Title: Washed

Author: Starbaby

Washed

10-11-02

Every artist is a cannibal

Every poet is a thief

They kill their inspiration

And then sing about their grief---U2

Spike shuffles away, stiff-legged as a toddler. Xander waits until only his echo lingers before speaking, for which I am grateful.

"Now's not the time."

"He was happy to see you."

I turn, less surprised by his words than the lack of heckle in them, the absence of insinuation and hatred that always laces Xander's opinions of my dead old lovers, this old lover in particular. Spike…the most mad and unlikely of a colorful quartet, the other son of Aurelius, my Angel's childe in more ways than we ever could have dreamed. 

The basement is full of twisty corridors, but all roads lead to sunlight. Spike is moving in the other direction---I can hear him, soft murmurings, aching visionary—throwing open secret doors in his madness, digging deep into the heart of truth. What does he see, from his bird's eye view, and where is the old Spike, who only checks in from time to time?

"Button, button, who's got the button?"

"My money's on the WITCH!"

And who is this new Spike, to lean forward, hands clasped like a gentlemen, and drown me with his soft, overwhelming eyes, only to crumble like papier-mâché at the slightest rebuke?

"What's a word means glowing? It's gotta rhyme."

"I should hide from you…hide my face."

"Yeah, happy." I am not as good as Xander. My tone is harsh and brittle, like last year's wild, broken affair, as short and sad as a spring goodbye. I'm bitter over broken lovers, over souls lost--and found--while I lay sleeping. It's their souls that take them from me, their fragile, ephemeral souls, wrongly drawn back from that other shore to fight for survival among the mysteries of life. Spike is already going from me. I knew when he glided away in that moonlit church, turned his back and embraced…what? Salvation? I fear that this year is his elegy.

Xander and I emerge from the sleepy shadows into a streaming hallway. These bright and moving children, they are the future. The past lives below, in starshine and poetry, lost and searching.

*

*****************************************************************

I return in two days time, inexplicably drawn to his soul, a burden and a mystery since he came back humbled and, somehow, cleansed. Not of crimes, of course, but of defenses and guile.

"Spike?"

I wait for the wailing cry, or the forlorn murmur, something to assure me that he hasn't yet fallen to memory and shadow, silence and dust, a spent swimmer too tired too tired reach the shore.

"Can we rest now, Buffy? Can we rest?"

He does rest, it seems, behind the boiler where it's not too cold, amid a sea of candy wrappers and crumpled paper, on a blanket that looks strangely familiar. I freeze at the sight of him, clean and cared for, face wiped free of grime. The notebook he tears pages from still bears a price tag. "There are things here without permission…"

"Buffy!" He leaps to his feet, ever my suitor, paces and mumbles to the shades that keep him company. "No boy this time. No witch. Shouldn't be here all alone. With me. Him. Us"

'Spike, who---?"

"The witch brought bubbles. I like the bubbles. But it's not Sunday! Waste of water! Who went to the pump?"

He claws at his shirt. "Too clean! Too clean!"

I turn and run, pursued by Spike's ravings.

"Witch'll be foldin' silk soon enough. Factory girl. Send us to the poorhouse…"

*****************************************************************

I kick in Willow's door, as furious as I've ever been. Heartsick. Moon-mad.

"What did you do to Spike?"

She struggles to sit up, stomach still tender. Haunted, as we all are, by bullet wounds and broken glass, violent victories, love songs.

"Buffy…"

"What did you do?"

Willow has new peace. It settles on her flower face, displacing confusion. "Took him to Anya's for a bath, that's all. He liked the bubbles."

Oh, God. Oh, God. What excuse do I have to touch him now?

I spin uselessly in place, tears beginning to fall, not sure who to cry for first, speech broken into fits and starts. "How could—But I wanted—I can't—"

Take care of him, fix him, replace the things I took, kiss the pain away. Can you understand that, Willow?

She does, and opens her arms with a simple, "Oh, Buffy…"

I collapse into them, weeping for Spike and Tara and Willow and Dawn, for this life we live, a moonlight sonata of grief and loss, instruments playing in contrast, whipping up grandissimo and wind, laying waste to each other's lives.

What are we, but fading harmonies?

***********************************************************************

He's waiting for me this time, chin tucked and eyes bright with just a hint of the old unholy gleam.

"Here." I hold out Dawn's old thesaurus, not all I have to give, but it's a start. "You can look things up."

"Very kind of you, Very kind. Thank your mother, sweet lady. Must write a note. The witch brought paper…"

He reaches for the book. I let it drop to the floor and grasp his hands, slender and cool and capable of good works, despite all I've said and done to sway him off the road to…what? Redemption?

Yes, redemption.

He smiles crookedly, and doesn't flinch away.

It's a start.

FINIS