Flat Earth, Steamrollers and Other Theories
Spike finally opened his eyes when the drummer finished the last beat of the last set. The group was good. Not as good as the Sex Pistols, of course, but they had the raw talent there. They'd been good enough to pull Spike out of the street and into the dark bar. The barstools on either side of him were empty, probably because he'd threatened a few people, but the rest of the place was packed.
A Goth-girl with black pigtails and a huge smile dropped into the seat next to him, but Spike didn't bother threatening her. He was going to leave in a bit, anyway. Just as soon as he figured out where he wanted to go next. The problem with DC was that he had his choice of the upscale neighborhoods that reminded him far too much of Wolfram and Hart and the lower class neighborhoods that were so full of misery that the smell of it just made him feel even lower.
"I'm Abby." The girl held out her hand and smiled and tilted her head in a way that made her look about ten. Spike frowned as he tried to figure out what he had done to give her the impression that he wanted to have anything to do with him. When he didn't answer, she reached out and grabbed his hand. Her attempt to shake it failed, but she held one of his hand in both of hers for a second before she smiled again and let go.
"Awesome concert. I love Exsanguination and Souls, and not just because of their name," she said. Spike threw back his whiskey and waved for the bartender to come back and refill it.
"Excuse me," the Goth-girl said as she leaned so far over that she was practically lying in Spike's lap. Before he could threaten her for taking those kinds of liberties, she had grabbed a bowl of munchies and pulled it closer.
"You want?" She held the bowl out toward him with a bright smile that didn't match the black lipstick and web tattoo.
"No." Spike tried to put all his menacing anger into that word. Most of the gits who'd tried to claim seats near him had taken off after hearing just that one syllable, but she had the bloody nerve to smile at him before settling back down in the seat next to him.
"Is this taken?" some git with green hair asked about the empty chair on the other side of Spike.
"Yes," Spike snarled. Green-hair man stumbled back and then fled the second he could get his feet untangled. Right, that was more like it.
"You kind of remind me of my Gibbs. You have the whole..." she made an exaggerated 'serious face' and lowered her head.
"Bloody hell. Are you accusing me of brooding?" Spike demanded. He slammed his glass down so hard that the whiskey sloshed over his fingers.
"Well... maybe." Abby wrinkled her nose. "But it's more like this really intense vibe. Like there's something wrong and you're just the badass to put it right because you are taking names and kicking asses." She mimed a fistfight with enthusiasm.
Spike blinked at her. This was not the way he'd planned this conversation. Actually, he hadn't planned to have a conversation at all because he'd expected her to go running for cover by now.
Abby smiled and reached out and caught his hand in hers before he realized she was going to. "So, I thought you might have a thyroid condition because a high TSH count will definitely reduce circulation and cause cold hands and feet. But that would definitely not explain the mirror." Abby looked down at the bar, and Spike saw that she'd angled her little make up mirror to face him when she'd been reaching for the crisps. Of course, it reflected back a room without him in it.
"Bloody hell." That was the oldest vamp hunters' trick in the book, and he hadn't even been watching for it. Some vampire he was.
"You are, aren't you?" Abby had an excited edge to her voice that grated like fingernails down a bloody chalkboard. The last thing he wanted to deal with was some vampire groupie.
"Time for me to go," Spike said with a tight smile, but Abby moved to block him. Yeah, Spike could shove her out of the way, but that would probably defeat his whole point for coming to the club in the first place—a chance to bury himself in something normal... something human that would feed his human soul's need to get out of his room or dark back alleys for a while. If he went using his vamp strength in front of this many people, someone would notice.
"Wait. No!" Abby looked like someone had just threatened to cancel Christmas.
Spike glared at her. "I don't bloody want some groupie, and if you have any illusions about vampires being misunderstood, keep in mind that you're our food source. That makes you nothing more than a cow."
"I'm vegetarian," Abby answered without even a flinch. "So, do a lot of vampires come to clubs? Is this like a normal night for you? Oh... are you hunting?" She asked with such pure curiosity that Spike couldn't really come up with an answer. She had this open expression that made it hard to get too angry, but there was definitely anger building up. Spike did not want to deal with this. He tried to get out the other side of his bar stool, cursing the way the base was bolted to the floor, but Abby almost tripped herself getting to the other side to block him again.
"Back off," Spike warned, allowing his eyes to yellow. Instead of backing away, Abby squinted and leaned in so close that Spike could smell her perfume, even in the crowded club.
"Is that a color changing pigment or does the pigmentation in your eye actually migrate?"
"I mean, color changing eyes isn't logical, so I have to wonder how that works."
"Want to dissect me, do you?" Spike's guts turned cold at that thought. Maggie Walsh had come too bloody close on that front, and he wasn't bloody letting that happen again.
"No. That would horrible. And besides, Ducky does the autopsies. Oh, would you have a body to autopsy or do you really turn to dust when you're dead? More dead? Unwalking dead?" Abby tilted her head as though she was honestly trying to figure out the right term.
"Dusted," Spike offered.
She smiled. "Ah. Dusted, which implies dust, which implies you really do lose all moisture and structural integrity at death which is scientifically implausible. Yesterday, I would have said impossible. Yesterday, I would have said vampires were impossible, but I’m thinking I was wrong. I do that sometimes. Make mistakes. Not often, but sometimes. Usually it means I need more caffeine. I've had lots of caffeine tonight." She gave him a knowing smile and nod, and even a wink.
She had her one hand still clinging to Spike's coat, and Spike reached up and caught her wrist and pulled her hand loose. "So, you're not a believer?"
"In what?" she asked, her expression still openly curious.
"You know, luv, all those things that go bump in the night—the beasties and the magical spells and vampires." He looked her up and down, but she definitely looked like one of those sort that would believe in the supernatural. However, she suddenly looked almost offended at the very idea.
"I'm a scientist. I believe in what I can see or put through my mass spectrometer, because there are a lot of things I believe, like DNA, that I can't actually see. But I've never seen vampires or magic and Major Mass Spect definitely does not have a supernatural setting. I've seen things that people might call magic, but most of the time, there are wires and tiny transmitting devises involved." She nodded with great emphasis, like what she was saying made sense. Maybe Spike had managed to drink enough to lose a little of his ability to mentally track the conversation, but that didn't seem to make sense.
"I have voodoo dolls, and I stick a lot of pins in them," she told him with the air of someone sharing a secret. "Don't tell Gibbs, but I sometimes stick a pin in him, but most of the time, he sits and watches the other voodoo dolls. But the dolls are a psychological construct intended to release frustration before I yell at one of the team for expecting me to be able to pull evidence out of my butt. I don't actually believe in voodoo. Or I didn't. I might need to reevaluate that because I have this whole lecture about how vampires are really just a metaphor for sexuality and the misogynistic view of relationships which posits that any woman has to submit to sex instead of enjoying it, but I don't think you want to hear that one."
Spike had definitely had too much to drink. "Wait, you didn't even soddin' believe in vampires until tonight?" he demanded. She nodded cheerfully. "Then why aren't you running and screaming and acting like a reasonable human being?"
That seemed to make her think. She moved to the bar stool on the opposite side of Spike from where she'd started and sat down.
"I don't think that would be very productive. Like I said, I'm a scientist. You exist. You're a vampire. Those facts clearly mean I've made an assumption about the way the world works that is factually incorrect. That's an uncomfortable realization for me as a scientist."
"More uncomfortable than sitting next to a vampire?" Spike just needed to check that he was following the conversation because he was definitely feeling a little lost.
She nodded. "I could have sat next to vampires a dozen times and not known it, so I can't assume this is a unique, or even noteworthy, event. However, scientists are trained to never make assumptions, and you're very existence means I've failed. I don't like failing as a scientist."
"You're upset because you shouldn't assume things?" If Spike still worked for Wolfram and Hart, he'd be calling for the guys from the psych department about now.
Abby shrugged. "Well, I guess I can assume some things. I can assume the earth actually isn't flat and that vampires don't exist, but when evidence contradicts that, as a scientist, I have to consider the possibility that I've spent my entire life being wrong."
For long minutes, Spike couldn't even come up with an answer to that. He looked over her shoulder to the stage where the band was breaking down the equipment and the audience where people were either settling down to tables or gathering their belongings. If he went into gameface, not a single human in this very crowded room would react anything like this odd, odd woman. "Pet, that is more unnatural than a vampire."
"Your willingness to let go of beliefs you've had your whole life. That's downright unnatural and unhuman."
"Hey, are you insulting humanity?" Abby crossed her arms and gave Spike such a fierce look that Spike had to bite back a laugh. This one would have flummoxed Angel. Angelus would have just eaten her, but she would have put Angel into a full retreat. Powerful women often did, but that was because Angel never wanted to give up his own beliefs about women and how they should act, and seeing as how his beliefs had been born somewhere in the 1700's, Abby didn't exactly fit them.
"Just speaking the truth, luv. I've been around for a long time, and people don't like change.
"Well of course they don't like change. Change is unpredictable. It's like this big huge steamroller that might roll over all the obstacles and give you this nice wide path to move, but there's always this little fear that it's going to roll over you, too. People generally don't like being rolled over. Really don't like. And that fear that you're going to be steamrollered is actually not all that unreasonable."
Spike looked at her for a second and threw back his glass of whiskey. "Suppose not," he agreed, suddenly feeling uncomfortable. "Right then, I'll see you around." Spike turned to leave again, trying hard to ignore thoughts about the people who change had steamrolled—the way Fred had smiled when she was embarrassed, the way Gunn got this stoic look that reminded him too bloody much of Xander, or at least it had reminded him of who Xander had been before one too many apocalypses had turned him into a moody git with an even bigger stick up his ass than usual. Change had bloody steamrollered him into a broody sod who couldn't even get a proper brood on without a little more privacy.
Spike hadn't made it more than two steps before Abby caught his arm. "Hey." She stopped at that one word and bit her lip.
"Not safe ta play with the wildlife, pet," Spike warned. He really was in a mood to drink and try and forget just much life had rolled right over him and crushed everything he'd known.
"Life isn't safe," Abby said with a shrug. "Not that I plan on going anywhere private with you in the dark, because there are acceptable levels of unsafe, and then there's just stupid. But I was really hoping you'd stay here."
After Spike asked the question, he watched as Abby obviously searched for some answer that would satisfy him or maybe that matched what she was feeling, but she couldn't find any answer for him. Spike turned to leave again, and again, Abby caught his arm.
"Just because," she said. Others pushed past them, searching for a bathroom or yelling for a drink or just stumbling out into the night now that the band was done. Spike ignored all of it, and Abby seemed to as well. She looked up at him, her black pigtails looking so childlike and her expression looking so old. If he went back to his hotel right now, he'd never meet another human like her.
Spike shrugged. "Not like I have somewhere better to go," he said, as he turned back to the bar. Abby smiled, her smile erasing that illusion of age and pain.
"Good," she announced. "So, since you've steamrolled my view of the universe, you have to tell me more."
"Trust me, you don't want to know." Hell, if Spike could, he'd forget the whole fucking supernatural world, himself.
"Yes, I do. If life streamrolls you or you wake up one day and discover that the world isn't flat anymore, you only have two choices—climb under the covers and hope it goes away, or try to get out from under the steamroller. And I find under the covers very boring. Well, unless I have company that's really good under the covers. Then under the covers is pretty fun." Abby's smile turned playful, as she picked up her glass, but her drink was ginger ale and that flash of solemnity still lurked beneath it. This one was all about illusions and disguises.
Spike hesitated. Here was Willow with all her curiosity before the magic had corrupted her. Here was Xander with his idealism before he'd been beaten down one too many times. Here was Fred before all her optimism turned to horror as she discovered the world wouldn't turns out all happiness and flowers and she couldn't do a bloody thing about it. He didn't want to see someone else broken like them. But at the same time, Abby had a strength to her hidden below this character she'd created for the world to see. He had a feeling she'd met more than one steamroller in her own life.
"The name's Spike, luv. I can't say I'm a normal vamp, but that story goes back a ways."
She wiggled in her seat like a little girl getting ready for story time. Spike leaned back and prepared to tell her a story... and maybe she'd even believe it.