Your eyes are not deceiving you. It is now 8 parts instead of 7. This part came in slightly too long and had to be split. Sorry.
Alex Hill stares out into the dark. For the first time ever, Spike didn’t tie him up. All he’s wearing is the seatbelt.
His back hurts so bad that he thinks he’s going to throw up. Spike tried to make him take a pill for the pain before Alex got into the car, but Alex kept his lips shut so tight that he sucked them into his mouth. Spike finally gave up and said that when Alex wanted the pill, he’d give it to him.
Alex doesn’t plan to ask for the pill. He deserves the pain after what he did.
The wooden tent peg — Spike keeps telling him to call it a stake — is back in the glove compartment because he doesn’t want to hold it. He doesn’t want to look at it, even by accident. Spike argued with Alex about it, but Alex just refused. When Spike knew that Alex wasn’t going to do it, he gave up and let him put it back in the glove compartment, but only if Alex promised to take the stake out and use it to fight if they ran into any more monsters. Alex promised, and put the stake in the glove compartment where he’d never have to look at it again.
Alex doesn’t plan on keeping his promise to use any of the stakes to fight, ever. He only said that to Spike because he doesn’t want to argue anymore about it (plus, he had a feeling that Spike would start yelling at him if he just said no). He’s just too tired to keep arguing about the stake. His head feels funny and he feels kind of old, like he’s going to have a 30th birthday party tomorrow or something like that. So, it’s probably better to lie and hope Spike doesn’t make him keep his promise, even if it does make him a liar (pants on fire).
Spike doesn’t say anything after Alex puts the stake in the glove compartment. He just gets behind the wheel and drives. Alex doesn’t turn his head so he can look at Spike. He’s afraid that he might see Spike looking back at him. While Spike drives and drives and drives, Alex keeps thinking about the man he killed. He can see himself stabbing the man in the chest with the stake. He can see the man looking surprised. He can see him crumble into dust.
Alex can’t let the idea go. He killed someone. He’s a killer.
Every time he thinks it, he can feel something in his head cringe. It’s almost like there’s a little man in there that keeps saying, No, I’m not. I’m not a killer. I’m not. He can’t hear it like that. It’s not like there’s sentences or anything. It’s more like a feeling.
Alex knows better, though. Alex knows what a killer looks like. He’s seen them in movies and on television. He wonders if he’ll look like those evil people if he looked in a mirror. He’s afraid that he will.
“It’s like I told you. You didn’t so much as harm a living soul,” Spike suddenly says.
Alex jumps a little. He turns his head so he can see Spike.
Spike is staring so hard at the road in front of him that he’s not even blinking. Alex wonders if Spike even sees the road. The idea that Spike is seeing without seeing anything makes him feel nervous and his stomach feel a little funny.
“You can’t kill somethin’ that’s already dead.” Spike glances at him then.
Alex doesn’t say anything because Spike’s being crazy again. What Spike just said doesn’t make any sense.
Spike taps the steering wheel and makes a face like he tastes something sour. “I hate this, y’know. I hate having to explain this. Of all people, I gotta explain this to you. I’ll rip their throats out. That’s what I’m going to do. I’ll point and laugh while they bleed to death. I won’t so much as lick a drop of their blood off my hands, either. Nope. Don’t want to touch the stuff. It’d probably taste like the blood’s gone off, anyway. Rotten buggers. The lot of them.”
Even though Alex knows that Spike isn’t threatening him, he cringes. It’s a habit. Alex hates that he can’t stop himself.
Spike hunches forward. “Now don’t you get like that,” Spike says. “Just blowing off steam. I won’t hurt a hair on their precious little heads.”
Alex thinks that Spike is lying.
Spike taps the steering wheel again, like he’s thinking so hard that his fingers have to help him. “Okay. I think I’ve got a way to do this. You remember seeing the demons the other night. You remember, right? The night they drew first blood on you.”
Alex frowns at Spike, but he doesn’t say anything. Some of the monsters looked like devils, but mostly they just looked like monsters. He doesn’t understand why Spike keeps calling the monsters demons. They’re not. They’re monsters. There are no such things as demons, unless you’re watching a scary movie.
Spike shakes his head. “Fine. Have it your way then. Those things you keep calling monsters. You remember the monsters from the other night, right?”
“Right. Good. That’s good.” Spike nods. “Now, these blokes we just had a run-in with. They’re monsters, too. Follow?”
Alex frowns at Spike again. “People can’t be monsters.”
Spike head whips around and he’s staring at Alex like Alex just said something crazy.
“People can be bad,” Alex says, “but they’re not monsters. They’re just people who are mean.”
Spike shakes his head very hard and his eyes go back to the road. “You need to get out more. Walk around a li’l bit. Meet some real bastards. That’d change your mind right quick.”
Alex knows that he explained things wrong. “What I mean is, they’re just bad people. Maybe even evil people. They’re not really monsters like the ones we saw.”
Spike glances at him. Half his mouth is smiling; half is frowning. “Had me worried there. You were talkin’ literally ’stead of figuratively.”
Spike clears his throat and taps the steering wheel again. “What I’m tryin’ to tell you is that those blokes really were monsters.”
“They didn’t look like monsters.”
“Well, that’s on account of the fact they were vampires. When they’re not fighting or fuc— I mean, having fun, they look like everyone else, yeah? They can look just like you, f’instance. It’s when they start with the killing that they look like vampires instead of humans.”
All Alex can do is stare at Spike with his mouth open. He can’t help it. Spike thinks vampires are real. While it’s nice to know that even someone as smart as Spike can be dumb about some things, it’s also a little scary. Little kids believe in things that aren’t real, not adults, and especially not smart adults. Spike seems like he’s really smart, but if he believes in things that aren’t real then Spike can’t be as smart as Alex thinks Spike is.
“Look, I’m being serious here. Vampires are real,” Spike says like he’s a little kid that keeps telling people that there’s a boogey man in the closet even though there’s no such thing as a boogey man. “It’s like those monsters, yeah? Did you think monsters were real before you saw them? Vampires are real, just like those monsters are real.”
Alex doesn’t want to hear this. He wants to cover his ears and sing really loudly until Spike stops talking. He almost does it, too. Except he can’t. He thinks it’s because he wants to believe that he didn’t kill a real person.
“You’ve seen movies about vampires, yeah?” Spike asks.
Alex doesn’t say anything at first. Then he realizes that Spike asked him a question. Sometimes the way Spike talks is very confusing. “Yeah. I’ve seen vampires on television, and in movies, and in comic books, too,” Alex finally answers.
Spike nods. “And in that pile of trash you call culture where you’ve seen vampires, what happens when you stake ’em? I mean, what happens when you shove a wooden stake right through the heart?”
Alex blinks. “They turn to dust.” He sounds surprised because he is surprised. “Just like what happened when I killed that man.”
“Yes! Exactly!” Spike sounds like he wants to start cheering.
Alex starts breathing hard. This can’t be right. It can’t be. Vampires aren’t real. He doesn’t care what Spike tells him.
Except that monsters are real. He’s seen them. One even hurt him. So, monsters have to be real. And if monsters are real, that means vampires can be real. The face on that man who attacked him just before he had a blackout (just like the kind he had when he was drinking) became all funny and looked scrunched up. He even had yellow eyes, like some of the vampires Alex has seen on T.V.
And that other man, the one Alex killed, he turned to dust just like…just like…just like…
“Are you all right? You’ve gone dead quiet,” Spike says. He sounds worried.
“The bad dreams,” Alex whispers.
“N-n-n-nothing,” Alex stutters.
Spike glances at him with a frown. It’s not a scary frown. It’s the kind of frown that makes Alex think that maybe Spike heard him say something about the bad dreams, even though Alex only whispered it to himself.
“It’s not nothin’,” Spike says. “I’d venture to say that just about every little bit of your nothing is probably somethin’ bloody important. So let’s hear it.”
Alex hunches his shoulders. He’s pretty sure that Spike doesn’t want to hear about his bad dreams, because…well, Spike just wouldn’t. He doesn’t think that Spike would be scared about them like Ms. Smythe was scared, because Alex knows that Spike’s not afraid of anything. Besides, Spike knows all about monsters, so he’d probably just think that Alex’s dreams are stupid anyway. Worse, Spike will probably tell him that only little kids have bad dreams like Alex’s.
Alex decides that it’s probably better not to say anything. “I’m just…talking to myself. You know, trying to figure stuff out.” It’s not really a lie, even though it’s not really the truth. Alex is getting a little nervous about all the lies he’s been telling and how easy it is for him to lie now. It’s like he’s practiced lying so much over the past few days that he’s getting pretty good at it.
Spike is drumming his fingers on the wheel again. That can’t be a good sign.
Alex dares to glance at Spike.
Spike’s frown looks even bigger than it was before.
“Listen, we’re both knackered and on edge, yeah?” Spike finally says. “You in particular have had quite the day.” Spike pauses to shake his head. “What you just say and what I just told you? Well, it’d give anyone pause, wouldn’t it? So, if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, well, I can hardly blame you, can I?”
“I…guess,” Alex cautiously agrees.
“You guess,” Spike snorts. “D’you know how many people would go screamin’ into the night after seein’ what you’ve just seen and hearin’ what you just heard? Plenty, believe me. Seen it with my own eyes more ’n once. So I don’t blame you if you’re feelin’ a mite jumpy. It’s allowed, y’see? But as for me, I need to…well, I need to know everything, don’t I? What with vampires to the right of us and de— monsters to the left. Got to know everything you know, just like you’ve got to know everything I know. ’S the only way we’re going to get out of this with our hides intact. Understand? ”
Alex nods. What Spike says does make sense, but he really doubts that his bad dreams are going to help them escape the monsters.
“So, if you know something, or if you think you know something, it’s best if I hear it,” Spike says. “It’s possible that maybe you saw somethin’ that I missed. I can’t see everything, can I? Don’t have eyes in the back of m’head for a start. Right there that tells you I’m bound to miss something.”
“But I only know what you told me,” Alex says.
“Maybe, maybe not,” Spike says. “See, sometimes we don’t think we know anything, when we really know quite a lot.”
“I don’t think that’s true,” Alex says.
“Well, it’s like…it’s like…” Spike suddenly grins. “You ever see those shows on the telly? What are they now…like, oh, that Law & Order that they run all day long on some cable channel or another. A witness sees somethin’, but they think it’s nothing but a load of rubbish, so they don’t say anything about it. Then when the police go back to question them some more—”
“It turns out that what they saw was important and the case is solved,” Alex quickly finishes with a grin.
“’Zackly,” Spike nods. “Well, it’s possible we’ve got the same thing here. Could be anything, really. It could be something you know, or maybe saw, but you just forgot you know it or saw it. Mind can be a funny thing like that.”
Alex has to agree, especially since he’s seen things like this plenty of times on Cold Case and Missing and Law & Order and CSI and a whole lot of other shows he’s watched on daytime repeats.
“Know another funny thing the mind does?” Spike asks. “Sometimes, when we forget something, it gives us a bit of a nudge. It’s like…well, suddenly remembering where you put your keys after you’ve spent hours searching for ’em. Or you suddenly get an idea that you can’t shake.” Spike glances at him. “Or, say, you have odd dreams that don’t make any sense.”
Alex hunches his shoulders. He was right. Spike did hear him.
“Now, my ears may have been deceiving me, but I thought I heard you say somethin’ about some dreams,” Spike says.
“It’s not really anything,” Alex says.
“Like I said. Maybe nothin’, maybe something,” Spike says. “So, you can tell me, and maybe I can help you figure out whether it’s important. If it turns out to be nothin’, well there’s no harm it telling me, is there? It’s not like I’ll be shouting about it from the mountaintops, am I?”
Alex looks down at his hands. He really doesn’t understand why Spike wants to know about his bad dreams. But Spike could be right. Maybe Alex did see something important once and just forgot. He knows he’s never seen anything weird — like monsters — after he woke up in the shelter, so whatever he saw he probably saw it when he was drinking, mostly because he doesn’t remember too much about what happened when he was drinking. So it’s possible he’s seen monsters before and didn’t realize that he did).
Alex swallows hard. He hopes Spike doesn’t think he’s being stupid about his bad dreams, but if Spike is right, maybe his bad dreams really can help.
“I dreamed about all of this,” Alex quietly admits.
“What? Didn’t quite catch that,” Spike says.
Alex says a little louder, “I’ve had bad dreams about this. All of it.” He hates that his voice is shaking.
Spike doesn’t say anything for a few minutes. When he does finally talk, Alex jumps a little in his seat.
“When you say you dreamed this, d’you mean you dreamed about you and me ridin’ in the car like we are here before you’d ever laid an eye on me?” Spike’s voice sounds like he has a headache.
Alex can feel his shoulders get very, very tense. The way Spike sounds reminds Alex of how one of his foster mothers used to talk when he’d do something bad. It wasn’t that the foster mother was mean or anything, but when she sounded like Spike just did, it meant he was going to be sent to his room without any supper. He doubts that Spike will do something like that, but there’s no telling what that tone of voice will lead to.
Alex thinks that he maybe should’ve answered the question right away, because Spike starts growling, “This is not a difficult question. ’Ave you dreamed about bein’ in this car with me before you ever saw me?”
“No,” Alex quickly says. Alex doesn’t want Spike to get so mad at him that he’ll kick him out of the car and leave him to the monsters.
Spike shakes his head. “So when you say you’ve dreamed this—”
“I dreamed about monsters before I ever saw one for real. And I’d have to fight them if I want to stay alive,” Alex quickly explains. “I’ve never dreamed about being in a car with you. I mean, I haven’t dreamed about being in a car with you before I met you.” Alex doesn’t tell Spike that he hasn’t dreamed about being in the car with Spike after they met either, mostly because when he takes the pills for the pain he doesn’t dream. It’s just: take the pill, fall asleep, and then everything’s black-black-black until he wakes up.
Spike is staring at the road again in that way he has when he’s seeing without really seeing anything at all, except now his hands are clutching the wheel. Spike always looked pale before, so Alex is surprised to see that Spike looks so white that he’s almost glowing.
“I best pull over so we can have a proper chat,” Spike suddenly says.
Alex hunches his shoulders and ducks his head. He can feel the car slow down and then come to a stop. There’s a small jerk, probably because Spike has put the car into park, and the engine stops.
Alex keeps his head down. “I thought you said we had to get far away from that town,” he says.
Spike clears his throat. “Well, fact is we do. But I need to get m’self clear on these dreams of yours. ’S a bit more important. I want you to tell me about all about them.”
Alex dares to look at Spike. Spike doesn’t look angry. Actually, he looks worried. There are lines across his forehead and the corners of his lips are tugged down, like Spike wants to frown but is trying not to.
Spike tilts his head to the left and says, “C’mon. Let’s hear it.”
“I’m not in trouble?” Alex asks.
Spike blinks as he finally lets himself frown. “Now why on this godforsaken earth of ours would you be in a spot of trouble because you’ve had bad dreams?”
Alex hunches forward again. He can feel the stitches in his back pull a little bit and he winces. “I dunno.”
There’s a sound of movement on his blindside before he feels a hand on his shoulder. Alex is so surprised that he yanks himself away. He yells more from surprise than the sharp pains in this back.
“Oi, ’s alright. Just me, yeah?” Spike says. When Alex looks at Spike, Spike’s hands are in the air. He looks just like people in the movies do when they’re robbed by a man wearing a ski mask and holding a gun. “You’re lookin’ distressed and I was just tryin’ to, unh, comfort you. Yeah. That’s right. Didn’t mean to startle you or nothin’.”
“I’m okay,” Alex lies. “I was just surprised.”
Spike rubs his hands together. “Right. So let’s hear about all of those dreams. Every single one. Leave nothin’ out.”
Alex can feel his face scrunch up. “Why?”
“It’s like I told you. Could be important. Could even mean life or death,” Spike says. “C’mon now, have I steered you wrong yet?” Spike asks.
Alex wants to say that Spike’s steered him wrong lots and lots of times. He thinks very hard so he can find an example of when Spike steered him wrong, but he honestly can’t think of anything. Alex has been wrong about everything and Spike has been right about everything, so he doesn’t know why he wants to tell Spike that Spike’s steered him wrong. Alex just can’t shake the feeling that it’s true; even though he really can’t remember any reason why he should think that it’s true.
Spike rolls his eyes. “The sooner you tell me everything, the sooner we can get back on the road and put more distance between us and the scene of the crime.”
Alex doesn’t like it that Spike has a point. Alex doesn’t know how to drive, and Spike does. So if they want to get very, very far away from the town, Spike has to drive. That means that Alex has to tell Spike everything about his dreams if he wants Spike to start driving again.
Alex takes a deep breath. Then he starts talking. He tells Spike that in his dreams he kills people and they disappear in a cloud of dust when he does. Then he tells Spike about all the monsters that try to kill him and he has to fight them if he wants to stay alive. He then talks about the black-eyed witches that hurt him with lightning that comes out of their fingers. He tells Spike about his last dream where he’s tied up in a basement and he’s begging this blonde girl to untie his hands so he can fight the monster attacking him, but she just crouches in a corner and waits for the monster to kill him. He even tells Spike about the dream with the priest touching him in a bad way, and how he can remember the smell of wine and how his left eye hurt like fire.
Spike doesn’t say anything while Alex talks and talks and talks. He doesn’t even interrupt to ask questions. Instead, Spike just sits there and doesn’t move at all. Even his expression doesn’t change. It’s like Spike has turned into one of those marble statues in the art museum. Alex begins to wonder if Spike is even breathing while Alex tells Spike everything.
When Alex is done telling Spike about his bad dreams (he’s not sure why he needed to tell Spike everything about his bad dreams, but the way Spike is acting makes Alex think that telling Spike everything is Important), Spike is quiet a long time. He’s quiet for so long, that Alex would think that Spike had fallen asleep if Spike’s eyes weren’t open.
Finally, Alex tells Spike, “That’s all I remember about them. Honest.”
Spike’s head gives a little jerk, like he really was asleep. He rubs his forehead with his right hand and closes his eyes. “How long?” Spike asks.
Spike opens his eyes, but his hand keeps rubbing his forehead like he’s trying to rub away a headache. “How long have you been havin’ those dreams?”
Alex shrugs. “Since always.”
Spike’s hand drops into his lap and for a minute he looks a little angry. The expression is gone so fast that Alex wonders if he really saw it all, especially since Spike’s voice sounds soft when he talks again.
“I need you to define ‘always,’” Spike says. “Did you just start having ’em when we hit the road? You start having ’em a month ago? Two months? Six months?” Spike licks his lips and looks nervous. “A year, more or less?”
Alex thinks very hard. He knows he didn’t have them when he was a little kid. Sure, he had bad dreams when he was a little kid, because all little kids have bad dreams. He just didn’t have as many bad dreams, and his bad dreams were different. At least he thinks his dreams were different, because he doesn’t really remember what they were like. He doesn’t remember any dreams from when he was drinking either, but then again, he doesn’t remember much from when he was drinking so he’s not really surprised.
Spike’s still waiting for his answer.
Alex lifts a shoulder in a kind of half-shrug. “I dunno. Just always.”
Spike makes a noise in his throat, like he’s getting very irritated.
“I mean,” Alex quickly corrects himself, “I know I’ve had them since I woke up in the shelter. I don’t know if I had them before that.”
Spike’s eyes get very big and he leans back against the driver’s side door. “Oh bloody hell,” he whispers. “Oh buggering, bouncing, bollocksing, bloody hell.”
Alex feels a little worried. He didn’t expect Spike to be scared. Spike isn’t scared of anything, at least as far as Alex can tell, so Spike shouldn’t be scared of dreams.
Alex needs Spike to not be scared.
Spike swallows really hard and shakes his head until he’s looking out the windshield. “The most powerful witch in the universe casts a spell and you find a crack. Maybe even more ’n one. Seven hells, you’ve got to be the very reincarnation of Houdini. ’S the only explanation, because there’s no chance that a normal bloke could’ve broken—”
Alex bites his lip and leans a little bit away from Spike. He knew before he told Spike that he probably shouldn’t tell Spike, but he did anyway. Now Spike’s so scared and worried that he’s starting to talk crazy again.
Spike suddenly throws up his hands. “This is just marvelous. Really top of the pops, right here. We might as well have bought coast-to-coast adverts and announced where you were. How we keep foilin’ evil’s plans for kittens and puppies is a mystery for the ages.”
Alex keeps his good eye on Spike and hopes that Spike’ll explain what he’s talking about.
Then Spike looks at him. No. Not at him. Through him. It’s like Spike’s trying to see through Alex’s skull using X-ray eyes, just like Spike did when he first walked into Alex’s apartment. “It’s that bleedin’ survival instinct of yours,” Spike says. “Couldn’t tramp that bit of you down, could they? Now we’re stuck with it. It’s going to be the death of us yet, you mark my words.”
“Death?” Alex yelps.
Spike rights himself in his seat and places his hands on the wheel. Instead of starting the car, Spike looks over at Alex. “Have you had any of those dreams since we started motoring cross-country?” he asks.
Alex shakes his head no as hard as he can.
Spike points a finger at Alex. “You’re telling me the truth on that?”
“Yeah. The last dream I had was the day I met you,” Alex says.
Spike’s eyes get very big. “The very day I walked into that flat of yours?”
Alex is confused, although not because of the word ‘flat.’ He knows what a flat is. Ms. Smythe used to call his apartment a flat all the time. What confuses him is that Spike seems to think that the fact Alex had a bad dream the day Spike showed up at his front door is Important.
“Unh-hunh,” Alex nods. “I had it just before I woke up. It was the dream with me tied up in a basement with the monster attacking me and that blonde girl crouched in the corner who was just watching it happen like she wanted me to die.”
“So that’s how—” Spike snaps his mouth shut and quickly turns the key.
The engine roars to life, and next thing Alex knows, Spike’s scrubbing out from the side of the road. The car jerks forward a little bit when the tires leave the dirt and land on the paved part. Despite the pain in his back, Alex leans back against his seat very hard. He can feel that Spike is driving faster and faster. Spike’s driving so fast that the yellow lines on the road are a blur. Alex thinks that Spike is trying to outrun the car’s headlights.
The whole thing makes him so scared that he closes his eye. “Spike? What’s wrong?” he nervously asks. He has to shout so he can be sure Spike hears him over the engine’s whine.
“Tryin’ to make up for lost time,” Spike says. “Now I need to know somethin’. You think you’re gonna be havin’ one of these bad dreams of yours tonight?”
Alex keeps his eye closed because he’s too afraid to open it. “I probably will because you made me talk about those dreams. I dunno though. Sometimes I have them lots. Then I can go a long time and not get them at all. I don’t know why I get them. I just sometimes do.”
“A fair warning is fair ’nuff,” Spike says. “Now, what would you say if I promised to wake you up if you started havin’ those dreams while I’m around?”
Alex honestly answers, “I’d say, ‘Thank you.’ I really don’t like them.”
“Now there’s a shock,” Spike says.
Alex turns his head toward Spike and cracks open his eye. He’s not sure if Spike is being serious or if Spike’s making fun of him. He’s a little surprised when he sees Spike’s expression thanks to the dashboard lights. Spike actually looks like he’s serious, and not at all like he’s making fun of Alex.
Spike glances at him. “I need to know if you told someone else about the dreams, besides yours truly,” he says.
“Besides you, I told Ms. Smythe,” Alex answers.
Spike’s eyes are back on the road. “Did you now? When?” Spike sounds angry when he asks the questions.
Alex blinks. He doesn’t understand why that answer would upset Spike. He doesn’t think Spike is angry with him, but he can’t think of a reason why Spike would be mad at Ms. Smythe. “Last time I saw her.”
Spike’s eyes narrow. “When she forgot to give you your book?” he asks.
“Unh-hunh,” Alex nods. “But she planned to see me in a week, instead of two weeks. We always saw each other every two weeks, but I think I scared her a little bit when I told her about the dreams and she said that she’d see me in one week instead of two.”
“The phone call.” Spike shakes his head. “Well, that explains that then.”
Alex is confused. “Phone call?”
“Nothin’,” Spike quickly answers. “Set my mind at rest. Tell me you told no one else.”
Alex is a little mad that Spike doesn’t seem to want to believe him. “I told you. Just you and Ms. Smythe know about the bad dreams.”
“C’mon, you mean to tell me that you never told your mates?” Spike asks.
“Mates?” Alex asks.
“Friends. Amigos. Paisans. Buddies. Pals.” Spike says the words really fast, like he’s reading from a list.
Alex opens his mouth to say that he doesn’t really have any friends, mostly because he thinks he lost all of them when he was drinking. Or maybe he lost all of them before he sobered up in the shelter. He’s not really sure, though. Even though he’s trying really hard, he can’t actually remember having any friends, not even when he was a kid.
But that can’t be right, can it? Everyone has friends. He must’ve had at least one. Right?
“Judging by your silence, I’m going to hazard a guess,” Spike says. “You did tell one of your mates and now you’re afraid to tell me because you think you’ll get into trouble. Well, set your mind to rest on that. I won’t get angry if you told one of your mates. ’S only natural if you did. I just need to—”
Alex cringes. “I, unh, I didn’t tell any friends,” he meekly interrupts.
“You’re sure?” Spike asks.
Alex swallows and puts his head down. “I, unh, I don’t really know anyone. I mean, I only woke up in the shelter a little while ago and I haven’t had time to make friends yet. Plus, I work nights, so it’s kind of hard to make friends because most people work during the day. I sleep during the day. Sometimes. Sometimes I watch TV. Or I go to the movies. I go to the gym every day before I go to work, but I don’t really talk to anyone except the special trainers they have for me.”
“And you woke up in the shelter a year ago,” Spike says.
“Eleven months, 3 weeks, and 2 days,” Alex corrects him. “Unless today is tomorrow already. If it is, it’s 3 days instead of just 2 days.”
Spike gives his head a quick shake. “Surprised you don’t have it down to the minute.”
“I would, but I don’t know what time I woke up,” Alex admits.
Spike grins without taking his eyes off the road. “I was makin’ a bit of a joke, there.”
“Okay, then. How about co-workers? Tell any of them?” Spike asks.
Alex frowns. “Why would I do that?”
Spike chuckles. “Good point, that. All right then. You tell a bird about your dreams?”
“A bird?” Alex asks.
Spike grins again. “I meant a girl.”
Now Alex knows Spike is making fun of him, and he gets a little angry. “I’ve been on dates. Lots and lots of dates,” he says hotly.
“All of which you happen to meet in a certain diner located two blocks over from your flat,” Spike says.
Alex’s mouth drops open. How did Spike know about the diner where he eats? And how did Spike know that the diner was his lucky place?
Spike glances at him. “It’s like I said. I know your Ms. Smythe, so I know a thing or two about your diner. But I need to know if you said a peep to the many minions in your hero-worshiping cult. Well?”
Now Alex is really angry. “Stop making fun of me!”
The stupid grin on Spike’s face disappears and Spike stops talking.
Alex turns his head so that Spike is completely hidden in his blind spot. He’s so angry that he’s shaking. He’s not sure what makes him more angry: that Ms. Smythe told Spike about his dates, or that she probably made fun of Alex behind his back while telling Spike about his dates. The idea that she did either makes him want to scream and hit something.
“I keep forgettin’ that you won’t hit back. Or maybe I mean that you can’t hit back,” Spike finally says. “If all was right with the world, you’d have a smart crack right on the tip o’ that tongue of yours that would leave me fuming. Then we’d be tradin’ blows for hours. Verbally, of course. Although once or twice, well more ’n that really, it came down to real blows. Anyway, I could always count on you to keep the ol’ mind sharp while keepin’ it off my troubles.”
Alex refuses to turn his head. He’s not even going to look at Spike, even though Spike is talking like he’s confused Alex with that Zander person again. Alex has finally figured out that even when Spike talks crazy, he’s not really dangerous. Well, he’s not dangerous to Alex, anyway. So let Spike talk crazy. He doesn’t care anymore.
“All those birds of yours were good-hearted sorts, even if it wasn’t apparent lookin’ from the outside in,” Spike says. “I didn’t mean to imply any of ’em thought you were dirt, ’cause they didn’t. If anyone was bein’ seen as dirt it was those friends of yours. Well, maybe not dirt, exactly. The girls would give ’em this look. Hard to describe, but those looks spoke volumes.” Spike snorts. “Right. As if all the little Scoobies aren’t feelin’ guilty enough about you. I was a reg’lar Agony Aunt for that lot, let me tell you.”
Alex shifts in his seat because his back is really hurting. He’s just going to ignore Spike until he stops talking crazy. Even though the way Spike is driving fast makes him nervous, he focuses on the yellow lines he can see whizzing by in the car’s headlights. Maybe if he concentrates on those, Spike’s voice will turn into that WAH-WAH-WAH noise all the adults make in the Charlie Brown cartoons.
In short, Alex doesn’t want to hear it. It’s not like he understands what Spike is talking about anyway, and even if he did, he doesn’t care. All he cares about is that his life is gone. All he’s got is a stupid passenger seat in a stupid car that’s probably stolen; and the stupid trip to L.A.; and the stupid pain in his back; and stupid, crazy Spike who keeps forgetting he’s Alex and not Zander; and the stupid monsters who probably think he’s this Zander person, too.
It’s stupid. All of it is stupid. Nothing Spike says is going to change that.
Alex wants to go home and just forget this ever happened, even though he knows that he has to find another job. Even without talking to his boss, he knows he’s fired because he hasn’t shown up for work in days. He doesn’t know how many days he’s been gone, but his boss told him that all he has to do is miss one day without calling in sick and he’d be fired.
Spike is still talking, although it’s all blah-blah-blah as far as Alex is concerned. Spike hasn’t shut up since Alex told Spike he knew that Spike was making fun of him.
Finally, Alex can’t take it any more. “Stop it!” he yells as he shifts in his seat to take the pressure off his back. “I didn’t tell anyone I went out on dates with about the bad dreams! And I didn’t tell any of the trainers at my gym, either! I didn’t even tell anyone at AA, even though sometimes I really wanted—”
Spike slams on the brakes. The tires squeal and Alex can feel the car slide over the pavement even as he’s thrown forward against the seatbelt. Alex screams because the car is swerving like it’s going to go off the road and all he can think of is what happens when cars leave the road in the movies. The cars always roll over and over and then explode into a big fireball. He probably distracted Spike when he yelled at him, which was a stupid thing to do because Spike was driving so fast. Now they’re going to die in a big fireball because he yelled at Spike.
When the car comes to a stop, they’re still on the road but they’re not facing forward like they should. Alex can’t stop shaking. His chest hurts like someone has hit him really hard. His back is all tense and feels like someone is sticking sharp knives into it. He’s really glad he’s not standing up, because his knees feel shaky, more like Jell-O than knees.
“What’s this nonsense about AA?” Spike roars at him.
Alex is too busy trying to catch his breath to answer.
“Since when are you a bleedin’ alcoholic?” Spike yells at him.
“Since always,” Alex says through chattering teeth.
Spike makes a series of noises. It’s almost like there’s a bunch of words that are stuck in his throat that are having a hard time reaching his mouth.
Alex takes a chance and swivels his head so he can look at Spike.
Spike looks like his head is about to explode into little itty, bitty pieces.
Alex is really confused. Spike knew about the diner, and he knew about the dates. Spike even knew about the books that Ms. Smythe gave to Alex whenever she’d visit. So why didn’t Spike didn’t know about AA or that Alex got into trouble because he drank too much?
Alex decides that maybe Spike is mad because Spike didn’t know that he used to drink too much.
“I don’t drink any more. I don’t. That’s why I go to AA, to make sure that I don’t drink, even if sometimes I’d like a beer,” Alex explains.
Spike starts grinding his teeth so hard, that Alex can hear it.
Alex looks away. Maybe he shouldn’t have told Spike about AA. Even when Spike was scary, it seemed like Spike sort of liked him — or at least liked whomever Spike thought Alex was. Now that Spike knows about the drinking, Alex guesses that Spike doesn’t like him as much. It’s weird, but Alex isn’t too worried about Spike leaving him by the side of the road just because Spike knows about AA, but Alex is pretty sure that Spike isn’t going to try to be nice to him any more.
Spike starts laughing, but it sounds mean and angry instead of happy.
Alex cringes away from Spike and closes his eye.
“This is just beautiful. A perfect capper on a perfectly shite situation.” Spike sounds like he’s biting on the words. “On top of everythin’ else, an alcoholic. Marvelous. Really fantastic, that. It’s just pathetic. They’ve made you bleedin’ pathetic. I’d laugh myself sick if I wasn’t the one who was stuck with your sorry arse. I’m half-convinced they’re tryin’ t’ be rid of the pair of us.”
Alex hunches lower. He can feel his face burn, although he’s not sure if it’s because he’s ashamed or embarrassed.
“Twisted. The lot of you,” Spike announces. “Those friends of yours…bleedin’ hell. What on earth was Red thinkin’, hunh? Slap the worst on you and hope it sticks? Well, that’s worked out so very well for us, hasn’t it? What with dreams and slips of personality and whatever that was that ’appened when we were attacked.”
Alex squeezes his eye shut even tighter. Spike sounds like he’s going to reach out and slap Alex in the back the head.
Instead of feeling a slap, Alex hears the car keys jangle together as Spike starts the engine.
“You mark me right now,” Spike says, “when I have that chat with the Watcher about sendin’ us that army, he and I are going to have words ’bout this.”