Title: Your Face Appears In Mine
Setting: between Grave Season 6 and up to and including Lessons Season 7
Warning: Fairly non-linear narrative (in case that kind of thing squicks you).
Disclaimer: I don’t own Joss’ or ME’s toys.
A/N: Thanks so much to yourlibrarian for the always helpful beta.
The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that some phrases and sentences are taken from Lessons.
Written for the Spring 2006 round of seasonal_spuffy.
Your Face Appears in Mine
The road is long and it stretches out in front of him and … bleeding Hell … is that the best he can do? Sodding jumped up wannabe rhymesmith. That’s the very worst kind of description. Because Hell doesn’t bleed does it? Oh no. His innards bleed like an inquisitor making merry with the rack. And it’s Roman Catholic imagery for him, which is silly when he was such a good Anglican boy. Knew his psalms back to front but wouldn’t go in for regalia. No, no.
Must have been Liam then. All that’s rubbed off on him.
And still the road stretches out in front of him. And all it takes is one step to begin it.
Somewhere across sea and land and sea again a girl is fighting a vampire. Her moves are swift and solid, perfunctory even. Memory plays its role in where she places her fist and knee and swings around her foot. And finally the vampire combusts under the weight of her pointy stick. And she brushes her hands and jumps off for the next.
It’s easy for her, nothing impedes her movements. Nothing new has been added to her persona to make her feel outside of herself.
And he dreams, he does. He dreams that he will place that foot in front of the other and step.
Every third night she patrols through Restfield Cemetery. Every third night she takes a little gulp of air as she passes through the gates, looks up at the imposing steel structure and can almost picture that vampire dangling by its shirt collar, twisting and turning as the leather encased arm held him in place.
It shouldn’t matter – it’s been so long, so much distance between them – but somehow she can see him everywhere. His absence is like a huge neon flashing light of obviousness; he is everywhere; he is nowhere.
A fledgling vampire rises from one of the graves, the earth wet and fresh, having been recently turned. She takes little time with him. Why should she? She wants to get home tonight. Someone, even if it only is her sister, is waiting for her.
The wood of the stake flies through bone and soon she is brushing the dust off, turning up her nose as it waves around her body on the wind.
Life – death – so fragile.
She spins on her heel and walks through the gates once more, casting thoughts of him afresh to the night sky, to the place of memory hidden.
He never needed any body, though that’s probably a lie. Girlfriends, or hell girls he’d just shagged and moved on from (some he’d sampled more than their bodies, their blood had been nice too) had always needed him. He’d made sure of that hadn’t he? Dependent. But as the African sun beat down on the ground bathed in shade from the cave-dwelling around him, he felt close to needing someone. He hesitated in that instant, because he wondered if he needed someone to hear his sins.
Africa is a country of many languages and cultures, histories and knowledge. It knows like no other land because it takes its time. It sees into your heart – your very soul – and observes the tarnish, the gilt edge that needs cleaning, the mistakes not learned and those swimming through his consciousness with curmudgeonly repetition.
This is why Spike needs to return to Sunnydale.
Not for the girl, no never the girl. But to escape once again, his demons. Or more specifically one demon to whom he owes over three thousand shillings.
And so he takes a bus and a boat and a plane and a cardboard box inside a boat until he touches land with his boots once more. Everything is changing around him, moving at one hundred million miles a second. Will he ever feel the same?
He walks here and there but soon he feels at home, feels safe at the mouth of Hell, where all the dark things exist. For there he can sup with Morpheus and dream.
Sunnydale hummed along that summer, like an orchestra that needed no introduction. Solid, simple notes of easiness. A vampire here or there. Sometimes a Grevlak demon. Nothing big. Nothing immense, nothing end of the world oh my God another frickin’ apocalypse type thing that she needed to prepare herself for.
Most nights she just pulled out her grey jeans, the ones that hugged over her bum, and a T-shirt. The colour usually didn’t matter, but the print did. ‘Deviant’ in Evian style. Or ‘Maui Surf Club’. Or ‘So Cal Girl’. She even has a ratty old one from an REM concert she attended back when she was living in L.A. It was a shame that T-shirts with the names of punk bands were coming into fashion and there was no-one about to tell her who the most hip bands were.
Xander worked at a construction company. When they met up he was always in jeans and flannels, but once or twice she glimpsed the suit. She dallied with the idea that he looked old, but then she knew the truth was lurking way, way at the back of her subconscious. They had all been made aged by experience.
She saw Anya, in random odd ways, usually at the Bronze. Maybe at the Sunnydale Mall. Or outside the Espresso Pump. She might raise her hand and wave, or probably just pretend like she didn’t see her. There were battle lines now and she was on the other side. She felt very much that Xander missed Anya, but without the distraction and motivation of the Willow part of their triumvirate, Buffy never dared ask Xander about it. Instead, she looked at him, or smiled, or patted him on the shoulder.
After all this time, after saving the world and coming back, she knew he must know how she felt. Hopefully.
Dawn worked part-time at the Sunnydale Pet Store during the summer, and brought home stories of puppies and kittens with melty eyes or soft, tickly fur or yappy personalities begging to be cuddled. The job had arrived in Dawn’s lap quite easily and when Buffy had queried, in her sisterly wanting-to-know-but-definitely-not-pryin
The distance between old friends crept into her mind from time to time, and one day she sat down to try and recall the last time that she had spoken to Angel or Cordy or Wes or whoever the other people were in his team. Willow was the one who kept up the connection better than her. Not that Buffy was all against acknowledging the connection, but it was always the way that Willow had time and Willow had space and Willow had a stable centre in her body. And those were all things that no-one could even contemplate unravelling. Buffy figured he was out there somewhere fighting the evil he so intentionally wanted to. He was ok, through a weird concoction of Buffy reasoning and process of deduction, he was probably ok.
At regular points in the week, she and Giles would speak – long-distance conversations usually commenting on the demon population on either side of the Atlantic or the weather in Westbury. Buffy would give him updates on Dawn and Xander, but when she asked, Giles would quietly tell her Willow was unable to come to the phone because she was with someone unrecognisable or doing something unpronounceable.
Buffy wondered, instead, if she were right beside Giles during the phone call, clutching at him in that Willow way, hanging out instead for the barely-there hum of the Buffy telephonic voice.
Or, you know, finding some peace. Like Buffy was. And, besides, someone had to tend Tara’s grave now that Willow was in England.
Every early evening, Buffy sat out in the garden and looked at the flowers, waiting for Dawn to come home or got out. Their pretty colours, or sometimes their wilting petals, which told her she needed to get the hose out, kept her mesmerized. She would watch as a bee buzzed around, and she would feel the sun’s dying heat on her face and make sure to think, every evening, ‘This is life. This is living.’
Living also consisted of dealing with bills, bank accounts and bewildered neighbours, but still … this was living.
And she doesn’t dare think of him.
So it’s pretty obvious that while she’s trying and trying and trying not to think of him one night on patrol, as she places the stake through the vampire’s heart, with pinpoint devastatingly amazing accuracy, and as the dust wafts in the air, she can still sense a vampire.
And geez Louise, it takes her a moment, and she recoils at the fact that it still takes her a moment, to recognise that it was him. After all they did and where they did and what they did and who they did, she still takes a moment to recognise him.
She doesn’t really know what to do, it’s a shock. And that’s an understatement. Should she call his name? Make him come out and see her? Or should she just pretend like she didn’t even notice? That, after all, he was the one who left her (again, again, they always leave again, the tiny annoying voice dives into the conversation) and why should she really care about him?
And that’s when she notices that the essence has gone. It’s wafted away on the wind like the vampire’s dust and she can’t pick it up again. The only matter she becomes aware of is her heart rate speeding like a roadrunner to get out of her chest. She stands stock-still, plants her boots deep into the grass, and readies herself with all her senses at attention.
But he’s gone. Just like he arrived. Fleeting. Ungraspable.
The mouth of Hell has teeth. Sometimes it bites and chews and spits and scrapes and rips the skin off his very chest, gashing and dashing the blood from his body, trying to eke its way to his heart and remove the last vestiges of the thing that animates him.
But other times the mouth of Hell has a hell of a tongue on it and yaps and yaps and yaps away at him.
“Willy, my Willy. Such a pretty picture you did make. But now you’ve gone and messed yourself and won’t come to the party. No no no. There will be tea and cakes and Miss Edith on her best behaviour. But you shan’t be there, my William. And why? Because you did a very bad thing and I cry now. All the good day long.”
“Stupid git. Gone and done what you never should have, ain’t ya? Stupid, stupid, worthless git.”
“I never loved you. With your silly poetry.”
“I never will. You hurt me, William.”
“Who would want such a worthless piece of degradation in any case? Cast him from the room Angelus, and do be quick about it.”
Finally, the cacophony stops and all he can hear are the rats, their tinny, tiny voices glistening in his mind, tempting and taunting him with their droplets of blood which he, no matter how hard he tries, never seems able to catch.
He just wishes he could find peace. He wishes he could sleep.
The next night she pretends like she isn’t really thinking about him, not listening with her ears sharpened like pencils for the tread of his shoe, or the puff of his cigarette. Her frustration gets the better of her when she happens upon a nest of murk-gathering, dirt-mongering vampires in a crypt in Alaunus Cemetery. Her vampire radar zings and zaps about like popping corn in oil, so much so that as she’s stepping from the crypt she doesn’t notice him until, as she’s brushing the dust off her rather nice and new red corduroy trousers, that a delicate finger whispers across her hair.
She spins around and there he is leaning back against the wall of the crypt, cigarette hanging innocently from his mouth, black jeans, black T-shirt, black jacket surrounding and moulding his personality. His eyes are hard upon hers and he’s waiting … possibly … for her to speak.
She reaches out a hand to touch him instead, knowing that it’s her body that wants to speak to him, not her mind, but he bats her hand apart, pushes off from the wall and walks down the stairs and away from her.
Her head spins to follow him.
He walks like silk across the grass, the cigarette smoke wafting around his head, a whispy halo reflecting off his neon-white hair, his coat flapping about his ankles. Everywhere he is motion but that is negative motion, away from her, pulling and lengthening, disintegrating the bonds between them.
“Buffy … duck … pet … luv … Slayer … Death,” he intones to the stars above them, like it’s some kind of messed-up prayer and he’s offering devotion or possibly rejection, and she flinches to hear his voice again. That weird accent that hits her right where the sun don’t shine. That always was a turn-on, if she’s whispering her confession. Even when he was offering to end her death with life.
She realises he’s nearly on the other side of the cemetery when she calls out, “Wait! Stop!” and leaps off the crypt stairs, pumping her arms and legs as fast as she can to keep up with him.
When she’s just about to reach him, his image shimmers like a flickering Kodak snap, reversing the image reveal, melting back into the paper. Disappearing.
He sleeps. Finally. Endlessly. It took forever to find comfort on the stone floor, the cold seeping into his bones. And he finds that the spark is not like a fire, for all its insistent nagging, it doesn’t keep him warm with knowledge. Instead, it’s like an iceberg splitting him open, confusing him, hurting him, welcoming in sufferance.
Returning here (returning home) had taken time, elongated days and nights stretched out through boredom and fear. He’d been haunted by memory along the way; faces that reminded him of victims past, victims to come, tormentors, lovers, friends.
What was time to him? A vampire who had known millions of minutes, who had travelled the world, sat by the Yangtze River, licked frost in St Petersburg, driven through Alabama, been dumped in Sao Paolo.
And yet this time, when he made his way back, his steps lead inexorably, irrevocably to her.
“Wait! Stop!” He can hear her panting from behind him, but he chooses to keep walking. After all this time and distance, she should be the one to close these last few inches.
He feels her fingers sink into his jacket and then he’s tumbling back. Her breathless though adamant, “I wanted you to wait,” seems unnecessary.
Her hand is impressing its power on his back and a whisper passes between them. “Are you real?”
“Been gone a long time, Slayer. That the best sort of welcome you got?”
He twists from her grasp, but fails to elude her. She is standing with arms akimbo, the battle stance, inviting the fear, hardening his cock.
“You’re doing a great impression of a ‘Nice to see you too, Buffy!’,” she bites out.
He draws out a cigarette (the last one got mashed in their rumble-tumble embrace) and slowly puts it into his mouth. His eyes stay locked on hers.
“So,” she says, breaking the silence, “you’ve been gone … where … it’s been a long time.”
“That it has,” he replies, nodding caustically.
Buffy huffs a stream of annoyance from her body. “Fine,” she negates, “don’t tell me then.”
“Sorry, luv, didn’t know you were asking.” He licks his lips for good measure, watching her as her eyes are drawn to the motion. “So,” he continues, pulling the vowel sound as he pulls on his cigarette, “what do you want to know?”
“Where’ve you been?” she immediately asks, arms locked into a circle around her body.
“Wow. Ok … um … why?”
“Fancied it. Only ever been to North Africa before. Thought a change of scenery would do me good. Shake up the cobwebs, like.”
“Didn’t know you were so house-proud,” Buffy mumbles.
And he replies with a smirk. “You seen my house, you know I kept it clean.”
“For me,” she retorts. And he pulls himself up, in that way to insist that she has it all completely wrong, but only because he’d rather they kept playing.
“Course not. Why would I want to do that?”
“Come on,” she says, and suddenly her hand is clasped in his and she’s pulling him along with her. “A graveyard is seriously not the best place to have a welcome back conversation.”
“Awww, luv,” he replies, feet tripping over themselves in shock and salutation, “some of our greatest hits have been recorded here.”
“Buffy!” another voice cries, “Where are you going?”
The two of them turn around to see Angel, saturated and dripping copious amounts of water from his clothes into the ground. “What are you doing?”
Spike blusters forward and grabs Angel’s shirt, fingers slipping through the wetness of the material. “Sod off, Peaches. I’ve done it, I’ve gone and won the girl back. What you don’t realise is that she’s mine now.”
“How many times do I have to tell you, William? Nothing will ever belong to you!”
And Buffy is gone, snapped out of existence, and Spike’s hand is hot and he’s flaming and dancing his way toward Death.
Two days before Dawn is due back to school and Buffy can’t sleep. It’s Fall, or getting near it, yet the nights are still lustrous and sticky and unbearable with blankets.
She throws them off with a muttered harrumph. Mustn’t wake Dawn after all, the girl who’s already set the house on the edge of its seat, because the High School is reopening and she’ll be a Junior there and it’s all about nerves and new books and wardrobe renovations.
Buffy remembers what High School meant to her and shivers. All the highlights flooding back – hell hounds, flying monkeys, disappearing girls, dead teachers and vampires on Parent Teacher night.
“Just sucks,” she thinks, “that even the most innocent of thoughts have to lead back to him. Stupid vampire.”
She lifts up the window and takes the night air in a big gallumping breath into her lungs. The highlights continue when she contemplates the tree under which Spike spent evenings making its acquaintance … and sometimes she would indulge in that pleasure too. The ledge along which Angel crept was waving its memories toward her as well.
The night air is warm, despite the late hour, and she swings a leg over the ledge and hoists herself up until soon she is shuffling along the rooftop. She kicks off a rubber ball that had somehow made its home wedged behind a gable and watches as it bounds to the ground.
Settling herself, she stares up at the night sky. She can just make out that the stars are winking at her in Sunnydale’s heavens, and she remembers how in L.A. the lights were dimmed by the mass of reflected lights from off the houses and buildings and late-night restaurants.
“Hello, luv.” She turns her head and there he is sitting on the same roof, but at a distance. She angles her head and regards him, watching him intently.
“What are you doing there?”
“Same thing I reckon you’re doing here too. Watchin’ the stars.” He nods his head toward the celestial show as if this bit of information will validate the situation.
“Duh,” she answers, “I knew that. But why my roof?”
“Dunno,” he concludes, “seems you’re popping up in all my dreams these days.”
“Hey! You’re the one popping up in my dreams, I’ll have you know. Besides, I’m the one who’s all about the dreamy. Remember? With the Slayer visions.” She taps her head as if all her power is contained there and then trains that finger on him. “You’re just a vampire and vampires don’t dream.”
“Don’t be so sure of that,” he says, a smile tweaking the folds of his eyes, “although I’d hardly contradict your dreaminess.” He pauses a moment, and then his face becomes ashen and the smile stops. “Besides, just don’t stumble into one of my nightmares. I’d … be concerned for you.”
“I can take care of myself,” she replies, flatly, impervious to his distress. He lights up a cigarette and puffs smoke out into the obsidian surrounding them.
“Did you miss me?” he asks, changing the topic with lightning speed and pinpoint accuracy.
She starts, and unable to hide it, lets out a breath heavily. “It was odd, when you went away. You were something that was always around, always here. It’s like, I missed stupid things, like the sound of your voice or the crack of your cigarette lighter. But other things like your annoying jokes or your painful punches I didn’t miss.”
He looks at her, that is his only answer, for stretched minutes, before returning his gaze once more to the Sunnydale horizon.
“Did you have fun … where you went, Africa, when you went away?” She bites her thumb, realising she is fairly useless at making polite conversation with a guy she got groiny with.
“Some. But then that would be telling, wouldn’t it?”
“Not with the share-y, then, Spike?”
“No, not with the show and tell. My heart hurts, Buffy,” he admits, taking rapid yanks on his cigarette, “it’s carrying a weight that I don’t think it can bear. And the problem is, see, that I don’t think I can do it alone. Bear all that weight. And yet, who is there to help me?” He turns to look at her now, his eyes dull without passion, just knowing, accepting.
“That doesn’t sound like the Spike I know,” she retorts.
“No,” he discloses, “no it certainly doesn’t.”
She wonders if maybe she should get up and leave, return to the undisturbed sleep that her bed provides, almost gets ready to leave, places her hands flat out palms beside her body, ready to push off, but then she changes her mind.
“There’s something coming isn’t there, Spike?”
He doesn’t say anything, just slowly nods. Then, “It’s in the wall. It’s all around us, Buffy. It wants you. It wants to destroy you.”
Buffy shivers, knowing that with Fall means the inevitable arrival of something disastrous.
“It would mean … a lot … if you were here, Spike. If you fought by my side.”
“Why’s that?” he asks, trying to hide the hope in his voice with flattened incredulity.
“Because I trust you. I’ve always trusted you … even when you gave me good reasons not to. I know … that your word is … it’s … it’s good … and so I’m asking for your word.”
He stubs out the cigarette, gazes at her and then shimmies along the rooftop ‘til he is close enough to take her hand in his. Which he does.
“You have my word, Buffy.” He tightens his grip on her hand, now, impressing upon her how he feels. He adds, in an undertone carried away from her, “And you have my heart. And you have my soul.”
She looks at his hand and all she can feel is him, settling down into her, filling her up, asking for forgiveness, praying for love, offering up hope.
And she falls back into sleep that no longer needs dreams.
He can feel her in the walls. At least he thinks it’s her. It’s not the other one. He doesn’t think so. This one has blood and it’s pumping around her body. She has innate Slayerness that is wooing him forward. She sounds like her too as she’s talking to whoever she’s talking to.
And he waits and he listens and she’s pulling at the door. And standing there. Irradiant.
She asks him, something, something about being real and he laughs, of course, he laughs because how many times has she asked him that in dreams? Too many times to count … but then there’s blood and he wants to make sure, to make certain, to count the proper numbers, cross the t’s and dot the i’s and so…
He stops laughing and touches his hand tenderly to her face. But the moment is lost in that infinite second of remembrance and rejoicing that it is her and he is not dreaming and he can sense her blood and touch her skin and he wants to taste her, he wants to kiss her, he wants to be in her and …
There’s a speech too. But, first, he’s got to warn her about the manifest spirit behind her.
Buffy needs a moment to process, but, of course, she doesn’t have that. Not when there are manifest spirits populating the basement and Dawn is missing and she’s got to make sure that Xander gets the talisman.
She wants desperately to stop and think and deal with the fact that she’s just seen and spoken and been with Spike in the basement. Ok a really dishevelled Spike, who was saying really odd things, and not really seeming very Spike-like, although he did help with the … manifest spirits and the talisman and…
She sighs in annoyance and realises that she’s got to focus on the mission. The saving of Dawn and the destroying of the resentful dead guys.
Because, she knows with unflinching certainty, that they can sort out this mess later, that tonight she will dream and be with Spike again.