Bloody Awful Hamlet

DISCLAIMER: Joss' toys. My playground.


SUMMARY: Post "The Gift". You'll get it. Don't worry.


Spike's vampiric reflexes allowed him to adjust his position just in time to avoid the pointy end of a book aimed at his head. Well, not exactly at his head, but at the wall behind where he happened to be standing anyway.

"I hate Shakespeare! Why do we have to learn this stuff? It's stupid."

"Dawn," Buffy replied, not bothering to look up from the checkbook she was attempting to balance. "I say so, your teacher says so, the state of California says so. That's who. So you will."

"It's not fair. The guy wrote hundreds of years ago, what can I possibly learn from deciphering his drivel? It has nothing to do with me, it's arcane, senseless and I refuse." To emphasize the point, the youngest Summers sister flopped down on the chair across the dining room table from Buffy, folded her arms and closed her eyes.

Buffy closed her eyes too and threw back her head in silent prayer. Why did Dawn have to be difficult? She tried one last time. "Please, Dawn. You know how important it is that you do well at school. We're barely escaping the scorn of social services as it is and if you fail English again this quarter…."

"Hello," Spike interrupted. "Visitor here, or didn't you notice?"

"Yeah, I noticed," Buffy intoned without looking.

"Me too, Spike. Sorry about the book. Nice moves, though, by the way."

Spike smiled warmly at Dawn who was quickly becoming his champion in this house. Her kind words helped him through many a difficult day in Sunnydale and with Buffy. *Heavens knows I wouldn't hear a peep from big sis, 'less I was dyin' or…somethin'.* Despite Dawn's current concern, however, it was strangely nice, though to have to point himself out to Buffy. Being welcomed back into her house had been a big deal, but being welcome in it, he had quickly become part of the landscape, or so Buffy seemed to feel. Like an old ottoman that you had to remember was in the living room or you'd trip over it. Well, baby steps. He examined the dent in the wall that could have been his head, then stooped to pick up the book. "Hamlet?"

Dawn sneered and nodded a baleful acknowledgement.

"Havin' trouble with it, niblet."

Buffy snorted, "An understatement."

"What part?" Spike asked Dawn again, ignoring Buffy's unladylike noises along with her comment.

"All of it," she sighed. "I just don't get it. First of all, it's supposed to be poetry, but it hardly ever rhymes. Hamlet mopes around a lot, the love scenes are dry and the deaths aren't tragic, they're just stupid. Why do people think this stuff is so great?"

"Dawnie," Buffy looked at her sister again. "I don't care what you…"

Spike laughed, and Buffy gave him a glare for interrupting. "You just haven't learned the secret yet, l'il bit."

Dawn sniffed as her curiosity got the better of her, "What secret?"

"About the 'bard' of Avon. You have to learn to listen."

"But we have listened. We listen to it every day in English from a recording our teacher brought in, but it's like listening to something backwards. It sounds like something I ought to understand, but I just don't."

"You're right, it's really another language. In fact ol' Will here even made up words for himself. But you have to listen with your heart instead of your ears." Dawn raised an eyebrow. "You have to get into his head…or probably easier to let him get into yours. The thing is that you already know the words, it's just the order or the rhythm that you're not used to. You have to let go and just let it overtake you."

"Since when are you an expert in Shakespeare?" Buffy chided.

Spike ignored her. "C'mon, Dawn, I'll show you."

Spike's slight of Buffy didn't go unnoticed and Dawn smiled condescendingly at her sister as she followed Spike into the living room.

By the time Buffy's huff was developed enough to make her get up and walk after them, Spike had his duster off, had flung himself onto the sofa and he and Dawn were already discussing what she'd been able to glean from the story so far. "So what part are you up to, then?"

"The part where Hamlet says "To be or not to be."

"Ah. A particular favorite of mine."


"Because it's where Hamlet's thinkin' 'bout killin' himself, but discovers he's afraid of what lies on the other side…and I sort of have a handle on that if you know what I mean…." After considering the text for a moment he murmured…, "You have to get past the quotes…ah, here's the best part…

To die, to sleep;

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause: there's the respect

That makes calamity of so long life;

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,

The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,

The insolence of office and the spurns

That patient merit of the unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscover'd country from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Spike spoke the words softly, gently and with such emotion and depth of meaning that when he stopped, two pairs of eyes were focused on him more intently than he ever remembered. "What?" he asked, concerned by their silent reaction.

Dawn spoke first. An excited smile broke through the reverie he'd caused as she said, "I GOT that! I've read that think at least 15 times since I got home today and like you said, I knew the words and had looked up all the meanings, but I wasn't hearing it. That was so GOOD! So sad. Poor Hamlet. Spike? Can you please read some more? It'd help me so much and you're so GREAT at it. Please?"

Embarrassed, Spike looked to Buffy who was still staring dumbly at him. "More?" he asked and he was answered with a slow, single nod of her head.

Smiling to himself, he read on. And on. And on. After a while, they all took parts as play took hold of them and carried them far away in time and place.

At the death of Hamlet in Horatio's arms, all three of them were crying as Hamlet entreats his friend to remain alive, to stay and be the one to recount events…

If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart

Absent thee from felicity awhile,

And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,

To tell my story.

They finished the tale with Fortinbras' entrance and after a brief discussion of the dismal fate of royalty, spiced with references to Spike's first-hand knowledge of the rise and fall of kingdoms, Dawn kissed him quickly on the cheek. "Thank you so much, Spike. I had the best time and your reading was so great. I guess Shakespeare isn't just some old dead guy after all."

"None of us are," he quipped, but then stopped himself, unwilling to ruin what had just happened. After a pause, he added, "Glad I could help. Let me know if you need me again, Niblet. Now it's late and you have to go show that teacher what you learned tomorrow. Toddle off to bed then."

"Yep, that's me. Nighty-night girl." Dawn made her way toward the stairs. "Night, Buffy. Thanks again Spike," and then she was gone.

Spike threw himself back down onto the sofa. They'd been at it for over four hours and although nighttime was his prime time, it had exhausted him. He closed his eyes to recall the look on the girls' faces when he'd first read that night and smiled to himself.

"Proud of yourself, huh?"

He nodded sleepily.

Buffy had been in a nearby chair, but now Spike heard her approaching him slowly, hesitantly. He opened his eyes when she stood at his side.

"Well, you should be," she admitted and she signaled for him to move his legs and let her sit down next to him. With a deep breath he twisted himself around and threw his Doc's up on the coffee table next to Buffy's own, small feet. "Dawn hasn't been this excited about anything about school since…well, I can't remember when." With appreciation she added, "I certainly couldn't have done it. Thank you."

Spike wasn't too tired to recognize the tone of her voice. Since they'd been sharing a bed, he couldn't remember having heard her express herself so softly, so openly. "I'd do anything for you and li'l bit. You know that." He reached out and lay his hand over hers which, surprisingly, remained still.

"Yeah. I know. But you were really good at it too. It was very…moving." She turned toward him. "I was watching you, and you know what I decided." He shook his head almost imperceptibly, his blue eyes locked on her green. "I decided that I want to hear one of your poems."

He was incredulous. "Huh?"

His monosyllabic response, in contrast to the Shakespearean prose he'd been uttering just before made Buffy laugh. "You once told me you were a poet…before. And watching you tonight, I started to see something… Something I didn't want to see before. There's more to you than just the evil dead, vampire, creature of the night thing. Isn't there?" She paused, but Spike couldn't utter even a single syllable now. "So…once a poet, always a poet, I'm thinking. Even a demon couldn't squash a poet's heart. So tell me one of yours."

Spike was rarely caught off guard. Never by violence and rarely by Buffy. He made it a point to know his enemy and to be able to read people as easily as fairy tales. But he'd just been floored. He'd told himself that he'd make Buffy see him for what he was some day. That she'd see him as a man, not a monster and here she did, just like that. "Huh?" he said again.

She leaned on his shoulder. "Please?"

He sighed and rested his head on the back of the couch, enjoying the feel of Buffy on his arm, the lack of tension, the joy of having a "real" moment with her. He relished her pride, her wonder, her closeness.

"Okay," he answered at last. "But if you laugh…."

He tried his hardest to look mean but Buffy just laughed and drew her finger over her chest twice. "Cross my heart and hope to…well, did that. I promise anyway."

Spike breathed in through his nose. He was nervous. Him! But the last time he'd recited his work in public hadn't turned out so well. Who could blame him? His mind searched out into itself for a part of him that he thought he'd kept well hidden for over 100 years. And it stood there, waiting for him. Buffy was right, once a poet…. He still kept a journal and filled it daily with thoughts, tidbits of his life, snatches of imagery and poems. Poems which he had closeted away, never meant to share, but which returned to him now in waves. Each one entreating more powerfully than the one before to be told.

Buffy waited patiently. You couldn't rush art. She was almost afraid of what she'd asked, but she'd been strangely excited at her discovery of Spike's "softer side". She felt like a child on Christmas morning.

After a few moments he began…

All I love lies in my arms.

Her lips, which curl fiercely in battle, smile now in contentment.

Hands made for wielding weapons, caress me tenderly.

Strong arms which deliver pain, pull me toward her.

Legs trained for speed, hold me near.

And my love lies in my arms.

Need, which ruled her of late, disappears as she gathers rest.

Fear, which drove her to me, will drive her soon away.

Weakness will be replaced by resolve and understanding with hate.

Acceptance becomes intolerance.

And my love lies in my arms.

She stirs against me and seeks me out,

Until the wall is rebuilt,

But tonight I embrace what is mine, as

My love lies, lying in my arms.

He raised his head and looked down at the top of Buffy's head, still resting on his shoulder. He felt the warmth of her face on his arm and then realized that his arm was wet with her tears. He took her chin and turned her face toward his own. "That bad, huh?"

Buffy shook her head silently and sniffed. "No, Spike. It was… I thought… I'm so sorry."

"Sorry, luv?"

"I have been lying to you, haven't I? And you deserve better. I'm so sorry."

"No, my love, don't cry. I have the best, I have you."

"But I've treated you so…horribly. I've been…"

"Using me?"

Buffy nodded and sniffed again.

"I know that. I knew that. It's okay."

"No, it's not," she answered again, shaking now. "I'm sorry."

Spike slipped to his knees and turned toward her. He started to say something and hesitated, then began again. "Buffy, I wrote that back when we were first…you know. I've done a lot to be sorry about too, but so much has changed…it seems so long ago. And, things are so much better now."

The woman on the couch raised her head and looked into his eyes. She sniffed again, but she was listening.

"Everybody knows about us now, they might not approve, but you haven't denied anything and they're beginning to come 'round. Dawn's even on my side, and after what I did…that time…that's saying a lot. I think the person that's had the hardest time with us has been you, but see, you're almost there. You've done denial, anger, bargaining, depression…and you're working on acceptance."

He smiled at her and Buffy knew then and there that the man in front of her was meant to fulfill her. He was her other half, all the metaphors, fire and ice, good and evil, right and wrong, strong and weak…he complimented her in every aspect and they just fit.

He brushed away the tears on her cheeks and she leaned forward, her arms slipping around his neck and she allowed herself to recognize all the things that had been there, but that she'd denied before. The feel of his body next to hers, the smell of his hair, the sound of his voice…it was like Dawn learning Shakespeare. They meaning had always been there, but she hadn't listened. It had sounded backwards, but it just needed the right translation.

She drew back and looked at Spike for what seemed like the first time. There was so much there that she suddenly wanted to discover. But it could wait. He wasn't going anywhere.

Spike tilted his head questioningly, wondering what was going on in her head. Then he felt her fall against him and her lips meet his. It was if they'd never kissed before…because in so many ways they hadn't.