Stay, Far Away, So Close
Disclaimer- The Breakfast Club was written and Directed by John Hughes. The lyrics belong to U2, and we all recognize which character came from Joss. As usual, nothing belongs to me.
“Damn watcher.” Spike mutters, as he drives away from the skyscrapers. New York City had been his crowning glory. Another slayer to his name, and no one will be confusing him as Angelus’ little flunkie anymore. He is his own vamp.
If only he had remembered just what a pain watchers could be. This one evidently called a hit on Spike even before the slayer’s body had been dragged off the train. Well, he hasn’t lasted a century waiting for the fight to come to him… he knows when to run. His fuel light has been blinking for a mile now, but he’ll be damned if he’s going to stop in bleedin’ Connecticut. No, he’s going straight to Canada.
Unfortunately the decision is made for him, as the car sputters through a green light, and comes to a halt outside of a Seven Eleven. With a kick to the tire of the stolen car, Spike fills the tank then goes inside to pay the cashier, or rather drain the cashier and take what’s in the till.
Just as Spike drops the cashier to the floor a customer comes up to the counter. “Hey pal, can you get me a carton of Marlboros?”
Spike looks up, demon face still at the front, blood dripping down his chin. “Or I can just get them myself.” The boy reaches across the counter and helps himself to a carton. He glances down at the dead cashier. “I’m not interrupting anything, am I?”
Spike just stares at the man, no definitely still a boy, who shrugs and heads out of the store. Intrigued, Spike follows him as he heads past the Seven Eleven, across the street to the high school football stadium. The boy doesn’t even blink as he jumps the fence labeled “School Use Only, No Trespassing.”
Spike’s momentarily distracted by a couple of high school kids making out under the bleachers. If he hadn’t already fed, he might have considered making the evening a bit more interesting, but it isn’t worth the effort.
Evidently, the boy also notices the couple. He stands above them and jumps, letting his heavy boots rattle the metal bleachers. “Hey, get a room!” Satisfied, he climbs to the very top row and sits down in the corner.
“Don’t supposed you grabbed a lighter while you were ripping off that place?” The kid asks as Spike settles on the bleacher next to him.
“I’ve got my own.” Spike took out a pack of smokes and his souvenir NYC lighter. “Want one?” He has no idea why he’s being nice to this punk of a kid who just stole a carton of smokes, and maybe something else on his way out of the convenience store.
“Nah. I’m trying to quit.” The kid smirks as if he’s in on some big cosmic joke. “At least until tomorrow.”
“I don’t get that. You stop in for a pack of cigarettes. You don’t smoke, don’t even want to. Seems like a bad excuse for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“I got what I wanted.” The kid kicks his feet up on the bench. The town hall clock strikes midnight. As if signaling the change of day, the kid pulls a cigarette out of his coat’s deep pockets. “You?”
“Not much of a haul, but it could have been worse.” Spike admits, fingering the stolen bills in the pocket of his duster. He has learned over the years that it never hurts to be a bit resourceful with the choice of kills.
“Hey now, check your change. How much were you really expecting to pull from that? They make slushies, for crap’s sake.”
“Yeah about that. You see, as far as robberies go, it wasn’t that bad.” Spike watches the kid carefully. “The only loose end to tie up is this witness.”
The kid looks collected as he blows out his first puff of smoke, but his fingers shake a bit too much as he taps the nonexistent ash off the end. “That does blow. What are you going to do about it?”
“Well, now, that is the question.” Spike leans back, looking for all practical purposes like a casual spectator. “You left your prints on the counter. You’re local, I’m not. Dressed up like a car crash, you probably don’t have a credible alibi.”
“You think the cops around here know to look for prints? Let’s not even get into alibis.” The kid rolls his eyes. “You’re wheels are turning, but you’re upside down. Welcome to our town, where everything’s easy as long as you don’t ask questions. Nobody’s going to look for me because no one wants to admit that people die.”
Spike gets a bitter laugh out of that. The kid isn’t even old enough to know better and he sounds like the soul has been sucked out of him. “How old are you, kid?”
“What, you’re carding me for the smokes now? A bit late for that.”
“Do you chat up all of your witnesses?”
“Nah, most of the time I just snap their necks. I’m just playing with ya for a bit first.”
“Good to know.” The kid seems to be genuinely thinking it over. “Seventeen.” He finally answers.
Spike tries to think about what he was doing at that age and comes up with a blank. The world has changed and that part of him is dead. “You go to that school?” Spike nods at the building behind them.
“When there’s nothing better to do.”
“What’s better to do?”
“I could always hold up the Seven Eleven.” The two men sit in silence for a minute, enjoying the ends of their cigarettes.
“So, are you planning on going through that entire carton tonight?” Spike asks.
“Nah, that’s for my old man.” The kid shares a look with Spike, and for a moment those dark eyes bring back a memory of violence, blood, and Angelus. “Peace offering.” The boy’s mouth tilts up in a half smile.
“Is that so?” Before the boy can react, Spike has grabbed his arm and yanked up the sleeve. The kid winces as his burns and bruises are exposed. “Let me guess. You say when he hits you, you don’t mind because when he hurts you, you feel alive. You can never decide what you want more – some attention or to be left alone forever.”
“What’s it to you.” The kid yanks back his arm, but realizes it only falls when the blonde robber wants to let go. “You get your jollies off on it? You wanna try to one-up my old man? It that what it is?” Spike can hear the defensive posturing in the kid’s voice. He wonders how much of this kid’s life has been bluffing.
“It’s nothing.” Spike drops the subject like he dropped the arm. He’s been there before and is in no hurry to go back. “What’s your name, kid?”
“Kid?” The kid scoffed. “You sound like gramps.”
Spike lets the kid get away with the comment because he is probably older than gramps. He isn’t going to be one of those vampires that shuns the modern world, preferring to live in their safe notions of what the world was. The kid’s comment reminds Spike just how old he is and how much he needs to learn about the modern world. Today’s slang is tomorrow’s antique and all that rot. “Your name?”
“Spike.” It would seem absurd to offer a handshake like it’s a business meeting, so Spike settles for offering his lighter as the kid grabs another cigarette from his pocket.
“So, Spike.” Bender smiles whimsically at the name. “What’s with the face? You got some sort of birth defect that comes and goes?”
“Nah.” Spike studies the kid before deciding on an answer. So many people can’t handle the truth. They could be attacked, left within an inch of their life, and still insist that the world was safe. He gets the feeling that this is one of those rare few who would prefer a single truth to a million safe lies. “I went to this party. It got a little hand, did a few things, woke up like this.”
“Must have been some sort of party.”
“Yeah. Died there too. It was a bitch.”
“Death, eh?” Spike could hear the incredulity in Bender’s voice. “What’s that like?”
“Death, or what comes next?” Spike muttered. “Everyone says there’s a white light you walk towards. That’s crap, at least for me. Red lights, gray morning, you stumble out of a hole in the ground, a vampire or a victim. It depends on who’s around. I guess I got lucky.”
“Luck is not being the victim?” Spike briefly admires how fast the kid catches on. He’s already half way there; he probably wouldn’t make a bad demon. “So you’re a vampire.”
“You sure of that?” Spike smiled, letting a corner of his fang slip between his lips.
“As sure as I am that this is not a real diamond.” The kid pulls out a stud earring from his glove.
Spike pulls Bender’s hand closer to admire the stone. Even if it isn’t real, it could probably pass at some of the cheaper pawn shops he’s come across in his wandering. “Nice. Where’d you get it?”
“Claire.” One word and yet a dozen layers to that word.
“She your bird?”
“She’s a tease.” Bender stares at the earring. “That’s all she’ll ever be.”
“Eventually they all break down; you just have to catch them as they fall.” Spike thinks of Dru, and how many times she’s fallen, expecting him to be there to catch her. Even now, he isn’t running away from the watcher so much as running to catch his sire waiting in Montreal.
“Nah, she’s a lifer.” Bender twirls the earring by its post.
“Then how’d you get that?” Spike has mastered the art of going through other people’s pockets. He’s used to finding junk, and wondering just what the story was behind keeping each trinket. Maybe it’s that corner of the poet still living in his brain, begging to know the story.
“What, you think I stole it from her?”
“Nah.” Spike lets the smoke linger over there heads for a minute before answering. “If you stole it, you would have taken both.”
“Ever have one of those moments when the world out there just stops? It’s like you used to stay in to watch the adverts, could lip synch to the talk shows; everything was working off a script. Then it just for a moment freezes and you don’t have to follow the script anymore?”
Spike nods. He knows exactly what that’s like. He’s having one of those moments now, talking to his dinner like they’ve known each other for years.
“So, what the hell do you do when time starts up again?” Bender glances sideways at the Billy Idol wannabe next to him.
Spike slips a hand into one of the pockets of the leather duster. It’s so fresh off the slayer, there’s still a stake sewn in the lining. “Carpe diem. Seize the day, and then strangle it ‘til it surrenders.” Spike fingers the stake, trying to decide if he should leave it in there for kicks. “Or, you can always pretend as though it never existed.”
“She’s the prom queen.” Bender flicks the cigarette butt out of his hand, watching the tip flare up orange before settling to the dull gray of the bleachers. “She thinks we can be friends.”
“That’s not just friends.” Spike stares at the earring. It catches the light from the sodium streetlamps in a way that makes him think it has to be real. There’s a flaw in that diamond somewhere that just can’t be manufactured.
“Nah. This is rebellion. This is sixteen years of being a princess in a tower knowing that the next sixty years will just turn you into a has been queen of a used up house wife. This is a desperate cry for help to someone who isn’t even listening.”
“Or, it could just be an earring.” Spike offers his thought for balance. Angelus is gone and he is tired of worthless grand gestures.
“She says that moment changes everything. You know what I say? I say tomorrow is the same as yesterday. If you look, you look through me. When you talk, you talk at me, and when I touch you, you don’t feel a thing.”
“On that you’re wrong.” Spike notices the couple under the bleachers has finished their awkward groping session and is trying to sneak out of the stadium. “Tomorrow is nothing like yesterday. It’s a million times worse, and a million times better, but not the same.” Spike realizes he’s old – two slayers, one century- and he knows things never go back to normal. Normal is the thing that has to catch up. “If I could stay in yesterday… I’d be a pathetic wanker living with my mum.” Spike admits with a scoff. “Nah, time’s changed, just not like you’d ever think.”
He just killed a slayer, he’s not supposed to be thinking; he’s supposed to be getting shit-faced with the demons of New York. There’s something wrong if when you manage to kill a slayer, then the night would give you up to her watcher. Whatever happened to demon solidarity? The sound of sirens interrupts Spike’s melancholy.
“So how long do you think it takes the old man to drink himself under the table?” Bender muses, his eyes now resting on the carton of cigarettes by his feet. He doesn’t want to go home. If he could just stay, the night would be enough to make his father forget what he was mad about in the first place.
“With the name Bender…?” Spike leaves the thought dangling.
“You think being a slack-ass is genetic? Your old man got a spot for the old get drunk and torture routine, too?”
“You have no idea.” Spike smiles at the memories.
“Right, vampire.” The kid admits, as if saying it out loud makes it more true. “How’s that working out for you?”
“It’s a bloody holiday.” Spike grins. “You can go anywhere faraway or so close- Miami, New Orleans, London, Belfast, and Berlin. After a few years it’s all the same. Everyone bleeds red, and that’s all that counts in the end.”
“Better than here.” Bender glances between the earring and the carton, the have’s and the have not’s, knowing where his lot lies.
“Not much to say for these seats.” Spike bangs on the bleachers, enjoying the echo across the football field.
“Up with the static and the radio waves, it’s not so bad here.” Bender shrugs.
“Spoken like a kid who’s spent too many nights here hoping the night won’t give you up and the day will keep its trust.”
“If I could stay up here, I would.” Bender admits. He doesn’t want to take out another cigarette, but his fingers feel restless.
“Why don’t you? Or better yet, why don’t you get the hell out of here?”
“I’m going to die here.” Bender announces. “You’re going to kill me.”
“Nah. No fun in it.” Spike smirks. “If you shout, only I’ll hear you. If you jump, you just might fall and be fine. Where’s the challenge?”
“So that’s it? I’m just going to be another loose end left hanging?” Bender sounds surprised, but not terribly relieved to know his life is to be spared.
“What do you want?”
“You tell me.” Such jaded words from eyes so young.
Spike thinks about this. It’s been a long time since he’s just been able to talk to someone that wasn’t a minion or half way ‘round the bend. If he stays, the night would be enough unburdening to let him be his bad-ass self for another decade without a second thought. “Alright. I’ll tell you.” Spike grabs the earring out of the boy’s hand. “This is as real as it gets, and by tomorrow you’ll think all of this is just another fraud because that’s your damage.”
Spike tells the story of a poet in another time, in another place. William the poet has nothing in common with anyone. There are groups and they don’t mix; they never have, and they never will - the rich, the working class, the soldiers, the academics. Then there’s the moment, the moment of clear understanding between a poor boy and a rich girl, a moment where the world outside stops.
Spike stops to stare at the earring at his fingertips. Another set of sirens signals the retreat of whatever law enforcement pretended to respond. “And then time starts again. The world intrudes, friends have their say, and the poet is ‘beneath her.’ Now, the poet is forced with a choice, either you stay with the demons you tried to drown or you run.”
“What did you do?” Bender doesn’t even pretend to buy into the hypothetical friend bullshit.
“Well, I would think it’s bloody obvious. I chose to stay with the
spirit I found, and ran right out of their life. Of course, I didn’t make it more than a block from her house when a crazy vampire pulls me into an alley and kills me.”
“So I can stay in this rut and die a slow death, or run away and die a fast death.” Bender nods slowly. “Thanks, you’ve been a real pal.” The sarcasm is thicker than the smoke hanging in the crisp early morning air.
“Or,” Spike hits the kid on the side of the head, “You could try living for once. It’s an option.” Bender looks surprised at this thought. Spike gets up and heads for the back railing. He balances on the top railing, as if it’s the easiest thing to do.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m off to find my own princess.” Spike throws the diamond stud back at Bender. “Here, you’ll need that more than me.”
Miraculously Bender catches the earring. He jumps up and peers over the edge of the railing in time to see the duster flap away in the wind.
Three o’clock in the morning, it’s quiet and there’s no one around. Just the bang, and the clatter, as an angel hits the ground.