A/N: This is a future!fic, AU, SpikexOC. I hope it's not too confusing...

Disclaimer: Joss Whedon owns everything, including my soul.

Fading Echoes

"You will live forever, but fading echoes are all that will remain of us." She turned away from him, tears standing in her eyes. "Our love will be nothing but your half-forgotten memories…dreams… When I am gone, when you are grasping at shadows and have only the ghosts of memories left, will you still love me?" she asked. He turned her back to face him and smiled a gentle smile, pulling her close.

"Of course," he breathed, his fingers tangling in her hair as he kissed her. "I will love you forever."

...

But now he is whispering to his dreams. She was right…half-forgotten memories of times long gone, a love long dead. But he promised. And he still loves her. He loves ghosts and memories and dreams and shadows, but he still loves her. Or what is left of her. A moss-covered gravestone, the lines that form her name slowly disappearing as the wind batters away at them every day. The barest hint of the scent of her blood, still staining the tattered lining of his ancient, cracked, leather coat. The fading echoes of her voice, calling out to him in his dreams, in his nightmares. The fleeting glimpses of her that he sees when he closes his eyes, her hair gleaming in the sunset as he wakes up and she leaves him for the night. What is left of her.

...

"Will you still love me?" she asked, insecure as always.

"Forever," he promised, whispering in her ear over and over as she lay curled into the curve of his body. "I will never forget you."

...

The children have learned to stay away from the graveyard at midnight. He's there, at midnight, every single night. He stands at the foot of her grave for the length of time it takes for him to smoke a cigarette. He never says a word. He ignores the children until they go away, and while they are not afraid of him, they have learned to leave him alone. His eyes are dark in the glow from the smoldering cigarette, something in them hard and cold and so, so alone. The loneliness is what the children fear, so they avoid the graveyard at midnight. Their parents remember how they learned to stay away from the graveyard at midnight, too, for the man has been coming to the grave for decades. Maybe centuries. No one knows how long it has been since the lonely man began appearing beside the grave. They think he's a ghost. But he is not a ghost. She's the ghost, the ghost in his mind, who he comes to see every night to remind himself and to keep his promise.

...

"Will you still love me?" she asked, as she prepared for the end of the world.

"Always," he whispered, tenderly smoothing her hair away from her face, brushing the tears from her cheeks, silencing her sobs with a kiss. "I will always love you."

...

He waits at the bottom of the steps of the cathedral, wondering what it would be like to go inside. But he's never been big on self-torture, unless it's liquid and makes him drunk. But alcohol would make him forget, and he promised to never forget, so he hasn't had a drink in a long damn time. He turns around, as he has done every night for a hundred years, and makes his way across the street to the graveyard. It will be tomorrow in a few minutes, the day she died. The flame from the lighter makes everything glow yellow for a moment, and casts a long shadow across her grave. And then night settles back into its proper place, and a thin tendril of smoke rises. He reads the words he has read every night for one hundred years. They're almost gone now, worn smooth by wind and water and the countless touches of his hands as he seeks to reach through the stone and find her there. The cigarette burns down and a wind blows through the leaves of a nearby tree, smelling of spring rain. The cathedral bell finishes its chiming, and a figure rises from the long grass behind her gravestone. He flicks the cigarette butt away and smiles a smile that does not reach his lonely eyes. "About time," he says.

...

"Will you still love me?" she asked, fear in her shaking voice.

"I promise," he repeated, his hands stained crimson from desperately trying to staunch the flow of blood from the wound in her side. "I promise, sweetheart, forever."

...

"I've been watching you for several nights now," the Slayer says, stepping around the gravestone.

"And you haven't staked me yet?" he asks sardonically.

"What's so special about this one?" she asks, ignoring his comment. She nudges the stone with her booted foot. He restrains himself from pulling her away from it.

"It belongs to the woman I love," he says simply, honestly, for once in his life.

"The woman you loved," the Slayer corrects him with a slight emphasis on the last word. "She's dead now." He smiles that cold smile again and shakes his head.

"Forever," he murmurs and pulls his hands from his pockets. "Let's get this over with." The Slayer shrugs and lunges at him, landing a punch before he blocks her attack. But she can tell he's not really fighting back. A vampire as old as he is should be a lot stronger than this. There is a reason she's waited to fight him, watched him instead, learning not only his routine but also his style. She knows him, what he's capable of, and she knows his heart isn't in this fight.

"We can do this another time, if you're not feeling up to it," she quips as she throws him backwards over a nearby gravestone. He begins to laugh, a mirthless laugh from deep within him. She attacks, expecting him to have stepped up his game, but instead, he doesn't resist at all. When she hits him, he tumbles back and she follows, pinning him up against the grave he has watched for a hundred years. "I expected a better fight from you," she says, flicking a stake out of her sleeve and raising it.

...

"Will you still love me?" she asked, dying so the Slayer could save the world.

"Yes," he wept, his fingers leaving bloody trails on her cheeks, uncaring as he kissed her one last time. "I will still love you. I promise. Forever."

...

He smiles and asks, "Why?" The Slayer pauses, wondering if it's a trick or a genuine question. Her eyes narrow, but he's not fighting against her hold, so she decides to answer his question.

"Because you're William the Bloody. You're Spike. You've been around for centuries. You should have given me a whole shipload of trouble."

"Do you know what happened a hundred years ago?" he asks. Her brow furrows. He smiles that same lonely smile and grabs her arm, bringing the stake down to press lightly into the leather over his heart. "I've been waiting for you, you know," he murmurs. "But I knew you wouldn't believe it if I didn't at least pretend to fight you. The show's over now, sweetheart. End of act five. So kill me, and make the ending worth it all."

The stake trembles between them for a long moment. She doesn't understand; she's not sure she wants to understand. But his eyes, his cold, lonely eyes are begging her to do it.

"I promised her forever," he says, "but some nights I can't even remember what she looked like. She's just a fading echo, a ghost in my head. Just like she said she'd be. I promised her forever. But a hundred years is just too long."

"What happened a hundred years ago?" the Slayer asks quietly. He closes his eyes and sighs. She feels him start to move, attempt to throw her off, and she acts on instinct, without thinking. The stake slides into his heart and he has time to smile one last smile.

...

"Do you still love me?" she will ask when they meet in the sunlight.

"I promised," he will answer with a genuine smile, drinking in the sight of her as she takes his hand for the first time in a hundred years. "Forever, I love you."

...

The Slayer is left kneeling on the grave in a pile of dust, without answers. She looks up at the gravestone and reads the worn words, still barely visible, even after all these years. The name is unfamiliar, but the date is that of today, a hundred years ago. And beneath the name are four words that answer every question still lying thick on her tongue. Beloved of William. Forever. She stands, dusting herself off and shivers in the cool spring night as it begins to rain. Her Watcher asks her the next morning if she was successful in her mission. She smiles and says simply that it's all taken care of.

His ashes soak into the ground with the rain, to remain over her grave forever. Fading echoes of who they once were are carved into the stone that marks where they lay. And the children creep back into the graveyard at midnight, now that the figure no longer stands his vigil. The lonely man with a promise in his heart. A promise of forever.


A/N: This is part of my very long, very ongoing, very unwritten AU Buffy story, in which Spike gets involved with a werewolf named Jacqueline who joins the Scoobies at the beginning of season 4. He gets over his feelings for Buffy early in season six and that's when things go all AU and stuff happens. I've basically got an entirely different season seven, with no Potentials, and fewer annoying pep talks from Buffy. There's a curse involved, and Jacqueline's death is the means through which that curse is worked-Spike learns true happiness only to have it taken from him so that he lives on in abject misery in punishment for his sins. It's a bit cheesy, and it does still need work. BUT, this story is the end of that long, unwritten AU, a hundred years after Buffy and co. defeat the First. And I've decided to post it in an attempt to convince myself to write the whole thing. Here's to hoping it works.