TITLE: The Widening Gyre
AUTHOR: Cindy (cindergal)
RATING: R for dark themes and sexual content
SUMMARY: A horror story. A love story. A dark fairytale.
DISCLAIMER: The characters aren't mine, but Joss said I could play with them.
The Widening Gyre
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
~From “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats
Buffy used to dream of heaven. It’s hard to believe it was just a few years ago, but still the memory is clear. She’d cling to sleep as if it was a soft blanket she could wrap around her, trying to hold on to the misty, fleeting images, that nebulous feeling of contentment. But the hard, bright light of another day would always intrude; she could see it behind her closed eyelids no matter how hard she squeezed them shut. That was back when the effort of just getting up in the morning seemed too much for her, when she told Spike that the world they lived in was hell. She knows better, now. Now she knows what hell really is. She no longer dreams of heaven because she’s not sure that one exists anymore. She only dreams of him. Even though she’s not sure if he exists anymore, either.
Death has been a part of her life for almost as long as she can remember, and people she has loved have died before. But this is different. Everyday she sees more horror than she could have ever imagined, and that's saying a lot. Faith and Xander were taken before her eyes in Cleveland. Many slayers, too. She wanders among the survivors, doing what she can but mostly feeling small and weak and useless. But then she remembers how they must feel, and she goes on.
Months go by – or is it years – and she begins to look upon the fallen with something like…envy. It would be easy to join them; there are many ways to die these days. But she thinks that perhaps there’s a reason why she’s been allowed to live this long, and that’s why she doesn’t give up. Some days she thinks she must be very stupid for believing that things like reason or purpose exist in this world, but then a tiny seed of hope takes root in her heart as she hears the whisperings of the underground. They speak of someone strong, a demon fighter. Not a slayer like her or the others who continue to bravely fight on despite their inexperience and diminishing numbers. This warrior is a man. A blue eyed man. No, green. No, blue. She doesn’t want to hope, but she can hardly help herself. Who else but Spike would be so memorable, so larger than life? Of course, no one she’s met has actually laid eyes on him. It’s all hearsay. He could be anyone. He could be no one; just a rumor, a legend they’ve created to give themselves a reason to go on. If so, then they’re not that much different from her, she guesses.
“I don’t want you to go to London tomorrow. I have this bad feeling.”
He’d raised his head from the pillow, eyes warm and a little surprised. “Too soon for another apocalypse, innit? ‘Sides, this is my first assignment for the sodding Watcher’s Council. Won’t do for me to call in sick the first day, right?”
“I know, I know. I’ve just gotten used to you being around, that’s all.”
The eyebrow went up, and she knew she was in trouble. “Used to me? Like an old sweater, you mean?”
She smiled and scooted closer to him on the bed, leaning her chin on his chest. “Used to you, like I feel a little lost without you. Better?”
He gave her that soft, melty smile that he saved just for her, and she felt a big lump forming in her throat. Taking her face in his hands, he lifted her head so he could look into her eyes. “Let me tell you what, then. If you ever get really lost, you just leave a trail of bread crumbs. And the Big Bad Wolf will come and find you.” He growled for effect, and it made her laugh.
“I think you’re mixing up your fairytales there, mister.”
He had kissed her softly. “Yeah? And what are you gonna to do about it, Goldilocks?”
“Just make sure you show up when you’re supposed to, Big Bad Wolf, because I’ve got a bed waiting for you that’s just right.”
And so Buffy keeps moving, because it’s the only thing she can do. The underground always has room for one more, although that may very well mean sleeping in a hallway under a tattered blanket shared with three other people who probably haven’t bathed in a while. But that’s not the only reason she doesn’t like to stay in any one place for too long. She does what she can for them, but they can be as dangerous as the demons under the right circumstances, paranoid and half-crazy, suspecting even their friends and families, of what she’s not exactly sure. A woman with superhuman strength traveling alone except for a stash of weapons is distrusted by as many as she’s welcomed by. She’s been in this last location for long enough; they’re starting to look at her funny, and conversation stops when she enters a room. Or maybe she’s just paranoid, too. But she does as she promised, and leaves some breadcrumbs, messages left with the most trustworthy – and sane - people she can find. Tell him Buffy was here. It’ll have to be enough.
She’s in a rural area and it’s at least a day’s travel on foot to the next safe house, but she really wants to get inside. She used to feel at home in the dark, but she feels vulnerable now in a way she never did in the cemeteries of Sunnydale. There’s no real difference between day and night anymore; in this new, God-forsaken world, even the sun, the moon, and the stars have abandoned them. Yet, it isn’t cold. Somehow the chaotic energy of a thousand different dimensions colliding together gives off a kind of unnatural humidity that prickles at her skin when she’s outside too long.
She lucks out when she stumbles upon an empty house in fairly decent shape. Most of them are either burned out, come complete with rotting corpses, or are occupied by the enemy. This one appears to have been simply abandoned. The fact that it had a generator and a good supply of fuel was a huge bonus. She’s learned to look for places that have them, and has somehow figured out how to get one going without blowing herself up. Xander would have been so proud. She performs a cursory check of the place, but both her senses and the thick, undisturbed layer of dust covering every surface tell her that she’s relatively safe, for the time being.
She wanders through the house, picking up objects and putting them down. As always, she is immediately drawn to the photographs. A young couple smiles at her from the sunshiny deck of a boat, white teeth against tanned skin. The woman’s black hair streams out behind her, refusing to stay confined to its elastic. On their honeymoon, maybe. It seems there were no children yet in this house, and for that she is grateful. She slips the photo out of its frame and flips it over, but there’s nothing written on the back. She takes a wallet out of the inside pocket of her leather jacket and places the photo on top of the others, then goes about the business of surviving.
Starting in the dining room, she finds a sideboard that may have what she’s looking for. Opening the top drawer, her hands slide over the cool surface of the sterling silver, tracing the patterns with her finger tips, then the soft velvet that lines the drawer. A family heirloom that would never be passed down. The second drawer holds some beautiful linen napkins. She picks one up, and sees that it is embroidered with the initials M&R. Briefly, she considers the possibilities: Mark and Rebecca, Michael and Rachel, Matthew and Renee. She carefully replaces it and moves on to the next drawer. There she finds what she’s been looking for - the stash of candles. She takes a handful of tapers, and a candle holder from a shelf. The generator provides electricity, but of course it wouldn’t be safe to turn on any lights.
Seeing the dishes and silverware reminds her that she’s starving, and she finds a few things that are still edible in the pantry - some unopened crackers, canned fruit and vegetables, a few tins of tuna. She sets her place at the table, making sure to put the fork on the left side of the plate like Mom taught her. Then she slips a hand inside her pocket, and closes her fingers around his lighter.
She’d thought it was such a good idea, until the day she actually gave it to him. He’d lost the original, he told her regretfully, when his coat had been destroyed, and never bothered to replace it.
“I know you don’t smoke much anymore, but you were so attached to that thing. And I tried to get the same exact one. At least, that’s how I remembered it. Did I get it right? If not, I can take it back.” In her nervousness she was babbling like Willow on a bad day, but he didn’t seem to notice.
Instead he was fixated on his gift, staring at it, weighing it in his hand. “Same exactly,” he said softly, “‘cept mine wasn’t...sterling silver.”
“Oh. I hope that’s okay. And, and I had it engraved.” She had to reach out and turn it over herself before he saw the inscription. ‘S+B, flame eternal’. Once again, he simply stared.
Her hands twisted nervously in her lap. “I was going to put, ‘you light up my life,’ but I always hated that song.”
He let out a bark of laughter and pulled her to him, and his face was wet, or maybe it was hers, and he kissed her and kissed her and said, “No, this is perfect, Buffy. This is perfect.”
A few months later they spent what might have been their last moments together, though she hadn’t known it at the time. Still, she’d been uncharacteristically clingy, afraid to let him go. She should have listened to her inner slayer, she thought now. But he’d sensed her mood and folded his lighter into her hand. “Keep this for me, love. You can give it back when I get home.”
She lights a candle and bites into a slightly stale saltine.
After cleaning up her dishes and checking doors and windows one more time, she peels off her filthy clothes and throws them in the trash. She’s in luck, as the former lady of the house was about her size. She then sets more candles around the bathroom. No windows in here, so she doesn’t have to worry about alerting unfriendly neighbors to her presence. She finally allows herself to relax a little as she sinks into the tub. Hot water is a luxury, but candlelight is so routine and necessary that it would have been boring, not even vaguely romantic, if it didn’t remind her of him. There’s a little dish of fancy soap on the edge of the tub, dusty but unused. She lathers up a washcloth, cleans her body, and lets her mind drift.
They’d been apart for more days than they’d been together at this point, but those days spent with him are ones that she relives over and over in her mind until they take on a sort of super clarity, seeming more real to her than the horror that had come after. Horror that is exhausting and soul sucking and almost unrelieved. Pushing that from her mind, fantasizing that she’s with him, it’s the only thing that keeps her sane.
After ducking her head under the water, she rubs shampoo into her hair, imagining it’s his fingers massaging her scalp. He’s such a tactile person, and used to love to wash her hair. Closing her eyes, she moves the cloth across her skin, and it’s his hands gliding over her, wet and rough. She drops the cloth and uses her own hands, sliding them across her breasts, down her belly, between her legs. She can try to mimic his movements, but not his voice rumbling in her ear, not the solid feel of him above her, behind her, around her, inside her. Her fingers find their own rhythm, but her release is short lived. She slumps back against the cold, hard porcelain and sobs.
Buffy doesn’t have the luxury of feeling sorry for herself for too long. She dries off and dresses quickly, in knit pants and a t-shirt. She always sleeps clothed, should she need to leave – or fight - in a hurry. The bed she crawls into is queen sized, soft and comfortable. But it seems too big, and the sheets are cold and smell like dust.
“You are so lucky you aren’t dust right now!” She’s shaking with fury and relief and a few hundred other emotions. He’s alive, and he didn’t tell her, and he’s alive. He should be happy he got off with a punch in the nose.
Spike nods in agreement, still holding his nose. “Ow,” he says. She pulls his hands away, and he winces. “Am I bleeding?”
“No, you stupid, stupid vampire.” She kisses his nose, his cheeks, his entire face, and finally his mouth. “You’re fine,” she says, her voice breaking with all that she's feeling. “You’re really, really fine.”
She reaches out to finger her stake and a knife sheathed in leather that lay next to her on the bed. They are her constant companions now, along with the crossbow that’s propped up against the night stand. She leans over to blow out the candle, and is once again alone in the dark.
She wakes up a little disoriented with no idea how long she’s been asleep, though she rarely sleeps more than a couple of hours at a time. She brushes her teeth and then finds a hairbrush in the bathroom, running it through her waist-length hair. Only the very ends are blonde, now. Gazing into the mirror, she barely recognizes the woman who stares back at her. She looks sad and tired and old beyond her years. Tears threaten, but she refuses to cry again. Too forcefully she throws the brush down on the counter, and it bounces hard and hits the mirror, shattering it. “Oops. Seven years of bad luck,” Buffy says out loud. Her voice sounds odd and harsh to her own ears, and she begins to laugh a little crazily.
That’s when she senses it, and abruptly her mouth snaps shut.
Vampires are the least of her worries these days, but the fact that they can enter pretty much any home they please now is a bit of a problem. And her, caught without her stake. She picks up the brush again, the closest piece of wood to her, and whirls around to face her attacker.
Her first thought is that he’s a ghost again, the way he’d told her he was before. His form seems to flicker and waver in the shadows that cloak the doorway where he stands. Perhaps the powers that screw with you had killed him off, only to send him back again to give her a message. Maybe he’s the First Evil, who has come to taunt her, finally, with its victory. Or the more likely scenario, he’s simply a hallucination conjured from a despair bred of too much death and loneliness. She’s finally losing her mind. But no, it was just the candlelight making him seem unearthly, and when he steps out of the shadows and she can see him clearly, she knows that he is real. She knows because she never would have imagined him like this, so thin and gaunt. His hair is shorn close to his head, making the sharp lines of his face even more prominent, his eyes even more strikingly blue in his pale face.
“Spike.” The brush falls out of her hand and clatters on the tile floor.
“There she is,” he says softly, his voice catching.
She takes two steps towards him before her knees begin to buckle, and he moves forward quickly to catch her in his arms. “Oh God, Buffy,” he says, “It’s you. It’s really you.”
His thin arms still feel strong around her, and she can feel her body trembling as they sink to the floor. The need to physically connect overwhelms her; she wants to crawl inside him and stay there forever. Her hands move over his body as her mouth seeks out his.
She can’t find the words, and hears herself making these forlorn little sounds of desperation. Her hands search for his belt buckle, and find it.
Buttons, buttons, damn buttons, and he has to undo them for her. Ineffectually she pushes at his jeans until finally he does it himself, his hands finding their way under her t-shirt, his groan finding it’s way to her spine, sending shivers along its length. And then he’s kissing her, slow and soft and deep as she pulls him inside, arms and legs and heart pulling him closer and closer.
“I left a trail,” she says, crying, “and you found me.”
"We found each other," he says, and kisses her again.
There was time for talking later, lying face to face in the big bed.
“Been lookin’ for you for so long. Had a starting place, a’course, but it took me so long to even get there. Had an ocean to cross, you know. And you were long gone from Cleveland by then. Thank God for the underground. Kept hearing tales of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Hard to forget a name like yours, I guess.” He tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. “Your mum named you good. Caught scent of you a week ago, and been trackin’ you ever since.”
“And suddenly I’m lovin’ that whole smelling thing.” He smiles, and she smiles back. It feels strange and unfamiliar on her face, but it’s a feeling she’d like to have again.
But there is more to talk about, more she has to know. “The others?” she manages to get out.
He pulls her closer, if that’s possible, making sure every part of his body was touching a part of hers. “Not tonight, love,” he says. “Tomorrow we’ll talk about it. Not tonight, all right?”
He’s right. Tonight is just for them. Tonight she’s going to tell him and show him she loves him for as long as she can stay awake. She has a lot more grieving to do, she knows that. And a lot more fighting, too. But not alone.