Warning: violence, gore, character deaths.
... Suddenly she heard a gruff voice close behind her. "Where are you going, Little Red Riding Hood?"
"I'm going to visit Grandmamma," said Red Riding Hood, who seemed not to notice the stranger's sharp teeth and piercing, yellow eyes.
'How young and tender she is!' thought the wolf. 'Why, she'll be even tastier than the old woman.' ...
Wake up that morning in Finn's bed, feeling real good. I had a big night out with my hunky army boytoy - we kicked some demon ass for a while, got all hot and sweaty. The testosterone levels in that boy. Fumbled around in the cemetary, his hand up my shirt, me talking dirty in his ear just so I could feel him shiver. Afterwards we went back to his pad and spent pretty much all night snatching life outta the jaws of death, metaphorically speaking. (Boy's got crimson sheets, you know. Says something about him, that he's got crimson sheets. Pillows too.) Finn's got stamina, y'know, must be all that shit they made him do when he was in the army. Enough to satisfy a Slayer, even.
Yeah, so the next morning I wake up alone. Finn's gone to work hours ago, but he likes to let me sleep in and I got my own key to the place. I take a shower and get dressed in the dark - the blinds are pulled down over the windows the way he likes it, so he doesn't wake up and get depressed at the view every morning. View's a pretty word for it, what with the trash cans and junkies all piled up in that stinking alley.
Step out into the sun and that's a shock, blinking back tears from the rays and the car fumes. Wish I'd brought my shades. Then I head on over to Joyce's place, 'cause I promised I'd stop by, and this seems like as good a time as any.
* * *
Ma and me, we're friends, y'know? I don't lie to my Ma, not ever, 'cause family's important and she's all I got - my pathetic excuse for a father took off when I was thirteen, back when we lived in Los Angeles. He ran away in the middle of the night with this slut-whore from the hairdressing salon down the road; she was all fake eyelashes and skintight leopard print leggings, hair out to there and necklines down to here. We never heard from the bastard again. (Sometimes I hope that they went to Mexico, and soon as they got there, she dumped him for some richer redneck prick. So then, maybe, he got blind drunk and woke up in some alley, missing a kidney and his testicles. It'd serve the fucker right.)
So me and Joyce always stick together. I got her off the bottle and the pills, and she held my hand for my first Slay. Together we left the big smoke behind, sold the trailer and took off with just two suitcases, singing along with the Beatles playing in the car's tape deck. Hit the road and didn't stop 'till we made the bright lights of Sunnydale Casino. ("We made it, Joyce! We totally rule." "Come on, hon, we'll go in and I'll buy you a drink to celebrate. Just stay in the dark and we'll lie about your age.")
Yeah, Joyce is cool. She's not like other mothers - I always take all my boyfriends home so she can look 'em over, and sometimes she scares off the ones she doesn't like. (When he came over, Finn was so nervous he was sweating. I nearly laughed: "Finn, baby, you're such a good boy. You got nothing to worry about, trust me." Later Joyce told me if she were a bit younger she woulda gone for him herself.)
She even made my prom dress, sewed it with her own goddamn hands. We ate spaghetti outta the can for a month to buy the material for that dress, all red and glitter, like it came out of some Hollywood movie star's wardrobe. I coulda walked down Sunset Boulevarde in that dress; well, maybe if I'd had the shoes to match. But even with Joyce's ten-year-old heels on my feet, it was still the most beautiful outfit I ever wore.
Joyce thought so too - when I put it on for the big night, she started crying and getting mascara all down her face. "Oh, honey, you're gorgeous. Just think, when I was seventeen..." I thought Ma was gonna start telling me about her glory days right then and there. But she snapped out of it, dried her eyes and winked when she told me she wouldn't be waiting up. Good thing too, 'cause I didn't get home for another coupla nights.
See, if I hadda choose between my Ma Joyce and Finn baby, it'd be Joyce, right away.
Thing is, I never did get to choose.
* * *
Joyce's apartment isn't exactly in a nice neighbourhood - then again, is there such a thing in Sunnydale? I guess it's not a bad place for the kind of money she pays, but it's so little that I used to sleep on the couch in the living room 'cause there wasn't enough space for a second bed. Back then, I used to leave the television on when I was sleeping, so I wouldn't have to hear the rats walking around in the floorboards. Didn't work, though.
So I walk in and right away I can tell that something's wrong. The door's been forced open, with the handle ripped out of the plywood and the chain broken - they gotta be strong to do that, I thought, they gotta be real strong. But I don't really get what that means until later.
Go inside and find the place totally smashed up. The TV and phone cords pulled out of the walls, the window shattered so the whole room smells like cars and smoke.
There's dark stuff on the walls: blood. You learn to recognise it in my line of work.
Find Joyce in the bathtub, all slashed up and cut to pieces, her eyes wide open. I try to close them but the blood's all over her face and it gets on my hands. So I freak. Run out to the kitchen and put my hands under the tap water till it's gone.
Then I look into the sink - which turns out to be a bad idea. See, he'd used her own goddamn knives, you know, the potato peeler, can opener, whatever he could get his hands on, and then left them piled up in the sink all tidy and neat. Don't even know what I'm seeing at first, there's that much blood and stuff on them.
Get to the phone and dialed 911. "Yeah, there's been a murder. Come quick, okay?"
Then I go out into the hallway and throw up. Tried to wipe it up, but soon I'm just sitting with my back to the wall and the rags in my hand. I stay there just like that, shaking all over, 'till the cops and paramedics show. They hold my hand and say it was gonna be okay; but I can hear one of them being sick inside the apartment, and I know it's not okay at all.
Don't have much respect for cops, but I go down to the station with them like I'm told. Ask the cops for a shot of whiskey, but they give me a glass of water, cheap bastards. This officer asks me some questions - he's a hottie, a real young guy with blue eyes and dark stubble, the kind of face you want to run your hand over. Nice, too, and from the way he talks I know he's like me, that he grew up in a trailer or commission or something like that, and I bet he only hadda few pairs of shoes when he was growing up. Some other time I might've asked him how he ever got to be a cop in a town like this.
But right then, I just want to get the hell outta there. So I make my statement real quick and he lets me go. I need to see some people pretty damn urgently, but I go back to my place first and get some stuff.
* * *
Been living in this pad for a year now - it's pretty small, just two dirty rooms and a floor made outta lino. Waking up after a hard night out doing the Duty, I hate it: hate the peeling grey paintjob on the walls and the 'roaches climbing up them, hate the water that comes out of the shower in a gross brown trickle. I hate the cops pulling up outside with their sirens blaring, which means I lost another neighbour and that the rent's going down again.
But see, the thing about this place is that I gotta real good view over the road where all the biz goes down. I can see who's chatting up who, watch the Mr Bigs coming outta their clubs and getting into their fancy cars, check out who's busy talking up whatever new shit has hit the street. That's important in a town like Sunnydale, where the demons and the crims are the same thing. (One of the things Angel tried to teach me about.)
The room's cheap, too, 'cause the only money in this town is in the pockets of the gangster boys and the triads and the yakuza. They do their dirty deals down here, but of course they all stay in flash hotels uptown near the casino. The ones who're stuck actually living around here with me (apart from the demons - natch) are the hustlers and dealers, the conartists and petty thieves. The scum.
Most of my scummy neighbours don't stick around for more'n a couple of months. See, by then they either move on up, get right out, or go straight to the fucking bottom. That's the river bottom I'm talking about. (I'm thinking, the lobsters must eat them, right, 'cause why else don't the cops find the bodies? Guess who eats the fucking lobsters.)
So that's where I live. The regulars, they know I got some weird deal going on, but I don't give them shit so they don't give me any either. Humans aren't my problem.
* * *
When I get to my place it's after midday. But I'm still probably the first person in the whole building to get out of bed - that's the kinda place I live in.
Ring Giles' place, but there's no answer. So I ring Ethan's place, and whaddya know, Giles picks up, sounding like death warmed over. I fill him in and hang up. (Word of advice: never give a Watcher time to argue, even if they're punkboys with warlock boyfriends, even if they're hungover from gigging the night before. They'll try to change your mind anyway. Give Giles half a chance and he'd probably try to make me quit smoking - hypocrite.)
I grab my big red coat that goes down to my knees, and load the pockets down with stakes, holy water, knives, you know the deal. Gets so heavy I might as well just carry a basket or something. So I change my mind and dump most of it out again. End up just carrying a coupla stakes and a knife.
And my cross, of course - couldn't take that off even if I wanted to.
* * *
Angel gave me this big silver cross to wear, first time we met. I was on my way to the Bronze when I jived that someone was on my tail and slipped into a sidestreet. Thought he was gonna mug me, so I jumped him in the dark and punched him up a little. But we got to talking, and he gave me the rundown on his deal. All that mysterious stranger shit.
"Thought you'd be taller," he said to me, rubbing his arm where I hit him.
"Yeah, I tend to disappoint. Gotta problem with that?"
He gave me that smile that makes you wanna die and looked me all over, real slow. "Did I say I was disappointed?" Tosses a little black box at me. "I'm not." Another smile that makes a girl take in a deep breath. "See you 'round, Slayer." Then he's gone.
I open the box and there it is. Put it on then and never really took it off.
Back then I was sixteen and he was like two hundred, but I wanted him so bad I didn't care, and neither did he. We did it for the first time a couple of weeks after that, out back behind the Bronze. I was inside dancing when I saw him watching me from the side - I had this little red dress on and he couldn't take his eyes off me, so I grabbed him by the hand and led him out the back door. Opened his shirt and put my tongue on his skin, ground my hips against him and felt him get hard. He pushed me against the wall and hitched my dress up, took me right there. Lucky the music from inside was loud, otherwise the kids in the Bronze would've heard some odd sounds that night. It was so good, even the first time, that just thinking about it gives me a tingle. He went game-face, still inside me, but I couldn't give a damn, I was that crazy for him. "God, don't stop!"
That whole year, it was like I was on top of the goddamn world. Most everyone at school was kinda scared of me, but I'd hang out with this wicca goth chick, Willow, and her friend Alex - that's if I bothered showing up, which wasn't that often. They were real nice kids, we had some good times together. I still see Alex around, he works in this downtown dimestore. But Willow's a smart cookie, scored some big college scholarship and got the hell outta this place. Anyway, we were friends.
At night I was with Angel. We'd fight, and fuck, and basically be unable to keep away from each other. Sometimes he tried to teach me about stuff he thought was important - demons, vintage cars, poetry, the importance of being a snappy dresser. Sometimes I listened; sometimes I just watched his lips move. ("Are you listening to a word I'm saying?" "Sure, babe, whatever you say.") Angel made me feel so good. I'd stay in that old mansion with him for hours, 'cause just being near him was better than anything else in my whole life.
Giles was pretty relaxed about me being with a goodguy vamp, so long as I kept up with the Duty and all that. See, he's not like other Watchers, just like Joyce isn't like other mothers. The Council doesn't like Giles (though they hate his squeeze Ethan even worse), and I'm not exactly Miss Obediance either. But that's okay with me - I'm like the screwed-up Slayer, so it makes sense I gotta punkboy rebel Watcher.
And Joyce was cool, like always. At first she was all, "You sure you know what you're doing?" But then I brought him around, Angel turned on the charm and she totally flipped. "Keep a hold of that one, honey."
So everything was looking really peachy, y'know?
But a couple of years ago, Spike and his head-fucked honey Drusilla showed up. Those two vamps and their gang did a real good job on this town, hit us straight between the eyes with a sledgehammer. We're talking reign of terror here. I hadda kill a lot of vamps to get this place back into some sorta order, which I did, but not before they fucked us over big time.
Dru was a total head case, someone should've put her down for the good of humanity a long time ago. Psychic too, which was a real pain in the ass. Spike, on the other hand, was totally sane and really, really dangerous - together they were big trouble. I had a heap of problems trying to take Spike and Dru out.
But, lucky us, turned out Dru was a slut who liked to sleep around (big surprise), and ever since they'd got to Sunnydale Spike hadn't been getting much of the action. What's more, she was getting hot with Angel, which didn't make me too happy either. So I cut a deal with Spike: spared his life, told him to get the hell out of my town, and made him take Dru with him. So that shoulda been the end of it, right?
Well, almost - and here's why I really fucking hate Drusilla. See, before she left Sunnydale forever, she worked some kinda mojo on Angel. Bad, bad stuff we're talking about here. He lost his mind and went totally psycho, tried to kill me and anyone else in his way. Basically, lots of people died, and it wasn't pretty.
His final neat trick involved a big rock and the end of the world. Good thing: I knew how to stop it. Bad thing: the way to stop it was killing him.
I guess it wasn't really a choice. Either my one and only had to bite the big one, or else the whole world was gonna go instead. Knowing that didn't make it any easier to do.
I had to fight him, poor baby - he never really stood a chance.
But right at the end, just before I finished it, he did this weird thing: reached out and ripped that big silver cross right off my neck, smiling and crying while his hand was burning up. This look in his eyes, like he was my Angel again, before Dru worked her magic.
Too late for all that. Too late for anything but the Duty.
I shoved that sword right through his heart. I saved the whole goddamn world. And I never felt worse in my life, 'cause Angel was gone, and he'd taken back my cross, taken it into the Hell where I'd sent him. I'd wish he'd ripped my heart out instead of taking that goddamn cross.
Yeah, I was pretty messed up after that whole business; dropped out of school and took off on my own. I had this giant hole in my life, you know, and for a while I was just falling apart around it. But I did finally manage to get it together - came back to Sunnydale and the Duty, Joyce and Giles. Later I met Finn, moved into a place of my own, and so eventually the hole got filled up, mostly.
But all that time, I never forgot about my cross, never stopped missing it.
Finally, I figured I couldn't live without it, so I went and got me a new one: a tattoo. It's on my back, same place where Angel had his. Can't see it, but I never forget it's there. Makes me feel better knowing that I got it, 'cause nothing's gonna take this one away.
* * *
Got my stakes, my knife and my cross. Plus I got this thing inside me, this big angry fire burning me up 'cause she was my Ma, you know, and someone's gonna pay. Got this knife in my hand and I'm ready to rip up any stupid fuck who gets in my way. Happens that Willy's the unlucky man.
See, it's like this: if someone took a glass of water and dumped all this dirt in it, eventually all the dirt's gonna settle on the bottom, you know that, it's just a matter of time. Well, this town is that glass, and right at the bottom, in all the muck and crap, is Willy the snitch. He knows everything in this town, it's just a matter of getting it outta him.
I head on down to his dive, where the lowest of the low hang out. I don't mess around. Walk up and slam the knife right into the counter. In a coupla seconds the joint's empty, just me and the snitch. "Aw, jeez, Slayer. How's a guy supposed to conduct any business around here? Ain't you got any consideration for Willy?" I've been here a minute and he's getting on my nerves already.
I pull out the knife and heft it in my hand. "No, I don't, as a matter of fact." He tries to sidle away but I block his exit. "Don't even think about it, Willy. Some bad shit went down last night and you're gonna tell me what you know."
He's shaking in his boots. Trying to laugh it off, but I can tell fear when I see it. "I got no idea what you're talking about, Slayer, I swear on my mother's grave."
"Oh yeah?" I lean in, real close, and give him the eye. "You got the nail on the head, Willy. Except it's my mother's grave." Say it real low and quiet, then up comes the knife, watch his eyes follow it through the air. "Yeah, watch the knife. Not afraid to use it. I can't kill you, but I can do some pretty goddamn painful stuff in the meantime."
He's still hesitating - I can't believe this! There's gotta be someone big behind this, or he woulda talked already. So real quick, I grab his hand and slam it down on the bar, get my knife and push the tip in just below a knuckle. "Talk now, or lose a finger."
That does the trick. "Spike!" he squeals as the knife nudges a little deeper.
"Gimme more, Willy," I say calmly, but inside I'm going wild. We never uninvited him, I'm screaming in my head, we never fucking uninvited him!
"That crazy bitch of his, Dru," he's panting, trying to get the words out quick as he can. "Sh-she left him, got herself killed, and he's blaming you 'cause of that whole business with Angel. Went after your mother last night. Th-that's all I know, I swear to god, please! Oh god, stop!"
"Where is he?"
"S-somewhere in town, he's looking for you, that's all I know, I swear!"
I let him go and he slides to the floor, whimpering as his hand gets his shirt all bloody. He'll probably keep the finger. Probably.
"Tell him," I say coldly, wiping the knife on one of his rags before putting it back up my sleeve, "tell everyone you know. Tonight, out back of the Bronze. I'll be there."
He nods and that's all I need.
Then I get out quick as I can and don't look back, 'cause by then all I can think about is Spike and how I never uninvited him after that one night. Spike and that night, god - just remembering it is enough to make a girl get hot under the collar. But then I gotta think about Joyce, my Ma all cut up in the bathtub, and remember that those same hands did that too.
It's all fucked up big time, I say to myself and I shake my head in disgust. But tonight, I'm gonna see him and everything's gonna get sorted. I can promise you that.
* * *
When Spike found out Dru was sleeping around, he showed up at my door past midnight, pissed off as all hell. Goddamn lucky he didn't get staked straight away, which he would've been if I'd answered the knock. But back then I was still living with Joyce, and it happens that she was nearest the door. She saw him standing there and thought he was a friend of mine - came back and told me some hottie was here to see me.
But she wasn't the one who invited him in. I did that.
We called a truce and Joyce went to bed. He sat on the couch next to me, spent ages telling me about his troubles, how he just wanted to get Dru outta town. "Stupid bitch..." Had his head in his hands, pushing at his eyes like he didn't wanna cry.
I just shrugged. "Your problem. Like I give a damn about your love life."
He looked up and I could tell he hated me. "You should," he said, sounding kinda happy and miserable at the same time. "She's fucking Angel. Right now, as a matter of fact. Bet you didn't know that."
I didn't say anything, 'cause it was true that I hadn't known about Angel and Dru. And Angel was my honey, you know, so Spike knew just how much it would cut me up inside. He saw it in my face and just smiled, real slow and toothy. "Give a damn now, Slayer?"
Yeah, well, you can guess how much I wanted to smack that smirk off his face. Actually raised my hand to do it - but quick as lightning, he grabbed my wrist. Raised the other - he grabbed that one too. (Vampires and their goddamn reflexes.) We were face to face, real close, and all I could think about was how I was gonna kill him once I got my hands free. Rip his heart out, cut off his head, all this dumb shit.
Then he let go, real sudden, and I didn't want to any more. I just wanted - him.
I don't know why we did it. Maybe 'cause we were angry, at Angel and Dru, and each other. Maybe 'cause we were both wanting someone who didn't want us. Maybe just 'cause we wanted each other. I don't know. But we did it right then and there, on that couch, with Joyce in the next room and everything.
Like I said, I don't know why exactly. But I'll say this: first thing I thought when I saw Spike was, what a goddamn pity he's one of the bad guys.
Getting his clothes off was a pain. That duster, two shirts, tight black jeans - I was getting pretty damn impatient, I can tell you. But it was worth it, 'cause for one thing I never saw a whiter, paler guy in my life. Couldn't take my eyes off him, he was so beautiful. Like marble, with the palest blue veins. Cold like marble too; yeah, and as hard.
He wasn't nearly so careful with my stuff - ripped my top right off and tore my favourite red skirt. Went game-face and pushed me down into the cushions below him, growling without a word. I remember the feel of his mouth, sucking on my nipples, and his fangs scratching my breasts all over with red marks. He drove me crazy with his hands, so shivery cold between my legs, and when I finally took him inside me it felt so good it almost hurt. Had to bite down so hard not to cry out when I came; dug my fingers into his back and clamped my legs around him tighter, feeling like I was gonna explode. And after we did it that way, I went on top, made him beg for it at first, and then rode him till I wanted to scream.
Yeah, it was that damn good - better than with Angel, better than with Finn or anyone else. That night was something to remember.
Well, I wasn't gonna kill him after that, was I?
So I let him skip town with Dru and never thought I'd see him again.
* * *
I kick at the ground with my boot, bored outta my brain. Pull the hood of my coat over my head and put my hands in the pockets of my red coat, 'cause it's freezing out here, waiting out back of the Bronze. The joint's closed and there's no one outside for streets around me, not even the usual hobos and drunks who sleep in the dumpsters - 'cause who wants to be around when the Slayer's out hunting?
So everything's as quiet as it can get in Sunnydale. Just the sound of me breathing, the hum of traffic from the main road, and that damn racket from the generator on the roof of the Bronze. Had to listen to that for five hours now, and I'm getting pretty damn sick of it.
I told Willy to spread it, and by now the word's definitely gotta be on the street. In our world the word is the law, so I know he's gonna come; it's just a matter of when. But I've been waiting for hours and it's gonna be sunup soon, so naturally I get a little anxious. Fact is, I'm so busy worrying about when he's gonna get here that I miss it when he actually does.
"Slayer." His voice comes from behind me. "Long time no see."
"Spike." I turn around and don't act surprised.
I see him there, leaning against the wall with a cigarette hanging from his lip, and my heart almost skips a beat 'cause that's exactly how I always think of him in my head, standing like that in the dark. He comes forward into the light and drops the cigarette on the ground, staring at me the whole time like he's gonna eat me right there on the spot.
"You waiting for me, Slayer?"
"Yeah," I say. I pull back the hood and let him see my face. "Been waiting for you ever since you left."
He moves real fast, faster than I can think, and next thing I know I'm pinned up to the wall with his hand to my throat. I just let him do it, don't fight it at all.
"Do it, Spike," I say to him, soft-like and wanting it. "Kill me."
"What's that you say? Kill you?" He chuckles softly, and licks my jaw with his rough tongue. I shiver and gasp, and he laughs at me again. "Didn't think it was going to be this easy, Slayer. Even your mother put up more of a fight."
"Do it." I close my eyes and turn my head. Let him see all that luscious neck. Breathing kinda fast now, my heart speeding up and making me warm all over.
"You sure you want me to kill you?" Spike asks into my ear. "Or is it something else you want?" He presses up against me so I can't move - I can feel his teeth on my neck, his lips and his tongue pushing at my skin. I'm burning for it now, and he can tell. "I knew it, Slayer," he whispers, one hand tugging my top open and the other pulling up my skirt. "Always knew you were hot for me."
"Always," I say, while he takes my breast into his mouth and sucks it, and his hands move over me like fire. "Always." And I mean it.
It's hard, really hard, to stop him right then. But I gotta - so I push him away and give him the eye. He stares at me with the same kind of hunger I'm feeling inside, but there's no time for all that, no matter how much I want it.
"Spike," I say. "There's something I gotta do."
What I actually do then, and I didn't plan it, is I put my hands around his face and I kiss him. Spike's surprised at first, but before I know it it's turned into a real passionate, eyes- closed sorta thing. The kind that takes your breath away and makes your knees weak, the kind they have in Hollywood. The kind of kiss I had with Angel, or with Finn boy these days.
When I finally pull away and open my eyes, Spike just watches me with this real weird look in his eyes that I've seen before, somewhere. Like he's only just realised something and doesn't know what to make of it. His voice is quiet, none of that anger and hate I'm used to.
"What was that for, Slayer?"
"To say goodbye."
I got the knife in my hand and I'm holding him close enough to shove it right into his gut. Quickly I pull his head back and slash the blade right across his throat, so all this blood pours out over me and him. "That's for Joyce," I say, and he falls to his knees, clutching at the cut in his throat like it's gonna stop the bleeding. He doesn't speak, or scream, or anything, just looks up at me from the ground with those blue eyes of his.
I stake him quick, so he won't stare at me any more, ever again.
"You never shoulda made me do it, Spike. You never shoulda come back to town."
Suddenly I realise, hey, I'm talking to myself. It's a bad habit, so I stop.
I button up my shirt again and wrap the coat around me tight, 'cause it's so freezing cold out there. Thinking it was a good thing I picked the red coat that day, 'cause the good thing about red clothes is that the blood doesn't show up much at all.
Get to a payphone and dial Giles (still at Ethan's place) to fill him in on what went down. He sounds kinda pissed off, probably 'cause I hung up on him earlier, but then again it might just be 'cause it's four in the morning. In the background I can hear Ethan mumbling for him to come back to bed. I roll my eyes and hang up.
I walk all the way to Finn's place 'cause I don't have the cash for a cab. When I finally get there, the sun's just coming up over the horizon but Finn's already well awake and doing push-ups, like any good army boy. Have a shower to get the blood and grime off me, and somehow he ends up getting in with me, which is nice. Yeah, like I said, he's a good boy.
But standing in that shower with Finn's arms around me, I can't help thinking about Angel and Spike, and the Duty. Well, all I can do is cross my fingers and hope I'm not gonna have to put a knife through Finn too one day. Seems like I got a tendency with that.
I'm getting a new tattoo tomorrow. It's gonna be a wolf.
August 2000 (version 2)