or Spike and River Commiserate on the Evils of Neurosurgery
Spike was so absorbed in the novelty of actually unpacking the bag of all his worldly possessions that he didn’t notice the light footsteps coming to a stop not five feet behind him.
“You have a spark.”
To his credit he did not jump or start at the sudden voice behind him, merely turned around quickly. “Hey Cassandra, didn’t hear you come in.”
River frowned slightly at his comment. “Nobody believed her.”
Spike chuckled slightly. “Right you are Seer. Suppose that gives you a one up on her.”
“You have a spark,” she insisted. “Got it for the sunshine.”
He cocked a slightly confused eyebrow at her before turning back to his bed. “’M afraid the soul doesn’t work like that. ‘Sides, don’t need to worry about the sunshine much since Earth-That-Was. None of these other stars quite do it for me.”
“Poor William fell in love with the sunshine,” she continued in a sing-song voice, “and went and got her what she deserved. A spark.”
Spike stiffened for a moment, before forcing himself to relax and keep going through his pack. “Why don’t you run along Seer; I’m sure big brother is looking for you.” When she didn’t respond Spike cast a glance over shoulder in time to see dawning horror in her eyes.
“Lightning. Your brain was all filled with lightning.”
“Lightning… you mean the chip, pet? Government stuck it up in there to try to make me behave but-”
His explanation was cut off by a loud whimper. River was slowly backing away from him, trembles wracking her body. “Lies, lies, lies. They drill into your head and fill it with lies until you can’t hear the truth anymore.” Her back hit the wall and her breathing got faster. “Head’s so full and can’t make them stop. They all keep talking to me and no one’s talking to each other.” She was now crouched in the fetal position, rocking her body back and forth as he watched, frozen. “All the voices talking, talking and it’s all full of lies. Lies until I can’t tell what’s real.” Suddenly her head shot up, eyes locking with his. “Am I real?”
Whatever spell had held him in place broke and he was crouched down beside her a moment later, gently stroking her hair. “Shhh pet, it’s okay. You’re real, you’re right here with me aren’t you? Just listen to my voice.” He continued murmuring in her ear until her breathing slowed and the shaking stopped.
“They really did a number on your brain, didn’t they?” he commented. “Reminds me of someone.” Spike could almost feel the way her attention focused in on his last comment and he laughed softly. “Did you want to hear the story, pet? Well, it all started with a girl.”
“And I wonder, what possible catastrophe came crashing down from Heaven and brought this dashing stranger to tears.”
What surprised him wasn’t the Seer’s knowledge of the first words Drusilla ever spoke to him, nor her ability to perfectly mimic the way Dru had said it right down the pauses. No, what surprised him was the fact he hadn’t made the connection between the two before, given how bloody obvious it should have been. “Try again, luv.”
She stared at him for a long moment, as though trying to pluck the answer from his mind. Of course, given that she was a seer that was likely exactly what she was trying to do. When she spoke again there was a slight twang to her words. “I’m getting electromagnetic readings consistent with spiritual entities, but there’s no ectoplasmic matrix.”
“That must be from my stint as a ghost. Though I’m not sure what made you think of Fred.”
River gave him the “isn’t it obvious” look that Spike was convinced all girls had programed into them and said, “She was very intelligent.”
Spike’s grin was mixed parts amused at the comment and relieved at her lightheartedness. “Modesty’s a good look for you. Now what do you say Bit, third times the charm?”
The smile blooming across the girl’s face let him know she had clued into his hint.
“The hardest thing in this world is to live in it,” she said, conviction in an undercurrent to the mimicked tones.
He didn’t allow himself to stiffen this time, nor to remove the comforting hand he had placed on his back. Girl was just trying to play the game, probably didn’t even realize that Niblet’s line had come from Buffy first.
“Right in three Seer,” he replied after a moment. “Now like I was saying, it all started when one day this teenaged girl gets plopped down right in the middle of everything and starts swanning about like she belongs there. Course all of us, including Dawn herself, thought she did. Turns out there were these monks that were supposed to be protecting this energy being, called the Key. Job got to be too much for them so they thought they’d pass it off to someone else. Turned the key into a fourteen year old girl, made up a bunch of memories, and shoved them inside everyone’s heads; inside the Bit’s head too. Was a couple months after she came that anyone realized she hadn’t always been there.
“I was there when she found out about herself. Niblet found a diary the Watcher kept, talked all about what she was. She didn’t say anything, just sat there for a long time, then she got up and left. I walked with her, all the way back to her kitchen door, but she never said a word to me. Wasn’t ‘til later that I found out what happened next. The Bit went and got a knife from the kitchen, cut herself open. She wasn’t sure if she was real.”
Up until this point, River had been staring at the floor as she listened to his tale. But at his last comment she looked straight at him, eyes sharp. “She’s the same.”
Spike chuckled. “That is why I’m telling the story pet. Now Niblet had a hard time of it for a while. It wasn’t until Buf-,” he swallowed, cutting of the word, “until her sister died to save her that she really started to believe that she was a real person, that she mattered. She still had to try to figure it out for a while but Dawn eventually learned to live with it.”
She was watching him closely now, like he was a bleeding fount of wisdom. “How?” she asked, her voice barely a whisper.
“Just by being herself, pet. Didn’t matter if her memories were fake or real, if she was the Key or a human. She was who she was.”
“Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3, Line 78.”
Spike hadn’t read any Shakespeare in a long time, but luckily Hamlet had always been one of William’s favorites. After a minute he worked out what she was saying and grinned. “That’s it. You just be River, and anyone who’s bothered by that can just sod off.” She giggled a little at that, which warmed his still heart more than he cared to admit. “They’ve already messed with your brain,” he continued gently, “don’t let them mess with your head.”
She didn’t say anything for a minute, and he could practically see the thoughts racing through her head. Suddenly she seemed to come to a decision and jumped up from her sitting position. She smiled at him and, noting that he was still crouched on the ground, offered him her hand. Bemused he accepted her help up.
“I’ve always wanted a little sister,” she said, seemingly apropos of nothing.
“Yeah, well I meet any monks guarding beings of pure energy I’ll let them know you volunteered, shall I?” Spike responded.
Seer gave one, sharp, decisive nod, as though she expected no less, before running off. “I’m going to go tell Simon!”
He considered going after her, but then shrugged and turned back to his bag. He could always sort it out later.
A/N: To those who didn’t get the references:
Cassandra: A princess of Troy who was so beautiful (second only to the infamous Helen) that Apollo granted her the gift of prophecy. Cassandra, however, did not return his love, so he cursed her so that no one would ever believe her. As a side note Cassandra also gets a reference in the Season 7 Buffy character Cassie.
Hamlet: For those of you among us who *gasp* don’t have Shakespeare by line, the line River is quoting is Polonius, “This above all: to thine own self be true.”