Title: I'm No Good At Writing Love Letters
Era/season/setting: Season 4, just after "Something Blue"
Word count: 3,830
Warnings: Some slight references to Buffy/Riley
Summary: Willow's spell has ended, the engagement is off, and Buffy's more than ready to get her life back to normal. But then she finds a letter that Spike wrote to her while under the influence of the spell.
Author's Note: Thanks to Teragramm for the beautiful banner and to thenewbuzwuzz for her always insightful feedback as a beta. Any remaining errors are 100% my fault. Constructive criticism always welcomed.
I don't know how to write love letters.
- Frida Kahlo
Buffy stared, dumbfounded at the letter that’d fallen out of her Psych 101 textbook and onto her lap. She’d known right away who it was from, recognized both the handwriting and the red ballpoint ink he’d written in. After all, it was only last night that she’d been sitting snuggled into his lap while he’d made notes for their upcoming (or so they’d thought) nuptials. She quickly shoved the letter back into the textbook, glancing back over her shoulder from where she sat at her desk.
Willow was, despite the early hour, sound asleep. All the inadvertent magic channeling she’d done yesterday and her efforts to appease everyone with cookies today had taken their toll. She’d crawled into bed at 4:30, claiming to just need to close her eyes for a few minutes, but Buffy wouldn’t be surprised if she slept till morning. Luckily Willow had read far ahead in the textbooks at the beginning of the quarter, so she had a bit of leeway, even after her erratic behavior of late. At least she seemed to be finally on her way to recovery after Oz’s disappearance.
But if Willow was running out of leeway, Buffy had never had any to begin with. She was just barely beginning to get into what could marginally be called Professor Walsh’s “good graces” and she had no intention of finding out why they called Walsh “the Bitch Queen from Hell.” And, since her magic-addled self had completely forgotten to study, Buffy kind of needed this evening to catch up on reading before her morning classes tomorrow. Which made the letter pretty much the last thing she wanted to see.
Hadn’t she been through enough, between the humiliation of everyone having witnessed her and Spike be all lovey-dovey and Riley thinking that she’d been about to get married? The damage control on that hadn’t been exactly fun and her lame excuse about it all being some dumb joke probably hadn’t done anything for Riley’s opinion on her maturity. But at least he seemed to like her apparent zaniness, so maybe she’d gotten away with it for now. She’d have to tell him the truth sooner or later though. Oh boy, was she not looking forward to that conversation.
She had to admit, one comforting thing about her (enchanted? no, too romantic) bespelled engagement had been the idea that Spike was already a part of her world. With a normal guy, the most she could hope was that he stayed safe. But Spike understood it, in some ways better than she did, and could be there to help her through it. True, he was on the wrong side of the whole battle-between-good-and-evil thing. But at the time it hadn’t seemed to matter that much. But now, oh boy with the mattering. And, god! What was wrong with her? She needed to stop thinking about any part of that engagement as anything but the disgusting perversion of reality it had been. Spike was evil and so very, very much not relationship material. Even if snuggling into his arms had felt surprisingly comfortable and right, and he had been a good kisser, and–– Woah. This was a train of thought that had to be stopped. By dynamiting the tracks if necessary. There were clearly some leftover effects of the spell going on.
Buffy hooked the pages of the textbook with her finger and pulled it open, allowing it to flip naturally to the page where the letter had hidden. She could shove the letter into her bag and ignore it. Or just throw it away. Somewhere where she wouldn’t obsess over it or worry that Willow might stumble upon it. So she'd go toss it in some bin on campus and never think about it or whatever Spike might have written again. Buffy was certain that he’d written the letter under the effect of the spell. Why else would Spike write to her? And when else would he have been unchained and near her bag for long enough to slip the letter in? So whatever words were written on this paper weren’t Spike’s. They were the spell’s. And both she and Spike would be happier if she never read them.
Buffy slipped the book into her bag and got to her feet, careful not to make any more noise than she could help as she slid the chair back across the floor. Willow didn’t seem to wake though, so Buffy slipped into her jacket and out the door.
It was already beginning to get dark as Buffy made her way to the common area of Stevenson Hall. The room had one of those big, multi-bin trash receptacles, so she'd just toss it into the recycle slot and it’d be gone by morning. She dug the letter out of the bag but her hand froze just before dropping the letter into the slot. Argh... She couldn't do it. It was so dumb and wrong but there had been a moment just after the spell had been cast where Buffy had felt more like a popped balloon than someone who had just been freed from an enchantment. All day today she’d had this niggling sense of loss. Because, even if she’d told Willow that it hadn’t been “nice,” her bespelled engagement had had its moments. So maybe she wanted to recapture just a little of that warm feeling she’d had with Spike (so much more comfortable and natural than anything she’d had with Riley so far) for just a moment. Then she'd throw the letter away and never think about it agin.
Buffy settled into a quiet corner of the common room, opened the letter, and read.
God, you’ve got a ridiculous name for a slayer, you know that? Funny thing is, I think it’s growing on me. And now, I’m starting to see a future where I wake up every morning (or evening, I suppose that’s another thing we’ll need to sort out) with your name the first thing on my lips. A few months ago I wouldn’t have been able to imagine that with anyone but Drusilla. Hell, if you’d told me then that I’d be marrying you, I’d have thought you’d lost your mind. But then, I’ve always led with my heart, and if that makes me crazy, well, there are worse ways to go off your rocker.
I’m writing while you’re out picking up ingredients for the spell for your watcher (and here’s a weird thought, do you think he’ll want me to call him “father” after we’re married?) I can’t quite decide if it’s you I’m writing to or myself. I guess I’m hoping that writing this will help make a couple things clearer in my mind. Bleeding stupid, really. My words have never done anything but bugger things up worse than they were to start. But at least if I get them down on paper I can look at them before you see them. Hopefully lessening my chance of really putting my foot in it, yeah?
Strange how I feel like I can see things more clearly now. Like why Dru dumped me, for instance. She’d seen something I hadn’t. The connection between us. But I couldn’t admit to it. I told her that my failure to kill you didn’t mean anything. Just bad luck. She didn’t believe me and I couldn’t let myself believe her. But looking back, it all makes so much sense. I mean, that first time I saw you, moving like Salome on the dance floor, I had this feeling. This notion that you’d be the ruin of me if I let you. Alright, alright, I can already hear what you’re going to say. I didn’t love you, not then. After all, I tried to kill you right after. But the possibility was there, even if I wasn’t willing to admit it. And it frightened me. So yeah, I tried to get you before you could get me. But you never made it easy on me. You were too fast, too clever, too graceful. And each time I came across you I found myself wanting just one more dance.
God, Slayer, remember how we used to dance? I can’t fight anymore, against or beside you, and that rankles me. I get this chip out and someday and we’ll dance again. Only this time, I’ll be by your side, not at your throat. We’ll take on the world together, you and me. And I’ll dance any dance you want me to, just as long as I get to stay by your side. Hell, I’ll even dance to "Wind Beneath My Wings" if that’s what you really want.
The thing I’m saying is… bloody hell, this is hard. I’ll do what you want, you know. Whatever you want. I mean, I’m still evil, still the Big bloody Bad and all that. But if you want me to live off pig's blood, to not hurt anyone that doesn’t deserve hurting, I’ll do it. For you. Cause, the thing of it is, Slayer… The thing I couldn’t say even as I was getting down on one knee to ask you to marry me… I love you. It’s bizarre and it breaks all the rules of my kind and yours. But there it is. I love you.
And I’m telling you this because… well, I’ll be damned if I know exactly why. I suppose because you deserve it. And considering that you said yes, I have to hope that you feel the same.
Bugger. I’m no good at writing love letters.
P.S. I’m slipping this into your bag so you can read it sometime when I’m not there to breathe over your shoulder. I imagine you can tell me how you feel about it (and if you feel the same or if really have buggered things up somehow) when I see you again tomorrow. We’ll be seeing a lot of each other over the coming weeks as we plan the wedding, needless to say. But… I know that your life and mine can sometimes be complicated. And our crowds don’t exactly intersect well. Besides which, I’m not planning on staying at your Watcher’s flat any longer than I have to. I don’t want to overstay his hospitality, and besides, now that we’re planning on getting married I don’t imagine that you lot are planning on continuing to keep me prisoner.
So, what I’m proposing is this: there’s a big old maple right on the northeast edge of the Quiet Grove Cemetery, not far from campus. I noticed a little while back that it’s got a hollow in the middle where it looks like it must’ve been struck by lightning years ago. Perfect place for hiding messages if we ever have to. You never know when you might need a secret way of getting in touch.
Buffy felt as if she was looking at the letter from a distance away. Her eyes were locked unfocusedly onto the words, “Forever yours” and tears were threatening to cloud her vision. God. No one had ever written her a love letter and to get one now from her archenemy, who’d only been acting under the influence of a spell… It was crushing. The funny thing was, Buffy entirely believed that the letter had been sincere in the moment in which it was written. But, in reality, “forever” had turned out to mean two or three hours between when the spell had gone into effect and when it had ended. And to think, they’d both believed they had all the time in the world.
Buffy wondered how she would have responded to the letter if she’d received it while still under the influence of the spell. She’d probably have thrown herself into his arms and said something like, “Oh, Spike! I love you too!”
Love. He’d said he loved her. It was all the spell, trying to convince them that it was only natural to get married, she was sure. After all, who plans on marrying someone they hate? Buffy supposed she must have thought the “L-word” at some point during the spell. But mostly she hadn’t been thinking much at all. She’d just been filled with this beautiful certainty that the day she and Spike got married would be the happiest of her life.
Well, she’d known reading the letter was a bad idea. Now that it had made her even more miserable than before, she really should just crumple the thing up and do her best to move on. She was sure that a good night’s sleep and maybe a nice date with Riley would wipe the whole stupid mess from her mind. But… there was something about Spike’s letter that was catching in her mind. Something that didn’t want to let her go.
Sighing, Buffy pulled out her notebook and began to write.
Spike wasn’t able to talk his way into relative freedom until late evening on the second night after the spell. He’d had to persuade Giles that, what with him being harmless and all, there really was no point in keeping him tied up. And Spike had gotten absolutely no pleasure in making that argument. But he’d known he needed to get out. To stop Buffy from seeing what his magic-addled brain had written if he could, and to do damage control if not.
Now, a misty sliver of moon lit Spike’s way as he approached Quiet Grove. He felt like he should be enjoying his relative freedom (if any moment when he had the chip in his head and the commandos breathing down his neck could truly be said to be free). But he was too caught up in worry to enjoy himself. Spike’s first thought had been to rush straight to Buffy’s dorm on some shoddy excuse of having remembered more about the commandos, finding or making some opportunity to nab the letter from her bag. But odds were decent that he was already too late. Quiet Grove was between Giles’ flat and campus and at least if he found the tree to be empty he’d know that either Buffy hadn’t read the letter or hadn’t found it worth responding to. Either of which was better than the alternative.
The bare maple tree wasn't hard to locate, the gash in its center at first appearing to be a stark and barren blackness against the light brown of its bark. But as Spike stole closer he noticed a tiny flash of white sticking out of the trunk. The corner of a sheet of lined notebook paper that’d been folded and stuck into the tree. Swearing profusely under his breath, Spike pulled the note from its resting spot and flipped it open, reading by dappled moonlight.Some of the lines had been crossed out with a heavy hand, the tip of the pen almost going all the way through the paper. But he could still make them out if he squinted.
I got your letter, although I bet you’re probably wishing I hadn’t, ha ha. And don’t worry. I know it was all the spell. You don’t have to tell me that you don’t really love me, that you didn’t mean the things you wrote. I know you weren’t in your right mind any more than I was.
Today, I told Willow that I wasn’t even happy during the spell. I wasn’t exactly lying, it’s true that we did argue a lot. I mean, I still can’t believe that you suggested I give up slaying or that you insulted my name, and kinda by extension my mom. Oh, what am I saying, of course, I believe you did those things.
I know it was the spell that made me go all gaga at the idea of wedding dresses and cakes and the afternoon ceremony… even knowing that it would all be with you, the very last person I should want any of those things with. As you said in your letter, it was nuts! Funny that neither of us was able to see that we were under the spell. I mean, you’re all soulless and evil, and if I was going to marry a vampire it wouldn’t exactly be you.
Even if it was kind of nice part of the time, wasn’t it? I could actually picture waking up next to you. And there were moments when you were surprisingly sweet, like when you immediately offered to help Giles...
My point is, we both know it was a fluke. We weren’t ourselves. We can move on, forget what happened (or at least act as if we have.) But… there was one thing from your letter that bothered me… Well, beyond how you compared fighting to dancing. You are one weird vampire, you know that?
But what I’m trying to ask is this. You made it sound like you’ve loved me for a while. Not just during the spell. Like, I know that I was looking at our past through rose-colored glasses during the spell, but it never even occurred to me to think there’d been anything but hatred and disgust between us back before, I don't know. The chip maybe? So, what you said, it was the spell, wasn’t it? It wasn’t real. Please, please just tell me that none of that was real.
“Bugger, bugger, bugger!” Spike muttered to himself as he finished Buffy’s letter.
He hadn’t remembered exactly what he’d written during the spell, but he’d hoped that it hadn’t been as bad as he’d imagined. But not only had he basically said that he’d been in love with Buffy from the beginning, he’d said it convincingly enough that he had the no-longer-enchanted Buffy worried!
And sure, some of what he’d said in the letter had been uncomfortably close to reality, but that was how the spell had worked. Taking a few true things about his existence (his early fascination with Buffy, Drusilla’s stated reason for leaving him) and twisting them around, blowing them up bigger than they should be. Well, he’d be buggered if he’d let the slayer think that there was even a chance that he was in love with her. He pulled a crumpled sheet of paper and a pen he’d nicked from Giles’ out of a duster pocket and used the flat surface of a headstone to right a quick, vehement note, shoving it into the tree.
There. That ought to clear everything up!He realized only as he stormed away from the graveyard (not sure quite where he was going since the commandos were still theoretically looking for him but thinking it might involve Giles’ liquor cabinet) that he’d tucked Buffy’s note into one of the pockets of his jacket. He should throw it away. But then… In the letter, Buffy had admitted that she’d enjoyed parts of the spell too. There was a sort of vindication in that. He still remembered how good Buffy had felt in his arms. How that bright smile of hers had felt like it was melting a part of him he hadn’t even known was frozen, how… bugger. Yes, Giles’ good scotch was definitely in his near future. Maybe if he got blackout drunk he could forget all this. Still, he might as well keep the letter. Just for now.
And sure enough, the note she’d left in the tree was gone, replaced by another sheet from the same yellow legal pad that Spike had used to write his first letter. Buffy impatiently unfolded it and read the note. It was, unlike the last letter, quite short.
Buffy tried to put off checking for Spike’s response as long as she could. She only made it till her lunch break, and even then it was probably only her Psych class and promise to study with Willow in the morning that kept her away for that long. Her impatience wasn’t because she was, well, worried about what Spike had to say. After all, why worry about what someone you hate thinks about you? It was just that… She needed reassurance that nothing from that night had been real so that she could move on with her life, that was all.
Slayer, it read.
I can’t believe you thought any of that might have been real! I mean, please. I was high off my gourd on your wicca’s Love Potion Number 9. Do you honestly think I would have written any of that if I hadn’t been magically roofied?
Maybe the spell just didn’t affect you in the same way it did me because I’d need a better justification for why I’m getting hitched. After all, it didn’t take much for you to start ringing the wedding bells for Angel. But I loved Dru for a century, was married to her in all but law, and yet the magic needed me to think that somehow the one I’d be walking down the aisle with was you. So don’t read too much into it, pet. Your desperation for any shred of male affection might have been cute when you were 8, but you’re at an age where it’s getting a little grating, don’t you think?
Argh! Spike was so aggravating! It was a bit of a relief, of course, that he didn’t love her. But did he have to be such an ass about how he said it? Buffy flipped his note over and wrote a few lines of her own.
You’re a pig, Spike. A disgusting, evil, stupid pig. And I’m so, so happy the spell is over so that I don’t have to delude myself into thinking you’re anything but repulsive.
I’m glad we both know where we stand now. So let’s never, never talk about this again.
Well, Buffy thought. That should take care of that. Now she just had to repress for all she was worth in the hopes that she could forget the whole thing. If her mom could more or less forget she’d dated a homicidal robot, Buffy could do the same for Spike. His letter, she realized somewhat guiltily as she walked back towards campus, was tucked in the bottom of her slaying chest back in the dorm. She really should have thrown it away. And she would. Soon. Definitely.