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The fight ended when he snapped Wood’s neck. Not exactly a non sequitur.
Fucking hell. Had to have a sit-down with himself, think this one through because he hadn’t meant to, been fangless for so long he’d forgotten himself - and fucking fucking hell, of course he’d meant to.
Gotta get out of this place, he decided. And how did that old tune go, anyway? We gotta get out of this place if it’s the last thing we do. Hummed a few lines as he slipped his coat on to keep himself from taking off at a dead sprint like the wanker he was. Now my girl you’re so young and pretty and one thing I know is true. You’ll be dead before your time is due, I know it.
Buffy met him at the door, all a-tremble. “Spike? What happened?” Didn’t take her long to suss it out. Took one look at the unnatural angle and spread of the limbs, and her face closed off, the way it always used to around him. But when he started off at a careful, even pace, she merely pressed her forehead up against the wood paneling, and let him.
Got spectacularly sloshed, and then spectacularly screwed over by a couple of dimwitted fledges due to a total and utter loss of hand-to-eye coordination, yet that buggering song remained stuck in his head all night long. By the time Buffy showed up again, he was more than ready for the stake and that sweet release, but instead she just knelt beside him, looking bleak.
Spike meant to say something then, like bloody buggering fuckfuckfuck, but all that came out was an undignified moan. Buffy’s face kept changing, she was that girl, her body a blade and her eyes the point of that blade, she was herself, she was Nikki, she was the other. Slayer. He was convinced the scar on his brow had been reopened, somehow. There was blood on his face. His eyelashes kept sticking together.
But the Slayer was moving all wrong above him, not like a blade at all. Warrior woman with small little hands touching him with something akin to tender intent.
The next time he was aware of anything, his head was on Dawn’s lap. Knew it was her right off, she smelled of watermelon lip gloss and the underlying hint of old, young blood, and she was crying like he was something of hers, a pet she’d have to put down. It hadn’t been like that between them for a long time, but he left it alone, gift horse and all.
“Fags are in my pocket,” he rasped out instead. Blurrily, he stared at her just staring at him. “Help a fellow out, ducks. Paws are a tad mangled.” She didn’t get the reference, but eventually managed to salvage a few loose cigarettes from his duster.
“They’re kind of crushed,” Dawn announced. He took one from her, careful. She was still crying, kind of. He must look a right mess.
“Light?” he prodded.
But Dawn wasn’t playing anymore. “Buffy told me what you did the other night,” she said bluntly. The other night? Wasn’t fond of blackouts, especially since the First’s mindfuck. They weren’t good for the soul, and usually resulted in mass carnage besides.
“Dawn,” he began.
“I hate you,” Dawn continued matter-of-factly. He took it in stride; it wasn’t like it was headline news. Besides, everyone hated him. With the possible exception of the Slayer, and how was that the way things should be?
“Already hated me though, yeah?”
“Yeah.” She fumbled angrily with the Zippo until she got it to work and lit it for him. “But I thought you were dying, you know. You asshole.” She meant it, too. He wouldn’t have snapped this girl’s neck, he’d have made it last. But he didn’t know what he was thinking, really. His hands hurt. Dawn was wearing a patented little scowl, but patting him, his hair. It felt like that before time. It felt nice.
“Ta, love.” He took a drag. Went to take another, but his fingers closed around nothing and his palm was empty and little sis was gone. Slayer was back.
“You left a scar,” he informed her appreciatively.
“It wasn’t me,” the Slayer answered.
“It’s always you,” he said. Couldn’t let her get away with that, denying that fighting her, her kind, was a frenzied dance of everything base and thrilling, of lifesexpainhatelovedeath. Knew she felt it too - knew he made her wet, God knows she made him hard, and too sodding bad they loathed each other half the time, but it wasn’t his fault she was on the wrong fucking look-the-other-bloody-way side, now was it?
He felt hot and sickly, thinking these old thoughts.
Perhaps the soul had been pounded right out of him. It seemed to him that his essence had been hollowed out, or maybe just let loose. He and his glistening new soul had killed a man, which wasn’t supposed to happen, he knew that, and now everything he’d ever been ran through him like wine, dizzying him.
“Great. When you’re not bleeding all over the upholstery, you’re delusional.” That brought him back a bit, that she’d taken him back into this place that was hers. He looked around, at the chipped-wood leg of the coffee table and at the floor, mostly. Christ. First thing he should have done was suss out his surroundings. Know your exits. One of the only worthy things Angelus had ever taught him.
“Know your exits, Slayer?”
“There’s nowhere for you to go,” she told him firmly, and didn’t he know it.
“Was asking on you, pet,” he said, but Buffy just sighed and shifted like she sometimes did, as if she actually had someplace to go, which she didn’t either, of course.
“Spike. Pay attention. Look, I know that this thing that happened, that it was in self-defense, that it was an accident, but the others, they don’t—”
“Wasn’t,” he said flatly, because Angelus called himself Angel, but Spike was Spike was Spike, and she didn’t even have him in chains this time around.
“Killed the man, and I liked it.” That much was true, but it was the whole thing in general that drove him mad. How much he still relished the sound of breaking bones, a tune that didn’t grate.
“You can’t be saying what I think you’re saying,” she warbled.
“I’ve always told it to you like it is, innit that right?”
She was quiet for a long time, and then spoke in a brittle voice, “I was actually worried - I didn’t know if you’d be able to handle the- the, guilt. I had a talk with Dawn about it, about guilt. And last year.” She said ‘last year’ in a very specific manner that he couldn’t quite read. Probably for the best, that. “This changes things again,” she continued.
Spike knew. He lay there while he waited for the killing blow and tried to focus on how much he needed another smoke instead of how much this must be hurting her after all this time of him playing the damsel in distress, and her soft little sighs of unfathomable concern, her soft little hands touching him without strategy, just to touch.
“You have two options,” his Slayer said. Strategizing again, then. He was glad for that, at least. “Go, now. And stay gone. That’s option one.” She stopped there. The unspoken option seemed to him not to be a bad fate, really. Marginally better than her going all John Wayne on his arse, but the Slayer seemed nearly undone by his hesitation. “Is this really something that you need to think about? God. Take your death wish and fuck off.”
Getting vertical hurt like the blazes, or maybe that was his bloody traitorous heart. She sat there watching his clumsy attempts just like a girl watches a boy until she noticed that he’d stopped moving entirely, and then she made with the contempt.
“Thought there was nowhere for me to go?” he asked softly, instead of apologizing. The words would be useless and the point moot, that pesky apocalypse on its way and all. She knew what was what, his Slayer.
“You’re an animal,” she snapped. “You’ll adapt.”
“That I will,” is what he said, even though he didn’t adapt, not where blood or love or her were concerned, and they both knew it.
Left without even taking his last sip of her. Didn’t think he could bear such a thing. Yet stumbling down her street, he was hit with the sudden recollection that a girl’s neck snaps as easily as kindling, even if she is the Slayer.
Didn’t mean to think that, my sweet, sweet girl, he thought despairingly. Would never hurt you.
“Is that right?” His shadow-self fell into step beside him, like he’d never been gone from him.
“Bugger off,” Spike took the time to say, and picked up his step.
He found a quiet alley. Had his sit-down with himself finally, but not exactly, seeing as all he did was sit there and shake and think about what she’d called him, about how he’d sought out this place just as if he were a lame dog, looking for a place to die.
“Melodramatic, aren’t we, mate?”
“Pot calling the kettle black, aren’t we?” Spike said, snatching up the thread after a moment. “Pray tell, what’s the deal with this chaos theory approach to world domination?”
“Everything affects everything else,” the First informed him vaguely. Why was evil always so vague?
“Well, it’s bloody stupid. Toss a variable into a simple system, and what results is going to be highly irregular in nature. Different outcome every time, see? Not even your Incorporeal-ness knows what the hell you’re doing, and that’s gonna kill you as dead as the rest of us.” He didn’t know why he bothered, really. Just had to do something against this, say something, though he supposed The First would know he was all talk. Omnipresent and all.
Features shifted just then. Buffy. Oh, bringing out the big guns, then. Again. Fabulous comeback really, if a tad repetitive.
She had a scarf wrapped about her throat, black chiffon, and she unwound it as he watched, strip-tease for a vampire, and then he was watching the progression of a thin trickle of blood as it disappeared between her breasts and he knew where this was going. Closed his eyes in horror, in anticipation, and then he heard a noise. Awful sound, like something hitting the pavement, something heavy and wet.
He couldn’t look, but after awhile it got to be too much; he just let the scent of her death-tang wash over him, run through him like everything else until truth hit everywhere.
On the last day of the world, he sat on the countertop in the abandoned Seven Eleven and methodically smoked a pack of Marlboros.
“There are classier ways to go,” she said when she found him.
“I have no doubt.”
“Please come,” she said, no lead-in at all. Always thought the Slayer would be his way to go, of course, but instead it was just that, her saying that and looking the way that she did.
“All right,” he said, but didn’t move. Legs akimbo, elbows on knees. Just a man, having one last smoke. It felt good, but not right, and he couldn’t figure it. “All right,” he repeated softly. “All right.” Felt very wrong, as if there was something inside of him that needed to be let out but couldn’t be, because it was inside of him. Whatever the something was, it was as frantic as a butterfly, trapped between two panes of glass. Tiny beating wings.
She grew impatient, per usual. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Ever get tired of asking that one?” he snapped reflexively.
“What, are you crazy again?” she asked, but there was something bruised behind her eyes.
“Christ,” he said succinctly, and banged out the door ahead of her, shucking his fag to the ground as he did so.
She fell into step. “It can’t be like this between us if the plan is going to work.”
“Playing at rationality, Slayer? What a concept,” he said condescendingly, just the way he would have said it once, and didn’t really know why, but it made her shut her gob, which he was profoundly glad for. Been sitting down, thinking things out, before she’d moseyed on over. He’d had a bad time of it, these past few weeks. Taken him awhile to get over that last fuck-over; he’d been as jittery as the newly risen. The scent of blood had made him gag for days. Between that and the fact that the demon population was at a record high and seemed intent on killing him deader, he hadn’t had much time to spare for that sit-down, but he had to have it. Had to think.
“Why are you acting like this?” she asked him eventually, though of course she had some idea of the why. “Don’t you want to know the plan?” She said it just like that. The plan.
“Sounds like a bloody self-help program. Maybe a cult,” he added for good measure, at which point she decided two could play at the game of regression and bashed her fist into his jawbone. He thought about hitting her back but didn’t.
“There are some things I need to think about,” he said quietly, and it didn’t even sound like him.
“There are some things I never should have even considered, but it’s all in the past now. It has to be, for me to be this person, okay?” She frowned at him, considering. “I thought you liked this world.”
“Decided it’s really more of a love/hate sort of relationship.”
“Ah. I know all about those,” she said, and shook her arm out and then drew in a breath at what she’d let slip.
Head throbbing, he forestalled any attempt to recant on her part by saying, “Tell me about this plan, then.”
In the end, everything planned slipped from their grasp, and they ran. From the set of her jaw he knew she reviled the thought of retreat at least as much as he did, with something like swarming hatred.
“Come on.” She bit the words out anyway. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Never do get tired of asking it, then,” he mused.
She smiled abruptly, an off-center grin. “Oh God, Spike,” she whispered, and laughed with her eyes big and bright, but didn’t cry.
His soul tugged at him then, just as if it finally had somewhere to go, and she tugged at him, saying, “Getonthebusgetonthebusgetonthebus.” She’d stopped laughing.
“Want to see how it ends,” he protested wildly. He felt wild. Things crumbled around them under an unnaturally dark sky.
“We all will,” is what she told him. He supposed so.
“Hospital?” Buffy asked, sotto-voice.
“No,” Giles said flatly, and tried the radio again. Static. He drove with a white-knuckled grip.
Buffy nodded, once. She did an inventory of everyone’s injuries, skipping over him entirely, although when her fingers had closed around his wrist back there, she’d shattered the bones. He held his hand close to his chest, and watching her ministrations of the others, made an attempt at closing a fist with it.
Dawn came over and sat next to him so that their knees knocked. “What are you doing?”
“’S what I do. What I am, see?”
He showed her the loose fist he’d made, the knuckles that were flecked with blood.
“Oh, yuck,” she said, and then she just kind of leaned against him, and shook.
“Steady on, love.”
“Don’t talk to me,” she told him, just like her sister. “Just don’t.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, and let his fist fall open. The places where the Slayer had touched him shifted and scraped.
They set up the tents while Spike paced and pivoted at the edge of the tree-lot, where the forest met the clearing. Dark things hissed to the right of him. Enter the White Hat, stage left.
“How’s it going there, Johnny-no-stars?”
Xander stopped before he reached him and stood there. He seemed perplexed. “Is this another one of those Brit-speak cracks about my sexual orientation?”
“I don’t give a rat’s arse about your sexual orientation, Harris. Don’t think that sort of thing will matter to anyone anymore, to tell you the god’s honest truth.”
“Yeah, Spike, why don’t you tell me the god’s honest truth.” Xander should have sounded angry when he said that, but instead he just sounded level. Smooth as glass cadence.
“Anya was a good girl,” Spike felt the need to say. She’d been vicious as a demon, and soft in places as a girl, and he’d been appreciative of her on both counts.
“Did you get the firewood?”
“No,” Spike said, as he quite obviously hadn’t. “Look, I know what’s going on here. Don’t think I don’t know the only reason no one’s kept up the threat of immolating me while I’m asleep is because they’re too sodding tired to.”
Xander stared at him blandly, one eye in the dark. “Are you seriously trying to make this about you, like everything else?”
“Just don’t like it, is all,” Spike said, and kicked at the earth, uprooting a stone. “Don’t like this weariness. Everyone has this look to them. Looks like my soul feels, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Things used to be so simple for me, you know that? All fighting and fucking and—”
“Cry me a river. Jeezus. So you miss the good old days of yore, is that it?”
“Miss knowing what I am. Who I am, you know?” And because Xander knew, and Spike knew he knew, and Xander knew Spike knew he knew, it became this thing. Both of them just staring at each other and Xander was sweating; Spike could see the sweat shimmering on his forehead. He saw more than they cared to know, predator night-vision and all; saw flesh and the beating pulse in glorious Technicolor.
Buffy chose that moment to sidle up to him. “Spike? Firewood?”
“What am I, the designated bearer of amenities?”
“Yes,” she said, slowly as if talking to a small child. “We made designations, and you were designated Firewood Guy. You suck at being that guy, by the way.”
He rubbed his good hand across his eyes. “Wanted a smoke.” Needed to think.
“Fine. Fine. Let’s go. I’ll come - it’ll be quicker.” She stalked off into the forest, and he shrugged at the boy and trailed after her.
“Getting a little nipply, are we?”
“God,” she said to no one in particular, and zipped up her coat with a savage motion. The lines of her in the moonlight were all angular, and he hated the thin line her mouth had become. When she whirled around on him, he knew if he had any good sense he’d turn right around and let her have it out with herself. But he was bloody stupid, and she knew it. “I heard what you said,” she told him.
“I say a lot of things.” She was like a dry fire. He was wary of her.
“The thing about knowing thyself,” she flung at him mockingly. Oh, that. “Who wants to know something like that?”
“Don’t quite follow.”
“I mean, what kind of person wants to know something like that? What’s wrong with you, that you want—”
“You’ll recall we covered that one already, pet. What’s this about, then?”
“What’s wrong with me, Spike, that I don’t want to know—”
He tried to touch her, and she slapped him, not like the Slayer at all, just a weak little girl-slap, and something about that cut right through him.
“I have to think about it now,” she hissed at him. “That I tried to save this— I tried, I did, but part of me just wanted it to be over. Everything. And what kind of person would—” She seemed to crumble then.
“Shh, sweetness,” he murmured, and gathered her up against him. “Shh, I know.” And he did. Part of him had wanted it to be over too, it being everything, even them. Even her.
Buffy kept pushing him away and then letting him draw her back in, and then finally she crushed herself all up against him in a flurry of tears. He kept saying shh, shh, even after the worst of it was over. Didn’t want to let go.
She had other ideas, of course, and jerked out of his hold. “I hate that I can do things with you that I’d never do with anyone else,” she said soggily. “I hate that. I’ve always hated that. I hate that it’s you.”
“Well, I’ve always hated that you hate it,” he said, somewhat stung, although sometimes he hated that it was him too. “You ever think of it that way?”
“No.” And she sniffed and wandered off, just as if they’d had a little interlude, nothing worth mentioning.
“Oh, right. Break my heart and break my bones,” he scoffed, although there was more truth to it than he would have liked. He waved his arm at her, and she gazed at him thoughtfully for a moment before she returned to his side, took his wrist and snapped it unceremoniously back into place. His vision went white and shaky around the edges.
She held onto him for a little while, not looking at him. Held him up. “You okay now?”
“Okay, yeah.” He swallowed, and spit. He felt nauseous. He needed blood. “How are the lambs doing?”
“Not lambs, not anymore.”
“But we all are now, every one of us, right?”
“What do you mean?” she asked him, very carefully.
“Don’t be dense,” he said, because he did tell it to her like it was. “’S little use to pretend.”
“Firewood,” she reminded him edgily.
He couldn’t tell what time it was, if that hint of ozone was a remnant of the day or warning him of encroaching daylight.
He wondered if Angelus was dead. Here he’d been cursing the bastard’s two-sidedness, and he was probably dead. California, he supposed, would fall first. The old man would have known what time it was, anyway.
Sitting beside the pile of burnt wood, that dead fire, Spike thought all kinds of random thoughts, and couldn’t believe he’d ever wanted that, this time for thinking. What the hell did he need to think about, anyway? It was over, it being everything, and that was fine, just fine, end of the world and he felt fine, just like in that bloody song.
When the Slayer slipped out of her tent as if she was breaking curfew and looked at him until he looked back, he told her, “I ran out of cigarettes,” and had to look down at his hands. It seemed very important, this cigarette business, like the end of an era.
Buffy had ghosted off by the time he looked back up, still in her nightclothes. Bare feet, and he chased after her like always, feeling panicked, not quite so fine.
The forest swallowed them both, and it reeked of that old era.
Caught glimpses of her, wraithlike in white, and then he didn’t. Found her anyway, following the sound of her heartbeat that was beating too fast, all wrong, all wrong. She was leaning against a tree, and when she saw him she said, “Here,” and took his hands and moved them to her hips. Her skin was flushed pink with exertion. “I know you like to have something to do with your hands.”
“What?” he asked muzzily. When he touched her, her pulse became liquid sound, beating hotly through him, through her.
“You ran out of cigarettes,” she echoed softly.
“That I did, sweetling. Let’s go back, now - get you all bundled up and tucked in, yeah?”
“No. No.” She didn’t blink. “I can’t believe that you could— do what you did.” She was all over the place, but he knew she was thinking of Wood, who could have been her friend, perhaps, or her lover.
“Yeah, you can,” he told her, and squeezed her waist, shook her a little as if he could shake some sense into her.
“Yeah, I can,” she agreed softly. “But I needed you through this, Spike. I needed you.” And then she kissed him, openmouthed and without preamble, just the way she’d slid his bones back into place.
“What did you need, Slayer?” he asked her in a brittle voice, holding her back at arm’s length. “This?” She wouldn’t answer him, just let her nightgown puddle to the ground and stood naked before him, a wood nymph taking on womanly form. He took a few clumsy steps away from her.
“You make things better,” she whispered at his withdrawal, and then bit her lip as if she could take it back. “Some things. You tell me everything will be—” She frowned. “Okay.”
“I won’t tell you that this time,” he said roughly.
“Fine. Fine.” She snagged his belt loop and he tumbled back against her, lightheaded and woozy from lack of blood and her mouth on his again, wet and wanting. She smashed him onto the ground, onto a bed of pine needles, breaking twigs, breaking self-imposed laws, and then lowered herself onto him. Spike hissed in a breath as she undulated against him, saying all kinds of things he didn’t want to hear, saying, “It was almost like you were hunting me, back there. Did you know that?”
“Oh, Jesus, girl,” he sighed out brokenly.
She only moved faster, and something about the fact that she’d let him catch her, ran from him with the sole intent of provoking a pursuit, and the rocking, slid together in his mind and joined like two waves becoming one, and, “Oh,” she breathed. “Oh.”
When he spun her around, when he was looking down at her, he suddenly thought of Nikki, on the subway, of trading places with her just like that, the way every dead cell of his had filled with such perfect white light at that moment of release, the noise as he snapped her neck, that gentle pop.
Pop, Spike thought, as Buffy screamed, and then bit his shoulder.
His kissed her on her mouth that tasted of his blood, and then kissed her everywhere. His lips left marks on the inside of her thighs, pretty kiss-shaped marks, his mark. Though she’d never belong to him, or perhaps precisely for that reason, he loved her at that moment in a rather crushing way.
She was not as she’d once been. That first anticipatory glimpse he’d had of her, dancing, (although not yet with him) she’d been all curves and he’d imagined all that sweet-smelling girlflesh pressed up against him as he drained her dry. This girl beneath him now was a slip of herself, though it wasn’t his doing, or at least he hoped strongly that it wasn’t. She’d been made prickly with obligation more than anything, he thought. He loved that the best, her shoulders, how frail they were, how much they could withstand.
So he kept kissing her, not her lips, but everywhere else, any place he thought he might have neglected, until she was left lying there, dry-eyed and boneless. Found his coat - except for the fact that it was Nikki’s coat, wasn’t it? Shut up. Shut up. - and rolled her onto it. Lay beside her on the bare earth. Looked at the sky.
“Look just the same,” he mused mindlessly. “The stars.”
“I don’t want to look,” she said in this choked sounding voice, and burrowed up next to him, slick with sweet sweat and sex, trembling. “Don’t want to look.”
“Don’t have to, lamb,” he soothed, his palm on her skullcap. “It’s all right. It’s okay.”
“You said it,” she informed him, and took a nip at his nipple. She wasn’t teasing. Got one up on old Spike, she had.
“Sod off,” he said vacantly.
“Hey,” she began, but then there was nothing more. She took his wrist and studied it, the shades of discoloration in the moonlight, and then she touched her lips to him there, so flimsily as to not even be a kiss. He lay there blinking furiously at the dome of the sky, hearing the ground shift beneath him, things groaning and taking root, the thud of her, the feeling, once again, of his own utter stillness.
Continued in Part 2