The climb up to Drus loft was one of the less pleasant experiences in my hundred and seven years of life. By the time I reached the tenth floor, my injured leg was giving me a lot of grief about being expected to support my weight.
I knew Id be in serious trouble if Spike managed to get in for a close fight. I just had to hope my aim was true and I could end this at a distance.
The apartment was dark inside, but occasionally that darkness was pierced from beyond the vertical blinds by the lights of a passing NYPD patrol aerodyne, or by the sweeping spotlight of a blue-and-white making its nightly rounds of this war zone of a city. The bars of alternating light and dark would sweep in from the windows and play across the lonely, empty loft, turning vague shapes into things tangible and real, giving substance to memory.
I tried the light switch, and wasnt surprised that it did nothing. I didnt know if the citys rolling blackouts encompassed this block at this hour, but I doubted very much this building had seen city power any time in the past ten years.
Spike was nowhere to be seen. He was playing a game with me. He always played games with me.
I stood there in the middle of the empty loft for some time, looking at Drus dolls as the lights washed over them in their ordered rows against one wall, looking at a scattering of photos in frames as they caught the harsh glare of quartz-halogen spots. Drusilla had been psychotic and dangerous. Shed killed people I cared about in this world and in mine. I wasnt sorry that Drusilla the vampire was dead, not at all. But she hadnt always been a monster. Angel Angelus had made her into that, had taken innocence and twisted it into something obscene.
Lost innocence. The one thing both of us had in common. Its a terrible thing to understand your enemy.
Its frightening how quickly I can become a soulless android sometimes. I turned to the sound, my gun tracking upward to the doorway and to Spike framed in it. He just stood there, his hands thrust into the pockets of his black leather jacket. Dru and my introspection were lost beneath the uncompromising survival instincts of what I was, of what I had allowed myself to become.
But I rushed the shot, and the bullet chewed a large piece of wood out of the door frame while Spike disappeared from view.
Thats wasnt very sporting, now was it? I heard him say. From the sound of his voice, he was moving off down the hallway toward the stairs.
Cautiously, I followed, first into the hallway and then into the stairwell.
Ill be seeing you in all the old familiar places, in all the old familiar faces he sang again, from above me.
The roof. He was leading me up to the roof. Fine. Let him try his games, his traps, his deceptions. It wasnt going to change the outcome. In a hundred and seven years, it never had. One way or the other, I always found a way to win.
I made my way onto the roof, careful not to get myself into a position where he could surprise me from behind. It was difficult. The roof was an obstacle course of ventilator hoods, long-dead satellite dishes, rusted central air-conditioning units, and the remains of the buildings old rooftop water tank. There were plenty of places for Spike to hide. I could easily miss one, and I did.
Looks like youre all out of plot twists, he said.
I turned to see him pointing a handgun at me.
Hello, love. Been a long time. Hate to cut things short, kill and run and all that, but you know the pressures of modern life.
The two of us stood there for a suspended moment, the world receding into the distance, the city becoming no more than a stage backdrop to our little personal drama.
Ai-uchi. Thats what the samurai called it. Mutual-slaying. The usual result when two equally skilled swordsmen faced each other in combat.
Well, so be it. I really didnt care anymore.
I raised my gun and Spike fired. I never even got off a shot.
Thats when my life got even stranger.
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