The Heart of the Matter
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Disclaimer: All characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, UPN,
Spoilers: Do not read this if you are unspoiled for episode 7.2
Summary: The end of upcoming episode two. How I wish it would go
and know it won't. Spoilers below as well as angst. But the
ending, I think, will be worth it.
Written in the first person, starting with Spike's POV and
alternating. Ending with Buffy's.
Dedication: For Alane. As much as I tease you, I hear ya. If they had
only let JE draw the parallel between "Beneath You" and "Afterlife" the
Buffyverse would have been a better place.
"I've been trying to get down
To the heart of the matter
But my will gets weak
And my ashes will scatter
But I think it's about
You don't love me anymore."
Shattered. Mind. Body. Spirit. Full of fear and terror and
penitence, but somehow shockingly empty. It doesn't matter how I
got to this point anymore. It doesn't matter who sees me or why.
All that matters is that I *know*. I *know* now what she saw. What
they had all seen. And they had been right. God, they had been
To see through her eyes now. Really. To see from the perspective
of a human even *more* innocent than she. Maddening. More than
that, disappointing. Horrifying. Blood in my nightmares. Blood in
my dreams. Blood is everything. Life. Death. Birth. And I had
shed more needlessly than my share.
I am a killer. A murderer. A rapist. A thief.
Why survive? Why? Why? Why?
Why did I think that a soul would make her love me? Why was I
stupid enough to think that it would make anything I did right?
Angel? Did I think she'd love me because she loved him and he had a
bloody soul? How could she have? He was the same monster as I.
Possibly worse. How could he live with what he'd done? Nothing.
No amount of penance will ever make this right in my eyes. In
her's. In God's.
Mum. She would even hate me now. The only one who ever did love me.
And I am everything she taught me to hate. Not a monster anymore.
But *still* not a man.
In this place of God there is no salvation.
No end to this. No end. I am immortal and I am damned.
He has a soul.
Why? Why? Why?
Why did he do this?
I can't say anything. I can't *do* anything.
What's it like to wake up and realize that while you were sleeping
you killed thousands of people? Oh God. Spike.
He's not Spike. He is. Who is he? Did I ever know? Why did he
help me? Why did he save me? Why did he help Dawn?
Why did he attack me? Why do I care that he is ... he's crying?
Why? He tried to kill us. He tried to save us. Who the hell is
I know I look like a moron standing here at the back of this church.
Church? Why did he come here? Vampire? Holy water. Crosses.
Non mixy. But my feet won't move. I don't know who he is anymore.
I don't know what he did. I know he won't hurt me, but I don't.
He's... crying. Spike.
I can't deal with this. I can't. I can't do this. I can't. I
I turn to go. I hear him scream. I am still, but I can't not look.
I can't walk away. Yes I can. He.... what he did... people don't
just let that go. They can't.
But *he* didn't do it.
And he isn't the same.
"Damn it, Buffy." Got to love talking to myself. But I turn around
and everything shatters.
As I burn, it begins to make sense. Pain is supposed to make people
mad. But I feel the madness lift in a searing moment of clarity. I
feel the wood of the cross against my skin. That which was supposed
to symbolize love and salvation is destroying me. It is against me.
Everything is against me and I deserve it.
As my skin melts I see it all and it finally makes sense. She
cannot love that which God hates. She cannot love a monster. She
would not have loved William. Me. Whoever the bloody hell I am.
It all is crystal clear.
And the crystal shatters into shards tinkling against the stone
Christ have mercy on my soul.
Tee hee. My soul. There is no mercy. Burn me.
Dammit. I need to get out of here. He's ... God, he's doing it on
purpose. He's burning himself. I can't watch this. I can't be
here. I can't watch him die like this.
I can't let him.
My feet pound down the aisle like some insane bride. He's on his
knees. The crying stopped but he's burning. I can smell his flesh.
Human flesh. And I am crying and I don't get why my heart is
breaking because I never cared about him to begin with. He was
Who the hell am I fooling? He wasn't convenient. He was the
*least* convenient man I ever met.
He's not a man. He's burning. He's a vampire. I hesitate.
A Vampire that tried to kill me. But one that tried to save me.
Tried to love me. Said he wouldn't leave. But he did. And he's
back. And he tried to... This is because of me.
This is *for* me.
My feet are moving again and I can hear him whimper. Spike.
Whimper. His face. His hands.
He looks at me and I see the end of the fathomless blue eyes. The
one thing I never thought I would find. Even when I wanted to. The
end of Spike. He looks at me and I know. I know he still loves me.
I know. Why?
I dive at him and knock him away from the cross. It clatters to the
floor, but I can taste the smell of his flesh in the air. He's
lying there, beneath me, but I don't want to look. I can't. I
can't see his face again because I might see what he did that night.
I might see the look of desperation on his face when he pushed me
to the floor. When he grabbed me. When he took the one thing I had
Or I might see the look of horror when he realized what he'd done.
I can't do this. I saved him. That's enough. I sit up to go.
I feel his hand on my arm. I feel it trembling. I hear him
sobbing. I can't turn. I can't feel anything for him anymore. Not
I turn my head and look at his hand. Not anything more. If I see
his face I know I will crumble.
It's bloody. Burned. Mangled.
I close my eyes and I feel tears. Tears. His hands. My hands.
I was no saint either.
I can't even grasp why she'd even stay here. Why did she knock me
down? Why doesn't she just let me suffer? Let me crucify myself in
bloody peace. I cannot die. That is an honour I have reserved for
her. She earned it after all I have done. When she is ready to put
the stake in my heart, then I will open my arms and let her. I will
hold her sodding hand and help her. But that is for her to decide.
If I cannot have God's mercy, I will be at hers.
Leave me alone. Leave me alone. Leave me alone. Let me suffer in
Peace. Ha! That's something I'll never know again.
But she sits and never looks back and it dawns on me that she did
her duty. Her duty. For I am part of the world that she is
supposed to protect. But that's all it is. Her duty.
I lean up to touch her because I know she will disappear. I just
want to touch her one last time. It hurts. God, it hurts. I can't
really see her. I can't feel her. But my hand burns against her
arm and for a minute I feel that I burn because of her. I burn from
her goodness. I burn in her light.
She didn't run.
I turn to look at him. Breath stops. His face. His face. It's
charred lumps of meat in places, just stuck to his bones. The lips
that cursed me and kissed me are red and shiny. His eyes are
Like after that night in the alley. I was a real hero then. Way to
go Buffy. Beat up your lover. Or whatever Spike was. Ooh, and
have the good graces to say you're sorry later. Not. But he was a
Is he now?
I turn around to face him and pull him upright by his wrists. His
hands are completely raw now. There is no skin at all in some
spots. Vampire or not, this is bad. This might not ever heal.
He might not ever heal.
I might not ever heal.
He's got his legs sprawled out in front of him like a child.
Sometimes he acts like one. Sometimes he doesn't. But he looks so
scared and so horrified.
Almost like he looked the last time I saw him.
What is a man capable of in his worst hour? A Vampire? Me?
I chuckle. Not a good thing, considering. But it dawned on me that
we weren't really nice to each other a lot of the time.
Understatement of the year.
Well, if I am not going to let him sizzle, then maybe it's time I
did what I should have tried to do before. Be a little kinder.
Show him the way. If he fails then, my hands are clean and I can
stake him. Or let Dawn. But if I don't, then I am no better
than... a monster.
What's up with the maturity?
"Spike?" My voice wavered more than I would have liked, but for
some reason, I was crying.
His eyes opened into slits. His swollen lips tried to move.
"Whad'you want, Slayer? Leave me alone."
"Shut up, Spike." God, he can be so ... irritating. He looks at me
with those horrible burned eyes and all I see is what I refused to
see before. Love.
Can he really be a heartless monster if he loves *that* much?
Better question. Why am I somewhere glad that he still does?
He watches me as I scoot in closer, face to face. My hand raises to
his face and I trace the edges of the burns. He winces. He needs
help. A world of help. My hands drop back to his wrists and I turn
his palms to face the sky. They are disgusting. Raw. Bloody.
I look up at him and he is staring at me. It hits me like a ton of
It wasn't so long ago that he was sitting there trying to patch my
hands. Trying to bring me back from the dead. Now he's gone and
done the same. He realizes it to. His head tilts the same way as
it did that night in my house. Staring at me like I was his
Like I stared at him the night they pulled me from the grave.
Oh God. We aren't that far apart, are we?
"Can you stand?" It was all I could think of to say.
He nods at me. Barely. Blood is trickling from the corners of his
mouth and it makes me cringe. I don't think he can talk anymore.
Now that he can't, I find myself dying to hear his voice. Tell me
what to do with him because I have no damned idea. Kill him? Save
him? Take him home and fix him? Get him to safety and leave? He
always told me just where to go.
But he's looking at me like he's lost. I don't think I ever saw
that before. And he can't think straight enough to make up his
mind. He just stares at me through the slits in his eyes like
whatever I say is alright.
But it always was to him, wasn't it?
Hell, what have we done?
"Can you make it back to my house?" I whisper. I can't let him go
back to that musty basement. Not like this. He can't be alone now.
I'll just have to talk to Dawn. What am I worried about? Big
mush that she is, she will be furious, then see him and cry her eyes
out and try to clean him up.
The tears are still on my cheeks.
Guess I am not that different from her either.
Don't forgive me, Buffy. Please don't forgive me. I can't bare to
be forgiven. Please go and let me suffer alone. Please. I can't
But she's asking me if I can make it to her house. She's leading me
out the door and down the dark street and I follow her because
that's all I ever do. All I can do.
Why is she doing this?
I can't fight her. I can't speak. I can't see. I can only feel
her strong little hand wrapped around my forearm and her shoulder
tucked up against my bicep guiding me like a blind man. She's
helping me. God, don't help me. Not after what I did.
And Niblet. Don't take me there. Don't let her see me like this.
Don't let her see me at all. She sees me. She's always seen me.
She saw the good in me when I was bad, then got hurt when the bad
came crashing down. She sees me. She hates me.
You should hate me, Buffy.
I want you to.
And I want you to love me.
Dawn opens the door and she starts to get angry until she flips the
porch light on and just stares in shock at him. Her mouth opens.
Snaps shut. Opens again.
"Dawn help me get him inside." He's leaning hard now. I think he's
going to pass out.
"Wh..what happened?" She's scared. She's still mad. I'm still
mad. But this is worse than any anger we have. Not helping him now
is the same as staking him. Maybe worse
I don't want him dead.
Neither does she.
She grabs his other arm and helps me hold him up. She sees I'm
crying and I see that so is she.
"Go get the medical supplies. I'll explain later," I tell her and
she nods as I help him sit down on the couch. He can't see anymore
either. Speak no evil. See no evil. Wonder if he can still hear?
I sit on the table in front of him and lean forward, taking his
wrists in my hands again. It feels right. "You still in there?"
He nods. I can see his cheeks are wet. It makes me cry harder.
"I am going to try and help you. OK. It doesn't mean everything is
all better and that I have forgotten ... everything. But it's a
He nods again. I can feel his body hitch. He's trying to cry and
his eyes won't let him. I can tell he wants to say something. He
"Why?" It was like a croak. Not real. His lips literally tore as
he tried to talk and blood trickled down his chin. I leaned forward
and wiped it away with my sleeve.
"If we ever want to ... anything... we're going to have to try and
forgive each other. I am still... hurt. Lots of hurt,. But so
are you. We're even. You're going to have to earn my trust again.
Do you understand?" I meant it. I didn't want to admit it. But I
did. It felt good.
He nodded again. "I promise, Buffy," he whispered. It tore my
heart out. God, why? Why did it even matter?
Because he mattered.
Dawn came back in with the kit. She looked at us and I think she
felt... I don't know. Uncomfortable. But she walked over to him
and she crouched down, putting her hand over where she had pushed
the stake earlier. There was a pinprick of a hole still in his
shirt. She held her hand there for a minute as if willing his heart
to beat. Willing him to be a real boy. He was now. As real as
"I'm sorry," Dawn whispered, and she ran.
I wanted to run too. But I couldn't. I had to face this. I had to
I pulled his hands to me and held them again, then rested one on my
I remembered the night that he did it for me.
And it call came together in a moment. That was really our gift.
All of us.
Love. Give. Forgive.
As I spread the ointment on his hands and wrapped them one by one in
gauze, I thought about what it meant. I didn't have to forget and
let him back in like a switch had flipped. I just had to stop being
mad. I had to try to let his actions speak for him. They had been
speaking for years now and I just didn't listen. So he did this.
I finished his hands, and looked at his mangled beautiful face.
"Spike. ... I... I forgive you." I stood to go. I needed to go
make him a bed. The basement, I suppose.
His back tensed and his head shot up like he was looking at me. He
tried to open his eyes but he couldn't. I couldn't figure out what
he was doing, but he slid off the couch onto his knees, clutching my
legs with his wrists. His face shifted up to mine and I could see
the tears on his face. I could feel them on mine.
He buried his head in my stomach and I could feel him sob. I wanted
to run. But I didn't. Instead, I let my hands touch the soft hair
on the back of his head and I held him to me. Because he needed to.
Because I needed him to.
Because no matter what he had done and no matter what I had done, we
both needed forgiveness.