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Note: Yay for Canadian poets!
They are empty spaces.
And yet they are solid.
And black and grievous.
As gaps between the teeth.
Of an old woman.
You knew years ago.
When she was.
Beautiful the nerves pouring around in her like palace fire.
- Anne Carson
They tell her that she's the same as she's always been.
She isn't sure.
You're you. Just.
Just what? She wants to know. Just less?
Their faces change fears, as if they know. The way her mind betrays her. They brought you back; they have to pay. They have to.
Did they say this was your home again? Were you offered pretty lies, little girl?
And she loves them, they’re her family, they’re hers, but she knows that the answer is yes. She was. She is. Set on this earth like a bubble.
Spike used to fuck her up against walls, fuck her until she forgot herself, but she remembers now, remembers certain things that would be altogether best to forget.
Last year, death-heavy. An isolated strand of tiny white Christmas lights. Xander had strung them up at the window, all false cheer and good intentions.
She’d cupped her palm around a bulb; sure she could see through to the bones. (everythinghereishardandbrightand) Her mother was dead. (and) Spike was there, of course. (and) He pressed her up against another wall soundlessly, and kissed her eyelids, kissed her cheeks. (and) His mouth tasted like salt. (andviolent) Of her tears or of someone else’s blood?
His gentleness infuriated her. She bit down on her own lip, hard. He drew away from her, panic and yes, there, lust, and she laughed at him.
He laughs, now. Sometimes. He tries to cut his heart out. He’s the one that bleeds. She thinks he used to revel in the hardness, the brightness, the violence – used to be all of those things. Thinks that she’s the one that changed him. But it’s easier not to think of him at all, and so she tries not to.
“I love you,” he says one day as she’s turning away from him. And then, “Mustn’t use such language. Isn’t proper. Isn't safe.” He’s not speaking to her anymore, which almost manages to hurt.
“I’m going to die, you know,” she tells him incongruously. With the kind of finality that death’s supposed to be all about.
Hard not to think of him then, with him focusing on her again, that forever-love in his eyes. Even while knowing what she says to be true.
She thinks his love is pathetic, and she thinks that his love is inconceivable, and she hates him. She hates him, because her love will never be either of those things again. No point. Fuck it.
Huddled in a corner, he’s not beautiful anymore, but he’s beautifully broken. He’s still wondering when he’ll be able to rest.
“No one ever gets to rest,” she snaps finally.
Presently, he flinches, and then reaches out and touches the cuff of her jacket. Fingers the sleeve. A quiet query. “Is this a costume?”
It is her turn to flinch. She shakes his hand away.
His heart is very open to her. With a sense of familiarity, she reaches out and touches it. Blood comes off on her fingertips.
She splays her hand out in front of her, and the blood spreads like a live thing upon her skin.
“You’re dead,” she says, as if to remind herself. Memory tastes of pain. “Or is that me?”
“Bloody hell,” Spike mutters. “But your subconscious is sodding transparent, innit?”
“Spike? You’re this— British, even with a soul?” Xander. Xander? Buffy frowns, confused. Where did he come from?
“Plot device,” Spike says wearily. “Bugger off, Harris.” He’s bleeding everywhere. She thinks that it must be a very hard thing, to love someone like her.
Sometimes, half-asleep, she thinks she would like to live long enough to be able to tell him that she’s sorry, she’s always wanted to be a girl, just a girl, but she’s the Slayer instead, and even self-love is a hazard, and so she’s glad that he loves her, loves that which she can’t.
She’d like to live long enough to be able to do the same thing for him.
Rolls over onto her stomach, tugs the pillow over top of her head like the child that she’ll never be again. Hates the way her mind works. Wishes he were here. Wishes he were here. Wishes he were here.
The remembrance of ice, cool at the back of her neck.
“Shh, sweet,” Spike murmured. “Rest.”
And Buffy had closed her eyes, which were very dry.
She wakes up again, wakes up to the sunlight, which momentarily blinds her, wakes up in tears.
Spike used to make love to her, when he thought she didn’t notice. So lost with him, bruising his forearms (hardandbrightandviolent) as he called her darling, darling, my darling, like the tripped out Victorian she never thought of him as.
She remembers now, these things that would be altogether best to forget. (if she gave him any latitude at all his kisses would turn as soft as) She doesn’t have time for this, for him. (as sweet as) She is the Slayer. She is the law.
(any latitude at all)
He answers Xander’s door, his face carefully schooled into something she almost doesn’t recognize. A houseguest, polite and uninterested.
"Something's hurt you," she points out. Something that wasn't her, but it's okay. She's okay.
She motions to his split lip and is unsettled by a proprietary feeling; the thought that he's hers to hurt and hers to surprise with strange kindness and hers to kill.
"Hello to you too, Slayer."
"Look. Spike. I just, I came to see if you were still here."
"I am, mostly. Keeping tabs, are we?"
"I like to do that thing. Keep my enemies closer," she says, and then she can't look at him anymore.
Xander tells her he hears him weeping, sometimes. Nobody ever hears her.
It takes a lot to break someone like Spike. She knows; she used to break him all the time. And the thought comes unbidden – at times, she'd almost liked being the only thing to have that kind of power over him.
They tell her that she’s the same as she’s always been.
It's times like these that she hopes they’re wrong.