Chapter Six: Beyond the Pale
He didn’t know if he could take it. Not being able to see her, not being close enough to touch, it was unbearable. He missed talking to her everyday, holding her close to him each night, hearing her laugh when he teased her. Five years now and he still missed every damn thing about her. He was weakening in his resolve, he knew. The last few times Harris had tried to tell him where she was he’d nearly given in. It would be better if he didn’t talk to any of them. Hearing about her life and not being part of it was tearing him up, but he couldn’t sever the contact. What if she needed him and he didn’t know?
Sometimes he wondered if he’d made the right decision. What if she did really love him? Should he have stayed? No. Even if she really loved him she had still grown too dependant on him, and they could never have had a healthy relationship that way. She needed the confidence and security of knowing she could survive on her own without him. For her he would give up anything, even her love.
“So do you still hear from him?”
“Any word on where he is?”
“Not a peep. Maybe you should just let him go, Dawn.”
“Never. I’ve got a great P.I. looking. I will find him.”
“If he’s gone into hiding no one will find him; not even if you got Sherlock Holmes, himself.”
“Maybe he wants to be found.”
“Maybe,” Xander said doubtfully. “I’ll call if I find anything out.”
Spike’s life these days consisted of sleeping, hunting, and working. He slept during the day of course, but at night he alternated between the hunt and what he jokingly referred to as his job. The hunt he enjoyed. There weren’t as many beasties here so far from the Hellmouth, but there were enough to keep him busy. His work on the other hand, he only did when it was absolutely necessary. He stole. It was always from those with plenty of wealth to spare, and he only ever took one thing. Something he could sell easily so he’d have money for blood and the added luxury of an apartment instead of a crypt. It wasn’t what he’d call clean living, but he didn’t know what kind of real job he could possibly have so he did what had to be done in order to survive. Nights were easy; he kept himself too busy to think, but the days. The days were rough. He still woke up reaching for her only to find emptiness. Sometimes when he woke up from a vivid dream the scent of her was so real that he had to look through the apartment to convince himself she wasn’t there.
It was a warm night in July when it happened. He had been hunting a pack of vamps, and he’d finally finished them all. He was trying to decide whether to go home or look for another trail to pick up when he heard a strange noise. It was coming from the alley up ahead so he decided to check it out. What he saw chilled him to the bone. She was maybe sixteen years old, and he didn’t know why in hell she was out so late, but the predators had found her. Two of them held her while the third had started to cut her clothes off her. While he hacked at her clothing he was also fondling her roughly and not being too careful with the knife. She had several cuts across the top of her breasts and one across her abdomen; she was the one making the noise that had drawn him. It was a cross between a high keening and a gurgle. The one cutting and touching her was laughing. Spike’s mind flashed on Dawn and his game face slid into place. Without thinking, he charged. He went for the one with the knife and heard him say,
“What the f-” before Spike’s fist connected with his jaw. Another one lunged at him and was rewarded by being thrown across the alley and knocked unconscious. He grabbed the third one, but as he looked at him Spike realized with shock that it was a human, and his hold loosened. The frightened young man ran away as fast he could while Spike looked at the other two, both human. He raised his hand to his head, but the pain never came. His human features returned as he walked toward the frightened girl who was huddled on the ground. He knelt down, but didn’t touch her.
“Are you alright, pet? They can’t hurt you now. You’re safe.” She slowly raised her head to look at him. He was backlit by the streetlamp beyond the entrance to the alley and it gave him an almost ethereal quality. She reached out to touch him; to be sure he was real. “You’re blouse is ripped. Here put this on.” Spike had a shirt on over his t-shirt so he took it off and slid it around her shoulders. “Now button that up and I’ll get you home.” Her fingers shook as she fastened the shirt, but she managed to get it done.
He walked her home, neither of them saying a word. She had her hand on the door when she started to thank him, but when she turned around he was gone. She looked up and down the street, but didn’t see him anywhere. It was as if he had just vanished. Maybe he had never existed to begin with. The whole thing did seem unreal; he’d thrown one of those men at least twenty feet through the air. She looked down at the shirt she wore, a reminder that he had indeed existed. She looked back down the street; she didn’t know what he was, but he had probably just saved her life.
Spike walked the streets in shock. They had been human, and yet there was no pain. How could this be? The chip should have jolted him the second he’d tried to hit that first guy. How long had it been since those soldier boys had put the bloody thing in his head? Nine years, almost ten? Could it have finally just stopped working, run out of juice or something? That was really the only explanation; no one had known how long it was meant to work. It must have just run its course. Spike stopped walking and just stared blindly at the street. It was over; the dog had slipped its leash. He was finally free to make his own decisions; he could do whatever he wanted. He looked up at the sky and admired the stars for a moment. Then he began to smile.
“What? What do you mean?”
“Normally I can set my watch by his call. He’s late.”
“Do you think something is wrong?”
“I don’t know, but I’m worried.”
“Do you think something could have…happened to him?” Anya asked in concern.
“No. I’m sure- he’s probably fine.” Xander looked uncertain. He looked at Anya. “But, maybe we shouldn’t, you know, mention this to Dawn. It would only make her worry, and I’m sure he’s fine. He’s just...late, is all.” But they were both far from certain, and they sat and watched the phone, hoping it would ring soon.
Dawn sat on her couch waiting for the P.I. she’d hired to call. Either this guy was totally incompetent or Spike really didn’t want to be found. She was leaning toward the incompetence theory, mostly because she didn’t want to believe that Spike never wanted to see her again. When the phone did ring though, it wasn’t the P.I.; it was Anya. Dawn smiled to herself.
“Hey An! I can’t talk too long. I’m waiting for-” She never got to finish her sentence.
“Xander thinks something might have happened. To Spike.” Dawn’s heart almost stopped; she couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t speak. “Are you still there?”
“I- Yeah, I’m here. What do you mean? What happened?”
“Well, that’s just it. He’s not sure. Spike was supposed to call three days ago, but he never did.”
“But, three days? I mean, he could just be busy.”
“Xander says no. Apparently, Spike calls at precisely the same time every month. Xander made it sound like he’s got it timed practically to the second. So he thinks something really important or something really…bad must have happened to keep him from calling this long.”
“How come I’m only finding out about this now? Why not the first day he didn’t call?”
“We didn’t want to worry you unnecessarily.”
“What do we do?”
“I don’t know,” Anya sighed sadly.
“We have to find him!” Dawn’s voice rose in desperation.
“Sweetie, nobody knows where he is.” Dawn’s body shook with the effort it took to hold back a sob.
“He’ll be okay. He has to be okay! I can’t lose him, not like this.” Tears streamed down her face and her voice cracked.
“I’ll be on the next flight out.”
“You don’t have to do that.”
“No arguments. I’m coming.”
Spike, of course, had no idea of the turmoil he had caused. As far as he was concerned Xander was the only one who knew about his calls, and he didn’t figure Harris would worry if he was a little late this month. After he had found out that the chip was malfunctioning he had gone to a demon doctor he’d heard of who happened to practice nearby. He’d had a battery of tests run on the chip and after it was all over he’d had confirmation that the chip was done for. He had nothing holding him back anymore, and he felt like celebrating. For the first time he knew with certainty that it hadn’t all been the chip. He had changed; he felt no desire to feed off a human. Oh, he still hungered for blood; he was, after all, a vampire, but he would rather feed on his store-bought blood than kill and destroy to get it. He also felt like his occasional need for a spot of violence would best be served by continuing in his demon hunting ways. He felt like a new man; he headed home to call Xander. It was a couple weeks later than usual, but who was counting?
“Where the hell have you been?” Xander practically shouted at Spike when he heard the familiar voice on the line.
“What? You miss me or something, Harris?” Spike chuckled at the odd reception from someone who was supposed to hate him.
“We thought you were dead, man! Five years, and you’ve never once been late.” Spike suddenly snapped to attention and asked darkly,
“We? Who exactly is ‘we’?” Xander was quiet for a second then reluctantly said,
“Anya. She heard us on the phone a while back and confronted me about it. I couldn’t lie to her, man.”
“Didn’t you tell me that she and Dawn are like, best mates now?” Silence. “Xander?”
“I might have said that. I say a lot of things; it gets hard to remember sometimes.”
“Dawn knows. Doesn’t she?”
“Yes, I would think she knows that she’s good friends with Anya.”
“That’s not what I meant, and you bloody well know it! Anya told Dawn about me calling, didn’t she?” Xander didn’t answer. “Didn’t she!” Spike demanded.
“Yes! Alright? Yes, she told her. I didn’t know she knew or I would have tried to stop her. When I found out I refused to talk to Dawn about it, but she just wanted to know if you were alright. So I told her everything I know.” Spike interrupted,
“Which is nothing! I don’t know anything about your life, and that’s what I told her. She seemed to accept that, but she was really pissed that I hadn’t told her before.”
“Sounds like her,” Spike said fondly. “So everyone thought I was dead, huh?”
“Well, Dawn was sure you were alive, but she was still worried. What do you want me to tell her?”
“Don’t tell her anything except that I finally called. She shouldn’t be wasting time worrying over me.”
“Spike, why don’t you just let me tell you where-”
“No. And I don’t want to keep having this discussion with you.”
“Look you made your point. She gets it. Independence, confidence, blah, blah, blah. She still needs you. Not to take care of her; just to be here.”
“I can’t; not yet.”
“Then when?” Xander demanded, but all he heard was a dial tone.
Xander was right. He had made his point, but he was afraid to go back now. The chip didn’t work anymore, and while he knew he wouldn’t hurt anyone he wasn’t so sure the Scoobies would see it that way. He might have been able to hide it from the others, but he knew he could never bring himself to lie to Dawn. What if she turned away from him because she couldn’t bring herself to trust him? What if, when they were apart, she was worried that he was off feeding on some poor innocent? He couldn’t bear it if he looked at her and saw fear in her eyes. Just a few days ago he was rejoicing at this twist of fate, but now he considered that it might have cost him the one thing he wanted the most.
That’s it? Dawn thought incredulously as she stared at the phone she had just hung up. I sit and worry for two weeks, and all he says is ‘He called’! Anya had been in the shower when Xander called, and she came walking out of the bathroom as Dawn hurled the phone at the wall. Anya stopped and looked at her friend, worry evident in her eyes.
“Dawn, I’m sure he’s fine. He’ll call soon, you’ll see.” Dawn began to pace angrily.
“Oh, yeah. Turns out, he is fine. Xander just called.” Anya was puzzled.
“But isn’t that good news?”
“Oh yes, I’m overjoyed!” Dawn snapped sarcastically. Anya was beginning to get nervous.
“Hon, you’re being a little scary. Where was he? What happened?”
“Oh, see, I’m not allowed to know! I’m only allowed to know that he called.”
“What? Xander said that?”
“No, Spike did.”
“Ahh, he knows that you know.”
“Yeah, and apparently, I’m not supposed to worry about him either. I guess I’m supposed to just flip that big switch I have on the back of my neck to ‘off’!”
“Okay. That’s sarcasm right?” Dawn snapped a look at her. “Right. Cause I’m just saying, that would be creepy, you know if you had...a…switch,” she trailed off as Dawn’s gaze darkened. “I’m just saying,” she muttered.
“Could you focus for a minute?” she snapped. Anya looked down at the floor and Dawn immediately felt bad. “Look, I’m sorry. I’m just hurt and angry and I shouldn’t be taking it out on you.” She went over and hugged Anya. “It’s been really great having you here.”
“It’s okay, Dawn. You’re still my friend.” Anya smiled and stood up. “I’ll call Xander back and see if I can find out anything else. I can be very persuasive.” Dawn smiled.
“So that’s really all he said?” Anya asked Xander later.
“Well, that’s all he would tell me, but I got the impression he’s thinking about coming back.”
“Really?” Anya asked excitedly. “When?”
“Well, he didn’t actually say that he was. But when I asked him about them being together he said he couldn’t. Yet.”
“Well, see that sounds promising!” Anya said excitedly. Then she frowned. “But I don’t want to get her hopes up if he was just trying to put you off or something.”
“I know. That’s why I didn’t tell her.”
“Alright. I guess I’ll let you go.”
“I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Spike sat at the bar nursing a beer. He’d never been to this place before, but as he’d passed by tonight thinking about his sorry life, he had decided a drink might help wash his worries away. The sign had advertised live entertainment, but Spike just cared that they had a fully stocked bar. He wasn’t easily entertained these days anyway. He threw back the last of his beer and as he ordered another one, a song started up behind him. His head came up and he felt as though he were paralyzed. There was no way this was happening. He slowly turned to look onstage. Dawn! It couldn’t be, but it was. At least she looked like Dawn. It was hard to tell from here, but he would know that voice anywhere; he heard it every night in his dreams. He stood mesmerized for a moment before leaning over towards the bartender.
“Who is that?” His voice came out constricted. The bartender looked up and smiled as though he had grown used to people asking about the club’s main attraction.
“That’s Summer. Before she came along we were barely doing business. Now look at it. They’re all here for her.”
“Summer? That’s her name?” Spike didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed.
“Stage name. Real name is Dawn.” Spike moved up closer to the stage, being sure to stay in the shadows. He needed to see her, to be near her; it had been so long. She had cut her hair; it only came to her shoulders now and had been layered to frame her face. Her features showed a maturity that hadn’t been there before. She still looked like Dawn, but the pretty girl he had known and loved had turned into a beautiful woman. Spike could tell she must work out, and not just a casual jog around the park either. Those muscles of hers could only have been developed through long arduous training. She was still softly curved in all the right places, but there was also a hardness about her. He found it to be a highly attractive combination.
As he scanned the crowd he knew he wasn’t the only guy in the room who thought so; no wonder business was booming. That amazing voice combined with her unique beauty was obviously quite a draw. Had she been here the whole time, living in the same city as him? What were the chances? She had been so close! Xander hadn’t told him she sang in a nightclub; maybe he didn’t know. He wondered if there was anything else Xander hadn’t known or hadn’t told him. Spike watched the rest of the set, making sure he stayed well out of sight.
A few minutes into her first set, Dawn felt an odd prickly sensation slide down her spine. Someone is watching me, she thought uneasily, but she immediately felt silly. Of course someone was watching her; the whole audience was watching her! No, this is different, her brain insisted. Whoever it was watched her with an intensity that was unsettling. She searched the crowd trying to figure out who it was, but she didn’t see them. It was possible she was imagining things, but she doubted it. After the first set she went to get a drink at the bar.
“You got yourself another admirer, sweetie,” the bartender said cheerfully. Dawn put down her drink.
“What do you mean?” Henry smiled at her as he explained,
“Guy at the bar earlier. You started singing and it was like he went into shock. Asked me who you were then took his drink and headed closer to the stage to watch. Not bad looking either; maybe you should go make his day.” He chuckled teasingly. Dawn felt the look again, and turned around. There! In the shadows near the stage, she could see someone moving around.
“I’ll be right back,” she said quietly as she left her drink and headed over to where she’d seen him. A woman stopped in front of her for a moment and blocked her view; Dawn pushed past her impatiently, but when she reached the edge of the stage he was gone. She turned around quickly, searching the club, but she didn’t even know who she was looking for. She felt him watching her through the whole second set, but she couldn’t figure out where he was. Some strange man was watching her with a frightening intensity; she was puzzled and curious, but she was, strangely, unafraid.
When he had seen Dawn heading straight for him he had panicked until he realized that she didn’t know it was him. He had barely managed to escape without her seeing him. Maybe he should leave; she didn’t know who he was, but she had somehow been able to pick up on exactly where he was. Against his better judgment he stayed for the second set.
Dawn was filled with nervous tension as she changed to leave. She kept wondering if he was still out there. Why had he been watching her so intensely? What would she do if he approached her? Why was she even worried? She knew how to protect herself; if he tried anything she’d just have to take him down. She felt better once she was walking home. Outside, on the street, in the darkness of the night she immediately felt safer, more at ease. It was strange really; she should be feeling even more nervous.
It was several minutes before she felt him again; he was there behind her, following her. She spun around to confront him, but there was no one there. He had to be hiding somewhere; she could still feel that intense stare. If he had confronted her she could have handled that, but there was no way she was going to let him follow her home where he could attack while she slept. She decided to go to Chaz’s rather than straight to her place. She had to knock several times before he opened the door. He yawned and smiled a sleepy grin.
“Whatcha doin’ here? Did I forget we were getting together?”
“No, I think someone’s following me and I didn’t want to lead them to my place.”
“Oh, darlin’, come on in,” he said as he draped an arm around her and ushered her inside.
Spike sat on the couch in his darkened apartment staring blankly at the wall. So that was it then; it was over. When he’d seen that she was walking home he wanted to make sure she was safe so he followed her. She had known he was behind her, and he’d felt bad for startling her. He’d decided to show himself and apologize when she had stopped at a house. He’d figured it was her place until she knocked on the door and a tall, well-built man answered the door. He hadn’t been wearing a shirt and it was obvious he had just thrown on his pants to open the door. Spike hadn’t been close enough to hear what they said, but when the guy put his arm around Dawn and pulled her inside, he figured he got the message. This must be something else Xander hadn’t known about. Dawn wasn’t hoping that Spike would return to her; she’d moved on. He had waited too long.