"All We Do is Wander"
Fandom: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Characters: Xander and Spike, with support by Dawn, Buffy, Anya, Tara, Willow, Giles
Rating: R, for language and 'cause there are character deaths
Summary: Xander and Spike on the run in an alternate Wish-verse.
Disclaimer: Nothing ends well.
This story is NOT in the Spanderverse-continuity. It takes place during the episode 'Spiral', and is a self-contained Apocalypse story. As such the only warning I'll give is that no one gets a happy ending - plus see "Rating" summary.
Spike had been half carrying me across the tarmac of a school building's parking lot. The moon was full, the light bright, beautiful really. It could have even been romantic if Anya had been here with me instead of the undead wonder. Jerk.
There was something really warped about my having to put up with his presence and he with mine. Neither of us had ever been what you'd call friends. I mean, he's a fucking vampire! I hate vampires - usually. I have since the first time Buffy and Giles told Willow and me they were real, and then I saw the truth in Jesse's face. Well, it wasn't really his face... except it kinda was.
I'm rambling. I do that, now.
So Spike grabbed hold of these school doors and gave them a superpowered yank, then he threw me inside without so much as a fucking warning. I landed hard. I bitched. He told me to suck it up, while he yanked the doors hard again, shutting them tight.
"You broke the locks asshole, how do you think slamming them shut is going to help...?"
"Why don't you shut your asshole before I throw you to them," he shouted back. Fuck him, he'd never do that. I don't why. I would have left his stupid, unbreathing ass behind in a hot fucking second if our positions had been reversed.
I think I would have, anyway.
Oh, the swearing? Yeah, I do that a lot now, too. There's something cathartic about swearing, I've found out. Like each 'fuck' or 'shit' or 'asshole' were really a valve that released some pressure from a boiler inside me that was set to explode any second. Spike made it easy to swear because he'd barely noticed, so there weren't any uncomfortable glances or shifty glares in Dawnie's direction, because God knew that a sixteen year old had never been exposed to bad words before Xander 'Trash Mouth' Harris came along.
That wasn't really fair. Buffy, she tried so hard to pretend that things were normal for a long while there, after Joyce. And part of that normal was not swearing around Dawn. We didn't plan that or anything, it just happened. No matter how angry or desperate or argumentative we'd become, we didn't swear. It was an unspoken rule. Well, okay, Spike swore occasionally, but if it were around Dawn, he'd always apologize which now strikes me as funny because, you know, he was out slaughtering hundreds if not thousands before the Initiative chipped him up good. But he was apologizing, almost sheepishly, when a four letter word escaped his lips in the teen's presence. I still find that pretty funny, actually - though in a very gallows humor sort of way.
Spike did something. I don't know what since I was lying on the floor and his hands were blocked by his body. They were out there pounding away and with that constant moaning... seriously, they never stopped fucking moaning. We didn't even know where it was coming from, because it wasn't like they were breathing and even after their throats were torn out or rotted away, they just kept up with that low, pathetic, whining cry. It very seriously could drive somebody insane, if you let it. So, anyway, Spike had managed to do whatever he'd done so the things at the door didn't just follow us in. He'd glanced over me lying prone and then did that standing still thing.
It took awhile, but I'd finally learned to stop with my bitching and whining when he stood like that. It's hard to describe without pulling you in front of him and having him do it, but there is a certain way that vampires stand - so perfectly still - like they're made of marble. They don't shift, they don't shuffle, they don't sway... they almost become invisible to the eye, even though they're right there solid in front of you. It meant that he was listening... not to me and not to the horde outside of the doors... he was shifting his focus to the building.
One of the things about vampires that make them so easy to hate is how much better at everything they seem to be. It was really irritating. They're stronger, faster, have better senses, seem to acquire kung-fu action movie moves without any previous study and of course, they don't age. Well, they do - think The Master - but they don't slow down with their years, they just get stronger. That always seemed unfair.
After several moments of his standing there, he finally came unfrozen and glanced back at the doors, which caused me to look at the doors. They were holding, but the banging and the moaning was really loud.
"Those gonna hold," I had asked, more to hear some noise that wasn't the infernal moaning that never ended. I said that didn't I? The moaning? Yeah, I'm pretty sure I did. One of the things I've learned is that I start to think something and then I realize that I've already been through those thoughts before. But, back to Spike and me in that school hallway....
So I had asked him about the doors, and I'm still lying on the floor which hadn't been cleaned in months because of, you know, the end of the world and stuff. I wanted to bitch to Spike to stop standing there like a moron and pick me up, because by that time I couldn't get up on my own, but I also had some pride left and I didn't want it to come across like I actually needed him, even though we both knew damned well what the score was for me. This was all a fine, fucking mess, I'll tell you. Did I already warn you that I swear a lot now? I can't remember, but I think I might have told you that already.
Anyway, so Spike, who was never the most patient of not-really-men, more growled than spoke and more at me than to me, "How would I fucking know, Harris? You think reading the future was suddenly granted to me while I was keeping you from getting eaten, alive?!"
He'd taken a deep breath and I waited. I know, you'd think I would have snapped something smart-assey back at him. I mean that would have been the Xander-way to being yelled at by him. All I can tell you is that when you're running for your life, you have less energy for screaming matches over every little thing. Besides, I knew that he knew that he had to assess the situation and he knew that I knew that he was doing his best, despite the fact that he was getting hungry again. He'd managed to catch a raccoon earlier in the evening, but it was a small one and hadn't been filling for him. In the meantime, my own body was pretty gaunt by this time. It turns out that after the apocalypse, only junk food survives and God forbid anyone added some calories that were useful to Twinkies when they had the chance, instead of empty sugar. Our knapsack had vitamins, they'd run out and I was getting sickly even before I got sick. Fuck it, I don't mean to whine. I'm supposed to be telling you a story here.
He'd knelt down next to me then, stroked my dirty, oily, unkempt hair and sighed. After he'd helped me to my feet and mostly carried my weight we looked back at the door, again.
"On the good side, the doors swing outward, and I think I've got the lock broken enough to make it hard for them to get in. They'll spend hours, if not days, pushing the wrong way against it."
"And on the bad side?"
"Plenty of other entrances in this place. This wasn't a good place to hole up for the day. I don't hear anything else moving inside, but my hearing ain't what it was... along with everything else."
"We didn't have a lot of options," I reminded him then, as gently as I could. The facts were that I hadn't wanted to come back into the fucking city anyway. The zombies were many, the resources that hadn't already been scavenged in the first weeks of the plague were few and I wanted to hang out at a farmhouse where there'd be vegetables, or citrus trees with fruit growing wild. Spike though, and not without merit, pointed out that he wasn't going to be any good without some actual human blood. Power was sporatic, but there were a few places where the mostly automated electricity grid was still feeding power. Some of those could be blood banks or hospitals. And some of those might have refrigerators holding blood donations still operating. Unfortunately, before making it to a clinic or hospital, we got cut off by the mass of animated bodies and here we were.
I guess I should mention the blood situation. See, we'd always thought that Spike was subsisting on animal blood, because that is what we provided and he couldn't bite anymore. That was a bit naive. Turns out that the chip had no problems with Spike stealing blood from Sunnydale General and the local Red Cross Donation office, so he'd been supplimenting what we gave him all along. Yeah, that was a bit disturbing to find out, but at the same time, I don't think I was shocked. It was just something I quickly shrugged off, and actually I was grateful because it had kept his strength up so after a few perfunctory noises about being disgusted I had let the topic go.
"I'm going to move you to a closet, just in case. Then, I'll go looking for something for you to eat, some drinking water and - please, evil gods - some uninfected human blood. You need to do that waste thing, first?"
"No. I'm good."
"You're sure? I got maybe an hour and a half to forage before I have to get back inside and I don't want to return and find I have to change your underwear. Plus, we don't even have any for you to change into."
He had started walking then, and I had done my best to shuffle my feet as much as possible so I'd have the illusion that he wasn't carrying me. He, for reasons I'll never really know, didn't just scoop me up like a child and carry me. I refuse to believe it was because he wanted me to have my dignity. It would completely violate the antagonistic relationship we had so carefully cultivated to that point.
"You stink," he'd shared with me. One of our coping strategies was that anytime he did something for me, like not leaving me on a floor to crawl around feebly, he would be sure to insult me. It was part of our code to pretend that our relationship had not fundamentally changed, despite our pretty dire circumstances.
"Don't breathe then," I said extra snottily, so that he'd understand that we still hated each other deep down, because that was important. "And bonus? You won't be able to talk."
"I should shove you in one of these lockers. It'd be nostalgic for you. And then, I could travel freely without your stupid ass dragging me down."
"You're just snotty because you want to bite me and can't. Even with the end of the world, you've turned out impotent."
"And you're still the useless Scoobie member."
By that time, we'd reached the Janitor's closet on the third floor. Spike did that freezing thing again, to listen for the faintest of rustlings anywhere on our floor or the one above. I again remained as silent as a human being could. Did you know that you're never actually silent? It's true. You think you are, but vampires can hear your heart beating, your bowel gurgling, the rustle of your shirt as you make involuntary, tiny movements. Spike told me shortly after we went on the run that sometimes I made so much noise trying to be quiet that he could barely hear the zombie moans. I called bullshit, which he was then forced to concede, but he told me I was pretty loud, despite trying to be silent.
See, that had been another one of our coping mechanisms, we developed. According to our unofficial code, either of us could call bullshit on the other over any statement made and that person had to admit to the truth. We didn't use it often. Living a little lie was better than having to hear truths. Like the truth of Spike claiming he thought I was getting better. I didn't call bullshit on that.
"I'm gonna break the lock, so even if they get in, the door won't open until I get back," he had told me.
"Spike? Are you coming back?" I asked this everytime. And not because I had forgotten that he'd already answered, but because I was always expecting the answer I didn't want to hear.
"Yeah, mate, I'm coming back to you."
"I call bullshit."
"I am coming back. For you and to you," he'd said. I was nearly overcome with emotion, which is another thing that got repeated when we went through that ritual.
He'd done something new then. Usually, he would add, "But if you become any more of a wanker, I'm changing my mind." But, this time that isn't what he'd said. He hadn't said anything. Instead he'd leaned forward, like he wasn't sure of how I might react to his face being so close to mine. Then he closed his eyes and he kissed me on the forehead. It was gentle and quick. Like a feather brushing over the hairs on an arm... barely there, and yet so clearly felt. I didn't really know what to think about this new twist in our routine, so I said and did nothing. And then he was gone.
You see, Spike, being a corpse already - even though we had very rarely acknowledged what that meant, even though we'd joke and insult him occasionally about his lack of pulse - could freely stroll among the zombie hoard outside. They'd brush their fingers against his clothes, his skin, his hair, but they didn't grasp at him and had no interest in chewing on him.
Oh, yeah, I know. You're saying that Buffy has met zombies before and they didn't eat people unless they were commanded to do so. You're objecting to the fact that our zombies aren't the same as the Romero movie zombies. Yes, of course I've seen those flicks - they were brilliant - loved 'em. At least, I did before we all became them, now not so much.
It turns out some douchebag out there... I don't know where, I don't know who... made a fucking wish. Anya had felt it before the rest of us knew what had happened, even though she wasn't technically a vengeance demon anymore. It was somewhere in Eastern Europe, I know that much by Willow and Tara's scrying. Anyway, some idiot wished that "all of the violence would just stop and zombies would chew our red-blooded, wasted life away". Nice, right? I hope the fucknut enjoyed what they wrought.
The only positive thing was that Glory's whole sacrifice Dawn thing just ended in a snap of the fingers. She was standing there in the abandoned service station in the desert with all of us freaking out because she hadn't been there just a moment before and now Dawn was within her reach. Suddenly, she was gone... like a stage magician said abra-kadabra and poof.
We'd been thrilled. Except for Anya. She'd gotten very pale... her eyes as wide as saucers, "Oh, God" was all she'd said. It was the last thing she'd said.
I had been sitting in that dark closet for what seemed like forever. I didn't like thinking of the past, but there wasn't a lot to do. I remember that I was really hot. I mean, really-really. Definitely a fever was raging, which wasn't a good sign. I had also been very thirsty. I'd had some not very good orange juice earlier and my stomach was upset - I thought about having diarrhea in the little closet and was appropriately horrified.
Spike had come in then. There was the loud squeal of the broken door lock that caused me to cringe instinctively. Noises drew zombies. And then Spike was standing there and cool air from the hallway was gliding over my too hot and damp skin. It felt like fucking Heaven. He'd had a jug of bottled water with him ... a re-used gallon size milk container. I gulped at it greedily and then poured just a little over my burning head. Drinking water was at premium, so you didn't just waste it on things like washing, but I was so damned hot.
Spike had found some sort of blood. It was in a 7-11 cup, which made me wonder. It turned out that there was a mostly chewed up man who'd barricaded himself in the store. Spike said there was still a zombie tearing at the guy's face, but that most of the hoard had lost interest in his cooling body. Spike had just used a makeshift blade of broken glass to saw into the guy's chest and half filled an empty Big Gulp cup. It was actually encouraging... that I wasn't the only one still alive, I mean.
I mean, if there was a guy in a store, then there were others surely... somewhere more secure than a 7-11 that would be a lot more difficult to reach.
The morning sun was casting indirect light, brightening the hallways and making me think of Sunnydale High. Despite the misery of schoolwork and our death rate, I found myself nostalgic for that time and place. I started to sort of drift then, I think, because Spike was suddenly slapping me in the face, his facial features in a grimace as the chip told him to stop doing that.
"Don't leave me," he'd said. And, even I - vampire hater that I was - felt sorry for him. We'd seen no other demons nor vampires since we'd started to wander from place to place. You see, we'd both talked a lot about finding someplace to bunker, but neither of us ever seemed to object as night after night we packed up what few supplies we carried and continued moving. We didn't even know where we were headed... we only knew that sitting still wasn't an option for either of us. I think we were both afraid that we would go insane if we stopped, but we didn't talk about it, so maybe that was just me. I'm glad I don't worry about insanity anymore. There is a plus in a sea of suck.
"Sorry... I wandered."
"You're feverish," he'd said. "Here."
At that he had removed his shirt and then helped me with mine. He sat against the wall and pulled me into his embrace. His skin was always so cool... so cool... I can remember that sensation. It had felt really good to me.
"I'm not gay," I'd told him then, because it was hard to think of us sitting there skin to skin in each other's arms without some sort of sexual connotation.
"Vampires don't have those labels."
"I'm just saying. In case you thought that -this- was going to lead to a make out session or something," I joked, but I was also serious. After the kiss on the forehead and with the prison-like conditions of being cooped up together like we were, I felt the need to make that clear - precisely because vampires weren't particularly discriminating when it came to sex.
He pshawed, "Like I'd be attracted to you in any way. You're skin and bones. And, you smell really bad and would probably taste like grime."
"I'm glad we're clear."
"I call bullshit," he said in a very low tone of voice. "On you're not thinking about it, knowing we're all that are available to each other. I call bullshit."
Spike had been even less likely than I had been to call bullshit. I was taken aback, because I hadn't actually thought he had thoughts about companionship in that way. I mean for him it had been Drusilla and Buffy, both of which were in no way men. It's really kind of amazing how in my mind by that point there were vampires and then there was Spike - separate things. I suddenly had an image of Angel... they had spent a long time together in Europe, but that was freaky and I immediately cut off that form of thought.
Well, Spike had called bullshit, so I had to be honest. "I might have had it crop up... in a few dreams over the past few weeks. But, I can't. I'm not... that person, that can... do that stuff."
"Yeah," Spike had said to me then. He'd sounded a little sad about it, but we stopped talking. I dozed in his arms, waking with a start a few times, where I would switch to his other side in order to recapture the cool because I had warmed up his skin with my fever where I had been laying.
I dreamed. A lot. I didn't want to, but I did. And, it was mostly dreaming of memories instead of dreaming about exotic women or being Superman or of Anya's laughter. Anya didn't laugh after she sensed the world change with that dumbass' wish.
You see, we had been there in that garage and we were relieved that Glorificus had vanished because none of us, including Willow and Buffy, thought for one instant that they were going to be able to stop Dawn from being grabbed. They would have tried anyway, of course. Even I would have tried to run her through with a sword, even knowing that a single backhand would have caved my face in or broken my neck. You didn't just stand by as your family were taken from you, even if anything you could do would be futile.
So, we were all mystified about what had happened, especially when Willow told Buffy it definitely wasn't her. Anya, though, she was quiet and had tears in her eyes. I'd put my hand on her shoulder and tried to ask her what was wrong, but she'd just shrugged off my touch, walked against a wall and sobbed angrily and bitterly. We all were so busy being confused and trying to get Anya to tell us what she was so distraught about, that we didn't notice Giles at all. He'd been injured earlier, pretty badly actually, but I don't think anyone wanted to acknowledge just how much blood he'd lost.
Anyway, Giles had shuffled into the room and there was this horrible, keening wail. No one realized immediately that it was coming from him. Before anyone could deal with this new strangeness, Giles had grabbed ahold of Gregor, this General Knight guy we'd captured and tied to a post. The backstory is kind of complicated. Just accept that Glory was being followed by these knights. They wanted to kill Dawn before Glory could get her, the reasons why are backstory stuff that isn't important. Anyway, we captured this guy and tied him up.
Giles grabbed the General guy by the face and with the guy's eyes looking huge and confused, he'd leaned in and taken a huge tear of skin from his face. The guy was screaming in a way I'd never heard before and never wanted to hear again (but would). Giles was standing there with this guy's blood running down his chin and slowly, methodically chewing. Well, we all just stood there until he leaned in again toward the General Guy, when Spike grabbed Giles and threw him away. That should have set off the chip and sent Spike to his knees but it didn't go off, which should have told us a lot, but everyone was in too much shock to notice immediately.
Our friend and Buffy's Watcher calmly stood up and with this... gait... shambled back in the direction of Buffy who'd grabbed Spike by his shirt front to punch him for throwing Giles. That was when we noticed that the keening wail was coming from Giles. Buffy, still holding Spike stumbled away from him a few steps and we could all see that his facial features were so slack... except for his lips which kept making these smacking sounds, like he was sucking on a breath mint or something. Tara had, for reasons that only she could know - I guess I need to mention that Tara had been driven insane by Glory earlier and we were trying to find a way to return her to normal, in between running away from the god and the knights. Anyway, Tara had run up to Giles and spouted something about his emptiness and his getting back in his body before she grounded him.
His answer had been to grab Tara by the hair and before anyone could stop him, his teeth had torn into her shoulder, near her neck. At the sight of Tara's blood, Willow lost it and there was this ozone charge to the air and then Giles was flying backward. He had hit the side of the garage wall hard enough to break through the concrete. His blood was splashed against the remains of the wall and I remember that I thought, "Every bone in his body is broken".
Dawn screamed. Anya dropped to her butt and sobbed into her hands. Buffy yelled enraged at Willow and pushed her on her way to check on Giles, even though it seemed hopeless. Spike was staring uselessly and I was looking at him, wondering what I should do.
Everything was just... chaos... nothing made sense. Gregor had grayed out and he would have fallen to the floor if his ropes weren't tied so tightly.
Willow was distraught as she used her hands to apply pressure to the screaming and crying Tara. I finally focused and gave Dawn a bit of a push... not roughly, just enough to get her to stop standing there and screaming and told her to find rags, anything that we could use for bandages. My orders got Spike moving and he went to see to Buffy and Giles, even though the knights were still out there, being held back by a magic shield of Willow's for only the moment.
I looked desperately around for Ben, but he had vanished - run off, I guess, when Glory suddenly appeared. I was angry, but I couldn't really blame him either. He wasn't a combatant, after all. Oh, Buffy had called him because he was a doctor and Giles had been so hurt, but the Knights of Byzantium wouldn't let him leave for medical treatment. They'd only agree to allow a doctor on a mission of mercy in. I'm sorry I'm dribbling out the details haphazardly here. There is just so much back story and it was all made irrelevant by the new reality that we had no clue about, yet.
Anyway, those knights? The ones that had us under seige? Well, they had been 'stopped' by that wish, too because they weren't even out there. The rest of us found that out later, and no, I don't know the extent of what was stopped and what wasn't by the wish - but it clearly involved a cessation of violence, except for that now being directed at all warm blooded things around the globe.
I had come awake again and the hallway was still bright. Spike had dozed off, as vampire are in the habit of doing during the day. I lay in the crook of his arms and placed a burning palm above his eyes. His head was very cool... like touching ice and I shifted as much as I could so I could press my face against his. He didn't stir and I thought about what would happen if the zombies suddenly started to shamble down the hallway toward us with me feeling weak as the proverbial kitten - even weaker than that - and he completely dead, pardon the expression, to the world.
He'd be fine, of course. Did I tell you that these new zombies don't bother the dead or undead? I think I may have told you that. I mean, it would make sense if I had already mentioned that, but I have trouble remembering. Hmmm, I think I already said that, too. I wish I was in a position to write these things down so I'd know what I've mentioned already and what I haven't.
Wait, wasn't I telling a story? I was wasn't I. I mean not the story about the hallway and Spike, but about the abandoned garage in the desert and Giles. Yes, yes, I remember that now: Willow had magic-slammed Giles hard because he'd bitten Tara. So, Dawn and I are tearing up rags... none too clean rags, either, but that turned out to not be important. Willow was pressing Tara's wound and glaring with tears flowing down her face toward the collapsed wall she'd sent Giles through. The blood covering the floor where she'd sent Giles had me believing she'd killed him, but I was too busy to think about the implications of that.
Buffy and Spike were seeing to him and the rest of us were just going to have to wait. Anya refused to do anything, even after I got angry and yelled at her. She refused to answer my questions or to respond except to look through me or Dawn and to continue dry sobbing with these hiccuping sounds. I remember asking Dawnie to see how the Gregor guy was doing because we were still the good guys and that meant we had to take care of him, too, even though he'd been trying to kill her. She looked too shocked to be pissed or to argue and, taking one of the rags, had disappeared from my view.
I heard a scream and Spike yelling and then there was a squishy noise. I shared terrified glances with Willow and we both turned to the hole in the wall. A moment later, Buffy came in with tears streaming down her face and looking shell-shocked. She had very clear teeth marks on her right wrist... nothing fatal looking and with her Slayer healing, we were all sure she'd be fine, but they were human teeth marks and another glance at Willow told me she was thinking what I was thinking.
Dawn had rushed from the back room on hearing the commotion. She rushed to Buffy, stooping quickly enough to grab one of our dirty rags to wrap around Buffy's wrist, even though it was just barely bleeding.
"I'm okay, Dawn," Buffy had said, but she wasn't okay. None of us would ever be okay again... "G-giles tried to... he...," she wasn't able to go on.
Dawn was headed toward the hole, but Buffy grabbed her by the shoulder and yelled 'no' at her. She yanked Dawn into her arms and held her close. There were... sounds... outside. More squishy, unpleasant noises and then Spike appeared. His front, from his face down to his boots were soaked with blood.
"What the hell happened out there," I'd asked them. I think that I had meant to yell it in indignation, but it came out as more of a harsh, strangled whisper. Spike looked at me and when we locked eyes, he looked afraid. I know, you don't really believe he'd ever look that way, with his swagger and his smirking. You don't have to believe me... hell, maybe I got it wrong, but I thought he looked afraid.
Dawn knew by this time there was something really wrong with Giles outside and she broke down in heaving sobs, which Buffy tried to calm, even though she was heavily crying too and looking as pale as porcelain.
Tara was groaning on the floor, but it wasn't the sort of wail that came out of Giles. It was normal, hurt and in shock moaning. Willow was chanting over her wound; I think it was probably some sort of healing spell or something, but I never saw it do much good. I called Spike's name in that same strangled tone of voice I suddenly had and he came over, threw his arm around my shoulder and pulled me into a storage room. There he struggled to close the uncooperative squeaky door and bent close to my ear... "Giles tried to bite a chunk from Buffy. He's smashed to a pulp... no way he ain't dead, but he's animated and hungry. Was animated."
He pulled away from me and ineffectually tried to wipe the blood from his soaked through garments. I felt faint. I reached out to steady myself and angrily asked him what he'd done.
"What I had to do. We can't take Dawnie out that way, she can't see...."
"Can't see? Can't see what you did to Giles?!"
He looked... well, I can't describe it... stunned and sick and scared and... human. He looked like a human being who'd lost his sense of how the world worked. "He wasn't Giles. He wasn't... I don't know what he was."
I was on my moral high horse, of course. I had no clue what was happening and I wasn't going to listen to this killer vampire bastard talk about slaughtering Giles, by the look of it, and let him get away with it. Gregor momentarily distracted me by coming to and yelling over the pain on his face. That had Dawn coming back, still teary-eyed and pressing a rag to his wound.
"What in God's name is happening," I asked no one in particular. I sounded angry, I remember. I wanted desperately to be angry because I didn't want to feel Giles' loss and clearly he was dead. Spike couldn't have done whatever he'd done to Giles' body if he wasn't dead when he did it. And yet he'd bitten Buffy - which equalled zombie or demon possession.
I'm not sure what had happened to me... I must have blacked out, because when I came to in the hallway, the sun was only a dimming orange color at the far end of a gloomily darkened hallway. I looked around in a panic, expecting the zombies to be on top of me, but all I saw was Spike. He was standing over me now and keeping constant vigilance on both ends of the hall.
"What," I started, but he shooshed me. I could hear the wailing sound, now that I was listening and it sounded too close.
Spike reached down and grabbed by arms, hauling me up. I had no strength. Not even the pretend strength I'd shown earlier that morning. Giving up on the pretense that I had any pride left, he scooped me up into his arms and very briefly rested his forehead against mine. And then he was moving up a flight of stairs to the fourth floor above us... he didn't stop. We reached the fifth floor, and then the rooftop where the night was cooling. The sun had dipped just below the horizon so that you could see its orange glow and I panicked for a moment thinking Spike was going to burst into flames, but of course, he isn't bothered by indirect sunlight, including twilight.
He set me down on the roof and then bent the door out of shape enough to make sure it was stuck so we wouldn't be followed.
"This wasn't a good retreat option," I pointed out.
"They've found their way in. They're all over down there," he looked at me and he seemed profoundly sad. "You're not getting better. You're worse. A lot."
We both knew what this was going to mean.
Somehow, we'd managed to get out of that garage and make our way back to Sunnydale. Spike had carried Tara, who was coming in and out of consciousness. We were all stunned and silent on the walk over losing Giles. That's what we called it, 'we lost Giles', rather than 'Giles turned into a flesh munching living dead and Spike tore him to pieces and bashed his brains into the sand'.
We'd let go of Gregor. There was no reason for him to target Dawn now, because Glory had vanished and for whatever reason, no one thought she'd be back. He'd ditched his heavy armor and was stumbling along with us, with nowhere else to go. He was sweating profusely, as was Tara. We feared that Giles' bite was going to cause an infection in them and we decided we had to get to the hospital for antibiotics. The human mouth is really filthy with germs. We still didn't understand what had happened yet, of course. We only knew that Giles had become a zombie. The thing about the end of the world, even when things are following a script you've seen filmed dozens of times before, you still have no clue that you're the one in the film this time.
It wasn't until we'd reached the outskirts of town that we'd noticed it wasn't just Giles. They were all over. Sunnydale had an overabundance of cemeteries and there were dozens of fresh corpses in a month. It seemed like every dead body that wasn't sludge was now walking, covered in their grave dirt and stinking like the worst sort of stinking thing ever. And, they all made that wailing, keening moan that Giles had made. It was deafening, drowning out the screams of the people lying on the streets and sidewalks, hitting and kicking ineffectively against their relentless, unfeeling attackers.
Buffy wasn't going to stand for this, of course. She yelled at us to get to the hospital for help and she'd catch us later. Spike tried to put Tara down to go with Buffy, but she'd yelled at him that his job was to guard Dawn and she left at a run. The last I saw of her, she was beating on six zombies and someone on the ground with bite marks all over her was reaching for her ankle. I never saw her again.
At the hospital, there were more zombies... dozens more and Spike yelled at us to stop. He told us we couldn't go in there, that the place would be overrun in no time, if it wasn't already. Willow complained that we had to get antibiotics. Spike said he'd try after we'd found a place to hold out... he led us to one of the many underground access points and we crawled down. Or, most of us, anyway. Gregor screamed and screamed as his blood rained down on us from above. Spike warned us not to look up and not to get any in our eyes or mouths.
I'm not sure how, because I was so dazed by this time I hardly knew where I was. I couldn't believe any of this was happening. By the looks on the faces of everyone else, they couldn't either. But, the point is we had made it to Spike's crypt space underground. Dawn begged him to go and get Buffy and bring her, while Willow was adamant that Tara had to have medicines first.
No one admitted that Buffy was either dead, or she'd fight and fight until she was. Spike had laid Tara on the bed and sometime during our retreat through the tunnels she'd awoken and even seemed like she was more sane. That is when she and Willow did the scrying to find out what had happened. Anya still refused to speak to anyone - she was practically catatonic, despite Spike's attempted and empty threats to slap her around if she didn't tell us all what was happening. Thankfully we didn't need her because the witches came up with answers... not that it was ultimately useful of course.
We lost Tara while Spike was gone. One second she was fine... weak and in pain, but fine. And then she wasn't. Willow wailed with grief. Dawn sobbed with her. Anya looked sad, but impassive. I was angry. I thought about my mom and dad and wondered if they'd been killed yet. I felt guilty not running to them to save them, but I also knew I wouldn't make it. Right now, we had to stay where the dead weren't and that was in Spike's hidey-hole.
Or at least it was until Tara sat up suddenly, grabbed grieving Willow and tore out her windpipe all before anyone could do anything about it. It was my turn to wail and scream then, and I might have gone a bit insane because the next thing I knew, we were in tunnels with no light, running into damp earth. Anya was pushing against my back and Dawn had a hold of my hand and was dragging me forward. We couldn't see a damned thing, but Dawn just kept running, saying 'ow' a lot as she ran into tunnels walls in front of her. I tried to stop us all from running blindly, but I didn't have much strength to resist. I'm pretty sure that was shock... it was just easier to keep moving and let them direct me where they wanted me.
Finally, Dawn collapsed in muffled sobs, dragging me to the ground, with Anya following me to the floor. Anya still didn't speak a word.
"Buffy... Tara...," Dawn started but then the sobbing cut off her words.
Spike found us some unknown amount of time later. I know it was hours. I don't know how long we would have just sat there in the dark waiting. He led us to the surface out through a storm grate near one of Sunnydale's parks. In the distance, by the glow of streetlamps, we saw shambling figures everywhere.
"Buffy," Dawn questioned Spike. He was still uselessly holding onto the antibiotics he'd stolen from the hospital. Instead of answering he told us he'd seen Willow and Tara and told us how sorry he was. He also shared that the zombies only seemed interested in those above room temperature. He'd basically walked around them into the hospital and back out without any bother by the walking dead, except the occasional wandering hand.
Dawn threw herself into my arms and I rocked her. I felt Spike's arms encircle both of us. He asked what we were going to do next, but any answer that may have come was interrupted by Anya. My poor Anya. I loved her. But, she just couldn't fight. I noticed her getting up and I stretched out my hand to her to bring her into our group hug, but she just shook her head no and then ran.
She ran. Right into a hoard of eight zombies, all clutching and lip smacking and wailing that other-worldly moan. I screamed. Yes, not yelled - screamed. I screamed like I hadn't since I was seven. And then Spike was throwing me back into the pipe we'd exited from and Dawn was screaming at me to run and Spike's hand was clutching mine painfully and he wrenched my shoulder and forced my feet along behind him to keep from being dragged.
He didn't stop until Dawn was literally bent over and puking. We were in a drainage pipe and even right now, I couldn't tell you how we got there.
Dawn made it another three weeks with Spike's constant protection, until one day when she tripped at the wrong moment and they were on her before we could stop it. I was going to run back. I was going to die trying to drag her already bitten and either unconscious or dead body away from them, but Spike punched me in the jaw knocking me to the ground. He immediately grabbed his head, yelled and fell, of course. The chip. But seeing my protector, my only family left helpless on the ground snapped me out of the suicidal impulse to save someone who was already lost to me the moment the first bite penetrated her skin.
Not that Spike was in any danger. He could have laid there until sunrise if he'd wanted, but that wasn't the point. The point was that he looked vulnerable lying there, so I urged him up and we ran as the zombies closed in.
And then it was my turn. I had been bitten four days earlier, like Buffy, on the wrist. I had been battling the infection ever since....
Spike had looked at me in this intense way, like he wanted to see my very soul. "I can't save you. You know that."
"Yes," I answered. "To your unspoken question. The answer is yes."
"What question," he looked out into the darkness of freshly fallen night. "I have no questions."
"I call bullshit," my voice was very weak.
He looked at me and I saw he was crying. Unashamedly, which wasn't like him at all. "I lied. I was asking."
"Beat my brains in," I'd said. "But, you know, wait until you're sure. I want every last fucking breath."
I was wheezing by this point... and it sounded a lot like the wailing sound, if not as unearthly. We both knew I wouldn't get through the night.
And I didn't. The end came for me about three hours later. Spike was holding me tightly to him when I felt myself jerk... like sometimes you can feel yourself jerk yourself awake during a dream. But I didn't wake up. Instead I just stood there, looking down at myself and Spike huddled on an anonymous schoolhouse rooftop and hearing at least one zombie banging on the door to be let outside.
Spike tried. Who knew he'd become such a big softie... or that he'd pick the worst possible moment to do so. At first he yanked a brick from the rooftop edge as I stumbled - or my body stumbled, anyway - around looking for something warm to consume. That is all my body does... it just wanders and wanders and wanders and seeks and seeks and seeks. But this is about Spike.
He stood for a solid forty minutes, while I silently urged him to get to it, but in the end he dropped the brick unused. I'll admit I was fucking pissed, but only for a little while. I thought of what I would have done if Willow or Buffy or Dawn had wandered up to me all smacking lipped and I realized that I wouldn't have done a damned thing about it. I couldn't have bashed their brains in. It would have been the right thing to do, I'm not disputing that, but I wouldn't and couldn't have done it. And now, Spike couldn't do that to my corpse. He'd done it to Giles, but not to me. I choose to be flattered instead of dwelling on the negative.
I watched as Spike lifted me up into his arms and walked with me wriggling and squiggling all the way down to the ground floor and then outside. He hugged me close to him as I continued to flail around, having no interest in him whatsoever. What I wanted was the only thing that I wanted these days and that was to find something warm and red blooded and to eat it all up.
Spike released me and as my body wandered away, with my spirit trailing along helplessly, I heard him shout at my uncaring and un-listening back, "I'm heading to L.A. - See if the Big Poof offed himself in despair, yet. Try the woods, Xan - there may be wild life there. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry I couldn't...."
And then he was rushing off and I was wishing like hell that I could follow him instead of this stupid shambling body of mine.
I had my first meal, post death, this morning just after dawn. It was a scrawny terrier mix. The poor thing was emaciated and shaking and it must have lost its survival instinct because it ran up to me and started gnawing at my beef jerky dry skin around my shin. Don't worry, it didn't hurt me. I don't really feel anything, except the hunger and it isn't that bad... just a distant desire... a craving that intensifies and recedes as I wander, non-stop. A lot of times there are other zombies bumping into me or staring glassily as they size up whether I'm warm and red blooded or not, but I never see anyone like me. I mean spirit me, not corpse me. I'm assuming that I'm not unique. I have to think that every one of us shamblers have a person wandering around behind them being dragged on our body's journies, but I don't get to see them or talk to them.
I miss that. Talking. That's why I had to just tell you my story, even though you're not there. I mean, I know I haven't gone insane. I know there isn't anyone actually there listening to me ramble, but there isn't a lot to do. My body is really fucking boring now that it's withered and dead. I sometimes try to convince it to stop, or hop on one foot or lie down in the grass, but it has never worked. We just keep going and going and going, like the Energizer Bunny. I wish we could catch a nice, fat bunny. I'd bet that would satisfy me for a little while. I've seen jackrabbits, but they're not fat and they're really fast and skittish. I stumble after them sometimes, but I never get remotely close to them.
I spend a lot of time - I mean spirit me, again - remembering better days, but sometimes I can't do that because it's too hard. Other times I busy myself reading street signs or looking for evidence of where the hell we are. Everything is in Spanish now, so I'm pretty sure I'm in Mexico, but for what purpose, or whether there is any purpose at all, I'm not sure. Maybe I sense that there are Mexicans hiding out I can get my teeth on ... or maybe it's just random. I know I haven't seen anyone I know. I keep wishing that maybe I'd run into Spike again, not that I could talk to him or anything... even seeing Dawn-zombie or, Jeez - even Angel - would be a small blessing. It's lonely like this. I wish I could talk to the other spirits of the zombies I run into on my wanderings, even if I can't speak Spanish and they can't speak English. But there's nothing.
Just spirit me, following after rotted, wailing, moaning me....