All About Spike

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Root Systems
By Lesley

Rating: PG 13.
Pairing: Spike/Willow future-fic.
Feedback: Pretty please to slayerdudette@lineone.net
Spoilers: S7 BTVS TKIM and S4 ATS Soulless. Speculative after this.
Dedication: Lori and Magpie, as ever, for all the help, support, and the beta.
ANGST WARNING: I'm not kidding. Really, I'm not. This is not a fluffy fic.
My stories: http://www.myarseisnotpansy.co.uk/lesley/
Distribution: Just ask. I'm nice - occasionally.



Some very wise women taught me that everything's connected. They're dead now. They could magic Giles across the Atlantic to save me, but they couldn't save themselves from a bio attack on Plymouth and its navy port. Shopping - who'd have thought that could give you smallpox? They're all dead. They're lucky; they could die. I can't. I've tried. It doesn't work - not on me.

Hey, it's all connected, right? Roots systems, Gaia - Her, me, magic, the Earth - we're entwined, trapped together. She can't lose me, and I can't get free. Heaven only knows, I've tried.

Anyone would.

I've lost all of them - well except for him. He's here. He's always here. Every year we do this to ourselves. We make sure the Hellmouth's still closed. It always is, but we always have to see for ourselves. It never changes, though the world does and usually for the worse. The people around us live and die and we lose again, and it always comes down to him and me.

I hate him for it; for being the only one left - for still caring, for being there for me, for keeping me company over all those empty years - even if sometimes only on an occasional basis. I almost love him for being here, for doing that, but I don't think I can love anyone anymore, not really. But he's all I have left, and he doesn't get to leave me. He's mine. He's mine to hold me in the dark when it hurts, when I'm alone, to make me think I'm still Willow.

He looks the same. It'll take him centuries to develop a bat nose, or cloven feet like the child's bedtime stories that were my youth. I still have moments when I can't believe that I'll see that happen to him. I will, but I can always put a glamour on him so I get what I want. Right now though, he's still beautiful. The pain, loss, and horrors of the past haven't dimmed those blue eyes or taken away that biteable lower lip. Hey, gay now - well sorta, but still not blind - not quite anyway.

My eyes aren't the same. Well, actually they can look the same as before - before Tara was stolen from me, before I opened the door to the First and it smashed my face against that door, laughing as it took all my loved ones in payment - they just don't work too well anymore. I can put a glamour on myself so they don't look bloodshot and gritty. I can look like the girl Tara loved. I can even look like the girl Oz saw, but mostly I look like the girl Kennedy wanted - it seems fitting somehow. She was the last before I knew what I'd become, when I still thought I had a chance at a Willow life and not this empty horror.

I can look twenty-one. It's even appropriate. I have the body and face of a twenty-one year old. I'm not a vampire in case you were curious. I'm not a vamp or a demon; I'm still a witch. I did this to myself - by accident, well, more of a side-effect really. I sucked up all that magic when I went postal on the world. I got all connected. Boy, am I ever connected. I'm tied into the life-force of the planet I tried to destroy. I understand the Wiccan Rule now - bit late, I know, but I do get it. I tried to destroy Her, now She's in me, and She won't let me go. That's one hell of an example of what you do returning to you three times three.

When I say I'm connected to Her and She's in me, I mean it. I can't die. I can't die until She does. If it takes five billion years until the Sun takes us both in a supernova, that's how long it'll take. I tried to escape, you know? Anyone would. It's not like in a fairytale. I'm not an immortal, invulnerable goddess eternally frozen at the height of her beauty. It's not like in Xena. Yes, I am eternally stuck at the age I was when I connected with the rootstock. But we grafted; everything she suffers shows in me. I have the body of a twenty-one year old - but it's a horribly unhealthy one.

Ozone depletion faded my hair, though Spike helped me dye it. We changed each other's hair when we were all we had to cling to. Deforestation gave me asthma and no drugs or herbs help. Pollution of the seas made me weak and anaemic. Toxic waste gave me psoriasis, and you wouldn't want to know what wars, bio-terrorism and nuclear fallout have made me look like, but even Harmony might have been moved to pity.

He's never minded how I look. He always holds me with a sad smile when I weep and rage against the pain and humiliation and tells me, "Eyeballs to entrails, pet, doesn't matter, I'll not leave you." He never ever does either, even if he's with someone and we're in one of our 'friends' phases. It's always me that leaves, but I always come back.

It's not that I love him; I don't. I always lose the ones I love and I can't afford to lose him. I need him, and I hate that. Every time I need someone they leave me. It's safer not to love him.

He loves me, but not like he does the others. He never has learnt his lesson. He still loves. He still gets his heart torn out when he loses them, and he always does lose them. Stupid vampire - two Slayers, three demonesses on the neutral to good side of the moral spectrum, and six mortal women. What did he expect? Some couldn't deal with the whole vampire thing, but most he lost to the hell we've all made of this poor world.

When he loses them, he still wails. He howls out to the moon we can't see too clearly through the air pollution. He does the whole rage against the dying of the light in his life thing. I've had to go through the motions of stopping him taking a walk in the sun more than once, but he never did it. He'd never leave me alone, I know that. He knows it deep down, though I'm not sure he knows that I wouldn't let him if he did really want to go - it's not something we do the talky thing about.

But he also gets the moments of joy that seem to make it worthwhile for him. If I was honest with myself, and I've had lots of reading time over the last years so I should be, I'm envious he can still love. Each time I've tried it's gotten harder. I've gotten harder.

I've tried to find someone, but it's hard. It was difficult enough to show someone who I was when my body wasn't falling apart; when there wasn't a spell keeping people from going all Elephant Man flashbacks at the sight of me. Never been exactly full of confidence girl about my looks. That was always Buffy's job, not ghost girl here. It's why I glamour myself - avoids the staring thing and I can be the girl in the few photos we have left. I usually go for the Kennedy era girl - I've said why before. But sometimes, you know, I have to be the girl in the photo with Tara - she was loved, she was wanted, somebody thought she was beautiful, and she wasn't a killer. The girl in that picture's the one I wear each time I look for someone to love me.

It never lasts. I might be power-girl magic wise, but spells can be dispersed or I can get drained for a while saving our lives and revert to fugly-girl. They never understand why I 'lied', but who'd want the girl who can't die and looks like the hell we've put our home through? It's always a girl I look for. It's always Tara I want. I know she'd still love me. I never do find her though, and it gets harder each time to try.

Spike and I hold each other when we lose the others and we give each other some solace - a word that always seems to hurt him, but he gives it to me anyway. I do try to return it, and if we can lose ourselves for a moment in a familiar body, it's as human as we can get, right? I think it helps him to think that I need him. It gets him through the loss of each woman he falls for and means I get to keep the comfort he gives me. I can't give that up. He clings to the fact that I'll always need him as I'll always be rejected when they see the real me. He's tried to get me to start with my real face, but who'd want that? I don't. He does, but I know what he sees is the real girl I was, the girl that might still be there underneath, maybe. I've seen the real him, and I'll be there when his real face is all he'll have if not for me.

We weren't totally alone for the first few decades. Angel and Connor survived - if you can call it that. Connor never forgave Angel for having to kill Cordelia when she was consumed by her own demon, and Angel never forgave himself. So they weren't exactly fun company. They both fought the good fight, like we did, despite that. Sometimes we even did it together, but Angel and Spike never really did make their peace. Angel never forgave Spike for loving and having Buffy. Spike never forgave Angel for what he did to Buffy and Dru, let alone himself. Too much blood and pain under the bridge for those two ever to be friends. Connor couldn't find forgiveness in his heart for the souled vampire that was his own father, so Spike never stood a chance of becoming a favourite uncle. So the whole joining forces thing - not so good an idea.

Not that there was as much demon fighting to do after we sealed the Hellmouth for good. I mean the demons that were already here gave all four of us some punching bags, and boy, did we need them. Buffy was right; the Hellmouth did choke on her. She just took everyone I loved with her, and a few that I didn't. I had learnt one lesson though; I didn't bring any of them back - not after I brought the First back along with Buffy.

It still hurt though.

That why I slept with Spike the first time. We were the only ones left. I don't think either of us can remember how we started, just waking up together naked on the beach amid the devastation that was my hometown. The others were swallowed up in the Hellmouth with Buffy. She'd told him to protect me from the Bringers while I used my magic to seal the Hellmouth. He's always followed his mistress's voice. This time it saved him to suffer. I remember the Earth's teeth, like the ones I saw in my vision. I get glimpses sometimes of being spat out of the earth, which closes behind me, then flying miles away with the vampire that had tried to pull me out still clutching my hand.

It helped having him, so I kept doing it. I think I'd have gone insane if I'd been alone.

I've been insane a couple of times since. I don't like it. I hate not being in control of me. It's the worst punishment I could have. Giles once asked me if I wanted to be punished. I got the ultimate penalty. I don't control my own body - She does. Not being able to control my body is one thing, but I always used to trust my mind. Brain good, feelings scary, and all that. Now I've even lost that amount of control. And I can't even choose to end it all.

He's touched madness again too, but we've gotten each other through it.

The first time for me was when I realised that I couldn't die. It was mundane as death experiences go. As mundane as who really did for our world and just as human. I got multiple gunshot wounds in a liquor store robbery. Spike and I were buying a bottle for our first annual pilgrimage to the site of the Hellmouth, just like now, when some kids came in and shot up the store. Spike got shot, but he tore them apart in a fit of grief, thinking I was gone.

I wasn't. It hurt like hell, but the bullets were absorbed and I healed. This worried me, coz not natural much, so I did the experiment thing. Poisons? Nope. Gas? No. Electrocution like the other murderers? Didn't work. Hanging? No dice. I made Spike try to drain me. He didn't want to, but he didn't get a choice in the matter. It didn't work. He might as well have tried to drink the oceans dry. By this time I was really worried so we headed back to LA and Angel's books, since all mine had been consumed with my friends. We read; nothing made sense. I had a Xander moment. He always loved 'Highlander'. I persuaded Angel to try chopping my head off.

Spike was horrified. I think by then he was already seeing the advantages of a woman who couldn't leave him, and was none too pleased to find a possible loophole. Angel had been through some case with a guy who could detach his body parts and survive until Angel got him, so he knew what to try. I mean he wasn't happy with the idea of losing me, but I'd shown him the evidence - all nicely printed out with dosages, results and everything - so he agreed to hack and slash. It didn't work. I was sentient and stayed that way. Being a decapitated head and sentient sucks rocks - not big with the fun. So I got put back together with my body and I healed. Well, back to the fairly unhealthy girl I was at that stage in world history.

I just went nuts for a while. It's understandable really. I'd realised I'd never find my loved ones ever again. It would never ever be over. I can never rest - well, only for a moment in his arms, but the memories and the pain always come back.

I went nuts again when the wars started. It hurt me so much. Each bomb that dropped I felt in my bones. Each weapon of mass destruction used ripped at my guts, my skin, and my senses. My joints felt ripped apart and burnt. The pain; it was indescribable. I made myself hoarse screaming. Even being in Spike's arms didn't help. Nothing could.

He went nuts after our little walk though the radioactive ruins of Miami.

He'd heard on the grapevine that that was where Dru was before the terrorists planted their bomb. When they took out our link city with South America, he insisted on going and searching for his lost love. I didn't begrudge him that. I knew he would never have gone back to her, and if it had been Oz, I'd have done the same. Oz disappeared in Kashmir a year after we closed the Hellmouth, and showed up on my locator spells as dead. Dru was harder to find, being already dead and stuff, but I could track a vampire from nearby, so I went with him.

It took days.

We had to sneak through the military lines sealing off the ruins, and I couldn't walk too fast with the arthritis. The rubble and blasted buildings that blocked the roads made our trip all the slower. I'll never forget inching our way through the destroyed skyscrapers that blocked Brickell. We took refuge from the sun, even though the light was hazy from the smoke and the dust, in some of the less totalled parts as I refined the Dru search spell. He had to carry me as we jumped over the gaps in the smashed causeway to South Beach. The pastels of the Deco district were baked and burnt, and the smell was indescribable in the heat. I could feel the radioactivity cooking me even as we stumbled along, but I still couldn't die.

Spike wanted to die when we finally found the little apartment off the ruins of a deco mall just a few blocks of rubble away from the burnt boardwalk. The whole area had been swept by blast and fire, so it was easy to get into, once vampire strength and a little magic cleared the way up the stairs. He found her ashes coating a partially melted ceramic doll and a delicate distorted ruby ring. The dust had melted into the ring and the doll. He broke the ring open in his grief then pushed it into his ear lobe. Then he picked up the doll and howled.

I held him as his blood dripped down on both us. I pulled him away from the ash, and we made it to the other side of the room before he broke down totally. That time he felt like he was trying to burrow completely inside my skin, trying to escape everything. It didn't work. His blood and tears washed over me even while he came. He never let go of the doll either.

He still has it. The ring too. He told me the story of that one later, when he came back to me from the prison of his past. He gave it to Dru, but it was too small and hurt her when she jammed it on her finger - which made her love it all the more. It's ok, he needs something to touch - something real, not just the ever-increasing burden of memories, and I understand. I'd do anything to have something of Tara's, but nothing survived. He's got nothing that Buffy gave him that he can touch, not that she never gave him anything anyway. But the soul pain's a constant reminder, and that's almost enough. It doesn't stop him wanting more though. He never gets enough. Neither do I, but we're enough to keep each other going.

The only photos we have of Buffy, Xander, Dawnie and the others are the ones that Angel had and those that Cordelia hadn't burnt. That yearbook's almost worn out now. We inherited them when Angel died. The Powers that Screw You really did a number on him. He continued to believe in them - idiot. And he shanshued all right. He shanshued the moment his son died. Angel's moment of perfect misery, since he died never truly reconciled with his only child. After all his friends were killed in the big LA smackdown Angel never tried to connect again. He was alone. We weren't there, and it took us some months amid the chaos and ruins of the world to get to him, by which time he'd aged horribly. He died a few days after we arrived. He got to live until he died - just not for very long. Prophecy schmuck. But I hated to lose another link to who I was, even if Spike and Angel's issues meant we hadn't spent as much time together as you'd have thought we might.

But it meant I got the photos. I copied them all; all the tangible memories we had left. We've both got them. The photos and the memories of our lost loved ones; they're always with us. They're our root systems and we can't sever them. It's all connected. There's no escape. We're connected and that can never change. I need him even if I hate that fact. He needs me and he gives me what I want. We've no-one else and never will have. We're grafted together and I'm tied to Her. Neither of us will ever get free.

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