Title: Dust and Decay
Summary: A young boy meets the people in the mysterious house up the street. Kind of the way I think things could go.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Don't hurt me.
Thanks to: Pete, Dot, Jen, and Vic, as always.
Danny Mitchell raised his hand to knock at the tall screen door, squinting in the late afternoon sun. He looked back at his friends waiting on the dusty street. Michael shouted, "Go on!"
Danny shrugged uneasily. He didn't want to admit he was scared. The big, old house was imposing enough, with its creaky steps, dark windows, and peeling paint. It smelled like sour milk.
But the inhabitants were scarier. A lady in a wheelchair, and a man who'd been heard, but never seen. The wheelchair didn't worry Danny all that much, because his brother had one, too, but there were rumours about the lady's face.
After an eternity, the door creaked open.
The house was dark inside. A man stepped forward as Danny's eyes adjusted. He was tall and thin, with white-blond hair and deep furrows on either side of his mouth. His left arm ended at the elbow. The man held it protectively across his body, under his long, black duster. Unsmiling, he gazed at Danny.
"Um," Danny cleared his throat, "um, please, our ball went into your backyard? We were playing the World Series? Could I get the ball, please?" He cursed the nervousness that made every sentence into a question.
The man pulled a cigarette out of his pocket with his right hand, stuck it in his mouth, and lit it. He puffed, unhurried. "I suppose," he said out of the corner of his mouth. He turned, and Danny had to repress a gasp at the deep scars on the left side of his face. It looked as if something had tried to - eat him.
The man motioned at Danny to follow. They walked down the corridor, passing a mirror with a blanket thrown over it. Danny nearly tripped over a hall table. A clumsily-embroidered lace mat covered it. Dust covered everything.
A high, querulous voice came from a room to the right. "Spike?" There was the sound of wheels squeaking. A shrivelled old woman appeared in a wheelchair in the doorway. She turned her head from side to side. "Spike?"
Spike's voice was gentle as he replied. "Buffy, it's okay. I'm here. I'm just taking this boy to get his ball."
Danny said softly, "My name is Danny. We were playing the World Series and our ball went into your yard. I'm sorry?"
"Danny," Buffy said as if she were memorising it. She moved forward. Danny strained to see in the near-twilight.
She only had one eye. It was milky white. The other had been lost to a vicious, puckered scar that ran from her left temple across the corner of her mouth, and down to her throat. Danny shuddered, then quickly plastered a polite smile onto his face.
"We used to play games, too," Buffy said. "Do you remember, Spike? The Slayer and the vampire." She laughed lightly. "Such fun."
"That's all over now," Spike said. His face held such longing that it took Danny's breath away. "Just a game, when we were young. Now, I look after you."
"I'm blessed," said Buffy. She held out a hand in Spike's direction. He kissed it reverently.
Danny coughed, partly from nervousness, partly from the dust. "Sorry. Um, my ball?"
Spike pointed at the back door. "Through there, Danny."
Danny nodded, and thankfully ran outside. He found the ball next to the withered apple tree in the far corner of the yard. It was nearly invisible in the long grass. He steeled himself and walked back inside.
Buffy had a glass of water in one hand, and two pills in the other. "You have to, for the pain," Spike said softly, urgently. Buffy's lower lip quivered, but she swallowed the pills.
"Goodbye, Danny," Buffy said, voice growing muzzy. "Visit us again."
Spike's mouth quirked into a near-smile. "Yes, goodbye, Danny." He gathered Buffy's hand close with his right hand, and cradled it against his chest.
Danny smiled uncertainly, and walked to the front door.
"You look after me so well, Spike."
"Oh yes, pet. I'll always take care of you."
Danny opened the door, tossed, "Thank you," over his shoulder and ran down the front steps.