All About Spike - Print Version
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Then She Died Again
By amerella

Feedback is muchly appreciated.



Part 1

The fight ended when he snapped Wood’s neck. Not exactly a non sequitur.

Fucking hell. Had to have a sit-down with himself, think this one through because he hadn’t meant to, been fangless for so long he’d forgotten himself - and fucking fucking hell, of course he’d meant to.

Gotta get out of this place, he decided. And how did that old tune go, anyway? We gotta get out of this place if it’s the last thing we do. Hummed a few lines as he slipped his coat on to keep himself from taking off at a dead sprint like the wanker he was. Now my girl you’re so young and pretty and one thing I know is true. You’ll be dead before your time is due, I know it.

Buffy met him at the door, all a-tremble. “Spike? What happened?” Didn’t take her long to suss it out. Took one look at the unnatural angle and spread of the limbs, and her face closed off, the way it always used to around him. But when he started off at a careful, even pace, she merely pressed her forehead up against the wood paneling, and let him.

Got spectacularly sloshed, and then spectacularly screwed over by a couple of dimwitted fledges due to a total and utter loss of hand-to-eye coordination, yet that buggering song remained stuck in his head all night long. By the time Buffy showed up again, he was more than ready for the stake and that sweet release, but instead she just knelt beside him, looking bleak.

Spike meant to say something then, like bloody buggering fuckfuckfuck, but all that came out was an undignified moan. Buffy’s face kept changing, she was that girl, her body a blade and her eyes the point of that blade, she was herself, she was Nikki, she was the other. Slayer. He was convinced the scar on his brow had been reopened, somehow. There was blood on his face. His eyelashes kept sticking together.

But the Slayer was moving all wrong above him, not like a blade at all. Warrior woman with small little hands touching him with something akin to tender intent.

The next time he was aware of anything, his head was on Dawn’s lap. Knew it was her right off, she smelled of watermelon lip gloss and the underlying hint of old, young blood, and she was crying like he was something of hers, a pet she’d have to put down. It hadn’t been like that between them for a long time, but he left it alone, gift horse and all.

“Fags are in my pocket,” he rasped out instead. Blurrily, he stared at her just staring at him. “Help a fellow out, ducks. Paws are a tad mangled.” She didn’t get the reference, but eventually managed to salvage a few loose cigarettes from his duster.

“They’re kind of crushed,” Dawn announced. He took one from her, careful. She was still crying, kind of. He must look a right mess.

“Light?” he prodded.

But Dawn wasn’t playing anymore. “Buffy told me what you did the other night,” she said bluntly. The other night? Wasn’t fond of blackouts, especially since the First’s mindfuck. They weren’t good for the soul, and usually resulted in mass carnage besides.

“Dawn,” he began.

“I hate you,” Dawn continued matter-of-factly. He took it in stride; it wasn’t like it was headline news. Besides, everyone hated him. With the possible exception of the Slayer, and how was that the way things should be?

“Already hated me though, yeah?”

“Yeah.” She fumbled angrily with the Zippo until she got it to work and lit it for him. “But I thought you were dying, you know. You asshole.” She meant it, too. He wouldn’t have snapped this girl’s neck, he’d have made it last. But he didn’t know what he was thinking, really. His hands hurt. Dawn was wearing a patented little scowl, but patting him, his hair. It felt like that before time. It felt nice.

“Ta, love.” He took a drag. Went to take another, but his fingers closed around nothing and his palm was empty and little sis was gone. Slayer was back.

“You left a scar,” he informed her appreciatively.

“It wasn’t me,” the Slayer answered.

“It’s always you,” he said. Couldn’t let her get away with that, denying that fighting her, her kind, was a frenzied dance of everything base and thrilling, of lifesexpainhatelovedeath. Knew she felt it too - knew he made her wet, God knows she made him hard, and too sodding bad they loathed each other half the time, but it wasn’t his fault she was on the wrong fucking look-the-other-bloody-way side, now was it?

He felt hot and sickly, thinking these old thoughts.

Perhaps the soul had been pounded right out of him. It seemed to him that his essence had been hollowed out, or maybe just let loose. He and his glistening new soul had killed a man, which wasn’t supposed to happen, he knew that, and now everything he’d ever been ran through him like wine, dizzying him.

“Great. When you’re not bleeding all over the upholstery, you’re delusional.” That brought him back a bit, that she’d taken him back into this place that was hers. He looked around, at the chipped-wood leg of the coffee table and at the floor, mostly. Christ. First thing he should have done was suss out his surroundings. Know your exits. One of the only worthy things Angelus had ever taught him.

“Know your exits, Slayer?”

“There’s nowhere for you to go,” she told him firmly, and didn’t he know it.

“Was asking on you, pet,” he said, but Buffy just sighed and shifted like she sometimes did, as if she actually had someplace to go, which she didn’t either, of course.

“Spike. Pay attention. Look, I know that this thing that happened, that it was in self-defense, that it was an accident, but the others, they don’t—”

“Wasn’t,” he said flatly, because Angelus called himself Angel, but Spike was Spike was Spike, and she didn’t even have him in chains this time around.

“What?”

“Killed the man, and I liked it.” That much was true, but it was the whole thing in general that drove him mad. How much he still relished the sound of breaking bones, a tune that didn’t grate.

“You can’t be saying what I think you’re saying,” she warbled.

“I’ve always told it to you like it is, innit that right?”

She was quiet for a long time, and then spoke in a brittle voice, “I was actually worried - I didn’t know if you’d be able to handle the- the, guilt. I had a talk with Dawn about it, about guilt. And last year.” She said ‘last year’ in a very specific manner that he couldn’t quite read. Probably for the best, that. “This changes things again,” she continued.

Spike knew. He lay there while he waited for the killing blow and tried to focus on how much he needed another smoke instead of how much this must be hurting her after all this time of him playing the damsel in distress, and her soft little sighs of unfathomable concern, her soft little hands touching him without strategy, just to touch.

“You have two options,” his Slayer said. Strategizing again, then. He was glad for that, at least. “Go, now. And stay gone. That’s option one.” She stopped there. The unspoken option seemed to him not to be a bad fate, really. Marginally better than her going all John Wayne on his arse, but the Slayer seemed nearly undone by his hesitation. “Is this really something that you need to think about? God. Take your death wish and fuck off.”

Getting vertical hurt like the blazes, or maybe that was his bloody traitorous heart. She sat there watching his clumsy attempts just like a girl watches a boy until she noticed that he’d stopped moving entirely, and then she made with the contempt.

“Thought there was nowhere for me to go?” he asked softly, instead of apologizing. The words would be useless and the point moot, that pesky apocalypse on its way and all. She knew what was what, his Slayer.

“You’re an animal,” she snapped. “You’ll adapt.”

“That I will,” is what he said, even though he didn’t adapt, not where blood or love or her were concerned, and they both knew it.

Left without even taking his last sip of her. Didn’t think he could bear such a thing. Yet stumbling down her street, he was hit with the sudden recollection that a girl’s neck snaps as easily as kindling, even if she is the Slayer.

Didn’t mean to think that, my sweet, sweet girl, he thought despairingly. Would never hurt you.

“Is that right?” His shadow-self fell into step beside him, like he’d never been gone from him.

“Bugger off,” Spike took the time to say, and picked up his step.

He found a quiet alley. Had his sit-down with himself finally, but not exactly, seeing as all he did was sit there and shake and think about what she’d called him, about how he’d sought out this place just as if he were a lame dog, looking for a place to die.

“Melodramatic, aren’t we, mate?”

“Pot calling the kettle black, aren’t we?” Spike said, snatching up the thread after a moment. “Pray tell, what’s the deal with this chaos theory approach to world domination?”

“Everything affects everything else,” the First informed him vaguely. Why was evil always so vague?

“Well, it’s bloody stupid. Toss a variable into a simple system, and what results is going to be highly irregular in nature. Different outcome every time, see? Not even your Incorporeal-ness knows what the hell you’re doing, and that’s gonna kill you as dead as the rest of us.” He didn’t know why he bothered, really. Just had to do something against this, say something, though he supposed The First would know he was all talk. Omnipresent and all.

Features shifted just then. Buffy. Oh, bringing out the big guns, then. Again. Fabulous comeback really, if a tad repetitive.

She had a scarf wrapped about her throat, black chiffon, and she unwound it as he watched, strip-tease for a vampire, and then he was watching the progression of a thin trickle of blood as it disappeared between her breasts and he knew where this was going. Closed his eyes in horror, in anticipation, and then he heard a noise. Awful sound, like something hitting the pavement, something heavy and wet.

He couldn’t look, but after awhile it got to be too much; he just let the scent of her death-tang wash over him, run through him like everything else until truth hit everywhere.

*

On the last day of the world, he sat on the countertop in the abandoned Seven Eleven and methodically smoked a pack of Marlboros.

“There are classier ways to go,” she said when she found him.

“I have no doubt.”

“Please come,” she said, no lead-in at all. Always thought the Slayer would be his way to go, of course, but instead it was just that, her saying that and looking the way that she did.

“All right,” he said, but didn’t move. Legs akimbo, elbows on knees. Just a man, having one last smoke. It felt good, but not right, and he couldn’t figure it. “All right,” he repeated softly. “All right.” Felt very wrong, as if there was something inside of him that needed to be let out but couldn’t be, because it was inside of him. Whatever the something was, it was as frantic as a butterfly, trapped between two panes of glass. Tiny beating wings.

She grew impatient, per usual. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Ever get tired of asking that one?” he snapped reflexively.

“What, are you crazy again?” she asked, but there was something bruised behind her eyes.

“Christ,” he said succinctly, and banged out the door ahead of her, shucking his fag to the ground as he did so.

She fell into step. “It can’t be like this between us if the plan is going to work.”

“Playing at rationality, Slayer? What a concept,” he said condescendingly, just the way he would have said it once, and didn’t really know why, but it made her shut her gob, which he was profoundly glad for. Been sitting down, thinking things out, before she’d moseyed on over. He’d had a bad time of it, these past few weeks. Taken him awhile to get over that last fuck-over; he’d been as jittery as the newly risen. The scent of blood had made him gag for days. Between that and the fact that the demon population was at a record high and seemed intent on killing him deader, he hadn’t had much time to spare for that sit-down, but he had to have it. Had to think.

“Why are you acting like this?” she asked him eventually, though of course she had some idea of the why. “Don’t you want to know the plan?” She said it just like that. The plan.

“Sounds like a bloody self-help program. Maybe a cult,” he added for good measure, at which point she decided two could play at the game of regression and bashed her fist into his jawbone. He thought about hitting her back but didn’t.

“There are some things I need to think about,” he said quietly, and it didn’t even sound like him.

“There are some things I never should have even considered, but it’s all in the past now. It has to be, for me to be this person, okay?” She frowned at him, considering. “I thought you liked this world.”

“Decided it’s really more of a love/hate sort of relationship.”

“Ah. I know all about those,” she said, and shook her arm out and then drew in a breath at what she’d let slip.

Head throbbing, he forestalled any attempt to recant on her part by saying, “Tell me about this plan, then.”

*

In the end, everything planned slipped from their grasp, and they ran. From the set of her jaw he knew she reviled the thought of retreat at least as much as he did, with something like swarming hatred.

“Come on.” She bit the words out anyway. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Never do get tired of asking it, then,” he mused.

She smiled abruptly, an off-center grin. “Oh God, Spike,” she whispered, and laughed with her eyes big and bright, but didn’t cry.

His soul tugged at him then, just as if it finally had somewhere to go, and she tugged at him, saying, “Getonthebusgetonthebusgetonthebus.” She’d stopped laughing.

“Want to see how it ends,” he protested wildly. He felt wild. Things crumbled around them under an unnaturally dark sky.

“We all will,” is what she told him. He supposed so.

*

“Hospital?” Buffy asked, sotto-voice.

“No,” Giles said flatly, and tried the radio again. Static. He drove with a white-knuckled grip.

Buffy nodded, once. She did an inventory of everyone’s injuries, skipping over him entirely, although when her fingers had closed around his wrist back there, she’d shattered the bones. He held his hand close to his chest, and watching her ministrations of the others, made an attempt at closing a fist with it.

Dawn came over and sat next to him so that their knees knocked. “What are you doing?”

“’S what I do. What I am, see?”

“What?”

He showed her the loose fist he’d made, the knuckles that were flecked with blood.

“Oh, yuck,” she said, and then she just kind of leaned against him, and shook.

“Steady on, love.”

“Don’t talk to me,” she told him, just like her sister. “Just don’t.”

“Yeah,” he agreed, and let his fist fall open. The places where the Slayer had touched him shifted and scraped.

*

They set up the tents while Spike paced and pivoted at the edge of the tree-lot, where the forest met the clearing. Dark things hissed to the right of him. Enter the White Hat, stage left.

“How’s it going there, Johnny-no-stars?”

Xander stopped before he reached him and stood there. He seemed perplexed. “Is this another one of those Brit-speak cracks about my sexual orientation?”

“I don’t give a rat’s arse about your sexual orientation, Harris. Don’t think that sort of thing will matter to anyone anymore, to tell you the god’s honest truth.”

“Yeah, Spike, why don’t you tell me the god’s honest truth.” Xander should have sounded angry when he said that, but instead he just sounded level. Smooth as glass cadence.

“Anya was a good girl,” Spike felt the need to say. She’d been vicious as a demon, and soft in places as a girl, and he’d been appreciative of her on both counts.

“Did you get the firewood?”

“No,” Spike said, as he quite obviously hadn’t. “Look, I know what’s going on here. Don’t think I don’t know the only reason no one’s kept up the threat of immolating me while I’m asleep is because they’re too sodding tired to.”

Xander stared at him blandly, one eye in the dark. “Are you seriously trying to make this about you, like everything else?”

“Just don’t like it, is all,” Spike said, and kicked at the earth, uprooting a stone. “Don’t like this weariness. Everyone has this look to them. Looks like my soul feels, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Things used to be so simple for me, you know that? All fighting and fucking and—”

“Cry me a river. Jeezus. So you miss the good old days of yore, is that it?”

“Miss knowing what I am. Who I am, you know?” And because Xander knew, and Spike knew he knew, and Xander knew Spike knew he knew, it became this thing. Both of them just staring at each other and Xander was sweating; Spike could see the sweat shimmering on his forehead. He saw more than they cared to know, predator night-vision and all; saw flesh and the beating pulse in glorious Technicolor.

Buffy chose that moment to sidle up to him. “Spike? Firewood?”

“What am I, the designated bearer of amenities?”

“Yes,” she said, slowly as if talking to a small child. “We made designations, and you were designated Firewood Guy. You suck at being that guy, by the way.”

He rubbed his good hand across his eyes. “Wanted a smoke.” Needed to think.

“Fine. Fine. Let’s go. I’ll come - it’ll be quicker.” She stalked off into the forest, and he shrugged at the boy and trailed after her.

“Getting a little nipply, are we?”

“God,” she said to no one in particular, and zipped up her coat with a savage motion. The lines of her in the moonlight were all angular, and he hated the thin line her mouth had become. When she whirled around on him, he knew if he had any good sense he’d turn right around and let her have it out with herself. But he was bloody stupid, and she knew it. “I heard what you said,” she told him.

“I say a lot of things.” She was like a dry fire. He was wary of her.

“The thing about knowing thyself,” she flung at him mockingly. Oh, that. “Who wants to know something like that?”

“Don’t quite follow.”

“I mean, what kind of person wants to know something like that? What’s wrong with you, that you want—”

“You’ll recall we covered that one already, pet. What’s this about, then?”

“What’s wrong with me, Spike, that I don’t want to know—”

He tried to touch her, and she slapped him, not like the Slayer at all, just a weak little girl-slap, and something about that cut right through him.

“I have to think about it now,” she hissed at him. “That I tried to save this— I tried, I did, but part of me just wanted it to be over. Everything. And what kind of person would—” She seemed to crumble then.

“Shh, sweetness,” he murmured, and gathered her up against him. “Shh, I know.” And he did. Part of him had wanted it to be over too, it being everything, even them. Even her.

Buffy kept pushing him away and then letting him draw her back in, and then finally she crushed herself all up against him in a flurry of tears. He kept saying shh, shh, even after the worst of it was over. Didn’t want to let go.

She had other ideas, of course, and jerked out of his hold. “I hate that I can do things with you that I’d never do with anyone else,” she said soggily. “I hate that. I’ve always hated that. I hate that it’s you.”

“Well, I’ve always hated that you hate it,” he said, somewhat stung, although sometimes he hated that it was him too. “You ever think of it that way?”

“No.” And she sniffed and wandered off, just as if they’d had a little interlude, nothing worth mentioning.

“Oh, right. Break my heart and break my bones,” he scoffed, although there was more truth to it than he would have liked. He waved his arm at her, and she gazed at him thoughtfully for a moment before she returned to his side, took his wrist and snapped it unceremoniously back into place. His vision went white and shaky around the edges.

She held onto him for a little while, not looking at him. Held him up. “You okay now?”

“Okay, yeah.” He swallowed, and spit. He felt nauseous. He needed blood. “How are the lambs doing?”

“Not lambs, not anymore.”

“But we all are now, every one of us, right?”

“What do you mean?” she asked him, very carefully.

“Don’t be dense,” he said, because he did tell it to her like it was. “’S little use to pretend.”

“Firewood,” she reminded him edgily.

*

He couldn’t tell what time it was, if that hint of ozone was a remnant of the day or warning him of encroaching daylight.

He wondered if Angelus was dead. Here he’d been cursing the bastard’s two-sidedness, and he was probably dead. California, he supposed, would fall first. The old man would have known what time it was, anyway.

Sitting beside the pile of burnt wood, that dead fire, Spike thought all kinds of random thoughts, and couldn’t believe he’d ever wanted that, this time for thinking. What the hell did he need to think about, anyway? It was over, it being everything, and that was fine, just fine, end of the world and he felt fine, just like in that bloody song.

When the Slayer slipped out of her tent as if she was breaking curfew and looked at him until he looked back, he told her, “I ran out of cigarettes,” and had to look down at his hands. It seemed very important, this cigarette business, like the end of an era.

Buffy had ghosted off by the time he looked back up, still in her nightclothes. Bare feet, and he chased after her like always, feeling panicked, not quite so fine.

The forest swallowed them both, and it reeked of that old era.

Caught glimpses of her, wraithlike in white, and then he didn’t. Found her anyway, following the sound of her heartbeat that was beating too fast, all wrong, all wrong. She was leaning against a tree, and when she saw him she said, “Here,” and took his hands and moved them to her hips. Her skin was flushed pink with exertion. “I know you like to have something to do with your hands.”

“What?” he asked muzzily. When he touched her, her pulse became liquid sound, beating hotly through him, through her.

“You ran out of cigarettes,” she echoed softly.

“That I did, sweetling. Let’s go back, now - get you all bundled up and tucked in, yeah?”

“No. No.” She didn’t blink. “I can’t believe that you could— do what you did.” She was all over the place, but he knew she was thinking of Wood, who could have been her friend, perhaps, or her lover.

“Yeah, you can,” he told her, and squeezed her waist, shook her a little as if he could shake some sense into her.

“Yeah, I can,” she agreed softly. “But I needed you through this, Spike. I needed you.” And then she kissed him, openmouthed and without preamble, just the way she’d slid his bones back into place.

“What did you need, Slayer?” he asked her in a brittle voice, holding her back at arm’s length. “This?” She wouldn’t answer him, just let her nightgown puddle to the ground and stood naked before him, a wood nymph taking on womanly form. He took a few clumsy steps away from her.

“You make things better,” she whispered at his withdrawal, and then bit her lip as if she could take it back. “Some things. You tell me everything will be—” She frowned. “Okay.”

“I won’t tell you that this time,” he said roughly.

“Fine. Fine.” She snagged his belt loop and he tumbled back against her, lightheaded and woozy from lack of blood and her mouth on his again, wet and wanting. She smashed him onto the ground, onto a bed of pine needles, breaking twigs, breaking self-imposed laws, and then lowered herself onto him. Spike hissed in a breath as she undulated against him, saying all kinds of things he didn’t want to hear, saying, “It was almost like you were hunting me, back there. Did you know that?”

“Oh, Jesus, girl,” he sighed out brokenly.

She only moved faster, and something about the fact that she’d let him catch her, ran from him with the sole intent of provoking a pursuit, and the rocking, slid together in his mind and joined like two waves becoming one, and, “Oh,” she breathed. “Oh.”

When he spun her around, when he was looking down at her, he suddenly thought of Nikki, on the subway, of trading places with her just like that, the way every dead cell of his had filled with such perfect white light at that moment of release, the noise as he snapped her neck, that gentle pop.

Pop, Spike thought, as Buffy screamed, and then bit his shoulder.

His kissed her on her mouth that tasted of his blood, and then kissed her everywhere. His lips left marks on the inside of her thighs, pretty kiss-shaped marks, his mark. Though she’d never belong to him, or perhaps precisely for that reason, he loved her at that moment in a rather crushing way.

She was not as she’d once been. That first anticipatory glimpse he’d had of her, dancing, (although not yet with him) she’d been all curves and he’d imagined all that sweet-smelling girlflesh pressed up against him as he drained her dry. This girl beneath him now was a slip of herself, though it wasn’t his doing, or at least he hoped strongly that it wasn’t. She’d been made prickly with obligation more than anything, he thought. He loved that the best, her shoulders, how frail they were, how much they could withstand.

So he kept kissing her, not her lips, but everywhere else, any place he thought he might have neglected, until she was left lying there, dry-eyed and boneless. Found his coat - except for the fact that it was Nikki’s coat, wasn’t it? Shut up. Shut up. - and rolled her onto it. Lay beside her on the bare earth. Looked at the sky.

“Look just the same,” he mused mindlessly. “The stars.”

“I don’t want to look,” she said in this choked sounding voice, and burrowed up next to him, slick with sweet sweat and sex, trembling. “Don’t want to look.”

“Don’t have to, lamb,” he soothed, his palm on her skullcap. “It’s all right. It’s okay.”

“You said it,” she informed him, and took a nip at his nipple. She wasn’t teasing. Got one up on old Spike, she had.

“Sod off,” he said vacantly.

“Hey,” she began, but then there was nothing more. She took his wrist and studied it, the shades of discoloration in the moonlight, and then she touched her lips to him there, so flimsily as to not even be a kiss. He lay there blinking furiously at the dome of the sky, hearing the ground shift beneath him, things groaning and taking root, the thud of her, the feeling, once again, of his own utter stillness.



Feedback is muchly appreciated.



Part 2

“I’m not going to set up your tent for you if you’re not going to use it,” Xander said the next night, and shot a vicious look at Spike, at Buffy, causing the latter to duck her head and if the boy was looking for his suspicions to be confirmed, there was exhibit fucking A.

“Do what you like,” Spike said. Still the dirty little secret, then. Fine. He felt the presence of a multitude of bodies as if they were a single mass, all that rich Slayer blood rushing through their veins, and had other things to worry about.

He’d spent the day under a blanket in the back of a moving vehicle, his world comprised of pinpricks of sunlight and the weave of the material, he was hungry as anything, and although Buffy straightened, she didn’t even have the stones to look at him when she said, “Wanna be Firewood Guy again?”

“Sure, yeah.” The scent of her arousal pissed him off to no end in lieu of the indifferent air she was putting on. “Thanks for entrusting me with such a difficult bloody task,” he threw out.

“Vi,” Buffy snapped. “Go with Spike. Please.”

“Whatever,” Vi said, and grabbed at his arm as she went to pass him just as if he were a wayward child. He thought about crushing her skull between his palms, the way you’d crush a piece of overripe fruit, and followed her.

There was the birdsong, the beating of wings, and then silence. They know what I am, Spike thought, and then he was holding Vi’s face, thumbs under her jawbone and digging in and he didn’t know how it had happened. She kicked him, hard, where the thigh connected to the calf, right in the right place, and he went down. By the time he came back up she was holding a makeshift stake, waiting for him. He supposed she’d had enough of running. Well, so had he.

But her blood was fairly screaming at him, and his plan of attack fell away like everything else at the sound of it. He lunged at her instinctively. She promptly kicked him in the face, and he lay there on the ground, seeing stars. Now wasn’t that familiar?

“I’m getting Buffy,” Vi announced unevenly, and immediately ran off. He guessed he’d been wrong about her.

“Likes to kick, that one,” Spike told Buffy, when she showed up with Xander, with Giles, with a pale-faced Vi. “I’m sorry,” he thought to say, and then suddenly he was awash with it, that feeling of ohnoohnoohno. “Was hungry—” Ravenous was what he was, and he rolled over into the leaves so none of them could see him in game-face.

“You should have said something before,” Giles said quietly.

“Not that we, you know, care,” Xander added.

“Indeed.”

“Didn’t want to say,” Spike muttered. Then Buffy knelt down beside him and started running her fingers through his hair, checking him over for wounds right in front of everyone. “You knew, then,” he said dully. In his eyes, her gentleness spoke only of her guilt. “You wanted something like this to happen?”

“Don’t be daft, Spike,” he heard Giles say.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Buffy contributed. “You’re so ridiculous.”

“Am I?”

“Maybe,” Buffy informed the world in general in that superior way she had about her, “if there were less people around, I could calm him down.” There was a brief kerfuffle he gratefully ignored, and then it was just him and her, and she was speaking urgently into the curve of his ear, “I didn’t want this. I just wanted you to have to ask me for something—”

“I didn’t want to say,” he repeated. “Know you loathe this part of me, and I didn’t want to say, you—” Bitch. He didn’t cry, not really, just a few angry tears leaked out. He had no intention of calming the fuck down. “Dead tired of being at war with you, love.”

She brushed his tears away with the back of her hand, as if chagrined. But that couldn’t be. “We’ll go into the city.”

“Thought the cities were out,” he said tightly.

“They are. But we need supplies, not just for you, for everyone.”

“Won’t do much good anyway,” he said finally, sullenly. “Blood goes rancid, of course.”

“Willow will be able to do something about that. Why don’t you sit up, now?”

He did, because she said it in the same tone of voice she’d said you’re so ridiculous with.

“Lost myself for awhile, there.”

“I know,” she said, softer, and although it wasn’t her part to play: “It’s okay.”

He barked out a sharp laugh. “Right.”

*

He woke up and she was in his tent. Harris had set it up for him after all, which was decent of him, really. “Way to be nocturnal,” she said, thankfully drawing him away from his contemplation of the boy’s finer qualities.

He could hear the hiss and click of the fire, the rest of them out around it, the scent of cooking meat and the sound of laughter, everything carrying on as if none of them were counting down these days of relative peace.

“Yeah, well,” Spike said lamely. He was mad as a hatter with her. He was afraid to move. It wasn’t the best combination.

“Things will get better,” she told him then. “When we get to the East Coast, things will get—”

He sincerely doubted that. “Hmm. The Watcher tell you that?”

She frowned at him. “He’s been in contact with the Coven. You know, the ones that helped Willow when she— Anyway, they got all mind-meldy. They’re going to meet up with us once we hit the coast.”

Spike was weary. “Can’t they just magic us on over?”

“I’m through with magic,” Buffy said darkly. She ran a hand down his naked back, and he just lay there on his stomach and wondered what the hell she was playing at now. “You’re cold,” she murmured.

“I’m dead, aren’t I?”

“Are you, Spike? Are you really?” And she peered at him as if she could discern something elemental from him, from his fuzzy awareness of what he was, what he could be.

“I know all about guilt now, love. You think I don’t know what this is?”

“Maybe so,” she agreed, which he never would have expected. He looked up at her, her thin little face, her hair that was everywhere that he wanted to smooth down or muss up proper more than anything. She was wearing a tank top and short shorts, just like a girl. But she was more than just a girl, and he didn’t reach out for her, not yet. He saw her swallow, heard her throat work. She said, “But. I don’t want to, like, you know.”

“Like, no,” Spike mocked, and her fingers bit into his shoulder, a little.

“This is hard,” she said. “So stop it, okay?” Pause. “I am sorry, about before. I know that you’re right: there’s no use in pretending, no use in playing games, not at this point. But— it’s hard.”

“Yeah,” he agreed, watching her cagily.

“So, I’ve been thinking. And I don’t want to pretend. Anymore. I feel things for you, but the things that I feel - they scare me. You scare me. But, see, I can’t do that anymore, be afraid. Because this is it.”

“So this is what, an epiphany?” Skeptical.

“It’s- whatever, it’s what I’ve decided. It’s my decision. Effective immediately.”

“Okay,” he said, though his muscles were still taut, tensed to attack.

“Okay,” she repeated.

He paused. “I scare you?”

“Don’t I scare you?”

He rolled over at that, and kept watching her face as she slid her palm down his belly, to that dip of hunger. “Kiss me,” he said then, and it was almost like an answer.

Giles words were indistinct, even to Spike’s ears, but his voice was easily discernable, and Buffy hesitated at it. Then she kissed him, slowly and heavily. Or maybe it was his head that felt heavy, weightless and heavy and pounding, and then her mouth was gone and replaced with- oh.

He wanted to stop, he did, but her grip was steely. She held his head and her weeping wrist in place expertly, and he drank that sweet nectar because there was nothing else.

“That’s enough,” she said presently, taking her arm back as her own and snatching some gauze and tape from her backpack. She frowned. “Isn’t it?”

He blinked up at her dazedly.

“Spike?” she prodded. “You can wait until tomorrow? The city?”

“I love you,” he whispered. He felt idiotic, re-born and stunned into saying such meaningless, overused words. His demon cringed.

“My condolences,” she said, and it was supposed to be a joke, but her lips looked like they couldn’t decide whether or not to try for a smile. She cleaned out the incision with antiseptic, taped everything up. She was efficient and precise, as she could be in certain matters, but she’d ceased to meet his gaze.

“That scares you. Me saying that.”

“It doesn’t scare me.”

Buffy.

Their eyes met. All at once, she lay her head down on the slope of his stomach, pressed her face into the skin there, and wept.

There just might actually have been something, as she’d suggested, that had changed between them. There was certainly something that was at once new and not new in her tears.

Whatever it was, it had him positively on edge. He was unable to decide if he trusted her in such a way, or even if he trusted himself. Stricken down by emotion as if by a blow, he was able to do nothing but lay his hand on her bare, animal shoulder.

*

In the morning Andrew concernedly watched him, while everyone else looked at anything else. Except for Vi, who didn’t take her eyes off of him, not once. And Buffy.

“The sun could come out at any moment,” Andrew informed him on the bus. He looked as if he were about the start wringing his hands. “You should be more careful.”

“’M fine,” he said, and squinted up at that angry looking sky. “Protected.”

This, of course, meant reckless, which meant stupid, according to Angelus and Darla and Buffy and that stick-up-the-arse Watcher of hers and probably just about everyone, but he was feeling more than a bit reckless. He wanted the two of them to stop watching him, wanted to bash their skulls in and didn’t. But he would, if he had to. If they came at him, if they— He felt as if he was perhaps slipping into delirium, as sick with hunger as he was.

As much as his demon had been a construction: everything he’d been perverted and calling itself by a different name, putting on a different voice; he nevertheless recognized it as his own voice now, soul and everything. He was a killer, and that was all there was to it. And in that moment he wanted them dead. Shit.

He kept himself very, very still. He remembered her wrist, her offering, and how he’d loved her then and it calmed him, though left him feeling like an arse over his wanting nature.

In the city, shattered windows lined the sidewalks. People ran, but didn’t walk. Buffy and Faith did the blood-run.

Buffy brought it to him and watched impassively and with a blank countenance as he tore the bag open with his teeth, and drank deep. The blood was cold, thick. He got only a dull kind of satisfaction from it.

When he was finished she threw a blanket atop of him, and his world went dark once again. They drove on.

*

Lying there, he thought of that time after he’d escaped from the Initiative labs, feeling like nothing more than a hunted animal. Feeling dead already, and of course, he was. He’d hated the Slayer then, because of what she was to his kind, because of what she’d taken from him, but most of all he’d hated her because she was alive.

He hadn’t fed for days. Bloodlust had consumed him. And as his teeth had pierced the soft flesh on the underbelly of his arm, he’d thought of her.

When the bus finally slowed down, he silently thanked an absent God.

*

They set up camp next to a river that night, and the girls washed each other’s hair in the moonlight. They could have been mermaids.

“Well,” Xander announced eventually. “I feel like a bit of a pervert.”

There was a general consensus, and then Giles started off towards the bus. Xander and Andrew stayed put. “Gotta talk to you, Harris,” Spike announced then. He felt desperate and at loose ends. “Alone.”

Xander just looked at him. “Um. What?”

Buffy chose that moment to duck under water, and he caught a glimpse of ankle, one slender foot, and said, “Now.” Dragged the boy by the arm over the crest of the embankment, until it was just them, the leaves in the trees. Xander jerked his arm away, but didn’t protest as such, and Spike took that as the go-ahead.

“The thing is, I’m not safe. She knows that I’m not, but she’s letting herself think that I am, you know?”

“Okay,” Xander began, once he’d sorted that out. “Firstly, I’m not your camp counselor, Spike. I don’t want to have anything to do with this. Secondly. I don’t want to have anything to do with this! At all! Ever!”

“She thinks that I can take all of her fears into myself and just negate them, right? But I can’t. I mean, I would if I could.”

“Yeah,” Xander said flatly, resigned. “Fine. Stop talking now?”

I killed a man and I liked it, Spike wanted to say, with the bluntness with which he said everything else. And today, I wanted—

Didn’t matter whether or not if it was in self-defense if you were just looking for an excuse, right? Confusion swarmed. He couldn’t even finish a thought.

“Since when have you ever listened to me, anyway?” Xander was asking, and Spike swiped a hand across his eyes.

She’s afraid?” he continued, shoving his hands under his arms. He didn’t know what to do with them all of a sudden. “You’d be a fool not to be. I’m afraid. I’m afraid of all kinds of things.”

Xander shook his head, as if in disbelief. “What are you afraid of?”

“Xander?” Buffy stood above them, wringing her hair out. She looked small and plain, and she said, “Andrew’s creeping us out.” And Xander laughed a bit, and said fine, fine, he’d take care of it, and then he went off to do just that, shooting quick little looks in Spike’s direction as he did so. “What was that?” Buffy asked when he’d gone. “You two, like, talk now?”

“We communicate,” Spike allowed.

“Curious,” Buffy said. She came over and kissed him quickly on the mouth in a way he supposed could be termed affectionate. That was new. “And curiouser. You’ve been quiet. And I just made a literary reference, I think.”

“I’ve been thinking,” he managed. “I’m not safe.”

“No, I know,” she agreed eventually, sighing a bit.

“Fuck it all,” he muttered to himself.

“Well, what am I supposed to do?” she threw at him then. “Hate you? After everything? I’ve hated you before, and it wasn’t any easier.”

“I would have killed Vi.”

“You were— you needed—”

“I’ll always need such things, Slayer. You know that. I’ll always be hungry and I’ll always need—”

“Shut up. I do know that, yes, so just shut up.”

She took his hand then, and her palm was damp and warm and sent a chill right through him. If she could let this go, where would she draw the line? Where would he draw the line? He’d already drawn it and crossed it, and crossed it again.

“I know it’s not the same,” she said then. “But there’s something inside of me too— the Slayer, the, the demon part of me, the—” She stopped. Whatever she wanted to get out, it was hard for her.

“I wanted to—” he began, hoping to spare her something.

“I know! I know what you wanted to do, all right? What I’m trying to say is, that part of me— it wants what it shouldn’t. Too. But neither of us can have exactly what we want, can we?”

He took this in. “Not from each other, it would seem. Not right at this moment in time. Certainly not from anyone else.”

Buffy shiver-shifted her feet. Looked away. After a little while, he went to her and folded her up into his coat with him. She held onto him.

*

That night he dreamed.

The Slayer held something in her fist. Sunlight streamed from between the cracks of her fingers, then broke through, illuminating blue veins, snapping outwards, pure white flame.

She opened her palm, and the thing fell, and kept falling. Where was the ground?

“What is it?” he asked.

She shook her head, and he dove beneath the water that was there, suddenly. Deep down, something shone, like a backwards sun. Then he could see it.


He awoke utterly confused, feeling that dream bleed all away. He had no idea suddenly what he’d seen, or what it had meant. Wanting to clear his head he headed out towards the river with a bar of soap and an ache in his chest.

He was underwater when something came at him, indistinctly shaped and milky pale. He saw a face, a neck that lolled at an odd angle, and reeled back and away, kicking up silt, things better left at rest.

Dawn was sitting on her knees in front of her tent when he made his stumbling, ungainly way over the crest of the hill to the encampment. She had a rock in one hand, a mess of silver in the other. He fell beside her, gasped out, “What did you do?” and knew not why.

“It wanted me to,” Dawn said numbly, as numb as Spike felt. Her lips barely seemed to move. “The First—”

He snatched at her hand. The pendant itself seemed intact, but where the gem should have been there was only a dark opening, a kind of chasm. “Where is it? Where is it?”

“I threw it in the river,” Dawn said. She was crying without moving, without anything, and he found himself shaking her all up to give her some animation and because for whatever reason he just couldn’t stand it.

Buffy was the one to tear him away from her. She looked whole, flushed. Her hair was dry and slept-upon. “I saw you in the water,” he said haltingly. “The pendant, Buffy, it’s- There’s something- The First-”

Dawn was really crying now, and Buffy went to her, took her into her arms, all the while watching him over her sister’s shoulder, watching him the way Vi had watched him, with a wary, somehow wanting gaze.

It was Xander who came and took him away. He didn’t ask what happened, but rather took him into his tent, opened a bottle of something potent and pushed it at Spike, who took a long swig; kept drinking until he saw little flashes of exploding light, black blotches in his line of vision.

“Picked it up at the last stop,” he heard Xander say.

“Good call,” Spike said roughly. He thought he might cry then, like Dawn, just let it take him over, but he didn’t. A coldness settled within him, like lead. He felt heavy, and far too sober. “Give us some more, yeah?” Xander obediently handed the bottle over. “Good man,” Spike said. “Know you hate me and everything I bloody stand for, but sometimes a fellow’s just gotta get pissed.”

Xander very nearly smiled. “My sentiments exactly.” He waited until Spike was falling all over himself, even sitting down, and then he said, “So. There’s, uh, something that you said before—”

A pause. “Right. Yeah?”

Another pause. “What’s someone like you afraid of?”

“Ah."

"What? Ah what?"

The ah was that Spike supposed Xander was out of his head with fear himself, and perhaps wanted to commiserate on the nature of the beast, but he didn’t say that for whatever reason. Out of the goodness of his heart? Ha bloody ha.

Took the expected route instead. "Ah. You all loathe the very ground I stand on, but you find me interesting, like something behind glass. I get it. The sole vampire who took it upon himself to get himself a soul. And do you wanna know why I did that?”

“Spike? Please, just—”

“Well, there isn’t an answer to that question, so don’t be looking for one. I’m just like anyone else - I don’t know why I do half the things I do. For example, why the fuck would I chose the Slayer to fall in love with? At first, it was all about the dance, of course. I loved the thought of her. But the way that I love her now—” His voice choked off of its own accord, and he started over. “And she can be a raging bitch, right? So what kind of sense does that make?”

“You know what I think about you, Spike?”

“This ought to be good,” he muttered.

“You talk too much. You think everything is about you. You have zero empathy for anyone who isn’t Buffy. Statistically? That makes you an asshole. So, pick a number between one and six billion.”

“Well that’s all fine and good and nicely cynical, but why would I hurt the woman I love, even if she can be a—”

“Raging bitch?” Xander supplied in a deadly tone.

“That would be it. Why would I— You know what I think about you? One of the things that I’m afraid of? That I hate you right back, but that you’re a better man than I could ever think of being.”

That shut Xander up right away. After awhile, though, he said, “You’re right.” Spike smothered a laugh, nearly tumbling sideways onto the canvas floor of the tent. “You know, though— I hurt the woman I loved.”

Spike quieted, a bit. He recognized that pain. “I know.”

“You were right the other day, too,” Xander continued, looking at his hands. “At this point, I’m just too tired to, you know, kill you. So you don’t have to worry about that, at least.”

“Because it kept me up nights.” Spike ran a hand across his face, said, “I’m tired too,” because he was. “There was something I was supposed to do, but instead I just broke a bloke’s neck.”

“Yeah?” Xander asked uncertainly, and Spike found that uncertainty ridiculously funny, after everything.

“Hand it over,” he said when he was able to, and Xander shoved the bottle into his hand, helped him close his fingers around it.

“Maybe you’ve had enough?”

“Not nearly,” Spike said. “I’m like that about everything, you know? I’m sorry.” Xander said he knew, but then Spike couldn’t figure out which thing he was referring to, and it was all terribly confusing, and that was that. The world started up swinging crazily, like a pendulum, and kept on swinging.

*

It was the middle of the night. He was still drunk, kind of, and when he opened his eyes, Buffy had leaned in over him and was kissing him with her river mouth, as cool and drifting as the river itself.

“Come on,” she murmured, “Come on.”

They did a little dance on the way out of the tent, she kept walking backwards, smiling this kind of quasi Mona Lisa smile, and he kept trying to kiss her again. It seemed a familiar tableau.

“I missed your mouth,” he said.

She tugged him into her tent with her, amused with his stumbling, and pressed his fingers to her lips. “It’s right here.”

“Okay. Okay. Buffy, don’t know what happened back there, with Dawn. There was— feels like, something I was supposed to do— What was—?”

“The jewel-y thing? It was just something that Angel brought over,” she explained impatiently. “He thought it might help, with stuff. But it didn’t, obviously.”

“Well, there must have been some reason why the First would give a flying fuck about us after all this time, right? S’not like we’re a threat anymore.”

Her face briefly contorted with fury. “I’m a threat, always.”

“I’ll agree with you there, Slayer,” her said. He’d meant to smile, but found that he couldn’t all of the sudden.

“I know,” she said suddenly, and unimaginably, drew him to her so that his face was pressed into the curve of her throat. “I’m sorry.”

And how could he not love her then? She was a tigerlily in his stream, petting his head as if she were a lioness. “Don’t know what happened back there,” he said again, wretchedly.

“Well, it doesn’t matter, I guess. You’re the one that told me that I was being dense— that we we’re all going to die—”

“That’s fatalistic shite and you know it,” he reprimanded her, drawing back. “I said— well, all right, I said that, but it matters. Buffy, things matter—”

“I want you to fuck me,” she interrupted then, making him forget himself all over again, and her small pink tongue peeked out, tasted his fingers that hadn’t moved, the salty tang of them. “No,” she said at his hesitation. “Not like we used to. Just— because I need it.”

The next day they would run into their first ghost-town, where everything was burned to the ground. The demon population was getting confident, moving away from the Hellmouths. Spreading, Giles called the whole deal, as if it were a disease, something malignant. And she needed him again after that, needed him so often that she nearly wore them both out. He wondered what exactly it was that made her so painfully wet for him, when all she’d seen was death, everything flattened as if by a great palm. Had a sneaking suspicion that he knew, that it was just that.

Yes, he was afraid of all kinds of things.



Feedback is muchly appreciated.



Part 3

When it got to be a certain time of night, the time when she would have gone hunting back in Sunnydale, Buffy grew restless. Prickly, and no one could say anything to her, not even him. She couldn’t be sated. She always wanted to be on top. He recognized that whereas before there had been all number of beasties roaming about, now there was only him. Having his own blood-call, of course, he felt bad about it, but didn’t know what to do for her short of coming over all Amphitryon and baring his chest to her. And that had never worked before, despite his best efforts.

But during these times, she often eyed him in a rather calculating manner, as if she couldn’t quite decide what to do with him. So they did all kinds of things, and it was like before, it was like she said it wouldn’t be, and one night he said, “Let’s go for a walk, yeah?”

Kennedy shot him a scandalized look, because she might have been a self-centered little thing, but she wasn’t stupid. Spike ignored her, and gave Buffy a little push in the right direction, which was probably the wrong direction, actually, but that was just how his luck went.

“A walk,” Buffy repeated, as if she were tasting the word.

He took her behind the bus and fucked her soundly, and when she was still just looking at him, swollen-mouthed, dark-eyed, what he really wanted to say was, We’ve got to stop this. But her mouth. Her eyes.

“Hmm,” Buffy said, and let her head fall back to bang lightly up against the side of the bus. She gave him that calculating look. “If I ran away, would you come with me?”

“What, if we just took to the highway?” She shrugged loosely. “Stop screwing around.”

“You like it.”

“I won’t be a part of this. Bloody escapism, is what it is.”

“Please,” Buffy said hotly, coming back to herself. “If anything, when I’m with you, I’m acutely aware of exactly what I am.” And even though it was what he wanted to hear, it was somehow worse than anything else she could have ever said to him. He just wanted to wrap her up in cotton batting, tuck her away somewhere safe. He wanted to kill her. Smother her, shut her up.

Fix her, was the thing. Like always, that was what he wanted to do, but he didn’t know how, so that was where the rest came in. He was an awful person, and a terrible excuse for a vampire.

“And what are you?” he asked her carefully.

She gave him a somewhat vacant look. “You tell me.”

“I won’t define you.”

“Oh yeah, because I don’t define you in any way, right?”

He could say nothing to that. There was the chirping of crickets, her breathing, night sounds. He’d always associated her with the night. He wondered if she knew. If she’d care. If she cared about anything anymore.

“I think I might be losing myself,” she said then, just like she was the starlet in some kind of stupendously idiotic B-movie. Despite that, it tugged at him. Her fingers bit at his chest anxiously.

“You’re just lost in general, love,” he said and when her hands roamed lower, he slipped from her hold. “Happens to the best of us.”

“I’m not exactly the best of us, though, am I?”

“Well, I’m sure as hell not the best of us, innit that the truth?” he shot back, and he’d got her to smile.

“Come here,” she said suddenly. “Come back here.”

“Not your dog,” he told her, then he came. “What?” She just looked at him. “Look,” he started. “We just took three steps backwards, here. I know you, Slayer. Know what you crave, know that you need your daily spot of violence, that you need someone to play along and to tell you the hard truths all at the same time. I know it all, so you just— you want to, you just let yourself get lost. Right? But you have to know, you have to recall what you said before, about this being it and all.”

“I wasn’t going to be afraid,” she said, as if searching for confirmation.

“Yeah.”

“I was going to be me.” She paused, and her lips turned down. “You see? The problem?”

“I see,” he said, and he did. He thought of when they’d pulled away from the river that day, from the amulet, the feeling that had seized him with crackling intensity and then slowly burned off the further away they drove, like fog. Until he could see again, but differently than he had before (perhaps less.) Now he just saw her, and it filled him with anticipatory trepidation. “Buffy,” he continued, with only a muddled sense of what it would mean to her, “You can be you with me. You know that.”

She said tightly, “Why do you think you scare me?”

And walked away, leaving him to stare at the ground, the side of the bus where her back had made a small indentation. Dawn found him like that.

“Um. What are you doing?”

“What’s big sis up to?”

“She’s sleeping. Well. She has her eyes closed, anyway. She’s a big faker, really.”

“That right?”

“Yeah. So.” She peered at him curiously. “Spike. I wanted to apologize for doing that thing the other night. I mean, I don’t know what I did, but it was a thing, right?”

“Don’t know what I was on about myself. Forget it, platelet.”

“Come on. You got really trashed. With Xander.”

“That I did.”

“So?”

“So? What the sodding hell do I know?”

“I just thought—”

“Well, don’t do that. Don’t think. Wouldn’t it be lovely, if we could all just not think?”

Dawn was looking at him, just like she used to, but when she made to reach out for him she drew her hand back right away. “I think it would get pretty boring,” she said meekly.

“Bloody hell,” Spike said concisely, and sagged back against the bus.

*

Although he’d never hatched a successful plan, ever, not a once, he found himself packing up her things. Right quiet-like, vampire-quiet, so that Dawn kept right on sleeping, sighing out little snatches of words, no, and other things he didn’t recognize. Not quite a nightmare. She hadn’t started up screaming, anyway, not like she sometimes had that summer after the Slayer had taken that faultless swandive, but it brought him back to that. Buffy would never know what that time had been like for them, their own private hells. Didn’t care, most likely.

She was watching him carefully now, the way he moved, the way you’d watch an animal to see how it moved. Looking for weaknesses, or just noticing? Noticing him? That couldn’t be it, yet his whole damned plan drew on the idea that she’d fall back into her hero archetype before they got more than a few miles out.

This was a phenomenally bad idea, but he was at the end of his tether, really, and she was adrift. Adrift, but when he tipped his head towards the highway, she came right to him as if bound, and they started off into the figurative sunset. It wasn’t a good moment, though, and he worried at the flushness of her cheeks. The night was as black as tar.

“What changed your mind?” she asked him eventually.

“Bugger off,” Spike said, wandering down the middle of the road, as he seemed wont to do as of late. “Just walk.” Shockingly, she did. She seemed disturbingly content, and when she slid her hand into his he didn’t have the strength to shake her off.

They’d been walking for a good two hours when the first car caught them in its highbeams. It was a woman, her little girl. She pulled off to the side and opened her door instead of just rolling down the window. “Oh, God,” she said. “Hi. Hello.” She began to cry immediately then, her face crumpling as paper would. Her skin was ashen.

Buffy just looked at her. Spike went to her, with some notion that he should offer comfort, but he had none to give, and she composed herself fairly quickly besides, asking them where they were headed.

“Where are you off to, love?” he asked of her gently. The Slayer squeezed his hand at the endearment, not kindly. He squeezed back. Bones creaked.

But the woman didn’t know. She didn’t know anything anymore, she told them. “You can sit in the back,” she offered them.

“Kind of you,” he said. “Right kind. So, what’s the name of our savior, then?”

She very nearly smiled, warming to him. Silly bint. “Stephanie,” she said.

Like the song, Spike recalled vaguely from some past life. Stephanie Says. The Slayer was holding his hand, still, and he didn’t know how he’d arrived at this place, all of the sudden. What had he become? And who was—

“I’m Anne,” Buffy was saying, speaking for the first time. “This is—”

“Spike,” he said quickly, before she could make him into someone else yet again.

“Spike,” Stephanie repeated. “What an interesting name.”

“And he made it for himself, too,” Buffy said meanly, as the other woman looked on at them in confusion. “It’s very original, don't you think?"

*

She was like a flower, her head lolling against his shoulder, except for the fact that flowers weren’t quite so dark. It wasn’t a natural hue, he thought, and then he thought that he hated her and this darkness of hers despite the fact that it should have been what he loved the most about her, but he loved it all, he did, so he didn’t know what he was thinking.

He was barely awake when she plied him out of the car, confused, stumbling a bit. She told him they were near the outskirts of Albuquerque, and he thought she’d had enough but instead she plucked some money from her bra and shuffled him into a motel room. The carpets were an ugly maroon, and so were the bedsheets, but they weren’t the exact same colour. He was momentarily taken in by this inconsistency but then she threw him onto the bed and straddled his hips like good old times and he stopped thinking much of anything.

“How much dosh you have stuffed in there?” she asked her. Her pert little breasts swung lightly right in his line of vision, and he reached out and cupped one, just because. Her eyes glassed over at once. “Awful easy tonight, Slayer,” he noted.

“You finally have me right where you want me, and you still can’t leave well enough alone, can you?” she noted right back.

Spike hmmed noncommittally.

“And the answer is enough, for your information.”

“Enough what, now?”

“Dosh,” she said, pronouncing it all wrong.

“That right?”

“Try me,” she dared him.

But he didn’t. “This is Albuquerque, eh?” he asked her.

“Yeah, I guess so.” She looked down at him, put her hand over his which was still upon her. “So. Will you call me Anne?”

“Bloody hell, no.”

“Didn’t think so.”

“Yeah.”

“What will you call me?”

Raging bitch. He recalled the phrase and smiled. “How ‘bout your name?”

“No,” she told him firmly, but she was already in a passion and wet for him besides and he kept saying it as she was unable to resist him, Buffy, Buffy, Buffy, until she had come and come again. When she’d recovered, though, she did everything but kick him in the head before she stormed off. He lay there for a good twenty minutes, cock aching but untouched because he liked the pain in a certain kind of perverse way.

Eventually, though, even he’d had enough. He found her in the parking lot smoking a cigarette, his brand, smelling like sex. “Picked up a pack from the vending machine.”

“Yeah? How is it?”

She shrugged, coughed, handed it off to him. “Awful.”

He took a glorious drag while she licked a thumb, and rubbed away the blood that had dried at his temple with it.

“I know we have to go back, Spike,” she told him presently with a hitch of her shoulders. Ah, there she was, then. “I’ve known since we left. I just wanted— well—”

“Can stay the night, if you want,” he offered dumbly.

“I do. Want.”

This did not come as a surprise. Yet as soon as he kissed her, she began to cry and couldn’t seem to stop. When he pressed his lips to her bare back in the middle of the night she turned and he saw that her face was wet again, and tasted her salt of the earth on his tongue.

“I’m not so afraid anymore,” she told him then and in a way that he knew that she meant it.

“How’s that?”

Her face closed off a bit the way it did. He shouldn’t have pressed her. Then she looked at him, dead on. “Things do matter to me, Spike.”

“Oh, sweetheart, I know.”

“I just forgot myself, for awhile.”

“It happens,” he allowed softly.

Her body so near to his. “And— you matter to me. Do you understand what I’m saying to you? You do, don’t you?” Something unimaginable, he thought, and then her mouth closed in on his.

He woke up with his head pillowed on her thigh, and turned his head away from sunlight as it crept across that fucking ugly carpet, rubbing his cheek against her nakedness. Raging bitch, indeed.

*

He was underwater. Drusilla was the only one down there, with him. She swam around him, around and around. She gnashed her teeth at him and smiled.

When he awoke again, he lay there and worried about Dru, all alone, somewhere deep. He forgot that that was where she’d always been.

Spike supposed such thoughts meant it was time to head on out. He took his fags into the bathroom, had himself a smoke, avoided the mirror, stood under the shower for a good long while. So she wasn’t afraid anymore. Brave little girl.

*

When they went to return the room key they found the desk clerk dead. Torn throat, no face left to speak of, looked like something rabid had been at him.

He went behind the desk, found bottled water, an obscene quantity of canned food, a gas mask. All prepared, apocalyptically speaking, then. Look at how much good it had done him. And then there was a gun, untouched, resting on dust and paperwork. Poor bugger hadn’t had a chance. Spike started gathering up a few things.

“What are you doing?” the Slayer asked standoffishly.

“Might as well take some of this stuff with us, yeah? Not like he’s going to be needing it. You see any keys lying around here?”

“Keys?” she echoed.

“Car keys.”

“No. You know what, no. Let’s just go. Get out of here.”

“We have a bit more to worry about than grand theft auto, don’t you think?”

“Come on.”

“Where? It’s the middle of the day. Follow me on this.” Something caught his attention right then, a kind of pawing. He looked to the side door and saw a dog just inside, with matted fur and a bloody maw. It fixed him with a starved, knowing gaze. Oh.

Spike opened a can of tuna, tossed it across the floor. The mongrel nosed it, then nosed the empty can. It came over and nudged his leg with canine solicitude.

“Let’s go,” Buffy kept saying. “Look, I found the keys, let’s go, please.”

“Someone must have abandoned him, yeah? Took up and left him all on his own?”

“Someone must have,” she agreed, in a voice gone surprisingly gentle.

“Should we— kill it?” He knew he couldn’t have done such a thing himself, even as he asked.

“Let’s just go,” the Slayer said with something like patience.

“All right,” he said slowly. “All right.”



Feedback is muchly appreciated.



Part 4

There were the expected questions, recriminations.

She came into his tent when it was all over and wrapped herself around him, a warm body in his arms so that he would have liked both to be hers, his midnight lady, and to bite down. Her flesh looked yielding as it melted into his own. Whatever she’d wanted him to understand the other night in her eyes. Someone save me, he thought, from falling in love with such deadly women.

*

Spike lay awake. Incessant hunger panged, and so it took him longer than altogether necessary to recognize that something was off. To his shame, it wasn’t until a shadow flickered across Buffy’s bare arms that he took note, and then something thudded sickly within his center, as if his heart still beat and everything. Imagine that.

He couldn’t be certain, but he thought he recognized that shadow.

Silently, he left the tent. The night was cool. Mist clung to his skin, and even his gaze couldn’t cut through it entirely. He saw only a tree with sparse branches, a rock, the other tents. The nearest one with the flap open. With foreboding, he held it back and looked on in. Two Slayers, and sod him, but he couldn’t have recollected their names worth anything. Broken necks. He stared for a moment at the cheeks that were still a cheery pink, as if in admiration, and then stepped back hurriedly.

“Come, now. You would look away from such things?” Drusilla said, next to his ear. The tent flap blew in the breeze.

He found then that he wasn’t surprised to have her show up in this place, his lover for over a century. She’d been so constant. Still, he touched her face to know that she was real, and then didn’t know what to do when she was. Her own cheek was pale and tepid. “No,” he said. “No, I—”

He thought then of that girl. Vi. How had he forgotten her name? Nearly killed her himself and now her blood was cooling in her veins.

“You’re so very lost to me,” Drusilla said sadly. “I had thought otherwise. That perhaps— but no. The hand has been dealt. The King of Cups has—”

“The King of Cups can stuff it up his arse. Why did you do this?”

“Don’t be cross. Nasty little Slayers lying about in every which direction. I couldn’t bear it.”

Someone stirred off to the left. On instinct, Spike took his mistress’s hand and dragged her into the woods. They watched, her predatory, he something not entirely separate from that, as Buffy left the tent, rubbing sleep-swollen eyes. “I can’t bear it either,” he said, and hid his face in her hair that smelled of lavender, old wool.

“Shush. You don’t have to. I found you. I found you, even here at the end of everything. Come along with me, sweet. There are tea parties in the streets! Everything’s gone red. We can be for each other what we once were.”

He wondered at this. With Drusilla, he’d made love for the first time, awkwardly, insatiably. He hadn’t quite known what to do with himself or his hands, and so she’d shown him. How to come and how to cry. His mother, his lover. His sweet dark voodoo goddess, dancing for rain. He made the mistake of voicing his enchantment with her. “Human emotions,” Darla had scoffed, and left him in the cellar for five days, or six, perhaps longer. He couldn’t be entirely certain. By the end of it, he would have gone for any throat that crossed his line of vision, pulseless or not. Of course it was Drusilla that they sent down to free him from his constraints.

It was just that he’d been so goddamn hungry, that he’d—

She leaned in and kissed him then, hard. Her lips were cold and rigid and he was unaccustomed to that by now. Unbelievably, perhaps for the first time, he broke away, saying, “It’s a nice thought, love. But I’m not what I once was, you must—”

“No?” she asked slyly.

“Dru, damn it—”

“I see,” she said at his impatience, and in the next moment her face abruptly changed in all kinds of ways.

Then she was at his throat, like before, like that time of being born, but all he could think of was himself at hers, the tearing of that flesh, and then for awhile there was a kind of peace.

*

Harris was the one to find him.

Spike didn’t know this until they’d stumbled halfway somewhere, and the person holding him upright had to pause to readjust his hold on blood-slick skin, and Spike saw a shape, blurred and distorted. Dark hair. The boy?

“Wanna sit,” he managed. This feeling like being much too drunk, forehead to sidewalk. His mind wasn’t quite so peaceful anymore.

It was Xander, manhandling him awake. “Look, whatever got a hold of you comes back for seconds and we’re both dead. Keep moving.” In the end Spike tried his best, but tumbled right to the ground anyway. Predictable. Ribs shifted upon impact, splintered, poked at internal organs. To his utter humiliation, all he could do was lay there and weep at the pain, shallow, tearless sobs that hurt worse than anything.

The boy pat at his shoulder awkwardly, which probably spoke to the level of fucked he was at. What had she done to him? He recalled nothing beyond that first love-bite. “Okay. Okay, I’m going to get Buffy. Hold on.”

Time passed, and then there was another hot hand at his shoulder, hers. She propped him up against her and then waited while he choked on blood. Her heart was as a hummingbird. She said something, perhaps his name. Trying to answer her, he choked on even more blood. He couldn’t breathe. He didn’t have to, but that didn’t matter, he couldn’t breathe. He gasped for air anyway, inanely.

“Spike, shh,” he heard. “Listen to me. I brought you this. Here.” And she tipped something to his lips, which were numb and bloodless. Penny scent. He batted at her as best as he could.

“N-no, no, no,” he chattered, feeling everything inside of him slipping out red. No more.

“Shut up!” she hissed abruptly. “You need this!”

“C’mon, Buff,” Harris cut in. “He’s—”

“A moron is what he is. Spike, I swear to God, if you don’t drink this—”

“Won’t.”

“What the hell are you trying to pull? At least tell me what did this to you.”

He debated lying, but found he couldn’t. “Dru.”

“Dru,” she echoed after a pause. “Drusilla’s here. She did this?”

“She killed—” he tried to say, tried to tell her who, but he’d lost the name again. He was shivering, ice in his gut. He shouldn’t be cold. Vampires didn’t get cold. He recalled telling her that, (I’m dead, aren’t I?) and it was true, but he was shaking just the same. Everything jostling against everything else.

He bit his own lip straight through, feeling the Slayer’s arm slip around him, hair falling across his face like a curtain. “We know. Everyone’s awake now, don’t worry. She’s lost the element of surprise. Just. Would you drink this? You’re driving me insane, here.”

“Vi. It was Vi. She killed her, and—”

“Her name doesn’t matter,” Buffy snapped then. “You have to drink this.”

Then that something at his lips again, (a blood-bag, he realized) the plastic not quite like skin, but slippery and almost, almost. He couldn’t resist then.

*

He could feel things knitting back together, sinew and muscle, his circuitry. His bones made a slow rasping sound as they realigned, like icebergs crashing quiet and white into each other. He had some time to listen.

At some point the witch came and waved her hands around a bit, which cleared his head a bit if nothing else. Enough that he not only heard, but saw. Enough that he knew. “Red, I have to see the Watcher, all right?” he said with a sense of urgency.

She pursed her lips, but left and returned with Giles, who crouched next to him with a cursory, neutral greeting. “Spike.”

“She been back?” He had no idea how long he’d been out and was certain he didn’t want to know. Losing time. He hated that, had ever since all that ugly business with the First, although perhaps this had potential to get even uglier, at least for him.

“We’ve had two girls doing sentry duty at all times. She hasn’t been back.”

“She will be, of course. You realize that.”

“Spike, we’re taking all the necessary precautions for the time being, but I really think we must consider the possibility that she hasn’t made it.” Giles looked at him carefully as if gauging his reaction. “Where would she take shelter, for example?”

“She’s mad, Rupert, not dim. Knows what she wants, that one, and whatever Lola wants Lola gets, right? Not just a stupid song, that.”

Giles sighed. “And what does she want, then?”

“It seems to me it’s probably safe to say, I don’t know—” He waved a hand at himself as best as he could.

“It seems to me it’s safe to say that she wants you dead.”

“She wanted me dead; I’d be dead. No, it came as a surprise to her, things not going her way.” He closed his eyes, said quietly, “She doesn’t mean to be so young, you realize. She just always was.”

Giles was fed up by now. “Spike, if you called me in here to commiserate—”

“I called you in here to— Listen, Watcher,” he ground out. “You remember her eyes. What she did to you. You tell those girls not to look into her eyes.”

“I’ve told them,” Giles said steadily, though after a faltering moment. “All right? Are we finished?”

“Tell them again, yeah? Stress the point. Make up some fancy tale; I don’t give a rat’s arse what you say, just make them see. They wouldn’t ask me to show off my fangs, would they? Same bloody thing. Tell them that. Tell them if they’re stupid enough to get themselves killed, I’ll sodding well kill them again myself. As soon as I can manage it, that is.”

“You’re really frightened, aren’t you?” Giles asked him then, as if in surprise.

Spike was sure that if the Watcher had ever written a book, he would have included this moment, a vampire showing such an unnatural emotion, but really everything he felt was unnatural, wasn’t it? Since Giles wouldn’t ever write a book now, Spike revealed, “’Course I am. I love her still.”

Giles seemed to breathe this in. “This won’t end well for anyone,” he said softly. “I know it’s not in your nature, but please, for all of our sakes, try not to do anything rash.”

“Can’t move, can I?” Spike huffed indignantly.

“If you have to choose sides, Spike, is what I’m referring to.”

“See, now that’s the awful loveliness of this whole situation, Rupert. No matter what I may feel for her, there’s no other side for me to choose, now. Soul and all.” As an afterthought, he added discontentedly, “S’like my love doesn’t even matter, innit it?”

“Don’t lie there and speak to me like you’re anything like noble, Spike. You killed a man.”

“Yeah? You would have killed me.”

Giles visibly drew away. “I had my reasons.”

“Be that as it may, I’m not some soulless creature anymore, am I? No, I have a soul just like yours truly. Might not want it around and mucking things up half the time, but that’s a different story. So, don’t you sit there and speak to me like you’re all high and mighty when we both know you’re anything but.” He had to stop then; pain lapped at him wetly. He felt as if he were sweating, terrible and feverish and he was losing himself to blindness again. The world swam.

The Watcher let him be for awhile, let that sit.

“What you did, Spike, was unprecedented,” he said finally. “Seeking out your soul. Remarkable, really. But what have you done with it? You keep on like this and you’ll be right: your love won’t matter.” That last part hit like a blow to those still shifting ribs.

It was a marvelous bloody parting shot, that, Spike decided. Couldn’t stop thinking of it after Giles left, thought of it the whole night long. Made his own just fall to pieces. Tactically brilliant. Tactics. Tactics. What course of action would she take? Whatever it was, he knew she’d go for the jugular again. Tactics. Think.

But in the end all he could think was your love doesn’t matter.

*

“This is always happening to you,” the Slayer said when she came to see him that first time after Red had done her bitty spell. She was clutching a fresh blood bag.

“What, getting beaten senseless by crazy hell bitches and the like?” She frowned at him, mouth turning down. “C’mon, love. I’ll be back on track in no time. An’ really, this kind of thing is almost like foreplay to Dru.”

“I don’t want to know that,” she said emphatically. “It’s wrong. And, ew.”

“Think of the things we did to each other, then,” he said before he could stop himself. Knew he shouldn’t provoke her, the subject, but sometimes he knew not what else to do with himself, especially all laid out like this.

She wouldn’t look at him, but to her credit she stayed put. “You want this?” she asked him eventually. He did. While he drank, she turned back to him and watched his throat work. “I do think of it. More, lately.”

He would have liked to ask her what she meant by that, but then Rupert was peeking in on them intolerantly. “Buffy, a moment?”

She gave him one final, thoughtful look. He averted his eyes, taking his last sip of O neg.

*

He got so that he could move again, albeit slowly.

Everyone was on edge and each time the Slayer saw him shuffling about like an old man she set her chin in a way that he recognized. He supposed she felt proprietary towards him; he knew that when he’d first set her in his sights, she’d been his to kill and his alone. When she’d died he wept, of course, because he loved her. She made him want to be that which he wasn’t.

Yet at least part of him had been thinking something else during that time, something perhaps more sinister than love, even. It should have been him.

Really, though. Could anything really be more sinister than love? He watched her often in those days when he could do nothing else. She’d withdrawn back into herself, a little. Her beauty was cold and was in her silence. It made him miss hearing her scream, scream for him, at him, didn’t matter, all night long screamingscreaming. What did that say about him?

He recalled Dru’s sly no.

*

He knew when she came back.

Something slammed open in his heart apropos of the nothing that was her return. Outside, he wasn’t at all surprised to see the current sentries crumpled across one another. One neck was twisted at an odd angle, like metal, like Buffy’s had seemed to be both of the last times The First had taken him out for a spin. Well, this didn’t bode well, did it?

“Four Slayers now, love,” he noted, dragging his gaze to hers. “Who would have thought you’d best me in such an arena? Pity you don’t play fair though, innit?”

He could tell one of them was still breathing strong at least. Poor, idiot children. Knew he should call out right then; Buffy and him could have taken her down together, certainly, but he didn’t, and Dru was speaking distantly already, not answering him, never answering. “I’ve decided what I mean to do with you.”

“What’s that, then?”

“It’s her,” she interrupted herself suddenly with condemnation, mercurial. “You reek of her. And it.” Her eyes widened. “Oh, William, what have you done? What have you done?

She surged forward at once and her fingernails dug beneath his shirt, dug in. She clawed him towards her and he came. For a moment they stayed like that, flush to one another, skin and bone and breathless bodies, still as corpses, ha, and he saw that her eyes in that moment were clear, but more than that, entirely perceptive.

He regarded this, her. “But you already know what I’ve done, don’t you? How long have you known what would become of me?” He thought of his last breaths. Burning baby fishes, she’d said. Swimming all around your head.

She pressed her knee up against his groin. “Yes, yes, come out and play.”

“You duplicitous bitch!” he hissed, wrenching her hands from him. Tried to, anyway. He was still weak. Again he knew he should call out; again he didn’t. All he could think of was that neck twisted at that odd angle.

“There you are,” she said, seemingly pleased, even as she put the pressure on.

He moaned, made stationary. “How long?” he ground out. Burning burning burning burning, to Carthage then I came and got royally fucked over in the process.

“Don’t think me wicked, pet,” she implored him. “It wasn’t I who betrayed you.”

“Who was it, then?” he asked bitterly, but he thought he knew.

“It was you yourself, of course,” she said.

He jerked a bit at this answer, its plain truth, despite himself. “Be that as it may, we can’t— I can’t—”

Something in her face fell. “I do know,” she admitted at long last. “It isn’t that you don’t love me any longer.”

“No,” he said, taken aback, but quite honestly. “It isn’t that.”

She took that in, slowly, and seemed to come to a decision.

“Drusilla.” An inkling of fear niggled at his spine. She was a madwoman, his first great love. It wouldn’t do for him to forget himself here. But he’d gone and done it anyway, hadn’t he? “What—”

“Oh, oh. My Spike, did you truly think you could save the world with just the heat of your heart?”

“I thought no such thing,” he said, bewildered, desperate. “Dru, please, what do you mean to do with me?”

“I mean to— I meant,” she started over, her stare glossing over once again. “I meant to keep you forever.”

His heart, as dead as it was, seemed to spasm. “Oh, love—”

“Come then, look into my eyes,” she interrupted nearly inaudibly, and he was drawn once more to her gaze, which commanded him.

Fuck her to Tuesday, but she was putting him under thrall. He’d seen her do it enough times to recognize this, preached at the Watcher on the very subject, but she’d never turned on him in such a way. He’d never once thought she would. He tried to twist away from her but found himself immobilized. “Be in me.”

He was. And for a while, there was only that. White noise hissed in his mind. Rose to a crescendo. And he went under with her, once again. Deep.

*

When he came back to himself, Buffy was prying a splintered branch from his hands. He couldn’t seem to let it go, and clutched at it stupidly. When she finally wrestled it away from him she took it as her own. He looked at it in her hand, the way the wood bled black blood in the moonlight. Her pale white face.

He asked the question of the recently awakened. “What happened?”

The Slayer spoke quietly, perhaps in anger. “Drusilla took out some more of the girls.”

“I sodding well know that. Where the holy hell is she? Buffy?”

“You— she— Spike.” She floundered. Girls weeping to the side over the fallen. He heard and understood their grief in only a hazy sort of way.

“Spit it out, Slayer.”

“Spike.” She stumbled again, the way she did with him. Caught herself. “You killed her.”

Without thought, he hit her.

Her head snapped sharply, audibly, to the side, and what he could see of her eyes glittered. When she looked up, he had no name for the expression she wore, and wondered if perhaps that was what he had looked like to her during that time when she’d lashed out at him without provocation or reason. Thinking Break my face however many times you want, but we both know I’ll fuck you right back into the earth in the end, don’t we? and hoping it showed.

So he waited for her to hit him back, but she didn’t. That was a first, surely. What was this?

Oh Jesus, what had she said to him? What had she said to him?

“Spike?”

“Yeah?” he asked blankly.

“Are you- are you all right?”

“I’m all right.” He stood up and started off past her, but he made a liar out of himself. His vision blurred; he knocked his shoulder into a tree and then had to lean up against it to get his bearings.

“Hey.”

He kept going. She followed, not too far behind. At the circle around the bubblegum dead and wounded, all eyes met his. He saw nothing. Went back to the tent and fell into a terrible, dreamless awareness.

*

He remembered then, scatterings of snippets.

Love is not enough. You know that by now, surely. Silly boy.

Her blood calling his own, she’d made him push the wood through her heart. He understood that she’d wanted that from him, at least. He’d wanted to die once, hadn’t he? Of course.

The record in his mind skipped.

Do you want it? she’d asked him all those years ago.
Do you want it?
Do you want it?

The Slayer came in after him. Her lip was stained red. He was glad.

He wanted to

He would have liked to shoot the whole world down, but in the end all he had the strength for was the push her back and away.

He wanted

There were splinters in his palms. They screamed at him. That old soul-burn. There was

want

*

A memory, of sorts: pressing his ear against the back of his childhood pet, its warm, sun-soaked fur. Grass smell. Watch out for the poison ivy, William. Don’t touch the nightshade. Don’t drink the water.

*

“Are you awake?”

He was. June bugs thumped against the tent-wall. Was it June, then? He hadn’t realized. “You ask stupid fucking questions sometimes.”

She shrugged, bit at a ragged nail like any sweet young thing. Took it. He was sorry for his words then and loathed himself for it. “Do you want to come with? For a walk? An actual walk?”

“It’s nighttime?”

“Of course,” she said levelly. He saw then that the tent opened up to blackness, and nodded.

She took him to where the forest opened up to a field and sat down. He sat next to her. There was the smell of grass and something sharp beneath it. He closed his eyes.

“I’m sorry,” she said haltingly. “I am. I know that you— loved her.”

“You’re not.”

“Spike.”

“Know I’m not supposed to love her anymore, right? But I can’t control who I— Can’t just shut it off, stop it, you know. I would if I could.” He laughed in a way that sounded alien to himself. “Of course you know. Of course.”

“I know,” she interrupted. “But I am sorry, and you can’t control that either, so just—”

“Sod off, Slayer - you hated her. You hated me with her.”

“You hated me back then, too,” she pointed out.

That was true. He pulled grass up by the handful as he redirected. “What will you do with the body?”

She wouldn’t look at him, or couldn’t. “We buried her earlier today. After.”

“Today,” he echoed flatly.

“Yeah. You were sleeping. I thought I should let you— sleep.”

He looked at her then emptily and something stabbed at him, despite the fact that his soul felt the way it did, atrophied. He saw that his fist had smudged her right cheek purple. Broken capillaries visible. She seemed strangely delicate to him in that instant, small and swatting at flies and all alone with such a creature. Under a full moon, even.

Her veins ran as blue and thin as spider webs across her neckline, and he leaned over and kissed her there. As he caught a sob in his throat, she caught the zipper of his jeans and unzipped him, unwrapped him. He was unraveling.

“Is this what you want?” she asked him softly, and with a pause that nearly did him in.

Slayer,” he answered simply.

“It’s Buffy,” she murmured, and then she pushed him onto his back.

This would have been the point where he’d have taken her down at one point, taken her splayed out across the grain beneath a dead sky like a pretty little poem of violet and milk but by this point in time all he was able to do was say, “Buffy. Buffy, Jesus fuck—”

She slid down his body, hands went low, lower, and then her wet mouth found his cock and he looked up to find that swollen moon but couldn’t find it anywhere and he noted this absence and burst into helpless, awful tears.

She moved again, pinning his wrists in one hand while the palm of her other hand pressed flat to the ground, holding her up above him. He was inside of her and could do nothing but be in that moment, inside of her. Her eyes were open to him, and as green as the grass beneath them. Her hair tumbled into his face like a kind of benediction, sticking to his mouth, the tears on his face.

When it was over, he curled sideways into himself. Her arm wound round him, bruise-hot cheek crushed up against his back. Underlying the scent of grass, there was the smell of pine needles, cinnamon, rotted blood. Clutching at this earth, he wept.

*

It was overcast again the next day when she and Dawn took him to visit the newest shallow grave.

He was still a bit wooly on details, and on everything. “You’re sure she didn’t Turn her? Or either of the others?” he wondered anxiously.

“I’m sure,” Buffy said, though it seemed to him that she answered much too fast.

“You checked?”

“Of course I— yes, I checked. Spike, she broke their necks.”

“Oh. Right, then.” He remembered as she spoke.

“Can you imagine?” Dawn asked, with something akin to awe. “A vamped vampire Slayer?”

It ran through his mind, a stream of consciousness: vampire slayer vampire slayer vampire slayer vampire slayer oh spike look at the wonderful mess you’ve made that’s a slayer you’ve done in a slayer a slayer a slayer a slayer a slayer a slayer



Feedback is muchly appreciated.



Part 5

Days passed. They reached that other coast. Set up camp on a beach, per the girls’ request. The place had been a tourist trap, once. Chocolate bar wrappers washed up alongside shells, remnants of such a time. All lost now.

Spike listened to them splash around all day like the children they were, and in the evening he rolled up his pant legs and toed the sand. He remembered I grow old... I grow old / I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled, and kicked at the water as if in defiance.

Then his senses prickled, alerting him to her watchfulness. “Wot?” he asked, consciously slipping further into that old role.

“Nothing,” she said quickly. “You look strange, is all, with bare feet.” She fell into an discomfited silence. He looked down. It was true that his feet looked oddly vulnerable, white and finely boned and entirely human.

He raised his head, saw then that she’d left her friendly little circle around the fire for him. “Go on, now. Don’t want to miss out on any scary tales, do you?”

“I’ve had my fill of those, I think.”

He scoffed irascibly. “Don’t be daft, Buffy. What am I to you?”

“To me?” She frowned. “You’re sad. You’re just very— sad right now. And I get that. But we’re all sad, Spike.” He wondered if she’d prepared this little pep talk. “We’re all missing parts of ourselves by now. You have to—”

“What, just get the fuck over it?” Anger whispered. He knew not what he was going to say to her until the words were already out there, and by then it was too late to snatch them back. “Let me tell you something, Slayer. I’d like to. I’d like to get the fuck over you, I’d like to get the fuck over her, and I certainly would have liked to have gotten the fuck over Miss Cecily Adams before she patronized me towards such an early death!”

“You can’t lay blame here, Spike,” she said, very quietly.

“Oh, from your mouth to God’s giant bandstand in the sky.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that you’ve blamed me for everything under the sun just about twice, including your very own existence.”

“I was hurting then,” she said, face gone sharp and foxish. “Just like you’re hurting right now.”

“Hurt me with every jagged word you spoke to me that year, and you didn’t seem to care much about it then.”

She ceased to keep her voice lowered. “Where is this coming from? Look, I’m sorry. You know I am,” she told him, sounding a tad less than apologetic. “You’re sorry, I’m sorry, we’re both— Anyway, you didn’t have a soul then.”

Apropos of just that, he wanted to watch the sea drag her under. “That’s just it, sweetheart. A soul means absolutely nothing. A soul means shite, Buffy! I killed both with a soul, and without. I loved you with and without. And her. I loved her, don’t you understand that I loved her always? Don’t you see? Without a soul, I never would have been able to drive that stake home. I would have been able to control myself. This conscience makes me weak. Without it, I would have been—”

“Spike, no, that’s not right. What happened, it was beyond your control. She wanted—”

“Nothing is beyond our control, all right?” he hissed, nearly spinning away from himself. “Nothing!

“Spike, Spike, you’re not making any sense. Listen to yourself!” He was scaring her now. The buzz of it went to his head. He liked it.

“The truth is— do you want to know?”

“Yes. Yes, very much.”

He drew a breath. “It may sound futile, but the truth is I hurt her without a soul, but I killed her with one. I hurt you without a soul, Buffy, but I’m hurting you right now, aren’t I?”

“Yes,” she said tremulously. “You are.”

“I’m sorry,” he said, and suddenly was, terribly. “I’ll see you later tonight. I’m sorry. Just.”

“Okay,” she agreed finally. “Okay. You know where to find me.”

He did. She left and he looked back down to see a starfish pulsing, undisturbed.

In certain ways, he missed not having a soul. Thought refreshingly maniac without knowledge. Pant after drool.

*

The world was fogged over for a time. He found that he rather liked it, this new and unnatural daytime existence of his. Sitting on the sand while the gulls screeched above him, and right in front of him Dawn’s long legs cutting through waves as smooth as a dorsal fin. She seemed, he decided, as if she were growing into herself. Sometimes she gave the appearance of looking right on through him.

They all did, actually, and for this reason he never joined their ring around the campfire. He knew where he did not belong.

Kicking stones one day down the shoreline, he met the Watcher in the drizzle. “You shouldn’t have come so far alone,” Giles told him, amiably enough.

Spike scoffed. “Or what? You’ll try and off me again?”

The Watcher tilted his head to the sky as if in reply, to where dispersing clouds complicated things. “It seems to me the sun will take care of such matters.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

Something of his old self thrived, for he’d certainly meant both his tone and his words to provoke, but all Giles did was reiterate, “Then I’d remind you once again that you shouldn’t come so far without accompaniment.”

“Does this rule not apply to you, then?”

“Watch yourself, Spike,” Giles said, and then there was warning in everything right down to his countenance.

“I could kill you with a flick of my wrist,” Spike shot back resentfully. He both wanted a fight, and didn’t. Knew he shouldn’t.

The other man acknowledged this. “You won’t. I know you could. That’s the problem. Buffy—”

“Can take care of herself,” Spike interrupted defensively, if not entirely truthfully.

“She can’t,” Giles said with a father’s strong tenderness. “And neither can you. You can’t even take care of yourself. You’re children, the both of you.”

“I’ll older than you’ll ever know, mate.”

“Yes, of course,” Giles said carelessly.

Spike spun on his heel before he did something he’d regret, and didn’t even know why he bothered, really. The Slayer seemed hell-bent on forgiving him anything. If he took it upon himself he could hold the Watcher’s head underwater, watch his life-force ebb, weight the corpse down. She’d never know that it was he who was to blame, perhaps never even suspect.

Then Giles’ hand closed around his shoulder, warm and rough, and Spike thought for one awful moment that he might vomit. “I do pity you, Spike,” Giles was saying, changing tact. “You’re like— Caliban, perhaps. Yes, that sounds about right, doesn’t it?”

“Well. Aren’t we well-read and clever,” he nearly panted, shaking the hand off. Stumbling rightaways.

“But it isn’t in anyone’s best interests, to love you,” Giles continued. “We touched on that before, I believe.”

“She doesn’t love me,” Spike shot back. “None of them do.” He hadn’t meant to say that last part. Could he do it? Could he fill those lungs full of water and murder? Murder. That was a new word. It had never been that word before.

“Spike, do cease to be so theatrical. It’s always been very tiresome.”

“You brought it up, Rupert. Not in anyone’s best interests. Don’t you think I know that by now?”

“It doesn’t appear so, does it?”

Spike threw his hands up. “Fine. Tell me, what exactly do you expect me to do with my immortality? Keep to myself on my own little Shakespearian prison of an island?”

“Perhaps it would be easier for everyone involved,” Giles told him, nearly apologetically.

“Perhaps. But that’s a deadening existence. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. That woe-is-me Angel bullshite. You want me to be him, you just dress me in a frock or what have you and that will be that, all right?”

Abruptly, Giles chucked. “All right, Spike, all right. I see your point. As I think you see mine, don’t you?”

Spike smiled back ruefully, but it faded quickly. “I do,” he said, and he did. “But I’m sorry to say there’s nothing for it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my many years, it’s that.”

Giles seemed to accept this, at least. He nodded before he left, leaving Spike to pick up a piece of beach glass, feeling its smooth edges gnaw into his palm. Blood welled of its own volition, and at the sight of it, Spike hurled that shard of glass into the ocean, sending an arc of clear and red across that lightening sky.

He went down again, his fingers sliding through sand and coming up with fistfuls of rocks, casting them into livid looking waves for an indeterminate amount of time until he collapsed to his haunches, gasping for useless air with dry, harsh sobs and if this was too overdramatic, if this was too bloody fucking theatrical, he was sorry, all right? He was sorry. It wasn’t like there was even anyone there to witness this embarrassing display but himself, and it certainly wasn’t like she loved him, and he would have liked to lob the Watcher’s head clean off with one of those rocks, and would have had he had a second go at it.

Oh God, he thought with mind-numbing realization. He was a child, a reckless, stupid child, and always would be.

After awhile he wiped his face clean and went on back in the direction he’d come.

*

The Slayer met him at the halfway mark with a suckerpunch.

“What seems to be the problem, pet?” he asked, vaguely interested, rubbing his jaw.

“You. You’re so stupid. You’re so—” Words seemed to leave her, as they sometimes did. Her fist connected with his face for the second time. When he struck back at her, she twisted his arm behind his back and drove him on down to the ground. His knees hit hard, damp sand.

“Want it rough this time, do you?”

She cuffed him across the back of the head so that he went down, got a mouthful of saltwater, and came up coughing. “You bint. What are you on about?”

“What am I— What’s wrong with you, Spike?” Oh, this again. “It’s the middle of the day, you stupid, idiotic— idiot! You can’t just fuck off like that. You’ve been gone for hours. How do I know where you are? How do I know that you’re not dead? And don’t say that you are dead, because I know that and I hate that and— God. What have you been doing?”

“Out. For. A. Walk. Bitch,” he said, and waited to see if she remembered. Apparently she did, because she shoved his head down again, violently. He struggled onto his back and jerked her down on top of him. Her face was tight and furious. When she couldn’t escape his hold on her waist she caught him by the hair and yanked his head back so that his throat was wide open and exposed to her.

“You let me go,” she fairly snarled. “You let me go right now, and I’ll let you go.”

“I never wanted to get away,” he choked out, just as fiercely.

At that, she dropped his head as if it were a dead weight, which it of course was. “Let me go,” she repeated, softer.

He did.

She stood, brushing herself off. Her hair clung like kelp to her face. Emotion made her beautiful, he recalled, and terrible. He stood as well, keeping his distance.

“Spike. I was worried, all day. I’ve been worrying about you for days.” He heard her huff out a sigh. “Aren’t you even going to look at me when I speak to you?”

“No,” he said flatly, and knew not precisely why, except probably that he didn’t want to see how she reacted when he asked her, “So, how does it feel? Letting yourself be all eaten up by feeling for another person? Do you like it? Do you like the pain, love? It agrees with you, I bet, the martyr that you are.”

She yelped then, a little. He glanced up quickly to see her hopping away from the tide as it rushed in. Then she looked up and saw him looking back and it was too late too avert his gaze. She looked at him looking at her, and her chin wobbled. “I’m not stupid, Spike,” she said unsteadily.

“Not like me, yeah?”

She ignored this. “I know you’re trying to push me away. I’ve pushed you away enough times, haven’t I?”

“Is that a rhetorical question?”

“Okay. Okay, you want to dredge things up. Okay.” Her eyes and the wind cut right down to the bone in that moment. “You tried to rape me. How does that feel, Spike? Do you like the way that feels?”

He gave her what he figured was a glazed, rather anesthetized stare. “No,” he protested.

“Well, do you like me throwing it in your face at every possible opportunity?”

“Buffy, Buffy, you don’t have to throw it in my face. I— remember.” He would not cry, not again and not now.

“That’s right,” she told him wanly. “That’s right, Spike.”

“Buffy.” But now he was the one whose words left him.

“So, why did you do it? Tell me.”

“I did it,” he said thinly, sounding as tinny to himself as a recording would. “Because—”

“Because why?”

“Because there’s no— goodness. Inside of me,” he said with a sense of senselessness. “I’m evil.”

She bit at a breeze-parched lip. “And who told you that?”

“You did,” he said, even thinner. “S’true, though. No offence taken. Probably was proud, when you said that.” Except he hadn’t been, had he? Should have been. Wasn’t.

“Spike, when I said that—”

“Look. No, no, you can’t be saying that you were—”

“I’m not,” she told him piercingly. “It was you who was at fault then. I’m saying I hurt you too, and I know it. I’m saying that what I said then wasn’t right, not at all. I know there’s good inside of you, and was even then. I’ve seen it.”

“Buffy, stop,” he said dazedly, and it was that word. No. No. No. Stop.

She finally broke eye contact. “You love me so good sometimes it shames me,” she whispered. “Now let’s get you back to the tents. Please.”

But he didn’t and couldn’t move. He felt disconnected, as if someone had cut the wires that gave him animation. He’d wanted to kill Giles once, and her. And.

She came over and wrapped her arm around his waist. “All right?”

“Maybe, maybe you should just leave off, sweetness. Don’t touch me right now. Maybe we shouldn’t touch each other.”

She held on, like a lover. “Shut up, okay?” she said, not unkindly. “Come on. Walk with me.”

And so he did.

*

Back in the tent. For a time she ran her hand through his hair, teasing out the curls. Sapped of everything but exhaustion, he let her.

“Don’t need a sitter,” he thought to say eventually. He wished for a cigarette, but of course he’d smoked them all during the worst of that bad time, or so he thought. He didn’t remember it, really, but they were gone and that was that.

“I’m going to sit on you, if you don’t stop this— weirdness.”

“We’ve got a bit of a weird history, pet, if you haven’t noticed.”

“Really,” she said wryly. He couldn’t quite smile back yet. “Your roots are showing,” she told him, studying him intently.

“So are yours.”

“Are you suggesting that this isn’t my natural colour?” she asked, so that he had to smile a bit then. “So, Giles has been in contact with the Coven again,” she told him after a few moments. Oh, right. He was sorry then he’d been so caught up in himself, especially when he saw the barefaced fear in her sleepless stare. “They’re on their way,” she continued. “They got delayed.” Pause. “Spike, what if we can’t be helped? If even they can’t help us?”

“Best to let things play themselves out, I suppose,” he said.

“They want to bring us back with them to England,” she said tensely. “They say if we set a base up for ourselves once we get there, bring in as many of the activated Slayers as we can— if we’re well-fortified, we’ll be able to live, like, kind of normally, I guess.” She gave a short laugh. “Not that anything’s ever been normal, with me, really.”

“I included in that ‘we’?” Spike asked, upon gathering the courage. “Know I’m not normal, either—”

“What am I going to do?” she asked right back at him. “Meet a nice, normal boy? I know that’s what everyone wants for me, but I’ve already gone down that road, you know? It’s not what I want. Spike, you’re—” She stared at him as if he were being obtuse. “You were wrong, you know. I don’t like seeing you hurt. I’ve been thinking about it—” There was a long pause. She drew a shaky breath. “Look, I can accept that you loved her, that— that there’s a part of you that I shouldn’t want.”

“Buffy—”

“But I do want it, Spike. I know you feel the same way. Now do you understand what I’m saying?”

“No?” he said thinly, as if he were posing another question.

“You don’t have to be afraid anymore either, you know,” she told him, tripping over her words the way she did sometimes when she wasn’t playing the part of the Slayer. “I’m through with running away from things. It doesn’t help. You taught me— that. So— I really just think you should take your own advice.”

Her hands, like her voice, he noticed then, were shaking.

And the way she was looking at him suddenly could have broken him, so wise suddenly, and so striking, and he closed his eyes. He hadn’t meant to slip off, but awoke near the curve of her, the wingtip where waist met hip, knew not how he had gotten there, had to close his eyes again.

“Spike?” she whispered then.

Just a little while longer, lamb. Have to relearn myself again, here.

*

He awoke to the familiar smell of woodsmoke, alone at last. Dinner time, then. For them. Would be for him soon enough. He was as bad as Pavlov’s bloody dog.

Was shaking what he hoped was the last of the fuzziness off, water off the back, when Dawn came and stood outside of the tent. He waited. Her shadow turned to go and then she said, “You decent?”

“Yeah bit.” Just about as much as always.

She came in and settled down next to him, looking at everything but his face. Finally, she shifted. “I miss being at home,” she told him simply. “Everyone was there.”

“Everyone’s here now, though, right? Just about?”

“Well, you’re not. Not really.” Spike didn’t rightly know how to respond to such a just accusation and was much too weary these days for parrying of such a kind. Dawn seemed to realize this, for she sighed, said, “And Tara. And—” She started once again. “Look, I have these.” Took his pack of fags out of her pocket and showed it to him. “I smoked one. Two. Don’t be mad.”

“Not mad.”

“I thought you might want them back.”

“That I do. Hand ‘em over.”

She did. He shook one out and lit it with fumbling, uncooperative hands. “Spike,” she said quietly.

“I’m fine, yeah? Takes a bit out of a bloke, this kind of thing.” He took a drag. Eventually: “Whatever happened to that amulet, then?”

“Yeah, what was up with that?” She kept her head down when he couldn’t answer her. “Um, well, I shoved it in my bag, you know, what was left of it.”

“Why’s that?” he asked curiously. “Not like it’s any use to us now, is it?”

“It never was,” she reminded him. “Look, I just shoved it into my bag. It wasn’t something I thought about, really.” She added quietly, “It seemed important to you.”

“Ah bit,” he said just as quietly. “But I’ve missed you.”

Dawn looked at him then, at last. “You’ve been laying low for awhile. Aren’t you bored? You never had much of anything like an attention span that I remember, anyway.”

“Right about now? I’d like to get into a serious brawl more than just about anything, if you want the truth,” Spike answered candidly.

“Buffy would probably be up for that.” He glanced at her sharply, but she didn’t pay him any mind at all. Stubborn, sweet girl. After awhile she grinned big at him. “So, can I have a drag?”

He handed the fag off to her, wondering if the Slayer would indeed be up for it, as she said. Knowing he must have caught up to himself again if he were having such thoughts. Good.

*

After a smoke and much cajoling on Dawn’s part, he left the tent with her. Sat a bit away from the others, so that the warmth of the fire just reached them. Could feel the Slayer watching him through the flame. He lit another fag, this time with slightly steadier hands, and watched her right back.

*

Her gaze shifted. She would glance away from him, the flame would leap, she would glance back. He was bemused and halfway to hard when he asked, “Think we’ll be needing more firewood any time soon?”

Buffy shot him a venomous glance this time. Faith said, as coy as could be, “Just about.”

“I’ll just be seeing to that, then. Anyone care to help out? Seeing as how we shouldn’t venture off all unaccompanied.” He said the last part with what he figured was the perfect amount of smugness, then chanced a look at the Watcher and decided to just get himself the hell out of dodge while he was still ahead. He’d made it all the way up the underbrush before he heard her coming up behind him with quick, scuffling footsteps.

“Inappropriate much?”

“No need to get shirty, is there?”

“If I knew what that meant I think I’d say yes, yes there is.”

“Here now, just because no one else has a sex life to speak of doesn’t mean we should keep ours all private-like.”

“Well, you know, that’s what sex usually is, Spike. Private.”

“Yes. Not in my experience, but I’m sure you’re right. Private. And now we’re all on our own. And in such a secluded area! You see how I engineered that one?”

“You’re brilliant,” she said flatly, and plopped down on a log.

“I am, aren’t I?” He perched next to her, thinking then of the crater that was now Sunnydale, her now terribly distant front porch. “Slayer? You remember when we were friends of a sort?”

“I remember,” she said, though still a tad haughtily. Kicking at rocks. He peered at her to see her downturned face better. At that, her feet stilled.

Her sneakers were muddy. Bits of sand stuck to ocean-damp cheeks, giving her a kind of silver glow. She was dirty and beautiful. Her hair was getting longer, just the way he liked it, the way it had been before he’d named her Goldilocks and she’d gone and flown off the handle and hacked it all off just to spite him. He reached out and fingered a loose, strawy strand, winding it around a finger. Oh, their history. It was as heaving as that ocean he could still hear in the distance roaring; as imposing and as inescapable. It threatened to sweep him away, but he held his very own ground for once.

“Saw you watching me back there,” he told her. She’d been watching him for years, in one way or another, and him her. It was both comforting and terrifying, that. He saw that contradiction in her eyes as well.

She dug one heel into the moss. “I know you did.”

“You remember this too, then?” he asked, hand slipping beneath her shirt. Traced oven-hot skin with his fingertips. Her heel dug in deeper.

“Spike,” she said, perhaps attempting to scoff at him but squeaking instead. “We do this, like, all the time. Of course I remember.” Finally, her lips quirked.

“Thought perhaps we could be both of those things to each other at the same time,” he said nearly shyly, and felt like a right bastard too. Who spoke like that? William - his former self, that decorous ponce?

“I’d like that,” she said, softly, sweet. Like before, in the tent. But then she took his hand and pushed it down and away from her, rising. Took a few steps and hesitated. He waited, apprehensive and restless, watching the horizon of her back and of four-legged clouds that were fewer than before. “But you have to catch me first.”

“What’s this, then?” he asked uncertainly.

She hesitated again. “You know— you know I like it when—”

“When I catch you?”

“When I let you catch me,” she clarified with a smile and a dare and a promise in her voice, and darted away from him. He wavered, shrugged, took pursuit.

And she let him catch her up around the middle from behind.

Had they finally caught up to one another, then?

She let him catch her and he did. Spun her around and she spun with him, laughing out loud for a moment at the sensation so that he wished they could spin like that till they were dizzy and sick with it and stone cold dead, the both of them.

But instead he put her down and she shoved him easily up against a tree and that was even better. Bark bit into his back, but he cared not a lick. I think I was in heaven, she’d said and he’d felt at the time things that he shouldn’t have ever felt. Wanted the seraph then. Lucifer could go fuck himself if William the Bloody had the chance to rest betwixt the Slayer’s parted thighs. Turned out she wasn’t an angel, of course, not sodding likely, that, but he loved her just the same. He loved her just the same.

Now. He loved the way she was still laughing a bit into his mouth. That he mattered to someone, to her, in such a tangible way.

Not much of anything was of importance right about then. So the world as they knew it had left them behind. And he’d never be over Dru; she’d made him into the creature he was. Which was someone who was reckless, and stupid, and a child: always reckless in love, and the world knew he loved as a child loved, forever, unreservedly. Stupidity went without saying.

But there were worse things he could do, he supposed. Worse things he could be. Worse things he’d been, oh yes.

So that was that, then. Ever-ravenous, he lunged in for a taste of her, and kissed again her still smiling lips. And truth hit everywhere.

*

End.