Personal Hells


Took a couple of days before they decided it was safe enough to untie Tink.

Fortunately, some of 'em spoke English. Helps, when you get these demons passin' through.

Told her what to say. Didn't want anyone catchin' on, not till we were ready to talk 'bout it.

Which wasn't gonna be for a good century yet, at current rate.

Got through it okay, tho' I think the little old witch knew. Caught her giving me these /looks/ whenever she was in the room.

Lucky she didn't try an exorcism. Christ knows what that would've done to us.

I was a /ghost/. Couldn't touch anything, couldn't move anything, couldn't even get a soddin' fag.

And can I just get this on record? Sunlight is bloody overrated as one of the pleasures of life.

I speak from personal experience.

And to make it worse, I was anchored to my /own bloody body./

Someone's idea of a joke, no doubt.

I swear, if I ever meet the PTB, I'm gonna rip them a new one somewhere.

Kept her on cow's blood. Didn't want her gettin' a taste of anythin' stronger.

'Sides, didn't know if the chip still worked. It'd been tailored to /me/... so was it still gonna work with /her/ inside?

And Tink was /starting off/ with a soul. Didn't /want/ to touch human blood.

Watcher-boy would bloody love this. What happens if you start a vampire /off/ with a soul? And, gosh, look, here we've got the perfect subject.

Couple of days longer before they decided to get her walking. We hadn't been walkin' in a long time.

And it was...

...God, it was /painful/ seein' her take her first few steps. For me /and/ her.

Knew how to walk, 'course, but it takes on a whole new level of difficulty when a) you haven't been walking in God knows how long, and b) you're walkin' in a whole new body.

A was the biggest problem. Surprisin'. Maybe not. I mean, the body already /knew/ how to walk. It was... adjustin' to it again, that was the problem.

Got the hang of it real quick, over the next few days.

For a bunch of guys without physical trainers, they were real used to this.

I wondered how many others had come to see Lurky. How many of 'em had been unlucky enough to succeed.

One night, while all a'this was goin' on, she sat down and asked me somethin'.

'How did you know it was me?'

'Not many people /I/ know babbling 'bout someone called Willow, screamin' for her to come for her Tara.' I told her. 'That, and you definitely mentioned Dawnie and that bitch Glory at some point. With /our/ lives, it wasn't likely to be a coincidence.'

'Oh.' She sat there in silence for a while.

What she said next came so far out of left-field, I wouldn't have seen it comin' in a million years.

Considerin' what we'd been through so far, that was nothin' short of astoundin'.

'Spike... Was your name... your human name, I mean... was it William?'

My jaw dropped. Or it would, if I still had one.

'Yeah. Yeah, it was.' I finally told her. 'Buffy tell you?'

Tink shook her - my - head. 'No... no, I heard it... somewhere else, I think.' Then she looked back up at me. 'What was your last name?'

Well. Been a long time since I heard that one.

'Okay.' I told her. 'There are some things in this life I am /never/ tellin' you, 'kay? And /that/ comes at the top of the list.'

'Oh, you'll break, soon enough.' she said with a twinkle in her - my - eye. 'After all, we've got centuries to go yet...'

Have I mentioned how much I hate bein' a ghost?

Thought so.

Anyway, it was soon after that they decided we were well enough to be let out on our own.

Yeah, right.



Thermoses are a heaven send.

The villagers gave me one before I left, found a carrier bag to put it in.

I ask a butcher if he'll fill it up for me. It's for my pet.

Only, only it's not that easy.

Check that.

It's Hell.

This is Hell.

This is Hell, and /why can't they see-/

Oh God.

So much, there's just so /much/-

I can see it. I can /see/ it, as he cuts into the flesh. See the hot, red, steaming blood....

(the blood on Willow's shirt...)

I can smell the warm, thick scent from here.

So /much/...

So much so much so much...

(so much blood...)

And I'm hungry, I'm so /hungry/... like, like there's a black pit where my stomach should be...

I want to eat it all, swallow it down and ask for more, I want it all, I want it /now/...

I want to sink my teeth into the warm flesh, to lap up the blood as it spills from the wound, to rip and tear, let it free, let it gush into my mouth...

It smells like everything. Like every meal Mama ever made, might ever /have/ made, rolled into one sweet liquid. Like it's the answer to everything.

I want to sink my teeth into his flesh-




What... what...

What am I *thinking*?

This isn't....

This isn't...


I don't...

I don't...

I don't...


I blink my eyes open. Somewhere in the last few minutes, I forgot to blink.

And I'm so /hungry/...

Spike's watching me. 'Looks like it finally kicked in. You were staring at his neck. And not in a "I've just gone straight" way, either.'

'Oh God...' I whisper. 'Ohgodohgodohgod...'

'Talk to me, Tara. Talk to me about...' He flounders, 'God, /I/ don't know. Words. Words are safe.'

'Hungry...' I whisper again. 'So hungry...'

'Okay, words /not/ safe. Nothing safe.' Spike says hurriedly. 'Okay. Okay. If you're good, if you're good, I know this place where they do this onion thing in the shape of a flower.'

I stare at him. That was /so/ ridiculous-

The butcher hands me my flask.

'Th-thank you...' I manage to get out.

I don't hear what he says - I scuttle out of there, scuttle away-

Oh God the people all the people-

People - alive - blood -


I'm not breathing. I should be gasping for breath, why am I not breathing-


I focus on Spike. 'Keep talking. Keep talking. I, I can't keep it down, I can't stop-'

''Kay.' Spike says. 'Little Miss Slayer thinks she's Queen of the World, like it's all her world we're livin' in, and she's got the sheer tightassed gall to feel /bad/ about it, and sometimes I just want to shake the Niblet so /hard/ 'cause there can't be anything like brains in that empty little skull of hers, and let's not get talking 'bout Harris, could there /be/ a more useless excuse for a human being walkin' the face of the Earth, then we've got the King of Tweed, who's moronic enough to think you lot can be let out without adult supervision, and Red, now /there's/-'

'Stop.' I can barely recognise my - Spike's - voice. 'Stop. Stop.'

'I find buffalo wings help.' Spike says.

I blink. 'Huh?'

'Well, actually they don't, but they still taste good.'

'Is... oh God.' I can't think about this, can't think about going another day like this, another hour, another /minute/-

'Tara.' And it's serious Spike, and I've never ever been more grateful to see him in my life. 'Tara. Look at me. /Look at me, dammit!/'

'Can't...' I gasp. 'Can't...'

'Dammit, you stupid bint!' Spike rages. 'Don't go quittin' on me *now!*'

'I can't...'

'Wuss. Should have stayed brainsucked. Would've been a *big* improvement.'

'Spike-' I stop.

I can feel my mouth.


Oh God, I've got fangs.

My hand's trembling.

The other's clutching the bag tight.

Focus. Focus.

Plastic bag. Plastic bag. Plastic bag. Plastic bag.

Shakily, I pull myself upright.

And I'm still hungry, but hungry like I was that first night, I can block that, block that...

Spike's watching. Just... watching.

'I'm...' I screw my eyes shut. 'Give me a minute. I... I can... I'm keeping it down... keeping it down.'

'First real blood, huh?' he asks.

I nod, mutely.

'It won't get easier.' Spike says. 'It doesn't. Just think yourself lucky you never got a taste of the /real/ stuff. The body did, and /it/ remembers...'

'Is that...' I gasp again. 'Is that what it was like with... with the chip?'

'Uh-uh.' Spike says. 'You crashed straight into bloodlust. Hit /hard/. Me, withdrawal was a bastard, but I'd got the bloodlust in control. Knew when to let it out and when not. Hurt big time, but not nearly so much as the freakin' chip. You, you got bloodlust *and* withdrawal in one handy package.'

'Lucky... lucky me...' I manage to say.

'Yeah. Right lucky, the pair of us.' Spike says sarcastically. 'Right lucky. Damaged goods, that's what we are. Nothin' but damaged goods.'

'Does... does it have to be that way?'

'You tell me, pet.' he says, looking out, looking away from me. 'You tell me.'

I clutch my bag tight. 'Let's... let's get moving.'


Oh dear Lord, I think I'm still in hysterics.

The good kind, this time.

'I am /not/ taking up smoking.' I tell him.

Spike's pouting. Spike's actually pouting. He'd scowl at me for this, but he looks so adorably cute when he's pouting. 'Oh, come on. It's not even like I'm asking you to steal it or anything. Slap a few notes down in front of him, and bingo, sweet smell of nicotine.'

I give him my Someone's Being A Bad Kitty look. 'Spike, I'm not smoking.'

'What's /your/ problem?' he demands. 'Not like /we're/ gonna get cancer, is it?'

'Secondary inhalation.' I point out.

'Oh, come on.' he says. 'Can't tell me you never smoked a day in your life.'

'I did.' I say. 'Donnie dared me to try one, and I spent the next week throwing up. No.'

'We're /dead/. It's not gonna do anything to /us/.'

I stop. Fortunately, it's late night in the market, and no-one's going to pay attention to us in the shadows. 'Spike... are you fidgeting?'

'No! 'Course not!'

'You're fidgeting. You want a cigarette.'

'Well, /duh/.' he says. 'You know how long it's been since I had one?'

'Spike... you're a /ghost./'

'Don't mean I can't /watch/!' he protests. 'Go on. Just one. Just inhale, once, that's all.'

'*No*, Spike.'

'Pack of lights?'

'*No.*' I look him in the eye. 'Spike, if you don't stop this right *now*, I'm going to take up smoking /menthol/ cigarettes.'

His eyes go wide. 'You wouldn't /dare/. Do you know how poncey those look?! Make you look like one of those artsy-fartsy goth ponces!'

'Try me.' I intensify the Bad Kitty to my Bad Willow look.

'Soddin' Tinkerbell.' he mutters. 'Bloke can't even have a proper smoke with her 'round...'

'Tinkerbell?' I say.

'Bite me.' he informs me politely.

'You're so cute when you do that.' I tease him. 'Come on then... Peter.'

'Peter?' He raises his ghostly eyebrow.

'Peter Pan and Tinkerbell...?' I try. 'The boy who never grew up?'

'Har har.' he says. 'Next time, you might wanna try something with a little more name recognition.'

'Okay, Al. What does Ziggy say I've leaped in to do this time?'

'Right, Sam.' he says, perfectly poker-faced. 'Ziggy says there's a 99% chance you're here to get your mate Spike a pack of cigarettes.'

'What's the 1%?'

'That you get Spike two packs of cigarettes.'

I can't help it, I start smiling again.

'Oh boy.'

I still don't get the cigarettes, though.

Spike complains all the way to the hold.



The plane's hold's cold, dark, and airtight, but 'course, that's not an issue for us.

So of course the first thing Tink does is say 'Fiat Lux.'

And this dinky little Tinkerbell light pops in over her hand.

Her eyes bug.

So do mine.

'Okay, when did you start doing /that/?' I ask.

She blinks at me. 'How, how do you mean?'

'That.' I nod at the ball of light. 'Last I checked, I didn't do the magic thing.'

'I... I don't know.' she admits. 'It's... it's kind of a reflex when the light goes out. Something to keep me company in the dark. Kind of a nightlight.'

'Huh.' I say. 'So why'd no-one ever teach /me/ that trick?'

Then I stop to think 'bout it.

Y'see, one thing I'm sure of - I never met a vamp who could do somethin' like /that/. Just *poof*, and it happens.

Dru had her visions, but /she/ was insane.

Tink blinks. 'I... I don't know... Did you ever try?'

Yeah, yeah, 'Tink'. It was the second-best thing I could come up with. 'Tink'. That little glowing ball of light in the darkness.

Seemed to be her signature spell, so when I /did/ meet her... 'Tink'.

Of course, /now/ it's all so bloody ironic...

Either a little of Dru's sight rubbed off on me, or the PTB continue with their plan to turn Spike's life into a cosmic joke.

I'm goin' with option two.

Anyway, back to our excitin' conversation.

'Uh-uh.' I say. 'Never my type of thing.'

'Oh,' she says in a little voice.

She's quiet for a while, as the engines rumble in the background.

'You know...' she says finally, 'I, I never heard of a vampire witch...'

'Yeah?' I say. 'Me neither. Bet Watcher-boy's probably got somethin' on it in the books.'

'You think so?'

'Or maybe it's 'cause it's a witch's soul in there.' I shrug again. '/I/ don't know. We're breakin' enough rules as it is. Hell, I don't even know if there /are/ rules for this kinda thing. We're into whole new territory here. This's /insane/.'

'I know...' she says softly. 'I know. Spike...'

'Yeah?' I'm on the alert.

'Why did you want a soul?'

Tread carefully here. ''Cause I wanted to give Buffy what she deserved.'

'Why?' She's searching my face. 'I mean, why now? What happened?'

The Slayer happened. She always does.

'Was it about the... the Anya thing?'

'Red told you.' Statement.

She nods. 'Uh-huh.'

'Sorta. Kinda.' I look down. 'I... wanted something to make the pain stop. We /both/ wanted something to make it stop. But... but... it didn't work.

'And afterwards, I thought... I'd crashed. I'd finally got as low as I could get.' My chuckle's hollow. 'Guess the joke's on me. 'Cause it wasn't. Not by a long shot.'

'And... what happened next...' she says softly, 'that was why you went to get your soul?'

'Yeah.' I say.

'Oh.' she says.

'Yeah. Guess we're not the number one person they wanna see ever again.' Hollow chuckle again. 'Probably rank somewhere below Glory.'

'But you still decided to go.'

'Well, yeah.' I say. 'Answers. We need answers, and the only way we're gonna get 'em is bulling straight in. 'Sides, you'd've wangled us into finding out what happened to Red sometime. Best to do it while they're still alive.'

'Spike.' I look up, meet her eyes.

And suddenly, I'm thinkin' - did they ever look that intelligent when it was /me/ behind them?

'Did you - I mean we - did we kill someone?'

'No. Nothin' that simple, love.'

'Ah.' And it's like she's got the answer to a question she wasn't asking, not out loud.


Long silence.

'That was why you got your soul.' she says eventually.

'And a soddin' brilliant move that was.' I say. 'So I got a soul. Not gonna put things right, is it?'

'It doesn't.' Tink says. 'In the end... putting things right comes down to us, whether we've changed, whether we can answer for what we've done, whether we can begin again.'

'One outta three.' I look down. 'Not good, is it?'

'It's still plenty far.' she says.

'Not far enough.' I sigh. 'Not far enough. And I'm still goin' back. Love's bitch, that's what I am. Got me whipped like a dog.'

'But it's not just Buffy.'

I open my mouth to say yes, it /is/, it's /always/ about the Slayer...

...when it hits me.

It's Niblet. It's Tink. It's demon girl. Even Red.

Still not Harris, though. I've got a /soul/, not turned into a droolin' idiot.

He'd snark somethin' 'bout not bein' able to tell the difference...

I would've gone back, yeah, but it would've been about /her/.

This... isn't.

Somethin' bad's happened to Tink, to Red...

And I want to know what.

For my sake. For the sake of the girl sittin' across from me in my own body.

I want to find out who made Tink bleed, and then I want to put it right, the way I know - knew - best.

'Course, there're a couple of little obstacles in the way, like my bod currently bein' occupied by Tink's soul, like me bein' invisible to everyone 'cept Tink, (but, hey, it's not like I /want/ them to see me), and like us bein' the subject of a stake on sight policy from everyone in Sunnyhell.

Not like /that's/ gonna stop us.

I find myself hopin' the Slayer caught up with the bastard who did it. 'Cause if she didn't...

'No,' I tell her finally. 'No, it isn't.'

She manages a tiny smile at that, and it /still/ takes me back, seein' that. Seein' her expressions play out across my face. Softenin' it.

Not rebel, not Big Bad, not William, not love's bitch...

It's /her/ look. Not Spike's look.

And... I /like/ it. Somehow, it looks sorta right on my face.

Weird, ain't it?

'Will you tell me?' Tink says suddenly.

'Not here.' I say. 'Not here. But... but yeah, I'll tell you. I'll tell you.'

'Thank you, Spike.' she says, eyes down.

Not when I tell you what it was, you won't, I think to myself.

'Yeah,' I say, leanin' back. 'How about you? What 'bout your /own/ moment back there?'

Tink freezes up.

'It's going to happen again.' I tell her.

'I know.' She's gone into little-kid voice again. 'Spike... there... there was... there was a part of me that /wanted/ to do it... that /wanted/ to take his blood... I never wanted... I never wanted... and then...' She doesn't look up at me. 'And then... You know what keeps going through my mind?'

'What?' But I know what she's going to say.

'Willow.' she says. 'I keep thinking "this is how it was for her"... only, not like that... I don't think she ever feared it... but... but if I'd done it... if I'd done it... I would've killed him... I would've killed him, and...' She looks down. 'And part of me wanted that... wanted to kill him, wanted his blood... but...'

'But you couldn't do it.'

'But...' Her - my - voice's starting to crack. 'Spike... I would have killed a man. I would have killed someone... and that part of me... that part of me... it still wants to... it still wants...'

'It always wants.' I say quietly. 'That's the demon in you, comin' through clear and strong. It wants /blood/.'

Tink shrinks down into herself. 'Oh God...'

'It never stops, not all the days you'll live. It's never gonna stop. Shut it out, it comes back more powerful than ever - no wonder Angel's such a repressed wanker.'

'And if I give into it...' she murmurs. 'If I give in... that's Willow's path... she chose the magic... she /hurt/ people... I could /kill/...'

'You fought it down.'

She sits there, open-mouthed.

'You /fought it down/.' I repeat, just in case she didn't catch it.

'No,' she says quietly. 'No... I /did/... It /did/ go back... but it was /winning/, it was /winning/, Spike...' Her - my - eyes are moist. 'It was... it was everything... no, no... my family couldn't have dreamed of this... couldn't dream of what it'd do...'

No kidding, I think. 'You did it.'

'Because you were there.' Tink says, still in that quiet voice. 'Because you knew what was happening. If you hadn't been there...' Her hands are trembling again. 'If you hadn't been there...'

'Don't go thanking me just yet, pet.' I say. 'It's /my/ demon you're wrestling with.'

'I know.' she says softly. 'But you were there.'

'And you controlled it. Important lesson, there.'

'But it's one I have to relearn.' She looks up. 'It's one I have to learn all over again - I have to learn it for /real/ - and a mistake would kill someone.'

'Like Red and magic.'

Tink nods. 'That's what I mean, Spike. If I lose control - if I lose control in /Sunnydale/ - people are going to be hurt. People I /know/. And...' Her voice's barely louder than a whisper, now. 'I couldn't... I couldn't take that. I just... I /couldn't/.'

'So you wanna hold back a while?'

Headshake. 'No. No... that's the problem. That's the problem. Anywhere we go, people're going to get hurt. They're going to-'

'So what you need to do is /channel/ it.' I say. ''Swhat I did. Used it against demons.'

'I'm...' She looks down. 'Spike, I'm not... I'm not so good with the violence. Even with demons. It's just...'

'And it harm none, do what thou wilt.' I quote. 'Been around enough Wiccans to hear that part of it.'

'That's just it.' It's the quiet voice again. 'And now there's a part of me... that wants to harm people. That wants to hurt people. That wants to kill people. It... It... Spike, I can't... It /hurts/...'

'Don't get suicidal on me again.' I advise. 'No bloody way. This's /my/ body you're talkin' about. And we can't ask many questions if we're dust...'

Tink tries for a smile, but fails. 'No... No, I'm not going to. But...'

I sigh. 'Look, you fought it down once. You can do it again. I thought you were all into that centering and meditation stuff, so why don't you /use/ it for once, see if it helps? Not like we don't have the time.'

There's a tiny little gleam of hope in there, and it's about to get squashed by the fear. 'But... we've only got a few hours. It... It's not going to be long enough.'

'So? Gotta get started /somewhere/, and now's a good a time as any.'

Her jaw sets. '...Alright. I'll do it.'

And I know, in that moment, we've won this little battle.

Lot more to go, but hey, that's what we're here for.

I sit back. '...So, Sam, how's it goin'? Anywhere near gettin' those cigarettes yet? This sure don't look like a corner store...'

There's a twinkle in her eye. 'Things got a bit... messy along the way. I'm working on it.'

'You'd better be.' I say. 'If you don't do it, you're never gonna leap.'

'We've got to get Spike out of this in one piece first.' she says.

I pretend to consider. 'Okay, that's good. Just be sure you get the cigarettes.'

'I will.'

'So did I tell you about Tina? Now there is one *hot* babe. I was /this/ close to askin' her out to dinner, when suddenly-'

Tink wrinkles her - my - nose. '/Al.../'