whose shoulder he petted while she cried. "Don't cry." The result is, she cries harder. And louder.
Spike draws a breath, "Know how you feel. When I first got my soul, it 'bout sent me 'round the bend. Cried for weeks, remembering everything I'd done, everyone I'd killed. Not many people know what's that's like, to realize you're responsible for so much pain. So many deaths."
Spike looks out over the fields around them, still in the hot sun. "I enjoyed fighting. Killing. It was fun. It's a vampire thing, you know. Then after the soul - then it wasn't fun anymore. Realized what I was. Understood why she "
He pauses there. Not willing to mention Buffy or explain understanding why she couldn't love him while he was evil.
Dana lifts her head and looks up at him, "What happened then?"
"Got over it. Took a while, but I got over it. The trick is, not to think about it. Not like you can change it. You're just torturing yourself for no reason. Cry if you have to. Scream if you have to. Then let it go."
Dana looks in the face of a vampire and finds comfort, finds someone who understands. A vampires, one of the very monsters the Slayer vows to destroy, but this vampire understands. The human in Spike lets him understand Dana. The demon in Dana, its heart and energy giving the Slayer her powers, allows Dana to understand Spike.
Sitting side by side, facing reality, the reality of their sins, the two monsters confront their pasts and try to accept them, though not without sorrow. Dana leans her head against Spike's shoulder. After a moment he circles her with his arm, and she snuggles against him, seeking comfort.
Time passes and Dana falls into a doze, her head sliding down into Spike's lap. His cool flesh is soothing on this hot day. Spike looks down at her, tentatively putting one hand in her hair. Ah, like kitten fur, he thinks. It's enough. Just to touch her hair. The remnants of desire fade away. He strokes her hair while she sleeps, examining his own sins; glad she wasn't one of them.
Spike thinks about Angel, how Angel lived every day knowing Angelus was still inside him, watching, wanting to get out, taunting him with demon hungers and desires. But Spike, not having a curse, thought he was safe from the demon, thought it could never get control. But it did.
Unlike Angel, he doesn't know what it takes to free it. He goes over and over what happened, seeing the blood flying through the air into his mouth, then the sudden power of the demon. Maybe it's just because it was Slayer's blood, but Spike doesn't think so. He's had Slayer's blood before, even had it after he got his soul, that thing in the basement with Buffy. This was different.
Spike decides that there is something about Dana's blood, something unique to her. That, flowing under her smooth skin, is his damnation. That she is a danger to him, a danger that could cause him to lose his soul. To lose Buffy.
He's wrong about the blood, of course. It had been the drugs in Dana's blood that freed his demon. But he hasn't figured that out since he hadn't felt drugged, not like he had at Woodstock or with other drugged-upped victims. The psychoactive drugs in Dana's blood had given the demon strength and weakened his soul while leaving his consciousness unaffected.
Like the killers in too many high schools didn't realize their homicidal madness was triggered by the antidepressants they were taking. Spike didn't guess either. The fault, he decided, was in himself. He was flawed. A little of Dana's blood and his demon is able to break free. There is still evil was in him. Evil stronger than he suspected.
He slowly stops petting the girl, puts his hands behind him and leans back. Leaning away from her. She's a hazard. He'll have to be careful of her, but he can't bring himself to wake her and move away. He pities her too much. He cares for her too much. Doesn't want anything bad to happen to her. He doesn't even want her so much as awakened from a much needed rest.
Let her have a few hours of napping, he thinks, remembering how hard it was to sleep when his soul was first returned and guilt was like a tiger clawing at him.
Andrew sits farther down under the structure, leaning up against a column, watching Spike and Dana. He can see them clearly, but he's out of their line of sight. The book is on his lap, and near him, on the grass, are his notes and a couple of pens. He's starting to itch since chiggers are burrowing into his flesh, but as he scratches, he tries to figure out Ramses' clues: the figure and the numbers.
His eyes keep straying back to Spike and Dana. He can't hear them, but he sees that something Spike says to the Slayer comforts her, and that she now lies sleeping on his lap.
Andrew watches as Spike pets her. He'd give a lot, give his soul, to lie in Spike's lap and be petted. That's the first time he's admitted something like that to himself. He smiles at his little breakthough and hopes he can continue to be honest with himself.
Andrew turns back to his book, trying to figure out why Ramses showed him the figure of a winged Egyptian Goddess. He finds a picture of Nephthys; she has wings, but there's not much about her in his book. He pulls his cell phone out of his bag, checks the charge and goes out into the sun, trying to get a clear signal. He logs onto the Internet and does a search for Nephthys, wondering if Mr. Giles will fuss at him when it shows up on a bill.
He reads a little on his tiny cell phone screen, enters a few commands, then cries out, "By George, I've got it."
Spike looks over at him, putting his finger to his lips, warning Andrew not to wake Dana. Andrew is all but jumping up and down, ecstatic, motioning Spike to come over to him, forgetting he's standing in the sun.
Spike slips his jacket off, folds it into a ball and carefully slides it under Dana's head as he moves himself out from under the sleeping girl. Then he silently walks down between the center supports, motioning Andrew to follow, which Andrew does, bounding along like an excited puppy.
Once they are a couple of hundred feet away, Spike turns to Andrew, telling him, "Keep it down, the girl needs to sleep."
"But I found it! I found it!"
"What?" Spike asks.
"At first I couldn't understand what it was Ramses showed me. It was an Egyptian Goddess, but with wings. But I finally found her. It is Nephthys. She was the sister of Isis and Orsis. She's sometimes described as the Goddess of Death. She's also sometimes shown with wings or as accompanying the dead on their final journey. But that's not what's important. Ramses lived long ago. Long before a lot of things we take for granted. Ramses was trying to show me an angel, but there were no angels in Egyptian mythology, so he showed me a winged Nephthys! We're supposed to look for an angel!!"
"How does that help us!! God knows how many angel statues there are in Memphis. It is still a statue, isn't it?"
"Yes, I think so. But there's something else. When I had my cell phone out, I checked GPS for our exact location, just out of curiosity. The numbers are almost the same as the numbers Ramses showed me! They are latitude and longitude numbers, 3512194 and 9002917. Well, that would really be 35.12104 and -90.02917, but the Egyptians didn't have decimals or negative numbers. Of course, they didn't have latitude and longitude either so I don't know how Ramses came up with that, but he did. Anyway, we can use the GPS on my cell phone to get within a hundred yards of it. It's almost as good as a map!!"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes!!! I'm sure of it. Once it's dark we can go right to it!" Andrew declares.
Spike pauses a minute then smiles down at Andrew, "That is pretty good figuring. Old Rupes couldn't do better."
Andrew is so thrilled he almost faints.
"By the way, Andrew, thanks for the bridge thing. Been a goner if you hadn't pulled that bit with the flying monkeys. I could see it in my rear view. Good work."
Andrew can't speak, he's so happy. He hesitates then gives Spike a hug. Spike makes himself tolerate it. He was never much for male hugs. It's an English thing. However, he remembers, in his own exuberance at being re-corporealized, he had once hugged Gunn. So he allows Andrew to briefly express his joy with a hug, though he refrains from hugging back. Maybe he's been in the U.S. too long. The less reserved ways of Americans are beginning to feel a little more natural to him than his own heritage.
Andrew makes himself pull back, knowing he's making Spike uncomfortable, and gives a gruff, "Any time, Big Guy." Well, as gruff as he can be.
The day slowly passes. It's a long time till sunset on this summer day. Andrew is hungry and Dana is starved. Later that afternoon, bored and hot, they walk out into the hot fields toward the trees, looking for a cooler spot. Along the treeline they find a mass of blackberry bushes and spend the next couple of hours gorging on the sweet fruit, berries way better than anything you can find in a store. Dana is amazed that the world includes free food.
They pick some for Spike as well, carrying them in some big shade leaves they find among the trees. Walking back, they pass a pickup truck and, in the distance, see a couple of people with fishing poles walking down toward the river. On the front seat of the truck are two shirts. The windows are down. The truck is open. Andrew and Dana look at each other.
"We need those shirts. Just so we will be wearing something different if the police see us tonight," Andrew says.
Dana says nothing, not sure if Slayers are allowed to steal shirts. Andrew takes out his wallet. It's stuffed with Council just-in-case money. They trust him, at least, that much. He reaches in the truck and passes the two shirts to Dana along with an old baseball cap and then lays five twenty-dollar bills on the seat. Guiltily, they trot back to Spike to tell him what they did. He approves.
The blackberries take the edge off their hunger, and later Spike catches a rat, though he doesn't let them see him drinking its blood. Rats are not a favored fare of his, but he needs something; even though it means he'll be smelling of rat for several days, at least to himself and other vampires.
Dana wonders if she will ever be a real Slayer. Spike wonders if he will ever be free of his demon. Andrew wonders if he will screw up again.
The sun dawdles down to the opposite end of the highway, taking its own sweet time, and then hides behind the horizon. Sunset.
Using his cell phone, Andrew finds a map that shows that the road they are on runs through the fields and exits onto a highway in the far distance. This highway leads to the old bridge and then into the southern end of downtown Memphis, far away from the pyramid, the bridge and the police station. They decide to take that route, but to wait until it's full dark so they have a better chance of hiding.
Dana and Andrew put on their confiscated shirts, and Dana puts her hair up under the baseball cap after Spike refuses to wear it.
And off they go.
They manage to get across the old bridge without picking up a procession of police cars. They make it to the smaller streets, then start trying to find the location where they should discover the artifact.
It's a clumsy process. As they putter along, Andrew stares at the GPS information on his cell phone display, holding the phone in one hand and, with the other, holding on to Dana for dear life. Then he tugs Dana's right or left sleeve to indicate which way to go.
Sometimes that means juggling the phone from one hand to another, nearly losing his balance and threatening to tumble off the bike. Dana responds to Andrew's tug by pointing right or left for Spike or yelling directions. The motorcycle is so loud that only Spike's vampire hearing allows him to understand Dana's soft voice.
Dana becomes exhilarated. This is a task for a real Slayer! She wants to shout as they move along. She wants to hug Andrew. She wants to hug Spike. Sitting behind him on the motorcycle, she does tighten her grip, her arms wrapped around his waist.
Andrew's exhilarated, too - and worried. Equal parts. He's excited to be working with Spike. Spike, the cool. Spike, the handsome. Spike, the manly man. Or manly vampire, to be more accurate. Working as an equal, acting as dear Dana's Watcher and having them both depend on him, on his knowledge, is uber satisfying.
Surely, that must mean he's - someone they respect. Like everyone respects Giles, knows he knows his stuff. Spike praised him today, then thanked him for saving his life. That was perfect. But now Andrew is worried that he may be wrong about the location of the artifact or that he'll screw up in some other way and lose Spike's approval. So Andrew's insecurities are battling with his happiness. Because Andrew is certainly happy.
They have to stick to the smaller streets, not only because there might be cops looking for three people on a bike, but also because just having three people on a bike, none of them wearing helmets, is illegal and likely to draw the attention of any passing police car. Since there is so little traffic this time of night, they stand out even more.
They find themselves moving in an easterly direction through progressively older and more rundown parts of the city, elegant and decayed homes from the Victorian age interspersed with rundown and partially demolished public housing. In other words, slums.
The streets get wider, becoming arteries to move traffic, and damn anyone that has to live next to them. They make a bad turn and have to backtrack, then find themselves on a dark, little street lined with chain-link fencing. At the corner, the weak streetlights barely show a four-story building with all the windows gone and vines growing up the side.
Behind it, silhouetted against the pink clouds, rises the outline of a huge incinerator chimney, looking phallic in the dark. More decayed buildings follow, just brick walls and windows covered with plywood, one after another. Is all of this city falling down or being demolished? It seems a recurring theme.
They pass a big water tower and some kind of factory with three huge tanks and raised buildings of corrugated metal. Some of the metal walls have fallen away, making menacing shadows in the darkened weeds below.
They bump over an old railroad crossing and can see the flash of car lights moving over an overpass in the distance.
The light from the bike picks out a thick chain stretched across the road. Beyond the chain is a small ornate bridge of white stone, its roadway arched up into a little hill. There's a plaque on one side of the bridge saying 'Bird Sanctuary and Carlisle S. Page Arboretum.'
Spike asks Andrew, "Across this bridge?"
Andrew nods, unseen by Spike, "We're very close. It's more to the right a little, but I don't see any other way to get there."
Spike toes down to neutral, gets off the bike, and motions Dana and Andrew to put their legs out to balance it. He puts the handlebars in Dana's hands. He takes a quick look at the chain and the lock holding it and breaks it easily, throwing the chain back from the road, then gets back on the bike.
The bridge is very short, and at its other end is an ornate, cast-iron gate, rusty with years. Spike motions for Dana to open it while he holds the bike. She slides off and walks into the light in front of the motorcycle.
The gate isn't much of an obstruction to a Slayer who wants in. Bars, even ornate ones, trouble her. She's glad to swing the gate open and leave it open.
Dana slides back between Spike and Andrew, thinking of them both as her heroes. As they move down the narrow road, the clouds thin, and the moon comes out, revealing an old cemetery from the days when this was a rich and fashionable suburb and the richest families in the city buried their dead here.
The motorcycle's light picks out a brass plaque describing its history and the prominence of the corpses planted within its grounds. 'Elmwood Cemetery' it says.
Old it may be, but the cemetery is still maintained, indeed still used. There are fresh flowers on many graves, and silk flowers on many others. The ground cover is neatly trimmed, and there are flower beds near the gate, around a Victorian cottage on one side of the road and around what looks like a chapel under construction on the other. There is even a fresh grave in the distance.
"Bloody hell," Spike exclaims as he picks out at least a dozen stone angels.
Spike had half-expected Peaches to show up, but apparently the "angel" part of their quest is literal, and The Great Ponce will not be showing his face tonight.
They wander around the huge cemetery looking at angels. There are lots of them. Stone angels on monuments, in bas relief on little markers, on obilisques, one rising a hundred feet in the air, and on the ground, one seeming to sit quietly under a flowering tree.
Some are as pristine as the day they were installed; some are greened and darkened by a century and a half of algae and grime, their features and the names and dates softened into obscurity by so many years of rain and pollution. There are graves of Senators and governors and mayors, of civil war soldiers and Confederate and Union generals and a mass grave for victims of a yellow fever epidemic.
There are lots of graves of rich people, people who could afford the finest of the burial fashions of their day. The modern style is the simple slab, standing or flat in the ground. But the Victorian era did not idealize simplicity. Not if you had the money for ostentation, as clearly many of these people had. Angels had been fashionable.
They stop in front of a huge bronze angel covered in verdigris, its beautiful green form almost glowing in the night. It's at the intersection of two tiny asphalt roads with gutters of cement so broken that they look like a mosaic.
Andrew stands looking up at the angel, then down at the display on his cell phone, then shuffling through his notes and his book, holding a tiny flashlight to their pages.
The angel stands guarding a polished granite sarcophagus surrounded by the graves and pretend graves of other members of the same family. One stone memorializes the death of a soldier in the Battle of the Bulge and his real burial in Luxembourg.
Just across one of the roads is a little rope swing set at the foot of a child's grave, a cross on its crossbeam and vines growing up the sides. Something for the child's ghost to play on, to keep it amused through the long nights of its death. Or, more likely, to let the child's mother dream of the child swinging again, happy and laughing and alive.
Dana sits down on the swing, remembering how she used to love to swing, her daddy pushing her. She's like a ghost, the ghost of the child she used to be, the child that never got to grow up. She moves the wooden seat back and forth over the child's grave, occasionally looking over at the two people she most cares about. Her two rescuers. Rescue means a lot to her. Maybe someday, she hopes, she will be the rescuer.
Spike sits on a ledge at the base of the sarcophagus and watches her, thinking how like Dru she seems. He worries about her.
Andrew looks up from his book.
"I think this is it. All the other angels we found are stone or marble. I think the relevant text indicates the angel is metal. Actually, I think it says "braying". There's a reference to "braying brass", though that might mean a brass instrument, like a horn. But we haven't found anything like that, so I think this is the angel."
"It's green, not metal," Dana points out. Dana doesn't know much about the world and nothing about science.
"Gentle Slayer, when brass or copper gets old, it turns green. Like iron turns red from rust. Brass turns dark, then green. It's called verdigris. When this angel was first put here, it probably looked like gold."
"If this is where we're supposed to be, where is the bloody artifact?" Spike asks.
Spike examines the angel and its surroundings again, as does Andrew, pointing his little light at every nook and cranny.
"I could try to summon it, like I did with the others," Andrew suggests.
Spike nods in agreement, and Andrew gets on his knees before the angel and does his chant. Nothing happens. He tries again. Still nothing.
"Maybe it's the wrong angel?" Spike suggests.
"Maybe it is," Andrew agrees.
Andrew tries a summoning in front of a half dozen other angels. Nothing happens. Andrew is getting tired and worried. They end up back in front of the huge bronze angel.
"I don't know what to do," wails Andrew. "All my Watcher
"Watcher instincts?" Spike snorts. "More likely to get
Andrew's face crumbles further at Spike's derision, but he musters on. "I really think this is the one, Spike. I can feel it. Why can't the mystical universe give me a break just one time and show me a sign?"
Dana kneels down to smell the lovely, fresh flowers in a large vase at the bronze angel's feet. As she gathers them toward her, she notices the name on the tombstone, a name that had been hidden behind the flowers.
Jonathan William King.
"Andrew?" Dana tries to get his attention. "It says 'King'."
"Not now, dear Dana. Spike and I are very busy."
"But Andrew!" she replies more firmly. "Angel's tomb says 'King'. You said "king" is important clue."
Spike glances over to where Dana has parted the flowers, reads the name and then turns back to Andrew. He raises an eyebrow, and his bemused expression speaks his thoughts clearly.
Andrew and Spike both exchange accusatory looks that obviously mean, Why didn't you check the bloody inscription on the tombstone, you git? Of course, Andrew's look talks in geek-speak, but the meaning is the same.
Andrew's gaze wavers first, and he says, "Hey, you could have read it, too. We're partners on this mission, right? Compadres in our search. Teammates who--"
Spike interrupts Andrew's prattling with, "Now what? Apparently, this is your magical, mystical angel. So how do we get it to give us the gift of the king?"
"I could do a spell. I could summon the spirit of the angel, animate it for a moment. It might help us then. Not just a summoning but a real spell," Andrew suggests.
"No," Spike insists. "Too dangerous. A little summoning is one thing, but a spell is something else."
Dana immediately springs to Andrew's defense, trying to persuade Spike it will be all right, "Andrew can do it. He's good at that kind of stuff. Could..this could help us find the artifact."
So much seems magical to Dana, and she has so little real knowledge of the real world that she can't recognize the danger. She's seen advanced witches practice magic and doesn't see any difference between them and Andrew. She no more understands the magic of the Devon coven than she understands the languages in Andrew's books. It all seems magical to her.
"Go ahead, Andrew," she tells him, accepting that Andrew can do what he claims.
"Don't you dare," Spike tells him.
Andrew doesn't know what to do. He adores Dana, and, as he now admits to himself, loves Spike, but he is a little hurt that the vampire doesn't trust him to do such a simple spell, especially after he has done so well in the last twenty-four hours.
"The angel shouldn't even animate, not unless it's magical or bespelled in the first place," Andrew tries to explain.
Dana looks at Spike, her chin trembling, tears filling her eyes, upset that Spike is thwarting her chance to do her Slayer duties. She has to find the artifact, and not even Spike can be allowed to stop her. Dana is playing with fire, not knowing a little flame can lead to a big conflagration.
Spike frowns, his face twisting with concern. Stupid children, he thinks. Then, Hell, let them do what they want. Maybe it will be all right. Then he turns to Andrew, "Are you sure you can do this? That it's safe?"
Andrew immediately assures him, "Yes. It's not a hard spell. It will animate the angel, if it can be animated, and then not for long. It might not even work."
"Okay," Spike mutters. He's seen too many spells go wrong, seen them turn dangerous in unforeseen ways, but Andrew has done pretty well so far, so he reluctantly gives in.
Andrew settles on the grass. His book is open before him, his light in one hand, and with the other, he turns through the pages till he finds a spell he thinks will work.
Then he moves to the asphalt road and, using a piece of chalk, draws a pentagram. He pulls a candle and a pocket knife out of his bag and cuts the candle into 5 pieces, digging out around the wick so they can be lit. He puts a candle section at each point of the pentagram and then kneels in its center.
"Dana, come sit in front of me. I need you to help. I will focus the spell on you. Your wishes will motivate the angel when it comes to life, so you have to have it in your mind what we want from it. You have to ask it, sort of telepathically, how we can find the artifact. You don't have to speak to it. Just sort of think to it. You'll be linked, at least while the spell is in effect. It will be sensitive to what you want and should follow your lead."
"Wait a bloody minute," Spike objects."What if this goes haywire? The Slayer might be hurt."
"It's a simple spell. It's safe," Andrew insists.
Dana settles on her knees in front of Andrew, inside the star.
"Spike, can you light the candles for us?" Andrew asks.
Spike grimaces, pulls out his lighter and goes from one candle to the next, lighting them. He picks them up, turns them almost upside down to get the flame to reach the short wicks and then sets them burning. Soon there are five small flames flickering in the breeze. Spike stands by, looking disapprovingly at the two people in the pentagram.
Andrew looks a bit unsure of himself, but he's determined to show Spike that he knows his stuff. Holding the book in one hand and his little flashlight in the other, he begins to chant.
The candles flare, and there's a huge crack as the angel lifts its bronze hand off the scarcophagus. They're all startled by the sound, and Spike backs away from the angel, which, though still metal, is suddenly erect and alert.
There's a quietness in the night, as though the shadows are listening. Then there are other sounds. First the sound of a child crying "Mommie" as it crawls up on the wooden swing where Dana had perched so recently.
Next a white-haired lady in a billowing white dress rises out of the ground, her skin whiter than her dress, her lips smeared with blood and layers of jewels rattling around her neck like chains. She rises into the sky like a big, white balloon crying "No, no, no!!" as she floats away.
The figure of a man made out of flames comes running past them screaming. Next a demon sways up from a grave on unsteady feet, its head covered with glowing nodules and its dangling beard made out of rope. It walks toward them, stumbles off the curb and falls into the ground as though it had stepped off a cliff.
Something like a florescent blue ball bounces past them, red streamers coming off of it like electricity. Then a man comes swimming through the grass as though it's water, diving and surfacing and looking up toward the moon and moaning.
A figure half rises out of the ground, clutching its eyes and crying, then stills into a shell. Then an identical figure is formed, trying to wrench itself out of the ground, this time grasping its neck as it freezes. Then again, and on this try, the figure presses its hands against the grass, trying to lift itself out of the dirt - but it hardens.
Once again the tenacious figure rears out of the ground, this time hoisting itself farther, the dirt only up to its thighs. Again it leaves a shell behind. With each try, there's an abandoned carapace in its shape, like some kind of magical cicada. Next time it's free down to its ankles, pulling its way through the soil like a man wading through mud.
Then, finally, it's free and turns to its frozen brothers and pulls each of its previous incarnations up from the soil, each of them quickening at its touch. Once on the surface, the naked and half-formed figures move toward Dana and Andrew, their lips opening on a maggot infested darkness.
Dana is on her feet, watching in amazement. Andrew is shaking like a leaf, terrified at what he has loosed. Spike snorts, "Bollocks!"
All through the gloom there are things moving. Ghosts and half-ghosts, zombies, demons and vampires. The bespelled, ensorcelled, and desouled. Things that no one had ever before named - or seen.
Andrew has animated everything, everything that could be given movement and motivation, and most of these creatures are coming toward Andrew and Dana, attracted by their heat and life. By their blood.
One of the half-formed figures reaches toward Dana, and she backs away. She's a Slayer. She has a Slayer's instinct but almost no experience. She's fought a few humans. Killed a few of them. She's fought two vampires, Spike and Angel, who wanted very much not to hurt her.
Nothing else. Nothing but training.
She's never seen anything like most of this, not even in her Slayer dreams. No one has. As Dana continues to back away from a lurching form, Andrew, his teeth rattling, reaches into his bag and fumbles out a couple of stakes. With a shout of "Here," he throws one to Dana. She catches it easily but wonders if a stake can kill this...thing.
Suddenly a vampire leaps over a gravestone and punches Dana in the face. She falls back to the road. She lets the power of the punch roll her onto her upper back with her feet in the air, then does a flip back to her feet. She's up in a moment.
As she regains her feet, Spike is there and grabs the vampire's arm and swings him in an arc. As the vampire is circled back toward Dana, she instinctively holds out the stake, which finds its mark in the vampire's chest. The vampire explodes into dust, the bones last, leaving a brief skeletal impression.
Dana's heart races. She's made her first real kill! A vampire! Exploding into dust!!! Just as her dreams and her training told her they must. Thrilled, she looks around for another vampire to kill. Now she knows why the New York Slayer had been happy when she fought Spike, because now she is happy, really happy for the first time since she was ten!!
Spike yells to Andrew, "Reverse the spell!" but Dana sees one of the half-formed figures is struggling with Andrew, who has been forced down on his hands and knees with the figure bending over his back, encircling his neck with an arm and choking him.
Dana dashes toward them and kicks the figure in the head so hard that it not only releases Andrew but is thrown through the air. It lands on its back in the grass and sinks into the ground nearly up to its chin. It struggles for a moment then stills.
Spike knocks another of the creatures flat. and just as he is about to finish it off, a vampire grabs him from behind, holding his arms down. Spike grabs his own wrist to brace his arm and tries to bring his elbow back with enough force to break the vampire's hold. The vampire grunts at the blow but doesn't let go.
The night becomes very bright because the angel is glowing incandescently. The angel is fluid and alive. It carries a shield and cudgel, and it brings the cudgel down on the vampire's head with such force that the head is knocked off like a baseball knocked out of the park. The vampire goes poof in the traditional manner of headless vampires, and as it does, Spike spins around, sees the angel and pauses.
It is a fantastic sight. The wings open, moving with a slow beat. The gigantic figure glows with an inner light that makes the cemetery almost as bright as day, as if illustrating the word effulgent.
As Dana and Andrew fight behind him, the fiery figure returns and runs at Spike. He dodges out of the way, and the figure turns and runs at him again, screaming obscenities. Spike doesn't dare to touch it, fearing he would go up like tinder, but it keeps charging him.
The angel is fighting three of the half-formed figures, each holding on to its giant wings, trying to pull the glowing creature onto its back, like wild dogs trying to take down a buffalo on the African savannah.
Dana is holding on, too, to Andrew, as the grass swimmer clutches him, having pulled him half into the ground. Andrew clings desperately to Dana while looking back, horror stricken, at the decaying flesh trying to drag him into its grave.
The angel throws off one of the figures, back into the soil where it sinks up to its forehead. As the angel turns, it seems to notice Spike as he eludes the man of fire. It whispers "Brother." A soft sound, almost the sound of the wind, but as clear to Spike as if spoken in his ear.
At the word, he glances toward the angel, and in that moment the radiant figure throws him its shield, the glowing object arcing through the air. Spike catches it and brings it in front of him just as the fiery figure charges again, hitting the shield and falling back to the road where it transforms into a quiet length of flame, burning harmlessly on the asphalt.
After a few seconds, it morphs back into the figure of a flaming man that stands up and charges Spike again. Spike can't suss out how to fight this creature, even if he wasn't a vampire.
"Andrew, reverse the bloody spell!" Spike shouts again and mumbles, "simple git!" to himself.
Dana pulls Andrew away from the grass swimmer and back onto the safer asphalt. She sees the fire creature fling itself at Spike again.
Spike warns her off, yelling, "Stay back. Help the angel. Andrew!!! Reverse this blasted spell!!"
The angel is being held by several figures. It tries to fling them off as they try to force its brightness into the dark soil over their graves.
Dana punches one of them in the stomach. At the second punch, Dana's hair swinging wildly with the force of her blow, the figure releases its hold on the angel's wing. Dana then gives it a roundhouse kick that sends it down and rolling on the grass and into it, face down. The angel throws off the remaining figures, and they sink into the grass.
Four vampires circle the Slayer and the angel. Dana presses her back to the angel's wings, and there's a fluid movement. At the Slayer's touch, the angel transfigures into a Slayer itself, one Dana's seen in her dreams - the New York Slayer - fighting beside her, bringing all the skill and experience of that killing machine to this battle.
Spike runs toward some flowers on a grave, and holding the fire form off with the angel's shield, rips the large metal vase out of the ground, spins around, and throws its contents, flowers and water, at the flaming shape menacing him. There's a hiss and the figure vanishes.
Spike turns and finds the angel is gone. Instead he is surprised to see the New York Slayer working as a team with Dana, fighting four vampires. Nikki sets up one with a series of punches then sends him reeling into Dana's stake.
Spike joins the fight, and Nikki glances at him and grins, as if welcoming him to her side of the struggle. Spike uses the shield to fend off the vampires, sending them toward Nikki and Dana, happy to be fighting on Nikki's side this time, admiring her style. Behind them he sees Andrew back in his pentagram, in a lotus position, chanting.
"Let the healing power begin. Let the world be safe again. As these words of peace are spoken, let this harmful spell be broken," Andrew intones.
There's an ethereal quiet, and the half-formed figures dissolve into a light mist, blurring the scene. One by one the other creatures vanish as well.
With a "whoosh," the woman in white falls out of the sky and back into the soil. The child crawls down from its swing, curls up on its grave and fades away.
In the distance the blue ball loses its glow then goes "Pop!" The grass swimmer clutches a gravestone briefly then sinks beneath the grass, its hands still reaching for the life ring it never found.
Everything supernatural vanishes - except the New York Slayer, who smiles and nods at Spike and Dana, takes a step and turns back into the giant, glowing angel as it moves toward its station at the granite sarcophagus.
Andrew excitedly yells to Dana, "Ask it, ask it now before it's too late!!"
Dana looks confused for a moment then remembers and lowers her head in concentration and thinks to the angel, asking it to help them find the magical artifact.
The angel steps back on its granite ledge, then turns and gestures toward Spike. It turns back to its post and changes into the bronze statue that has guarded this grave for over a hundred years.
As the angel becomes immobile, the shield Spike still holds is transformed. There is something dark and familiar in his hands, something leather and worn. Not like the recently acquired "imitation" packed away in his luggage somewhere in Nebraska, but an old coat covered with scars, a long black leather coat.
Spike reaches down and feels the back of the garment, finding the hole where Doc stabbed him before he was thrown off the tower where Buffy died.
Nikki's coat. His coat. Returned to him.
No longer a trophy, no longer the skin of a dead Slayer, but a gift from the only one with the right to give it.
Spike sits down on the curb, holding the duster and thinking of all it means. Dana and Andrew come and stand over him, making him uncomfortable in his seriousness. He doesn't explain its significance, not to them.
After a moment he gets up, takes off his motorcycle jacket and puts it around Dana's shoulders. She slips her arms into it.
Then Spike slowly puts on his duster. His now. No longer a serial killer's prize, but now a warrior's mantle, a shield, granted to him by an angel and a Slayer.
They inspect the area near where Spike had been standing, searching for anything that might be an artifact, and notice the angel was guarding the grave of someone named "King" but find nothing else. Andrew apologizes about the spell.
Spike, more than content to have his duster back, doesn't much care that the spell went wrong. He turns and ruffles Andrew's hair, telling him, "Don't worry mate. All's well that ends well."
The fighting was fun, and now he has his coat. Spike is satisfied, puffed up with pride like a sage grouse, having been granted a personal gift from, he's sure, The Powers That Be.
Dana is happy, too. Dana, the crazy Slayer, enjoyed the experience as well. She feels she has found her true calling, found her place in the world. She has a purpose. She's a real Vampire Slayer. She has no complaints.
Andrew feels he failed. He tells Spike, "But we didn't find a magical artifact! Mr. Giles and Buffy will probably be angry at me if they find out."
Spike doesn't much care right now, as he swans around in his coat, acting alpha, feeling validated. Happy that it's all over, and he hasn't lost Buffy.
"Don't worry, Watcher. It probably just isn't here. Not the first time the Council has been wrong. Nor the first time that Rupert Giles has made a mistake."
Spike mutters something about Watchers who take it on themselves to have someone killed, then continues, "If Rupert finds out and is angry, just blame me. Rupert likes to blame me. But don't worry. I think you did good. It's just not here. If you have to tell them anything, just tell them we found no magical artifact in Memphis."
Then Spike, in an uncharacteristic display of sentimentality, grabs Dana and Andrew and hugs them both. Maybe just an occasional hug won't turn him into a warm, demonstrative American hugger of men.
Spike sits impatient and bored in the Memphis International Airport, waiting for his return flight to Nebraska where he will rejoin Xander, Mena and Haley.
He's settled into his coat like a second skin. He always fought better in it, like it had some magical powers. He can't count the times it took a wound meant for him.
It is a shield, he thinks. A shield in battle. Like Buffy is my shield against the demon inside.
He'd seen Dana and Andrew off a few hours earlier. They'd boarded that private plane Andrew had waiting and took off for England. Spike worries briefly about Dana, hoping the crazy Slayer will be okay. She seemed better, still worried about the past, but healing.
Andrew, the little git really proved himself on this trip. Too bad about the artifact though, that they didn't find one.
A thousand miles away and 30,000 feet up, Andrew sits thinking. He suddenly
realizes that they did find one magical artifact in Memphis, and that
Spike is wearing it.
End of You Can't Always Get What You Want
What have Xander, Mena and Haley been up to in Nebraska?
Where is that bloody artifact, anyway? Will the return of his battle-scarred
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