The Blind Leading


by Saber ShadowKitten





Part Nine





Carmen picked Spike up at eight o'clock on Sunday night and together they rode the bus to the O.W.D Incorporated factory. The green card had worked. Spike had a job.

Oh, happy days.

Spike nodded at the appropriate times as Carmen rambled on about something or other. He wasn't really listening. He was too worried about making a fool out of himself.

He hadn't been employed in over a century, unless one counted taking care of Drusilla as work. Angelus might have, but Spike never had. He'd loved his wicked princess, insanity and all. Taking care of her had been a part of their relationship from the beginning, and he'd happily go back to that without hesitation.

The trouble was, she didn't want him anymore, and that was even before he'd been chipped and blinded.

The bus pulled to a stop and several passengers, including Spike and Carmen, got off. Carmen cupped Spike's elbow, not needing to remind the vampire to count his steps, and together they headed into the factory where Spike was newly employed.

O.W.D. Incorporated was a plastics factory. They manufactured things such as eating utensils, children's toys, kit model parts -- anything that could be mass produced with a mold. The factory produced, packaged, and shipped the items all over the world, and had sister corporations throughout the continental United States.

They were greeted at the door by Mike Eggerton, the third shift supervisor and Spike's new boss. Spike shook Mike's hand, and wondered how he'd managed to sink so low. He was acting so human it was nauseating.

"When you arrive, the first thing you'll do every night is clock in," Mike was explaining as he, Spike, and Carmen stood near the employee's entrance. "O.W.D has several visually impaired employees and we've taken to marking things in braille. Your time card is fifth from the bottom right."

Prompted by Mike, Spike ran his thumb up the side of the time card holder until he found his name. Carmen had taught him to read a little braille, such as his name, the numbers in an elevator, and the restroom signs. She promised to teach him more if he wanted to learn, but so far he'd held off. To him, learning braille would be the final nail in his coffin, when he finally admitted to the fact that he would never see again. Currently, he still had the tiniest amount of hope that his brain would heal and things would be back to normal -- or as normal as having a chip in his skull could get.

Spike punched in -- he would be getting paid for training -- and then docilely followed Mike to the employee lounge, where he was given a locker with a key lock. There was a safety pin attached to the key in order to pin it to his clothing so he wouldn't lose it. How utterly embarrassing.

The vampire was led from the lounge into the factory itself. The initial impression was the easiest to remember for the blind when going to a new place, and it seemed as though Mike knew that because he didn't give Spike a tour. He led the blond directly from the employee lounge to his work station.

Spike had a work station. Someone stake him now.

Spike tucked his cane in the back pocket of his jeans and took a seat on the high-backed stool as told. On either side of the stool there was a ten gallon plastic garbage can. In front of Spike was a table with a plastic bin on it, filled with newly molded plastic items. He could hear and feel other people working near him, and he figured there were many work stations identical to his that filled up this portion of the factory.

"This is the toy division, and you've been assigned to toy soldiers," Mike said. "Your job is relatively simple. You take a line of soldiers out of the bin in front of you, break them off the mold line, and drop them into the can on your right. Once every soldier is off the mold line, toss it in the can on your left. Then you start all over again."

Under Mike and Carmen's supervision, Spike fumbled for a line of toy soldiers from the bin in front of him, awkwardly broke them from the mold line, searched for the can to drop them in, listened to the hollow sound the soldier made when it hit the bottom of the empty plastic can, and repeated the process until the mold line was clear. The mold line was dropped into the other can and Spike fumbled for another from the bin in front of him.

"'For suicide is painless...,'" the darkness started to sing the theme song from M.A.S.H.

"You can stand or sit, it doesn't matter," Mike told the blond. "Both cans will be empty when you come on shift, but if you manage to fill one you call for another. You have a twenty-five minute lunch at one o'clock, and you can take two ten-minute smoking breaks. Smoking is allowed only in the lounge or outside, nowhere else."

Spike nodded. He was afraid to open his mouth, because any words that came out would probably get him fired. Not that getting fired was looking to be that horrible of a prospect. He could always go back to Sunnydale and beg for charity from Buffy. Yeah, and that wouldn't be humiliating at all.

"Come on, I'll show you where the restroom is," Mike said. "After that, we'll head back to my office so we can sign some papers and make you official."

An hour later, Spike was official and Carmen had gone home under the promise that Lisa would be there at the end of his shift to accompany him back to the motel. Both ladies would take turns accompanying him until he was certain he could get back and forth to the factory on his own. His shift was Sunday through Friday, from nine o'clock p.m. to four o'clock a.m., and he would make $9.00 an hour to start, with a raise and full benefits after he'd been there for ninety days.

If Angelus could only see him...

Spike shuddered at the thought. The souled version of his sire would probably laugh his poncy arse off, but the unsouled version... Disappointment would probably be foremost, followed quickly by disownment. Spike would have been alone.

Much like he was now.

Depression hung around Spike like a thick cloud as he got to work separating the toy soldiers from the mold line. Conversation flowed between the other workers, but he had sunk too far into misery to notice. He was trying to think of the reasons why he'd decided to continue unliving instead of ridding the world of such a pathetic creature like himself.

Luckily, at lunch break, things started to look up.

*****

Spike counted his steps to the employee lounge at lunch, cane swinging rhythmically in front of him, desperately craving a cigarette. He pushed open the lounge doors and was greeted by boisterous laughter and the sounds of bags and soda cans being opened. His fags were in his duster, and he slowly made his way to the locker he'd been assigned where he'd stashed his coat.

"Hey, new guy!" someone called. "Grab your lunch and join us!"

Spike turned towards the voice with a questioning expression on his face. "Yeah, you!" the same someone called to him. "And hurry up, we've only got twenty-five minutes!"

The blond vampire nodded and continued to his locker. It took a minute for him to unlock it, but he did it and gratefully retrieved his smokes and lighter. Carmen had told him to pack a lunch, and, not wanting to look suspicious, he'd brought a row of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies that he'd purchased from Carmen's granddaughter.

Locker re-closed and key back in his pocket, Spike carefully picked his way through the tables of lunching employees, mentally thanking Carmen profusely for his pre-Kate-date dining lesson. He felt like a freak on display as it was, he didn't need to add to it by falling flat on his face in front of his new coworkers.

"New guy," another someone said. "There's an empty seat to your left."

"It's Spike," Spike said. He found the chair, slid his hand down the seat, then sat down. He expertly folded the cane and set it on his lap.

"I'm Colin," the chair-indicator said from across the table. "To your right and on around is George, Debbie, John, me, Petra, Stu, and Mussa."

Each said hello to the vampire, and Spike took care to memorize their voices. Stu was the original person who called him over to join the group.

"We were going to say howdy earlier," Debbie said, "but we figured we'd not break your concentration your first hour on the job."

"Er, thanks," Spike said, accepting the excuse given for his melancholy behavior. He lit up his cigarette and the smoke joined the cloud he could smell hovering over the table. "So, uh--" small talk, argh "--where in the factory do you work?"

"We work in toys with you," George replied. "The divisions are grouped in teams of eight, and you're on our team."

"We're the Soldier Boys," John piped up. On Spike's left, Mussa cleared her throat, and John amended, "I mean, the Soldier Persons."

"There are two tables pushed together, Spike, end to end," Colin said. "We work around the table in a big rectangle, pretty much in the same order we're seated now."

Colin's explanation was too descriptive for a usual conversation, which had Spike curious. The man had also given a clear picture of where the chair was and how everyone was seated at the table. Since Spike wasn't one to pussyfoot around, he pointed out, "You lot don't seem to be acting awkward around me. Why's that?"

"You're not the only blind person on shift," Stu replied. "Abe works over in forks and Kathy works in doll shoes. They've both been here awhile."

"Ah, got it," Spike said.

"So, Spike," John said eagerly. "Are you going to share those cookies?"

"Share my Thin Mints? Are you nuts?" Spike said incredulously. There was laughter all around the table, and the vampire found himself smiling widely in return.

Maybe things wouldn't be so bad after all.

*****

"Hello, Spike," a soft, husky voice greeted him as the employees headed back to work after lunch. "I am Petra Pawlak. Welcome to O.W.D."

The words of greeting were coated by a thick accent, and by the name Spike guessed it was Polish. Petra, he remembered, was one of the people at his lunch table and in his work section, but she had said nothing during break. He wondered if it was because English wasn't her native language.

"Dobry spotyka was," Spike greeted in Polish. ~Good to meet you.~

Petra gasped. "Wy mówicie polski?"

"Maa suma," Spike replied. A very small amount, actually. He'd only visited Poland with Dru for about a year, sometime in the 1920's.

He felt a gentle hand on his arm. "Dobry spotyka was, te. Bardzo dobry," Petra said, her warm breath near his ear sending shivers down his spine. ~Good to meet you, too. Very good.~

Spike smiled in her direction. "Tak, bardzo dobry, Petra Pawlak," he agreed. ~Yes, very good, Petra Pawlak.~ "Penwie."

~Definitely.~





Chapter Ten





It was odd how quickly time passed, even for a vampire. Before Spike realized it, it was December and Christmas was almost upon him. His probation period at O.W.D. had ended almost six months previously, increasing his pay to $16.00 per hour and giving him benefits that practically eliminated the cost of biweekly visits to NBS. He had a comfortable routine, friends that he saw outside of work, and, of all things, a girlfriend that he was on the verge of falling in love with. She didn't even mind that he was a wampir.

He had adjusted again. His unlife had become utterly benign and human. And he was happy about it.

"No, no, no," Petra said, running her work-roughened fingers against the back of Spike's hand. "Jack and Jill do not ma plec at the top of wzgórze."

Spike raised his head and grinned devilishly at her. "How do you know that's not what the book says?"

"Because the words are printed on page," Petra informed him. She tapped the large book near his fingertips. "It reads: Jack and Jill went up hill to fetch condom."

Spike laughed, turned in his chair, and pulled the tall woman onto his lap. Petra's throaty laugh filled the kitchen in their apartment. Her muscular arms went around his neck and his hands slid up under her t-shirt to caress her warm skin. He nuzzled the super-short hair by her ear and murmured, "Maybe it says: Spike and Petra went into the bedroom to ma plec."

"Hmm," Petra wiggled on his lap, "I think you are correct this time."

The phone rang.

"Bloody hell," Spike cursed, making her chuckle. He tightened his hold on her when she went to move. "Don't answer it. I want to shag."

"I must," Petra told him. "It might be Matka."

"Then definitely don't answer it," Spike protested as she extracted herself from his arms. "Nothing ruins the mood more than a call from dear old mum."

Petra kissed the top of his head and went to answer the phone anyway. Spike stuck his lower lip out and returned to the Braille Book of Extended Nursery Rhymes he was learning to read. The nursery rhymes were amusing, especially the one about Humpty Dumpty and the omelette the King made out of him.

Spike's girlfriend of seven months returned to the kitchen a few minutes later. "That was Debbie," she told him. "There is new club in Glendale we will go to with our przyjaciele tonight."

"Sounds fine," Spike said distractedly. The blackbirds the King had baked into a pie were currently attacking his court.

"You will have to change clothing," Petra said.

"Uh-huh." The Queen's eyeballs were being pecked out! What a great book!

"Right now, I am nude and would like ma plec."

"Uh-huh." Those blackbirds were--

Spike's brain registered what Petra had said and sightless gaze shot in her direction. "You're naked?"

"And with goose pimples," she said.

"I wonder if they read like braille," Spike pondered as he stood and shed his t-shirt.

"Why not you come find out?"

*****

The new club in Glendale was practically bursting at the seams. The waiting line to get in ran around the entire block. Velvet ropes and bulky doormen guarded the doors like bulldogs, not even letting well-known young stars past.

Inside, the music was Industrial, the pounding bass leading the dancers on the lower level dance floor. The center of the second floor was open, allowing the club guests to watch the dancers below. Escalators and glass-enclosed elevators took the patrons up and down.

The Soldier Persons division of O.W.D, along with their significant others, had arrived early enough to get into the club. They sat at the second floor counter that ran along the center balustrade, watching the dancers, socializing, and drinking. Despite working together all week long, when Saturday night rolled around they gathered together once again for fun.

"Kate, why'd they let you in?" Spike asked his friend after the cop had joined them at the counter.

"Very funny, Spike," Kate said dryly. "Petra, why do you like this clown?"

"He has big czolnek," Petra replied.

"I did not need to know that."

Spike chuckled. "Jealous, pet?"

"No, because I know my czolnek's bigger than yours," Kate said, deadpan.

"Why do I believe you?" Spike said with a grin.

Petra brushed Spike's arm. "Spike, I go get another drink. You would like?"

"Yeah, get me another beer, luv," Spike replied. Petra left, and he put his hand on her stool so it wouldn't be taken. "So, Kate, anything interesting happen lately?"

The music suddenly cut off and a high-pitched whine filled the air.

"This is interesting," Kate muttered, shifting on her chair.

"Attention, ladies and gentlemen," a hauntingly familiar voice came over the speakers. "I have an announcement to make that I want all of you good little humans to hear."

Spike's entire body tensed. He knew who was speaking, and that meant...

He grabbed for Kate, catching her arm. "Where's Petra?" he asked quickly.

"Shh, I need to hear," Kate hissed.

"For the grand opening of Club Indigo, we thought we'd start a new tradition," the confident female continued. The clanging of the outer doors were like gunshots in the music-free building. "Everyone dies."

Total silence. Then, "Grandmum, can we start with her?", and a fright-filled, "You hurt me."

Spike's heart dropped to his shoes.

Kate abruptly rose, but Spike held tight to her arm. "Kate, does she have Petra?" he asked desperately.

"Now isn't the time--"

"Kate," Spike interrupted sharply.

Kate paused for a brief moment. "Yes, she does. But don't do anything!"

"What do you say, folks?" the first woman asked. "Should we start with her?"

"Forget it, Darla," a new, strong male's voice echoed in the Club. "You're not doing anything."

"Angel," Kate practically growled from beside Spike.

"Why, Angel," Darla's laugh echoed over the microphone. "How lovely of you to join us."

Spike tugged on Kate's arm. "You know Angel? Where is he?"

"Yes, I know that bastard," Kate said. "And he's close enough to spit on. I bet this is his fault."

"Take me over to him," Spike instructed, standing.

"Drusilla, let her go," Angel ordered.

"But Daddy, she reeks of my love," Drusilla whined, her amplified voice like a sharp knife through the air.

"Don't tell me you're in with him," Kate said.

Spike allowed his ridges to flash. "I'm one of him," he hissed. "Now, take me to him."

"Drusilla, what are you talking about?" Darla asked.

"Her pores leak with love for him," Drusilla said with anger. "Happiness buzzes around her like flies. Buzz, buzz, buzz."

"Open the doors, Darla," Angel demanded.

Game-face gone, Spike half-climbed onto the counter near Angel and was suddenly hauled to his feet by the man. "Angel," he said the older vampire's name pleadingly. "Don't let Dru hurt Petra."

"Well, well, will you look at this," Darla said. "It's a regular family reunion."

"You've been a naughty, naughty boy, Spike," Drusilla scolded.

"I'm sorry, baby," Spike said loudly, his voice carrying down to the dance floor where the vampiresses held court. "But I was bored."

"Spike?" Petra's frightened voice came over the speakers.

Spike clenched his jaw. Why this? Why now? He was finally happy again, damn it!

"Twenty feet," Angel whispered. "Roll forward when you land."

"Mummy's very cross with you," Drusilla went on. "You will go to bed without supper."

"Now," Angel said.

Spike felt Angel jump and the blond vampire was right behind him. He heard gasps and cries as he went pummeling down, the loudest a choked-off yell from Petra. He had no idea when he'd reach the floor, so he kept his feet flat and his legs loose.

The connection with the tiled floor was jarring, but Spike rolled forward into a somersault and up to his feet, like he'd done countless times in the past. He yanked the cane out of the back pocket of his black jeans, the sections clicking into place with a flick of his wrist. "Drusilla!" he yelled angrily. "Let her go, now!"

"No!" Drusilla stomped her foot, unknowingly directing Spike to where she was. "She took you from me and she must be punished."

Spike stalked towards Drusilla's voice, his cane swinging unerringly before him, a perfect extension of him. He was completely focused on Dru, ignoring the melodrama playing out between the other ex-lovers, Angel and Darla.

"You didn't want me anymore, Dru," Spike stated, coming to a stop at the edge of a raised dias. He lifted his chin and looked blindly upwards. "It's been years since we broke up, so don't give me any of that bloody shite."

"You're covered in humanity," Drusilla sniffed disdainfully from almost directly in front of him. "You love them, you live like them--"

"And I like it!" Spike exploded.

Drusilla gasped. "What happened to my Spike?" she said in a wavering voice.

"He lost everything, Drusilla," Spike confessed in a flat voice. "And he had to rebuild himself in order to survive."

He heard Petra squeak in distress and he clenched his hand around his cane. Then he felt Drusilla's hand ghost in front of his sightless eyes. "That nasty Slayer hurt you," she said. "For that, I shall rip her eyeballs out and feed them to the gulls."

Spike felt a pang in his heart for a love never realized, but shrugged. "If you want, ducks. Be my bloody guest. Just let Petra go."

"The stars say it's time to scurry and hide," Drusilla said in a sing-song voice. "The rabbit must hop into the briar patch."

Spike stumbled backwards as Petra was shoved off the dias at him. He quickly wrapped his arms around her, his cane clattering on the tiled floor as he caught his balance. Drusilla's childish laughter faded into the pounding of Petra's heart.

"Are you all right?" he asked Petra, holding her close.

"Tak," Petra said in a shaky voice. "That was your old lover?"

"Yeah," Spike replied. "I'm sorry--"

"No," she interrupted. "I would be jealous if I was old lover, too."

Spike leaned back slightly and brushed his hand along the side of Petra's face. "Kocham was, Petra."

He felt her smile, and his insides melted. "Kocham was, Spike," she echoed. ~I love you.~





Epilogue





The Powers That Be had a sick sense of humor. Not only had they forced Spike into learning humility and entirely changing his way of life, they'd given him a conscience as well. The good part was that Spike, the soulless demon, had everything that Angel strived to obtain, and the blond relished in that fact. The bad part was that Spike actually worried about humans now, and not just as a threat to his chipped self.

Sighing, Spike nodded to Petra, who rang the doorbell. It had been a month since Darla and Drusilla had attacked Club Indigo. Although there'd been plenty physical damage to the premises, not many people had died. Angel's lackeys had seen to that.

Kate still wasn't talking to Spike, which was a disappointment. He really had enjoyed her company. She had usually joined the group on Saturday nights and had been flirting heavily with George. It was too bad.

Spike's O.W.D. friends looked at him differently, as well, since his dramatic twenty-foot jump that night. He'd lied and said he used to do stunt work before he lost his sight, and that Angel had been a stunt person, too, before he'd become a private investigator. They thought Spike was a hero, and teased him every chance they could.

The front door opened and a young girl greeted Spike with familiarity. "Hey, Spike. Long time, no see. We thought you were dead. Who's this?"

"Dawn," Spike said. "This is Petra. Is Buffy here?"

"Yeah, hold on," Dawn walked away from the door, leaving it open but not inviting them in. "Buffy!"

Curious, Spike found the doorframe and tried to put his hand past it. There was no barrier. He grinned, but did not move to go inside.

A few seconds later, he heard a voice from a woman he was happy to find still alive. "Oh my God, Spike?" Buffy gasped. "We thought you were dead!"

"That's what Dawn said," Spike smiled in Buffy's direction. "But, as you can see, I'm still here."

"I don't need to, um, get the wooden spoon, do I?" Buffy asked, her tone now wary.

"Nah, still chipped," Spike replied.

"Okay," Buffy said. "But if you're lying, you're so dusted." There was a short pause. "Hi, I'm Buffy, the Slayer. And you are?"

"Subtle, pet," Spike teased. "Petra's human, so no need to get your hackles up." He half-turned to his girlfriend. "Petra, meet Buffy Summers, girl who used to kick my arse on a regular basis. Buffy, meet Petra Pawlak, the woman who currently kicks my arse on a regular basis."

"Good to meet you, Buffy," Petra greeted warmly. "I apologize for Spike's bad joking."

"That's okay," Buffy said. "Do you guys want to come in?"

"Love to, Slayer," Spike said, allowing Petra to guide him forward. His cane lightly knocked against the doorjamb as he entered the house. "Before we get to the pleasantries, we should probably talk business. You haven't seen Drusilla in town, have you..."





End