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Title: Interpretation

Author: Spurglie
Setting: early season seven
Rating: PG
Characters: Spike, Anya.
Disclaimer: all characters belong to Joss. No money is being made, yadda yadda.
Author’s notes: yet another sad fic because I just can’t seem to write funny stuff these days. *sigh* Also... I can’t believe I wrote this fic. I’m banging my head on the table as we speak. Never thought it’d happen, but y’know... it’s almost better this way. Almost.
Ooh lookie: this fic won the Harsh Light Award in the 1st round of the Rabid Rabbit Awards!

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D’Hoffryn: When you were a vengeance demon, you were powerful, at the top of your game. You crushed men like him. It’s time you got back to what you do best... don't you think?

~ Hells Bells

Anya: Spike’s insane in the basement...

Willow: Wait. Spike’s what it the what-ment?

Anya: Insane. Base.

~ Same Time, Same Place




‘Spike? Spike, where are you?’

A faint scuffle, almost too quiet to really be heard drew her in the right direction.

‘Spike? I really don’t want to be down here. There’s this whole “devoured from beneath” vibe going on at the minute... and me being this close to the hellmouth really isn’t what I would class as fun. I mean it’s just a hole in the ground, but it’s still the mouth of hell, and you could just put money... not a lot of money, I mean I don’t like to bet on things that I don’t know the actual outcome of... on it actually having teeth. Big ones.’

Still no reply.

‘Damn it, Spike! I know you’re down here. Quit hiding from me.’

Anya peered through the darkness. Hands on hips, she exhaled angrily, blowing a loose strand of hair out of her face.

‘William,’ she said firmly. ‘Where are you?’

Another sound, barely a whisper, and she knew that if she had still been human she would never have heard it at all. In the farthest corner, behind an ancient shelving unit that hadn’t seen daylight this side of the early 1950s, she found him. Cowering in the corner. Refusing, or perhaps unable, to acknowledge her presence.

‘Hello Spike.’

His body bundled up, he rocked back and forth. Back and forth, giving her no reply.

‘So. How’re things?’ Anya asked in her best conversational tone.

No reply.

‘You’re still insane, I see.’

No reply.

‘Good, that’s good. Listen, Spike, I’ll come right to the point. I have something for you.’

He turned away from her and let his head fall heavily against the rough stone of the wall. Lifted it and let it fall again.

‘Spike! Don’t do that! Listen to me! Listen to what I have to say.’

She took a hold of his shoulder and pulled. His thin body did not resist and he slumped back against the wall, facing her, a terrible blankness in his eyes.

‘Can you even hear me? One blink for yes, two for no.’

No reply. No blinks.

‘God, I almost wish I had a bottle of scotch,’ she muttered. ‘You’re not making this very easy for me, you know.’

She snapped her fingers in front of his face a couple of times.

Nothing. There was nothing and she couldn't understand it. Why couldn't he at least act like nothing was wrong. That was what people did, wasn't it? Hide their pain away so that it didn't bother others?

‘Don’t you even want to know why I’m here?’

No reply.

‘I’ve come here to grant you a wish. You have a wish to use, get it? You can wish all of this away if you want to. Simple.’

Soulful blue eyes looked up at her then and despite it all... despite the fact that he’d hurt her, despite the fact that they’d used each other, despite the fact that she might once have called him an almost-friend, of sorts, and despite the fact that he still smelt just as good to her... her heart broke a little for his sorrow. She recognised it. Inside that moment she understood perfectly. It drew her in closer to him and pushed her further away.

‘You hear me? You can make a wish. I can give you that. One wish.’

‘I..I can?’

Finally a response.

‘Yes. I’m branching out from scorned women. Quotas to fill, bosses to impress,’ she sighed charitably. ‘I’m giving you a wish. No sales pitch, no sneakiness. Just wish, and I’ll do my thing.’

It was still there, she observed. Shining just as brightly. The soul. Spike's soul that no one else had been able to recognise, but she had detected almost right away. It was amazing really. Spike had a soul. A horrible, heavy human soul that he couldn’t possibly even begin to deal with.

Angel. Angel had a soul and just see how well all that had turned out. And it had only taken him a century or so to turn his life around. Was it the same for Spike? His whole family was a complete mess and now it seemed that the curse had passed to Spike, damning him even more than he had been already. And how alike his family he was. Cursed with a soul like his father, just as insane as his mother.

Anya shook her head, switching off those thoughts. It was all pointless in the end. Spike hadn’t gone to his family. He’d come back here, looking yet again for the girl who didn't love him. Offering himself up where he could never be wanted. It didn’t look like he cared too much at all about his family any more. Even his once precious Drusilla.

Anya watched as Spike began to rock back and forth again. She remembered once being afraid of him. Of how he could hurt her. Of how he could hurt Xander. How she might even die at his hand because he was the Enemy and she was Mortal. A Human Being. Her soul intact, but remaining very much the same as she always had inside. Where it mattered.

What an odd thought, that he could once hold such power over her.

Maybe Angel would be able to help him. Maybe he’d understand like she did. Because she did understand. More than she wanted to. Maybe understanding wasn’t what Spike wanted. Or what he needed. Not now. Not with this fresh pain he had to deal with. How could he even remember there was a world outside? Did he remember to eat, she wondered. Did he sleep? Talk to himself? Or to the rats maybe.

Did he pray?

‘Can’t. Can’t. It’s not allowed. It’s cheating, not playing by the rules.’

He tried to bury his head against the wall again, rolling his forehead back and forth over the brickwork almost thoughtfully. His rocking was beginning to slowly drive her insane when he finally asked: ‘Why?’

Such a soft question, his voice only heartbeats away from cracking. It just didn’t sound like him. No insults, no sly edge to it. No dashingly wicked grin as he insulted her, and no roll of his eyes when he made a cruel joke.

No jokes.

She almost wished for the Bronze, when he had hit her. Hissed and spat insults. Yelled at her to make her shut up and not reveal his awful, shameful secret. The secret only she had seen. That would be better. Better to see him fighting. Not this shadow on the dirty floor in front of her. She didn’t want to end up hiding in corners, sad and alone and full of nothing but regret. She was still whole. She was still demon even if Spike had lost his way.

He was the last man who had touched her. No one else had wanted to touch her after... Besides, she had spent all her time around women. Poor, stupid, weak scorned woman who wished so much pain and suffering on those who had hurt them and then always wanted to take it back when they discovered that - oh surprise! - they were lacking the courage of their convictions.

No man had willingly touched her since him. Not a handshake, not a pat on the back. No hugs from the Giles who wasn’t here to guide her through these new problems. Not even a brush of fingertips from the cute bartender who made those really great margaritas but always left her change on the bar and never in her hand. She often wondered if they did it on purpose. Maybe they could tell. Not that she was a demon, just that something was a little off about her. Maybe they’d always been able to tell.

Nothing since Spike. Not that she really cared. Because she didn't. Not really. It was just interesting to note these things.

‘Because of your pain,’ she explained. ‘Because it hurts me to be this close to you because you have so much damn pain just oozing out of you and I can feel it. You’ve been buzzing me from the other side of town all week.’

‘But I hurt the girl. She wouldn’t stay. They never stay. In the end they always leave.’

‘Yes,’ she agreed, not knowing which girl he meant. Probably Buffy. It was usually all about Buffy. Wasn’t everything? It didn’t really matter now. She wasn’t obliged to care anymore. Buffy would be coming for her soon. ‘We knew that. They always leave. We’re always alone. It’s better that way. You’ve hurt a lot of people. So have I. Now’s your chance to make it stop.’

‘It could stop?’

He sounds like a child. I could have had a child once. I could have had a child with Xander.

‘It could,’ she nodded slowly, forcing herself to not look away.

‘No more voices? No more William screaming at me? No more pictures and mother waiting all alone at home for me? They’re all in here. You know. Fighting. Drusilla doesn’t like all the uninvited guests. Not enough places set at the table. Squabbles all the time. Not proper conduct for little girls and boys. Take it away. No more burning? It... it could stop?’

‘Yes.’ She frowned at the annoying tickle of tears behind her eyes. She didn’t want to cry, not for this fallen, broken husk of a demon. She didn’t want to care. She didn’t want to understand.

‘Oh.’ He seemed to think this over very seriously for a moment. ‘You can fix me?’

‘Yes.’

‘Then I wish...’ there was sudden, obvious desperation in his voice that made her blink, ‘I wish the pain would go away. I wish it would stop. Please...’ white hands with bloody knuckles clenched painfully around her thighs, but she was sure he didn’t know he was hurting her. ‘... please, make it all stop. Set me free. I want to be William. I want to be free.’

He was touching her. She didn’t revolt him. Not Spike. Why would he care about that? When had he ever cared? They were quite alike, when she thought about it. They always had been, but now there was more. They were both abandoned and bruised, and they were both hiding in the corner of a dark basement while the sun shone thousands of miles above their heads.

‘Oh Spike...’

Surprising herself, she fell to her knees beside him and wrapped her arms around his cold body, allowing him some of her heat and her comfort. She held on tight as she hugged him. Stroked his hair and realised she understood. She really did. They had talked once about wanting their powers back. Now she had hers. She was Vengeance. A demon once more, strong and proud and dangerous... and still it wasn’t what she wanted. Things were still complicated. Now more so than ever. Worse than that, now things were... upsetting. The thousand years she had lived through loving every single ounce of the vengeance she had dealt out was gone in a flash. Now all that was left was uncertainty and doubt. The scraps of her humanity that stuck to her insides like chewing gum and just wouldn’t let go. She no longer had a place in this world. She had received her fondest wish and yet it hadn’t turned out to be the triumph she was expecting.

Complicated. Things were still complicated.

And Spike? He had been cheated. She could only imagine the tortures he had endured to try and get that hunk of metal out of his head. Now what was he? She wasn’t sure, but it wasn’t a vampire. It wasn’t Spike.

The Spike she knew would have wished to be a vampire again, plain and simple. Make me whole. Make me strong. Give me the freedom to kill again. Let me love it. Let me drink. Strong and proud and a master. Married to the darkness, evil to the core and loving every single bloody, sodding, shagging, buggery, stupid English-swearword second of it. But Spike was gone. Her wild, annoying, completely untrustworthy almost-friend who had given and taken her comfort in equal measure, was gone. All that was left was what she held in her arms. A shattered man who couldn’t... wouldn’t even ask for his life back when it was offered to him on a plate. All he wanted was for his suffering to end.

Now she had him.

He had made his wish. She had choices here. That was the kicker - the real joy about being a vengeance demon. People simply never learnt to ask for specifics. They left their wishes open to interpretation and that was where the demon Anyanka really came into being. He wanted the pain to stop? He wanted to be free? To be William? There were so many ways to answer his wish.

He wanted to be free? She could make him Spike the vampire again, and she knew it. She could set the demon free to finally take his revenge on the town and the people who had gradually broken him. She could watch as he went to Buffy and this time their fights wouldn’t be so one-sided. Oh, she doubted whether they would actually kill one another, but Spike would kill again. He wouldn’t be able to stop himself, and that would destroy Buffy. She would blame herself for not putting a stop to him earlier. And when Buffy fell, so would Spike. Inevitable.

He wanted to be William? That was doable. She could pluck William from the past. Make this Spike into a man with no knowledge of the present and force him to live out his days sharing his body with a demon.

He wanted the pain to go away? She could banish Buffy to another dimension, making her own life easier in the process. Although... playing with the dimensions was a risky business where the Scooby gang were concerned. That was what had got her in trouble in the first place. She dismissed the idea.

He wanted it all to stop? Fine. She could freeze time. Let him wander this earth completely mad and totally alone through the frozen landscape until he couldn't take the endless silence and finally decided to end it all of his own accord.

Or she could make him human. That would be quite interesting. She could even take away Angel’s right to his shanshu and bestow it instead on Spike. One souled vampire was as good as another in the greater balance of things. Oh, she knew of the prophecies. Those precious scrolls? What higher demon didn’t know of them? Interpretation. It was all open to interpretation. How would they all deal with a human Spike? What would Buffy do then if she discovered what had been taken from her beloved Angel? It was an intriguing prospect.

So many possibilities.

All could be done so easily, but that wasn’t what Spike was asking her for and she knew it.

She soothed him with her warmth, her hands and her words, letting him hold onto her desperately. She felt needed and oddly content in this dark corner. When he had calmed a little, she asked a question that she had never before asked another living soul.

‘Are you sure? Are you sure that’s what you want?’

He stilled in her arms and drew back to look at her.

‘Yes. It’s what I want. There’s nowhere for me to go from here. I’m nothing now. Only pain and the voices. Only sorry. I’m a bad man. I’m sorry. I’m a bad, rude man. That’s what needs to be done. You know it. She knows it. She does know. She couldn’t see the change. I’m nothing now. Not even flesh. I asked, but she wouldn’t answer. Just turned and walked away. Couldn’t follow. I couldn’t follow, y’see. I was banished. S’all right, though. No grudges. All I deserve. A bad man. Sorry.’

‘All right, Spike,’ she agreed with a soft looking smile that almost choked her. ‘I’ll take away the pain for you. Close your eyes.’

Anya took a last look into those watchful blue eyes as he obediently let the lids fall closed. Leaning forwards, she closed the distance between them and pressed a soft kiss to his lips. She felt him flinch when they connected and he didn’t return the kiss, but he accepted it. He tasted just like she remembered him. It was odd, she thought, that he would be so different and yet taste the same.

She would remember that.

‘Granted,’ she murmured against his parted lips, not opening her eyes to watch as he crumbled into dust.

‘Goodbye Spike. Be happy.’

Getting awkwardly to her feet, Anyanka straightened her skirt and sadly brushed some flecks of dust away. Looking once around the dark, empty room, she turned and walked unsteadily away. Willow had come home and maybe she would agree to go for a drink with her. Willow might understand. And Anya felt that she could use a drink. Perhaps a large one.


-end-

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