All About Spike

The Canvas of His Back
By Annie Sewell-Jennings

SUMMARY: In the afterglow, there is nothing but sweetness. Buffy/Spike
SPOILERS: Post-"Listening to Fear"
RATING: NC-17
DISTRIBUTION: My site, http://anniesj.net/, and to wherever else it is wanted providing permission is requested prior to archival. That's not too much to ask, now is it?
DISCLAIMER: The characters of Buffy and Spike are the property of Mutant Enemy Productions and Joss Whedon, and FOX is not good enough to claim them. The song is the property of Joni Mitchell, and its title is "A Case of You" from the classic "Blue" LP.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Nothing more than some sweet pillow talk and mild angst, but then again, everything on "Buffy" is but bittersweet, isn't it? Thanks to Heather for beta-reading this story as she always does. She is a goddess, you know. :)



"Oh, I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I'm frightened by the devil
And I'm drawn to those ones that ain't afraid
I remember that time you told me
'Love is touching souls', well, surely you touched mine
Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time
Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter and so sweet
Oh, I could drink a case of you
And still, I'd be on my feet
I would still be on my feet"
--Joni Mitchell

*****

In the aftermath of it all, as the sun began to crown the horizon through the thick walls of their hideaway, past the towering oak trees which were beginning to shed their greenery in favor for flames, she sketched on the canvas of his back her dreams.

She once thought of his skin as being silvery, but had learned that it was a different breed of metal. It was the purity of white gold stretched across muscle and sinew, rich and warmed by her body and fading lust. It was dappled by the candles that burned around their bed, warmed by the thickness of fire and smelled of matches, cigarettes, salty sweat and had a hint of her own aroma mingled in with all that was his. Strong, lean shoulderblades were decorated by the warmth of the candles, muscles pouring across his back underneath a thick, rich canvas of skin, and she let her finger draw obscure and meaningless symbols across his skin as he lingered between waking and slumber.

But to Buffy, they weren't so meaningless and obscure. They were the figures and blueprints of her anguish, taking shape and substance in the whispers of her fingertip as it danced across his slender back. One sliding line between his shoulders was the place where she had touched her mother when her mother made her promise to keep Dawn. A gentle cupping of his neck; where she had cradled Dawn and comforted her in the aftermath of their mother's surgery. And here, this hollow of his back, the small of it, where she wished he could touch her in public without questions or chaos.

But instead, Buffy was relegated to taking comfort only in his bed, never in the eyes of the rest of the world. Understanding, for this was never sought from anyone other than him, and he gave it to her willingly and without strings. He was all that she had right now, her anchor in the most unlikely of places, lit by a thousand burning candles and covered in the smell of incense and lingering sex.

She could only be whole in Spike's bed.

Soft, coal-colored lashes closed over her eyes as she nestled into him, spooning him with the small frailty of her body, pressing her naked, warm breasts against the slender length of his back and wrapping her arms around him. It pained her to only be able to feel this way in the hours between dusk and dawn, the stolen shadows of the nighttime, when she could leave her mother at home and walk when the world was asleep. While slumber overtook the town, she walked the world and found her heaven here.

"Did you ever kiss a woman in daylight?" she had asked him once, right after the first time, when she had cupped his face in her hands and looked at him in the gleaning of midnight. And all that Spike had done in return was shake his head and steal another kiss from her, take another drink of her mouth when the nighttime was lush and ripe, like a plum that only they could truly taste.

Language for them was unusual, as it consisted of words that neither of them had ever confessed to anyone else and could never admit without shame or pressure. Words were accompanied by gestures, caresses and kisses, and so their vernacular was more than mere vocabulary. It was essential and erotic, quiet and passionate, like harsh rain. And Buffy was beginning to discover that it was more necessary to breathe out her inhibitions and fears in this form of spoken word and sex rather than any other manner. English was no longer her native language; this had replaced it.

The candlelight flickered from all around the room, wax dripping down slender colored sticks and melding onto the cement as the evidence of their existence. Slender, shining pools of hardened wax in a multitude of colors remained around the cold walls of his home, and Spike eyed them with unfathomable longing. These scars of wax, these slender masses, was all that he had to keep of her. They existed in the shadows, breathed in water, made fire in winter where no one else could see, and in the hours where light shone from the sky and she was gone, he was nothing more than a shell of who he was.

Without her, he was air.

Slender fingers continued their dance down his back, the palm of her hand catching on the simple cotton sheets that they had decorated their bed in. No more crimson, nothing that would ever connote any past lovers or wrench their history from the books where it had been miserably recorded. Instead they made love in thick vanilla cotton and underneath whorls of green ivy. Marble angels turned their heads down onto them when they made love, these statues decorating his crypt protecting them. He had confessed one of his only lines of poetry to her when she mentioned that one night:

"We're so beautiful that even the angels become voyeurs."

Laughter had poured from her throat, passionate and lovestruck, and they had made love again, the sheets smelling of smoke, sex, and the shadows in which they were forced to exist.

Buffy's childlike hands scaled the distance of his back, and Spike tried to transfer the etchings that she made onto his skin into something sensible, and all that he could transcribe was grief. He accepted her agony, took in her torment, and confessed his own failures and trials to her. Every one of their insecurities existed in this small chamber where the angels guarded them from their stone carvings. This was their Pandora's Box, where they opened up all dangers and stored them away for safekeeping.

Yet their coupling wasn't merely forged out of shared misery. In the afterglow, when the sweat had not yet faded and the passion still pumped through their veins, they made love with words and he became a poet again.

"This is my favorite part of your body," Buffy said from behind him, her voice muted with surfacing sleepiness and honeyed by warmth. "I love your back."

A smile spread across his face, and Spike was once again startled by how he smiled when he was with her. He smiled without bitter irony, without predatory sexuality, and without anger or danger. Instead, it was a simpler smile, one that made his body feel alive, one inspired by her and her alone. Gracefully, he turned his head to look at her, laying flat on his belly so that she could keep his back. "It's yours then," he said. "I'm giving it to you."

The smile that she gave him was divine, absent of shyness or uncertainty. "Can I put a flag in it and claim it as mine?" she asked mischievously, and Spike chuckled.

"Only if I can do the same to this," he said, and he traced a finger down her stomach. She was a Boticelli angel, perfection in copper skin lit by a thousand silent candles, her hair pouring over her breasts in curls of molten honey. But the place that he loved on her was the slight curve of her belly, the sweet swell that was full and ripe, curvaceous and inviting, like something out of a portrait painted in oils. "This is my favorite part of your body, you see. This curve, right here."

Small, capable fingers closed over his larger, callused palm, and she warmed his cool hand as it laid there, a finger dipping into the hollow of her navel. "I give it to you," she said. "Now we own pieces of each other. I have a contract to your back, and I give you the deed to my belly."

Sooty lashes closed over his smoldering blue eyes as he peacefully closed them, still cupping her belly like it was something precious, and she moved closer to him, unable to lose contact with the slender length of his body. "You know, I've never had a lover like you before," Buffy said. "You're completely unique."

The scarred eyebrow arched, the eyebrow that carried the evidence of a dance with a past Slayer, one before her. "How so?" Spike asked, and Buffy turned on her side, resuming her absent doodling on his back.

"I was speaking of the physical; we both know how different you are from everyone else as far as personality goes," Buffy said, her voice hushed and slightly ragged, like it had been scratched by sandpaper. "You're a lynx where other men were bears. Slender, lean, sinuous... An economical creature with nothing to spare. You're a masterpiece." And she continued to create a self- portrait on his back, touching the place between the wings of his shoulderblades. "You don't make me feel so small."

Their mouths met in a kiss, and Spike tasted himself on her as she caressed his lips with the tip of her hot little tongue. A breeze of teeth across the silk of his lower lip and he was hers, the whole and worth of him, all buttings and boundings. When he opened his eyes, he saw hers, those eyes that were as clear and honest as the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where he had once prowled the shores seeking answers that were only found in her arms.

And in her eyes, he found himself. Saw himself clearly through her vision and understanding, saw the man who existed under the needs and desires of a vampire. Saw that not all of him had died under Drusilla's kiss and thirst, and saw that he could never have her in sunlight. The darkness between twilight and sunrise was theirs though, and when the moon crowned the sky and dusted it with stars, this bed was their paradise and confessional. "I can see my reflection in you," Spike confessed, and Buffy closed her eyes, taking her breath and holding it.

What sort of reflection must his eyes cast? How much of her existed in this place, hiding in the piles of wax that clung to the cement or carved into the face of their voyeuristic angels? How much of herself had become a part of him as well, poured into his flesh and his fingers? And in return, how much of him now rested inside the cradle of her hips or the arch of her eyebrow?

And yet when she opened her eyes and looked into his, all that she found was herself. Whole, without fracture of fragmentation, exhaling relief and quiet peace onto his mouth as she kissed him underneath a veil of candlelight. He was all that she could touch, all that she could trust, and in this ivy-covered bed was the place where she could find refuge from all of reality. The world slumbered as she fought for consciousness, as she let the hours pass and prayed that the sun wouldn't rise.

For when the sun surfaced from its nightly slumber, her stolen hours in his arms would be over, and the world would scream for her again. The myriad monsters of otherworldly origins would claw at her family and friends, and she would be forced to protect them. The frailty of her mother's sanity and health would cling to her, and her never-sister would beg for comfort and solace while never offering similar restitution for her "older sister". And there would be Riley, accusing and mediocre, descending into shadows that she didn't understand and pleading for her time.

But in here, there were no demands, no martyrdom, no misery. When the world wore her thin and drank at her lifeblood, she came here and was made whole. Survival was based now on the necessity of this unusual and shadowed love, forbidden by the rules of the world and yet beloved by sculpted angels.

Fingertips that were lacquered in black nail polish cupped the curve of her belly that was now his property, and he remained in limbo between sleep and waking, wishing that they could claim all the hours in the world for this. It was royally unfair that they only existed in the nighttime, and that the rest of time ate at their spirits and destroyed them from the inside out. And to watch the shadows ring her eyes, to see the weight fall from her body, he feared that someday the daylight would break her beyond the point of his repair.

One by one, the candles began to extinguish, and frail ribbons of smoke whispered their way to the ceiling, crowning the marble and stone angels with halos made of sandalwood and mulberry. The door was outlined in the light of morning, and the melody of birds accompanied the sound of her soft breathing. Daylight was coming, stealing their moments away, and Buffy nestled her cheek against his shoulder, terrified of all that could be destroyed today.

"You know, it's not quite fair," she decided, touching the gleaning fork of scar tissue that forced a jagged line of pale skin across his eyebrow. "You have no souvenir of me the way you do the other Slayers, like a scar or a jacket."

Spike smiled, and she treasured his smile like it had cost a thousand gold doubloons. When he smiled, he was utterly charming, beautiful and enchanting. "I do have a souvenir of you," he said, and his finger trailed down her stomach again, making her shiver with heat and the ghost of tired arousal. "I have the curve of your belly, and my back will always belong to you."

With that, he gave her a kiss, turned on his side so that she was shielded by the arch of the back that she had claimed, and fell asleep as the candles began to die.

And so she resumed etching out her dreams, her fears, her anxieties and her uncertainties in a portrait painted on the canvas of his back, and the angels watched her from above.

*****

(end)

*****

Sappy? Perhaps. But it's what came to mind. So send me some feedback if you liked it. :-)

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