Title: Ars Poetica
Author: Lirazel (penny_lane_42 )
Timeline: "Becoming Part II" - post-"Not Fade Away." Canon all through BtVS; ignores the comics and "The Girl in Question."
Rating: PG-13 here, R overall
Installment: Part one of six.
Warning: Little bit of completely necessary Buffy/Angel this chapter, but it won't happen again.
Disclaimer: The world and characters of the Buffyverse do not belong to me. Neither do any of the poems.
Poetry: The poems featured in this chapter are "Fire and Ice" by Robert Frost and "The Truth of a Woman" by Sir Walter Scott.
Summary: The story of her life with Spike, Buffy realizes, is written in poetry, not prose.
If It Had to Perish Twice
Just when she thinks the whole night can’t get any more bizarre, Spike starts quoting poetry. Isn’t it weird enough that she’s walking side by side with her mortal enemy, no stakes or bumpies in sight (though that doesn’t mean that her hand isn’t hovering near the familiar weapon in her pocket) toward her house, where she’s going to give him an invitation to enter the place where she and her mom live, and then have a war council about how they’re going to stop the love of her life from sucking the world into hell? Is it too much to ask that said mortal enemy not make the whole night even more wiggins-inducing by quoting poetry like it’s the most natural thing in the world?
And making it even weirder is when he does it. They’re walking along almost sideways so they can keep their eyes on each other—Happy Meals with legs or no, she doesn’t trust him as far as…well, she could throw him pretty far. Superpowers, and all that. So that metaphor doesn’t work.
She’s musing on just what metaphor would work for this beyond-weird situation when a demon pops out from behind a parked van, a big green one, all bumpy and slightly slimy—the demon, not the van, although it’s not in great shape either and could really use a wash. Buffy sighs long-sufferingly and falls into fighting stance. “Can we make this quick?” she asks wearily as it roars in her face. “I’ve got more important evil to deal with tonight.”
But before the demon can lunge at her, a blur of black and white and red (all over! Like a newspaper! Yes, she may be slightly loopy from weariness, thanks for asking. It’s been a long day) lunges at it.
She doesn’t even move. She just kind of stands there slack jawed and watches Spike toy with the demon. She’s never actually seen him fight before; she’s always been the one fighting him, except for a bit in the church with Kendra (don’tthinkaboutherdon’tthinkaboutherdon’t
It’s kind of…impressive. She’s never seen anyone move quite like this before, brutal and quick as lightning but almost…sinuous. He fights more gracefully than most people dance, and as she watches him, she feels the same way she feels when she watches Kristi Yamaguchi ice-skating: holding her breath because there’s no way anyone can possibly keep up that level of perfection without slipping. But the slip never comes.
It takes her longer than she’ll ever admit to finally shake herself out of her fascination, and as soon as she does, she feels irritation explode inside her. How dare he distract her from what’s important! Worse still….
“Spike! We don’t have time for this! Play some other time!”
He shoots her a dirty look over his shoulder as he ducks a swipe of massive claws, then turns his attention back to the demon. “Sorry, mate. Got a hot date I can’t be late for.”
And then he reaches out, grabs the massive bumpy head in both hands, and wrenches. It makes a horrible sound—the crack of bone, the grate of scales, the dying whine of the demon—and collapses to the ground.
Spike turns to her and his bumpies fall away, leaving behind a grin so big that it makes her slightly uncomfortable: he looks almost…human. “Oh, yeah. I still got it,” he says with great satisfaction, starting to saunter down the street.
She has to admit to herself that he certainly does. She doesn’t, however, have to admit it to him. “Oh, yeah. You’re the Big Bad. What was that all about?” she demands as she hurries to catch up with him. “I was going to take care of it. Why’d you fight it? Isn’t that against some sort of demon code?”
He snorts. “There is no demon code, cutie. What would be the fun in being a demon if there were?”
She wrinkles her nose at the thought of there being any fun in being a demon. “Spike. Why?”
He sighs, put upon. “Haven’t had much of a challenge since I healed up. Wanted to check and see if I’m up to par.”
“Oh.” Well, that’s pretty reasonable, actually.
“That and that was a Korvak demon. Their slime is fatal to humans.”
That’s not. “You did it to save me?”
“Slayer. Did you miss the part where I need you to stop Angelus and get Dru back? You turn into a pus ball and then explode because of some demon slime, I have to take them both on by myself. Something I’ll do if necessary but don’t particularly relish. See?”
She can’t think of anything to say to that, but she turns sulky after that, his buoyant mood grating on her understandably sensitive nerves. She fantasizes about smashing his face in, staking him so that Drusilla will know just what it feels like to lose someone you care about (don’tthinkaboutKendradon’tthinkaboutKend
“I got something for you, Slayer,” he announces as he walks along the edge of the sidewalk like it’s a balance beam, arms spread for balance like a little boy. She’s about to make a snarky comment about not being interested in fangs, but he continues.
“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.”
He finishes, drops off the sidewalk onto the street, and stares at her expectantly. For the umpteenth time that night, she gapes at him.
“Were you quoting poetry?” she sputters finally after a few moments of expectant silence.
“It’s Frost, you stupid bint. Don’t you know Frost?”
She does, actually. She totally pays attention in English class…on occasion. There’s the ridiculously over-quoted ones about roads and walls, the pretty one about woods and miles go, and the one that broke her heart: a conversation between a couple that’s lost a child. That one made her want to cry, which freaked her out, because she never thought poetry could make her want to cry. But she doesn’t tell him any of that.
“What do you mean, that one was for me?” She’s kind of furious, though she doesn’t know why.
“Think about it, Slayer. World’s about to end because you and lover-boy couldn’t keep your pants zipped.” Fury and pain bubble up inside her so quickly that she wants to launch herself at him, beat him and his stupid mouth that’s always saying what she doesn’t want to hear into ground beef. But she doesn’t. “That’s fire—desire. But it could also be ice—hate, right? Now the Great Poof hates you, gonna destroy the whole world, just ‘cause you’re in it. Fire, ice. Either one, world’s going to end.”
“No. It. Isn’t,” she grits out. “It’s not. We’re going to stop it. That poem is completely irrelevant.”
“But pretty. Bet you think it’s pretty, pet.”
She’d never imagined that a poem could make her furious, any more than she imagined one could make her cry. And she really never imagined that the same one that could make her so angry would also be so, as he says, pretty. It makes her even more furious.
She lashes out, her fist flying up and meeting his nose with a satisfying crunch before she can even think about it. “Don’t you say one more thing to me unless absolutely necessary, do you understand me?” It’s her quiet, deadly voice, one she doesn’t use often, but apparently it’s intimidating enough that Spike knows she means business.
When he stops groaning and cursing and clutching his nose, he says, “All right, Slayer. No need to go after the nose.”
But maybe he knows that he’s gone too far, because he doesn’t try to hit her back. And more than that, he stays silent as they fall back into their earlier pattern of watching each other, and he doesn’t say a thing until they reach the her house and her mom pulls up in the driveway. And that’s when the night goes to hell all over again.
Write in the Dust
“Oh, no,” Buffy groans. Not again.”
Angel gives her a startled little look, which she ignores in favor of a huge eye roll in Spike’s direction. Not that he’s paying the last bit of attention. Instead, he’s paused—again—in their trip toward the magic shop and has propped himself up against a telephone pole, slurring drunkenly.
“Woman's faith, and woman's trust -
Write the characters in the dust;
Stamp them on the running stream,
Print them on the moon's pale beam,
And each evanescent letter…” He wobbles, unbalanced, and nearly topples over when he punctuates the last few words with a sharp jab of his finger, but manages to stay upright long enough to continue.
“…Shall be clearer, firmer, better,
And more permanent, I ween,
Than the thing those letters mean.”
Oh, God. Now he’s complaining about Drusilla again. They’ll never get him to shut up now.
Buffy marches over to him, kicks one of his legs. It gives, and he collapses onto the ground, still leaning against the telephone pole. “Oi, Slayer! What was that for?”
“I do not have time to deal with you and your drunken poetry kicks right now. I want to have found
and Xander three hours ago. If you don’t get off your scrawny white English ass, I will stake you.” Willow
“You’ll never find ‘em without me,” he protests. “And if I want to lament my lost love, I can.” With a deep breath, he continues his recitation.
“I have strain'd the spider's thread
'Gainst the promise of a maid;
I have weigh'd a grain of sand
'Gainst her plight of heart and hand;
I told my true love of the token,
How her faith proved light, and her word was broken:
Again her word and truth she plight,
And I believed them again ere night.”
Buffy groans and glances back at Angel, but he’s just looking vaguely amused. Which is weird, because she really hasn’t seen him look anything but pained or heartbroken since he came back from hell. Which she sent him to. Which reminds her…
Honestly, how dare Spike, a soulless monster completely incapable of love, moan and groan and recite ridiculous poetry just because that nutcase left him when she really does love Angel and can never be with him?
She reaches down and grabs Spike’s arm, jerking him to his feet and then releasing him as quickly as she can to avoid any prolonged contact with his general nastiness. “Okay, Spike. First off, you’re a vampire, and so is Dru. Breaking your word is what you do.”
“Hey! Told you I’d help you save the world, didn’t I? And I did.”
“Spike, you left me there to die.”
He laughs—nearly a giggle, and says, “Yeah…” like he’s thinking back on the moment fondly. She raises her stake threateningly and he coughs, then corrects himself. “Yeah, but the deal was to make sure you didn’t have to face them both alone. I got Dru off your hands so you could focus on Peaches here. And you took good care of him, didn’t you? Sent him straight to hell, right quick.”
She feels like she can’t breathe, even as she glances over at Angel, who is standing there stony-faced, all traces of humor gone now. Stupid jerk—Spike, not Angel. How dare he bring that up?
“Second of all, why don’t you just find a new girl like any normal guy would do? Won’t this stupid love potion defeat the whole point of being with someone? Who wants to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with you?”
“You don’t get it, you stupid bint. I love her. I’m not some namby-pamby wanker who can just get over her. Our love is eternal.”
“Spike, you’re a vampire. You can’t love.” She hears a small noise behind her and knows she’s hurt Angel. Now it’s her turn to quickly correct herself. “I mean, you can’t love without a soul.”
Suddenly, Spike looks straight at her, eyes scarily intense, and announces in a tone far too lucid for Buffy’s comfort, “One day, that ignorant assumption is going to bite you in the ass, Slayer. You’ll find out you’re wrong, and you’ll regret all those times you told yourself those lies just to make your own life a little bit less confusing. Till then…” The intense look vanishes from his eyes, leaving them slightly bleary again. “Till then…shut your mouth unless you want to find your friends in three weeks dead of starvation and dehydration.”
With that, he lurches up straighter and starts saunter off toward the center of town again. Buffy stares after him, strangely shaky, for a long, pensive moment, till she’s jarred out of her brown study by Angel’s hand on her arm.
“Buffy,” he says quietly, “he’s just trying to play you. It’s Spike. That’s what he does. He doesn’t have a soul—none of them do. Don’t take anything he says seriously.”
She can’t quite meet his eyes, not after Spike reminded her of that day in the mansion when she kissed Angel so sweetly, told him to close his eyes, and shoved a sword in his heart. Guilt and confusion and longing burn fiercely inside her. “Why not?” she whispers.
“Because I never want you to be fighting one of them and wonder if they have some redeeming quality about them. If you hesitate, you end up dead. And I won’t watch that happen again.” When she still doesn’t look up at him, his hand slips under her chin, tilts it up so that she’ll meet his eyes. “I only want you to be safe. I know we can’t…but I still care about you. I always will.”
She awkwardly stretches her mouth into a smile, still unsettled by this whole night and by Spike’s words, spoken with an air of a prophet imparting divine revelation. “I know that.”
He smiles then, tentatively. “Come on. It’s going to take both of us to keep Spike from reminiscing again and delaying us still more.”
She falls into step beside him as she has a million times before, following after the glow of Spike’s stupid radioactive hair as it shines in the lamplight, but she notices that her pace doesn’t quite match his as it used to. She wonders if that happened when he lost his soul or if it’s a new development. She doubts she’ll ever know.
Still, she can’t shake the feeling of uneasiness. Spike has a way of shaking her foundations. She really hopes that this time when he leaves town, he’ll stay gone. She doesn’t know how much more foundation-shaking she can handle.