She was up there, unaware as ever. The chatter and giggles coming from the pox of teenaged girls couldn’t overpower the soft tones of her voice. The many and varied scents from said invasion couldn’t disguise her unique blend of power and all woman. He was aware of her every move, every word, each sigh.
She had been his once.
No, she had not--not really. Yet it seemed that, in his entire century and a half of life and unlife, there had never been anyone that more defined him.
True, women had always been the mirror he best used in fixing his self-image.
First his sainted mother had encouraged the poor sod he had been to write drivel and pursue women above his station. She had adored him so.
He laughed as he remembered the first poem he had ever written. His careful penmanship--the pride of his tutor--neatly blotted and the page decorated with fanciful bunches of violets--her favorite. He had been all of six and eager for his mother’s soft smile and gentle approval. “Not quite a prodigy like Mozart.” He shook his head, remembering the hard worked lines:
“Mothers are our best friend.
They love us even when to bed they send
naughty boys who love them still
and promise to listen to their will.”
Anne had tried hard to keep her lips from twitching, hiding her mirth as she nodded over the hard cardstock with the rhymed apology for youthful disobedience. He had been rewarded with an extra slice of Cook’s special Banbury cake at teatime, all offenses forgotten without a word exchanged.
Spike had been touched to find the card amongst his mothers ‘treasures’ when he gleaned the house after her death for anything useful in his new life. It now rested in a box of his own ‘treasures’ at his old crypt, he supposed, along with various odds and ends of his short mortal life, whatever had survived the soldier boy’s explosive exit from their lives.
Spike idly wondered why memories of his beloved mother led to darkness and closed doors in his mind, given her status as the only female to ever willingly give her heart to him wholly.
He pressed his fingers to the bridge of his nose and tried to stave off the impending headache her memory always brought in its wake of late. “Part of the incessant guilt,” he surmised.
Cecily had been his idealized love. All porcelain and lace she was! Every man in the room noted her comings and goings and pathetic William had not been immune. Reams of worthless words had been dedicated to her supposed charms, her imagined perfections. The girl had ice in her chest rather than a warm, womanly heart and she revealed the truth of that to him that last disastrous day of his existence in human incarnation.
“No wonder I could only write shite in her honor. Must’ve known the bitch wasn’t worth a soddin’ limerick.” Even last year’s discovery that the object of his frustrated avowals of adoration had been a demon in reality as well as behavior hadn’t softened the memory of her cruelty and casual dismissal of his love.
“Effulgent!” No wonder Dru had been drawn to him. “Crazy as Dru ever was, me thinking that cold piece was effulgent or even gleaming! Waste of a good word on that one.” Dru must have seen the madness within his soul, the deep insanity driven by the need for love that called into the darkness and drew his Wicked Plum to his side.
That led to so many memories of his dark princess, crimson-bathed memories of horrific acts and wild passion that flayed his soul now, rather than leading to sweet nostalgia. No pleasure trips down memory lane to give a moment of comfort since his hard earned soul took up residence again.
There had been a time she was his all. He dedicated his existence to pleasing her, never seeming to learn that, short of becoming her sire, he would always fall short.
She was the one he had expected to love for eternity. She had made him, after all. The young romantic William had seen that as a sign that his destiny was at her side and he had been loyal to a fault. Years of madness accompanied by rampage and terror all mixed with healthy pinches of yearning for her precious lost “daddy” had not driven home the point that her making of him had been as casual and callous as Cecily’s dismissal before her. No, it took the return of said “daddy” to finally prove that his sloe-eyed darling was not, and never would be, his.
“Dru, Dru, Dru,” Spike lamented, “Wasted another century followin’ you from one start to another. Wherever the fairies or flowers or that damned Miss Edith pointed us, I was always right there, your faithful lover. Never gave it a thought that the sad bint had all ability to love tortured out of her, along with her sanity, by Angelus and his whore long before I swanned onto the scene.” Spike frowned and then amended, “Cept for that twisted kind of ‘love’ she’ll always have for Sir Broodsalot.”
He felt the same sadness at the memories of Dru that always came when he remembered his life with her. More a sadness of years wasted waiting for her to love him at least half as well as he had her. Sometimes ‘eternal love’ fell far short of the whole ‘eternal’ part.
“Only poetry with Dru was written in the blood of a thousand corpses,” Spike mused. “Dru did love to have me say pretty words while she bathed in the gore and horror. Could do it then too! Now….” Spike felt his soul twist within him. “Nothing of beauty there. Worse than the stuff Cecily inspired. Made my Wicked Plum laugh though.” He sighed deeply and raised his head again to the muffled sound of Buffy chiding one of the herd about eating the last of something.
Harmony had inspired visions of rats in traps more than anything else. She was a one-night stand gone terribly wrong, complete with unicorns and an unhealthy obsession with malls and boy bands. William had never been good at giving a girl a proper shove-off and the demon had taken solace in the easy sex after Dru’s betrayal.
Who would have guessed that Spike’s real ‘eternal love’ would be the Slayer of his kind, she who should have just been his third warrior taken in battle? Everything about the girl touched the William deep inside, the frustrated poet yearning to create worlds of beauty with his words.
“Started even while I thought I hated her,” Spike remembered. “Watchin’ her writhe on the dance floor, lookin’ as temptin’ as Salome before Herod yet pure as a child seein’ its first snow. Drove me near mad. Should’ve known then; Dru did. Never could bring myself to deal the killing blow, even though I had more than one chance in the beginning to snuff her easily enough.” Spike shivered at the thought of being the cause of Buffy’s end. “Didn’t want her dance to ever end. Still don’t…won’t…not gonna happen even if it takes my dust blowin’ in the wind.”
He looked around at his humble surroundings: a cardboard box with a change of clothing and a small cot in the Slayer’s cellar. Oh, he had his moments out of the dark and dank, when needed. Some times to help train the increasing numbers of hormonal teenage girls that daily added to Buffy’s long list of responsibilities. Other times to just get out of the way of someone else’s training session, something more cerebral than physical. Most nights he got a bit of violence by patrolling with one or more in the group, never fully sure if one of his “students” might choose a heated moment to put an end to him.
“Likely to die of boredom before I dust, at this rate.” Spike paced the small area of basement he considered his “room” and kicked idly at a cardboard box, sending plumes of non-vampire dust into the air. “Great! Destroy the Slayer’s stored goodies. Perfect way to thank her for not putting a period to me months ago.” He bent to put the items that had spilled from the torn box in some order.
The box had contained a variety of things generally found in family homes. There were a few forgotten photo albums, some ancient receipts, notebooks from years gone by filled with a few pages of household notes and plans, the odd paperback novel. Spike slipped a couple of those on his cot to look into later, hoping with all his might that they wouldn’t turn out to be mind-rotting nonsense like those Dru had loved with the Joker in a diamond logo on the cover.
He looked through the photos and smiled fondly at the pictures of a very young Joyce with a towheaded toddler on her hip. Buffy had that twinkle in her eyes that had been there from time to time until her resurrection, the one that had always been there when they had fought. “Charmer even as a babe, weren’t you? Bet you had your daddy wrapped round your wee finger.” He scowled at the young man in the picture who already had his eyes trained on someone other than Joyce as the camera’s shutter had closed. “Wanker!”
Taking the pile of albums and notebooks to his cot, he indulged in a bit of snooping he had denied himself since the soul. Picture after picture of Buffy’s childhood and young adolescence filled at least two albums. Some had faded slightly with age, but all showed the lively and bright child that was clearly the center of her mother’s life. Some pictures included Dawn and Spike was reminded of the girl’s rather recent entry into Buffy’s life and family. “Seems the monks didn’t think it was important to plant many pictures in the albums rabbited away.”
The notebooks contained ancient grocery lists and Joyce’s reminders to herself to attend this meeting or that gallery showing. Seeing her handwriting brought a smile as Spike remembered the signature on the only Christmas cards he ever received. “Good woman, that Joyce. Had kindness even for the likes of me.”
He carefully removed the few written pages and placed them in the photo albums, keeping the partial books, now empty, to use for his own purposes. “Don’t see Joyce mindin’ me usin’ her leftovers.” He hadn’t written in ages, not really. Oh, the odd threatening note or message to Dru over the years had found its way onto paper, but not anything important, nothing lasting. Not even as interesting as Joyce’s long ago reminder to pick up celery and round steak.
Opening the first of the notebooks he thought for a moment. What to write? A memoir? Hardly! “No ‘Interview With A Real Bloody Vampire’ comin’ out of this noggin! Poetry? He laughed at his audacity after all these many years. “Then again, I started this life as ‘William the Bloody Awful Poet’; might as well go out with it as well.”
He smiled as he heard Buffy’s shrill giggle over something Dawn had said and closed his eyes, imagining for a moment that the sound had been caused by some delight he had brought to her. He always had wished to bring her joy, make her laugh, ease her hurts. Never managed to do it, at least not for long.
Opening his eyes, he looked about for a writing implement and, upon finding a small stash, began to write in the first notebook.
Songs from the Cellar
A journey in sonnets by William John Leslie Pratt, Esq.
He chewed on the top of the pen as he thought about just what he wanted to say to Buffy. She would never read this, but still he wished to speak his heart properly. “Suppose if I’m gonna spill all about love and whatnot, I should explain my idea about what love is first.” He remembered his heated announcement to Buffy and Angel back in the days before he knew what real love was, what he really felt towards this Slayer. Even after he had her, knew her, he still only had a slight grasp on what love really was, what it required. He thought back to that disaster in Buffy’s bathroom, the one unforgivable act in a long list of unforgivable acts that condemned him. It took getting the soul to see, to truly see, what love was about. It wasn’t about him at all! Love was all about her.
He began to write.
I. What Is Love
Love speaks not of the one she hath enslaved.
’Tis the beloved one alone, no more.
’Tis who she is, what she is, ‘tis her core
that draws him to her flame. His path is paved
with loving her and by this is he saved.
A simple smile doth make his spirit soar.
Bereft is he when seeing that no more.
To see her glad is what he ever craved.
No tears but of joy, his beloved earn.
The beast within loves as it were a man.
Wretched man long dead now lives for her smile.
Great love will consume. All in its path burn,
rules the choice, informs the soul, caverns span,
all change or compromise is worthwhile.
“Fucking Italian sonnets!” Spike raised a mental clenched fist at his muse. “Just what a vampire’s best at--structure.” He laughed at himself. “Couldn’t have settled on some clever limericks that even a bloody awful poet could pull off with ease, could you?” His muse didn’t reply, didn’t snicker, merely hit him with other thoughts, words, images and rhymes to torment him.
“Couldn’t be as simple as,
‘There once was a bad man named William
Whose love for a Slayer near killed him’
He sighed and remembered his mother once admonishing him, “William, nothing worthwhile in life comes easily.” Well, his poems might remain unread and were likely far from worthwhile, but easy had ceased to be an option after that first foray into putting his feelings to paper.
“Where was I?” He reread the pitiful sonnet he had produced. Yes, love was a hard concept to describe, but oh so easy for him to feel…always had been. Of course, it had taken Buffy to really teach the meaning to him.
Yes, he knew love now that it was too late. It had always been about her and always would be. He had ever tried to be whatever the object of his adoration wished. He’d been the good son, the evil master vampire, the tamed beast, and finally, the man who understood, who was a partner. It was too late, of course, for that partnership. He’d managed to bugger it up before he got it right, but his heart was finally where it should be. It was all about her, all for her.
He needed to start explaining from the point where they met. He had a century trying to live up to Dru’s desires. Always in the shadow of the Great Poof and never quite up to the mastery of pure evil that his grandsire had perfected. Dru had been his tutor, his dark muse. He had tried to be all she wanted. He had inflicted pain while pleasure had been his deepest desire. He had given her rivers of blood to dance in, to love in, and it had never been enough. He was an unrepentant monster when he first laid eyes on his Slayer. He looked and thought he saw his third kill rather than the one who would finally put an end to his existence.
The pen fairly flew as he put words to the thoughts.
II. What you Found
A ravening beast, nothing more was I,
Adrift in seas of blood. No light to lead
my journey, just one endless night of need.
No reason to think or rules to live by.
Just take what I want; I’d no need to try.
Keep to the shadows; success comes with speed,
terror in your wake; this, the Vampires creed.
Rend, feed, be on your way; those who see die.
This and more, hard things, I learned from my Sire.
Once at beauty’s alter bowed, now Shiva’s
living incarnate. Dreams of beauty done.
Embracing full the life of a Vampire
‘Til she ensnared my mind, showed me what was
The price paid and made me yearn for the sun.
All those years with Dru and he had never begrudged the moonlight. The sun was not something any proper Englishman had truck with in an ordinary way, so losing its embrace in exchange for the whispered promises of the wisp of a girl who claimed to know his very heart, his true worth, had not been too high a price. Then he saw Buffy and mourned its loss. She glowed, shone with goodness that put that sun to shame, and he wanted it…and her. Only the sun could reveal every marvelous feature of the Slayer. Shadows and moonlight looked lovely on her but hid too much. He had wanted all of her, still did, always would.
III. What You Are, What You’ve Done
What blinding power has this maid possessed?
Satin-cased steel, tongue sharp as any stake,
Enough it is to nudge the man awake.
Slight in form is she and with kindness blessed.
Evil raging within this beastly breast;
devoid of good, that which no god didst make,
Man and beast would lay down life for her sake.
Her light reached in and sought out all the best.
Goodness, purity, life itself she wields.
Laying to rest the monstrous creature.
This giver of death bringing life instead.
‘Neath her shining good the monster’s reign yields
Her compassion and her light: my teacher.
To humanity the monster was lead.
Dru had claimed to know him, to know his hidden desires, abilities. She had known only what the fairies giggled to her and that only fractured as her mind had been. No, Buffy, without even trying, had reached deep within him and awakened the man he had been. The man he had yearned to become. The dreamer who longed to create beauty was still there, merely silent. Now she made him sing.
IV. My Salvation
Powers’ true weapon, striving for the good,
Love’s pure magic, like water into wine,
changes monsters to something clean and fine.
For such, I do that which I never would.
I was the ravening beast, deeds no eye should
E’er see. Nothing clean within. Crossed a line
Conceived an ill-thought plan to make her mine;
now choosing things a monster never could.
Goddess of all that’s good looked down upon
One beneath her. Now bestows her goodwill,
compassion for the beast she once did shun.
The thing I was, the plans I had, now gone.
New cravings have I only she can still
Her smile the new blood of my redemption…
“Spike!” Andrew’s whiny voice broke into the vampire’s concentration. “Kennedy plans to take a group out to Restview and Buffy’s not here. I told her you had to go with them because they were still merely Jedi-in-training, but she won’t listen to me.”
“Not likely to listen to me either--or anyone else,” Spike snorted. The girl had latched onto Willow like a leech and thought that somehow made her superior to the other Potentials. He sighed and faced the inevitable. Placing the notebook under his mattress, he reassured the nerd in residence, “Be right there.”