It was beautiful, and she hated every twinkling light in those black and midnight streets.
The city limits had been the strict confines of her world. They reeked of thoughts and recriminations. They echoed the dull hum working through her skull. These streets sang of the body Buffy. The body that fed, and breathed, and moved, and yet knew nothing.
They ached with her, bended under the weight of her empty, irresolute struggles.
She swallowed, her eyes bright, the stare blank and stretched out to its full thousand yards. Probably wouldn't be heaven this time. But that was ok. At least the scenery would reflect her mood.
She stood on the highest precipice of Angel's abandoned mansion. The squared off, raised entry sat a few stories below her stylish boots. Gothic and rambling, art-deco and industrial, it was full of rats and dried leaves. The windows were broken, and no one had bothered to seal them up again. But it didn't matter, because no one was going to live here. Maybe, if they bothered to tell him, he'd take it as some sweeping, romantic gesture. The emptiness was really Angel all along, they would say. It wasn't what we did-- no it was the star-crossed bullshit that only really made sense at the time.
That was ok. Might make them feel more loved. They liked that, especially from her, and she tried to oblige them all. And it would make it easier for them to piece the puzzle together, even if the picture wasn't pretty.
Honestly, though, it was just a high place. A place no one would be likely to find her for a very long time.
And she tensed her legs, looking out at the dull dark. No heart-rending speeches for this last plunge beyond the veil. She didn't think she could come up with the words for them if she happened upon the occasion. She didn't leave any word for Dawn. No notes. It was just too hard.
She tried to walk among them, but she knew she was really dead.
Which is why, after one last patrol, dealing out death to the unfortunate creatures-- the penny-dreadful evil, she hovered a moment lightly outside that one particular crypt, and hesitated.
The candlelight was flickering, but she'd know even if it weren't. He was in there, his presence glowing like the little flames moving against the high, narrow windows. She could go in there. It didn't matter now-- she could throw in one last moment of mindless release before the jump. And why not? Once she decided on this the moral questions seemed pointless to ponder. The quandaries that assailed her empty heart hsd fsllen to bitter dust around her. One last good go might make it sweeter as she fell. And maybe she'd see him again one day, and maybe he would see her. And their eyes could make a joke of it.
But somehow, she didn't think so.
And she turned from the crypt before entering, and thought it'd be better for him to remember her as something lost, but honest. And he seemed to do better when she was dead. Maybe it'd be good for him to see her gone.
He tasted like safety and danger and regret to her. She thought, through her numbness, that she might even miss that. But if anyone would, he'd understand. It was easier somehow, she realized, to think of him in this last moment, than the eager faces that even now were sitting at home on the couch where her mother's body fell. Or around the table in the magic shop that reeked of arcane death. They lived in it, made it every day. The work of her hands.
And she tensed her legs once again. She could do one hell of a swan dive. She looked over that hated landscape, and willed herself to move. The silence was magnetic, clung to her on every inch of skin like some insistent hand.
"You going to jump then?"
She heard it from behind her.
He raised his eyebrow with the question, arms folded across his chest. He'd followed her all the way from his crypt. He had sensed her outside like the fiery sun passing in its cycles.
She hadn't heard him approach.
She turned from him violently, as if he had insulted her. Staring across the sky once more, she whispered. It came out almost as a pout. It would have been a child's voice if it weren't so tinged with dark and bitter things.
He nodded. His face almost looked angry a moment, frustrated. Then it smoothed over. He sighed, his hands moving in a wild gesture as he shook his head.
"Ok," he said, turning his back to go, his hands slapping to his sides as he turned.
A little flurry filled her stomach. The desire to smack him soundly on the back of that blonde head of his, receding down the roof, pulsed in her. God, she realized, she was annoyed with him.
"It's your fault, you know," she ventured, calling after him with a strange combination of despair and hostility.
"Is it then, pet?" he said, coming to a pause where he stood. He was looking at his shoes as if he were trying to read something there. She watched his back. It was a carefully sculpted thing. The swell of his shoulders fell to the gentle curve of his spine, and she could see that the muscles were tensed beneath the black of his clothing. His hands were perfectly, completely still.
She stepped towards the edge.
"Yeah," she said, breathing in again, coiling to move once more.
"So tell me," he said, breaking the tempo of her spring, turning to her, walking towards her briskly, "What did I do?" She exhaled heavily. He walked up closer to the edge, about fifteen feet away from her.
"That's close enough," she whispered in response.
"That's the way it is with you," he responded, looking at her strangely, his eyes moving from her head to her toes with a strange intensity, "You like things at a comfortable distance, I swear you've gone through it all with a bleeding yardstick, measuring the space you have in case you fancy yourself to run off."
"You don't know what you're saying. You can't know. You don't have anything inside that *could* know," she said, her voice cold and biting.
"Oh . So I'm wrong then. You like to hold people close, so you know what they'll do-- you like to understand them and look in on it all and leave them wondering."
"I like it when people don't follow me in the middle of the night."
"I like it when people bother to punch me a good hello when they come to my door."
"Shut up," she whispered, turning from him again, the dainty, fawn colored, pointed toe of her boot hanging precariously over the brink.
"No, I don't think I want to right now. As I see it, if you're going to leave Angel a much belated mass of housewarming road kill here, least I can do is watch."
"Yes, well, I'm a bad, rude man," he said, "So while I'm at it-- why jumping? Why not a good old cut to the vein or hanging off your door? Something that'd scare the kiddies, make me proud."
"Because..." she whispered, remembering the glowing riot of light beneath her feet, and the tear stained sister beside her, "Because it's jumping... that's what it is."
"Allright then. Jump." He stepped closer.
"Hey," she said, turning to him again, looking at him with apprehension. As he took that step forward, she felt like a hunter had just put her in his sights, or like she'd been thrown before an audience of thousands of eyes, all staring.
"Come on," he said, his eyes cold, "No one's stopping you. You know what, I think you should."
"Leave me alone," she said, her voice pleading.
"No," he responded, "You've got it all planned. Come on with it. I'm waiting."
A tear ran down her face, unbidden.
"What's the problem, Slayer. Do it."
His eyes were a burning blue, and for once she was really and truly scared of him. He stalked closer, his movements feline-- feral.
"Fuck you, Spike!" She spat the words as if they tasted bitter.
"Too late for that now pet, though I'd honestly love to if we weren't so otherwise engaged."
He was standing directly before her, staring directly into her face. He smiled, as cold and mirthless as the moment she'd met him.
"I hate you." she muttered, mostly to herself.
"Feeling's more than mutual, love. Now come on. Put yourself out of my misery."
She was silent. She couldn't think how to respond to this steely predator as he gleamed and glared before her.
"Not much to say, I see," he said, his voice swelling and rasping from deep in his throat, "So jump!"
"Come on," he continued, yelling now, pressing close enough to kiss her, "Jump!"
She tried to speak, and it caught in her throat. Her voice hitched with a dry sob. She had never-- not in the Master's arms, or in the heat of battle, felt as helpless as in that moment. Everything was torn forcibly away, and she felt like a pale skeleton, the bleeding flesh hanging in parts from her now shattered indifference.
"I don't..." whispered, like a confession. He was the only one who would ever understand. She had to-- she simply had to make him see it.
"What?" he spat, voice trembling with anger.
"I don't want to die..." she said, her voice shaking and falling into tears, "I don't-- but..."
She trailed off, trying to control the spasms of her lungs, thrown into sobs. Her words snapped the palpable tension like a violin string. She found he was looking down again. His arm trailed slowly up, towards her. He paused before he touched her arm, testing, it seemed, to see if it would send her leaping back and away into the pavement. She let him touch her without moving.
"But I can't live like this-- I can't do it, I can't hold it up alone."
She sank onto the dirty surface of the roof, her sobs coming so hard it hurt her. It was all rushing in, all the pain and difficulty, coming to a harsh climax in her empty heart. Empty of all but this moment, and the words they had shared.
He sat down next to her, slowly, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. As if he was sitting on a porch step and not over the ruins of a long ago, averted apocalypse.
"There's. So. Much," she whispered, one word at a time, in heavy gasps, "There's just so much. God Spike, there's just so much..."
The crickets were calling in the grasses far below them. A soft breeze flew by, cooling the hot surface of Buffy's wet cheek.
Slowly, he ran his fingertips against her back, pulling in deep, unnecessary breaths in an even pattern, hoping to inspire her to match the rhythm of it.
He looked at her, chin pressed against her knees, knuckles white from where her hands dug into her shins. Tears wildly running down her face, her hair scattered into careless tangles around her cheeks. The silence filled the air with the tired calm after the crisis, and his own fear slowed in his heart. He looked at her, and was moved with a quiet sort of sadness.
"There's so much..." she said sadly, her voice a brusque and scraping croak through the pain in her half-closed throat, and the violence of her shaking shoulders.
"Why don't you tell me about it?" he whispered softly.