Title: Readjustment 10/15
Rating: NC17 for violence
Warning: MAY BE TRIGGERY, there is a rape in this chapter
Summary: Sequel to Reassembling. Principal Wood's arrival wrecks more havoc than anyone could imagine
Beta read by the wonderful incandragon
Reassembling can be found at: http://spanderfiles.com/arvs/texanfan/r
Previous chapters at: http://www.livejournal.com/tools/memori
AN: I'm back but this story is proving difficult so I'll probablly drop back to every other week for the last five chapters. I sincerely apologiz for the delay. Next time I'll only start posting once a story is finished
Spike spent his nights roaming the city in wildly diverse pursuits. The early part of the night he searched for the perfect gifts for his family. He even paid for them, a minor hardship considering the amount of money still sitting in the drug dealer’s accounts. As the evening wore on he often wasted a few hours in one of the clubs, depending on who was playing. He usually ended the night over on the East Side, looking for some bad guy to drain. He sometimes snacked off of several people without draining them, but nothing beat the feeling of swallowing the life of his victim to the last drop. He had blood back at the apartment for emergencies, but he rarely needed it. There were more than enough people up to no good in this city to keep him satisfied. The police should really thank him.
He trawled back alleys hoping to find something nefarious going on, when he heard a cry for help. More like a half strangled scream really, but it was the equivalent of ringing the dinner bell either way.
The sight that met his eyes when he turned the corner made him salivate. Two beefy guys were manhandling a woman between them. From the looks of things, she’d already been pretty thoroughly roughed up, her shoes and stockings missing, her blouse hung open and torn, her skirt ripped, exposing her to the waist. The taller, thinner guy held her down while the shorter, beefier one slid between her wildly flailing legs, a hungry leer decorating his face. Spike allowed his vampiric features to come to the fore, dinner was served.
The one holding the woman had his back to Spike, the other was too intent on the woman and getting his pants open to notice him. Spike judged he’d have a good thirty seconds or so with the first guy before the second could untangle himself from his trousers to take action. Depending on how involved Spike let him get, he might not notice for whole minutes. Spike imagined the thick, pheromone rich blood pulsing through the second man’s veins with keen anticipation.
The woman struggled, occupying both men entirely. The second guy barely managed to get his pants open while fumbling with the woman’s legs. Judging this was the opportune moment, Spike stepped up behind the guy holding the woman’s arms, dragged his head to the side, and ripped his throat open. He took a few quick gulps from the gushing wound before letting go, this was the quick grab, the second man promised a real meal.
The body of his first kill fell next to the woman, spraying her and his buddy with blood. The second guy looked up as the first fell, horror dawning in his eyes. As predicted, he failed to scramble up very well with his trousers around his thighs. Spike easily grabbed him and pulled him against his chest. This time he plunged his fangs in and drank slowly, the man’s whimpers and struggles making a nice counterpoint to the luscious blood sliding down his throat.
Spike savored the flavor and novelty of a leisurely kill. He didn’t get to do this much anymore and he’d missed it. The only problem was that persistent, high pitched screech in the background. It put him right off. He’d rescued the damn woman, the least she could do was let him finish his meal in peace. At times enhanced hearing wasn’t a benefit. Her high pitched shrieking grated across his nerves and he kicked out toward the sound.
There was a whoosh of air leaving lungs, a wet smack and then lovely, blissful silence. Spike hummed with contentment as he finished up his meal. The lust and adrenaline gave it just the right spice.
“Good to the last drop,” he thought as he let the body drop by his mate. The woman lay crumpled against the wall of the alley, a bloody smear decorated where her head impacted. The three of them presented a tableau of carnage that should have the local cops scratching their heads for awhile. The thought made Spike smile as he headed home.
Belly full and happy, Spike reviewed what he still had to do to prepare for the gang’s arrival. He had acquired gifts for Dawn and Rupert. Finding something to please Dawn primarily involved locating a trinket that appealed to the magpie in the girl, all sparkly and pretty. He’d located a charm bracelet with enough sparkly baubles it ought to blind her when she unwrapped it. He anticipated her squeal of delight when she tore off the wrapping paper. Rupert’s gift made him grin with pleasure. Splurging on the man gave him an odd thrill, especially when he pictured Rupert’s discomfort as receiving such a gift from him. He expected the 30 year old, single malt Macallan to induce Rupert to rub a hole in his glasses. He intended to get his fair share of the fine whisky, to tweak Rupert as much as anything else, but leave the lion’s share for the Watcher to enjoy.
The witches proved a bit more difficult, Tara particularly, but he’d managed a minor coup for her. He’d discovered a local coven that, once they heard his request, sold him a protection stone that dated back to the 17th century. It repelled all manner of nasties and Spike had to get the witches to wrap it for him as he couldn’t touch it. He got the impression he had amused them, but it was worth it for the satisfaction of watching Tara’s face when she realized what he’d procured. It wouldn’t make the house completely safe but it the average evil that overran the Hellmouth should steer clear. For Red he’d purchased black silk lingerie, lacy and sheer enough to cause a nice blush, but elegant and fine enough she’d be certain to wear it.
Xander was more of a puzzle. He could come up with plenty of things Xander would love, but he wanted this gift to be spectacular, something unforgettable and that required more than a vintage comic or Star Trek collectible, no matter how pricey.
He rode the subway back to his apartment and it brought back fond memories. He felt like the master of his domain, happily sitting at the top of the food chain, where he belonged. He people watched the car’s other occupants like a lion observing antelope at the water hole. The late night forays needed to stop once the family hit town, but another week of hunting beckoned until then and he planned to make the most of it. A few of his fellow passengers cast wary glances his way and he gave them a shark’s grin. They edged away, which only made him grin wider.
Back at the apartment, he dropped his duster over the armchair and flung himself at the couch. Remote in hand, he skimmed the channels for something interesting to watch until the early news came on. At that hour the pickings were slim. Infomercials and Nick at Nite didn’t appeal so he perused the porn channels that had come with the apartment. He liked to watch the news before heading to bed to see if he showed up. He’d been eating bad guys for a couple weeks now, he expected someone to notice eventually. He hoped for a cool dark avenger type name. He could hold that over Angel for decades. But so far the string of murderers, rapists and drug dealers left with ripped out throats elicited no comment from the media. Spike considered leaving the bodies in some naughty poses to see if he could spark interest.
Spike had trouble keeping his eyes open by the time the news began. He left the newscaster prattling the headlines while he began shutting down the apartment for the day. The crawler flashing “breaking news” at him arrested his attention. A smile crossed his face as he recognized the story. Two men with their throats ripped out who seemed to have been in the middle of raping a woman.
“The woman’s identity has not yet been released, pending informing her next of kin, but it is believed she was a tourist. She was found dead at the scene from a severe blow to the head,” declared the bleach blonde announcer. “Which begs the question, was the victim killed by the two men found dead with her, or did she fall prey to yet another monster stalking the streets?”
It was the type of overemotional hyperbole that the newscasters adored, but it froze Spike where he stood.
He’d killed the victim.
He’d broken his promise and spilled innocent blood.
His first thoughts revolved around cover up. No one knew he was involved in this business. If they found fingerprints at the site Spike wished them luck finding his on file. No purpose would be served by confessing to this slip. One aberration did not invalidate what he had told Xander. He just needed to pay better attention, make sure it didn’t happen again.
Firm in this resolve he went to bed.
The next afternoon he checked his email. From what he could glean Faith was fitting in a bit shakily but well enough. The group seemed a bit leery of her but ready to try. Spike learned that Faith was responsible for Dawn’s shoplifting skills. Liking this girl might not be all that hard.
He absently turned on the news as he prepared to go out. The lead story concerned the dust up from the previous night. They broadcast the identity of the victim, Pamela Brooks of West Virginia, mother of three, member of the choir at her church, blah, blah, blah. They planned to interview the grieving family on the morning show, as if that was going to be enlightening. Spike shut the television off and slumped onto the couch. Going out sounded like a bad idea for the moment. Why the hell had the stupid bint kept screaming? The woman he’d rescued last week had kept out of his way, then practically kissed him when he finished. Now that was a proper response, proper gratitude.
The whole thing had him in a funk. It wasn’t like he’d meant to kill her.
After awhile that thought refused to go away. He hadn’t meant to kill her, not really. She was an annoying noise he wanted to stop so he’d stopped it. There had been no intentionality about it, barely any conscious thought at all. And the thought that kept bouncing around in his head was why.
Despite what certain people thought, he wasn’t stupid, impulsive perhaps, but not stupid. He knew the stakes, had every intention of keeping to the straight and narrow, yet he’d killed some suburban housefrau for screaming. If he couldn’t figure out why, he might just do it again. He might never go home.
The idea of talking to Xander curdled his stomach, he’d be quietly despondent, tell Spike he understood and just accept that what they had was over. Willow would wibble at him and try some kind of useless psychobabble. He hoped to live without Dawn’s response, good or bad an explosion was inevitable. The only person with the knowledge and desire to help him surprised him.
Before he could talk himself out of it he rang up Rupert.
“Spike, what’s the matter?” That caller id function worked well obviously.
“What makes you think something’s wrong, Rupert?” Spike asked just because he felt prickly.
”You’re not one to make social calls, Spike,” Rupert responded, equally prickly, and regrettably accurate.
“I need information.” Spike tried for a conciliatory tone. He needed Rupert’s goodwill here. “I’ve killed someone I didn’t mean to. I’m trying to figure out how I make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
A heavy sigh, followed by a clinking sounded on the other end of the line served as an answer. Spike easily pictured Rupert settling in with a good stiff drink. “Perhaps you should tell me the whole story.”
Spike got through the whole story without an interruption from Rupert, which astonished him. Something had shifted in the last months of Spike’s time in Sunnydale. He and Rupert were far from bosom chums but they understood each other in a way that the others did not. Rupert wasn’t a stranger to darkness, and so never forgot Spike’s demon nature, he suspected the others did from time to time. Still, in those last months Spike sensed a reluctant warmth from the other man, as if he finally accepted that Spike loved those he’d sworn to protect. It made this admission of his failure harder. “She just wouldn’t stop screaming, Rupert. I didn’t mean to kill her, didn’t give her a thought at all really, and I’m blowed if I can figure out why I did it or how I can make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Another deep sigh greeted this pronouncement. “The answer is really quite simple, Spike. You don’t have a soul.”
“That shite again. I know the difference between right and wrong or I wouldn’t be calling you now asking why I screwed up,” Spike growled.
“You know the difference intellectually, but you have no moral compass, nothing giving you pause in the midst of the act. It’s actually not your fault, that ability, that moral sense was taken away from you when you became a vampire. You have no inherent empathy, it’s actually quite remarkable you lasted this long without something like this happening.” Rupert dropped into lecture mode. But this wasn’t some fascinating phenomenon, this was his life.
“So, you’re saying, no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to not kill?” For the first time Spike truly wondered if Xander might have been right all along. He doubted Xander would be smug about it this time. Spike felt his heart twisting in his chest, if that was the case he’d lost his family yet again because he go away forever rather than put them in danger.
“People you have become attached to will be safe, for a time you may even be able to refrain from killing anyone, but it’s something you have to concentrate on. If your concentration slips, you will kill again.” Spike felt like a particularly interesting bug on Rupert’s dissection table. He wanted to deny the information, claim he didn’t know what he was talking about. Problem was, he’d rung Rupert up specifically because he did know what he was talking about, and the words rang uncomfortably true.
When Spike was silent after this pronouncement, Rupert continued in a surprisingly warmer and friendlier voice. “Had you stayed, Xander’s influence might have helped you stay your hand longer, possibly even years, but it would have come to this eventually. You’ve shown an exceptional ability to choose the moral path, even to the point of self sacrifice when you withstood Glory’s torture, but those were conscious choices, acts of will. Not an innate part of you. No matter how much you might want to, it’s impossible to maintain that level of control constantly. Our soul is what gives us pause during wrongful acts, gives us that moment where we decide to do right or wrong. You don’t have that.” Rupert actually sounded sorry, which broke something apart inside Spike.
“That does it! I decide whether I’m going to be bad or good not some demonic instinct. If something’s been taken from me, I’m bloody well getting it back. I’m Andersen’s blasted mermaid.” He hung up before Rupert could express approval or try to talk him out of it.
He grabbed his duster and swung it on as he headed out the door. He needed information and the local demon bar seemed a good place to get it. He had a legend to find.
Spike had always loved learning demon lore. It was a holdover from his human days and love of the Greek legends and epic poetry. That love had led him to both glory and tragedy. Learning about the slayer had led to prestige and some of the most brilliant fights of his existence, it had also led to some of his most humiliating and heartbreaking moments. Same with the gem of Amara. There were any number of fantastical tales floating around the demon community, some utter tripe and some that only sounded like utter tripe. Telling the difference was a tricky proposition.
Fortunately for him, he had a highly trained watcher to help him separate the wheat from the chaff. By the end of the night, he secured a couple of leads worth pursuing.
He stumbled home shortly before the sun peeked over the horizon, deciding to nap for a few hours before calling Rupert back up.
Rupert’s caller id continued to work well. “Spike! What have you done?”
“Nothing as of yet,” Spike assured the distraught watcher. “I need you to verify some information for me. Wish demon in Uganda, supposed to be able to grant you any mystical boon if you can complete the trials.”
“You realize such trials are nearly impossible to survive. What am I saying, you’ll go just to prove you’re up to the challenge.” The amount of exasperation bleeding through the phone line was truly impressive. It also confused him.
“Why the worry, Rupert?” Spike asked, honestly curious. “Wasn’t so long ago you would have gladly put a stake through my heart.”
“Spike, I’m not sure there was a time that killing you would have given me pleasure. You’ve driven me nearly insane, threatened those I cared about and made a right arse of yourself, but somehow, you’ve always come through when we needed you. Your absence these past weeks has brought home to me just what an integral part of our little dysfunctional family you are.” Spike would have sworn such words should have choked Rupert but he seemed to say it with ease.
“What about my corrupting Xander?” What made Spike push he couldn’t say, perhaps pushing boundaries bordered on compulsion for him.
“Anya accomplished that long before you,” Rupert chuckled. “I thought you would break his heart, and I was right. Now that’s been accomplished I’d like to salvage what we can. That involves you not being dust.”
“I can’t come home like this, Rupert,” Spike told him decisively, “and I won’t submit to being chained again, magically or otherwise.”
“But even if you succeed, a soul will rip you to shreds,” Rupert protested.
Spike shook his head even though Rupert couldn’t see him. He strained to shove all his certainty into his voice. “No, it’s going to make me whole.”