Title: What Suits
Summary: She's still trying to find it, but is he? Spike and Buffy post-Not Fade Away.
Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with anything having to do with the television show Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Author's Note: This story is post-Not Fade Away, non-comic compliant, more character-study than plot, and may very well go nowhere.
When she sees him, walking down the alley toward her with a slight limp impeding his usual sprawling gait, her first instinct is to laugh, so she does.
"Don't know what's so funny about it," he growls, closing the distance between them and turning to lean against the wall, his shoulders hunched every so slightly.
"You know," she says after a moment, wiping her eyes where her mirth has become too much for her head to contain. "I don't either."
He reaches into the pockets of his pea coat.
Withdrawing a cheap plastic lighter and a pack of cigarettes, he shakes one out in just the way she remembers and her head spins a little. Then he lifts it to his lips to light and the tremble in his hand is different enough to bring her back down to earth.
"So what brings you to these parts, slayer?"
"That's what you ask me? After ten years?"
"I'm sorry," he turns to her with narrowed eyes. "Shall we have a go?"
"I'm here on business," she responds crisply.
"Figured as much. Plenty of beasties crawling around here to keep a slayer busy."
"No, not on council business," she clarifies while avoiding his eyes. "I'm here for actual business. Like business-ey business."
"Yeah?" he looks at her, exhaling a large cloud of blue smoke into her face. She has to fight not to lean into it. "What sort of business you into these days?"
She describes her job as a merchandise buyer for a small department store based out of Oregon in excruciating detail, watching his eyes glaze over as he slowly ceases to listen. Even so, she finds she can't stop talking. His fingers twitch at his sides. She wants to take them in her own.
"And Dawn?" he finally interrupts her.
"In Scotland," she answers; relieved to have a reason to give up describing the recent crisis over the price of 500-thread count sheets she had dealt with at the store. "With Giles and company."
"And you, wandering lonely as a cloud in the trees of the great Northwest," he looks at her long and sharp. "Why?"
"I needed a break," she replies, trying for flip. "And I'm not lonely."
"No," he replies slowly, looking up at the sky. "No, I shouldn't think you'd be."
Something is insinuated here, she's sure of it, but she doesn't dare respond to it. The more blatant accusations will come soon enough.
"Why didn't you send me a letter?" She asks the question abruptly, staring at the ground.
"I mean, the thought never crossed your mind? Hey, I remember this girl that once told she loved me in the middle of a collapsing sphere of lava and death right before I spontaneously combusted. Maybe I should drop her a line? Something like, "hey, turns out I'm a proverbial boomarang of life. I just. Keep. Coming. Back." These last three words fall to the ground like wooden beads, landing with a hollow sort of ring that feels as empty as it sounds.
"A letter?" he asks after a long minute.
"It doesn't seem like the kind of thing you could say over the phone. I understand that. But a letter…"
"I needed a break," he replies, no trace of levity in his voice. "And I'm not ready."
"How can you not be ready?" Her question comes out as a gasp, and she is horrified to find tears coming down her cheeks. "It's been ten years. What more do you need?"
"That's the question, isn't it? What more? What more do you need, what more can I stand? And somewhere over the last ten years, I've found the answer. I love you, Buffy, and I always will, but I can't stand anymore. I'm tired."
She has a flash in her mind to a white back, draped over something gold and the smell of smoke and a voice, so much smaller than what she thought it would be. Can we rest now?
"So you just give up?" She tries for tough now. Tough love. Tough something. "That's not the Spike I knew."
"The Spike you knew wasn't a real person." He takes another shaky drag. "He was a story made up by a sad git who wanted to be more than he was. But I'm afraid our mistress time has proven my inability to keep that story straight. So it's just William now, and I find it suits better."
"You do?" she follows up lamely, unsure of what to say. This conversation is playing out so differently than she remembers. She shifts her weight, but can't find her footing.
He doesn't reply to this. He takes another long drag and stubs the cigarette out against the brick wall. Carefully, he opens the pack and deposits the half-smoked stump back into the cellophane paper.
"Well, Buffy, you're charming as ever," he declares, stowing the pack in his pocket and pushing himself off the wall. He's still fluid, but there's a certain weight to his movements she doesn't remember. "But I'm off like a ship in the night, destination unknown and territory unmarked and all that rot."
"But… I thought…" Her lameness is astounding.
"I know, dear," he leans in, holding up her hand and pressing dry, papery lips to it. Up close, she is shocked by the naked fear in his eyes.
"I'm…" incapable of finishing a sentence.
"I hope you find out what you are," he replies after a long moment. "I already know what I am."
She used to.