Title: No New Beginnings
This is a post Angel fic using the community theme of new beginings (kinda)
No New Beginnings
He's right in front of her, and where there should be joy there is a sense of finality so profound and affecting that she can feel the aching space already hollowed out in her chest where the hope of them once lived.
"Tell me?" she asks because it's expected, not because his answer will matter to her anymore than his giving it will shorten the distance in his eyes.
"Don't rightly know what to say, pet," he says with an accompanying shrug as negligent as the endearment that she doesn't want to believe is merely habit. "Got zapped back into existence at his majesty's pleasure" He nods sarcastically towards Angel's hospital bed. "Hung around, did my bit, took on the big nasty for him."
She nods in tacit acceptance that she no more wants to hear the details than he wants to give them. There's a numbness over her and she sees it wrapped around him too, like invisible cotton wool, keeping them from seeing or hearing or feeling. Keeping them, for now, from breaking.
The rhythmic bleeping of the machines stutters, and they both hold their breath and shake inside. A moment later it resumes. but there's no relief in it, only the doom filled inevitability of the waiting.
Because Angel is dying and that changes everything.
She and Spike have already had their fight. She'd found him as soon as she could after the battle, once the portal had been closed and the demon hordes exterminated. Once the injured had been cared for and the dead gathered up. She'd found him leaning against the sterile wall of a hospital corridor and staring at the door of an operating theatre.
"Where the bloody hell were you?" he'd hissed without once looking away from the empty space in the reflective steel of the door. "And don't go tellin' me Wesley didn't call. Was still a sodding watcher at heart so don't tell me he didn't call."
"He called." She'd been so shamed that she hadn't been able to match the seething intensity of his rage. "We didn't trust him. We didn't trust any of them."
"Any of us," he'd corrected and finally looked at her with judgment burning in his eyes.
"You should have called," she'd deflected her guilt and stirred up accusation of her own. "All this time you were alive…"
"Don't give me that bollocks, sweetheart. You knew."
"Yes, and I waited for you to call," she'd insisted mulishly. "You should have called."
"Hurt your precious pride did it? When I didn't come crawling on my belly like a good little lapdog?" He'd stamped out an unlit cigarette and cursed softly at himself before delivering a quietly spoken sucker punch. "Hardly a good enough bloody reason to let 'em all die."
"No, you idiot. I didn't trust them: I couldn't risk the girls to come for them." She'd pressed her clenched fists against the urge to beat understanding into him. "I'd have come for you.”
The silence that had followed had ticked on heavily until she'd caught her breath enough to continue in a low regretful whisper, "I thought there must have been something else going on, something deeper; otherwise you'd have been the one calling. So I waited, waited for some sort of sign from you, and then it was too late."
"Too late" she whispers now, looking at Angel and thinking of Spike.
"Hey now pet none of that. What's done's done, no good working ourselves up about it again." The feeling of his hand offering room temperature comfort against the hot skin of her shoulder makes her quiver and long to turn into his embrace. Just hold on tight and scream "I don't care" to all the reasons she doesn't get to have him now.
She wants him more now than ever and loves him with more certainty than she thought possible for them. She doesn't question that he loves her too. It has, after all, been a truth of her existence for half her adult life.
Yet, she understands for the first time that love is not always enough. "I love you" is not some magical cure for all their emotional ills. There is no happenstance of fate or collection of words that can undo all the things they would never be able to get past.
She thinks they've had so many chances. So many fresh starts and new beginnings. She doesn't just mean the big moments of souls and resurrections, but all the fleeting half chances they let slip. She knows them all from "I believe in you" to "The best night of my life" and further back, before they should have had a chance, yet did, against all nature and acceptance. "Do you even like me?"-"Sometimes"
And so much more recently when she'd felt his eyes on her and had danced and strutted and shown him just how much his staying away didn't hurt her heart, while all along her heart cried out to go to him and stop the foolishness.
Things could have been so different a hundred times, and she'd played them all out in her head while she'd flitted around Europe so complacently, expecting the next one to arrive, if not on a silver plate, then at least on a trans-Atlantic flight.
She glances at her watch, still set on Rome time, and thinks Dawn will be calling soon. He sees and offers, "I can keep an eye on gramps if you've got places to be, luv. Not like he even knows you're about."
"Thanks" She nods, and so does he, and she leaves. Walks the short distance to the door and the long sterile corridor, to the lobby and the car park and then she's away. No sense of opportunities surrendered follows her because there was no new beginning for them this time, just finally a final ending.
Four stop signs later it hits her, and she cries untill the traffic blurs and she has to pull over. There will be no Spike and Buffy.
Her breath comes in sandpapered gasps that scrape her throat, and torrential tears stain her eyes red, forging messy riverbeds in her foundation. No Spike and Buffy ever.
When Dawn rings she gulps and sniffles a greeting, then tells her sister that she's crying over Spike.
"What did he say to you?" Dawn asks with the overprotective edge of a sibling. As if it were that simple. If this were a fight, she'd be OK, because fights, for all the pain they give, mean future.
She can't explain that they have simply used up all their coupons. That they are both so much to blame for Angel, and both so innately unable to forgive his loss, that there is no chance for them now. So she says it's hard letting go for both of them and Dawn makes the right noises of comfort that she can effectively tune out; then she goes home and waits for nightfall.
When she finally steps out into the darkness, she is done crying and ready to offer her deadly gift to all comers. Demon's crawl like fleas over the city’s mangy hide, and her stake lands true again and again as she cleanses the streets of these parasites.
She should have known that he'd be here, in the alley behind Angel's old hotel, where the energy of the rift still draws demons like moths to a dying flame.
He's doing what he does best and he does it beautifully. He's magnificent when he's winning, gleeful and energised, but she thinks that this is more his element. He's outnumbered and outmatched and she should help, but he suits these dreadful odds too well.
He takes another hit - and another - in a brutal sequence of blows that would knock him down if he weren't so stubborn. She should step in, because there can be no way out of this for him She doesn't; she has too much faith in his resilience.
So she watches with the satisfaction of a seasoned gambler who always backs a winner as he shifts his body sideways and strikes up hard into his opponent's groin. It's like chess, then, to her expert eye. Mate in eight, she thinks; he does it in seven.
She slow hand claps him and for a moment the air crackles between them with such vivid passion that they must both withdraw. They'll never be friends, she thinks as she watches him tighten his coat around himself like a shield. She won't even be able to hold on to that.
"Should get to the hospital, pet," he says eventually. "He won't last till morning."
So they walk together in silence, feet stoically carrying them where they really don't want to go. His arm comes around her when the rhythm of her stride falters just outside Angel's room. And she grasps at him, feeling very much like the sixteen year old who first loved the dying man behind that door. "Oh, god, I can't," she whispers. "Spike I can't."
"Hey, luv." No accidental affection there, he holds her at arms length and looks her bravely in the eye. "Not a thing in the world you can't do, pet; never was. We owe him this, yeah? Shouldn't be on his own - not now."
She thinks of her mother all alone and shakes her head. No, he shouldn't be alone, and, yes, they owe him at least this much when their pride has made them both complicit in his fate. "'K," she mumbles, and he pulls her close for a second before leading them into the half-light of the room.
She doesn't recognise him, with tubes in his throat and wires stretched across his body. She can make out the blue of his hospital gown and the thought of him in that uniform of the infirmed makes her want to sob. He would not want to be so weak.
She cries a little, but not too much, and holds his hand while Spike stands sentry by the door. Hours pass by in a slow motion montage of memory and regret. She doesn't speak to him - he can't hear her, she knows that, and, anyway, what could she say? Eventually, she sleeps with her head on his bed and her hand holding his.
She wakes, disorientated, to the sound of Spike's familiar voice rising and falling with unfamiliar cadence. "…mother of God, pray for us sinners now and in the hour of our deaths. Hail Mary full of grace, the lord…"
She doesn't raise her head, thinks Spike would be embarrassed to have her witness this. Watches him through silted eyes where he kneels at Angel's bedside, head bowed, lips incanting he should have forgotten decades ago. The words stop suddenly, and he's looking straight at her with flooded eyes. Spike is crying, crying over Angel who he always claimed to hate; and she breaks.
His pain resonates through her body like a clanging gong shaking her organs and loosing all her strength. "Spike," she whispers it like a summoning. Come to me, she thinks, I need you. But he doesn't, just drops his head so that his forehead lies against Angel’s hand and his voice begins again. "Hail Mary…"
She stares out over the Roman rooftops and sighs. She runs the funeral over in her mind; so few present, just her and Spike and Nina, who'd arrived just in time to hold his hand in his last moments and relegate her and Spike to bystanders at his passing. No one had spoken; there'd been no wake. All those whose words would have mattered had died beside him.
She and Nina had each laid a rose - hers white, Nina's red - on his coffin, and Spike had thrown in a handful of earth and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like "Rest in peace, you miserable old bastard"; then it had been over, three lives altered forever by one death.
She hadn't lingered, what would have been the point? And he hadn't tried to delay her leaving, though they'd kissed, inevitably, before she left, and she has relived it a hundred times since then.
"Slayer, wait," he'd called after her as she'd moved away without a goodbye. "Pet, wait."
She'd tried to keep her back to him, tried to keep walking; she hadn't needed a reminder of what she was giving up. But she'd been weak and she'd wanted to feel him so very badly.
Then they'd been kissing. Right there in the middle of the departure lounge. With passion and abandon and not caring who the hell saw them do it. "God, Buffy," he'd gasped when she'd pulled away. "I-"
"I love you."
She'd cut him off, first to it for the first time. He'd been rocked by her words, sucker punched, and if her heart hadn't been crumbling she'd have loved it.
"Love you too, pet."
He'd said it softly and sincerely and she'd thought that perhaps he'd practiced it just that way a few hundred times, back in the days when the only way he'd been able to tell her had been in anger or desperation.
He'd just nodded, as if the words had been too difficult to say; and then he'd been gone and she'd trudged through check-in and security like a zombie.
A chill wind makes her shiver, and she turns to go back inside thinking not of him now, but of herself. Wondering what future she will have. She'll fall again, she knows; the heart is too resilient for it to be any other way. But nothing will be the same, and all men, all lovers, will have to bear comparison to him. She imagines she'll find plenty wanting before she is finally impressed.
Her life begins today, she thinks as she lies down to sleep, and the thought is hopeful despite the pain. "Thank you, Spike," she whispers - because he taught her all she knows of love. She won't be so wasteful again; she'll remember the lessons that loving him has taught and she'll love truer and better and longer for it.
She closes her eyes and hears the breeze answer her with Cockney charm. "You’re welcome, pet."
Hope you like :)