Part Two of Ten
"Home is the place where, when you have to go there,
They have to take you in."
"I should have called it
Something you somehow haven't to deserve."
Robert Frost, The Death of the Hired Man, 1915
Buffy spotted him as the cab neared the flat. Dressed like a banker, as always, standing on the pavement with his arms crossed as if he'd been kept waiting too long, as if his time was more valuable than anybody else's.
She gathered up her shopping bags. All the therapeutic benefit of this run to Knightsbridge was just about gone, and she hadn't even spoken to him yet.
He spotted her at the same time and stepped forward smartly to open the taxi door, and paid the driver before she had a chance to stop him.
"Milo, what a surprise."
"Do let me carry these. I see you've been propping up our British economy."
Don't be charming, she wanted to say, but didn't.
"I hoped I'd find you. I waited some time."
"Lucky it wasn't raining." She wished she could just not invite him in, but he'd already followed her through to the lift, his manner so sauve that it felt impossible to turn and make an excuse to keep him out.
She determined, as they rode up, that she wouldn't be the first to mention Jemima.
When they reached the flat door, Milo said, "Is he here?"
He loathed saying "Spike." She knew that.
"I don't think so." She opened the door, and he followed as if he lived there, setting the shopping bags down in the foyer. She wouldn't offer him a drink, either.
"You're looking very well," he said. "As always."
"You say that as if you resent it."
He did resent it. He resented her, and had done ever since he first walked into their lives and somehow convinced Jemima that he was important, too important to ignore.
She stood in the foyer and regarded him. He couldn't advance into the flat without her, so he stood too.
She let the moments tick by.
Finally he said, "Of course my wife is here."
"Is she out at the moment?"
Buffy raised her eyebrows.
"Where is she? You've seen her."
"Milo, I really don't care to be interrogated."
"I haven't been able to reach her for nearly four days. She's obviously left our"
"Your wife has left you? Tsk tskpoor Milo."
"I didn't say that. Clearly, she's come to Londonto see family. I didn't know you were going to be here"
"No? That's funny. We told Jemmie about this trip three weeks ago."
"but I deduced, upon her absence, that she must have"
"What can I do for you, Milo?"
"Where is she?"
"I really don't know." Abruptly, she'd had enough, and stepped around him to open the flat door. "When I hear from her I'll ask her to call you."
"For all you know, she might be lying dead in some"
"Is that your theory? Because you sure aren't acting like a man who thinks his wife might've been in an accident." She held the door wide.
After a moment of mutual staring, he crossed the threshold. "I'll be at my club. It's imperative that we speak."
Buffy closed the door.
After she told Jemima the lay of the land, Buffy said, "Is your father still with you? Let me speak to him." She didn't mean to sound stern, as she caught herself at it. She'd struggled long ago with these twingessometimes more than twingesof jealousy. But she'd conquered it. Spike was devoted to them both, and it wasn't fair to keep score. A therapist she'd seen briefly when Jemima was a teenager had suggested these feelings had more to do with Hank's abandonment than anything else. She accepted that.
"Why do you call me that?" This wasn't the right way to start this conversation, she knew it. But there were times to call her Slayer, and times not to, and he ought to know by now, which was which.
"Name, nature," Spike growled.
This rolled over her, a jolt of pain. When it was past, she said, "I just wanted to check in."
"Milo's looking for her."
"So I heard."
"She doesn't look like she's going to see him, does she? I hope she won't."
"Don't think so."
"Good." The phone was slippery against her cheek. The large apartment resounded silently, emptily, around her. She looked out the window at the river. She wanted to ask him to come back, to be with her that night. She couldn't ask. She couldn't plead with him anymore to sleep with her, to look at her, to talk to her. Not after the other night, when he'd pleasured her out of pity, so she'd felt ashamed. "But if he turns up there, Spike don't get into it with him."
"Won't turn up here. Doesn't know where she is."
"But you know how Jem can beif he keeps phoning, she might take the call. She might tell him. You know how"
"Okay." She breathed against the window glass, and traced her initial in the vapor.
"Anything else?" Spike said.
She couldn't answer. After a moment, he said, "Right, then," and hung up. She listened for a few seconds to the silence, then turned off the phone.
He felt he was flying. The city was brand newhe'd never seen it this way, bright in the dark, redolent with new smellsand no one he saw more powerful than he.
He'd made his first real kill (he didn't count the trussed girl in the Banville housea fish in a barrel): a young Chinese prep cook in stained whites who'd stepped out into a Soho alley for a cigarette. The first girl's blood was flooded with fear. The man'ssurprised and taken before adrenaline could risetasted different, but no less thrilling. Drusilla gave him first rights, but helped him finish. He caressed her hair as they held the body up between them until the heart stopped.
They crossed the river. His new night-vision made everything sparkle. He stared for a long time at the dark water, inhaling the smell of the river, feeling for the first time that he was connected to everything, all the city's long past, all the death that had ever occurred here, all the violence and fear. Now he fully understood what Spike meant about smelling being the same as seeingit wasn't merely the same, it was more. Standing above the Thames, he could smell more history than he'd read in two and a half years at university.
He held Drusilla close and kissed her. "You've given me the whole world, haven't you?"
"Everything under the stars is ours, pretty Nick."
Near dawn she brought him to a place she called Where We Stay. The cellerage of an abandoned warehouse, dank, dark, expansive. In one dry corner, a bed-chamber was set up, nearly queenly with its hangings and rugs. There were dolls: she showed them to him, dancing them forward and back like a child making introductions at a toy tea party. He saw her dresses and shoes, her jewelry and ribbons. She had trunks full of things. There were old pictures, of her, and of his father.
"Why do you keep these?" he said, brandishing the images of Spike. Most of them were yellowing, curling, displaying him in clothes and attitudes he'd never imagined before and didn't want to think about now.
Drusilla snatched them from his hands. "These are mine!"
"Yeah, but you don't need them. He threw you over, what do you want these for?"
"He was my brave parfit knight. He has such a soft heart, you see. Not like you, I can tell, petkin. You are hard and harsh and cruel, but Spike loves, he loves he loves where he should not. Everything he does is for love." She regarded the pictures sadly. "Poor foolish Spike. He was not true to me. But he brought you up so pretty and neat, so that I could have you. So he must still love me a little. A little little. Like I do him. A little little little, for I am very fickle. He often told me so."
"You only want me because of him." Somehow it stung, her calling him harsh and cruel. He wanted to be that in the world, against those who were still alive, but not with her. His heart was already flooded with love for her. She'd rescued him from all his shortcomings and frustrations, and taken all he'd dished outkisses and bites, caresses and blows. He'd never known it would be possible to have a sweetheart who could really absorb all that he was, the full range of him. It was exhilirating.
If only Spike hadn't had her first.
"Sssh, sssh, my beautiful prince. Not true, not true. We shall be such a pair, forever and ever. All the universe says so." She threw the pictures down, and grabbed his arms. "Dance with me."
They danced to the sound of her laughter. As he whirled her about, he became aware of new presences. When they stopped, he saw four others ranged against the wall, watching with humble expressions.
Drusilla addressed them. "You see, Minions, he is here."
As she stared at them, the four vampiresthree women and a mandropped to their knees. Johnny grinned at the sight.
"Just as you promised, Mistress," one of them said.
"Yes. I always do keep my promises, do I not? He is your master now."
The one who'd spoken crawled towards him then, and knelt at his feet, neck bared. She wasn't pretty (none of them were, he noticed, and assumed this was deliberateDrusilla seemed like a very deliberate sort of woman), and he didn't want her, but he understood what was expected, and yanked her up by her shirt front to sink his fangs into her neck.
One by one the minions presented themselves for his assertion; tasting the still blood of each, Johnny's excitement flared. The last minion to present himself was the male; there was something about his submissive stance that roused and irritated him. Johnny kicked him hard, to see what he'd do.
He fell over, but when he righted himself, there was a tight little smile on his lips.
Drusilla knew how to pick them.
He grabbed her hand. "C'mon. Now I'm going to show you some of my world."
He was still laughing when he pulled Drusilla into the shower after him. It was hilarious, the way Penelope had looked at her, the expression that came into her face when she heard Dru's accent, and then the way she'd said in that fakey friendly voice of hers, "And do you dress up like a Jane Austen heroine every day, sweetie?" before Dru shifted and went for her throat. She'd died with her eyes locked on his, full of disbelief and pleading. He'd enjoyed watching thatenjoyed it far more than he'd have imagined before it happened, when he'd just been planning to kill her himself.
George was a good mouthful, though.
Now he was replete, the scalding water pounding down and making him feel just pleasantly warm, like the fresh blood he'd drank. Drusilla turned her face up to the spray, grinning around her fangs, her wet hair plastered to her scalp. Such a small pretty head she had; he tipped it back and kissed her. She sighed extravagantly.
"It's bliss. I knew you'd be fierce and terrible. When you were born I knew about it, and your dreadful promise."
"How did you know?"
"I have the sight, of course," she said, sounding a little hurt. "But soon after all the creatures were aware, my pet. Vampires are a gossipy lot."
Why, he wondered now, hadn't his parents done anything about this? If every vampire knew Spike's business, then he must've known this was a possibility, that Drusilla would come for him. Yet he'd never spoken of her, much less tracked her down.
Did he mean for this to happen?
Well, fuck him. Fuck him, and Mamma both. He liked himself better this way. And this was just what they deserved.
If they'd really loved him, they'd have kept this from happening, a long time ago. So fuck them now. They'd have plenty of time to be sorry.
Clean and dressed again, he was throwing things into a suitcaseclothes, shaving tackle, laptop, a few favorite books. Drusilla wandered about his rooms, poking with her delicate fingers at his papers and souvenirs.
At the bureau mirror, she fingered some snapshots of Jemima stuck into the edge of the frame. "The first-born. The sister."
"Don't touch those."
"Spike loves her best."
"She looks like her." There was such disdain in her voice, which after all, didn't surprise him. Still, he didn't think Drusilla hated his mothershe wasn't important enough to her for that.
"I said, leave those alone." He plucked the pictures out of her hand.
All these years, he'd known Jemmie was Spike's favoriteknew it to his marrowand yet he'd always adored her without resentment. She'd never seemed less than completely worthy of all the love that came her way; she was always good to him, not at all like the older siblings of his friends. Buffy and Spike were so frequently distracted or absent, but Jemimalike Auntie Tara, though from a distancefelt omnipresent, patient, gentle, sympathetic.
He glanced from Drusilla, who was now humming through the contents of the basket at the side of his bed, to the pictures. Already he could feel that Dru wouldn't love him the way she did. How was he going to do without his sister?
For the first time it occurred to him that this change might not be all feasting and fun.
He shut up the suitcase. "Let's get out of here."
She glanced up. "We shan't come back, you know."
"I do, yeah." The words gave him an uneasy feeling. It was too late to change back, to go back. He couldn't remain here any more than he could step out into sunlight now. He was turnedaway from his old life, away from the boy he'd been. Literally turned into something else.
The last thing he grabbed as they walked out was the cell phone charger. He was dead, but to the world, not dead yet. He could keep that up for a while, at least.
"Maybe his battery's run out."
"We had plans for this weekend. I told him he should be in touch, or else" Jemima looked at her phone as if it was at fault. "I wanted to look after him a bit. He's been pretty down lately."
"Don't you talk to him at all, Papa?"
"It's Johnny doesn't talk to me."
"What's happened to us? I mean, all of us?" She looked at him beseechingly.
"Nothing. Temporary glitches. I wasn't much for my own father when I was his age, but we mended our fences a bit later on. Were good friends again when well, when he died." Spike stood by the mantlepiece, touching the smooth curves of the glass paperweights lined up there. Jemima's friend had a large, glittering collection. "I used to be glad of that, not having him on my conscience." When I used to have a conscience.
"I know. At least, I hope so." She'd been moving restlessly around the room. Her energy level was back to usual, two days after the abortion. She seldom sat still for long, unless immersed in a book. Now she was like a fly caught indoors. "I'm going to go over to the university and look for him. Shall I drop you at the flat, or?"
"I'll come with. Let him know I care. Think he had the opposite idea the other day."
She looked at him, and he could tell again she wanted to ask about her mother, about what was going on. All the time they'd been together they'd skirted the subjectskirted all the subjects: Milo, Johnny, the extinguished baby, Buffy. Blocked it out with TV and cards and the kind of nonsense chatter they'd always shared so effortlessly, joyfully.
"Won't muck up your plans. When you find him, I'll leave you to jolly him along on your own, yeah?"
She smiled. "Sure."
Outside, she sniffed the evening air like a discharged prisoner. "I hate being laid up, even for a day."
"When are you ever laid up? Vamps don't get sick."
"Well we do get hangovers. It's the sunlight thing I was thinking of. There's times it makes me so restless I can't stand myself."
"But that's when you're supposed to be asleep."
He was always happy to sleep with Buffy, wrapped around her heat, lulled by the pulsing of her body. He thought of the nape of her neck, seen through hair, resting his cheek against it in bed. How she'd sigh in his arms. Might be he'd forgotten how to sleep alone.
"Older a vampire gets, less of that he needs."
They got into her car. As they approached the university, Spike said, "What makes you think he's gonna be at home if he's not answering his calls?"
"Sometimes he is."
"He does this a lot?"
She slid her teeth over her lower lip; he was sure she wasn't even aware of this little gesture that meant I'm going to fib. "I don't see him a lot. I've hardly been down to London this whole year."
He reached up and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. "Rapunzel in her tower. But you've jumped down now an' scarpered."
She rewarded him with one of her smiles, melting, sweet. "Yeah. Oooha parking space."
She had a key, but he wondered why she didn't ring the flat first. He followed her without remark into the buildinga tall pre-war house divided into tiny flats.
"This the best he can do? Thought we allowed him enough."
"Rightyou've never been here," Jemima said. "Rent around the uni is outrageous. It's not so bad, really. He says the heat and hot water are reliable." She was already on the stairs. They climbed four flights, to the top of the building. Three doors faced the cramped landing. She knocked on one. "Johnny? You in there? It's meI'm coming in." She paused, her ear against the wood.
She had an intensity about her brother, an overflow of feeling. When they'd lived at home, she defended him when he messed up, tendered excuses for himbut always afterwards Spike's keen hearing revealed her scolding him apart, telling him just where he was wrong, pleading with him to get himself together, and to remember that everyone loved him. She took his failings personally, more like a mother than a sister.
"I'm coming in! I hope you're decent!" She opened the door. Over her shoulder Spike saw a room that looked as if it had been turned over by thieves, but the sight of it brought no reaction from Jemima, so he supposed she'd seen it like this before. "Johnny!" She moved out of sight towards the bedroom. "You'd better not be" She cut herself off.
Spike could tell already that there was no one inside. "He's not here, pet."
"This is strange"
"What is?" He started to follow her, and was well into the room before comprehension froze him.
He hastened back to the landing, composing his face just as she reentered the front room.
"Some of his things are gone. Clothes, toiletries. His suitcase."
"Took off for a dirty weekend with some bird." He heard himself speak in his usual tone of voice, though he was in such a turmoil he was amazed he could string the words together at all.
"He wouldn't just do that when he knew we had plans." She glanced around helplessly. "Anywayhe told me she just broke up with him. He was upset about it. That's why I thought maybe he was holed up here. I was afraid he might be drinking. I didn't want to tattle on him, but his boozing can kind of get out of hand, sometimes he holes up in here and drinks by himself."
"Well, looks like they've made it up again, an' took off for"
He couldn't bear to finish, but Jemima didn't notice. She was looking around at the strewn desk, the piles of books. She touched the dusty aggregation of beer empties. "He's so inconsiderate. I was hoping he'd outgrow that soon. He makes everything so difficultI'd like to kill him sometimes."
Spike's eyes burned. He fought the urge by blinking, and jammed his fists into his pockets. When he was sure he could speak normally, he said, "Come away now, love. I expect he'll turn up in a day or two."
"I suppose so. The thing of it is, I was looking forward to hanging out with him. He should've thought of that." She sighed. "But I guess if he's getting his wick dippedas you'd saythat's all he can think about."
"That's how we are, yeah." He started down the stairs. In the building foyer, he pulled her into his arms.
"You're so sweet, Papa." She clasped him back. "But it's okayI'll get over it."
"Your friend'll be in this evening?"
"Yes, probably. It's okay, you can go. We've had two days together"
"Yeah, it's justgot a yen to see your mum now, if she's about."
"Sure." She kissed him, her face a-glow with a knowing smile that knew the wrong thing, knew nothing. "Dirty weekends for all."
"Will ring you tomorrow morning."
"You don't have to, Papa. Give Mamma my love."
He could've held her in that shabby lobby, breathing in the scent of her hair, all night. He released her with a reluctance he did his best to disguise. Better for her to have one more relatively peaceful night. After wrenching herself away from Milo, and ending her pregnancy, she deserved a brief respite before getting hit with anything else.
And he wanted to be alone with Buffy when he told her their son was dead.
Everyone was wrapped up in the arms of their belovedor at any event, their squeezeexcept for her. Walking back towards her friend's house, alone for the first time in a few days, Jemima's feelings crashed in on her. She'd had an abortion she didn't really want. And her life was a shambles. She didn't know where she wanted to live, or what she wanted to do. All her adult life she'd worked for the Councilmore or less for Milobut that didn't seem like an option any more. She was cut off, adrift. Was this what being homeless felt like? Out in the world with no particular place to go?
As she gave way to this thought she passed a real homeless man crouching against a wall. With a pang, she fished some change out of her bag. Of course she wasn't homeless. She had family, friends, all sorts of people who would take her in. Who would forgive her for her stupidity even though she couldn't forgive herself.
As she dropped the coins into the man's hand, her mobile rang again. Without thinking, she answered.
"Oh, Milo, indeed. Whatever are you playing at?"
She couldn't say that she'd only taken the call because she'd forgotten about him for a moment, and expected her brother or her father. Yet she had forgotten, even as she was thinking so hard about her circumstances, that Milo was in a way the author of themor at least, the catalyst.
"As you know, if you've listened to my messages, I've come to London to fetch you home."
"You shouldn't have done that."
"Of course I've done it. What else would I do?"
"You shouldn't." She couldn't think what to say; the sound of his voice made her mind a blur, made her feel small and guilty and silly and wrong.
"Jemima we need to talk. We need to be together and talk."
"I don't want to."
"Don't be absurd. DarlingI miss you so. I don't want you to be unhappy."
"Milo, I have to go."
"Is that fair? We're a married couple, Jem. We made vows I take those very seriously, and I know you do too. At least meet me, let me speak to you. Fair's fair."
"I well, all right." She felt herself crumbling; his importuning affectionate tone defeated her. It would be unreasonable to refuse him a face to face meeting, unreasonable and unkind. She agreed to meet him later that night at a public house near his club.
Her mobile rang again.
All the way to the flat, Spike tried out different ways to say it.
Buffy, love better sit down.
My queen there's been well, dunno if it was an accident .
Sweetness something's happened to our boy .
Pet Johnny's gone missing. Missing and he's gone. He's no more ....
As long as he rehearsed, he could push off the understanding that it was real. Push off the knowledge of what would have to come nextgoing to the authorities. Searching for his body. Trying to find out what happened, and when and why.
Slayer, I just walked right into his flat without thinkingan' we both know what that means. Boy's dead.
Riding up in the lift, he was still juggling phrases in his mind, juggling them amidst a barrage of memories of the infant, the child, the boy, the young man. God, he'd been stupid the other day, why didn't he just embrace him, just tell his love and pride without seeming to withhold it in the same breath? He knew he'd done that. Knew he'd been doing it for years, so no wonder no wonder the boy .
It occurred to him then for the first time.
Could his death have been deliberate?
The lift door opened.
Outside the flat, he froze. How could he tell it? How could he look at her, and say those words? He wanted to crawl into Buffy's arms. He wanted her to know without being told, he wanted her soft lips against his brow, and her reassurance that it was a mistake he'd made, that it just wasn't true.
None of it was true. She hadn't gone with Saleem, and their boy was just fine, and Milo was gone and Jemima was going to give them a grandchild and wouldn't he please come to bed with her and celebrate?
"Buffy?" It came out barely above a whisper. He raised his voice. "Buffy!"
The name fell out into silence.
He walked through the flat, turning on lights. Everything was tidy, in that slightly impersonal way of a place cleaned by an invisible crew. In the kitchen, an envelope on the counter, with his name, William, on it.
Something nasty is going on in Nepal. Mina is tied up elsewhere. They needed meand since you don't right nowI went. Back when I'm back..
"Sluggo! I'm so glad you finally called, I was worried" She started up from her chair, reached for him.
Johnny stepped back. "Don't, I'm coming down with something, don't want to give it you. What are you drinking? Want a refill?"
"No, I'm all right."
She watched him move through the smoky air to the bar. Two women turned their attention from their dates to follow his progress. He stood with his usual touching diffidence, hands in pockets, waiting for the bartender to notice him. Poor sweetie, she thought, letting her pent-up anxiety go in a rush of affection. He had no idea how lovely he was. Maybe that was why the ones he wanted didn't get it either. Or maybe he just hadn't learned yet how to sort people out, how to know who was going to be worthwhile.
Of course, she wasn't very good at that herself, as he'd be the first to chide her.
Her brother wended his way back through the crowd, a pint of lager in one hand and two packets of crisps in the other. "I'm craving salt like mad," he said, taking the chair opposite her. She had to lean forward to hear him over the strains of the jukebox, the nearby fruit machine, and the chattering punters. He tasted the first crisp as if it was new to him, chewed thoughtfully. A smile of satisfaction lit his face, like potatoes were a glad discovery; he dug into the bag for more.
"You look just like Papa when you do that," she said.
This didn't please him. He gave her a slow look. "You think about him too much. Aren't you too old to be such a daddy's girl?"
"I I'm not. I love him, that's all, Mamma and Papa both. And you. Johnny, what's going on with you?"
"Nothing. I'm swell." He smiled his dazzling smile.
"I went to your flat. When I saw your suitcase was gone, I thought"
"What? What did you think?"
She let out a laugh. "I don't know! Papa said you'd gone off on a dirty weekend with some girl."
"He would." He took a long swallow of beer. "I did, actually."
"Oh. So you've made it up with?"
"Not exactly. Ihey, what are you doing?"
"What? I'm not doing anything."
"You keep craning at the door. Are you expecting someone?"
A look of thunder crossed his brow. "You're meeting Milo. I should've guessed why you were here when I called you. It's not like you to just sit alone in a pub."
"He kept ringing me!"
"You should've turned off the phone if you're too fucking weak to resist answering it."
"Don't be harsh. I don't want to be cut off from from everyone."
When she said this, he scowled into his half-empty pint.
He was far off in a moment, without moving. It was like sitting opposite a stranger in a crowded caff. The elaborate distancing in a tiny space. In that chasm of unfamiliarity, she wondered if she'd care for him at all, if she hadn't known him all his life. He could drop such terrible remarks without a single thought for how they hit. She recalled suddenly that at the time of her divorce, he'd taken Milo's side at first. As a teen he'd liked Milo's way of disparaging their parents, mistrusting them.
She'd forgiven that, because he was a teenager, and unhappy, and she was too unhappy to add to anybody else's little griefs.
"Johnny. Please. I couldn't say no. He's my husband. Anyway, I have to talk to him sooner or later, if"
He glanced up then. "Jemmie, would you love me even I did something you didn't approve of?"
"What have you done?"
"That's no way to answer!"
"Of course I would, butwhat's the matter? Is this about school? That trouble you mentioned?"
She reached across the table, laid a hand on his sleeve. He jerked his arm away. Suddenly there was a hand on her own arm. She looked up. "Milo!"
"You sound like you weren't expecting me. I'm not late." He leaned over to kiss her forehead. "I thought we were going talk."
"We can talk. Johnny is visiting with me. We were just having a brother-sister chat. Sweetheart, I'm sorry, but maybe you should go."
"I haven't finished my drink."
"I know we were in the middle ofwe could meet in the morning. For breakfast? And I'll give you my undivided attention then. I'm so sorry"
"The morning won't work. Look, do you really want me to leave? If I do, he'll only talk you into going back to him, and you've said you don't want to."
Milo said, "What is this?"
"She's left you," Johnny said. "I'll say it because she won't. Game over."
Milo slipped into the chair at her side, half-turning from Johnny, ignoring him. He wrapped one of her hands in his. "Darling, let's go, we'll go back to my club and talk there. I'm sure we can work this out. I don't want to lose you. That's the main thingwe mustn't lose each other. Whatever our differences"
Johnny gave off a rude guffaw. "Listen to him! That's not how he talks to you when he thinks no-one's listening, is it?"
"Jemima, please." He rose, still holding her hand. "Come with me."
"I don't think she wants to."
"Johnny, hush!" She looked at her hand clasped in Milo's; looked up into his face that was all hopeful affection except for something around the eyes that suggested he was counting to himself, and that when he'd reached zero, his real mood would be revealed. He'd spoken before of fairness, and she knew this wasn't fair, promising him a hearing and then having her brother there to heckle. But she didn't want to leave the snug noisy pub, or Johnny's side. She didn't want to go into Milo's stentorian club to be hectored and wheedled. Johnny was right: if she went with him that far, she'd end up back in York.
She tried to pull her hand away. "We can talk here. Whatever you have to say, you can say to my brother too."
"Our marriage is none of his business. Come, Jemima, this isn't right."
Oh, he knew just the phrases to assault her with. Fair. Right.
"Hey." Johnny was on his feet. "You heard her."
"Oh God. Please, please, let's not make a fuss ."
"StJohn, I remember when we were friends. I don't know why that should changebut surely you see that now is not the time for you to interfereJemima doesn't wish for you to interfere."
"I don't want you to have her. You don't deserve her."
"Johnny!" She rose too. "Please, please, what are you saying? Stop it, both of you. If you don't stop, I'm going to leave."
The three of them stood over the small table, the men bristling, both focused on her rather than each other. She could feel Milo's restrained temper building. Johnny tilted his head just a little, imploring her with his eyes. Again she thought how much he looked like Spike. And what had he been saying just before Milo walked in and wrenched her concentration away? Something about being in trouble.
That decided her. Johnny was her brother forever. Milo would be her husband for only as long as it took her to go through the whole divorce rigmarole again.
"MiloI promise I'll talk to you in the morning. But I'm not going to go with you now. It's late. I'm tired."
He started to protest, but she sat down again, wrapping her hands around her half-empty glass, holding onto it like a pole in a gale. He stood there, his body just barely touching her shoulder, while she fought the urge to shove him, to shout. Wondering why she didn't, why he should make her feel so helpless. She couldn't remember now why she'd ever been attracted to him.
"I'll expect you at my club, then, in the morning." Milo paused, perhaps hoping she'd say something to allow him to linger. She nodded but didn't look up until she felt his looming presence recede.
She lifted her head. Across the table, Johnny smiled. "Let me get you another drink."
"Yes, please." She pushed her glass towards him. When he came back, she took a long sip. "I'm not going to thank you for that. You didn't behave well."
"Who cares. I made him go away." He leaned back in his chair, legs spread, a tipsy grin lighting his face. "You're not going to see him in the morning. Don't see him at all."
"Johnnywhat were you saying beforeaboutare you in some kind of trouble? Because you're really not acting like your usual self."
"I should make him really go away. Hell, I could. Shall I? Shall I make Milo go away, Jemmie?"
"What are you talking about? Johnny!"
His grin had gone hardalmost maniacal. He was still sprawled in the chair, but his body had taken on a strange tense energy, he nearly rippled.
"I think I should should do that for you. It's about the only thing I can do for you anymore."
"Johnny, stop it. What are you saying?"
He was on his feet now. "Remember I did the one thing for you I could. I still love you, that hasn't changed. It won't ever change. It'll be forever, like me."
"WhatJohnny!" He must be drunk. Although he hadn't seemed so when he came in, and he'd only had one pint since. But what else could account for this behavior? He wasn't like this.
He was halfway to the exit. Snatching up her bag and jacket, she ran after him. A couple were coming in; he slipped past them in the doorway, and for a moment her way was blocked. She shouted his name. He glanced back over his shoulder, smiling, and his eyes were yellow. They flashed like bike reflectors, and his mouth, his face, were He looked like Spike. A gap opened up inside her at the sight, which filled immediately with fear, a cold hard fear such as she'd never felt before. She tried to shoulder around the newcomers. Ahead of her, he laughed, blew her a kiss. Then he was gone. On the street now, she ran a little way on her high heels, heart racing, calling for him. Her voice bounced off the dark shuttered shop-fronts.
"Are you all right, miss?" A couple of middle-aged women, themselves a little worse for drink, gazed at her with sympathetic curiosity. "Did you lose something?"
"Nothat isI lost myI lost my brother."
The words echoed back to her, sounding different than she'd intended, sounding a truth she'd not yet realized.
Oh God Oh God.
The women spoke to her, but she walked blindly away from them, fumbling in her bag for her mobile, pressing the buttons with trembling fingers.
He was pleased and not surprised when Drusilla suddenly appeared, keeping pace with him, slipping her small hand through his arm. They ran together through the late-night streets, fast, fast, it was like ice-skatingit was faster. Her laughter was quicksilver, trailing after them like a long scarf. She seemed to know just where they were going, and why. It was like gliding through a dream. The air was fresh and almost pure at this speed, and he could already taste his victory, his triumph.
He knew Milo's club, had been there as his lunch guest a couple of times when he first came to London. It fronted on a small quiet 18th-century square.
When they rounded the last corner, he saw him walking aheadhe was only just arriving himself. Better and better. He glanced at Dru, who nodded, and peeled away to ghost across into the garden at the center of the square. Nearly at Milo's back, he stopped, let a second or two go by, then said, "Listen."
It was just like his stiff-necked nose-in-the-air self to insist on calling him by his loathed name, no matter how often Johnny had asked him not to.
"I didn't appreciate your little performance in the pub. I don't think Jemima appreciated it either."
"I doubt you have the slightest idea of what Jemmie appreciates or doesn't."
Milo shook his head then, as if Johnny was very young and ignorant and only to be condescended to for just so long. "StJohn, I don't know what you hope to accomplish by following me here"
"I want to talk to you." He fitted his hands in his pockets, rocked back on his heels a little. "Look, I'm sorry this is all happening. I always thought you were good for my sister. I'm worried about her if she follows through on this. I mean, she works with the Council too, and"
"Why should her work be affected?"
"Well, I don't know. I thoughtdo you have a cigarette?"
"Since when do you smoke?"
He smiled. Milo was holding out his cigarette case. He had him. Taking one, he started off, as if thoughtlessly, towards the garden. Milo was right there with him, and when he patted his own pockets, offered a gold lighter with his initials engraved on it.
"Anyway," Johnny said, "You know I'm getting my degree this spring, and I was hoping youI was thinking of going to work for the Council myself, so"
"Ah, well that's another thing altogether, why didn't you say so? But you can't expect me to put you up for a position if you're going to behave in such an erratic manner"
They were in the silent shadowed garden now. Drusilla, without sound, had stepped out directly behind Milo. She stood on tiptoe to signal to him around the man's tweed shoulder, and made a gesture with her hand that Johnny understood at once.
"Oh," he said. "Better look behind you, Milo."
"What?" Milo turned.
Drusilla smiled sweetlyshe looked deliciously sweet, in her long white gown, her hair arranged in ringlets around her neck and shouldersand held up one hand, two fingers outstretched towards his eyes. "You want to look at me, Mister Man, you do. Look right here."
Johnny was ready for him to cry out, to make a sudden move; he was poised to block and bring him down. But he barely murmured as Dru drew him into her eyes, and all around the square, Londoners slept and heard nothing.
Ratcheting towards panic, Jemima searched in vain for a taxi. Spike had told her to go back to her friend's house and stay there until she heard from him, but of course she couldn't do that. Milo didn't answer his phone, nor Johnny his. Tears streaming down her cheeks, she hastened painfully in her impractical shoes in the general direction of the club, though she was a good couple of miles away, gesturing frantically at every car that passed. With half-a-mind she understood what she must look like, stumbling along in the gutter, but the sense of time wasting, of enormous danger she had to confront and stop, pushed her along.
At last a mini-cab appeared, and pulled over at her wave. In the back-seat she mopped at her eyes with a tissue, which came away black, and fumbled again at her mobile with numbed fingers. The other thing Spike had told her during their hasty conversation was that her mother had left the country. "You can track her down. Best thing you could do. Go home and track her down."
She called Willow, who almost always knew where Buffy was when she was slaying. But the outgoing message on her voicemail said she was on assignment in Nepal and might be out of range for some time.
Jemima left a message, call us, it's urgent. She was surprised at the steadiness of her own voice.
After that there was nothing to do but watch the traffic lights and try to figure out who she was most frightened for: Johnny, Milo, or Spike.
As soon as he entered the square, Spike smelled the blood and fear. It was a smell he'd long loved, the great stimulant. For a moment the attraction of it overrode his purpose, and he sprang forward with the thought that he might yet get in on a part of the kill.
Two figures were sprawled on the ground on the thin winter lawn at the garden's center, one atop the other. But it was the third presence who distracted him so he skidded to a stop.
Drusilla danced langorously around them, arms outstretched, singing in her high thin voice. The ambient light made her eyes and jewelry gleam; her white dress glowed. She stopped at the same moment he did, turning in his direction with a snaky grace.
"My Spike's come to see the fun. Oh, it's been so long, so long, but I'll kiss you yet, because they say old sweethearts are best. Don't they? I don't know who says that but you see I have a new one. You began him for me, with the slayer, and I have made him perfect. He's perfect, and he's all mine now, as you were once."
As she spoke, dancing lightly towards him, Johnny raised his head from Milo's neck. His face was covered with blood, as if he'd smeared himself with his hands.
"Papa. Somehow I knew you'd turn up."
"You stupid, stupid"
"Come, he's no more stupid than you are. Angelus always said you were a stupidhead, but he would say that, because he was very mean, and you know you often vexed him." Drusilla laughed at this, as if it was a great joke.
She'd almost reached him; Spike stared, the stake in his hand nearly forgotten. He hadn't laid eyes on her since he'd had her and Buffy chained up in his crypt, more than thirty years before. When Buffy had spit in his face, long before a life with him, or this ruined child of theirs, was ever thought of. His body still yearned towards Dru, her familiarity and mystery. His sire.
"What have you done?" He didn't know why he asked. It was perfectly obvious. Obvious like getting clobbered by a falling church organthis was going to happen. Maybe she'd even known it that night in his crypt. Maybe she'd always known it.
Why he hadn't known it, and done something about it before now, was the killer.
His rage was so enormous it pinioned him. Drusilla was right in front of him now, her hand on his face, and he couldn't move against her.
"He's made like you, do you know? He's got a lovely action." She growled and pumped her pelvis to show what she meant. "But he's hard too, like you never were. Perhaps he gets that from his mummy. She's no softness, has she, the slayer?"
"You cunt" He punched her in the face. She crumpled.
His nose told him the man was still alive, not that he cared much one way or the other. Johnny crouched up over his body, his face a grinning maw.
"Saved you some."
She had the door open before the cab was fully stopped; threw a tenner into the front seat and bolted out. She saw them through the garden's wrought-iron fence, two vampires fighting. They were far enough from the street that the sounds of their conflict didn't reach her; it was almost like watching a shadow-play in the waning moonlight. She knew better than to cry out as she scrambled towards the gate. Knew she shouldn't be here at all.
She wanted to intervenehalf believed if she stepped out onto the lawn she could turn this into something rational, solveable. Johnny had said he still loved herhe'd done nothing in the pub to hurt hersurely he'd listen?
And Spike wasn't really trying to stake him, was he?
At this distance, she couldn't tell. Once inside the garden, keeping to the shadows under the tall shrubs, she moved as close as she dared. The loudest sound she heard was her own racing heart, and somewhere far off, a siren wailing. There was no traffic on the square. It might as well have been deserted; the surrounding houses were dark.
This might be all right. Spike had caught him up before he reached Milo, and somehow or other he'd subdue him, and then and then . She inched around to the right, her lip sucked up under her teeth, eyes fixed on her father.
Near her foot, a moan.
Milo was a dark unmoving shape. When she bent over him, she smelled the blood, saw it glistening.
Her stomach twisted and heaved.
"I'll get helpwaitwait"
Before she could move, something seized her from behind, and lifted her clear off the ground.
"Shall I make a matched pair?"
Spike wheeled. Drusilla held Jemima up, feet dangling, hands snatching at the hand closed around her throat.
"Let him go, my Spike. Or else I shall gather your other one to me."
At the same time Johnny wriggled out of his grip, kicking clear to scramble to his feet and run. Which was just what Drusilla intended; as soon as Spike rushed her, she dropped Jemima and streaked off after him.
"Bloody hellwhat are you doing here? Did she hurt you?"
She shook her head, breath rasping. He swung her up to her feet. "Go home. I've got to follow them."
"No you don't. Got him right here."
"Edwina. Thank Christ. I thought"
The witch strode towards him, grinning, her dreadlocks waving like tentacles. "I wouldn't get here in time? Almost didn't. You woke me out of a sound sleep, vampire, an' you know I'm not a morning person. Couldn't snag 'em both, sorry."
She yawned then, still smiling her irrepressible smile, then shook her head, remembering herself. "Mentasay, sorry. About the boy. Bad luck. Where's your angel-girl?"
"Other side of the world, an' doesn't know. This is my daughter, you've heard about her. Jemmie, Edwina here pitches in on the magic tip for us once in a while. Was a great friend of your Uncle Rupert's." It was surreal to be making introductions here, with Jemima still clearing her throat and Johnny now entrapped in a shimmering field of magic that held him just off the ground, silent and motionless.
Jem said, "Milo"
"Fuck Milo. We're getting out of here. It's nearly dawn."
"Buthe's still alivehe's"
"Come on. Can't linger or we'll all be fucked." He grasped her arm, pulled her towards the gate. Edwina brought Johnny along as if on an invisible string, and seemed to exert herself not at all to do it, which was disquieting, but for the moment, handy.
Jemima tried to twist away. "Papa, I said, Milo is alive!"
"An' I said you'd better mind me if you don't want to be in even more trouble than we already are. Lookin' after you an' the young idiot is the job here. Milo's none of ours." He'd never hated bloody fucking Milo more than he did now.
"None of ours!"
He dragged her along without looking back, not caring if he bruised her in the process. His car was just around the corner. He'd stuff both of them into it and be back at the flat before sun-upnothing else mattered.
"Papa, let me go. We have to help him, we have to"
This was Edwina. Jemima craned around at her, wide-eyed, disbelieving. "How can we be sure? A few minutes ago"
"Was a few minutes ago," Spike growled. "He's dead now, all right. Shut your sweet little gob an' get into the car."
He'd never lied to her like this beforehe could still hear the faint patter of Milo's heart, smell his ebbing life on the freshening airbut tonight was full of firsts.
He shut Johnny into the boot. Edwina was still smilingover the years he'd figured out that she fed most heartily on drama, and was no more tightly tethered to morality than he was.
She slipped something into his hand. "When you're ready to release him, use this. The spell will wear off on its own, but it'll hold tight for at least a good couple of days. What are you going to do with him?"
"Get him out of London. Then then I'm not sure. Thanks for turning up."
Spike snapped off the car radio. "Would that've been him?"
Jemima was turned away, staring at the car windowthere wasn't much to see out, because it was still dark, and raining now. She wasn't crying, but Spike felt her barely-perceptible quivering.
"You'd know that better than I." She let out a gasp, sobbing once, but it didn't turn into anything. She seemed to hold her breath.
"Bloody hell." He pictured it. Pictured Cecily, really. She was his first real kill, the one that was personal, deliberate, the one he'd always remembered and treasured. He could summon the taste of her fear-drenched blood, the sound of her terrified groans, the smell of her viscera, just by closing his eyes. She'd humiliated him, driven him to his death, and by all that was unholy he'd given that pain back to her ten-fold before he'd let her snuff it.
He didn't think of her much since Buffybut the memory was still a pleasureable one, and he didn't question that pleasure.
"Gonna swing by your friend's houseyou go in and get your things. Should just have time before it gets light. Not that it will much with this rain."
"Yeah. You're going to come an' help me with your brother, aren't you?"
She was resting her face against the windowglass; he couldn't see her. After a few moments he said, "Jem?"
"I heard him groan. He was in so much pain. He wasn't"
"He was mine."
"We need you. Your brother an' me. 'Specially with your mum out of town. Family needs you."
Her hot tears scented the close atmosphere of the car.
Finally she said, "Yes."
They were almost there now.
"Listen, sweetheart wouldn't ever tell you not to mourn any of 'em."
She didn't answer. When he pulled up, he reached to squeeze his hand, but she pulled it out of the way, and got out of the car without a word.
Return to Herself's Fic.