Brief Encounter

Written by Glassdarkly, September 2006

Spike paused outside the door of the restaurant, staring through the plate glass windows. Behind him, the station concourse was noisy - the shouts of porters, the sound of hurrying feet, whistles blowing as trains prepared to depart. The air smelt of smoke and metal. He took off his gloves and fished a pack of Lucky Strikes and a matchbook out of his coat pocket. The brief flare of the match warmed his cold hands as he lit his cigarette.

She hadn't noticed him. She was sitting alone at a table in the roped-off First Class dining section, staring into some dim imagined distance, an empty coffee cup on the table in front of her. He hadn't seen her for the duration but the years had been kind to her of course, and her clothes – well, no sign of make-do and mend there.

Spike took another deep drag on his cigarette. Then he pushed the door open and went inside. The room was warm, the air blue with smoke. The smell of human sweat and damp woollen clothing made a heavy fug that played havoc with a vampire's sensitive nostrils and from the kitchens came the too familiar odour of boiled cabbage. Spike wrinkled his nose in distaste. He was sick of the smell of war. He hung his coat and hat on the rack and walked towards her, curious to know when – or even if – she would sense him coming. He wondered what she was thinking about.

As he crossed the room, he was aware of the other diners glancing sidelong at him - curious at first and then openly disapproving. Of course, he hadn't exactly been making do and mending himself either and tonight he was dressed to impress.

"Darla." He slid into the seat across from her, on which the crimson plush was worn away in patches, and at last she looked up. Green eyes appraised him coolly from under perfectly shaped brows. Her mouth was a scarlet bow in a face made paler still by its coating of pearl powder. God, she was beautiful from the top of her blonde head with its chic little hat to the tips of her dainty feet. Spike sighed with sheer sensuous pleasure.

"Spike." She smiled, appearing genuinely delighted to see him. "I'd almost given you up. My train leaves in an hour."

"Well, here I am at last. Cigarette?" He flourished the pack of American smokes at her, knowing people were looking. And where else would they look? He and she were by far the handsomest and best-dressed couple in the room.

She accepted the cigarette and bent forward to light it from his hand while he looked around for a waitress. The flame gave warmth to her features – brought out the honey tones in her hair. "Where's Dru?" she asked as she leaned back in her seat exhaling smoke.

Spike was still trying to attract the waitress's attention. He snapped his fingers impatiently and the girl finally looked his way. She hurried over, taking her notebook from her apron pocket. Her uniform was none of the cleanest, Spike noticed. Her little lace cap looked distinctly grubby and she smelt of stale talc.

By the time she'd reached their table, the waitress was frowning the same disapproving frown as their fellow patrons. She'd taken in their smart clothing, not to mention the excessive amount of fabric in Darla's jacket and skirt, which both looked brand new. The skirt fell some considerable distance below the knee, elegant and wasteful.

Spike scowled at the girl. "Scotch," he said. "And for the lady?"

Darla exhaled more smoke. "I'll have a gin and tonic."

Mouth pursed in a sour disapproving line, the waitress took their order and went. Darla grimaced at the retreating stiff-backed figure and said, "She thinks we're war profiteers."

Spike was staring at the perfect imprint of her red lips on the end of her cigarette. How it must infuriate her, he thought, that even now she couldn't pass for a lady. As for him, he didn't give a damn whether people thought him a gentleman or not even though he'd been born one. "Well, isn't she right?" he said. "I mean, look at you – like a Dior fashion plate, you are. Age cannot wither and all that rot – not to mention you're obviously not short of a few clothing coupons. Looks like you've had a pleasant war."

Darla smiled that secretive smile of hers. "I managed."

"American, was he?" Spike grinned back at her. The Yanks were the ones with the money these days and Darla had expensive tastes she was used to having indulged.

She nodded. "A lovely man – very obliging – and so eager to help a lady in distress. He wanted to marry me – bought me a very nice diamond, which I shall always treasure, and booked us a First Class cabin on the Queen Mary for our passage home, which of course I can't possibly waste. I was devastated at his passing. "

"I'll bet you were. Kept you in silk stockings and Max Factor while the doodlebugs were giving us a pasting, did he?"

"Us?" She quirked an eyebrow in amusement. "Don't tell me you allowed yourself to get involved this time, Spike? Human wars are nothing to do with us save as opportunities for easy living. You ought to know that well enough by now."

Spike thought about some of the things he'd seen in war-torn Europe. Poland had been a bit of an eye-opener. He'd thought humans had long since lost their ability to surprise him, let alone shock him - but it turned out he'd been wrong.

"Different this time, wasn't it?" he said. "I may be a vampire, love, but I'm an English vampire and old Adolf wanted to wipe us off the map. Dru and me – we did our bit for king and country. Chomped our way through a few Panzer battalions here and there – that sort of thing."

She laughed. "I'm sure you did." She'd long since lost all loyalty to the country of her birth even if he hadn't, and probably she thought he was boasting. Besides, few people wanted to talk about the war now it was over, and seeing what he'd seen, Spike didn't feel he could blame them.

The waitress brought their drinks. She put the glasses down in front of them with rather more force than necessary and Spike frowned in annoyance. He caught her eye and held it and after a moment, she paled. Her throat jerked as she swallowed convulsively and her hand, still holding the silver tray, began to shake. She backed away from them and then turned and retreated in confusion.

"Stupid bitch." Spike fumed a little. "Ought to take her out the back and teach her some bloody manners." He clinked his glass against Darla's and drank.

"To money and blood," he said, and she laughed and echoed him, taking a dainty sip.

"Where is Dru?" she asked again. "You didn't answer my question."

Spike shrugged apologetically. "She refused to come," he admitted. "I had to leave her back at our digs."

"But why?" Darla almost sounded hurt.

Why indeed? Spike had spent hours trying to make Dru get up and dress. He was used to her moods – used to pandering to her whims- but the way she'd put her head down on the pillow and wept inconsolably had still exasperated him. In the end, he'd had to leave her and when he'd gone out onto the landing, the landlady – nosy cow! – had been after him at once wanting to know what was the matter with his poor wife. Spike had had to say Dru was taken bad and he was off to fetch the doctor. He hoped the interfering old bag hadn't decided to look in on her in the meantime. If she had, Dru would probably have had her for supper and another moonlight flit would be in order.

He took another drag on his cigarette and stubbed it out in the ashtray, pondering how to answer Darla's question, and in the end, decided on the truth. "Oh, you know Dru. She had one of her funny turns – said if you go back to the Master, we'll never see you again – or if we do, you won't be our Grandmamma any more and she can't bear to think of it. You know what she's like about family."

"I suppose so." Darla was turning her glass round and round in her hands. Her manicured nails were painted the exact same red as her lips. "Well, I'm pleased you came anyway. You look well, Spike – very handsome – the black hair suits you."

"You like it?" Spike couldn't help preening slightly. Of course, it wasn't the first time she'd paid him a compliment. In the years the three of them had been together after Angelus left them in China, she'd come to appreciate him a little better he thought. But a small part of him still expected her voice to take on that shrill scolding edge when she spoke to him, the way it'd used to do back when he was always in the old man's shadow. Speaking of whom –

"The mention of family reminds me, love – you'll never guess who I bumped into a few years back – 1943, to be exact."

She sipped her drink. "I'm sure you're about to tell me, Spike." It didn't sound as if she cared that much but she would, he thought, when she heard.

"Was on a German submarine, see –" and seeing the look on her face – "No, honestly, I was. Got into a spot of bother in Spain and ended up a prisoner. The Jerries had this plan to use vampires as some kind of secret weapon."

"Oh, Spike!" She shook her head, obviously not believing him, but she looked amused enough to go on listening.

He frowned, a little irritated by the indulgent – almost motherly – tone of her voice. "Well, whether you believe it or not, it's true. There was me and a couple of other vamps – old blokes – not terribly bright, the pair of them."

"Oh?" She'd raised one sculpted eyebrow and then she glanced at her watch and began to tap her immaculate nails on the tabletop. Spike frowned. He was sorry he'd even mentioned it now.

"Ask the Master then, when you see him. Bet he's heard of them." He looked at his own watch. Seven-thirty. The Southampton train left in forty-five minutes. "Their names were Nostroyev and the Prince of Lies."

Now he had her attention. "Nostroyev? But he was in St Petersburg in 1895, Spike. Don't you remember? Angelus couldn't stand him – kept cutting him dead so we were never properly introduced."

He frowned. "No. You and the old man never took me and Dru anywhere nice when we were there, except that one time to the ballet. The two of you went swanning off to balls and soirees and left us shivering in a garret. Don't you remember?"

Now she half-smiled and patted his hand. "Quite true," she said, "but really, Spike, can you blame us? You were wild children – the pair of you. We couldn't rely on you to behave yourselves in company at all."

Didn't care to even give us the chance more like, he wanted to say, but he didn't. He didn't want to quarrel with her now – especially not after what Dru had said. Dru had been right too many times before.

"Well, whether you met him or not, the bloke's dead. In fact, they both are – and what's more it was Angelus who killed them."

She froze, glass at her lips, staring at him. The warmth of the room had brought a little colour to her face but now it all seemed to drain away.

"What are you talking about?"

"Angelus – he was there on the submarine – well, not exactly the same submarine. The Yanks captured it. Did I mention that? And this is the odd part. I thought he was a prisoner too at first, but it turned out he was working for the Yanks."

Darla put her glass down. Her face had lost all its animation, perfect and cold as marble. "Was he indeed?" she said.

Uncomfortable suddenly, Spike shifted his feet under the table. The atmosphere had gone deadly. At the same time, his mouth carried on talking as if it couldn't help itself.

"Didn't seem much like himself – more like he was that time in China. All big and brooding – didn't laugh like he used to. Wouldn't let me kill the crew either. Said we needed them to get back to land safely – but then he threw me overboard twenty miles out – me and this other bloke he sired, who knew how to drive the sub."

"He turned someone?" She was staring at him now, eyes cat-green and unblinking. There was a flash of dull gold within them, like a banked fire smouldering.

"Had to, didn't he? The sub was damaged and the bloke was dying. Without him, we'd have sunk."

Abruptly, she stood up and began to button her jacket. Startled, he stood up too. "I have to go," she said, pulling on her gloves.

She began walking towards the door, the heels of her shoes clicking on the floor tiles. Bewildered, he stared at her retreating back. Then he picked up his glass and downed the remainder of his drink before going after her. He didn't leave a tip.

Outside, he hurried to catch up with her, putting his arms into the sleeves of his coat and jamming his hat on his head as he ran. He reached her when she was half way down the platform and seized hold of her elbow. Beside them, steam gushed round the carriage wheels. The air was full of sparks and specks of soot as the engine built up steam.

"What's the matter?"

She twisted her arm out of his grip and glared up at him. "Let go of me," she said.

He did so, but when she started walking he followed her until she stopped again by the door of a first class carriage. There she turned to him.

"Thank you for coming to see me off, William," and she rose onto her toes and kissed him on the cheek. Her lips were cool and slightly sticky. He could smell her lipstick. "Now go back to Dru. I'm sure she's missing you."

Spike glanced to left and right. There was a couple boarding down in Third Class and a porter stowing luggage in the guard's van but no one was looking their way. Suddenly, he grabbed her arm again and dragged her up the steps into the carriage. There, he pinned her against the wall, knee holding her in place.

"Not until you tell me what the hell is going on."

She looked away from him but she didn't try to break his hold. "Nothing is going on. Why would anything be going on?"

"Don't give me that. You were fine until I mentioned Angelus."

Now she looked at him. Her face was still expressionless.

"You expect me to be pleased to hear about him? He left me, Spike – left us. You think I can forget that?"

Spike relaxed his grip a little but he didn't let go completely. Of course he knew she hadn't forgotten the old man. He wasn't the sort of bloke you just forgot. Still – her reaction was – off, somehow.

"It's not just that," he said. "You were fine talking about the old days in St Petersburg. It was when I said I'd seen him – that he was helping the Yanks – that's what you didn't like."

"I don't know what you're talking about." She turned her face away again but he'd had enough of being stonewalled. Instead, he pulled her after him further into the carriage. "Which is your compartment?"

She indicated the third one and he slid the door open and pulled her inside after him, thrusting her down on the banquette with its worn seats. The linen was still freshly laundered and crisp with starch but everything else was shabby and due for an overhaul. Like the whole country really, he thought, as he pulled down the blinds on all the windows. He'd read in the papers that Atlee planned to nationalise the railways and probably a good thing too.

"Tell me," he said, to Darla.

She opened her handbag and took out a pack of cigarettes – Marlboros - those American ones, made especially mild for women. Automatically, he took out his matchbook to light it for her, bending down while she leant forward. Her gloved hand touched his briefly and then she sat back in the seat.

"Tell you what?" she said.

With a huff of annoyance, Spike sat down beside her and lit his own cigarette.

"I'm not wet behind the ears any more," he said. "I can tell when something's wrong."

She seemed to find this funny because she laughed, though her laughter didn't sound happy. "Is that so? Tell me, Spike, did you ask Angelus where he'd been all these years? Did he answer you?"

That gave him pause because he hadn't. Of course, he'd been pleased to see the old man at the time – even glad to take his orders in that unfamiliar situation, though he'd never have let him know it - but he'd never really asked any questions.

"No," he had to admit.

"But you say he didn't seem much like himself?"

"Not much – think he's lost his sense of humour somewhere. Bloke didn't smile once."

"And what else about him was different?" She was staring at him with narrowed eyes and he realised that, as so often, she'd turned the tables on him and now he was the one being questioned.

"Well, I don’t know, do I?" he said, irritably. "Like I said, he was the same as he was in China."

She laughed again and this time her laughter had a definite edge to it. "Does Dru ever talk about him?"

He rolled his eyes. There'd been times when Dru talked about nothing else. "She used to," he admitted, reluctantly. "Said a spark got inside Daddy and burned him all inside out. Now, if you mention his name, she just clams up completely – says it's dark where he is."

"Spark – I suppose that's one word for it." She exhaled smoke again. Then she sighed. "Did you never wonder why he was so different when he came back to us in China? Did you never wonder why he went away in the first place?"

He was indignant now. "'Course I did – but I had too much on my plate to think about it, what with Dru weeping and wailing for him and you all gone to pieces. Had to be the man, didn't I?"

It'd been a shock, he remembered – to suddenly find himself the head of their party. It was only then, with hoteliers and tradesman all looking to him to pay them for services rendered and the women relying on him to make arrangements, that he'd realised belatedly just how much Angelus had done for them all. Once he'd got the hang of it though, he'd started to resent even more the way the old man had kept him down.

Darla didn't comment on his manliness or lack of it. She looked tired suddenly, the dim carriage lights casting her face in shadow. "I suppose I thought Dru would tell you – or maybe that you'd guess – even sense it as I did."

"Sense what? What happened to him, then?" And when she didn't answer, "Tell me, Darla – please."

She took a final drag on her cigarette and crushed it into the ashtray. Then she looked at him solemnly. "He has a soul," she said.

"What? A what?" For a moment, her words didn't seem to make sense but then his mouth fell open and he stared at her. "Vampires don't have souls."

She laughed, bitterly. "No – they don't. In fact, one might say that's the whole point of being a vampire – to be free of such irritations. But I gave him a Gypsy girl as a present, Spike – in Bucharest, it was – and after he killed her, her tribe put a curse on him that gave him back his soul. They wanted to make him suffer."

"Gypsies?" He remembered then – the night she'd led him and Dru to the Gypsy camp. Angelus was gone and she hadn't told them where. In fact, she hadn't told them anything, just set them on to kill. "So – that time at the Gypsy camp – that was revenge?"

She looked down at her hands. "Not exactly. I meant to use them to get the curse lifted but – foolishly – I didn't explain the plan to you, and you and Dru ate them."

"Why didn't you tell us?" He knew the answer without her having to say it. She'd been ashamed – almost disgusted. It was like Angelus had contracted leprosy or something. And suddenly, he remembered what had, until now, been the proudest moment of his life, when he'd killed the Slayer in China.

"Congratulations," Angelus had said. "I guess that makes you one of us," and Spike had revelled in his approbation. Finally, he and Angelus were equals – in fact he had one up on him because Angelus had never killed a Slayer.

Now it was all ruined.

"Fucking bastard! He didn't bloody mean it!" He sprang to his feet, so angry, he was all set to smash the carriage up – wrench the luggage racks from the walls – tear the seats to pieces. But at the look on Darla's face, he stopped, breathing heavily.

"You should have told me," he said. "I'd've put the bastard out of his misery right there and then on that bloody submarine."

"Would you?" She raised a quizzical eyebrow. "From what you said about your little underwater adventure, you're lucky he didn't kill you."

That was true enough. He sat down again, regarding her angrily. "At least I'd have known not to trust him – not to think he was on my side."

"Well," she said, "if you meet him again, you'll know better, won't you?"

After that, there was silence. He finished his cigarette, seething. She glanced at her watch again. Other passengers were embarking now, feet clattering down the corridor. He felt betrayed still, all his emotions raw, but he found himself reluctant to leave.

"So why are you going back to the Master?" he asked, at last. "Is it because of him?"

She'd taken off her gloves and put them in her handbag. Her white hands looked small and deceptively fragile.

"It wasn't," she said, at last, "but now I'm not sure." And suddenly she was looking at him, her expression soft and vulnerable. "When he came back to me in China, Spike, he said he wanted a second chance – wanted to show me he could still be Angelus, even with a soul. As it turned out – he couldn't."

Better off without him then, aren't you, he wanted to say, but he didn't say it. Instead, he watched her warring with herself, and finally she said, "But you said he sired someone – took a man's life – killed him. Maybe there's hope after all? If I find him, maybe I can still get him back?"

"Maybe." He didn't know what else to say. It didn't seem likely and even if it did, old bat-face wouldn't let her wander off again once she went back to him.

"Damn him to hell!" she said, then, in a haunted whisper. "I miss him."

There was a suspicious glitter in her eyes and for a moment, Spike thought she might even cry because there was a first time for everything. But she didn't. Instead, she turned and looked at him and suddenly, he knew what she wanted – smelt it – felt it through every fibre of his being - and a surge of heat went through his body.

He grabbed her arm roughly and pushed her onto her back on the seat. His hat fell off and the hatpins must have come loose on hers because it came off too and rolled down onto the floor. He thought she'd protest but she didn't, just moaned and pulled at him, urging him on.

"Oh, God!" There was no time for foreplay – for finesse of any kind – and it wasn't what she wanted anyway. Instead, he lifted up her skirt and petticoat and pulled down her knickers. They were silk of course, like her stockings, probably another gift from her dead Yank boyfriend. He stroked a finger over the neat bush of dull-gold hair at her groin then sank it deep inside her. She was wet and cold and smooth as satin, just like he remembered. He began to thrust in and out of her, kneading her clit with his thumb. Her eyes were shut, her hair in its stylish curls splayed across the seat. She bit her lip and ground herself against his hand.

Hastily – before she changed her mind – he unbuttoned his fly and freed his cock. He wanted her to look at him – to acknowledge who he was – but he knew that wouldn't happen, so instead, he grabbed her hips tightly and pushed himself inside her.

At that moment, someone tried to open the carriage door. It slid half way across and Spike saw a fat woman in a fur coat and hat peering through the gap.

"Fuck off out of it!" He wrenched the door from her grasp and slammed it shut again, ignoring the look of outrage on the woman's face. Beneath him, Darla moaned and writhed like a wanton and he grinned to himself, because of course she was one.

The seat groaned under them as he fucked her, each thrust pushing her nearer and nearer to the end of the banquette until she was jammed right up against it. Friction had warmed her and she was tight and sweet, a silk glove squeezing him. A trickle of sweat smelling of Brylcream ran down his forehead. He still had his coat on and so did she. He began to thrust faster, rolling her knees up and back so she was bent almost double, his balls slapping against smooth rounded curves, his hands gripping tight enough to leave bruises. At last, in a helpless rush, he shuddered his release inside her and collapsed on top of her splayed body, momentarily weak as a kitten. Then he remembered his manners, because after all, it was she who had taught them to him – and set his tongue and fingers to good use to bring her off quickly.

It was only then, when her own spasms had subsided, that she opened her eyes again and looked at him. "Help me up," she said.

Spike wiped a hand across his mouth. He licked delicately round his fingers, savouring her taste. Then he took his handkerchief out of his breast pocket and cleaned her carefully. He pressed a kiss to the expanse of creamy thigh between stocking top and girdle and re-fastened a suspender button that had come undone. Then he pulled her upright and watched as she drew up her knickers and brushed herself down. Her skirt looked very crushed but her lipstick was still perfect.

He regarded her warily, not sure what to expect now she'd got what she seemed to want from him.

"You should do those up," she said and Spike realised she meant his flies. Embarrassed, he gave himself a cursory wipe and tucked himself away. She'd picked up her hat by now and was smoothing her hair.

"You'd better go," she said.

Suddenly, he was overwhelmed with a nameless anxiety. He thought of what Dru had said about never seeing her again. "Don't leave us too," he pleaded.

"Is my hat straight?" was her reply, and when he nodded wordlessly, she reached in her handbag for her powder compact and began to dab at her face.

"Didn't you hear what I said?" he asked, after a moment, but she didn't look at him.

"I heard. You don't need me, William – Dru doesn't either. You're lucky. At least you have each other."

Out in the corridor, Spike could hear the fat woman haranguing the guard. There'd be trouble in a moment. Darla cocked her head, listening. She smiled unpleasantly. "I don’t know about you, Spike," she said, "but I'm quite famished."

Spike's belly rumbled in sympathy but he wasn't finished yet.

"I can look after you like I did before," he said. "You won't feel neglected, I swear."

She shut her compact with a snap. Then she stood up. Again, she rose on tiptoe and kissed him on the cheek. "You're not Angelus," she said. "Don't try to be."

He scowled, knowing an insult when he heard it, but he knew how to respond to it too. He pulled her close and crushed his lips to hers, while his hands grabbed her round haunches and squeezed them tight, the silky flesh firm between his fingers. When he let her go, her lipstick was smeared and she exclaimed in annoyance.

"No," he said. "I'm not Angelus. I'm better – I don't have a soul."

For a moment, he thought she was going to hit him but then she relaxed. She even smiled. "You have your moments," she agreed. Then she looked at her watch again. "You'd really better go."

There was no point protesting any further, Spike could see. He stuck his hat on his head at a jaunty angle and opened the carriage door. The fat woman was still talking to the guard, who looked distinctly unhappy – and unhappier still when he saw Spike coming.

"That's him," the woman said, pointing. "That's the fellow."

She pushed the guard forward, herself behind him. Spike grinned, rolled his shoulders and vamped out. The resulting shrieks were like music to his ears but he contented himself with that much, pushing past the frightened humans and out onto the platform. He stood, looking through the carriage window at Darla while she looked back. Her face was solemn again – shadowed – and she'd repaired her lipstick. Suddenly, Spike knew that Dru had been right. He would never see Darla again and maybe she'd known that too when she'd demanded that he fuck her.

At the end of the platform, the whistle blew. Spike stood watching as the train lurched, stopped, lurched again and then began rolling smoothly forward. He didn't wave but he watched it out of sight.

Afterwards, he spent a while sitting on a bench, smoking a contemplative cigarette and staring up at the station's bomb-damaged glass roof above him. Angelus was dead, he realised – had been for years – and now Darla was gone too and suddenly he was glad she'd turned down his offer. Time to be a grown-up once and for all.

With a shrug, he ground his cigarette out under his heel and stood up. Better get back to Dru and see what she'd been up to – better get out of this miserable country too– and he could say that, even though he loved the sorry place – go somewhere warmer until things picked up a bit. Rome could be nice at this time of year.

By the time Spike reached the main station concourse, he was humming quietly under his breath. He felt strangely light – free of care. He could get used to this being orphaned business. The restaurant had closed and as he passed it, the staff came out of the side door, muffled in their hats and coats, eager to go home. Spike singled out the waitress who'd been rude to him and Darla and followed her out of the station into the dark streets.

It had been a busy night and he could do with a snack before he went home to Dru.