You found it early this morning while sorting you and your lover's dirty clothes in the laundry room of a sleazy downtown motel in Cleveland, Ohio where the towels are thin and the walls even thinner.
It fell to the floor from the jacket you wore the day the Hellmouth finally lived up to its name and opened wide —swallowing whole the only home you've ever known, the graves of those you loved, and a lot of memories you could do without. Curious, you picked it up, a thin, tightly rolled bundle of papers held together with a green rubber band that smelled faintly of stale cigarette smoke from amongst the blobs of linty used gum and lipstick stained cigarette butts.
When Kennedy returned from the night's patrolling, she found you laying belly down on the bed that the two of you share, the bundle open and the individual scraps of paper that it was made up of laid out neatly around you on the molting piss green chenille bedspread like the pieces of a torn up letter.
Your beloved whipped the one you were studying out of your hand, holding it up out of reach while saying, "Whatcha got there, Goddess? Homework? Let me show you what to do with homework!" before tearing it to bits, once more confirming your private fears that Kennedy is exactly what Buffy and then Faith, who surprised you because Faith never struck you as someone who cared about anything but Slaying and her own naughty bits, called her when each one took you aside and let you know that they thought that your new lover was a rude, arrogant little bitch with a big mouth and a tiny soul who wasn't worth the cost of the powder and shot that it would take to off her. Only Faith had used a lot more four-lettery-ish words, words which put "h.e. double hockey-sticks" in the "golly-gee-gosh-darn" category.
Angry, you've been angry with Kennedy an awful lot lately now that the exhileration of giving Kennedy and the other girls their power at the Fall of Sunnydale, has worn off, you call your lover something hateful, something dirty that you would never have called Tara - snatching the scraps from her dusty, bloodstained hands and then the others from the bedspread before stomping into the bathroom and pointedly locking the door behind you.
Something else you never would have done to Tara.
Kennedy thumps on the bathroom door a few times, making lewd suggestions about you, her new tongue stud and the shower before she gets bored and leaves.
You knew she left because Kennedy slammed the front door so hard that the mirror over the sink rattled and the lights flickered.
You stay in the bathroom, door locked, spreading the pieces of paper out around where you kneel: the backs of sales receipts, bits torn from paper bags, the sides of cardboard boxes, fragments of gift wrap, the odd bit of notebook paper that you recognized as coming from one of yours, now buried forever in a mass grave of memories —just as Tara would a deck of Tarot cards.
Poems are a lot like, no, poems are, Tarot cards.
They can tell you where the writer has been, where the writer has gone, where the writer will be... if you know how to read them right.
Tara was very good at Tarot.
You never were. Digging that deeply into another person's past, future and present always made you uneasy. This never seemed to bother Tara. She had her faults, but she was always the stronger of you two.
So now it's time to be Tara.
You sit back on your bare heels, black and lavender batiked gauze skirt blossoming 'round you on the cold tiles, surrounded by the last earthly remains of a life that for some reason you've been entrusted with.
Goddess only knows, Spike'd been horrible to you every chance he got. From snatching you from a high school chemistry lab and whining about his lost love Dru even as he threatened to shove a broken bottle into your brain, to attacking you in your own bedroom in the dorms, to feeling you up one night at the Bronze and then laughing about it when you tried to rip him a new asshole but failed when you realized that because he was such a big one already, Spike could out nasty you without even trying.
So why did Spike leave you and not Buffy his... private thoughts?
...occasionally Spike could be nice, in his own perverse way, setting Tara's mind at ease about her own heritage unasked... granted it involved a punch in the nose... and then later making a complete 180° by stealing your bar change right in front of you the same evening as if to say, "That last bit, don't get any ideas, right Red? I'm still a bad man and don't you forget it!"
...defending Dawn as best he could against Doc when Glory couldn't make it even though he knew he was going to lose...and then hitting her one day...
...showing up at Joyce's wake after sundown with a pathetic bouquet of what looked like roadside weeds and flowers stolen from people's yards tied up with string... the look of bewildered loss on his face that changed to his usual vicious petulance when you and Xander drove him off because the two of you just knew that he was up to something vile... finding a similar one days later on Joyce's grave... you picked it up, noticing the care with which the flowers had been chosen... Such uncharacteristic attention to detail bothered you so much that you showed it to Giles without telling him where you got it. He leant you his great grandmother's copy of "The Language of Flowers"...daisies (innocence), lavender (devotion), rosemary (remembrance), sweet peas (goodbye), marigolds and cypress (grief)... all bound together with wild honeysuckle (affection)...
This last contradiction shouldn't have surprised you. One summer, while helping Giles convert his entire occult library into searchable .pdfs, Buffy's Watcher told you that Spike had once been an extremely minor Victorian poet. You forgot all about it until years later in England while recovering from your grief over losing Tara.
That's not all you were recovering from. Remember how you tried to destroy the world and nearly succeeded? If it hadn't been Tara, it would have been something else, Oz perhaps? Your mother? The world not living up to your standards? You've always been a ticking time bomb and Tara drew the short straw, right Red?
The Watcher's Council was allowing you to build a collection of digital reference tools for them from a list of pre-approved books selected from the Lesser Archives under the strict supervision of the Head Librarian. While returning a scorched first edition copy of The Witch's Hammer to its place on the endless shelves you noticed a book no bigger than your hand squashed between the fifth edition of the Encyclopedia Demonicai and Demons: A Spotter's Guide . It was such a little thing, all lost and forlorn in among the five pound volumes on demon taxonomy. The water stained flyleaf had "To my dearest, beloved mother, from her devoted son, William Tully, Dec. 25, 1879." written on it in a fussy hand in rusty looking faded black ink.
The little book smelt faintly of lavender. Not at first though; it took the warmth of your hands as you held it to release the long ago scent of clean gentility.
"My dear girl, that's utter twee you hold in your hands. Don't waste your time. It's not even worth the paper it's printed upon!" The head Librarian nearly startled you into dropping it as he came up behind you, pompously adding that there were only three of these self-published little books in existence, and that they were the inept attempts at immortality by a nothing of a little man, a mamma's boy who turned out to be much better at being a monster than he was a poet when all was said and done. The only reason the Watchers kept the book at all was that it was a historical curiosity—not for its literary value.
Which immediately made you want to read it. Anything that despised had to have something interesting about it. So after your watchdogs looked through the book to make sure that there was nothing in it that could hurt you or, and let's be honest here - others. This stung - it reminded you once again that you can no longer be trusted.
Because in some ways, goddess or not, you're as big a monster as Spike.
Remember what you did when Tara died?
Remember how good it felt to finally lash out at your tormentors?
To see the looks of fear on the faces of those who always underestimated you?
Who laughed at you behind your back?
Who used you when it was convenient, discarding you as soon as you gave them what they wanted?
Remember how easy it was, how easy it would be to do it again only now you'll succeed because you know exactly where you went wrong the last time and won't make that mistake again?
You spent a long afternoon curled up like a cat on one of the many cushioned window seats where the head Librarian could see you, dust motes slow-motion dancing 'round you in the long autumnal sunlight, feet tucked beneath you like now, looking into the mind of a timid little man who was so wrapped up in form that he forgot and left out the feeling.
No, the feeling wasn't absent, it was all too painfully present in between the lines, the awkward and forced rhymes, the pretentious derivatives of Shelley, Byron and Keats.
It was lonely, so very, very lonely that you found yourself tearing up over those pathetic lines. You know exactly how William felt. Like you he had spent most of his life living in his own head because the world outside didn't have room for him and his dreams.
Both of you in your own ways had tried to pull that same world down around your heads like so many rotting roofs when it failed to live up to your expectations.
You'd completely forgotten about William's little book of painful verses and the faint ghost of lavender that clung to its pages until this morning. Now, scattered 'round you on a cheap motel bathroom floor is what happened when he resumed working after a century's sabbatical.
You pick them up one at a time at random, reading as you go.
Most of it's pure caca-doody, unadulterated Spike as you remember him: entire lists of obscenities; dirty words and what they rhyme with —just like some nasty little boy writing dirty words on a school bathroom wall with a Sharpie simply because he can.
Then came the rip-offs, the derivatives: "How do I hate thee...let me count the ways..." - Borrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiing!
That one was written on the margin of a page torn from your "Norton Introduction to Literature" text - both it and your rhyming dictionary had gone missing the week of finals. You could have sworn that you left them on the coffee table in the living room at Buffy's house one night when you all went out for a quick ice cream break. Both had disappeared by the time you and the gang had returned, sticky with ice cream and ready to continue cramming for finals.
Dawn loudly protested that she hadn't touched your, "Dumb old books!" before storming off to her room and slamming the door behind her. Buffy gave you a blank look, but she helped Joyce, Xander, and Riley tear up the living room looking for it while Anya rolled her eyes, finding two pairs of earrings, a nail file, an overdue library book and a fuzzy p. b. and j. that looked like another Dawn Classic in progress, but no school books.
You panicked. You were getting an A- in the class. You were determined to get an A —just the thought of not getting that A made your stomach hurt and your heart pound. You even tried a "find" spell, but you were so upset it merely made a big purple and green stain like a bruise in the middle of Joyce's nice coffee table with a smaller matching one on the ceiling overhead.
Tara put her arms around you from behind and kissed your ear as she reasonably suggested that maybe you'd forgotten and left your books behind on the first floor lounge back at the dorm and that by now, "Sweetie, somebody's probably turned them in, so don't worry about it.You can always borrow mine if they're not in the lost and found box at the front desk!"
Typical! Theft was second nature to Spike. He owned nothing but the clothes on his back and even those were stolen from some clothesline or exsanguinated victim. Just like the derivative you're reading, scribbled down on the remains of a torn open pack of unfiltered Camels.
Doubtlessly shoplifted from the nearest 7-11 right in front of the pimply overweight clerk even as he flirted with her!
"I could not stop for Death, so he kindly kicked me arse..."
A contemporary if Giles was right, though they never met. Emily was a homebody, preferring to stay in her room in her father's house in Amherst, Massachusetts until she died barely in her 40s.
Trash. Complete and utter trash. What else could you expect from the same creature that tried to rape your best friend in her own bathroom one night after she stopped giving him what he wanted? That once invaded your room and tried to bite you not because you were you but because Buffy wasn't there to kill and his stomach was growling so you'd do?
You tossed those to the side, more than a little angry at Spike's invading your space once more with his sleazy leers and petty thievery, souled or unsouled.
Then you paused, picking up the one that the defiled Dickinson had squatted upon like a toad. After 125 years, William Tully had finally got it right.
"She moves and sunlight follows after like living death to me and mine..."
This was written and then crossed out on the back of an unpaid Willy's bar tab and then written back in. The date on the front told you that it was written only days after Buffy's second resurrection. It was wrinkled as if he'd crumpled it and then changed his mind, smoothing it out again.
An earlier one was folded up with it, dated a week after Buffy died: scribbled in between the columns of plasma and bourbon was another little bit: "We dance in the secret forgotten dirty places and she will never see me...". There were small round water stains on it like it had once been left out in the rain.
You sat up, feeling like you'd been slapped, no, like someone had poured cold water down your back. The line in the first poem that referred to you and the Scoobies as vultures you could ignore. You'd done what you thought was right when you brought Buffy back, but this was something different.
It started with a spat.
Not a big one, not a typical Kennedy bitchfest, but enough so that you had to get out of Buffy's, no, your house. Things had been tense between you and Tara. The two of you had been trying to keep Dawn under control so that the authorities wouldn't notice that she had no guardian and take her away from you, sending her off to Goddess only knew where; to be surrounded by people who didn't understand her. Dawn wasn't helping: tantruming, sulking, stealing, and worse, playing you and Tara against each other so that just being in the house was like tapdancing in an Afghani minefield while wearing Ronald McDonald's work shoes. Giles was too far sunk in his own private grief to be of any help while Anya and Xander stood back helplessly openmouthed at the demon that was Dawn.
This time Dawn had gotten into your stuff and had tried a spell, one to make a stone frog hop about. Instead it had set the curtains alight and nearly burned down the house.
Once the flames were put out, the blame game began.
Words were said.
Nothing like with you and Kennedy the last month or so, but at the time they had hurt.
Worst of all, you'd been the one to say most of them.
Frightened by your rage and what it meant, that you weren't the cheery-bright all forgiving friend and lover you thought you were, you ran away, wandering for hours in the warm summer dampness that always comes after it rains at sundown with only a stake and the full moon for company.
Around midnight you heard music coming from an abandoned grocery store with boarded up windows.
Suspicious, you left the sidewalk, crossed the weedy parking lot and peeked in between the grafittied plywood that covered the broken plate glass windows on the front of the crumbling building.
The music grew louder.
It was gurgly as if the tape was an old one, played over and over again until it began to wear out.
It was a waltz...something by Strauss...the Blue Danube?
In the beams of moonlight that poured down through the holes of the half-collapsed roof you saw Spike dancing with unearthly grace to a little tape recorder that sat on the remains of a checkout stand. His arms were out and they were empty but you felt like there was someone in them. Spike's narrow hatchet face was tilted to one side, blue almond eyes intent as if listening to someone. Then he threw back his head and gave out a laugh that held none of Spike's usual lascivious nastiness as he nodded to someone who wasn't there, smiling down into that invisible face, Doc Martins moving with precision across the cracked and puddled tiles where there had once been shelves of canned goods and boxes of dried macaroni.
The music squealed to an end and Spike stopped, stock still and face up in the watery light of the full moon, arms loose at his sides. At his feet were strewn the torn carcasses of dead rats and empty bottles.
His face remained in shadow when he finally did move.
You didn't see him come at you across the dirty, trash strewn floor, but suddenly he was there, "Now what do I spy with my lit'l eye?" Spike's hand tore effortlessly through the splintery wood, grabbing you by the shoulder like a cold steel vise, "A wallflower with an empty dance card!"
Had Spike meant to hurt you he would have been on his knees screaming even as he pulled you through a gap in the boarded up windows and into the dead grocery store. Remembering other times he'd grabbed you, you screamed and tried to escape back out into the parking lot, the street, anywhere! But he was too fast for you, moving in a blur of speed that you remembered all too well from being used against you. "Come in, come in! There are no wallflowers in Hell."
Spike swayed drunkenly as he faced you, draping his arms over your shoulders, resting his forehead against yours so that he looked right into your eyes. He giggled, a weird tittering sound, almost a sob, his breath washing over you in a foul miasma of blood, bourbon and cigarettes. His clothes were damp and clammy, smelling of the sewers that he traveled in, "Pardon the mess, but I just ate the caterers and the orchestra's on strike so I pinched this one!" He gestured at the tape recorder while kicking at one of the many dead rats that littered the floor. You knew that it was Dawn's just by the flower stickers and dribbles of nail polish decorating its battered lavender plastic case.
Another waltz began warblegurgling on the stolen tape recorder. Your nightmare bowed, black nailed fingers digging into your shoulder. "Shall we dance?" His grip slid coldly down your bare arm, fingers entwining in yours as you shuddered with disgust, too terrified to go for the stake you had tucked into the back of your belt.
Drusilla's childe whirled you 'round the floor, black leather duster billowing heavily around you both, one hand gripping your wrist, the other firmly on your waist, steering you among the mounds of damp, mildewed ceiling tiles, dead rats, empty bottles and insulation, correcting and leading you through the motions as he went. Such an orderly dance belonged in the past, a past that you had only seen in history books and old movies; reminding you that though he looked no older than you, Spike should have been dead and buried a long time ago.
It was the basement of the factory all over again. Xander lay concussed on a charred mattress while Spike ran his fingers greedily through your hair even as he wailed over losing Dru. This time it was worse - Spike whispered things into your ear, intimate things that reminded you of his delirium in the basement of Buffy's house after Buffy died.
Badly injured inside from his fall, Spike had slipped off unseen to his lair like a dying animal as you all stared down in shock at the body of your best friend at the foot of Glory's mad tower. Nobody bothered to go looking for him until a day or so later when you and Tara, while out on a walk to clear your heads from the barrage of questions from the police and the undertakers, heard someone moaning in the older section by the iron fence.
You knew who it was. You couldn't turn your backs even though the look that you and Tara exchanged said volumes. So the two of you made your way between the marble angels and the cracked headstones until you found the crypt that Spike lived in when he wasn't out doing whatever it was that a vampire that could no longer bite did.
The two of you stood there holding hands on the cracked marble threshold in the hot sun for what seemed forever before Tara opened the door and the two of you were greeted with the buzzing of bluebottles and the stench of neglected wounds.
You had a stake in your free hand and Tara looked the other way, her eyes uncomfortable. But you couldn't do it as he lay shaking and defenseless on a pile of dirty blankets surrounded by empty blood bags, bottles, and dead rats, waiting for his body to pull itself back together.
You couldn't rid the world of Spike - he'd helped even when he didn't have to.
When you put the stake back into your jacket pocket, Tara smiled and kissed you hesitantly.
The sound of bones grinding against themselves as they eased themselves back into position will haunt you forever.
Berating yourself for your foolishness, you and your lover rolled Spike up in a blanket and convinced Giles and Xander to help you get him down into the basement.
Spike wept and snarled in and out of demon face as you and Tara tried to make him comfortable. The two of you didn't exist. He was talking to people that weren't there, holding conversations, arguing, begging, making deals that meant nothing to you.
And worse, oh, far, far worse than that, about how he enjoyed prolonging the lives of his female victims so that they knew his face even as they died in helpless terror. You felt superior to him then, only learning after Tara died that you were no better, that he was your dark brother...and you hated him for showing you that which you loathed in yourself...how good it had felt to peel the skin from a living body, to contemplate the deaths of thousands even as you set the wheels in motion...
Back then, you could stand it; his crazy, horrible talk. What you couldn't face that evening was when Spike looked up at you from where he lay and started talking rationally.
It scared you more than the raving. Because as you knelt there wiping dried blood from his face with a damp rag, you were no longer Willow, you were Buffy. Just as weeks later in the shell of a dead grocery store, he was waltzing with Buffy and not you.
To Spike, you've never existed. You've always been a convenience, something disposable to be picked up off the shelf, used and then discarded - need a spell? Need something translated zippy fast? Need a way into someone's heart? Just add Willow!
In Buffy's basement as you would later in the rotting carcass of a grocery store, you took your best friend's place. Spike grabbed you, pulling you to him, knocking over the camp stool you'd been sitting on. Tara screamed and jumped back, spilling the bowl of warm water she'd brought to you all over the concrete floor.
Spike wept into your hair even as he rocked the both of you back and forth. This time it was silent except for gasps that felt like they would rip both of you apart. His arms felt like steel bands and made your ribs and spine ache with their unconscious cruelty.
Then something worse happened: Spike kissed you hungrily on the mouth.
He tasted of blood, bourbon and cigarettes.
Gagging and furious though you knew that Spike meant nothing by it because he was kissing Buffy and not you; you said "Fiat Lux!" before you fled the basement while he screamed and smoked.
Tara found you in the upstairs shower, scrubbing at yourself for the third time. She told you that she'd put out the flames and fed him four of the Darvocets that Joyce had left behind in dying that bad, bad year. She coaxed you out of the shower, drying you off while you stood there shuddering, still smelling him on your skin over the scent of the lavender body powder Tara dusted on you.
So you lay there in Tara's arms, listening to Spike's desolate weeping as it filtered up through the heating and air conditioning vents until you fell asleep well past midnight, disgusted with him, disgusted with yourself.
Because though Tara was the one and only, your center, your body betrayed and you responded ever so slightly to the lips of a mass murderer when you knew deep down in your heart that you were better than him.
Isn't that right, Willow-tree?
You were wrong, wrong-o, wrong with a capital "WRONG!" It took a bullet in the wrong place a year later to show you that you and Spike were cut from the same cloth - one tiny piece of lead sheathed in a brass casing showed you that you could mow down lives just as easily as William the Bloody on his lunch hour!
It was a relief that when you went down the next morning to feed him, Spike had left without leaving even a note of explanation on the cot that you and Tara had made up for him in the sheltering darkness behind the furnace.
In the carcass of the grocery store, as in the basement, Spike's breath stank of bourbon, blood and cigarettes. So when he tried to kiss Buffy once more, his erection pressing against you, you quietly said, "Fiat Lux" before fleeing into the street as he screamed and smoked.
Tara found you in the upstairs shower, scrubbing at yourself for the third time. Without words you knew somehow that Tara guessed what had happened as she coaxed you out of the shower, drying you off while you stood there shuddering, still smelling him on your skin over the scent of the lavender body powder Tara dusted on you.
So you lay there in Tara's arms, forgiven. You fell asleep well after sunrise, disgusted with him, disgusted with yourself.
It took the death of an entire town to remind you of what went on those days that were really a long drawn out countdown to disaster, in the dark and dirty secret places, when nobody was looking. In between you learned that you were no better than Spike - a murderer, a torturer, someone who tried to kill pain with more pain, someone who spat venom at anyone who tried to help... perhaps that's why Spike, or was it William? trusted you and not Buffy with his secrets, his hidden Tarot, which you sit on the floor and read in a bathroom in a cheap motel in Cleveland two blocks from a different Hellmouth while your lover snores in the bed that you now share.
Perhaps Spike thought you might understand him better than Buffy ever will and not judge him too harshly? Maybe you can, now that Kennedy's charms have worn off. You understand his last desperate —Buffy's last desperate, relationship with destruction, taking him into her bed as you watched them devour each other, too caught up in your own self-destructive appetites to do anything to stop them from killing each other, not physically, but inside. Only in the end, Spike had the strength to make a sacrifice that you never got the chance to make for Tara.
As much as you disliked him, Spike finally made things right even though it cost him what passed for life.
This time there will be no gentle hands drying you off -because a different Hellmouth has swallowed those beloved hands as it has swallowed up everything else that has ever mattered to you.
You stand up in a cascade of torn bits of paper, paper that holds the thoughts of a nightmare, a mass murderer...an incomplete life that even in death intercepted yours with a mirror image of yourself that you can't live with.
With a gesture, your dark sibling's last earthly remains flutter up into the air surrounding you in a rustling papery nimbus like so many moths.
He's dead, if that's what it is. Your shadow brother - the one who didn't bother to hide what he was while you struggled so hard to hide until like him, you lost the only real thing in your life, not to the Hellmouth but to your own inner darkness. You let your darkness drive Tara away, killing the both of you with its poison, just as Spike's darkness joined with Buffy's, running roughshod over not only his heart, but Buffy's, leaving both of them naked, ashamed and alone.
Kennedy's Goddess aside, maybe that's why Spike left you his poems and not Buffy.
Because it's fitting, you whisper, "Fiat Lux!"
The sad little bits and pieces flare brightly, silently, before falling to the floor in drifts of powdery ash like their father deep beneath the ground.
Then you turn on the shower...undress...step into the cold water...dry yourself with the thin motel towels...and dust your body with lavender body powder.
Author's Note 1: Oddly enough, one of the strangest parallels between characters is Willow and Spike the more we learn about his real past. Upon closer study, there are even more disturbing ones - only Willow hasn't been around long enough to accumulate the body count that Spike has. If you study her throughout the series, you can see little foreshadowing's of her attempt to destroy the world in Season 6 - she was an accident waiting to happen. For those of you who have rosy visions of Spike, be warned, you might not like this story, but it might also make you think.
Author's Note 2: Sources: The Language of Flowers - Our Deportment, or the Manners, Conduct, and Dress of the Most Refined Society; including Forms for Letters, Invitations, Etc., Etc. Also, Valuable Suggestions on Home Culture and Training. Compiled from the Latest Reliable Authorities, by John H. Young, A.M. Detroit: F.B. Dickerson & Co., 1883. The Victorian Language of Flowers - Collier's Cyclopedia of Commercial and Social Information and Treasury of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge, compiled by Nugent Robinson. P.F. Collier, 1882 Victorian Mourning Garb, by Kysha Hell- the use of lavender as a color for Victorian half-mourning/funeral colors.
Author's Note 3: A big thank you to Sharon Jane Smith for letting me use her verses.