By Annie Sewell-Jennings
Sequel to The Waiting Season
Chapter Twelve: The Broken Sky
Still could smell her, a piece of her lingering in the air like a tantalizing ghost. Scent of oranges, whiff of nectarines and lemon peel, splash of kiwi. Just a wisp, just a trace. Just a fragment of some long-gone apparition, a phantom of something that he could never have.
Just like Drake said -- he would never, ever be worthy of her.
Fury started to build and boil inside of him, and Spike's hands curled up into fists. Drake fucking Lucas, yeah? Poncey name for a poncey bastard who thought he could just pop on by for a round of kick-the-Spike. Wasn't his job to tell her about the soul, wasn't his secret to share, and that bugger had gone ahead and used it against them. Made it into a weapon, he had; fashioned it into a nuclear bomb and sent it exploding on the grass before him. Recited his dreadful poetry, gave him visions of her in agony because of him, and then told her the awful truth about the vampire she'd fallen in love with. Told her that he'd run off and gotten a soul, just for her, and that it was still not good enough to save him.
And she'd run away.
Pain shuddered through his body, and Spike dropped his head, loosened his fingers. Wouldn't have mattered who'd said it. She'd bolted, had her heart snapped into pieces yet again. All because of him. That shattered, ravaged look in her eyes before she'd fled... All because of him.
I can't do this anymore.
Slowly, Spike brought himself to his feet, feeling a dead, empty certainty filling his body. Couldn't do this to her. Wasn't fair. She'd been broken and splintered too many times already in her life, and now, with this Drake fucker walking around making demons weep, she would have enough on her hands. Didn't need a sad, pathetic remnant of a vampire wandering around and cutting holes in her heart. Didn't need anyone else to give her pain -- her shoddy, doomed life was bound to give her heartache in spades. Shouldn't have come back. Should've stayed as far away from her as possible.
Spike gritted his teeth. The soul was supposed to make him do the right thing, right? Stop bollixing up her life with his stupidity? Well, fine then. He'd start right now. Do the right thing. Make the good choice.
Xander winced. "Anya..."
But she was not having any of it. She was all business tonight in her flawless pantsuit, briskly flipping through receipts with her thumb, punching numbers into the calculator.
She dismissively brushed an errant lock of sleek chestnut hair out of her face, all manicured nails and dry clean only linen. "I have nothing to say to you," she said breezily. "You were extraordinarily rude to me earlier and therefore, I don't want to see you. So unless you're going to buy something, I'd suggest you find somewhere else to be."
The brutal honesty of Anya. Part of him wanted to rise to the challenge, wanted to throw some sarcasm and facetiousness back at her brisk tones and cutting words. Xander could feel his hands ball up into fists, and then he flexed his fingers and relaxed.
No. That wasn't why he'd come here tonight. "I know," he said quietly, struggling to keep his voice even. Had to control his temper, even when she was the one person in the world who could inflame him so quickly. Well, her and Spike. "I'm sorry, An. I didn't mean--"
"Yes, you did," Anya said, never lifting her eyes from the printout of accounts sitting before her. "You meant every word you said. Your honesty was very impressive." Another punch on the calculator, another spurt of white paper full of numbers. "I especially liked the part when you called me a big ridgy evil genie. That was a nice touch."
"An, I'm sorry..."
Dark eyes underneath layers of perfectly applied mascara cut in his direction. Her voice oozed condescension and mock sympathy. How human she'd become over the years. "Oh, you’re always sorry, Xander."
"I'm still in love with you."
One slender, perfectly kept eyebrow arched in his direction. Interest finally showed on the flawless mask of her face, and Anya abandoned the sea of calculations and receipts swamped before her. "Excuse me?"
Xander swallowed hard and took another step closer to the register. He'd struggled with these words on the drive over, the radio on mute while he looked at himself in the rearview mirror and practiced lines. I'm sorry, Anya. I hurt you, and I'm sorry. Please, let me try again.
Of course, the moment he saw her perched on the stool behind the counter of the Magic Box, all of those carefully rehearsed words slipped right out of his mind and he blanked out. The old dry mouth from high school nervousness reappeared, and he could feel his palms sweating.
But he was not going to run again.
Xander swallowed hard, flexed his fingers a bit. Be cool. Cool guy, coming up. "I'm still in love with you," he said, and Anya stared at him blankly. It made him feel self-conscious, like it was back to junior year in high school, passing Cordelia her gift-wrapped necklace. At least this time, he knew enough to anticipate the rejection.
Sure enough, Anya barked a laugh in his face and shook her head before she returned to her work. "No, you're not," she said firmly. "You're just horny and looking for sex. I would sympathize with you, but you're an asshole and deserve a long period of celibacy."
Xander stared at her for a moment, and then burst into laughter.
Anya blinked from her position at the register, confused by his reaction. It was a good insult; she was very good at being insulting. Giles said so on a regular basis. But here he was, laughing deep in his belly in that way that she'd always been overly fond of, all big dorky grin and cute dimples. It tugged at a place in her heart she thought she'd abandoned, and Anya frowned.
"Stop that," she said, irritated. "There's not supposed to be laughing. You're supposed to give up all hope and leave."
"Can't," Xander said, shrugging his shoulders at her as he composed himself. "I just can't leave you."
She snorted at him. Decidedly unprofessional, but it wasn't like he was going to be bowled over by her perky charms and start stocking up on expensive magic products. "Funny words coming from the runaway groom," she snapped, and he sighed, all of the mirth falling away from his face.
"I know, An."
When he started to approach the counter, Anya jerked back, alarmed. She had grown accustomed to their song-and-dance of "it's all your fault, you evil bitch/bastard" over the summer months. He was supposed to bring her coffee and do nice things for her, and then get irritated when she expressed a valid opinion. Then she would kick him out of the store and revel in the glory of scorned woman collecting emotional vengeance.
He was changing the rules, and it frightened her.
Wide deer-in-headlight eyes stared at him as he walked over, and her fingers nervously began fingering the amulet around her neck. He'd noticed that new habit, that strange security blanket she'd acquired. If you upset me, I can just eviscerate you. It should have intimidated him, her death threats and hints at the wrath of the jilted bride, but strangely, it did not matter.
Life wasn't worth it without her.
A sparkle caught his eye as Anya twisted the heavy pendant around her fingers, and before she could jerk away, Xander crooked the fine gold chain around his index finger for closer examination. Oh, he knew that piece of jewelry so well.
Wistfully, Xander rubbed the ring between his fingers, feeling every sharp angle and edge of the diamond. "Did I ever tell you about this ring?" he asked softly, and she frowned at him warily.
"Is it a boring, Hallmark-y sentimental story that might make me nauseous?"
Usually, this earned her a cutting glare and a pursed-lip look of disapproval. Instead, Xander gave her a sly smile that made butterflies start fluttering around in her tummy. It brought back memories of sweat-soaked nights of sex and waffles, when he would toy with her hair and she'd babble endlessly until he shut her up with orgasms.
"I bought it for you after Buffy's mom passed away," he said softly. "After we had that... Talk. About the future."
Reluctantly, Anya gave him a smile. "I remember what happened before the talk," she said slyly, and he gave her a full-fledged Xandergrin, the kind that made her knees all quivery and ruffled her impeccable composure.
"Vixen. But that's not the point. As spectacular as the sex really, really was, it was the talk that did it for me. What you said... How we're all a part of something bigger. How we're all a part of this big circle, and yes, I do realize that I am channeling Disney, but it's right. And I wanted to be in that circle with you."
Another fond, fumbling caress of the ring.
"So I bought the ring the next day."
"But you regretted it," Anya said softly, her cool fingers carefully tucking the ring back underneath the starched collar of her blouse. He remembered how warm her hands used to be, back when she was human. Hot and tender, warming his body when they slept side-by-side. But vengeance demons were not supposed to get all hot and bothered. Revenge was a dish best served cold, after all. "And then you..."
Xander flinched and bowed his head. "I know," he said. "But it wasn't that I regretted proposing to you. It wasn't even that I regretted loving you, An. It was... I'm scared. Scared that I'm going to end up all alone. Scared that my life won't mean anything, and I'll be another Harris with a chip on his shoulder and a toupee on his head for the rest of my life."
Crestfallen, Anya slumped her shoulders, and he could see the thin line of her lips tighten and pinch with the start of bitter anger. "Oh, of course," she said snidely. "Because being with me would just ruin your whole life."
Softly, he smiled at her, patted her soft cheek with his palm. "No. It would make my life better."
Xander gently released the ring from his fingers, tucking it carefully underneath the pressed collar of her shirt. Keep her nice and neat. Don't mess her up. All the while, she stared at him like she was seeing him for the first time, eyes wide with curiosity, and he smiled at her.
"Want to go out for a drink?" he asked, and before she could narrow her eyes and voice suspicions, he raised his hands. "Hey, just drinks. Nothing sexy. Promise. Just..." He quirked his mouth at her. "I miss the things you say."
A brightness, the flickering of hope, lit inside of her eyes, and Anya smiled at him genuinely, without a hint of bitterness or irony. That simple-sweet smile, the one that spoke of starry-eyed love and wild wonder. God, how he'd missed her. "Let me get my coat."
As she locked up the receipts and the cash drawer, he caught her elbow in his hand for a second, and smiled at her. "It'll be okay, An," he said gently, and she cocked her head at him before she returned his smile.
"Maybe it will, Xander."
Everything was fine.
Calm. Even. She just had to concentrate on the little things, not think outside of the small actions that would carry her out of the graveyard and back to her house. The motion of her legs. The rise and fall of breath. The steady beat of her heart. These things were manageable, something she could control. The inconsequential act of blinking was something that Buffy could handle.
Focus. She had to focus. There were... Things that had gone wrong and she had to sort them out. Figure out the next step. Research, books and coffee. There was a man out there who could do awful, ungodly acts and she had his name. She could do something. She. Was. Fine.
There was a stranger in her house.
Not his body; no, that was as familiar to her as the scent of the kill. Spike was a savage sonnet composed of sinew and sin, draped in leather, collected in shadows. The elegant sprawl of a pale hand half-covered by the sleeve of his coat. The long, careless grace of his exhausted leg, strewn out and cast away. Moon bright hair. Mouth pouted but not petulant.
But his eyes did not belong to him.
Buffy froze in the open doorway, her hand tightly gripping the doorknob. Just in case of emergency. Her feet begged to run, toes itching anxiously inside of her shoes. He had not turned to look at her yet, those foreign eyes fixated dully on something she could not see. Perhaps he wouldn't notice if she just turned around and...
"They look so happy, don't they."
Her shoulders sagged with resignation, still tense and unsure. The room felt claustrophobic and consuming, like it might devour her whole. She did not want to talk to him. Did not want to acknowledge this sham, this mockery of the man she loved. If she looked at him again, saw this alien inhabiting her lover's supple flesh... "Please," Buffy whispered. "I can't--"
"Won't be long," he whispered, and she wanted to scream at the sound of his voice. He should not have that broken glass fracturing the fluid continuity of his velveteen purr. He should be murmuring naughty things in her ear, coaxing her and completing her. How could he possibly do that now, so broken, so strange?
Spidery fingers gestured slightly in the direction of the sofa. "They look happy. Content." He shook his head and flinched. "Don't know what's coming. Think love's just a cuddle and a snog. But I know."
Warily, Buffy stepped into the living room. She could feel his eyes watching her, prowling over her body, but she could not bear to meet his gaze. She did not want to see his eyes now. Instead, she looked at the couch.
They were a tangle of limbs and red silk, cream and oil skin entwined in the innocence of their dreams. Dawn had a boy, an almost-man with deadly long lashes and enormous hands. One oversized palm loosely cupped Dawn's fair knee, fingers fondling freckles.
"Bit's all growing up," he said, and Buffy felt her mouth go dry. Difficult to swallow. A bitter chuckle that sounded like twisted metal in her ears, not at all like the fluid ripple of laughter he used to give her in their ruined bed. "Gonna get her poor heart broken, smashed to pieces, and--"
"Stop it," Buffy whispered, shutting her eyes tightly. She could not turn around and look at him. Could not see what had happened. "I... I can't deal with all this right now. There's too much that I have to--"
There was the sound of fumbling, all of his old leather creaking as he stood up. "So... so sorry," he stammered. Oh, God. Spike stuttering. It was obscene. "I'll... I didn't meant to hurt..."
Buffy heard something crash to the floor and the sharp intake of his breath, and yet she still could not bring herself to turn around and face him. Just the mental image of this clamoring, crushed thing inside of Spike's cool, liquid-smooth skin was enough to make her feel rotted and awful. Seeing him like this would be too much.
"Did it for you," he said softly, and Buffy felt sick to her stomach. Her fingers balled up into a fist, and the violence within her screamed to punch him in that sweet-and-sour mouth of his. Anything to silence him. Shut him up so that he couldn't talk about the... "Thought it's what you... What you needed. To be happy."
Oh, she needed him. Needed the fierce fury of him, the maelstrom made of muscle and malignance. She craved the steel of his eyes when he was hard and angry, the incongruous softness of his hands when he was lighter and dreamier. But this confused, belittled vampire standing behind her with clumsy fingers...
Buffy said nothing, merely let him continue as he sighed and continued to gather the pieces of whatever inconsequential item he had broken. It was nothing in comparison to what else was destroyed in that living room.
"Still remember the way you looked that first night," he said. "All lovely and fine. Had stars in your skin, and God, the way your eyes..."
His voice darkened suddenly, thickened into a sumptuous stream of words, hot and humid with sexuality. If she turned around, would she see her lover there, the one who could make her come with just a curl of his lips? She could not afford to find out.
"Looked like some slice of heaven, you did." Cool fingers started to ascend her bare leg, his callused fingertips skimming sensually across her skin. Arousal fluttered below his touch, and Buffy could feel the heat of her skin, the familiar tug and growl of want erupting low in her belly. "All long legs, smelling like all kinds of good."
She hissed in a breath, every muscle tense, every bone shaking like a tuning fork while his deadly, skilled hand traveled up to caress her inner thigh. "Always wanted to do something other than just fuck you," he purred against her hot skin, and Buffy closed her eyes shut. Stop it. Don't cry in front of him. You don’t know him well enough to cry.
A weary sigh, and then the barest brush of his thumb over the juncture between her leg and pelvis. Buffy gasped, her hips arching, as he chuckled from the shadowed floor behind her. "Wanted to make love to you, and maybe you might've liked it."
She couldn't help it, this sudden rush of arousal. It was his hands, those cool instruments of flesh that always made her buck and tremble. And yet it felt like betrayal, like she was giving herself to another man. Cheating on Spike with Spike. The hilarity of the entire situation made her want to scream, just as his fingers tracing her bikini line, finding that sensitive spot by her hip...
"Stop," Buffy whimpered, and she stepped back. Found the force in her voice, made it flat and cold like she'd once been with him. "It's different. Things have..."
"No, nothing has changed," he said, his voice hard and angry. She stepped forward, wrapped her arms protectively around her body. But he stood as well now, caught her waist in his long, nimble hands, one finger pressed against her navel in a way that made her want to moan. "Think that all you like, pet, but it's all the bloody same. Thought what I did... Thought it might change me. Make me better for you." His voice broke as he sighed against the back of her neck, and Buffy bit down hard on her lip, so hard that her teeth drew blood. "Thought you might..."
Roughly, his hands shoved her away and Buffy stumbled on her feet, her hands blindly reaching for the doorframe to keep her balance. "But I was wrong," he said in a hard, unrelenting voice. "Bloody typical, that's what it is. Always one step behind. Went out and got a soul--" oh, she flinched at that word "thinking it'd make me better, good enough to touch you and not hurt you, and it doesn't change a damned thing."
Wild, hysterical peals of laughter forced their way up from inside her chest, and Buffy pressed her forehead against the wall as she giggled at him. "You're so fucking stupid," she gasped between fits. "It changes everything. You've changed everything, and I didn't want it to change, I didn't, and--"
When he spun her around with his oh-so-rough hands and confronted her with the blasphemy of his eyes, all of the laughter within her died.
Because it was still Spike.
Same mouth, pretty and pink, too soft for the jagged angles of his face and the harsh blade of his nature. Same strong English nose, same slightly weak chin. The enigmatic scar on his eyebrow remained, and nothing could shorten the length of his dark eyelashes. When she touched his face, it was still that startlingly soft skin that she felt beneath her fingertips, curving down the dangerous cliff of his cheekbone.
His eyes told her a thousand stories. Kerosene blue blazing at her from behind a layer of lashes, and the flinted lapis orbs seemed to stare straight to her core. There was the coldness of his killing character contradicted by the low, languorous light of his love for her. He was still the same man, the one she'd fallen hopelessly in love with somewhere in time, and it struck her to the core.
This was still Spike, and now he was in agony.
"See, love?" he asked, his voice so familiar and yet so different. The molten murmur of his tobacco-roughened purr was now snagged on his own history, chopped up and distorted. "Try as we might, I can't change."
He swallowed hard, and gave her a smile so old it didn't belong on his flawless face. "Didn't mean to take this long," he said. "Just... Didn't want to leave you without saying goodbye." His voice softened to just a breath. "Know you hate that."
Slowly, he placed one trembling, cool hand on the side of her face and brought his mouth down to hers. No passion there, he'd tried to extinguish that in the aftermath of the dreaded bathroom. When he kissed her, she could taste desolation and despair. Kissing Spike was like drinking regret straight from the bottle, and she felt her chest hitch with unspent tears.
One last brush of his lips against hers, and then he stepped back. "I'm sorry," he said with so much earnestness that she felt one tear slide down her cheek. "Wish I... Wish I could've been good for you."
Shoulders slumped, dignity stripped, Spike turned around and walked out of the still-open door, his leather a shadow that rippled behind him, the antithesis of the soul he'd gotten in the name of love.
He froze on the front porch when her hoarse plea met his ears. Must've been hearing things. Must've heard something wrong. She didn't ask for him, not after everything he'd done to her. After he'd disproved her stupid folly of love for him, she had no reason to beg him to stay.
But there were tiny fingers wrapped around his elbow, tugging him back towards the house, and warm breath against his neck. "Don't go," she repeated, her voice soft and worn.
Spike sighed. "Have to, love," he said. Didn't she understand? After everything he'd done to himself, everything he'd tried to change, the darkness in him still wanted to throw her against the wall and drink her dry. Wanted to fuck her until her bones were broken and her spirit was crushed. Roughly, Spike threw off her hand. "You don't... Don't deserve this."
He could feel a tremor in her wrist, and then her fingers tightened around his arm. "Don't go," she said, her voice harder, more insistent. Like she'd salvaged some resolve from somewhere. "You're not the type to walk out."
Oh, now that was rich. Bitterly, Spike laughed and turned around. Gave her the old smile, that old killing glare. It made her flinch, and he grinned wolfishly at her. "Once upon a time, you might've been right," he said, and then he roughly threw off her hand. "But I'm through with fucking you up."
Once again, he set out on his way, and she was suddenly blocking his path. Moved so fast, she did, just a blur of blonde whipping in front of him with battle-hard eyes. Those eyes that said she could decapitate him with just three moves, and the demon in him surged and snickered, wanted to come out and get her to show him how. "So this is your big solution," Buffy said, her voice dark and cold. "When the going gets tough, the tough get going, huh?"
Tiredly, Spike smiled at her. "Not so tough after all, pet."
When she slapped him, the pain was exquisite. She could've hit him harder, could've thrown her knuckles into his nose like she'd always liked before. But the flat palm against his face would suffice. Any punishment she doled out, he'd take.
"That's bullshit," Buffy spat. "You know better than that. Everyone on this earth might leave me, but you're always here."
Yeah, he was. Always here to give her a little push in the wrong direction. Rub her face in her mistakes. Tell her that she was a dark, feverish bitch in the bedroom. Coax her into fucking him, pout and push until she gave up. Oh, yeah. He was always around to break her.
"Won't do it anymore," Spike said with equal coldness. "Not up for screwing you over anymore, love. I've fucked you up far too many times to do it again. Not when there's something out there who's trying to take my job."
The ponce in the cemetery, with his shifty eyes and expensive wardrobe. He had it in for her, throwing out poetry and impossible fledglings. Knew things, that monster did, and Spike could recognize bad when he saw it. Drake Lucas was going to kill her, and damned if Spike'd have a hand in her murder yet again.
Carefully, Spike passed his fingers over the jagged scratch on her cheek. "Things'll get bad," he sighed. "So bad. There are things in the desert that you and I can't see, but pet, I won't stand around and help him destroy you."
Needy fingers wrapped around his wrist, holding his fingertips to the berry-bright blood on her face. "So stay," she said. "Stay and help me fight him. Come on, Spike. I need you."
Shook his head, turned away. "Only make things worse..."
Her hand traveled up his back, fingers curled over his shoulder, and then her other arm wrapped around his waist. The slender heat of her body was pressed against his back, warmth from her cheek bleeding through the leather and cotton, seeping into his skin. "Shh," she murmured. "Don't say things like that." Her lips pressed against the nape of his neck. "It breaks my heart to hear you like this."
When he spoke, he couldn't keep the sob out of his voice. "Buffy..."
"Tell me that you don't love me anymore," she said gently, her hand splayed against his stomach. "Tell me that, and I'll let you go. But if you love me, then you'll stay, and we'll figure..." She took a deep breath. "We'll figure this out."
Slowly, fluidly, Buffy stepped in front of him, her jaw set as she dragged her eyes to his. Oh, he could drown in the intensity of her eyes. So hard, so soft, so dark, so light. Everything about her was a contradiction. The wisdom of her eyes in the lineless youth of her face. The hard calluses on soft, delicate hands. Such a small girl, but stronger than the forces of hell when put to the test.
"Tell me. Tell me that you don't still love me. Tell me that you don't want me..." She shuddered for a second, sucked in breath. "Tell me that you don't want me to love you back."
The shape of her body when she dances, all coy sexuality. One long, strong leg lashing out at him in the fury of battle. Passionate sparks in her eyes when he puts his hand on her breast and tells her that he'll fuck her until she can't see straight. Wild, wonderful Buffy, smart and strong.
The hero that he'll never be.
When he fell to his knees before her, buried his cheek against her knee and helplessly confessed that he'd never be able to stop loving her, she was there. Solid and warm, wrapped around him, her hand stroking his shoulder.
"Shh. It's okay. We'll get through this. It's all right, Spike. Everything's all right."
And as weak as he was, he believed her.
All night long, it had threatened to rain. Thunder rumbling, coming closer, lightning strips cutting the night sky into pieces. The humidity had settled in like a thick, liquid weight, swimming through blood, bending shoulders and bowing heads underneath its mass. Yet the sky only broke under the light of a dark, hazy moon, in the wee small hours of morning, as he fell asleep.
Gently, Buffy laid the phone back on its cradle, her fingertips lingering on the hard plastic shell. The echo of Giles's voice still reverberated through her head, words swimming and coalescing in the grief-numbed regions of her mind.
"We'll get everything together. Start researching. And Buffy... Is everything all right? You sound..."
"I'm fine, Giles. Good night."
It was surprising how easy it was to lie again.
The mattress springs groaned and creaked as he turned in the troubled beginnings of his sleep. One hard, bone-colored shoulder was exposed, slipping out from the swarm of sheets and comforters she'd carefully pulled over him. The moisture in the air combated the gel he'd used to carefully slick his hair back, and curls sprung up as she warily touched his head.
So soft. Just like she remembered, back in the days when she would grab fistfuls of his hair and pull him forcefully down to her mouth. Demanded kisses, ordered him to love her, but not too much. Not too sweet, like he sometimes tried to do. Coalescing her into gentleness with silk scarves pinning her wrists and ankles to the four corners of his great bed, so that she would not struggle when he swept his featherweight fingers across her thighs.
"Let me love you..."
She'd sat with him tonight, saying little while confessions and apologies spilled out from his throat and onto her lap. Held him in her arms, offered nothing but caresses and shushing noises. Gave him platitudes between his tormented rambling. She had not known what else to do for him. Her body ached to comfort him, her arms yearned to touch him, but...
But it could not really be him.
Curiously, Buffy leaned over him, studying his face while he slumbered in a nightmarish land of suddenly painful history. "Mustn't... Stop moving. Stop... Buffy..." And then he sighed and turned again, buried his face in the pillow. He still talked in his sleep, like it was really him, but it couldn't be. Not after this.
Because Angel was so different.
She remembered those first awful nights after that night of unspeakable happiness that had brought Angel back to murder. Remembered the foreignness of his big cow eyes, puppy dog brown thickened into impenetrable black. The cruelty of his words as he'd laughed at her sexual inexperience. The hiss of threats in the darkness of the school hallway. And of course, that awful, wild laughter as he'd stood underneath the sprinkler and mocked her inability to kill him.
It was like night and day. With the soul, he'd been so quiet, so reserved. So tormented. And without it, he was someone else entirely. Different name. Different eyes. Different voice, different everything. It had destroyed her to see this foreign creature walking around in her lover's body, using his hands to murder the people that she loved.
But with Spike...
Those were still his eyes. Still the same shade of divine blue. Still his hands on her body earlier, his fingertips unerringly knowing the curvature of her thigh. The only thing that had really changed was his absolute torment, the wracking guilt that had almost cast him away from her tonight. But he'd stayed, because he still loved her. Even with the soul, he hadn't changed so much as to fall out of love with her.
When she touched his shoulder, the sweet slope of his slender neck, Buffy could feel the same electricity burning underneath his cool skin. That same fire and fury that marked him as Spike, the brutal beast who'd tamed himself in the hopes of winning her heart. She'd held onto that desperately as she blocked him from leaving her house, refusing to accept his departure. This was still him. Still the vampire she'd fallen in love with.
A shudder from him, and he turned over, shaking his head in his sleep. "No, no, didn't mean to hurt... Didn't..." There was a strangled sob, and then nothing again.
She would help him. Keep him here, in her bed, away from the things that might destroy him. In his time of fragility, Buffy would keep him safe. She would whisper the words to him, tell him that she loved him, hold him when he wept and try to give him purpose again. She'd show him the world through photography and gentleness, and hope that he would want to live in it again.
But she did not know if she could ever save him.
Rain brushed against the windowpanes, liquid fingers sobbing down the glass in a despairing downpour, while thunder sighed in the background, far off but moving in closer. There were dark things coming for her, awful things that would try to claim her life and her sanity. Just another day in the life of Buffy.
Calmly, Buffy turned on the faucet and began to clean out the scratch on her face. Disinfectant stung, but not as much as the tearstains on her shirt. The places where he'd pressed his face to her stomach and sobbed out his regrets.
"Wasn't thinking, just couldn't hurt you anymore, wanted to be someone you might..."
Watered-down droplets of blood fell down into the sink, staining the clear water the shade of pink topaz, and Buffy stared hollowly at her reflection. Big dark eyes that were too big for her face. Mouth that trembled sometimes when she tried to speak honestly about herself. Hands that had bruised his skin so that she could see her fingertips darkly paining his body when she fucked him raw.
There was something within her that was not right. Something within her that could break the ones she loved. Something dark, and impure, and tainting. Something that could spit out awful words and make men believe them to the point of self-destruction.
I guess a Slayer is really just a killer after all.
She knew how to disembowel a demon with just a flick of her wrist and the proper weaponry. She knew how to save the world with the sacrifice of everything she held dear. She knew how to make lovely men crumble with just a few harshly chosen words and a distant, hollow expression.
But she did not know if she had the capacity for salvation.
A strangled moan came from her bedroom and Buffy flinched, turned away. This was the mess that she had made. The ravaged, gorgeous creature tossing and turning, tangled up in the bedsheets she'd only let him slip into a couple of rare occasions.
With numb fingers, Buffy replaced the first-aid kit in the medicine cabinet and took one last glance in the mirror. One more cursory examination of the face that had brought Spike to his knees. She brushed her hand through her hair, and then stared down at her hand. A strangled laugh escaped her throat as she stared at her palm.
Her first gray hair.
(end part twelve)
Continued in Chapter Thirteen: Fallout