Summary: Grief knows many forms.
Author Notes: Thanks to Shrift, Nestra and Te who inspire.
Story Notes: This is an AU futurefic that starts at the end of "The Gift" and so there are spoilers for that.
Disclaimer: These are not mine . this is not for profit, but for love.
There were six of them huddled in the back, a street gang brood. She kept her gaze unfocused, barely looked at them at all, just sprawled into a seat and shifted slightly so that her skirts parted and the blue veins in her pale, pale legs gleamed in the flickering light of the train car.
She hadn't always been pale. Working the night shift did that to a girl.
She felt them stir, felt them move towards her. Felt their hunger. It clenched in her belly, a perverse echo of their appetite. Still, she didn't move. She watched, instead, the tunnel walls blur past, as though lost in rapt fascination or at least a smack-induced stupor.
A rough hand grabbed her chin from behind, turned her head to a predator's face. She smiled, then, black lips parting over moon-pale teeth, showing her own predator's face in return. It required only a simple flow of movement: a twist, a flip, a kick and she was out of his grasp. Another twist and two wooden stakes slipped down her sleeves into her gloved hands. A multitude of sins.
"Who wants to play?" she asked softly, and their faces grew slick with fear. She was the Slayer.
And everyone knew the Slayer was a crazy-assed bitch.
And her partner...
Three looked above her to the safety hatch overhead as it shrieked open and Spike dropped down into the aisle, a blur of motion. She closed her eyes briefly, knowing how he looked: lean, sharp-faced, billowing leather jacket, looking like a bat-winged angel, falling, always falling ... but never, quite, completely fallen. He grabbed the one nearest him, twisted the youngling's head off cleanly, watched him turn to dust. She leapt upwards, came down fast and hard, her toe-spiked boots pinning two more. One whimpered, and she could see how new he was, how very young. Maybe fifteen. She remembered fifteen.
She staked him hard.
She staked two more in a whirl of motion; they were young, inexperienced, and she'd been doing this for almost ten years. She was the oldest of her kind, and she'd learned how to get there the hard way. She wasn't going to go down like the last Slayer, the one whose death had called her up.
Spike grabbed the last gang-banger vamp, and she staked him through the ribs, just below the heart, holding him almost motionless as her partner bit into his neck, took some of what he needed. When Spike lifted his head she jerked the stake out, then back in again.
And then there was just the two of them in the flickering light, with dust and ashes on their feet.
"What took you so long?" she asked at last.
He lifted a dark eyebrow, ran his fingers through bleached spikes -- a little longer, a little wilder than when she'd first met him -- and grinned. "Missed my connecting train."
She snorted. "You know, maybe there's a reason Slayers work alone. Everybody's got a fucking excuse for screwing up." But she'd never worked alone; he'd always been there. Like the reflexes, the strength, the attitude, she'd inherited him as well when the last Slayer had died. "C'mon, let's go home. Mama Watcher will want a report, and I want a fucking shower." She filched the cigarette he was lighting, took a deep drag, ignored the look he gave her, the slight shake of his head. She wasn't fifteen anymore. She'd smoked for almost as long as she'd been a Slayer. What the fuck was it going to do?
She laughed aloud at the thought. "And then, maybe, you can fuck me. You wanna fuck me, Spike?"
His hand was soft in her long black hair, working its way through to her sweaty scalp. He tugged her back gently, and he was an old one, a powerful one, his strength almost equal to her own. His breath curled along the side of her neck, into the hollow of her ear: "No, but I'll settle for that," he said, like he always did.
Two hours later in the dark little apartment they shared, she pinned him down, ground herself into him, riding him hard, knowing she wouldn't break him, hoping maybe, just maybe, he could break something inside of her, make her shatter like glass. She felt his fingers slide into her a few strokes, then slip upwards, twisting and pressing and trying to push her over the precipice with more than a century of learned technique, but they both knew that wouldn't do it, they both knew that she could hang there on the edge for hours.
At last, growling, he reared up, sank his teeth into her outstretched wrist, into the skin just above her slim, bracelet scar. He never seemed to want this, even though he knew that for her it was as much pleasure as it was pain. The chip had been gone for years, but it seemed that the programming remained. She gasped, let her eyes drop shut as his teeth slipped inside and she felt the hot, bright arc of blood flow between them. One pulse, two, and then she shuddered into release, bringing him along with her.
She woke up from her doze when he brought her a bottle of water and a bandage for her wrist. They both knew that she wouldn't need it by the next evening, but it seemed to comfort him and so she let it pass. She always let it pass. She pulled his leather jacket up off the floor, the one he'd taken off the corpse of another Slayer, and wore it over her naked body. She'd always loved the goddamned jacket, just like she'd always loved him, in her way.
"Tara wants us to move," he said after a time, sliding into the bed behind her, pulling her against his bare chest. "Seems some nice little town has opened up its very own little Hellmouth. Vamp activity is through the roof."
His fingers held her close even as she tried to pull away. "I don't do suburbia," she said tightly. "I don't do happy little towns with happy little families and happy little lies, okay? You tell the Watcher that, all right? I don't fucking do small town." And she didn't, she couldn't. Every time she left the city, got called into some little nowhere town, every house looked like her house. Every mother, like hers. Every blonde-haired girl like...
And so she didn't do suburbia, not if she could help it.
At first, when the signs and symptoms came after ... after ... nobody had believed her, except Spike. She wasn't even human, not exactly. In the end, Giles had reasoned that perhaps it was the fact that she and Buffy were, in many ways, one. That in borrowing Buffy's genetic code, they had also imprinted her calling into the Key.
Angry, she'd taken up being the Slayer like the post-mortem slap in the face it was. She'd been nothing, nothing at all, except what Buffy had made her, what Buffy had given her. But now she was the Slayer, and she had a lifetime of memories -- real or implanted, it didn't matter -- to teach her what she had to do to do it right.
To survive, where Buffy hadn't had the guts.
And she'd had Spike, too.
She still had Spike.
His hands soothed her now, sliding up under the edges of the coat to cup her breasts, stroke her belly. "I know, I told her already. But we don't have to stay, we can come back, and hell, won't it be fun to shock the yokels?" He kissed the side of her neck, turned her head so that she could see him, and his eyes were soft. No vampire had eyes like his; no one without a soul could look so tender, so gentle. He still had the pop-rock punker sneer, but the eyes gave everything away, to her at least. She closed her own eyes against that knowing gaze and felt his lips brush sweetly against the lids, against the tears that still came, even after ten years.
"Oh, Little Bit," he breathed, his mouth sweet on hers, and it was in moments like these she could pretend that he truly loved her, not the Slayer, not the memory of the Slayer before her, not the echo of her sister that lingered in her blood and bone.
She kissed him back, fiercely, drawing blood, then pushed him down, curled up against him still in the leather jacket. "Go to sleep, Spike. Tomorrow night, we're going to Small Town." He turned out the light, and he didn't say a word as she lay on his shoulder, crying silently. He just rested his hand over her heart until its rhythm lulled them both to sleep.