All About Spike - Print Version
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Angels of the Silences
By Annie Sewell-Jennings

SUMMARY: Three years down the road, Buffy and Spike try to find happiness amidst all the broken glass.


SPOILERS: Through "Showtime", set post-US7

ARCHIVAL: Please request permission prior to archival.

DISCLAIMER: The characters within this story are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy Productions. I merely inflict torture upon them because I am evil and sadistic, and like to make them cry. The song that introduces the story (and the song that inspired the title, and, in a way, the fic, is from Counting Crows' "Angels of the Silences". But if you listen to it, download the VH-1 Storytellers version. It's much prettier.

AUTHOR'S NOTES: Thanks first of all to Alanna, as always, for being the lovely and talented writer and friend that she truly is. Also, thanks to harmonyfb for inspiring hysterical conversation, wonderful support, and excellent beta services. Finally, thanks to Laura, because she's Laura. :)

Every night these silhouettes appear above my head
Little angels of the silences that climb into my bed and whisper
Every time I fall asleep, every time I dream
"Did you come? Would you lie?
Why'd you leave us 'till we're only good for..."

--Counting Crows

Sometimes, she thinks that it's only a matter of time.

Doesn't like thinking like that. Doesn't like delving into the darker recesses of her mind and pulling up those awful fears. She would much rather linger in the lovelier places, where there is wine and twilight, and no promise of daybreak with its blistering sunlight.

But sometimes....

He told her before. Warned her. Said that he knows what part of his madness was external, caused by the First, and which pieces of it will always belong to him and him alone. And she accepts that a part of him will always see those silhouettes sculpted out of shadows. A part of him will always find voices in the hush of evening, and there is nothing that she can do to stop that.

Still, she was foolish enough to think that love could build temples out of rubble, and sometimes, when something is absolutely destroyed, there is nothing a girl can do but pray.

It's really a shame that Buffy doesn't believe in God.

Her skin smells like cobwebs and musty clothing, like history and paper. Spike bends down to the curve of her naked neck and breathes her in deeply. She giggles, wrinkles her nose, swats at him playfully.

"Stop it," she chastises. "I know I stink. Stinky Buffy."

But she doesn't. Not to Spike. Even if there's sweat and mothballs clinging to her pores, he doesn't mind. She's been cleaning the house recently, a difficult task what with all of the invisible bloodstains, and today was attic day. He could hear her crying through the floorboards, and ached to be upstairs with her, but he understands these things.

There are some ghosts that love just can't exorcise.

She's sitting on her bed now, flipping through a milk crate full of her mother's vinyl records. Spike sits behind her, arms and legs wrapped around her body, occasionally tugging off various articles of clothes when he smells tears on her cheeks. Always tries to paint a smile on her face. Nuzzles the nape of her neck. Kisses the top of her spine.

Spike peers over her shoulder and arches an eyebrow at the title of one record. "Oh, that's a good one," he says, and Buffy frowns.

"Didn't they do that song from Mannequin?"

A groan. Sometimes, her musical ignorance astounds him, but then she does that little stretch of her back that makes her shoulder blades look like angel's wings, and Spike remembers that she's well-versed in other subjects.

He worries at those sharp little bones with his teeth for a second, and then tugs the record out of her hands. Briefly abandons the anchor of her body so that he can put some music on the old record player that once belonged to her mother. The sounds of Jefferson Starship start to waft through the room, and Spike sighs. He settles back in behind her, listening to the sonic landscapes of old music as it surrounds him.

"Brings me back, this one does," he murmurs into her ear, and he can hear the smile in her voice.

"That's because you're a very, very old man."

A teasing growl, and then he pulls her back onto the bed, kicking the carton of records out of her hands with one bare foot. She sighs, so lovely in nothing but her jersey shorts and a sports bra, and Spike lets his hands prowl over her breasts. Tweaks an alert nipple with his fingers, ah, she feels so good. Feels her wriggling against him, a kiss landing on his jaw like a butterfly lighting across a leaf.

"Did I ever tell you I was at Woodstock?" he says, his fingers sifting through her hair. Got the finest hair, his lovely Slayer. Like sunlight woven into silk. She hums and shakes her head, shifts her body so that her ass brushes against the burgeoning hardness of his groin. Little minx.

"Tell me."

"Wild party, that," he says. "Great music. 'Course, back then it was Jefferson Airplane. Different lineup, but that's beside the point. Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Tons of people. Hippies everywhere you looked. Wild times, those were, and the drugs were absolutely smashing."

She snorts. "Of course, you would remember the drugs."

"You're a silly victim of Nancy Reagan, Slayer. Just saying no isn't half the fun of just saying yes."

"Now there's a bumper sticker for you."

"Do you want to hear the story or not, pet?" When she shuts that pretty mouth of hers, Spike continues. "Dirty place, of course. Could smell people and pot all the time. Slept in some bird's tent, me and Dru, sitting around taking hits off of a glass bong and listening to some of the best music this sorry world's ever had, while Dru made flower crowns and I braided hair."

Buffy laughs in earnest now, and oh, it's better than any music he's ever heard. "You braided hair?" she teases, and just to prove her wrong, Spike starts braiding hers. Just little sections, just little strands. Like a kitten, she is. Just purrs and rubs her cheek against his chest, all kinds of content.

"Did what we had to do to fit in," he explains. "Didn't care about the protests, or the wars, or civil bloody rights. But we were clever, you know. Knew how to get an in. Wore the bellbottoms and grew my hair out long, and all we had to do was flash a peace sign, offer a joint, and then...."

blood kill bone snaps hide the bodies kisses like copper taste the drugs in some git's veins


Buffy's voice is stern, and Spike sighs. Closes his eyes and extends his hand, only to have it lightly slapped by her little palm. It's routine, this act. Whenever things get too rough, whenever he starts turning sweet into sour. He understands it, of course. Because there were moments of loveliness in his century of murder, and he'll never pluck them from the barbed wire mess if he lets himself get pricked by all the rest of it.

Sometimes, it feels like his entire world is made of needles and daggers.

She's soft, though. All gentle curves and satin skin, and he tries to steady his hand in the simple action of just combing through her hair. Tries to block out the old dead smells with the fine fragrance of her lime-scented body. The nearness of her is everything to him. Without her, he would have nothing. Nothing but memory.

"Keep me going, you do," he murmurs, and she takes his hand from her hair. Plays with his fingers, turning his hand over to examine it in the muted evening light. Knows what she's doing. They get caught up in each other sometimes. Remembers sitting up all night once, just lying in the bed beside her, marveling at the delicacy of her collarbone.

A faint smile whispers across her raspberry mouth. "Same to you, babe."

The song changes, and suddenly Grace is singing about islands full of babies, and he can feel the tension in her shoulders. The stiffness in her body. Realizes very quickly that it was a mistake to put this album on, when it's so full of expectant motherhood and lovely impending children.

The one thing that she can never have.

Quietly, Spike pushes her off of him and onto the mattress, and without ever saying a word, he slips to the stereo and turns the music off. The room plunges into a thick silence that no amount of pretty words can cut through, and when he steals a glance across the room at her, he sees it. That faraway look. The one that says that she's miles away, lost in the desert of her mind, where tumbleweeds of impossible dreams roll through the wasteland.

Wants to ask for her hand. Slap her lightly across the knuckles for thinking of badness. But he knows that it's different with Buffy.

After all, she's earned her pain.

Last Christmas, they got plastered together.

Just the two of them sitting at the kitchen table, knocking back a couple of bottles of merlot. Telling stories. Laughter and slurred language. They made noise and when Spike accidentally spilled wine on the carpet, she didn't scold or fret. Listened to cheesy Christmas carols over the radio, and Buffy howled and cackled when Spike got up and did a half-drunk almost-striptease to "Santa, Baby". But the whole time, she knew what he was doing.

Trying to keep the walls from talking.

They didn't decorate. Didn't haul out the fake Christmas tree from the attic, or hang garlands on the front deck. No tinsel or bright pinpoints of light. Two weeks before the holiday, she tried to get the box of ornaments down, but she got caught up staring at the paper ornaments that Dawn had made in her elementary school years. Macaroni and glitter, childish spelling, and that sweet school photograph of Dawn's her sister's gap-toothed smile.

You would've been nineteen this year.

When he heard her crying through the floorboards, he brought her downstairs and made love to her until she was all right again.

It happens all the time.

It doesn't make it easier, of course. If anything, every time is a little bit harder. A little bit worse. It's another slam on the idea that one day, all of this will go away, and they'll be allowed to have the peace and quiet that they so justly deserve. They'll never be allowed to be completely happy, because there are twilights like this one.

When she got home from school tonight, she found him in the backyard. Barefoot and vulnerable, his naked body huddled underneath a tree while he clawed at his face and sobbed out incomprehensible words that might have been names. There are grass stains on his pale, pale knees, and dew clings to his skin. The fine residue of his daymares.

Every time this happens, it kills her a little bit more.

He sits on the edge of the bed, his head in his hands. Fingers covering face. Hiding like he used to, when he was stuck in the shifting shadows of his soul. She does nothing. Says nothing. Just sits beside him and tries not to stare. When he gets like this, he doesnít like to be looked at. Doesn't like to be touched. And while she knows that she can never understand what this is all like for him, she understands that much.

Sometimes, when things get that intense, a gentle fall of fingers can feel like a fist.

So she just lets him be. Waits for the bad moment to pass. Tries to be understanding, and calm, and available all at once. In case he needs her, or in case he wants her, she's here. Ready and waiting. Buffy keeps the room quiet so that all of his internal noise won't grow too loud. Doesn't burn their candles because she knows that his senses are jangled and every little thing can be too much. She keeps a glass of ice on the nightstand because she knows that he likes the cold on his back.

Tries to be so good, but inside, she's screaming.

Tell me! Why can't you just tell me? Give me something, give it all to me! I'm the reason that this is happening to you, that you're broken and busted, and you won't let me help you, and I just want to touch you because I need that, too, and....

But Buffy says nothing. Does nothing.

And she knows that when she goes to sleep tonight, she'll dream of the day when he finally tells her everything, even though she knows that that day will never come.

She's laughing like a maniac, screaming like a child.

Slipping and sliding on the wet grass, dodging gravestones and giggling at the top of her lungs as Spike chases her through the cemetery. Rain falls from the skies in buckets of water and soaks her to the bone. And he's yelling all sorts of nasty words at her, made not-serious by the occasional burst of laughter from his own throat.

"Gonna get you good, Slayer! Gonna tear off your panties and...." There's a wild, high-pitched giggle from him that makes her laugh back. "Stop it! Don't laugh at me! I'm all kinds of... bad, and nasty, and...."

"Fuck you!" she howls back at him, even as his fingers dart out and snatch at her drenched linen sleeve. "You're a pervert, an animal, a... a..."

A yummy-sounding growl and he lunges for her again. She shrieks with joy and tries to escape, but Spike's too fast and he grabs at her waist. Tackles her to the ground, and they land in a pile of grunt and giggle. Buffy's laughing in peals of silver, and she squirms and shimmies beneath him, knowing it will only inflame him. Sure enough, he's groaning and biting at her neck with playful nips. "Got you good, I do," he purrs. "Got you so good."

Of course, he's right. Knows it too well, as he kisses her breasts through the thin, sodden linen of her shirt. She arches like a rainbow, so warm under the cold rain that she thinks that her skin must be steaming. When his teeth scrape over one swollen nipple, a thousand sparks rush down in between her legs, and she's wetter than the rainstorm beneath him. Kisses down her tummy, and his hands push at her blouse so that he can tongue her navel.

And then his hands unbutton her jeans so fast that she worries he might've broken the buttons, but her stupid frets are quickly discarded when she feels the smoothness of his cheeks against her belly. The world opens up, and needles of rain fall from the heavens, and she thinks that they must be so beautiful that the skies are weeping with envy.

Because nobody can love like they can.

"Mmm, so hot, you are," he rasps against her, and his fingers drag over her panties from her slick, wet pussy along that inner strip of sensitive flesh, hard and dragging so that she's gasping and pitching. "Gonna do all sorts of nasty things to you, I am. Cause I'm a bad, awful man."

"Oh, whatever," she says, but her attempt at nonchalance is pitiful. Hard to act careless when his thumb is pressing hard against her clit, rotating that button of nerves against her pubic bone at that oh-so-good angle. She gasps and shivers, and then buries her fingers in his hair. It's all curly and springy, the way that she likes it, the softness released by the summer rains. "You're not so... oh, yes... Not so bad...."

And then Spike tears off her panties and he's very good indeed.

He's not the only one who dreams.

Their sleep cycles will never quite coincide, try as he might to match her nighttime slumber. So he stays awake and lies in the bed beside her when she sleeps, his hands moving over her body, trying to coax her through caresses into dreams that don't end with tears.

But Spike can tell when it all comes back to haunt her.

A shake of her shoulders. A twist of her body. That pretty brow of her rumples and worries, and she whispers bleary bastardizations of names pulled from her past. From the history of dead and buried that only he really knows.

In her sleep, she reads her obituaries, and it breaks his heart every time.

Willow... Xander... Anya... Giles, oh... Mommy... Dawnie, Dawnie, Dawnie....

All that he can do is kiss her brow and tell her that she's alive, that he's here, and knows that even as much as she loves him, he can never fill that open grave where all of her dead are buried.

When the Santa Ana winds start to blow in whispers of movement and inferno, and the dry tinder of summer keeps them restless and weary, they sometimes talk about leaving.

The ice is cold and brisk against the back of her neck, and she jumps a bit when it first makes contact. His fingers sift through the wilderness of her sleep-tousled hair, and he kisses the cartilage of her ear. Whispers sweet nothings into her ear. She keeps her eyes closed tightly against the dim of the room, trying not to drink deep of the past that surrounds her.

But Buffy can still smell it. That green tea essence that was murmuring through her nightmares. Can still see the bright crimson whip of hair pressed against the backs of her eyelids. She can hear the chirrup of girlish laughter in the brushfire winds and the sigh of Spike's gentle voice. It doesn't matter that she's washed these sheets a thousand times and burned her citrus-scented candles in this bedroom.

She can still smell Willow everywhere.

They're sitting at the kitchen table, their hands wrapped around mugs of coffee, while the newspaper pages rustle and the smell of pancakes sizzle from the griddle. There's Tara at the stovetop, dressed in that pretty chartreuse robe with all those beaded designs, and Dawn's going to be late for school yet again if she doesn't wake up soon, and she can hear Xander honking the horn from the driveway....

Cool fingers curl around her chin as she hangs her head. She doesn't have to open her eyes. Knows that he's crouching in front of her, holding the ice to the back of her neck to keep her skin from immolating, whispering promises and empty dreams in her ear.

"And when we're done with North America, we'll hop a plane and jaunt over to Europe. See the Eiffel Tower, and go to Madrid when the bulls are running. Get you drunk on German beer. We'll go to jolly old, and I'll embarrass the fuck out of myself. Show you where I was a young nothing. Get you on one of those nude beaches in Cannes, and you'll show those skanky French birds what a real beauty looks like."

She smiles at that. "Big pervy exhibitionist guy."

"Once a pervert, always a pervert."

Slowly, Buffy raises her hand to his face. Traces the cool lines of his features with her fingertips, like she can absorb all of the angles and planes, construct an image of his familiar face with her imagination alone. She tries to read him like Braille, because sometimes, the beauty of him is too much and she goes blind.

She wants to see these places. Wants to travel beyond the deserts and wastelands of California. See the majesty of the Grand Canyon. Feel the spray of water from Niagara Falls. She wants to see snow for the first time in almost a decade, and wants to hear voices that aren't so flat. Wants to make new memories amidst unfamiliar architecture. Wants to make love to Spike in places that aren't so drenched in death.

But there are gravesites that must be tended to. There's a house here on Revello Drive that her mother loved with all her life. Just because the Hellmouth is now silent doesn't mean that she can abandon the ghosts of green tea and morning pancakes. Someone has to take care of the history.

Someone has to remember, and she's the only one left.

Slowly, Buffy opens her eyes. Gives him a fragile smile.

"Tell me about Russia again."

Fantasies are all she'll ever have, and her passport will always remain empty and unused.

Time. It just keeps passing, in a procession of minutes and hours and days. Some are better. Others are worse. There are moments when it should stop and times when it can't move fast enough. There are a thousand sayings and proverbs about time, about how it keeps marching on, about how it heals all wounds.

With every passing hour, time makes the memories bleed.

She sits in the middle of the bedroom, surrounded by photography. Gutted photo albums are strewn all around her in a chaos made of celluloid offal, and paper cuts burn berry bright on her fingertips. But that's not the pain that Buffy feels. Not the pain at all. It's not so sharp, not so cutting. Instead, the ache in her heart is blurry and bleary. Yellowed and aged.

It's the pain of forgetting.

She's been searching for hours. Desperately tossing the wrong pictures aside, her eyes hungrily prowling over every shot, trying to find what her memory cannot give her. Looking, looking. Trying to ignite that dying ember of memory, trying to make it shine again. Make it shine like her mother's frozen smile, or the blaze of Willow's bright hair when it was still long and girlish. Graduation. Birthday parties. Stale school pictures.

Rip and tear, and she doesn't care that she's making a mess. Her head is all tossed around, all strange and awful, and Buffy has to keep looking. Keep trying to find that right shot. Because she can't remember quite the way she used to, because it's such a stupid little detail that she took for granted once upon a yesteryear. But none of those little nothings are silly or frivolous now. They mean the world to her now.

Because if she can forget this, then she can forget anything.

The smell of her mother's sachet. That quirky little half-grin that Willow used to shoot her when she was geeky or silly. The sound of Xander's nervous laugh. The many hair colors of Anya. If she can forget one detail, then can she forget the rest? Can she forget the way that Tara's voice used to whisper before she grew strong and then dead? Would it be possible to lose the memory of Faith's firecracker grin?

And if that one awful day were to come when Spike was taken from her arms, could she remember the vibrancy of his very being?

When Buffy starts to sob, Spike is there in an instant. She never quite understands how he knows these things. Can he smell her tears with his vampire nose? Can he feel her sorrow through that dark connection that they share? Or does he just know her so well that he can predict when her tears will start to fall? In any case, here he is. Bare feet sliding over the glossy, discarded photographs, his arms around her back, holding her as she cries, whispering gentle words in her ear.

"Shh, luv, I'm here. Have your cry, tell me what's wrong. We'll fix it up."

Remember this. The way that he can hold you just right, not too small that he can't cover you, but not too big that you lose every bit of yourself in his embrace. The smell of his skin, like whiskey. Don't ever forget the sound of his voice.

Buffy sniffles. Tries to pull herself together, tries to explain what she's lost. The world's not composed only of grand, sweeping crescendos and snappy melodies. The richness of it all is written there in the minor notes, the subtle introductions and fragile decants. If you take all of that rich underwriting away, then everything feels so hollow, and she never understood that before. Never understood it at all.

"Dawn's hands," Buffy whispers to him. "I can't... I can't remember what Dawn's hands looked like."

And because he's Spike, and because he loves her, he understands. He holds her inside of the solidity of him, and Buffy watches with silence as Spike takes over her task, looking for photographs, his own lovely hands turning the pages until he finds the right picture and Buffy remembers again.

He dreams about her quite often.

To be expected, he supposes. She's infiltrated so much of him, coiled herself tightly inside of his soul, her delicate fingers wrapped gently around his broken heart. Only makes sense that she would climb deep inside of his dreams, that images of her would flash through his mind when he sleeps.

After all, she's all he's got to lose.

They're in a lighthouse, somewhere in the middle of a raging sea. Abandoned, dirty, ancient and full of secrets and lies. The glass is all broken and the oceanic wind is playing with her hair, tossing it into tiny frazzled curls as he sinks his fingers in the mass of it all. She's moving all around him, warm little body bright and beautiful.

Touches her belly. Touches her breast. Touches her soul.

And then she's standing at the open window, the revolution of a massive light playing over her soft curves. Wears nothing but a plain white sheet wrapped all around her pretty body, and the light bleeds through the finery of the sheet. Illuminates parts of her, turns the rest of her into dark.

"Do you think it would hurt?"

The light turns again, right in his eyes, and in a flash, she's there behind him. Running her hands through his hair. Touching his chest, her hand over his silent heart. "It didn't really hurt before," she says softly. "I thought that it would, and it did, but only for a minute. And then it was gone, and it was worth it. Did it hurt for you?"

The light keeps moving.

And now she's standing at the window again, but this time, she's dressed. Familiar clothes, dove-colored pants and white shirt, hair all loose and fine around her shoulders. A look of utter peace and tranquility on her face, little strands of gold moving in her eyes. Suddenly, the sea is bright with crackling electricity, with energy and bright dimensions opening up all over. Dragons flying free. The lighthouse shakes and trembles.

"'Cause it's always got to be blood," she says softly.

He screams, reaches for her, but the light moves again and she's gone.


And she's here.

Sitting on the edge of his bed, her hand on his chest, fingers wrapped around the nape of his neck. Worried green eyes, skin so vibrant, and he can hear the drum of her heart as it rapidly beats. "Buffy," he gasps, and he falls forward. Buries his face in the crook of her neck, inhales the living scent of her.

Poppies today, and the faintest hints of nutmeg and cinnamon. Holiday season. In the autumn, she smells like baking things.

She wraps her arms around him. Moves her hands up and down his back, kisses his forehead with whispery lips. "Shh, it was just a dream. It's over. Just another dream."

As he holds onto the solidity of her, clutches her tightly to him, he wonders. Wonders how long it will be before she's standing on the edge of a busted window, looking down at the rocks below, asking him if he thinks it'll hurt.

He just can't help but wonder.

On Dawn's nineteenth birthday, they sit in what was once her sister's bedroom and tell stories until sunrise.

She never quite got around to changing it. Never could bear to take down the pretty curtains or the glossy posters of her little sister's schoolgirl crushes. The butterfly-patterned comforter is still perfectly made, and every other Sunday, she dusts so that it maintains that sense of almost-clean. Still dirty clothes on the floor. A pen uncapped on the dresser.

The only thing that Buffy cleaned was the blood.

So here they are, sitting on the floor surrounded by discarded sweaters that will never be worn again, going through their memories while eating sugarcoated cereal straight from the box. A sad little tribute to the girl who'll never grow older than sweet sixteen. And sometimes, her hand trembles as Buffy eats dry Frosted Flakes, but then he'll tell her something that will make her laugh, and it's okay.

Because she needs the good memories just as much as she needs the bad ones.

After the dust falls and the danger is over, Spike falls to his knees and finds it impossible to move.

He doesn't really remember her. Not from before. Pretty thing, naturally, because they were always pretty little trollops in lace and leather. Smelled of cigarettes and fresh kills, but there's that faint little whiff of jasmine and rum that might be a snippet of memory. Can't really tell. But when she saw him and said his name with a smile, he knew.

She was one of his.

How could you use a poor maid so?

It's been a little over a year since he saw the last one. Man that time, a former college kid with the rakish good looks and sexual ambiguity that had drawn him to Spike in the first place. He knows that there are some of them that got away, and there are probably more. Never quite knew the exact number, after all. Can't remember their faces, their bodies, the taste of their blood.

And it always hurts whenever it happens.

Can't ever escape it. What he's done. What he was made to do. The weakness in him still surfaces and slaps him in the face, and when this stupid little vampire laughed at him in the alley behind the Bronze, he could hear the First singing its song. Could see all of those who were dead because of him rising from the shadows, laughing and smiling, beckoning to him with their cold and open arms.

"Come on, Spike. You made us. You belong to us now, just as we belong to you. Come into the dust and the dark, and we'll help you back into the bad of things. This is the world you made for us. Live in it."

Couldn't speak. Couldn't move. Not even as the little brunette walked towards him, all decked out in stereotypical leather and chains, dark lipstick and fingernails lacquered with black polish. But maybe once, they were bluer than the summer sky that he stole away with his teeth and blood. Can't quite tell. Can't quite remember. It's all fuzzy, all....

She struggles underneath him, writhes and cries, her rum and Coke spilling to the floor as he buries his teeth in her jasmine-scented neck and drinks, drinks, drinks....

Buffy was the one who did it. The one who killed her. He was worthless, useless again. Just stood there like a gaping git while Buffy thrust the stake into the girl's heart (what was her name, fuck, was it Kathleen? Kathy? Katrina? Something with a K, something....) and reduced her to nothing but dust. Just erased her, quick as that.

But it doesn't erase what he's done.

Now, there's a hand on his shoulder. Big green eyes peering up at him, a worried expression marring her pretty countenance. Rumpled brow, strands of stray gold hanging in her eyes. There's dust in her hair, poor little thing, happens to her all the time. Doesn't know, though, does she? Doesn't know that this was probably a nice girl once upon a time, a sweet girl who probably played pool on the wrong night against the wrong opponent who should've made that last shot, because she was gambling with her life, and....

"Spike? Spike, what's wrong?"

He just shakes his head. Can't say a word.

Because the ghosts are always there.

When she wakes up in the middle of the night, he's not there.

He stands at the window with the pane cracked, a cigarette shaking between his fingers. Doesn't smoke all the time, not like he used to, but on occasion, when things get bad, it seems to calm him down. Smoke unfurls, wraps around his features, makes him look farther away than he really is.

Buffy licks her lips. "Spike?"

"Shh," he says in a heavy voice. "I have to keep lookout."

He does this every once in a while. Will move out of bed and stare out the windows into the world for hours on end. Waiting for something. Something bad that might happen. Watching for shadows of former enemies that maybe they didn't vanquish, or looking for the First to come back and prey on their souls with its sharp teeth. She doesn't know.

But she knows from the tone of his voice that he is definitely farther away than just these few feet.

Quietly, Buffy slips out from between the sheets and crosses the distance. Does it very carefully, as not to startle him. Slow, measured steps, just padding across the carpet in her bare feet. Her hand moves softly over his back, and when he doesn't tense up or shrink away, she knows that it's still gentle enough for her to touch him. That she can still coax him back to her.

So she kisses the nape of his neck. Traces the shape of his shoulder blades.

"Come back to bed, love. I miss you when you're gone."

And he turns around, buries his face in the crook of her shoulder, and lets her talk him down.

She loves coming home to his good dreams.

Sprawled out in the bed, all long, sweet limbs. Mouth half-open, curled into a smile, eyelashes a dark slash of soot in his pale, pretty face. She loves the way he sleeps. Loves everything about him, yes, but oh, he sleeps so deliciously. Tangled up in covers, snuffling and purring, cock half-hard in the way that tells her that he's dreaming about her. And if that were not evidence enough, all she has to do is listen to his sleep-talking....

"Oh, yeah, Slayer... mmm, like that, you dirty...."

Her feet hurt. Her back is killing her. On the walk home from school, she dreamed of bubble baths and glasses of zinfandel that never emptied. Maybe a backrub from her lover's talented fingers and then a night of mushy chick movies (which he claims to hate, but she always sees him smile at that first dance in The American President) and a full eight hours of sleep.

But now....

She lingers for a minute in the doorway. Gives his sleeping body a smirk that she stole directly from his lips. Puts her hands on her hips and purses her lips as she looks down at him. Buffy shakes her head. Weighs her options. And then widens her smile as she leans down, and arches her eyebrow at him.

"Dirty, huh?" she murmurs. Keeps it quiet; doesn't want to wake him up. Not quite yet. Just chuckles at him, and hears him snort in reply. "I'll show you dirty."

A kiss on his neck. Right there, under his chin, and Buffy smiles as Spike hums with pleasure and tilts his head back to give her better access. Even in his sleep, he knows. "That's my guy," she smiles. Lightly, oh-so-lightly, she teases her teeth over his jugular, feels his Adam's apple jump as he sighs. Her fingernails dance like whispers across his chest, draw circles over his nipples. Knows he's sensitive there. She's learned his weak spots by now.

Like his hands. Buffy traces the lines of fortune carved into his palms with her fingertips, and watches his fingers curl and twitch, like a puppy dreaming of open fields and happy hunting. Of course, he's hunting other things in his sleep. Hears him slur out pet names and terms of endearment. Drinks up his words like they're wine.

Traveling, wandering. Drawing lazy circles and meaningless designs on his abdomen. Dips a finger in his navel and smirks when he arches his hips. She lets her eyes linger on his cock, watches as it twitches and elongates. "Mmm, I love watching you get hard for me," she confesses in his ear. Takes his earlobe between her teeth. "Watching you get aroused...." She winks, even though he can't see her. "Has pretty much the same effect on me."

And it does. She's growing wetter by the minute, with every little motion, every little touch. Feels tensions move from one place to another, until she has to shift her body on the bed so that the seam of her trousers presses just right. And then slowly, oh-so-slowly, she moves her hand down to touch him, and....

His fingers reach out. Grab her wrist before she can even realize it. She gives him a look of mock-shock, even as Spike looks at her and smirks. Dammit, no matter how much she practices that look of his, he'll always do it better. "Want to be awake for the rest of this," he murmurs. "After all, this is the good part."

She widens her smile. Grins at him mischievously. "And what makes you think that things are going to get good now?"

He grins back. "Experience."

Buffy gives him the innocent eyes. Protests with a little "hmph" in her throat. She pulls her hand away from his and stands up, gives him a big pout. "Men," she huffs, crossing her arms over her chest. "For your information, I'm actually exhausted. I worked a very long, hard...." She gives a coy look down to his erection, and arches an eyebrow. "Day."

With that, she steps out of her heels. Makes a big point of sighing, rolls the kinks and knots out of her shoulders while shrugging out of her suit jacket. "As a matter of fact, I was thinking about just ordering a pizza," she informs him, slowly unbuttoning her blouse with skilled flicks of her fingertips. "Maybe popping in a movie."

Off go the trousers, and oh, she can feel his eyes as they prowl hungrily over her body. She teases him for a moment, hooking her fingers through the sides of her underwear and swivels her hips. Watches him lick his lips, like she's something delicious. Like he's just dying to let her taste explode on his tongue. And just when she's about to pull down her panties, Buffy switches her hands up to unfasten her bra, and Spike snorts out a laugh.

"Got an idea about other things you could pop in, pet...." And with that, he slips a hand down to fondle himself. Gives her a leer that makes her knees feel weak, and for a moment, she almost throws out this entire idea of going slow. He always does this to her. Makes her forget her plans in the proposition of delicious, dark passion.

Buffy remains brave. Frowns at him for trying to distract her. Another little indignant gasp. "No need to be crude," she says, even though her actions contradict her words. She runs a palm over her breast, fingers flitting over her nipple. It's as much for her benefit as it is for his. She's dying here, wants him inside of her now. Wants him to work his magic, push and pull at her sex and her soul, until she's screaming for release.

Instead, she smiles at him slow and sensuous. "After all, it's hard being a working girl. Dealing with melodrama and evil monster kids every day. I mean, sometimes, a girl just needs her rest, you know?" She sighs dramatically, and reaches from behind her to pull the clip out of her hair. Shakes the tumbled locks over her shoulders, humming all the while, and she sneaks a peek at him. The tension in his jaw, that little growl caught low in his chest....

She smiles. He can never resist her hair.

Suddenly, Buffy stops. Frowns at him. "Oh, I don't think this is going to work," she says, and Spike arches an eyebrow. Widens his eyes, all alarmed. It pulls at her heart, that even after all these years together, he still gets nervous when she stops, even when she's playing around. Still so fragile. Still so sweet.

"What?" he asks anxiously, and Buffy gives him a little smile that tells him that she's only playing. That she would never tell him to stop, never tell him to go. He's here, stuck in her heart, and she'll never force him away from her.

"We've run into a problem," she says conspiratorially, and she steps forward. Picks up his hand and places it on her hip, hooking his fingers through the sides of her china-blue panties. "You see, I'm just so dog-tired that I can't get these off." She arches her eyebrow and tilts her head at him. "Help?"

A devilish grin sweeps over his face. Makes her want a thousand things. Wants to run with him through thunderstorms, fuck him in danger and darkness. Wants to lick spilled champagne from the sinews of his body and feel bubbles and desire sparkle in her belly. Oh, the possibilities.

And they have all the time in the world for it.

Spike leans forward and removes his hand from her underwear, instead wrapping both hands around the backs of her thighs. Tugs her close to him, so that she's standing between his legs, and she can feel the tip of his cock pushing at the top of her thighs. Almost melts, almost sags, and then....

A wolf-grin. "You know me," he says slyly. "Always willing to help a girl in need."

And then he bends down and tears her underwear off with his teeth.

Does it with a growl that shoots straight into her groin, and then she squeals as Spike pushes her onto the bed. They kiss for what feels like forever, her teeth sinking into his lush lower lip until he's hissing into her mouth. Tongues dancing, dueling, teasing in their familiar way. She gasps when he pulls away and starts trailing kisses down her neck, imitating the way she'd nipped at his skin while he'd slept just minutes earlier. His tongue slides around one hard nipple, and she claws at his back and groans. Feels so good; he always feels so good.

But when she wraps her legs around his waist, tries to draw him inside of her, he swats at her knees and wags a finger at her. "Ah-ah, luv. Thought you were all knackered. Too tired to play." His hands trail up her thighs, setting off sparks inside of her belly, and he sniggers at her. "So just lie back, nice and easy, and let Spike do all the work."

Before she can protest, tell him that she's more than ready, he's kissing all the words out of her mouth and she forgets to fight back.

Kisses on her breasts. Little bites and nips on the sensitive undersides. When his teeth tug gently at one nipple, and then the other, Buffy arches and moans. A shiver of arousal cuts her right to the bone, and she gasps for air and release. Feels all swollen; her skin's too tight for her heart right now. Spike wraps slow fingers around her wrists and lifts them above her head, and then buries his mouth in her armpit. Travels up to her forearm, and then slides the length of him up her body so that he can kiss the pulse points in her wrists. His cock moves over her belly, towards her breasts, and Buffy wants him inside of her. Where he belongs.

"Got all this tension, you do," he murmurs. "Work so hard, my little teacher. Ain't much you can teach me, pet. Got this all figured out. See, you squirm and wriggle like a serpent when I kiss you here--" And he lays a kiss on her fingertips that tingle for the contours of his slender body, making her thrash on the mattress. "And you purr like a lioness when I do this--" Draws her fingers one at a time into his mouth, gnawing on her fingertips until she's rumbling and mewling out his name.

Oh, they do know each other well. Over the years, they've learned exactly what makes the other scream and sob, until the lovemaking is so good that she can just think about the arch of his clever eyebrow and get wetter than a typhoon. And she was stupid enough to think that they might one day suck all the mystery and excitement out of each other. That maybe, one day, they'd grow so accustomed that the sex would lose its fire. Its fury. Its fever.

But the sex still shatters her world, and she knows by now that it will always be like this.

So he knows just how to kiss her ribs without making her squirm and giggle (she's so ticklish, something that Spike just delights in taking advantage of), and he knows the dangerous secret of her erogenous belly button. Feather-soft kisses trail down her thighs, and she arches towards him, begging him with her body to focus attentions in the cradle of her loins. But he just impishly smirks at her, and his magic fingers tiptoe down her leg until he's holding one foot.

Buffy groans with pleasure when he rubs her aching arch with his fingers. "You women and that silly footwear. That's why you've got all this pain, you know. Should really think of just dumping all those stupid shoes out the window, pet."

She hisses in a breath, in absolute ecstasy from his healing touch. "Spike," she moans, "if it were up to you, I'd go around barefoot and naked all the time."

He bites on his lower lip, arches a dark eyebrow at her. Gives her that teasing tongue-between-teeth look that always turns her into an absolute wreck of a woman. "Well, luv, it's how you look best."

And then he draws her toe into his mouth and she's thrashing back and forth on the mattress. Trails his tongue over her aching insole, nips at that vulnerable Achilles' heel, and makes her yammer incomprehensible words. Repeats this with her other foot, until she's in absolute ecstasy and agony all at once. Wants so much of him, wants all of him. Wishes that she could have him all at once, licking, kissing, biting, thrusting....

Suddenly, in that flash of vampire-fast motion, he's between her legs, and she's flying. Gasping and groaning, wanton and wild, as Spike furiously laps at the source of her wetness, the teardrop of his upper lip worrying at her hard clit. Her eyes widen as she looks down, and oh, it's just so overwhelming to see that bright head of his between her legs, the smile on his lips, the strong hands wrapped around her slim waist.

The very existence of him overwhelms her at times.

She's speeding. Going a thousand places. Running through the world with him, gasping for air, pushing past the shadows and into the blinding light. It doesn't matter if he'll never be able to love her in daylight. The brightness of Spike eclipses the sun, throws her off her orbit, pushes her into a solar flare. He's everything, he's wonderful, her world, her galaxy, her universe....

And then, just as she's about to burst into starlight, he's inside of her and she's in heaven.

It happens every now and then. When things get exquisite like this. He pushes her out of this world and places her into a paradise more exalted than the oasis she once knew in death. Because this is all of the madness and glory of life, throbbing inside of her, blooming like all of those vibrant colors he planted in the death for her. Divine because he is here. Delicious because this is what love is all about.

Afterwards, of course, she always falls from glory and back to the ground, shaken and sated. But it's all right, because there's Spike groaning over her body, until she kisses him into climax and feels him fill her with his own release. They stay together, sighing and sweet for a moment. She lies beneath him, her hands spread out over his back, legs twined around his waist. Listens to the words he rasps like sugary sandpaper into her ear.

And when they are rested, it starts all over again.

They often talk.

Tell stories. Tease. Make jokes. Whisper about things that they can remember. They lay around in their afterglow, drinking champagne and sharing each other's company as the ecstasy lulls them into something that feels secure. He'll tickle her knees and tell her naughty rhymes that make her giggle like a schoolgirl, and then she'll talk dirty into his ear until he's begging for another go.

But there are some things that they just don't discuss.

He never tells her his dreams. Doesn't let her know about the faces that emerge from the shadows, or the voices that whisper his sins in his ear when he tries to sleep. Can't talk about those things. Doesn't know how to put them into words. He doesn't tell her that there are some mornings when the sunlight calls to him in angels' tongues, or that on some mornings, he inches toward the open door and thinks about stepping into the day.

She never tells him her fears. Doesn't let him know that she can hear the whispers of all her dead laughing far off in the distance when she tries to sleep. Can't talk about those things. Doesn't know how to put them into words. She doesn't tell him that there are some days when the site of the old tower calls to her in silent sobs, or that on some days, she walks alone to the place where she once died and thinks about falling into the morning.

They never lie, of course. Lying is not a part of this relationship. They have rules, carefully laid out. No more deceptions. But there are certain things that they simply choose to exclude. Like the fact that he still hears ancient songs whispering murder in his ear, or that she still gets blinded by the light of a heaven she can no longer hold.

Neither of them want to add to the other's burden. She knows that he bears enough on his shoulders, with the soul that never allows him rest or reprieve, and she doesn't want him to worry about the call of a lost paradise. He knows that she's lost everyone dear to her heart, that he's all she has left, and that he has to somehow make himself worthy of the place she holds for him in her heart.

So they laugh, and sometimes they cry, but they never talk about the things that could tear them apart.

Even when it's killing them.

And time keeps moving. Keeps going on. The seconds are still ticked off, the minutes continue to march, and the hours pass in a repetition of collected moments, counted by the clock and calendar. Everything moves forward.

But one day, the telephone rings, and the world holds still.

She's calm when she finds out. Collected and composed. Every word that comes out of her mouth is said in nothing more than a murmur as she asks the proper questions and gives the proper responses. She writes down the information on a little pad of paper kept beside the phone. Promises to take care of everything. Make the arrangements. Sign the paperwork. See the attorneys.

She's used to this by now.

When she hangs up, Buffy's fingers linger on the receiver. Like her fingertips are suddenly attached to the molded plastic. The clock seems to stop, and the ground beneath her is cold and full of truth. She knows that the world must still be spinning. Knows that time must still be passing. There are birds outside that still sing their wordless tunes, and there is sunlight still passing through the slits of the blinds. Everything continues on.

But she's stuck back in a time when her father was still alive.

Birthday parties. Ice shows and cotton candy. Ribbons and bows. Lullaby and a kiss goodnight. Bedtime stories and pajamas with feet. Shoe shopping and first dates, and the way that he would smile at her when she walked down the stairs. The day she left Los Angeles with her mother, and how he'd kissed the top of her head and told her that she would always be his little girl. His Buffy.

"Buffy? Buffy Summers? I know we've never talked before.... This is Belinda. I know... knew... Your father had a heart attack this morning. No, I'm sorry. He's not... He's not all right."

For a moment, Buffy remembers. Remembers that day when she came home and things were not all right. She can still smell the greenhouse flowers that Brian left for her mother. Can still remember the clothes that her mother was wearing. The awkward way she was strewn across the sofa. And oh, she remembers that moment when she knew that she was all alone.

But now, she really is.

Slowly, her fingers relinquish their hold on the telephone. She cannot think these things right now. Cannot afford to falter along memory lane. Instead, Buffy closes her eyes. Tries to breathe. There are things that she has to do now. Tasks that must be performed. She has to go upstairs. Has to pack and get ready to leave. She'll have to tell Spike (she'll have to say those words aloud, she'll have to say them herself and make them real), and call her job.

She'll have to go into her closet and pull out her funeral dress.

But her feet do not carry her to the bedroom. Instead, she finds herself walking outside and into the day. Like she did when she got sick, when she became weak and threw up on her mother's carpet (was so afraid, what if it stained, and then something would be ruined). She stands on the back porch for a moment, staring out dully into the ghost world around her.

Everything sounds normal. There are kids out in the streets playing jump rope and riding bicycles. There are bees humming in the gardenias. She can hear the radio from upstairs, the music that Spike plays to keep himself from hearing things. The faintest silvery wind chimes.


His voice is softer than velvet. Slurry from sleep. She does not need to turn around and see his face, because when she closes her eyes, she can see him just fine. Standing there, shirtless and bleary-eyed. A hand in bed-tousled hair, a worried expression on his face. Spike always worries now. "Everything all right?"

No. Nothing is all right. Her mother and sister are gone. The curtains in the living room still smell like Giles' burning body. All of her friends have gone away, and now, her father has left her, too. All that she has left in the world is Spike, and she can feel him slipping through her fingers with every passing day, and it's just a matter of time before he abandons her, too.

It's just a matter of time.

"It's my father," she says through numbed lips. "He had a heart attack this morning. He's dead."

She sees the pain as it sears across his face. Reads him like the open book he is. The way that his blue eyes get this obliterated, shattered black tint. The tightening of every muscle. She can see his thoughts. Can read his mind by the light of all of Spike's easy, brilliant anguish. He's thinking that this is all too much for her, that this is unfair. That she shouldn't have to bear this pain all on her own.

What he does not see is that she can't feel the way that he does.

His hand extends, alights on her shoulder. Cool fingers that feel like nothing at all. "Oh, luv, I'm so--"

She shrugs him off. Doesn't say a word. She has no words to give him, no pain to draw the letters from. Everything just sinks into oblivion, and she goes with it so that she can do this. So that she can keep walking, and breathing, and living.

And she goes upstairs and starts packing.

There's a box in the corner of her closet in which she keeps her dead.

Little items. Just a gathering of seemingly meaningless belongings. Giles's glasses. A lock of Willow's hair. Xander's hammer. Cherry red nail polish from Dawn's collection of cosmetics. The abandoned bouquet from Anya's never-wedding. A bar of her mother's soap.

They're just pieces and particles. Not anything really meaningful. Just little scraps of the past, contained in a shoebox. Something that she pulls out every once in a while when she can't remember the exact shade of Willow red or the way that her mother's skin smelled. Something to help her get through the lonely nights when love just isn't enough.

Now, she sits in a cold bedroom in Malibu and tries to pick through her father's pieces.

The apartment is small, sparsely furnished. He spent little time in it. Usually, her father was out of the country, traveling around Europe in expensive sports cars with pretty women who smelled of pricey perfumes. So this little apartment in Malibu tells few stories of the man who occasionally inhabited it. Magazine subscriptions. Silk ties and Gucci loafers.

Buffy buried him this morning in one of the tailored suits she found in his closet. Surrounded him with white lilies and crocuses. She's still not sure about the flowers; she doesn't know what he liked. What he would've wanted. But she remembers when she was ten, and Dawn had to have her tonsils taken out. He'd brought her white flowers and baby's breath in the hospital, delicate and pale blossoms that blended in with the harsh white walls, and he'd smiled and called them his "girls", and....

And now there's only her.

It was hard to find anything at first. Everything here is so sterile, so clean. The bright shine of a cappuccino machine in his stainless steel kitchen. A bleak design that contradicts all of the bright, colorful flurry of her mother's artistic sensibilities. Designer clothes, expensive computer equipment, a home entertainment center. IKEA catalogues stacked neatly on the dining room table and plastic plants that don't require watering. Her father was never very good at upkeep.

But in the storage space out back, Buffy found what she was looking for.

The scratch of an old vinyl record starts to play on her father's expensive turntable, and Buffy closes her eyes. She can hear Spike in the living room, moving around in that restless way of his. Irritation bubbles up inside of her, and she wants to tell him to turn it off. To stop making noise. Doesn't he see that he's disturbing the peace? How on earth is she supposed to figure out who her father was when Spike keeps intruding everywhere?

But she doesnít say a word.

Maybe this bottle of Polo cologne is him; when she opens it up, she can smell hugs and goodnight kisses. Or maybe he's here in these ticket stubs from old ice shows, each one dated on her birthday weeks. Is this him, this scratch of Joni Mitchell weeping from the living room? She doesn't know. Doesn't know him at all.

She's lost something vital. Lost something dear and true. She's lost the man who gave her piggy-back rides in preschool and hung her messy finger-paintings on the refrigerator with pride. But she's beginning to think that she lost him years ago, and now she'll never have him back.

Spike's weight settles on the bed and tosses around the scraps of celluloid that she has laid out in front of her. Yellowed pictures of her father in college, when he grew a beard and wore his hair long. Stale, dull photographs of a gap-toothed Dawnie grinning at the camera in a school picture. None of these things say anything to her. They don't conjure up any recollection. Don't capture the essence of a man who'd waltzed out of her life when she turned sixteen.

But then she picks up another photograph, and she has to restrain herself from laughing.

She can't be more than three in the picture. Bouncing on her father's knee while they both wear 3-D glasses and laugh hysterically. A little sigh catches in her throat, and Buffy runs a finger across it. "I remember this night. 3-D night. Dad got these awful glasses so that we could watch some really, really cheesy horror movie on TV."

The smell of microwave popcorn. The shriek of someone's terrible acting. The soft plaid flannel of her daddy's shirt, and the rough beginnings of a beard on his cheek.

A velvety laugh purrs against her ear, and she feels Spike's arms wrap around her waist. His chin settles on her shoulder as he gazes at the picture in her hands, and he extends a finger. Traces the shape of her chubby, childhood cheek on the surface of the celluloid. "Look at you," he chuckles. "Looked like mischief even then." He shakes his head. "Don't know how he could keep all these treasures all locked up."

She doesn't want him to say things like that. Doesn't want him to remind her. She's lost back in her happy baby days, back when her entire world was composed of mommy and daddy, when she was secure in the knowledge that they loved her just because she was theirs. But here he is, with his voice slightly bitter at the way that Hank walked out, souring the easy love she once had for her father.

"He loved us, you know," Buffy says softly. "I know that.... I know that he wasn't there a lot of the time. But he loved us."

His voice is harsh, sour. "Then he should've been to Dawn's funeral. Shouldn't have just sent flowers when your mum passed on."

"Maybe he didn't think he was wanted."

"Maybe. Still, doesn't matter, does it. That's not what being a parent's all about, is it."

Softly, she runs her finger across a tiny, crocheted baby bootie. It smells of powder and that clean smell that only small children possess. She wants to bring it to her nose. Inhale the scent. Breathe it into her lungs and carry it with her forever. Instead, she just puts it down.

"I wouldn't know."

They'd talked about it before. During one of those late-at-night conversations, simmering in afterglow, when he'd put his hand on her flat little belly and asked her if she would ever want anything more than what little he could give her. And she'd told him "no" with kisses and lovemaking, told him that he gave her everything she could ever want.

But he knows that she still thinks about it.

She's sitting at the table now, surrounded by her father's paperwork. Signing off on various legal forms given to her by the attorneys. Sorting through deeds. Flipping through a rolodex of business contacts and remaining family members. Every once in a while, he sees her freeze when she comes across an ex-girlfriend's number, and he hates that she makes the calls anyway. Hates that she says the words in that dull, dead tone of hers. Like none of this really matters.

Spike knows better.

Feels helpless. Feels useless. Couldn't even go with her to the funeral this morning, as the world was all bright sunny daylight. Instead, he just watched her slip into that heavy black dress that she's worn for every funeral. Helped her fasten the difficult butterfly clasp on her mother's pearls. Told her that he loved her, that he'd be here whenever she got back, that he'd be there with her even if he couldn't walk into the morning. But all of his reassurances fell on death-deafened ears, and Buffy said nothing in reply.

So he paces. Plays music. Looks at the old photographs of the child that she once was, because sometimes it hurts too much to look at the woman she's become. Loves her, yes. Loves her endlessly. But there are pieces of her that he never got to touch. Pieces of her that had disintegrated into ash by the time she finally let him hold her.

There are pieces of her that are missing, and here in these photographs, he can see who she used to be.

He chuckles for a moment as he looks at the small stack of pictures Buffy has decided to take with her. Little Buffy, maybe three or four, holding her father's hand on Halloween night. Dressed up like the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, all straw and face paint, complete with a handful of candy corn. "You liked that movie," he murmurs.

The angular, thin woman sitting at the table does not look up from her paperwork. Just slowly signs her name off on another document and files it neatly away in a manila folder. "I always wanted to believe that there was something better on the other side of the rainbow." A subtle shrug. He wishes she'd take off her funeral dress. It's beginning to remind him of bad things, and the cut does not really suit her. "Every kid wants to believe that, though. It's why kids love that movie."

"Fantasy lands."

Another flip of the paperwork. "I didn't know that the fantasy could hurt."

"You should eat something, luv."

There are casseroles and lasagnas in the refrigerator. Her father's coworkers and secretaries brought them over. It's something he's learned over time. Everyone always cooks for the ones left behind. Puts their heart and soul into making dishes so that the bereaved won't have to worry about it. But what they don't know is that they could put cat shit in their casseroles and it would taste just about the same.

Did anyone cook for the families of those I killed? What did those girls' mothers eat after I left their daughters' bodies on their front steps?

"No, thank you. I'm not hungry."

She's always so polite.

Spike flips through to the next photograph. The little Summers sisters sitting in front of a Christmas tree, Dawn giggling as Buffy cupped her hand around her sister's ear to tell her a secret. He chuckles at that. "Even that early, you were keeping secrets."

"I wasn't telling Dawn a secret. I was spitting in her ear." When he looks up, she's just filing another bill away. Another Xeroxed copy for the sake of proper documentation. He can't remember the last time she slept.

"I'm sorry for what I said earlier. About your dad."

The tinkle of a metal paper clip as it falls onto the glass table.

"I know."

"Didn't have the right to say it. Just don't understand how he could.... There are just things I don't understand."

A brief pause, and she flips another page. "I know."

He can't sit here anymore. Can't sit at this table while she makes her endless notes. Can't sit here with this stranger in her dark dress that reeks of fake flowers and false sympathies. He can't watch her twist her mother's pearls around one manicured finger and pretend that all of this means nothing to her. So Spike stands up. Moves around. Stares at the emptiness of this dead house and tries to figure out if this apartment feels more haunted than the craftsman house on Revello Drive.

And then the paperweight smashes against the wall.

Startled, Spike whips his head around to stare at her. She's standing now, her eyes wide and unreadable, darker than the muslin of her funeral dress. The papers are still stacked neatly in front of her, that immaculate little pile of discarded paper clips, all of those forms signed with her bubbly teenaged signature that never really matured over time.

"I can't do this anymore," she whispers. "I can't."

It's his turn now to be understanding. His turn to look at her with empathy and tenderness and show her that he understands. "I know."

But it doesn't help. She just glares at him with eyes sharper than the shards of glass now littered across the once-spotless floor. "No. You don't know. Nobody knows what any of this means. I've been sitting here for hours trying to figure this all out. What the attorneys said. What he left behind. And I don't get it. I don't get why he kept us in his storage space and why he didn't go to Dawn's funeral. And I don't understand why I'm sitting here picking up his pieces. Why I always have to sit here and pick up pieces."

He doesn't have the answer, because he doesn't understand it, either.

Buffy licks her dry lips. Wrings her wren-tiny wrists. "I'll never have children," she whispers, and that wasp sting penetrates so deep into his heart that if her words were made of wood, he'd be dust right now. "It's okay. I don't blame you for it. I don't want them. I couldn't do right by them, not the way that Mom did right by us. I couldn't even show Dawn that I.... Do you know why? Why I can't love the way that everyone else can?" She swallows hard.

"Because all I have are the pieces."

Oh, Buffy.

And then she widens her eyes. Like she's said too much. And then everything just shuts down again. The light starts to dim, and he watches her with increasing horror as she retreats back into herself. Slowly, she bends down to the floor. "Oh, look," she says softly. Her hand hovers over the jagged pieces of glass from the destroyed paperweight. "I've made such a mess...."

Before she can reach down to start picking up the pieces with her bare, fragile hands, Spike snaps out his own fingers and snatches her wrist in his grasp. "Don't. You'll cut yourself. Just leave it, Buffy. Don't try to pick it up."

She does not look at him. "But I have to keep everything neat. Keep everything clean. The way that Dad...."

Fuck. Fuck, but he knows what she means. It's the same reason why she never changed the curtains in the living room, even though they can both smell the way that Giles burned in the poplin fabric. It's why she never picked up the dirty clothes that litter Dawn's empty bedroom. Why she hasn't thrown this black dress into the fire and let the ugly garment burn.

Spike grabs her chin. Jerks her face to meet his. "Come on," he says firmly. "Let's go. Don't have to stay here. We'll get a nice hotel room, right? You can finish up the paperwork there, and we'll get someone else to clean all this up."

A wild, desperate laugh that could almost be considered a sob. "Don't you get it, Spike? There isnít anyone else laugh. There's only me."

Oh, fuck. Fuck. He can't handle this. Rubs his palms into his eyes, winces and turns away like he's looked into a solar eclipse. She's gone dark in the sky, and it's blinding him. Should've known, but he was a daft bastard sometimes. Everyone in her world is dead and gone, and with the sudden passing of her father, Buffy's now the only one left.

You're not enough for her.

Spike flinches, shakes it off. No, not now. Not when she needs him. Stop the whisper, stop the murmur. "You, you can't keep doing this," he says. Stares at her, tries to keep his focus on her. But she's slipping away. Just a sliver of who she used to be. "Buffy, this is killing you."

She says nothing. Just turns her face, and he's there in a flash, his hands on her shoulders, forcing her to look at him. But even then, she's just looking beyond him, into outer space with her telescope eyes that see for invisible miles. Desperately, Spike touches her hair. Shakes his head. "Can't even see it, can you? You're all torn up, luv. Surrounded in all this death, and--"

Buffy gives another one of those desperate noises that sound like a thousand different emotions all clumped together. He hates that sound. It makes her seem unhinged. "And what? What exactly can you do about it?"

Oh, how he wishes she would shout. That she would scream, or cry, or break something else. God, even the old beatings would be better than this. He'd gladly offer himself up to her as a sacrificial lamb if she'd only stop talking so calmly. So quietly.

"I can't bring them back," he whispers. Runs a hand down the soft of her cheek. So warm. So hollow. "Can't do the mojo like the others could, or turn back time and fix it all. But neither can you, Buffy. Luv, you've got to let it go or it'll kill you."

"The same way it's killing you?"

She's looking at him with twilight eyes, so dark and murky that there's barely a hint of color in them. Her face hard, her voice numb with cold. "Tell me how to let it go, Spike. Tell me how you get the right to tell me all of this when you can't do it, either. Tell me about all the voices you hear, or the things that you see. You want me to talk about it? Then tell me what you dream."

You're losing her.

He thinks he might have cried out. Thinks he might have pushed her away. But all of a sudden, it all crashes onto him, and he can hear them in the background, laughing at his stupidity. Of course he'll never be enough for her.

Because he's too far broken to ever be repaired.

He can hear her in the background. Hear her beyond the murmur. "Oh, God, Spike, I...."

And he wants to tell her. Wants to show her his demons, let her see his fears and try to make her understand. But if he does that, if he shows her all of his sins, illuminates those shadows, then she'll see what he's done and that will be the end. And he knows that that's selfish, but oh, if she were to leave him....

"I can't," he whispers. Doesn't look at her. Just puts his hand in his hair and winces. "It's different, luv, you don't know--"

And then she shuts down. Turns away. And that moment of empathy and of need is gone, and he knows that he's ruined everything. All because he can't risk losing her love, and now he doesn't know which is which, what is what. Doesn't know a damned thing, except that she is marble in motion, picking up her dark coat and sliding into the sleeves.

"I have to go," she mutters, and he reaches out for her. She pulls away. Refuses to meet his eyes. "No, Spike. I just need to be--" She doesn't have to finish it.

Because she's already alone.

Of course, she does not go far.

Just down the little path to the beach, where she slips off her shoes. Sits down by the rocks and strips off her panty hose. Wants to feel the sand between her toes, like it was when she was a little girl. When times were simpler, and there were steady hands holding her up, swinging her through tidal pools. Keeping her from falling down.

She should not have said what she said up there. Knows that it hurt him. Knows that he's suffering. But she can't tell him what she's feeling, can't tell him that she feels alone when he's like that, that he's cutting himself into to pieces and that she's helpless against his destruction. She can hold him in her arms, press her cheek to his neck, whisper her I-love-you's into his skin, but none of that will put him back together again.

And oh, it hurts to think that even as much as she loves him, she'll never be able to save him.

A whiff of magnolia and crocus drifts past her nostrils, tainted by the tang of the saltwater air, and Buffy closes her eyes. The funeral. Those awful hothouse flowers that she hates so much. They stink of artificial life, of false things, of lies and waxen corpses that don't really look "just sleeping". She wishes that her father would've chosen something else, like Giles's apple blossoms or Willow's bright wildflowers.

When Spike finally kills himself, you won't have to pick the flowers. You don't have funerals for vampires.

No. You don't have anything left of vampires when they're gone. She won't have any souvenirs to keep in a shoebox tucked away in the back of her closet. No gravestone to visit and lay dying flowers on. No evidence that there was once a beautiful man who loved her more than any man has ever loved a woman, and she was too far gone to save him from his own foolish heart.

She swallows the thought like a bitter pill. Closes her eyes, draws her knees up to her chest. She doesn't want to face this thought. Doesn't want to acknowledge it. But she knew from the start. It's just a matter of time before the screaming deafens him and his sins blind him. Can feel it every time he claws at his skin or whispers for his inks.

And now, he's the only one left, and she can't take the thought of his death.

The sea is calm and quiet, just little finger-waves pushing softly onto the shoreline. The tide is coming in, sending frothy bits of foam over her bare toes. Buffy closes her eyes, bends her head so that her chin is hooked on her knees. Stares out blankly at the dim horizon.

It's funny, but sometimes, she can see them. In little shapes, in little ways. Knows that they aren't there, but it's so easy to see the white of Willow's arms as she dances in the water, or the pale spill of Tara's bright hair as she holds her lover tight. They're singing dead songs on the sea-spray, and Buffy can see Anya's wedding dress as Xander holds her up, carries her across an invisible threshold....

"I dream about the dead."

He's standing over her. Dressed in black, his hands shoved in his pockets. Eyes on her, so dark in the twilight that she cannot see the blue of his soul. Hair as bright as the ghosts in the water. Buffy says nothing, just stares up at Spike as he swallows hard and keeps talking.

"Not just the people I... killed. But the rest of them. Sometimes, it's Giles on fire in the living room, or Willow all cut to pieces. Dream about Dawn a lot. Or your mum. And they tell me things. Tell me what kind of a man I am. Tell me that I'm not good enough to hold you here. And they show me the things I've done, the girls I've.... The boys I've...."

His voice cuts into a sob, and she reaches out for him. Takes his wrist, pulls a hand from his pocket. Feels the tremor in his fingers, and tries to warm his cold palm against the dim heat of her cheek. "It's okay," she says softly. Gently. "It's all right."

But he's crying, his tears landing on her face, blending with the sea buffeting her skin. "They know, you see. Know I'm not good enough for you. Tell me that you're falling to pieces, and it's all 'cause of me, and that I'll kill you one day. And I dream that, too. You, falling off a tower, or with your wrists slashed up, cause I can't... can't save...."

"Oh, Spike...."

But Spike can't say anything else because he's sobbing harder than she's ever seen him cry before, so she just pulls him down onto the sand and wraps her arms around him. Covers him up inside of her, murmurs shushing noises into his ear. Puts a hand in his hair and rests her chin on his shoulder. And she can feel how much she loves him here, how much she aches for him, for all that he's suffered and continues to suffer.

And she knows in that moment. Knows it with a determination that she hasn't felt in years. She loves him fiercely. Loves him wholly and completely. Loves Spike more than she's ever loved anyone else in her life. She can't let him go. Can't walk into the ocean and get swept away by spirits, because he needs her. Because she's not alone.

She'll never be alone as long as he's still with her, and that's enough reason to live.

"Thank you," she whispers. "And never, never leave me. Never."

And he promises her that he never will.

They get married that night on the beach.

There is no priest. No justice of the peace. Nothing legally binding or spiritually contractual; they do not need the government or a God they don't believe in to recognize their union. Their only witnesses are the ghosts that will always be there, and the endless world around them.

She walks down the little path towards the water, her hair still pinned up neatly, her mother's pearls bright around her throat as she reaches behind her and unzips her funeral dress. Spike grins at her as she steps out of the black gown and throws it into the sand dunes. The eggshell-colored slip clings to the soft curvature of her body, whipped by the wild wind, and Buffy makes him laugh in earnest when she teasingly lifts the hem to show him the little blue garter around her thigh.

He whispers sonnets into her ear, tells her that she's bright and radiant, that she puts the stars to shame. Promises her the world in the palm of her hand, promises her a life worth living. Gives her his word that he will never leave her, that he'll always be here with her, come what may. And she kisses his neck, puts her palm on his saltwater-sweet skin. Asks him to never stop talking, and she's the only woman who's ever heard his poetry and loved him anyway.

She tells him she's not good with words. Canít make them beautiful the way that he can. So she just runs her hands through his hair. Trails her fingertips over every feature on his fantastic face. Looks beyond him, to the world that lays open and waiting beyond them, and to the endless sea. She glances at oblivion, and then lets her eyes linger on him.

She smiles at him. Takes his hand. "I'm here, Spike. Yours. Always."

The rings are simple, made of white gold, borrowed from her parents' doomed relationship. But she doesn't think that history lives in every small memento anymore. Past mistakes don't haunt little bands of metal. Besides, they're new here, new now, as they slide the rings onto each others' fingers and taste the communion of each other's mouths. His hands work through the fine twist of curls at the back of her head, and lets down her hair in a veil of moonlight.

It's the only sunlight he'll ever touch, and all the sunlight he'll ever need.

She laughs when he carries her over the threshold and into her father's house. He peels off the damp slip and makes her cry out his name in the bleak glass world. They make love there for hours. Laughing and crying. Whispering and screaming. Being loud, being quiet, being tender, being wild.

Being alive.

After it is all over, and they lay in the honeymoon of afterglow, Buffy turns on her side. Runs a finger down his timeless face. "And so we're here," she whispers, and Spike smiles at her. Takes her finger in his mouth, tastes the metal of the ring that he slipped so-silently on that one slender digit.

"For better or for worse, luv."

She chuckles low in her throat, rests her forehead in the crook of his neck. It makes him laugh, and if she listens very closely, she thinks that she can hear her future in that low rumble of velvety thunder. It sounds like distant lands and nights as bright as this one, like a world that she's never seen before. Open roads and foreign languages. Kisses warmer than champagne. Love that's brighter than June.


His fingertips crawl down the ladder of her spine, and he nuzzles his cheek against hers. Smells promises and bright beginnings in her sweet-scented hair. "Mm, what?"

"I think it's time."

Kisses the faint freckles on her skin. Knows what she means. "Yeah? You sure?"

She looks around the coldness of her father's house, the things that she will never understand. But that's all right. Maybe she wasn't ever meant to understand them. Maybe this is a world that she isn't meant to inhabit, and beyond the big glass windows there are miles that she wants to travel with Spike at her side, making a world so incredible that four walls can't hold them in.

Slowly, Buffy smiles. Picks up his hand and kisses his wedding ring.

"Yeah, love. I'm ready."

They've got so many miles to go.

Wind whips through her hair, tosses it into a torrent of bright tangles, and she doesn't care. She's too busy laughing at the terrible way he sings along with the radio, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel in an overly dramatic fashion that always makes her giggle. Being silly. Being cute. Being free.

Well I'm just a modern guy
Of course I've had it in my ear before
Cause of a lust for life
Cause of a lust for life

The pages of the road map flop and fly around her as she tries to read the directions in the dark, all over the sound of Spike's off-key scream-singing. He cuts his eyes in her directions, grinning at that adorable look she gets on her face when she's concentrating. Tongue caught between teeth, pouting at the paper, brow all furrowed like someone is supposed to be doing this for her. The silver of her wedding band glints in the moonlight, and he still can't get over that. Can't get over that he's someone's forever.

That he's her forever.

"I think we're supposed to turn right up here to get onto the interstate," Buffy says, frowning as she squints at the paper, and then the map flies out of her hands and onto the road. She squeaks out a cry of disappointment, and then hears Spike laughing at her. She swats at him. "Spike! We lost the map, and now we're never going to figure out where the connection is, and I wanted to see the Grand Canyon, and this music sucks, and--"

Suddenly, all lightning-fast, one of his hands reaches between her thighs. Creeps up underneath the flutter of her lilac skirt, fingers pressing against her until she forgets about maps and directions and endless canyons.

"Sod the map."

And then they pull over for another go.

It goes on like this. Driving, stopping to take silly Polaroids of each other, pulling over for lovemaking on the hood of the expensive car. They check into cheap motels during the day and drive all night long, underneath a canopy of stars. Canvas the country, and he tells her stories and shows her sights that make her breath catch in her throat, and he revels in the beauty of a spellbound Buffy.

And when they're done with America, they drive into Canada, drive into Mexico, and then they take a boat to Europe, and it just never ends. They still argue sometimes, and there are moments when she can't breathe or he can't sleep, and there are still some words that they can't say, but it's all right. It's okay. Because there are moments when they pull over in the middle of the Mojave and shag until they're screaming, and Spike is right -- they don't need maps at all.

Years go by, and they still kill and save and bleed, and they still kiss and cry and sing. He'll put his hand on her heart at night and let her warm his dead skin, and she'll live for a thousand years in the promise of his immortality. Everything will just keep going, keep spinning and climbing, and when the day comes that they both are gone, there will be moments when lovers look at the stars and think that there might've once been a love so passionate, so sublime, that it rearranged the cosmos.

And maybe it did.

Buffy laughs into his mouth as he growls and pushes her against the car, his hands pulling her thighs open while the wind whips her hair into a constant frenzy. Dust and dirt fly along the desert wind as he tugs her blouse open and kisses her breasts. "I love you," she whispers, her hands caught up in his dizzy blond curls. "Love you so much."

Spike just looks up at her, runs a hand through her tumbled hair. Smiles at her with a force that could tear his soul apart.

"Love you, too."

And it just never ends.

The End