The Only Love I Know

"I am hardly an expert in matters of love, being new to the emotion myself... But I have read histories, ancient sagas, poetry... and it seems to me that love is a powerful motivation, but not one that invariably motivates men toward good. I think, perhaps, that [he] does love [her], in his own way and as far as he is able. And that could be just as dangerous as if he hated her."

Theresa Edgerton The Work of the Sun

Won't somebody listen
Nobody gets in
My body's a temple
But nothing is simple
Silence is golden
I have been broken
Something was stolen
Safe in my own skin

Garbage "Silence is Golden"

Pale skin, paler, palest. Ghost-like in the night when he comes to me, almost invisible wrapped in his black, hidden by the danger he carries with him everywhere he goes. Fingers hard against my body, wordless cries in the night, heat and cold sliding against each other in a timeless dance. Sweet pain drifting across my body as he goes deeper, holds me tighter. This is the only place that I'm real, here, in his arms, under his body, enfolded by living death. Here I'm safe. The only thing that can hurt me is him, and I want the pain, want it like Willow wants magic, want it to live.

Too dangerous to bite my neck, too easy for others to see. Instead, his teeth graze my upper, inner thigh, looking for deeper blood, deeper pain. Blond hair disheveled by clutching fingers, trademark smirk lost in passion. Slippery kisses and stinging bites, hunger like nothing I've felt, icy trails up my body as his mouth goes everywhere.

No time here, no time when we're together. The world stands still, everything ends except for us, and we end too, spent, exhausted. Empty of everything that fills us when we're away. My salvation, my redemption, leading me to a new world, one I've never seen. Lost here with him, in lands unseen, wandering. No one knows what we are to each other. We don't even know, we lost the words long ago. Nothing said, only felt, and that's enough, that's everything.

I can loose myself in the memories of him almost as easily as the reality.


Willow, and at the worst, moment, when I'm not dressed, when everything that she can never finds out shows against my body black and blue, unmistakable. Keep the door closed, keep her out, just for a moment, just for forever. She'll never understand, no one will ever understand.

"Um, just a second, hang on," but she doesn't. Doesn't listen. Never listened, hasn't since I got back. Hasn't since before I died, or she never would have done this. Huh. Wouldn't it be funny if this was somehow all her fault?

She's staring now, and humanity is so far from me now, so lost in between death and life and the darkness where I spend my nights that I can't think of anything to say. She sees everything, the scratches, the bruises, the bite marks. And she looks horrified, like I'm something ugly. Am I ugly? I had forgotten that I even had a reflection; everything I am, I can see in Spike's eyes, and he always tells me that I'm beautiful.

Finally she speaks; sounds like she hasn't spoken in forever, either, her voice rusty, her mouth still having trouble forcing words out about what she sees. "What happened?"

Can she not know? Could anyone really look at me and not see his marks everywhere, inside, outside? But she's still staring, and I start to think that I can get through this. "Lost a fight." Not true, started the fight, so that he could end the fight and we could both come screaming into the night. She'll never understand. But this she'll believe.

"You don't lose." Absolute certainty there, and that's not good. I've lost at least twice to my count, and both times, someone's brought me back, someone's fixed my little mistake. Before it's too late. Too late. A laugh, a joke. My skin was rotting off my body by the time she dragged me back last time. How much too late could a person get before you're past the point of no return. Why doesn't it ever occur to anyone to save me before I die?

They're the only ones who save me. Just the vampires, just the things I was born on the earth to kill, but whenever I'm so lost I feel like I'll never find myself again, it was them, Angel and Spike, who stepped in. Everyone is so busy waiting for me to save them that they stand around staring. Some days I think I've lost my taste for anything human.

Whoops. Silence fell and I didn't even notice. Willow looks pale, almost as pale as Spike, but on her it just makes her look sick. She tries some words out, discards them before she gets farther than a syllable, finally comes up with, "Did you try to lose?" She looks scared and I want to laugh from how badly she misunderstands everything.

She thinks I'm trying to die again. And okay, maybe she's right, but it's sure not the way that she's thinking. I die in his arms everything, and he dies with me, and when the night falls again, we're reborn in each other's arms. He kills me, just like he always promises to, and does it so gently that I can still live in the sunlight. But Willow is still waiting for me to speak, and I need to find some story that she'll believe. "Big demon. Very big. But I got him." Sure did, he was moaning my name by the time I was done.

"You kill him?" Oh, yeah... they used to call it the little death. Nothing little about what we do together. Death is nothing to us, other people's problems.

"Yeah, totally dead."

She's still staring, but I've noticed that people only hear what they want to hear, only see what they want to see. The evidence is all over me, they could try and dust Spike for all the things he's done to me, but she just looks and doesn't understand.

Once upon a time, I would have been able to tell her. We were best friends, we told each other everything. Not anymore. Willow didn't tell me that magic burned like a drug in her veins, not until it almost killed my sister, almost my daughter, blood of my blood, bone of bone, made from a rib like Eve for her Adam. And so I don't tell her about Spike, about the dark things that we do to each other when no one else is around.

But her eyes have this quiet look in them, like I know something I'm not telling, like I don't trust her anymore. Hell, I don't. How could I, how can I? She does everything for herself. No thoughts for anything or anybody but herself. I remember all the times I tried to tell her the truth, and all the times it didn't work, cause something else came up. Raising the dead is fine and dandy, but being their friend, well, I guess that's too hard.

But this is Willow. In my first life, my innocent life, I had never had a friend like Willow before. She was always there, through my first death and back again. We did everything together. We whispered in the dark of the night. We played in the sunlight together. Some days, I can't believe that the sun won't kill me, can't believe that Spike and I haven't messed up somewhere and turned me when we weren't paying attention. Can't believe I don't lie in dust at her feet. What am I supposed to say to her? All my whispers are for Spike; they strangle in my throat, knot and tie up like Spike and his silken ropes.

She's turning to go, and all my chances are going out the door with her. Ask! Ask! You can't be this blind, you can't be this stupid! Look at me, do you think that I let a demon this close? On accident? You think I let this happen and never fought back for no reason at all? You're blind, you're so blind, wrapped in your own special midnight, a million times blacker than any place where Spike and I wind up. Who are you to talk about anything, when there's nothing you see.

But she's turning back, and the worry is still in her face. Is there a friendship here, anywhere, buried in the rubble of our addictions, our secrets, our lies? I haven't covered up, I'm standing here in a bra and jeans, and Spike's handiwork, and she's just staring. "Buffy, are you okay?"

Okay? What a laugh. What is okay, what am I supposed to measure that against? Yeah, you know, Will, compared to all those other people on their third life, I'm great. Of course, only cats get more chances that I do, and hey, it's not that hard to make a cat unhappy, but it's the thought that counts. There's a laugh somewhere deep inside in me, but I don't let it out because it's not any humor that Willow would understand.

"Buffy, are you... happy?"

And that's a harder question. Some days I feel like a child, like I'm only the two months it's been since she brought me back. I want to lie down, I want to scream and yell. What can I say to her that she'll ever understand. I don't understand. Does she know anything? Will she see anything? Is there any way that I can dream that she'll understand that this is as happy as I get, lost in time with Spike, with my secrets and my dreams?

I look everywhere but at her. They never changed my room, they kept it like a shrine. Willow must have been planning my resurrection since my body hit the ground. It's only Spike and Dawn that I can't be mad at, cause, if anything, they were more surprised that I was when I came back. Finally, I whisper in a voice I thought I'd lost a couple of lives ago.

"Yeah, Will, I'm happy."

It's almost the truth, it's a shade of honesty. It's better than saying that I think this is as good as it gets. That I'm not what I was, that she screwed up and made me wrong, so that now the only things I want in life are to fight and fuck Spike. That he can hurt me and only me, not the usual promises whispered between lovers.

I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know who I am. But I know that the sun's going down and that he'll be awake soon. I know that he loves me in a way that no one else can anymore. And it's proven when Willow sighs unhappily and leaves the room. Leaves everything unspoken between us, like it doesn't matter. Like I don't matter to her anymore. Maybe I am ugly. Maybe I did come back wrong and Willow knows it and that's why she's forever leaving.

But there's a scratch at the window, and I can see a cigarette burn in the darkness outside the glass and Willow is gone from my thoughts again as Spike lures me out into the dark, to even more forbidden moments between us. Tomorrow, she'll see me. Tomorrow, she'll understand. Tomorrow, she'll make me tell her the truth. And for now, there's the truth between Spike and I, all the lies and loves that we tell each other.

No one even notices that I leave at night, no one sees that I'm gone. Course not, they barely see that I'm missing when I'm right in front of their eyes, so why should notice now? It's like high school again, my lover at the window, the two of us slipping away where no one ever looks.

We start fair, we start right. First, there's the patrol, because I'm the slayer and that's what I do. So we hunt together, and we fight together and when we've killed our fill for the night, then we fight each other. And then we love each other, even if no one else would ever call what we share love. What do they know, anyway? They've always lived in the light, they cast shadows when the sun bears down on them. I'd sleep the day away if I could, as inhuman as any of the demons I kill. Slayers are born for the dark, they're made for the night and I don't know why or how I spent so long fighting it. It's easier to give in, to be what I was meant to be. All that human stuff I tried for years, all it did was get me dead and deader.

Afterwards, when we're still, when our blood has cooled and quieted, I watch Spike smoke his traditional cigarette. It's like tasting him again when I watch him smoke, when his stained breath curls into my lungs. I only ever think of Spike now when I smell cigarette smoke, I only ever remember these quiet times, when the need for words passes us by without stopping.

But I change the game tonight, I make things new, because he should know what Willow saw. What Willow refused to see. What she's almost certainly forgotten, because what's my pain to her? Even so, the words are hard to say, the hardest thing I've done in months is to tell him this new truth.

"Willow. She saw me today."

A lazy breath, unneeded, done just for the fun of it. "Yeah, pet? Did she like what she saw then?"

Trust Spike to look at it that way. He's always swearing that I'm never sexier than when I'm wearing his bruises. Stands to reason he thinks Willow would think the same, only makes sense that he would think that she was like us. That this was something normal people did.

"She asked if I lost of a fight."

She thought I threw it. She thinks I have a death wish. She thinks she should never have brought me back. She's right. She's right about it all, but that's something that I can barely tell myself, much less anyone else. Even Spike, keeper of all my new secrets, even he couldn't take the pain of hearing that I wanted to lose myself again. That some nights I can't sleep for missing the cold comforts of my grave.

He laughs then, midnight black and wicked. He thinks its funny. Maybe it is. "That's rich, love, it truly is. You set her straight? You tell her how we fight?" He trails cold fingers over my body, relishing every bit of me. That touch, simple and yet so profound, reminds me again I have I come to him, why I stay with him. Because with him, I'm real again. With him, I'm just Buffy, just the Slayer. With him I'm strong. He makes me real again, he makes me true when all I feel when we're apart is a lie.

"I tried," I whisper, looking into his eyes, the blue of a summer sky he'll never see again. Not even in the mirror. He's more imaginary than me; there's so little holding him to this world. "I wanted her to know..."

"But..." he finishes, leaning in for a kiss, for something almost gentle after all of the pain. It's not that we don't know how to be kind to each other. It's just that we save it for the special moments, the quiet times. It's not all pain and blood. There's laughter too, and fun. We can be children with each other, we can forget all the things we really are. We can forget that we're killers.

"But she didn't see, and she didn't understand and then she left."

He rolls over, comfortable with this new information. Nothing surprises him; at least nothing has since our first time, the time I took him. Sometimes I think that was all the surprise that he could ever feel, all rolled up into one moment, so that now everything else is simply flat. Unsurprising. Without shock value. "Told you and told you, love, I'm the only one you have."

But she looked so lost when she left. She looked like maybe she would have stayed, if I had any idea of how to reach out to her. When did the distances become so great, when did the gulf get so deep? Where have I lost everybody to and what am I now? What did I come back as? And what did she change herself into, that she's so different from the girl I left behind? How did we lose each other in the night, when we used to always be holding hands?

Lonely again, hurting with some pain that I don't like, that I don't want, I reach for Spike and there's the familiar rush of comfort when I know he's reaching for me too. This distance I can cover, the ravine I can cross. This I can do. Spike's mouth is on mine, he hands are on me, and he's so close that I can feel exactly what he wants and then there's no more need for thought. There is only feeling, and I'm drowning in it, sinking fast into the icy waters of Spike's love, deep and dark as an ocean.

Later, I'll think about Willow later. Later...

Later always comes too soon, as unwelcome as the brutally bright sun that robs my room of restful darkness. Rolling over in bed, I wonder if today will finally be the day that she sees, the day that she understands. We got carried away last night, Spike and I, and now there are bruises that I don't think I can find a lie convincing enough to cover. Lost a fight will probably not work again any time soon, and I would have had to do more than lose to get these marks, the perfect bands of black and purple around my wrists. It's not Spike's fault that he forgets his own strength sometimes, when the passion is on him. Not my fault that I don't tell him to stop, nothing wrong with liking things a little different. One way or another, this is bound to get noticed; it's way too warm to wear any shirt long enough to cover these.

Right, day. Regular life, things to do, the routine now almost familiar, almost comfortable, if not truly natural. Dawn needs waking and feeding, Willow needs rousting out of her angsty depression over her one true love being anywhere but around her, household stuff needs to be done. Useless stuff needs to be done. How many hours till the night, how many hours until my real life starts over again? I'm a sleepwalker during the day, and no one even sees it. Least of all her, so wrapped in her shock and guilt over what's she done that it doesn't even occur to her to try to make it better. Maybe not that strange, maybe this is a as real as it gets until I die again and again, waiting for a death so complete there's no bringing me back. Until then, the routine.

Willow's a little more with it today. I can feel her eyes on my wrists, feel her curiosity as she watches how stiff I move. She never used to be stupid. The magic has done things to her, changed her in ways that I don't think that she's noticed yet, because the Willow I used to know would never had let things go on like this, would never have let me keep this many secrets. Now though, she just watches, her eyes serious and cool, no thoughts that I can see.

To her credit, she waits till Dawn is out of the house before she says anything.

"Lose another fight?" Maybe it will work again. Maybe she is that naive. Maybe she's that firmly entrenched in her belief that everything will be alright. Maybe she's a fool.

"Yeah, well, I've been tired. Klutzy." Yeah, I can only fight Spike so long before I let him get the upper hand, before I'm lost in the things he does to me. Some nights, I surprise myself by wondering how it was that Dru could have ever left. Other nights, I promise myself that the next time, the next time I'll ask, because there must be a story there somewhere. And on the rarest nights, on the bluest moons, I think that I shouldn't let him do these things to me. That maybe whatever is that's wrong with me, whatever creature that I've turned into, maybe I don't need to let it consume me.

She swallows hard; she's so thin now, after losing Tara, after losing her magic, that I think I can actually see the words in her throat before she says them. Or maybe the simplest explanation is the truest; I've spent so much time with Spike that I always look at the throat first. Vampire foreplay as well as the easiest method of defense. The words are crawling up slowly, wrapping themselves in knots and untangling themselves slowly. Finally, she comes up with, "Those are new bruises, and they're pretty bad."

I shrug. "Not too bad; they look worse then they feel." Ask! Just ask! How can you not see what's right in front of your face? How can you not see what I'm doing? How can you not understand? You used to understand everything. I was always good for the fighting, but you were knowledge girl. Where has all your knowledge gone now? Who are you now? Maybe it's too much to hope that my face shows any of this. Her face has never given anything away; why should mine be any different?

Willow is biting her lip. She hasn't done that since high school. She wants to say something. I want to help her, I want to reach out to her, but she's left me so alone, she's left me in this hard new/old world and the only thing she ever asked from me was a thank you. A thank you for my life in hell. A thank you for pain that never ends, for a reality so sharp it cuts me everything time I move too fast. I can't reach past that. There are dimensions between us now, all of heaven and hell is between us now and it's going to have to be her. It's gonna have to be her, or it will never be at all.

When she finally does something, it's the last thing that I expect, the last thing everyone has done. She reaches out and she touches me. It's been so long since anyone but Spike has touched me that her warmth feels strange, feels alien. Is this what he feels when I lie against him, or I am as dead as he is? Her hands are gentle on me as she pulls my wrists up, closer to her, turning them this way and that, holding them up to the light.

"These aren't from a fight. Are they." Not a question. Maybe it's never been a question. Everything I've been waiting for is crashing down on top of me and I have no idea of what to say anymore. I thought I had this all worked out, thought I knew what I was going to say, how I was going to say it. But now I'm lost and I think Willow's trying not to cry.

"No. Not a fight."

"And not from you."

"Not from me," and now she is crying. Not loud, not wild, just the slow trail of tears down her cheeks, just the tiniest tremble of her lips as she takes my words in. She doesn't know what to say, that much is clear. She's trying not to show what she's feeling, she's trying not to lose it and go hysterical, even I can see that.

I totally expect her next question will be who, and that will be a whole new box of trouble because how do I explain how it is that Spike can hurt me when neither one of us understands it ourselves. She'll want to get the chip fixed, she'll want to stake Spike, she'll want to ruin the only thing that I have left. She'll want me to be all alone again.

But she doesn't ask. She doesn't ask anything like I could have imagined. She only asks one word, just one. "Why?" She's touching the bruises like she's never seen anything like them before.

Why...why...why...? Because I can. Because we can. Because I'm not who I thought I was. Because I'm not what I thought I was. Because it feels so damn good. A thousand reasons why go swirling through my head, all vivid, all real. But I go for the simplest. I go for the one that started it all, the one that I never forget. "Because then I can feel."

If I wanted this to be the amazing bonding point that will bring us back together again after months of pain and lies, I'm wrong. She's not talking to me at all now, she's not even touching me anymore. I think I can hear her being sick in the downstairs bathroom. I guess there's more than one truth she can't handle, one more thing that she didn't really want to know.

My only reaction is to look at the clock. How many hours left till sunset?

To Be Continued...