Title: Water in the Dust Bowl

Rating: R

Length: ~940 wds

Setting: Post-NFA

Summary: I got arms to hold me every night, but I'm still sleeping with a ghost.

AN: This is affair!fic. If that bothers you, you may want to skip this one. Also, the fic was inspired by the song, Lose Some Time by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. That's where the title and summary come from as well.

XXX

But when the light shines on you

You know it soothes my soul

Finding time to lose with you

Is like water in the dust bowl

When you find out he's still alive you're furious. You're furious and you refuse to talk to him, so he's mad too, and that makes you even more angry, and you go around like this, circles and circles and circles of fury and hurt, until it's too much and he walks away and you do too. He leaves California, and he doesn't come back, but he doesn't really go anywhere new either. He never stays in one place for very long, and you don't see him for years. You hear about him, sometimes, from Angel mostly, but from other contacts too. Not the Council. He's cut ties completely with the Council.

x

What happens next is you get married. His name is Josh and he's a Watcher, but the research kind, not the watching Slayers kind. He's kind and smart and handsome, and he loves you. You love him too, as much as you are able to love anyone, anymore. You have nice life together. A life you never would have thought that you would be able to have, with a house and a cat and a joint bank account. And he knows about your job, and the risks you have to take, and the demands it puts on your life. He understands. Even when your job turns more freelance and you are required to do a lot of traveling, crisscrossing the country, and sometimes the world, to dispatch of bigger threats, or smaller threats if the local unit is busy, or to lecture, or to lend a hand.

You are as close to a photo finish happy ending as you are ever likely to get. So, of course, that's when Spike shows up and tears your world apart. Again. Always.

x

You never expected to see him in Chicago, but you aren't really that surprised. You're not surprised the next morning, either, when you wake up in his arms, next to the wreckage of what used to be your hotel bed. You think that you should be more upset, but you just can't muster the energy. It's all just history repeating, anyway. He'll always be a mistake, and you'll always know that, but you'll still make that mistake every time. And you are just so tired of pretending.

The two of you don't speak. Not in the morning. You said all you could the night before, and so did he. So you fuck one more time, and go off to your separate battles.

x

You will go home to Josh, and he will smile because he doesn't know, and he will kiss you because he loves you, and he will assume that the scratches on your back are from the demon you were sent to fight. And you don't want to hurt anyone else, so you will smile back, and kiss him back, and let him believe whatever he wants about the marks on your skin.

You don't tell him about seeing Spike. You haven't told him anything about Spike that he can't find in Council library, and telling him anything now would lead down a path you'd rather avoid.

x

The second time you run into Spike, he finds out you're married. The first time, you hid the ring in your pocket before he could see it, but the second time you don't bother, and you know that it shouldn't be nearly as hot as it is when Spike pulls it off your finger. With his teeth.

The third time you run into him, it's no longer serendipitous. It's a pattern.

x

You don't know how you're doing this, finding each other over and over, in a different city every time. It's not like you call each other. It's not like you're meeting him in all the usual places. The usual places that you had with him have been gone for years, and it's been almost that long since you've been to where they're buried.

He never comes to California, and you don't know if he even has a permanent residence now, much less where it might be located.

You don't tell anyone that you still see him, but sometimes Angel will look at you for a moment too long, and you think that it must be written somewhere on your body. 'Spike was here.'

x

In a cheap motel in Georgia, he tells you that he can't stop loving you, no matter how hard he tries.

In Seattle, he tells you about Amy and how they've been together for almost a year and how he thinks he might love her too, if he could just let himself.

In Georgia you tell him you gave up on getting over him years ago.

In Seattle you tell him you're pregnant.

You don't see him again for a long time after that.

x

The next time you do, he tells you that Amy left him and you show him pictures of your two-year-old daughter.

You tell him you can't see him again. This has to be the last time. He stares at the photo in his hand with something that looks a lot like longing, and then he agrees.

One last time and then it's over. One last time and you can move on for good.

You've always been so good at lying to yourself, especially when it comes to him, that you almost believe that.

Almost.

x

But when you find him in London, you take him back to your hotel, and when he finds you in Austin he takes you to his, and you keep going in circles and circles and circles, and it's hardly a surprise.