By Annie Sewell-Jennings
Chapter Eight: The Future
“And when no hope was left inside
On that starry, starry night
You took your life as lovers often do
But I could have told you, Vincent
This world was never meant for one as
Beautiful as you”
--Don McLean, “Vincent”
It is a dark and stormy night.
Oh, he knows that it’s a cliché; he wrote enough terrible stories and poems to know what was trite and what was not. Of course, most of his stories were trite and clichéd, but hell, who’s counting now? No one, that’s who. Everyone’s fucking dead.
But she’s not.
The window’s still broken. Slivers of crumbled glass still cling to the wooden windowpane, tinkling like an off-key set of windchimes as the wintry wind howls through the open window. Snow has piled up in the room and most of the valuable things are gone, stolen and looted, leaving only photographs, mementoes, magazines, little things like that. Unimportant things. Things that aren’t necessary for survival, like videotapes and candy wrappers. These are the scraps of a teenaged girl’s life.
She stands in the middle of the room wrapped in a camel’s hair coat, the rabbit collar snugly brushing against her sunburned cheeks, her hair a mess of snow pouring like an avalanche down her back. There is a photograph in her suede-gloved hands, her fingertip caressing the frayed celluloid, the yellowing tint of the aging picture. In the cold weather, she has been forced to cover up all of her tattoos, but it does not matter because her history blares furiously all around her.
The photograph shows two girls underneath an apple tree in fading sunlight, arms wrapped lovingly around each other, smiles sparkling at the photographer. One girl is young, maybe twelve or thirteen, brown hair long and shiny, pale skin and a potentially pretty face, ripening and unfurling, coming into her own. The other is a little sadder, a little older. A lovely blonde with dying eyes. She has seen too much in her life, and she looks a little past the camera, her smile a shade dimmer than the brunette’s unknowing grin.
This is her. This is Joan, Buffy, whoever the fuck she is. Captured in celluloid, preserved forever as a part of history, holding her little sister in her embrace like it would keep her safe. She knows the rest of the story now.
“This was Dawn,” she murmurs, and he remembers how much he loved the child. It is silly and stupid for a vampire to feel deeply for a little girl, but he loved her nonetheless and tried to die for her on several occasions.
Standing awkwardly in the doorway, looking at the ruined remains of the teenaged girl’s bedroom, he nods his head even though she isn’t looking at him. “Yeah,” he mutters. “Dawn Rachel Summers. Pretty little thing, isn’t she?”
“She’s not a thing,” she says. “I’m the thing. The monster. I did this all.”
He shakes his head. “It’s not your fault.”
A cruel laugh explodes from her body, and she drops the photograph, letting it flutter to the snow-covered carpeting. “Everyone wants to tell me that,” she says. “It’s not my fault. I don’t remember doing those things, so it’s not my fault that they happened. Except that it was still me. Still Buffy. You can call me Joan or Slayer or bitch, but it was still done by these hands and this body.”
He knows that she is right. He knows that she is wrong. Everything is a contradiction, a paradox, an oxymoron. Literature tells him and he accepts that this is all clichéd and trite. What a comedy. What a tragedy.
The snow is melting around them, icicles sliding from the soaked wood of the dresser and sluicing down the jagged remains of the mirror. There is a heat in the room, and he knows that it comes from her. He makes no mistake; he knows that it is not warmth. There is nothing soft about her anymore.
Wistfully, he walks across the room to her and touches her shoulder, smiling softly at her, fondly. “Remember when we were in the Keys after your first hurricane?” he murmurs into her ear, losing himself in the roseate colors of the memory, the way the sky had looked like a masterful piece of art, all blooming colors and streaks of light breaking through dark clouds.
Tangerine and carmine simmer above them in the calm, and she runs from the beach house onto the wet sand, into the flooding tide, throwing herself blissfully into the ocean. When she comes back into the house, she shakes saltwater and storm surge out of her hair and throws her arms around his neck, kissing him softly and warmly, and tells him that she loves him. It is the happiest moment in his life.
A little shadow of his lover reappears briefly, tugging at her mouth, pulling at her broken face. The woman that he remembers flinging herself into stormy waters and cutting through water like a dolphin, the woman that loved him. The Joan in her. “Yes,” she says. “I remember. I remember how much I loved you then.”
“Then don’t remember the rest of it,” he says. “Throw the rest of it to hell. It’s what you did in the first place, right?”
Flinching, she turns away from him and the room intensifies in heat again. Snow is soaking into the carpeting, and he absently thinks that it will mold. Like anyone lives here now anyway. This is a dead house and he never should have brought her here to see all of these ghosts and phantoms.
“I did make myself forget,” she whispers, her eyes afraid and vulnerable. It’s not the fiery nymphet that used to drape herself in turquoises and listen to Three Six Mafia. “But what does that say about me? God, what kind of life must I have had if I wanted so badly to forget everything? All of the stories… Killing my sister. Killing myself. I don’t know…” She shakes her head. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to live a life that I didn’t want to live in the first place.”
It’s the worst thing that she ever could have found out about herself. All of the struggles, all of the hardships, thinking that by recovering her past she is somehow striking back at whoever did this to her, and she finds out that she did this to herself. She has over a hundred tattoos written into her body. Every one of them was painful, even though she tried to play it tough and refused to show her tears. She wishes they would disappear now.
How is she supposed to go on? She understands why he would never take her back to California now. Remembering is hell, and knowing but not being able to remember is even worse. Her entire life is laid out in front of her and she can only watch it like a movie. She remembers nothing.
Not a fucking thing.
“Tell me something, Spike,” she whispers, her voice catching a little. “Willow never finished the rest of the story. She gave you to me, got doped up on magic, and then what happened? How long did you have me before I woke up?”
Looking down, he finds a photograph lying on the floor of her when she could still remember. A lovely little blonde, giving a slightly shy smile that could not hide all of the joy in her. Living in the sunlight, loving the day, being free. It must be a terribly old picture.
“I left as soon as she gave you to me,” he murmurs, never looking away from the photograph. “Got out of Sunnydale by the skin of my fangs. Took you to a tunnel I knew of right outside of Vegas, and you slept through the fires. The whole time, I didn’t know what to tell you when you woke up. Didn’t know what to say…” He shakes his head. “But I knew what you wanted. You just didn’t want to be you anymore. I was mad as all hell about it, but what’s done is done, right? Couldn’t blame you for what you didn’t know you’d done.” His mouth quirked a little into a sad, slightly shamefaced smile. “Couldn’t blame you for anything.”
“You love me,” she murmurs, and he covers his face in his hands. Love is a crime and he’s a repeat offender.
“Of course I love you,” he says, and he touches the side of her face. “Love you for Buffy, and I love you for Joan. Let that be enough, pet.”
Quietly, she turns her face to his and strokes his cheek, the gray light of darkening sky cutting through the melting snow, droplets of water falling all around them. Everything seems to slow, time stretching into decades, the years passing in the slide of her hand through his tousled hair. “Show me my bedroom,” she murmurs into his ear, and he obeys, twining her fingers through his and leading her to the place where she once slept.
He remembers this bedroom as being forbidden territory, a place where he was off-limits. Though she would fuck him in the dust or rut with him in ashes, she would never invite him into the soft, feminine warmth of her bedroom, take him underneath the down comforter that caressed her skin when she was vulnerable, allow him to make love to her instead of just fuck her until she was bruised and battered.
In a slow cascade, the camel’s hair coat slides with ease off of her body, and she wears dove gray underneath it, coils and wisps of white hair clinging to the appealing curve of her slender neck. She has covered all of her tattoos, but now she strips off the cashmere sweater and throws it on the ground, not even looking around at the space that she once occupied in another lifetime. He already knows that this is not about a jaunt down memory lane. She needs him now.
But he can’t help it. Fuck, how can he help it? He has all of the memories, all of their time together, living in the backseat of his stained and dirty DeSoto, threading their arms together and taking shots of tequila, chasing liquor with limes. He remembers every tattoo burned into her body, every symbol, every character, everything. He can connect all of the words into a story, a biography on her body. Every touch reminds him.
Sunburned skin slides easily over the tense muscles in her back, rippling and showing off the tattoo that bears his forgotten name, and stray bits of snow drift in through the shattered window. With shaking hands, she sweeps off the ice crystals that cling to the bed, and closes her eyes. She wants him to fuck her in the snow, melt the winter wonderland which frightens her desert soul, and he will oblige her because he loves her.
Shamefully, she loves him too.
When they begin to make love, it is like exhuming Atlantis, their lost kingdom that stretches across the scorched globe, filled with all of its myriad paradises and sanctuaries. A gasp ripples from his chest like an unwinding ribbon, and she closes her eyes, wrapping him inside of her arms, scrambling to remove all of his clothing. How many times has he made love to her? He knows her body like a solar system, all of her tattoos becoming constellations that only he can connect.
As he sees her, he sees a thousand images of her imprinted over her tattooed, inked body. Her in the backseat of his DeSoto, running her hands frenetically through her hair while sweat pours off of her body, exquisite ecstasy racking her face and crinkling up her nose. Moonlight sliding down her cheeks while he takes her from behind, hands spreading across her lovely ass, rising up to her pert breasts. Raspberries, fuck, she tastes like raspberries whenever she gets drunk on red wine. Or God, oh God, the smell of vanilla on her collarbone, vanilla and saltwater marshes…
Broken, delicate, fragile girl pushed against the snowy wall, crying and weeping while he fucks her, eyes squeezed shut and oozing fat tears while her head bangs against the wall. Ice crystals on her eyelashes. Snow melting from the heat of anguish. It’s a horrible portrait. It’s the only memento that he will be allowed.
“I love you, I love you,” she whispers painfully into his neck and he groans. “I can’t stop loving you, why can’t I stop loving you, it’s not fair… Not fair, you liar, you fucking liar, oh, God, I don’t want… I don’t want to live…”
“Don’t say that,” he gasps, pounding into her, squeezing her breast while she writhes and moans. “Don’t ever say that, I love you. I love you so much. Don’t tell me that… Don’t tell me that you don’t… Live, Buffy, you have to live…”
“I’m not Buffy!” she screams, her orgasm flushing her face as it approaches, threatening to overtake her. She screams. She cries. “I’m not Buffy! I’m not! I’m Joan! Joan, fuck you, I’m Joan… I’m not Buffy! I’m not! I’m nothing…”
And as she screams out, her voice shrill and hoarse, she orgasms in a desperate, mad frenzy of muscles and limbs, and his orgasm is a sad following act. They collapse on the floor in a heap of white and red limbs, intertwined together as they always are, inseparable and indistinguishable. She has become a part of him, and she is not certain which pieces of her are really hers and which are just the result of his methodical lies. It is a terrible realization to come to, but she has accepted it nonetheless. There is no more Buffy, but there is no more Joan, either.
“I’m a shadow,” she whispers to him, and he pets her hair, trying so hard to get her to see that he loves her, a vampire loving a Slayer, and shouldn’t that make her something good? Something worth living for?
“You’re the sun,” he tries to tell her, but she shoves him away and crawls desolately onto the bed, her sea-colored eyes large and hollow, like a child’s. There is snow cluttering the bed, but the moment her electric body curls up on the bed it begins to melt. She aches for the desert, and she smiles ironically, hurt.
“I know why you never wanted to take me here,” she says, and he smiles sadly. Too little, too late. “Never take me here again, okay? Never take me to California again.”
Slowly, he crawls onto the bed beside her, cradling her in his arms, holding her tightly against the wicked plies of the night and the dreams that will undoubtedly invade her mind tonight. Icicles pool into liquid puddles on the windowsill, and the remains of Buffy Summers surround them as they spoon on the former Slayer’s bedspread, scattered photographs and remnants of a teenaged girl surrounding them.
He makes a grave mistake – he falls asleep first. When he disappears into the escape of dreaming, she carefully untangles herself from his lanky body and looks down at his face. For the past ten years, she has trusted in the architecture of his cheekbones, the scar forking his eyebrow, the pout of his Botticelli mouth when he is asleep. He loves her, and it will do nothing but destroy him. Tough shit, Randy. She knows the truth about him. He’ll be her slave forever. A broken man. A toy.
Tenderly, she leans down and brushes her lips against his forehead. “I love you, Spike,” she whispers, but as always, he never hears it. He never hears anything.
He does not hear her pad barefoot out of the bedroom door.
He does not hear her enter the pillaged master bedroom to the antique trunk in the closet.
He does not hear her lock the door.
He does not hear her chanting.
He does not hear her fall.
All that he hears is the snow.
(end part eight)
Continued in Chapter Nine: Athens, Greece