Notes: Set sort of semi-future, Buffy looks back and reminisces. Spoils all of season four and five, basically. Rating: R, for language, violence and a little sex (and I'm not even British...)
Dedication: This is for Lise, who started it by walking into #KJcorner and effusing about last week's Buffy (Spike and Buffy have a long chat...)
Memories, Like Dreams.
by Ana Lyssie Cotton
"And I'll be there when it does."
"No. You will never be there, Spike. And do you know why? Because you're beneath me."
--Buffy: the Vampire Slayer. Spike, Buffy.
He was right. I can remember the conversation as clear as a bell. Like it was last night instead of ten years ago. "I'll be there." he told me. And he was.
Mom went for observation--Cat scans and stuff--they never let her out. Dawn took it bad. She had to go in and see mom every day. I know she cut class, because I did it too. I had to be there, you see. For her. For them. I was Buffy, the Slayer, the strong one. I'm the one who's supposed to make it better.
I couldn't. All I could do was sit there and watch as she slipped away. Watch Dawn turn thin and pale until I knew I needed help or Glory would have her.
And that's when he came. I don't even think I'd realised I needed him until he came.
Riley? No. Not him. We--I... I couldn't deal with him, and mom, and Dawn, not all together. I think he ended up dating some witch friend of Tara's. I didn't see much of him, part of me was glad.
They came for me that night--I'd come back from the hospital, exhausted. Mom was almost unable to move now. The cancer ate her away from the inside out, destroying her as we watched. It was all I could do to keep up in classes, in my training. Giles and I patrolled together, when I patrolled at all.
But that night... I had stepped out onto the back porch, stared at the stars. They were so cold and remote, like they didn't care. I stared at them, and they glittered calmly.
I barely had time to realise they were there, something slammed into my head. It knocked me forward, and I tumbled down the steps, coming up onto my feet and turning. Stars flashed in front of my eyes, down to earth now.
There were three of them.
I didn't answer, just lashed out, catching the lead vampire with a kick to the knee. He yelled in pain and I pulled a stake out and slammed it home in his chest. For an instant, the other two stood there, startled, and then they came for me.
The fight wasn't pretty, there weren't any witty sayings, I just coldly and calmly staked them in a minimum of thirty seconds.
At least, that's what he said it was when he came jogging from around the front of the house.
"Shouldn't I be?"
"Look, they startled me, they--" he paused, and stared at the stake, "couldn't have had more'n thirty seconds on me."
"Duh. Of course I'm fine, I just executed my Chosen Duty. I Slayed."
He shrugged black leather clad shoulders and nodded to the hand clutching the stake. "Y're shaking."
"I've never seen you shake before."
"There's a first time for everything." Why wouldn't he go away? All I wanted was silence and cold, quiet night.
He was like an irritating bug, always there when I didn't want anyone to be. If I'd thought about that, instead of concentrating on the loathing, I might have clued in faster. But, hey, I was angry. Or hurt. Sad? Anger is better than either.
I didn't have to play this game. Did I? I was the Slayer, I was meant to kill vampires, and here was one ripe for the taking. "Fine."
We fought. It wasn't like the other three, this was al-out war and hate. No-holds barred kind of stuff. I nearly slammed the stake home a dozen times, he nearly gave himself a nasty headache by biting me twice. He was good. I was better.
It's not arrogance to say that. I just was. Despite his century or more of practise and skill, I was better. Maybe it was the bit about having to learn so fast or die. Maybe it was just that I had more rage inside of me.
Either way, we ended up on the ground, him flat on his back, me crouched, the stake poised.
I froze, staring down at him. There was something there, in his eyes. A sense that he was prepared for this. That everything he'd done and said over the last several weeks had been to drive me to this moment.
Spike wanted me to kill him.
And I couldn't.
"Slayer, I'm getting cold. And this ground isn't all that comfy."
"Why what? Are the roses red? The sky blue? Look, just get on with it, would you?"
"Why, Spike. Why now?"
"What are you waiting for, the bloody Geneva Convention? KILL ME!"
"NO!" I jerked off of him, standing, backing away. The stake fell from my suddenly shaking hands. "No."
"What is it, Slayer, afraid you won't like it?" He taunted, still on the ground.
"Fuck off, Spike." I said tiredly, suddenly weary in every bone. I turned my back to him and began walking towards the house. Dawn was standing in the kitchen doorway, staring at me. "Hey."
"Why didn't you kill him?"
I stopped, my foot on the first step. "Be--I don't know."
"Bloody great. All this time she wants to kill me. Now, she gets a chance, she doesn't."
My back snapped straight and I whirled to find myself nose to nose with him. "Look, you bloody poet, back off!"
"Oh, that hurts, that does. Gonna smack my wrist and send me home without supper are you? 'Cause, that seems to be all you can do around me."
I felt like a switch. Someone kept turning me on and off. On and off. Now I was upset, now I was angry, now I was sad, now I was-- "You're manipulating me." Cold certainty filled me, then. And a sense of utter calm. I knew what he was doing now. He always could play me like a piano. And I let him. No more.
"You noticed, did you." He smirked, then looked over my shoulder at Dawn. "Not too smart is your sis."
"She's like that. Tell her stuff straight, and she always loses it." Dawn replied flippantly.
I ignored her for the enemy at my front. "I ask again. Why, Spike? Why do you want me to kill you?"
"Well, let's see, could it be because I'm unable to be my old self, and my only lifelong companion will be the utterly irritating Harmony?"
"Uhuh." I crossed my arms and stepped back, gaining height on him as I stepped up a step. "Pull the other one. It's got bells on."
"I asked first." he snapped, sounding like a petulant child.
"I'm the one with the stake."
"You won't use it."
He snorted, "Slayer, didn't we just dance this?"
"You told me, Spike. You said all Slayers have a death wish. Isn't it just the same for vampires?"
"Only very inept ones. Like Angelus."
"Don't change the subject by bringing up old boyfriends."
"Why don't I bring up current ones, then? Like army-boy, who seems to have gone astray."
"Leave Riley out of this Spike. This has to do with one thing. You and me."
"God, I'm listening to a bad romance movie script. Will you two just fuck already and get it over with? Oh, and Buffy, mom's on the phone."
Silence descended for a moment, then I turned and stared at my sister, "I should wash your mouth out with soap."
"Mom's on the phone." She waved the cordless at me.
I grabbed it, "Mom! Hi."
There followed one of the more embarrassing calls I've ever had to deal with. It topped the one where I called Giles and he answered while Olivia was there... doing something. And it topped the time I talked to Xander about sex with Anya. Mom demanded to know what we had been talking about to cause my sister to say such a thing.
Dawn got in trouble, too. But it didn't mitigate the blushes.
When I'd gotten off the phone, Spike had disappeared. I was happy about that. Right.
The next time he bumped into me, I decked him. He bounced back up and grinned happily, "Just the kind of greeting I was looking for, Slayer."
I gave him the finger.
"Now, now, two fingers, love, two fingers."
"Wish I could."
I groaned and facepalmed. My temper was none to good these days. Any little thing tended to set me off, up to and including punching Xander when he suggested I not visit mom so much.
Yes, I'd apologised. He was fine, if a little bruised. Anya was currently making it her hobby to glare at me constantly. I could handle that, I just couldn't handle the looks of pity everyone was giving me. So I turned into a ball of anger, and ignored everyone. Spike, included.
I gave him a look of disgust and turned, leaving him standing in the street. I didn't need to get home that night. Not that much. Besides, Willow wouldn't mind a visit.
I failed my midterms the week she died.
She'd been falling apart even more, they'd predicted her death soon. Towards the end, she wasn't even recognising me or Dawn. It tore Dawn to pieces, trying to be known, knowing she wasn't. I watched her cry herself to sleep every night, and went to my own bed seldom. Too many tears to cry, not enough time to do them in.
Giles and I patrolled every night, sometimes I dropped him off and continued when he was tired. I was never tired. I couldn't be. If I was, then I'd sleep. And sleep... would mean dreams.
Mom died the day I failed my Biology midterm. I'd come out of the class, numb. The professor had just glanced at mine and sighed. I didn't care.
The phone rang as I was walking into the dorm room. I stared at it, suddenly knowing what it would be.
"Can you come to the hospital right away? Your mother's condition has worsened drastically."
I didn't answer, just dropped the phone. I was running, then, ignoring the voice on the phone asking for me.
My feet and legs took me into town, to the hospital, up stairs, down corridors, until I found them. Dawn was curled up in a chair sobbing silently. There were a few nurses near her, trying to help. I ignored them all and looked into the room.
Mom had been hooked up to a bunch of machines to keep her alive. In death, she looked so peaceful. They'd pulled a sheet over her head, probably to help our poor sensibilities. I pulled it back, gazing down at the woman who had brought me into the world and nurtured me, loved me... and in the end, left me.
"Save her. You have to be able to save her." Dawn's voice echoed brokenly in the small room.
I looked at her. "I can't."
"But you're the ONE! You can do it, Neo could do it, and you're the Slayer, you have to--" She caught my arms and shook me, pain in her eyes. "Please, you have to, you--"
My voice cracked as I shrugged out of her arms and caught her in my own, "I can't."
"You're horrible, unfeeling, you--" She snapped, then, crashing back into tortured sobs as I held her. Incoherent rage poured from her, and I knelt, bringing her with me.
My tears mingled with hers, but they were soft and silent. A harbringer of what I wanted to do. I wanted to throw things, to fight something, to do anything to be able to save her.
And in the end, the super strength, the quick healing, the mystic shit, none of it could help.
I was left with nothing but my sister, who wasn't really my sister. But she needed me. It was all I had.
Spike found me that night in the graveyard. I was curled up on a tombstone, staring aimlessly at nothing.
"What do you want?" I was so tired. Couldn't they all just leave me alone?
"Giles called me."
"A vampire with a cell phone. How yuppie."
I heard the grass rustle as he walked closer. "Slayer..."
Silence fell. It was one of those moments where you suddenly feel that you can see a thousand futures, and you know which one you want, but you don't know how to get there.
I broke it with a sob, "You promised me something once, Spike."
He was standing frozen as I turned, stake held out in my hand. It was shaking. "Kill me."
The future I wanted was there. Bright and clear, and empty. I would be free. Someone else could be called to protect Dawn, to keep the Hellmouth closed. Maybe even Faith would be rehabilitated enough or something. But me, I would be gone. I would have an end. No more fighting. No more battle, no more pain.
His refusal was as simple as my request. And silence fell again, waiting, watching. A tear slid down my cheek, cooling as it touched the night air. "Why not?"
"No!" I jumped up, suddenly hot with rage, with anger. It had been building, let off at various times, but nver assauged, "You promised me, and you're breaking that promise, Spike! I demand an answer, God damn you!"
"Already been done. Doubt another will do anything."
His normal humourous sarcasm slashed through me, cutting me, leaving me suddenly breathless. I lashed out, wanting someone else to hurt, to know what it was I felt. To understand. "Your poetry damned you from the start."
"Oooh. Good hit. Would you like to try again?"
"What was that word? Ah, yes," I smiled, something horrible coursing through me, "Efulgent. Is this efulgent enough for you?"
My hand lashed outwards, the stake biting lightly into his neck. Blood welled from the slice, beginning to trickle down into his collar. I leaned close and slid my tongue along the wound. My hand came up to the back of his neck, holding him still. Though he didn't try to move, but I could feel him shaking. A fine tremour coursing through his body.
I finished cleaning the cut and leaned back, smiling, "Was it good for you?"
His eyes blackened, and he growled.
"C'mon, Spike, you've always wanted to do this." I smirked into his eyes, "D'you have the balls to?"
Silence descended for a moment, and I leaned forward, flipping my hair off my neck. My voice was a mere whisper, "William the Bloody..."
I don't think, at that moment, he was seeing me for who I actually was. All those taunts he'd endured, all those people who'd hurt him. Suddenly I was them, manifest. And he struck with ferocity, ripping into my neck, greedily sucking at the blood there.
"Yesss..." I crooned, blackness beginning to edge my vision, "Perfect.... Just like you've always wanted.... Revenge."
Which was really the wrong thing to say. I didn't realise it then, of course. I blacked out.
Spike tells me my words were like having a glacier dropped on him. He was suddenly sober, completely. And he had a dying Slayer on his hands. One he really didn't want to see die.
I woke up in the hospital, the supposed victim of a stab wound. Giles was asleep in the chair next to my bed, glasses falling off. My first thought on waking was that heaven or hell, why was Giles there? My second was frustration at Spike. I obviously wasn't dead.
He jerked awake, his glasses falling to the floor.
"Buffy! You're awake! Wonderful!"
"Yeah." I sighed and then groaned, "Could I get a toothbrush, mouthwash and toothpaste? I think several zombies crawled in my mouth and died."
I sort of tune out, after that. Boring, everyday stuff occurred. I went home. Saw Dawn. Someone arranged mom's funeral. I think it might have been Willow's mom. Dad came down to talk to us. Dawn didn't want to leave. I couldn't.
Dad didn't take the whole Slayer thing well.
I had to explain it several times. Giles helped. Dawn sort of sat and watched. And sulked. We ended up getting Willow and Tara to come over and do a bit of demonstration for us. Magic that's visible always helps Unbeliebers.
After that, dad decided to move to Sunnydale. He uprooted himself, and joined Dawn and I in mom's house. It was sort of sad, really. The place was so full of her. And so... lifeless.
At least it was until dad accidentally let the vampires in. It's not his fault, really. I'd forgotten Harmony was still out there. Spike and I hadn't talked for weeks, and I doubt he even thought about her.
Faith came back the next day. Giles got Angel to spirit her out of jail with Wesley's help. She didn't seem to like me much. I didn't give a fuck.
"You have one job. You do it, you live. You don't, I'll kill you myself and dance in your blood."
"I see you finally understand it, B."
"Dawn is to be guarded. If she dies, or Glory finds her..." I smiled unpleasantly. "You thought Drusilla was scary? Think again."
When Faith slept, I watched Dawn. Child Protection Services tried to take her at one point. Giles stopped them by adopting both of us. Olivia came to stay for good cover. I found myself looking for Kendra in her, as if I wanted another Slayer to help.
My idea of death was as gone as the wound on my neck. Only a vague scar showed where Spike had so savagely drained me. It was a reminder, occasionally, that I was not alone in this world. That there was someone out there who understood. I knew he did, because he'd sent me a cross in the mail after Harmony disappeared.
"Wear this, or I won't be responsible for the consequances. A bad headache doesn't stop me anymore." It was unsigned, but I knew who it was from. The little silver cross on its sturdy black chain never left my neck these days.
I might want death, but protection of Dawn came first.
Glory came for me a month after dad died. We met, funnily enough, in the cemetary. I caught a glimpse of her blonde hair, and then she was walking towards me, smiling, "Hi." She said, "You must be the Slayer."
"Well, who else would play around in a graveyard?"
"Ghouls. Vampires. Goblins." I paused, "Demons."
She pouted at me prettily, "But you're none of them. And I can smell the taint of good on you."
I shrugged. "Whatever. You're here, blah, blah, blah. And now I kill you."
"Hey! Don't I get a fair trial? I do all of--"
The first stake slashed through her shoulder, I pulled another and began to take aim again when she moved. She was so fast. Her hands caught mine, and I was suddenly pinned, helpless. She smiled, "This was one of my favourite shirts."
"Too bad." I twisted, hearing something crack and ignoring it. One arm free, I shoved a stake through her middle. Blood spattered my legs, turning the jeans into a sopping mess. She growled and shook me. I pulled the stake out and slammed it in again, aiming upwards.
It missed her heart, but caused her to rear back enough for me to get a third stake through her chest. It was an impressive one, too. Not that I cared.
She backed away, gurgling, then stopped and giggled. "Really, stakes. How old fashioned."
I think the rifle shot came as a surprise. I know I jumped. The shell spun her halfway around, the second shattered the right side of her skull. Behind me I could hear muttered cursing and the sound of someone frantically reloading a double-barreled shotgun.
Without questioning it, I pulled the small silver knife from my sleeve and dove at her. We fell, her cursing, me reciting rapidly in Latin. The knife slammed home in her heart as I hit the last syllable.
For an instant the muttering and cursing ceased. And then she screamed, arching up and throwing me. I tumbled as I hit the tombstone, then the ground, and came back up on the balls of my feet. Spike raised the shotgun to his shoulder again and fired into the mess of brain and skull.
"Nice shot." I said into the sudden silence. Glory's body was melting into the ground, being reabsorbed back to where it belonged.
"Thanks." Spike put the gun in a sort of holster in the trench and pulled a lit cigarette from behind his ear. "Not so bad yourself. What was that spell?"
"Something Giles, Willow and I cooked up when she tried to kill Faith two weeks ago."
He nodded and puffed silently for a moment, then shrugged, "Well, be--"
I caught him by the arm, "Spike, I--"
"Why, so you can provoke me into killing you again?"
"I..." I groaned and turned away, "Fuck it. Go off. Run away again."
"Look who's talking."
He smirked, "I will not bite you Slayer. I might fuck you, though."
My mouth dropped open, and I stared at him. The blush that flooded my cheeks was incredibly foreign. I was blushing. My parents were dead, my kid sister was the key to opening the gates to hell. And I was blushing.
He patted my shoulder, "Take it in stride, love. I'll be seeing you."
I let him turn away, then snapped out of the paralysis and caught his arm again, turning him back, "Oh no you--" I started to say, when I realised he was continuing the motion and had both arms comfortably wrapped around me. "--don't." I finished as his lips touched mine.
A terrible cliche, but time seemed to freeze for an instant. It had been so long since I'd been held with anything other than casual comfort. This, this was different. There was more to it than comfort, as my body was sudddenly announcing. Riley had been a long time ago.
Spike pulled back and looked at me, "You asked me once, why I wanted you to kill me."
"You wouldn't answer."
He shifted so that I was held closer. My arms were already slipped round his waist. "Well, see... It was you. I wanted you so badly, that, the only way to get rid of you--"
"Was to die." I sighed and leaned against him, breathing in the scent of stale cigarette smoke, old blood, and Spike. "I know."
He chuckled, "You're a damned nuisance, Slayer."
"That's why you love me."
It was such a simple statement, but it held such meaning. We both froze at hearing it, then he snorted, "Lust, you mean."
"Bite me, Spike."
"Does it include removing this bloodsoaked shirt?"
"Good. But, first," he released me and wrapped an arm around my shoulder, "Let's go somewhere less dead."
That was the end of the beginning of the end. Sort of. Really. It's been almost ten years since then, and Spike has always been there for me. When Willow and Tara left. When Xander left. When Dawn was finally transmuted back to her natural state. Faith left with Riley, Olivia and Giles handfasted... All of it. He was there.
He's here now, too. It's the end, I can feel it. I've been a Slayer for almost twenty years. That's fifteen more than so many get. Faith died a year ago, and a new one was called. She's bright, young, energetic. Everything I'm not. She's in good hands with Giles, Olivia and the new Watcher.
If I die. Again. Another Slayer will be called. It would be a good idea, since the darkness is deepening. Angel talked to us recently. Cordelia's visions have quickened, as more and more things erupt on the world.
But I cannot be here for them. I am too old, too tired. Too wasted. Another must be called to help, or we will lose.
And so he is here.