Title: Unlucky Undead
Fandom: Buffy the vampire slayer (set in S7 I guess)
Rating: PG-13 for vamp violence
Pairings: None or many, depending on how you want to read it
Disclaimer: Joss is fabulous. I merely play.
Summary: A cold's going around the Scooby gang but it's Spike who feels the full brunt of it.
Author's Notes: I got the idea of carouches (and thus, the underlying idea behind this fic) from the Forever Knight fandom *snuggles Screed* Also, I think I stepped on canon in at least two places. Very sorry about that. *distracts canon muse with the fact that there's nummy sneezing* Written to weekly hatching bunnies #44(Flashback mania) and #74 (Spike's a vampire with terrible luck... if any vampire could catch a cold, it'd be him, right?)
"Perfection irritates as well as it attracts, in fiction as in life."
"Oh God, not again," Buffy sighed, waving her hand in front of her face and sniffing. She sat forward a little in the armchair and looked around the Summers' living room. "Would somebody just hand me the whole box already?"
Willow was closest to the end table and picked up the box. She handed it off to Dawn who tossed it into Buffy's lap. Buffy pulled out a tissue and held it up to her face just in time. "Hah-choo! ahh-ah-Chuhh!"
There was a chorus of bless you's around the room from everyone except Spike, who stayed completely silent. His eyes were fixed on Buffy nonetheless, catching a brief glimpse of how she wrinkled her nose between rubbing at it and blowing it. He watched her ball up the tissue and keep it in the palm of her hand for a minute or two even as she continued talking and gesturing. But after a while she surreptitiously slipped it into her pocket to throw away later. His gaze lingered on her hands, watching them repeatedly rub her nose or tense when she felt another sneeze coming on. He watched her finger the tissues as she waited for sneezes that seemed slow in arriving and listened as she paused in-between sentences to sneeze.
Of course, the train of what she was actually saying had departed the station long ago and now Spike had completely lost it. He did notice when Willow spoke up, however. "Buffy, it's clear you've caught Xander's cold. Maybe we should just stop for the night. We'll need more time on the researchy part anyway."
Buffy nodded, glancing at the clock. "With any luck I can get home from patrolling by one if--"
"You're not going out!" Dawn said with a bit of a squeak and a lot of shock. "You're sick!"
"Dawn, I have to go out," she said, sounding every bit the big sister who's mind was made up. "After the demon attacks last night, who knows what'll be out there tonight? I've got slayer strength and this is just a little cold. I'll be all right."
Willow cleared her throat. She spoke softly but firmly. "Actually, Buffy, Dawn's right. You'll recover much more quickly if you take it easy tonight. Snuggle up in bed and recuperate. I'll make you some chicken soup." She smiled.
Buffy looked set to argue, but also ready to sneeze. Another tissue and one deep breath in later, she was snapping forward in her chair. "hahhh-Chooo!" Spike's leg began to bounce impatiently and he traced a seam in his shirt to try to draw his attention away. But there was another sneeze and his actions did not work. "ahh... ahhhhT'Choo!" He watched the strands of her hair not pulled back into a ponytail brush her cheek and her neck. She sniffled, nose wrinkling again. Spike stared fixedly at her neck. And he found himself leaning forward longingly.
"I'll do it," Spike said at once, his voice completely flat and devoid of all emotion. He rose to his feet in a swirl of pale and black and shoved fists into his pockets to keep them from shaking visibly.
"Spike..." said Buffy concernedly, a touch of congestion already in her voice.
He just shook his head and tried not to stare at her. "I'll ring you if I see anything." Then he headed out the door with only a nod to the others.
Once outside he lingered on the stairs against the porch post. There were only two things that could make a vampire feel warm-- drinking blood and being aroused-- and as Spike hadn't had anything to drink since just before sundown he knew why he suddenly felt a bit too warm even though the night was chilly and he was not wearing his long black coat.
Spike had been exceedingly grateful for the excuse to not only be helpful but to leave. Though he might have liked to have stayed and watched over Buffy for as long as she'd let him, he didn't like to think about what she would think about him if he did. There was plenty to do to distract himself from her now, plenty of others he could help and save just as well. Plenty of others that wouldn't make him hot and hungry. Plenty of others who didn't make him think about what he'd do if he didn't have a soul and a chip in his head. Plenty of others who weren't so perfect.
There were a multitude of problems associated with the concept of perfection. First, the rarity of it. If perfect things were plentiful logic dictated that they would cease to be special. Second, it did not just make everything pale in comparison but made it far more undesirable. Third, it made one lust and yearn in such unnatural, irrational ways. And fourth, perfection was rarely good for a person to have too much of.
As a vampire, however, one got used to the idea of freely taking exactly what was wanted. Many times logic lost to cravings and desires that were so powerful they seized at the body and would not let go until properly fulfilled. And, for a vampire, nothing was more powerful a craving than that for blood.
The perfect kill, for Darla, was a member of high society. She preferred tailored suits, layered dresses, and fine jewels. She basked in the richness of it as she drank. It was not because she had expensive tastes, though she most certainly did, but because of what she was taking from them when she killed them. They had so much more to lose, and she so much to gain. Angel, on the other hand, sought perfection through torture. His was much more blatant and much more brutal. He liked to play with his victims first, to break them down until they were nothing and could surrender to his power at a mere glance. Dru's preferences seemed to change often. Her whims were difficult to understand if you had half a brain, but time and time again she was drawn to beauty and innocence and would call it perfection to dance amongst the carnage of children or young lovers.
Perfection in victims was not as subjective as it seemed, however. It was all determined by one thing: a vampire's first kill. When a vampire wakes for the first time, craving blood, he goes after the first thing he can get. And for the rest of eternity, that becomes his ideal. It's the thing he craves more than anything else. It becomes the very definition of perfection.
For the most part, it was usually just regular humans. Occasionally one ran across a vampire who had fed first on animals and had thus become a lower class of vampire, a carouche. It was merely luck which made them crave what they did. But that did not keep the normal vampire population from shunning carouches. As such, they tended to keep to the sewers and feed almost exclusively upon vermin. Though Spike had fed on pig blood since the chip implant, that did not make him a carouche. Just because Spike *could* drink did not mean he could even imagine anyone actually desiring to drink it for the taste. That was nothing at all like his idea of perfection.
Of course, that was something he secretly guarded. He thought, perhaps, the others might have suspected it from time to time, but he never outright told them. It wouldn't put him in a class as low as carouches, but he certainly would be looked down on for it. Which was stupid, really, as it wasn't really his fault. Well, in a way it was, but he certainly hadn't been going out *looking* specifically for it his first night out. It was just that he'd been so very hungry and luck had not been on his side...
* London, 1880 *
"No one ever approaches perfection except by stealth, and unknown to themselves."
William woke to find himself in utter darkness. He tried to sit up, but his head came into contact with something solid just above him. Hands scampered about, trying to figure out his predicament. He felt wood all around him, even beneath him, and his eyes grew wide in terror. They began to adjust to the darkness and even though it was pitch black, he could somehow make out shapes of boards and his body moving in the incredibly tight space. Scents rushed over him, of dirt and decay, and he tried hard to remember how he'd ended up where he had. Surely he had not become intoxicated again and tossed beneath the earth as a joke.
Memories flooded back to him. The beautiful, young, raven-haired woman who had seen into his soul and taken him aside. She had been so kind, so comforting. And when she had kissed him he had felt as though he truly belonged somewhere for the first time in his life. William reached up to the spot to feel no bite marks or wounds. What he did feel was a slight amount of panic at being six feet under in a wooden coffin, though for some reason he was not panicking the way anyone else in that predicament might. His heart was not pounding and his breath was not labored. In addition, he felt hungry.
Actually, he was incredibly hungry. His whole body seemed caught in that urge. He had to have something to eat. Now. And he was not going to get that while trapped beneath the earth. So he gathered his strength, which suddenly seemed considerable, and kicked and scratched at what he hoped was the top of the coffin. He punched through to dirt, which flooded in around his arm, and he kept punching. Eventually there was a hole big enough for his skinny frame to fit through, and a pile of dirt weighing down his chest. He couldn't brush it off as more would fall, so instead he burrowed through it. It was easier to move through the dirt than the solid wood, as the bit of Earth there smelled as though it had been freshly disturbed.
When he had finally climbed out, spitting out and shaking off dirty, everything felt new. It was nighttime, but the moon seemed brighter and the air fresher. Sounds he had never given attention before now bombarded his ears and he could sense even the slightest movement. At the moment, the closest thing moving was a woman-- the woman-- lounging out upon the ground beside his grave.
She saw him and sat up, clapping to herself and grinning madly. "Ooohh my baby's awake!" She seemed to soften, swaying with her words. "Took so long I worried I might have done it wrong. Daddy said if I tried I might get it wrong. But I didn't, did I?"
He looked back at his simple gravestone and the mound of earth in front of it, finally understanding what he'd supposed all along. He shook his head. He didn't feel wrong. In fact, he couldn't remember feeling so good in all his life. Except that he was no longer living.
"Wil-liam," she said slowly, reading the name off the grave marker and giggling. Then she put a dainty black-gloved hand on her breast. Long, dark curls bounced against her chest. She proclaimed, "And I am Drusilla."
He shook his head, looking at her with awe. "You're a bloody dark Princess is what you are," William said, feeling pulled to her. He wanted her, wanted everything about her, wanted to belong to her, and wanted her to belong to him.
Pleased with the name, she bounced giddily and leaned forward. Her gentle lips kissed his forehead. "You're perfect, my William. You taste like honey and tears and death."
She was batty, indeed, but he rather liked that as well. He certainly liked her kiss and the way she was crooning softly, happily, was soothing. But her mention of tasting made him remember the intense hunger that the shock of seeing her again had made him forget. He had a million questions for her, and that was just for starters, but now all he could think of was the hunger. "Hungry," he whispered. "Starving."
"Go eat," she urged him. "Find someone lovely, someone who sings to you, and make their lovely singing stop." She giggled and squealed and kissed him again.
By the time she pulled back, the hunger had taken over completely. He rose to his feet and headed to the center of town, walking at a fast pace. He barely understood the urges rushing through him. The new way his body felt, moved, hungered. She hadn't needed to come right out and say it, because he knew instinctively that blood was what he was after. And as he walked he thought about whose blood he wanted.
Cecily was his first thought. He could take her and have her in all the ways that he could not have before. But, as he pictured sinking his teeth into her neck, he realized he did not need it. There was Drusilla now. And Cecily... she was beneath him. Not even worth his trouble, really.
Then he thought of the others in her circle, always laughing at him, making fun of him, calling him names, criticizing his work. He'd been shy and bothered by it, of course, but their words had not truly hurt. Not so long as he'd been inspired and in love. It was true, perhaps, that he'd still think twice about sharing his poetry now, but there was so much more to the world than those petty men knew. Just one moment of someone understanding him and looking at him the way he'd wanted to be seen made him realize he didn't need their approval. They weren't worth his efforts either.
He turned his sights on others around him. There were beautiful, fit young women, strapping young boys, burly men. But even as he pictured drinking from them, he could also picture them fighting back. Not yet realizing his full potential, William simply did not think he could handle rejection like that. Not when he so badly needed to feed.
His heightened senses were suddenly attracted to a sound down an alleyway. He stopped cold in his tracks and turned as though drawn by a more powerful force. He slowly walked towards the source of the noise, being enveloped by the dark yet still being able to see clearly in it. Cocking his head, he saw a man dressed in tattered clothes. Cheeks were flushed bright red and many layers of raggedy clothes did not seem to keep out the chill in the air. He was slumped along the side of the building and was too weak to move as William approached. Too weak.
The man looked up at him with fear, but fear was overpowered a moment later by a vicious sneeze that shook his whole body. The man took out am overly used, ratty grey handkerchief and blew his nose into it. This was followed by a short series of coughs that made his voice sound weak. Too weak.
William's smile was slow in coming but big and bright when it arrived. He lowered himself down and got close. He could feel the terror and the helplessness he had caused. The man was alone and he was weak. Too weak to fight back. Too weak to call out for help. William could drink every last drop without incident.
So that was just what he did. It came naturally to him, feeling the urge in his face and whole body. He took the man in his arms so tightly that the man already seemed to be one with him. He bit down with a new set of teeth, silencing a stuffy yelp in an instant. The blood was like nothing he had ever tasted. It was boiling with heat, filling him with tingles and warmth and life as he had never been filled before. So strange that the first time he'd ever felt truly alive was now that he was dead. The mortality was utterly delicious and he drank the man to death, draining and then licking up any drop that had trailed down the man's neck.
William dropped the body when it was no use to him and rose to his feet, feeling an incredible sense of newfound energy and... and something else. He paused a moment, recognizing the sensation for what it was. Then he practically doubled over at the waist "huh-huh-Chhtttt!" He lifted a finger to his nose and scrubbed hard, then his head snapped down to look at the body. He could feel the blood coursing through him, carrying with it life as well as sickness. But he rather liked the sensations that overtook him now. The heat from the fever, the tingles of tainted blood, the way his whole body was filled during a sneeze. "hihh-CHUttttt!"
He groaned happily and fell back against a wall. He closed his eyes, concentrating on the feeling. He had killed. He had won. He had fed. He had become. "hehh-huhChuhtttt! K'Chhtttt!" The sneezing added a rush even more intense than just the kill. A thrill he felt intensely through his body. "h'Chhtttt! HEHChuhtttt!"
But, unfortunately, he could not stand there all night, sneezing and enjoying the afterglow. The hunger soon overtook him again. He was now all that he was meant to be and the world suddenly existed only for him to do what he would with it. And what he wanted was to feed again. But now he knew he was strong enough to go after anyone he wanted.
As blood pumped into his mouth from the neck of his next victim, all urges to sneeze backed away. When he was finished, he was still warm but it had tasted nothing at all like that first drink.
* Sunnydale, Present *
"Perfection itself is imperfection."
Standing on the threshold of an alleyway, Spike flicked a cigarette onto the ground and watched it burn itself out on the cold concrete. There hadn't even been one single sodding vampire to dust during his patrol to distract him from his memories, his thoughts, his urges. And while he knew what his body was telling him to do, he could not even fathom the possibility of giving into those desires.
As such, he couldn't go back to what he currently referred to as home. There was too much temptation there. So he wound up in his favorite alley, chain smoking the cravings away. Looking but not touching.
He lifted his head and looked over to see Xander, though he'd recognized the voice well enough. Xander was standing on the sidewalk just below a streetlamp, bathed in bright yellow light. He wore a coat that would have been too heavy for a normal person to wear at this time of year and he looked as though he really should have stayed in bed.
Xander sniffled and cleared his throat. "What're you doig here? Id-betweed a beer rud add a blood rud? Sniff!"
The warmth Spike had been feeling since the Scooby meeting intensified at the sound of Xander's voice. He pushed off the wall and walked casually out of the alley dividing the all-night drug and convenient store and one side of the hospital's emergency room. He wasn't about to explain why it was he couldn't go home. "More importantly, what're *you* doing here?"
Xander gestured towards the drug store then headed towards its door. Spike followed without thinking about it. "I'b out of cold bedicide. I would't be able to get to sleeb todight without it." He sniffed hard and scrubbed his palm against his nose. "Which would have beadt you havig to listed to be sdeeze add cough all dight add I cad just guess how buch you'd love that."
"M'sure you couldn't," Spike mumbled to himself. Spike did not make eye contact as he followed Xander through the rows of low shelves beneath blaring florescent lights. He watched Xander, however, just as he'd watched Buffy earlier. He saw each twitch in Xander's face during a sniffle. He saw brow furrow and lips turn down in a frown during a cough or two. Xander rubbed at his nose and scrubbed at his forehead and rubbed his face into the crook of his arm and his shoulder.
He selected a box of medicine off the shelf and gave the back of it a brief read, as though one were so significantly better than another. He shrugged off the fact that he didn't seem to know what he was supposed to be looking for. His eyes narrowed and Spike cocked his head to the side curiously.
Then several sneezes passed right through him, shaking him, snapping him in half. "HuhhhShooo! uhhhSchooo! H'Chooh!" Off balance, he teetered to the side and Spike, with quick reflexes, reached out and held him steady.
"Whoa. Watch yourself there."
Xander nodded wearily and snuffled against his wrist and sleeve cuff. "Yeah," he agreed. "Should go dow." But then he looked up at Spike with wide eyes. "D'you deed adythig? Wadt adythig?" He dug a twenty dollar bill out of his pocket.
Unable to answer honestly, Spike stared at him a moment longer than he should have. Trying to think of something, he glanced at the clock at the front of the store but it was past the time when he could purchase beer. Mindlessly he grabbed a bag of twizzlers off the shelf and thrust them at Xander.
Xander chuckled at the absurdity and took the items to the counter to pay. When finished, he turned, rubbing the back of his hand at his nose, to find Spike inspecting the magazine rack. "You cobidg?" he asked.
Uncertain, Spike froze in thought. He'd avoided going home for a reason, and had similarly been out late the last few days. But he knew it would seem strange to have such a chance encounter and then split. And he knew Xander would need help getting home whether he'd admit it or not. "Sure," he muttered, digging out his pack of cigarettes as he walked out of the drug store behind Xander. He'd need another good smoke and Xander wouldn't let him light up in the apartment.
"Suppose you walked," he muttered, mentally mapping out the shortest route back to Xander's apartment.
Xander nodded, digging a wad of tissues out of his pocket and freeing one from the others. He rubbed at his nose as he walked backwards to address Spike. "Dod't subbose you'll have ad evil relabse add steal us a car?" Spike shrugged apologetically and Xander turned back around, tissue still pressed to his nose. His shoulders rose and he bent forward. "hahhChoo! huhShhoo!"
With a sigh, Spike jogged forward a few steps and patted Xander on the back. They took a few steps towards the left. "Looks like someone could use a shortcut, though. I've got one of those."
Raising his head, Xander saw they were headed towards a cemetery. He shook his head. "Uh-uh. First rule of Suddydale livig: doe shortcuts through graveyards." He coughed. "I cad't exactly fight right dow." Spike felt him tense up, and immediately pulled his hand back. "huhhShuhhh! hehhChoo! Snufffff! If we rud idto trouble..."
"If we do, I'll take care of it," he said, trying to sound cool about it. He led the way, hoping he might have opportunity to be proven right. After this and with what would be in store for him tonight, he needed a good fight to actually cool him down.
One walk later, Spike led the way into Xander's apartment, just as warm as ever that night. Whatever he'd been able to work out of his system during his brief run-in with two vampires had been completely lost in his having to support a sneezing and sniffling Xander up the stairs.
Xander headed to his couch immediately, rolling up in the blankets he had left there. Spike kept an eye on him but walked over to the kitchen for an early lunch. He could hear Xander sniffling even as the microwave hummed away in front of him. Spike tried to concentrate on the mug revolving under the dim light.
But that proved to be more difficult than it should have been. "hahshoo! Huhh... hahhshooo!" Xander dug into a tissue box and sniffled into a whole bunch again. He groaned, resting his head back against couch cushions. "Sorry."
Spike wasn't about to comment, though he was amused that Xander had been sneezing for three days now and was just now starting to apologize. "Maybe you should go take a shower?" he suggested just as the microwave announced its completion with a ding.
Xander nodded. "Yeah. Just wadt to tage the bedicide first."
Anticipating that, Spike walked over with a glass of water for Xander in one hand and his mug of blood in the other. He sat down on the couch beside Xander and handed the water over. Then he ripped open the pack of candy, bit off the ends of one Twizzler, then used it as a straw to drink his blood. He found himself stirring the blood with it absentmindedly as he looked past it at his roommate.
Xander had some difficulty getting into the bottle of pills. His fingers slipped on the plastic ring tightly covering the cap, short fingernails unable to catch and pull properly. He managed to hold the bottle in the same hand as the glass of water as he dug his Swiss army knife out of his pocket. It sliced the plastic all right, but also his thumb. The wound was not deep, and certainly not bad enough to prevent him from getting into the bottle, shaking out two pills, and gulping them down along with the whole glass of water.
Spike's eyes were fixed upon the blood. Warm as he was with desire before, now he was boiling with urges. The scent struck his nostrils, making them twitch and making him lust. Xander set the glass and medicine down on the coffee table, then stuck his thumb in his mouth and stood. He shrugged and gestured over at the bathroom. "Shower," he said around his thumb and through his congestion.
Spike held his breath and forced himself to remain still as he watched Xander go. Once he was alone, however, Spike immediately set the mug down and went straight for the knife. Quickly but carefully, he touched the tip of his tongue to the flat of the small blade.
The taste was beyond heavenly. It made his tongue tingle and his taste buds soar. Immediately he licked the remaining traces of blood off the blade. It cut his tongue slightly but he didn't notice the pain. All he noticed was the taste filling his senses. It was as though the blood were meant just for him and him alone.
The richness and perfection of just the few drops made him feel alive as he had not in years. He felt his nose tickling away and sank back onto the couch to savor the sensation. "huhChuhtt! uhhhChitttt!" Normally, in his day, such a small amount wouldn't have been enough to cause more than a sneeze or two. But he had been deprived so long of human blood, let alone his idea of perfect blood.
So the urge to sneeze continued, and his own desires and urges decreased with each and every sneeze. "hehhh... h'Chuhtttt! hehChtttttt! K'TChhttt!" The sneezes were satisfying, but they were, perhaps, a bit too strong.
Even as he heard the shower running, the bathroom door opened. Spike's head snapped up to see Xander peering out. From what he could see, which was only the chest upwards, Xander had been naked and in the shower. His hair was damp and tangled and his whole body was wet. Xander looked confused. He sounded much better from the steam treatment, however. "Spike? I thought I heard...?"
"What?" asked Spike innocently, shrugging, hoping Xander would not notice he'd moved to the couch. And hoping that Xander would not notice the way his nose was twitching with the need to sneeze. He clenched his teeth and pursed his lips, glad that he did not need to breathe, else the sneeze would surely have escaped him and ruined everything.
Sick and tired, Xander could not seem to reason anything out. He shook his head. "Never mind. Just thought I heard something." He ducked back in, coughing.
Immediately, Spike turned and buried his face in a couch cushion to muffle the sounds. His body shook at the force, nonetheless. "HuhChffff!" He sniffled. "Humshfffffff! hehhChffff!" He lifted his head, enjoying the slight light-headedness and pleasure the uncontrollable urges brought. But another sneeze caught him off guard before he could cover it properly. "HEHHGChhhitttttt!"
Xander must have heard, because the door suddenly opened again. Spike grabbed his mug and took a few quick gulps. The pig's blood tasted quite unsavory in comparison with his idea of perfection, but it also quashed within seconds any further need to sneeze. He met Xander's confused expression with one of innocence.
"You weren't..." he said, rubbing the back of his neck. "Not to say you're exactly normal but... you're not sick now, are you? I mean, vampires don't sneeze. Perfect immune systems come with the whole vampire package. You didn't catch this cold from me, did you?" He sniffed.
"No," Spike replied honestly. "I'm as fine as I was when you went in for your shower. Better, even." He gestured at the television remote.
Xander disappeared back in and Spike sighed. He'd been itching for it ever since the boy'd gotten sick and now that he'd had his taste, Spike was content to wait patiently for his next chance, however long away that would be. That taste was going to last him a long while, but he hoped it wouldn't be years. Knowing his luck, though, he wasn't about to get his hopes up.