Title: It's Over (1/1) Author: Sandy S. E-mail: ssoennin@juno.com Rating: PG-13 Disclaimer: I own nothing. All belongs to Joss and UPN. Spoilers: Set after Season 6 Dedication: For the people I've had endings with...and sometimes new beginnings. Summary: Spike's first encounter with Buffy after returning from Africa. This is a story about endings and change....

It's Over

"...Should have never started/Ain't that the way it always ends?/On my life I'll try today/There's so much I've felt I should say but/Even if your heart would listen, I doubt I could explain..." -From "If you don't, don't" on the album Jimmy Eat World

"...You have no right to ask me how I feel. You have no right to speak to me so kind...." -From "Separate Lives" by Stephen Bishop

Taking one last drag on my cigarette, I flipped the burning stub of paper and tobacco to the concrete, grinding the remnant flame out with my boot. Before I could weasel out of walking into the club, I drew up my courage and stepped across the threshold into the world of music that pulsed through my veins almost as blood once had. Tonight, the local band's bass was thrumming somberly, matching my mood. The unique scent of alcohol and smoke filled my nose and lungs when I tested the air of the new environment as vampires were known to do.

As I made my way to the bar, I glanced neither left or right and allowed my vision to glaze over slightly so that I was aware of avoiding only blurred figures of young men and women dressed to the hilt, searching for something they might never find. Reaching the smooth, familiar length of the bar, I chastised myself for not wanting to see her, yet. Sighing, I closed my eyes, drawing my eyebrows together. To steady myself, I positioned my hands lightly and wide apart on the bar.

How had I, the Big Bad, fallen so far? How had I gotten to this point in my journey? Somehow, I found I was having trouble remembering the twisted, mangled bends in the road that got me here.

"Can I help you?" The voice possessed a strained, annoyed quality.

Sensing the people forming a line behind me, I focused on the frowning young bartender in front of me. He was impatiently drumming his fingers on the damp towel that he pinned beneath his hand on the bar. Was that how she would react to me?

Fumbling in the pocket of my dark, wrinkled jeans, I pulled out a crumbled five dollar bill. I slapped the money on the counter. "Give me a bottle of whatever beer's on special, mate," I murmured.

I palmed the bottle the bartender set down and turned away, not bothering to pick up my change. I heard the coins clink into the tip jar as I made way for the person behind me in line. Enjoying the distraction of the cold, wet glass in my hand, I searched for an empty table, trying to keep myself detached from my thoughts and the wriggling life around me.

Espying a safe resting spot near the crowded dance floor, I hurried to my target and slid onto the dark green wooden stool. I cupped the bottle in my hands and stared out over the swarm of dancers, writhing and grinding to the low, slow beat. My thoughts were like their movements, muddled and unclear, and my stomach wrenched in a nervousness that I was still trying to adjust to feeling. Wrapped in the heavy blanket of my feelings, I felt strangely exposed as if everyone in the club was able to see straight through me. Suddenly, I decided to contemplate the label on the beer bottle in my grip.

I missed my duster; I needed my duster. With my coat, I could at least pretend to be the same person...creature I had been. Now, I needed to hide what I had become...a vampire with a sodding soul. And I thought loving her had left me vulnerable.

Love was less vulnerable than having a soul.

Loving someone else, giving to someone else wasn't difficult when I didn't have to face myself...my actions. Having a soul, a conscience, made me have to face whom I was in the past and what I had done to others and to myself. Owning up to those kinds of things...dealing with the consequences was a scary business.

Therefore, I'd avoided her since I came back to Sunnydale. Having living, breathing, in- full-color Buffy Summers in front of me would have made dealing with myself all the more painful...like scraping a slowly healing burn from the sun with sharpened fingernails. So, I'd stuck to myself and distracted myself with mundane tasks. I found new furniture at the dump and a new home. I hung out with Clem, watching television until I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore. During the day, I was reluctant to go to bed because that was when the thoughts and feelings overwhelmed me the most.

I knew it was cliched, but time does heal wounds...mental, emotional, physical...just at an excruciating snail's pace.

Gradually, I'd purposely crossed paths with Dawn and the others. As I expected, I got an earful of the evil, soulless one comments and some well-deserved screaming about my past behavior. Then, I told them about the soul, and each time, I got the same reaction...utter disbelief and residual doubt about my motives. I merely internally shrugged. What did I expect them to do and say?

The band taking a ten-minute break brought me out of my now frequent mind wanderings. I forced myself to make a mental shift as recorded music that distinctly contrasted with the band's style drifted over the din of people talking in incoherent conversation around me. My eyes remained focused on the beer.

I stiffened at the rise of the bright voice, coming from the direction of my elbow. "Watcha doin'? Watching your beer go flat?"

Clamping my eyelids together, I felt my jaw muscles tighten. My stomach turned as a wave of nausea hit me. I found myself afraid to face her. Me? Afraid to face a Slayer after I'd fought and killed two?

An ephemeral eternity passed in a rush as I decided what to possibly say to her. I damned her to hell and back for leading me on and then trampling my heart. She never appreciated me...not really. She just used me when she needed me. How could she be so sodding glib after everything that had happened? How could she ignore the things we said and did to each other by being polite? Why couldn't the bitch just hand over the jacket and leave me the hell alone? She had no right to talk to me with affection.

I hated this.

Why did seeing her have to be so hard? Used to, we'd sit in silence and be comfortable. Even while slaying, we could at least have a bit of fun together. Now...now I couldn't even manage an awkward hello. Why couldn't we go back to the way we were around each other before we had a...started seeing...started sleeping together. Hell, even I had to admit that what we had wasn't even a relationship. What a bloody mess we'd made of things!

To top everything else off, even after months of not seeing her, I still loved her.

And, I could never tell her again that I loved her. What with this soul, I didn't know if I could take another rejection. She already knew about the soul, of course. If her friends didn't tell her, Dawn probably did. I really couldn't talk to Buffy about what I was going through. She wouldn't understand. She would most likely tell me to get over whatever I was feeling and move on.

"Spike?" A small warm hand touched my elbow gently. "Are you okay?"

My shoulders shifted in a sigh at my predicament. Now, I had to confront her.

Cautiously, I opened my eyes and turned to the right to gaze shyly at her. Her wide green eyes shone with a vitality that I had not glimpsed in her since she was resurrected by her friends. Her sun-kissed hair hung just past her bare shoulders and curled, clinging to her tan skin and the top of her deep red peasant blouse. She wore low cut jeans and a pair of camel-colored sandals. Her tiny hand remained on my arm.

I only hoped that my raw emotions did not show in my face.

Attempting a smirk, I made a half-hearted attempt to be jovial, "Hello, cutie."

That ought to do the trick. A bit of the old me came through after all.

She didn't fall for my duplicitous endeavor, but she didn't strike back with her usual sarcastic jibe either. Instead, she simply said, "Hey. I brought your coat." She pointed at the stool next to me where I finally noticed she'd slung my duster.

The jacket was the only reason she was even talking to me. "Thanks."

The band clamored onto the stage, momentarily distracting us from each other. The band members each tested out their instruments briefly, and then, they jumped into a lively number. People who had previously been sitting filtered onto the floor to dance. Buffy's energy visibly lightened at the upbeat tempo, and she dropped her hand from my bare skin. Cool air enfolded my arm, and I shivered but not because I was cold.

"Well, I'm off to dance!" she said cheerily.

I nodded and turned back to my now warm drink. I thought she was leaving, but she surprised me by caressing my shoulder blade tenderly.

Her voice was almost imperceptible in my ear over the noise of the music, "We have a slaying research meeting tomorrow night at eight at my house...if you want to come."

Then, she was gone, trailing the scent of sunshine and fresh fruit. Bringing the beer bottle to my lips, I downed a swig, noting the slight tingling as the liquid ran over the back of my throat. I barely heard anything going on around me, and I grabbed my duster and left the Bronze, heading into the night. Maybe I could find a demon to slay.

Everything we'd been through together, and that was the extent of first contact. She was kind enough to me...kinder than she should have been, considering what I had done to her. I supposed the same could be said of me as well, considering what she had done to me.

But, I couldn't deny the truth any longer. What was the truth?

It's over....

I hated endings, but I guessed we handled the ending well enough...even though we took long enough to get to that point. I paused thoughtfully.

Endings meant new beginnings...and new hope.

Pulling on my leather duster, I lit a cigarette with my favorite silver lighter and melted into the shadows.

The End.