She was dead. Finally, finally, after the years, after the time, after the tide, after the happily ever after ship sailing into the rising sun it finally, finally set now all a flame sure and why not a Vikings death salute and after all this time she was dead; she was finally gone for good. Good. Good. No coming back now. Not this time, Spike was sure that He, the other, would see to that.
No worry about resurrection spells. Well all right then, let her rest in peace.
He certainly would. Now.
She was gone and great no niggling little presence that would linger like a sweet light living in the corner of your eye and then you turn to look and find it gone. Always goes, always gone. Never there. Always, always someone else. Well good. Now she was back in heaven with her Mam and the small one, the little bit. The one he had heard about.
She was dead. Good. Good. Good.
She was at peace and now maybe he could have some too.
He would never see her again, well, no big thing there, he was never going to see her again anyway. Now it was just finally final.
He looked suddenly around the room. Oh. He was in his study....how had he got here? He had been rambling through the small house looking as if looking for something and now found himself here looking hard suddenly looking for any evidence of her he had overlooked through the years, some bit some tattle tale troubling memento banging around that he had forgotten to kick out. Some photo, some prose some something but no. No nothing, he had nothing of her in his house, didn’t need reminders in his house because he had her in his heart.
He saw her in there every day, taking up space, hogging so much room in there he barely had enough to time share with a pet mouse; or better still and more apt, a mouser.
There was a nudge on his arm and he turned to look into the large yellow eyes of his cat friend, black cat friend and yellowed eyed Germaine.
“Hello Germane, come back have you? The wide world a yawn and why not come back to ole Spike at the end of the day, eh?”
Cat did not blink just studied him evenly as Spike sat in the easy chair behind the desk.
Cat said nothing. Then blinked a little on the side of languor.
Of all the things, all the ways he could have totaled himself up to this point in life to be the sum now of all past events, how improbable for him to be a friend to cats.
Had he drawn them or had them drawn him and who could say who was a better artist? The art of rendering in a world full of found objects.
And you know, once you started to feed the things, they wouldn’t go away, not for good. Constant, constant and always came back and when one didn’t Spike could only guess...at some terrible accident. Cats living large in the world in the woods were bound to get into trouble and you’d think that would give him pause, put him at a distance, but no. When he loved female or feline it was all the way.
“All right, all right Mate...how’d you get in? Found your way through the window did you?” He asked idly as he got up and walked to the kitchen.
He was way up North, high up in Canada and a little buried in the woods so he kept the place well stocked. He had placed himself close to the Three Tribes for easy access but needed space from their community too. Gossip about whom or what he was could travel far, and vamps were booty these days. He had gone from hunter to hunted and so sequestered himself here and made any really important phone calls through a computer that bounced the signal about for any eavesdropping slayers itching to practice a now almost passé calling.
Poor dears. All het up and no one to hit.
The local cover was that he was a writer and the nearest neighbors bought that. Seemed there were quite a few writers around. It was a cover story and then of all things it became true. It started as a joke a play on words just fooling around having fun even and then he found he was singing. He had a voice; he had found his writers voice, after a century and a half he was finally, finally a writer.
He had sold two books so far and they were not bad, pretty good even, supernatural thinking pieces, not bad but the one he was working on now...was the one. It might be something. More like Poe, it was all coming together. The dark, the light, the love, the loss, the lingering late at the party only to find yourself at the wrong house...oh yeah a lot people understood the kind of thing he wrote about and he was doing well. But this book...this one...strangely still untitled...which was one of the first things he liked to do...was still sitting naked up top, topless and title less and...and he found the blank tantalizing and so he left it so.
He though of Buffy suddenly. Of her breasts and his eyes watered, just there in the corners and maybe his heart hurt too. He closed his eyes to hold back the sight, hold in the flood.
Not good, not good.
He knew she was gone. He knew it, he knew it--he could feel her light less in the world. The world, the whole world was just a shade bitty bit darker for the loss of the most magnificent Slayer. It was just a blink of a bit darker, but it measured large in his heart and on the balance of good and evil. Yeah, she was gone.
But he kept the news casual in his mind like, uh, need some crackers, or, could do with a pint...he kept it like something, some everyday thing.
He stared at the phone for a moment and then smiled a little at something in his head. Imagine Buffy doing something like that. Well...he couldn’t. He laughed gently; shaking his head, no, he couldn’t imagine her giving him anything. More likely a mistake.
He didn’t want it. He really didn’t want it.
Then he thrust her from his mind as he had schooled himself to do and went back to his study, back to work. He could get some clean up work done of chapter fourteen before he was to meet with Oscar Black Elk. Sounded like Oscar was bringing a nasty through a portal that needed killing; he should be on hand for that. Oscar was a powerful shaman, maybe even more than Red; but it didn’t do to have him off the bad ones. It could get to him too much, undo him a bit. Oscar was too good for this world. First time he’d thought about Red in a while. Huh. That could be fun--to watch the twos of them--Oscar and Red coming out to square off from opposite corners. O.K. he was still entertained by combat? What of it? Part evil right? At least in her eyes.
Right then, back to work.
The phone rang again. Spike looked up startled. What, again? And then he looked at the clock and saw that it was evening. He stretched and cracked his back and pulled away from his desk and then stopped--
The phone vibration that is, the vibe, the ringing tingle touched him and it felt like family, family calling and fuck, it must be Peaches, really didn’t want to deal with a grieving Angel right now, err Lee. Could never remember to call him that; and the machine wasn’t on...he barely needed it and so he reached for the phone on the desk.
He was surprised. Not Angel. His heart asked to double thump on some old leftover human instinct. It was the Nibblet. Damn. Dawn.
“Spike.” It was a little imperious.
Dawn, oh bloody hell, he still loved her too. Still there, still there and not faded one bit and something you never knew until you came face to face.
“’Lo Dawn.: He said almost timidly.
“Hello Spike.” Her voice a little softer.
Silence. What to say?
They hadn’t spoken since Sunnydale and she was none too fond of him back then. He thought about offering condolences but realized quite suddenly he just wouldn’t be able to say something even as simple as sorry ‘bout Buffy without his voice cracking so he said nothing.
She had called him after all. It was all he had. He waited.
She was talking now.
“I’m calling to give you directions for...” she took a breath here...”for the...thing...it seems you scared Jennings pretty good, at least too much for him to call you back...”
“So do you have a pen or what?”
She was amazing really. After all these years and no love lost between them--she was no hypocrite and wasted no breath with: 'how are you' or 'what have you been up to'...no just getting to it. Spike was smiling but Dawn couldn’t see that, so she raised her voice.
‘I said you gotta a pen? Cuz since when do you have total recall?”
“I’m not coming Nibblet.” Shit the pet name had just slipped, just slipped out.
Pause. When she spoke again her voice was shaky and he knew it had affected her too. Hearing that old endearment spoke so easy.
“Well that’s up to you...” she said shaky but short. “But...it’s what Buffy wanted...I should think...”
“I’ve been a good foot soldier to Buffy long enough, don’t you think I can let go now of what Buffy wants?”
She said nothing.
“No more Dawn. Whatever it is. Don’t’ want it. Don’t need it. Can’t be that important really and if it is valuable give it to Peaches, he’s a working lad now with a family and all, sure he could use it, that is if it’s not poisonous.“
She ignored that and said: “He’s named too, Spike. He’s going to be there, everybody is going to be there. It’s what Buffy wanted.”
“Well of course he would be there, she loves him after all...but where exactly should I fit in? Since when have I ever been a part of ‘everyone’? When it all comes to light, I’m sure you’ll see this is some kind of oversight. Buffy wouldn't give me tuppance. Let it go.”
“Fine. Be a snot. What do I care?”
“You don’t. As far as your concerned last I heard from you was your best hope to set me on fire ‘an 'thas already happened so we’ve come up even then, eh?”
Dead Buffy and dead Spike, finally, finally with something in common.
Spike stared at the phone.
Of course she had hung up.
His throat hurt. Cracked attacked him suddenly and now poor heart joined in the revolt. Bloody, bloody awful Summers women.
Well good, good. Gone was good.
The phone rang again four hours later and he was awake of course he was awake; he was a vampire one of only a handful left on the planet now. Thanks to Slayers please, thanks to her, thanks to him.
He stood under the moon in the back yard and listened to the phone ring. And ring. And ring.
Had to be the Nibblet, no one else could be so stubborn.
The phone rang until the moon was low on the horizon and it was almost time for him to go back inside, seek shelter and then quite suddenly decided on a game. Why not a game?
He would not walk back in the house until the ringing stopped. Like some bad music that kept you out, like some vamp repellant he would stay O.U.T. He would stay here in the yard in the path of the sun, the new sun, his only son, his Oedipus, the son destined to kill the Father. And just as soon as he saw it, the end of his story in his minds eye--the ringing stopped.
Well he played straight and so he walked slowly inside the house screen door closing on first light and he was surprised to find.
He wanted to die.
That’s what he wanted.
Oh god, oh god.
He didn’t realize he was on the floor until he tried to walk and discovered his legs floundering, struggling, jelly and no one to toast.
His chest was so hot it hurt, so hard it hurt, hurt so bad he whacked on it. He thumped a warning: a 'better stop it now, stop the pain or I’ll thump you good and proper.' But it didn’t heed the warning and heart cracked and sputtered around the missing places and BuffydeadBuffydeadBuffydead and now he banged on his chest like he meant business.
Oh god. He ripped at his flesh with his fingers, clawed, desperate now--peeling away at the epidermis in order to get at the offending organ anything to stop the pain, stop the pain until finally, mercifully just as he was about to reach his rib cage--he passed out from the pain.
He had bled remarkable little, he hadn’t hit any major arteries or veins or main highways carrying his favorite fuel. No...no...not really life threatening. Just...a mess.
A mess of a chest and a mess on the floor and he still wanted to die. From the pain. The real pain.
The cats brought him ‘round. The gentle nudge, nudge Jowa licking his face, little pin stripes framing her eyes as he turned to look. Germaine sat a foot away surveying the successful operation of rouse! Rouse!
They were both purring loudly and then Jowa flopped her body down next to his head and wrapped a paw under his chin.
Ah god, ah god...
The phone started to ring.
Now that just made him mad.
It riled him enough to get up off the floor and then in a rush he fell upon the baby blue phone box hanging on the kitchen wall and ripped it from where it was attached.
Still the phone rang.
He hurled the small box up against the wall, saw and heard it smash and still it rang. He ripped the cord from the wall and still there was ringing.
Puzzled now. He stared at the bits around him and the cats under cover and at the edge of the room stared at him.
He thought of a moment, a memory, a movie he and Buffy had watched together curled up on the bed in the basement of his crypt. The TV. had been on before and now hours later wound down and satiated they found themselves curled together watching, puzzling over the dilemma in some old movie. A ghosty thing and the phone rang and rang and it was...some dead person trying to get through to the dense character left living. He had sassed something, don’t remember what and Buffy had laughed and he couldn’t remember what she had said but he remembered her being so genuinely happy and in his presence too. With him. That is, all pre soul and with the demon he was.
He remembered all this in a moment and now fast forward looking for a broken bit to talk into...to hear her from the other side...when it finally sank in.
The phone in the study. The extension.
Of course it was. Of course.
He started at the bits and fought back the tears and still the phone rang.
Defeated, finally, really, he walked slowly into the study, feet, sticking a bit from the drying blood on the wood paneled floor.
He picked up the phone.
Stunned silence and then:
“Sure, why not.”
“You didn’t pick up.”
He said nothing.
“I’m sorry I hung up on you.”
“It’s all right Dawn, it’s all right. If you hadn’t hung up I would have and you just beat me to it. Quick draw and well gun slung by the way.”
She laughed. It was short but sweet. Then there was silence and she didn’t know what to say so she decided on the truth.
“I know you’re right, a lot of people don’t want you here, I didn’t even know I did until I talked to you yesterday, talking to you again. But Buffy did and now I do. And...and you can meet...my family...my kids and...and hers...”
“Dawn you really think your husband is gonna want a wayward vamp with the inconsideration not to be well and truly dusted by now around your kids?
“Well, maybe not.” Only honesty now. Spike saw through anything else.
“But I wanna see you and Buffy you left you something...”
“Dawn, pet, I appreciate the call...I really do, but it would be nothing but trouble--can you imagine me fighting one of those young eager Slayers to the death on Buffy’s grave?”
Oh god he had said it. And if his voice hadn’t broken on the last two words Dawn would have hung up again. Instead she spoke quietly.
“Everybody will have strict no combat orders.”
“What about tagging me after, setting a tail on me? I’m vamp booty and you know it. It’s like counting coup to these bairens. And...I...I’ll fight back...it’s who I am and I’m good Dawn, very, very good. Better than you remember. Doubt even if big sis could take me out these days.”
They were silent; yeah it could be a problem.
“Much better if I stay away, give whatever it is to Peaches, err Angel, err Lee or you take it if you want.”
“Really Spike. is that really what you want?”
“It really is pet, truly.”
“Well what if you don’t always get what you want? Loosen up Spike--“
Impatient now he cut her off.
“--And what would I do there Dawn, what room would you keep me in? With what lot, not with family or friends, not ex lovers even, to rate that room she would have had to love me. She didn’t pet, she didn’t. Or wouldn’t. Don’t know if the difference matters and do you have a room for the loyal foot soldiers? Is that where I would sit or would it be one step up and in with the family pets? She cared for me I think, a bit at the end but like a loyal pet, Pet”
And he didn’t even smile at the synonym.
“I can see it now, the poor confused slayerettes eyeing me from across the aisle sharpening their stakes not sure if they should drive a piece of wood home or toss a stick for me to fetch. Best we save taxing their problem solving abilities. Most slayers not known for their smarts.”
“No Dawn, let it go...even a favorite dog, like...Lassie or Old Yeller rates some grief and she never cared that I was gone--musta been a relief really. So I’ll stay gone. Chances are it’s not something she wants to give me--but something she wants me to do for her. No tears here, just the way she thinks of me. She would never think to give me something; she made it clear I was never a part of her life, just wish she would have kept it clear. Those last three weeks together is what kills me when I think on it. If only she would have kept it business if she meant it be all business. Was she afraid I wouldn’t go to battle for her if she didn’t cozy up? I would have you know, it was my fight too, The First was my enemy too. Maybe my battle even more than hers, I don’t blame her for nothing 'cept those last three weeks when she made me have some kind hope for her and me for after...when it was all over. But it was the dangled carrot and then the sucker punch and she really didn’t need to do it, that way she really didn’t and I’ll never know why, but she did. I would have died for her, for me, for you for the world even...but giving me hope and then the sucker punch puts her and me far from each other and me never able to understand her. Not for nothing. I’m a demon and not even I would do that to someone.”
He was trembling a little when he finished and he had to sit down. It was still inside him--the pain, the love all twisted together and he had thought it was gone...but no, no....
There was a pause while all this sank in. His voice vibrated so Dawn knew he spoke the truth and it made her cast her mind back to those days and try to remember how it was, how, why and what she had felt back then.
Spike was speaking again.
“It’s still inside me Dawn--that’s the joke. If I could reach inside and pull it outa me head, I would, if I could pull her out of me heart...” and here he did chuckle at his failed attempt “I would...”
He cleared his throat...why not tell all? When would he get another chance to go on record?
“I’ve been thinking on it these past years and here’s what it is. I was the back up. It was Angel. It should been Angel there backing her up all those years but the wank wanked out. And God, like any good general has a stand in ready, a plan B, just foolish not to. So there’s me next of kin, it probably wasn’t even me God wanted in the mix but the bloodline of Aurleius, some private joke about getting the Masters blood relations on the side of the McCoy’s....in their little cosmic feud over the property line. Liam means William in Gaelic did you know that? So the next William is up to bat and Batter bammed and slammed through the heart like St. Paul on the road to Damascus. That’s how my love for your sister happened. It crept up and maybe was fueled day by day but then it was blinding hot and so bright it burned me away and filled my vision everywhere I went, everything I saw, everything I was being pushed away by seeing the bright light of her soul inside me now. You understand? This is Gods game and I was just the next best candidate and if I had fallen down, like Angel or the Captain even maybe, somebody else would have showed. But I think it had to be vamp for some reason, something about balance and getting me, or the Aurleius blood to swing over to the other side did something to the cosmos, and that I did it of my free will, which now considering all must be a joke really...it musta had an even extra boost to the Slayers position in the field.
So even when Angel was available it was me she needed by then; in the fight that is...but maybe she always resented that it was me, and not him and so she kept me at arms length, maybe she fastened onto my being the lesser to keep me deliberately away from her or maybe I was just always beneath her, for whatever reason I was good enough for God in the fight but not good enough for her.”
Pause and then Dawn said softly..
“I’m here, I’m listening.”
Spike nodded to himself, took a breath and started for the end, almost there.
‘So here’s the joke Dawn, here’s the joke, God hotwired me to do this thing, to be there for her, and I did and I would have regardless; so He--though I’m banking on a She, She forgot to pull the plug on me when the plug was pulled. The damn deity forgot to dewire me--so post war the things changed, she’s changed, everybody’s changed as they do after war, but me. I’m the vet still stuck on the battle field in my nightmares and waking time too and the battlefield is love. Everybody changed and moved on and needed things for post war living but God forgot to unwire me and I could never move on, my feelings haven’t changed one bit. Well as a matter of fact they haven’t changed for my Mother or Dru either, so maybe its part me, my nature God wanted and not the blood or maybe me being constant was a bonus. I’ve tried to reach inside me and pull it out--I have, but it grows back again as soon as I see a bird or a blade of grass or something, anything living and I’m telling you I wouldn’t wish, this...this on anyone, not anyone or anything. It is a coin with one face what never sees the other half but is always looking--always a profile looking.”
He stopped suddenly and Dawn realized he stopped because he had stopped. He had said all he had to say.
“I should go--“ He started to say and she cut him off.
“No, no don’t you dare...I was just thinking for a moment...just let me think...well the first thing I have to say is...well...Buffy can be a bitch sometimes, a real bitch.
It was so sudden and unexpected and true. They both laughed. Yes Buffy can be a bitch.
And then they both stopped when they realized Dawn had spoken in present tense and...and that didn’t apply to Buffy anymore.
She started to cry.
“Ah Dawn I’m sorry, I didn’t mean...”
“No...no...not you...just sometimes, it catches up to me and I feel it, and I understand that it’s real...and...and you know...”
He did. He nodded but she couldn’t see that.
“Just gimme a minute...DON’T hang up...there’s something else I wanna say...”
He waited while she sniffed and breathed and could talk again. He heard her blow her nose and then she began.
“So I have these dreams sometimes, sometimes I dream of the world, I guess this one the one we’re in, and things are like this but then it’s like a doorway and I walk through it into another world or maybe it’s this world and it’s the same but different too...”
“Not following pet...is... is this a Key thing?”
She laughed, “Maybe, probably and I’m thousands of years old so listen up, so yeah I’ve had dreams where I’ve seen pretty much what you say so I believe you, and yeah she’s treated you pretty bad and it’s gone wrong...but, but Spike, listen to me, this is important--I’ve seen other worlds where...it hasn’t. I have, I swear it. I had a dream where I saw you carrying her from something, saving her and then ice skating of all things and then you both were standing like these beautiful sculptures in the snow. If I close my eyes now I can see it again...see there it is, You two are standing by a frozen river and she puts both hands on your chest and Spike...you both look so happy...and I’ve seen one where you where out in garden picking things, I don’t remember what and these two kids or maybe three were sitting there in a little row watching you and Buffy and you kept trying all these goofy things to get them to laugh and you took a tomato and stuck it on your nose and it made Buffy laugh so hard she fell over on her butt and THAT made the kids laugh and then you both just froze looking at the kids and then held hands and I knew I was looking at a family. You had a family, I saw it. And there was one, my god, I was in this one too, I was seated across from you and Buffy at a dining table in a restaurant, you know a road side thing and you looked at each other with such love my bones grew soft in my body and I woke up crying.”
Silence for a moment. Then she continued.
“I remember them all so well, because I wrote them down. There were other things other dreams, more about you, both of you and other people too, I thought for I while maybe it was the future...but no...it was something about how I could walk from one to another in the same dream that made me think something else.”
He couldn’t ask, just couldn’t and she was still speaking--
“--What if they are all real? What if it’s all happening at the same time? What if it’s like you said but extend it. What if there a gazillion back up plans? A bunch of different back up worlds? And if God has back up plans for stuff going on here and it makes sense than why not whole worlds?”
Spike cocked his head and considered that.
“I’ve been calling them A/U’s alternative universe. Catchy huh? And I used to, that is, before I went to sleep I’d say, I hope I see the one with the cornfield or you know...the Christmas one--you get it.”
“So...” Spike began slowly. “If you’ve seen A/U’s with me and Buffy in starring roles and there are all these back up worlds and you’ve seen her with others too. With Angel, Finn and Him the other.”
“Sure, lots of different variations...but Spike you’re not listening to me. The ones I saw with you two were wonderful, the like long hard work is done and now the dream is realized...really, really lovely. You guys fought to be together, and...and in them Buffy was...well...more humble. And so o.k. there weren’t AS MANY worlds where you two were together, because in them, to get it all right, to get the like...chemistry, to get it to work, you had to be humbled and she had to be humble too. And Buffy? Humble? Takes a lot to even imagine it. But Spike, It happened, and when it did...Spike those were the worlds I always wanted to go back to again and again...”
It sounded right, it felt right and all these years all this time and the one of reasons why he couldn’t ‘move one’ was the feeling that he shouldn’t move on. It felt like something ripping and tearing his soul out of his body when he tried to love another woman. Until suddenly he realized quite sharply that it was the opposite situation than was Peaches. Though Angel might lose his soul if he was with Buffy, Spike would loose his soul without her.
That was why he had never been unwired. If he had lost his love for Buffy he might have lost his way in the world. And why it felt so wrong to be without her and how shocked he was that she didn’t feel the same way.
What if there were other worlds where a more generous fate had allowed things to work the truth underneath the thing between them into something real, something to help heal the world? Because that's how big this thing inside him for her felt. The thing inside him felt like just the beginning, begging to be born, begging to grow up and help heal the world. To do his job and his job was to love Buffy. And loving Buffy and her loving him too in turn would save the world. That’s the promise he felt inside, but it sat like a fortune never invested, was instead hoarded in the earth, turning into a miserly obscenity. He hated not spending it; sharing it--it drove him mad to sit on such treasure.
That’s how strong this felt. The power it had. And something that big had to have cosmic placement; it had to make sense...somewhere, sometime...didn’t it? It would make him feel less crazy if it were true.
Buffy and Spike right, now happy, loving each other in another world? But he didn’t want to believe it if it wasn’t true.
“Do you swear it Dawn? Do you swear this is true...on...the lives of your children?”
This was a terrible thing to ask but he had to know.
Without a beat Dawn said, ‘From my experience I swear that I believe it to be true.”
They were silent now and oh...it’s night, deep night, night is falling, a knight is falling falling, fallen
“Thank you Dawn...ta...I’m not sure why it matters but it does...it helps me feel less...mad...”
“It’s only true.”
She hadn’t said...did...dare he ask?
“Did...did...Buffy know...about these...dreams, these other places?”
Dawn hesitated, but then decided--hey whole hog.
“I told her at first, some of them...like hey I had this crazy dream, or what if this or that had happened? But she didn’t want to know. She lived in the here and now...it hurt her I think to consider other roads. I think she still loved everybody exactly as she always did...I don’t think it ever watered down to just friends for any of the men in her life and because she couldn’t live four different lives at once but only one--why think about the other ones? Spike, I don’t think she ever moved on either. Love was a blessing and a curse to her. Wether she loved you like a man or whatever...I don’t know...I really do not...but in those A/U’s she loved you, up front and center and no apologies either...but again, remember--it was a softer more humble Buffy who could, someone who had seen even more pain than the Buffy of our world.”
Ah so...more pain equaled the humility it would take for her to see him clearly and would he really want to wish that much pain on anyone? Oh Buffy...
What a question and what did it matter now? Buffy was gone. And he still did not want to know how or why or if he could have been there to help her or...or...or...
“Spike you still there?”
“I am. Ta Nib. Can I ask one more thing?”
“Did you ever see us old together? Did we live long and get on each others nerves and become one person too?”
The answer was quick.
”Now I would see these in different installments so I’m never sure which ending goes with which beginning, but I remember two distinctly. One where you were both like in your late sixties or something which isn’t old, old but you know what I mean and you were fighting in a friendly way the way you two do; about who gets to drive a car--an old car. I don’t remember what kind or what you said, I just remember smiling and thinking how cute you both look and wondering how you could grow old and if it was makeup. But I don’t think it was...because it was outside...in the daylight...”
Dawn was lost in her reverie and almost didn’t catch Spike say...
“It was a blue Mustang...she wanted a Mustang, liked to drive shift, but she always ground the gears...” He spoke softly as he recalled.
“Spike! Yes...that’s it, that’s it...how did you know?”
“I had a dream once too. It convinced me we would end up together and just about drove me mad when we didn’t. It felt so right.”
They considered the complexity of the universe and the workings of Deus machine in companionable silence for a moment. Dawn didn’t want to hang up; she felt if she did, she would never hear from him again. They had been honest with each other and so she found herself saying it out loud.
“Spike, let me call you...don’t hang up and never talk to me again...”
“I’m not coming pet; you know why...the events of this world haven’t changed. I should go...be harder the longer we linger...”
“I...love you Spike...I’m sorry I didn’t tell you until now...”
“Me too, luv...though I’ve always loved you...you know that right?”
Why was this sounding like a terrible goodbye?
“Spike you’re not going to do anything crazy right?
“You ‘re one of the last vamps left in the world...you...you’re like a national treasure or something...please...please...I...know we haven’t been anything like even remotely in touch but your my brother you know you are...and”
“Hey...hey slow down...I just said I wasn’t going to come for the thing...doesn’t mean we can’t talk.”
“You swear? On your love for Buffy do you swear?”
It was a terrible thing to ask but tit for tat and all that.
“I’ll be here if you want to chat. Just not tomorrow...have to be quiet for a few days o.k.? And I need to go to England in fortnight for a fortnight.”
That seemed to satisfy her, except she didn’t know what a fortnight was--oh well she could ask Richard.
“O.K. I’m hanging up now...if I don’t talk to you before March 15--I’ll call and let you know how it’s gone. I’ll see if I can forge papers and act as your agent o.k.? That way you won’t loose out by not being here and I get to find out what Buffy left you. That sound o.k.?”
Spike sighed. This part of it hadn’t changed either. He still didn’t want whatever she bequeathed. Not this Buffy. But he said. All right luv. You know best.”
That’s right, respect your elders.”
He harrumphed but said nothing.
“Spike one last thing--she looked... The journal. The journal I kept of my dreams--my handwriting is really so bad so I put it all on computer, you know, with graphs and everything and time lines and pretty colors...it...it was my hobby...my part of being the Key that belonged to me you know?” She sounded apologetic about her obsession.
“Sure Pet, makes sense...you being you would need a library.”
“--Anyway she looked. I’m sure of it...I would see files updated where traffic had been. I think she looked and I think she only looked...at yours. At you two. One or two hits in other places but most were with your file. And I’m sure, pretty sure she added something to a few of the files--you know; more details...but small stuff. Like this thing about a blue velvet dress--I don’t remember writing it but when I read it I thought--oh yeah. I...I’m pretty sure it was her. Do...do you wanna read them...someday maybe?”
“Maybe pet...maybe much, much later.”
And that was o.k. too because that meant, he meant, to mean to stay in touch.
“Spike...you never asked, that is, do you want to know how Buffy di--“he cut off the word before she could finish it.
“--Please, please don’t tell me Nibblet, don’t ever tell me--no details, just couldn’t stand to have it rattling around in my head--“
“O.K. “ and very soft “I know, I know...O.K...”
They were quiet together for a moment and then.
Nothing more to say, no excuse to linger.
They both hung up at the same time.
They didn’t talk the next day or the next or even the next week, but it was there this contract between them now, this line and Dawn felt safe. She felt safe. They strange way Spike had made her feel safe all those years ago with demons raging all around and Buffy in the ground and he made her safe. And now Buffy was in the ground and he was the only demon left around and she felt safe that he was safe. That he would take care of himself, and so take care of her. Just couldn’t bear the thought of one more loss. No.
She decided not to call him again until after the reading of the will. People were coming from all over the world and so they would wait. But after, after, she would call, she would call and tell him all the gossip, all this and that she could never spill to anyone else...there was something about the relationship you had with someone who knew you from when you were a child that resonated parts of your soul and mind and family sense memory. She needed Spike for that. yes she would call him after, after the reading she would call him.
But she didn’t call.
Instead she sent him The Box.
It was sitting on the front porch and must have come special delivery because the post always came around to the back. Left packages in back.
Spike absently rubbed at chest--gingerly touched the weal over his heart like a harbinger.
He had to be cautious, always cautious, it could be anything from any...thing. he pushed the package across the porch when he opened the front door and it edged easily along the wood deck.
Not too heavy.
Screen door slammed behind him and a cat squeaked. He turned around to see Jowa accusing him with her shocked feline eyes.
“Well...sorry pet, what? Got nailed? You walking aright? Oh your tail is it?
He bent down to stroke her back but she dipped beneath his hand avoiding his touch.
“Unforgiven am I? Well you got get in line and breakfast is up soon so you best scurry up to the top of the tally.”
She meowed something untranslatable and jumped up onto the railing to survey him safely from a distance.
He chuckled and turned around to face the package.
There was an international express envelope attached to the top sealed down with tape. He thought about it and then decided it best to open it outside in the open. Just in case.
He picked up a nail left lying on the dirt leftover from last summers construction project and broke the tape holding the express folder in place.
Return address was England--didn’t recognize the mark but the name--D. Chaperone. Well ‘D’ for damn Dawn.
He sat down on the top step gazed out at the new night coming in for a swoop and swallow up the day and decided.
He opened the envelope and pulled out the stationary.
Don’t be mad, which I know sounds like an invitation to be mad, but don’t be--because this isn’t from the will. Whatever she was going to give you was considered forfeit. Seems she might have been more than a little pissed at you too. We, none of us know what it was, but she said and I know they were her words in the will that if you didn’t have the grace to show up then too bad. I guess I’m telling you this to hurt you a little bit because I’m pissed too.
I understand. Can I feel two things at once? Well you know I can. Anyway, I’m still calling you soon--just didn’t want you to stop me from sending you this.
It was in her last file of things to do, something she was working on that none of us knew about, some kind of secret or surprise or secret surprise anyway--I can’t send you her letter, there was some personal stuff in it...for me, but I was to send this to you like ASAP, she’s the one who had your address--oh don’t worry--I’ve eaten it...(mmm paper tasty). O.K. I’m joking but I’m crying too as I write this and I know you didn’t want anything...but see, that was about the will, oh who am I kidding--I don’t know how things were between you two but I just can’t make a decision that doesn’t include honoring her last wishes. So I’m sending it and I have no idea what’s inside but I’m sure she wrote you something and whatever it is--it is between you two and it’s up to you now. I’m rambling now because I’m sorry, just sorry, I let you slip away. It felt so good to talk to you and please don’t be too mad.
I just had to leave this up to you two. Couldn’t get between you.
Good luck Spike, hope I did the right thing,
The letter had a mad rush emergency feeling that spoke of the quick, quick hurry up and of course his curiosity was piqued.
He pulled the box over and put it on his lap. It was about a foot square--and had a dead heavy weight. Like a kid testing the packaging on Christmas Eve he tried to weigh it in his hands. He eyed it as one would a possible present. He weighed it against what it was here, in reality, this box in his hands and compared it in his mind to what...he wanted.
What he wanted.
What did he want? From her?
Of course the answer was easy, it was love, it was to be able to just sit in her presence and have access to that golden flow, that healing wave that flowed from him to her and back again--that thing that felt so real, it softened his bones and strengthened his spirit.
Part of what he wanted was to be able to love her, to just experience loving her and part of what he wanted was to be loved in return. He wanted to feel the wave come back to him like a happy ‘high there!’ So high, so happy to see him it just shone her face, and showed him the way to heaven. This is what he wanted.
He wanted...oh god he wanted...the world to not be crazy...he wanted this thing that softened him but made it so hard to live with at the same time...to make...sense. He wanted...he wanted Buffy to tell him why...why...
Now could any of that be in this box? Or more important---would it even occur to her to send even a small envoy in a paper cutout of a heart one half for me one for you--no.
No part of his imagination could include her acknowledging his love for her as something other than a thing he should have been over by now, over this inconvenient barrier to their friendship. Something he should be chided for. They could have been friends all these years if not for his ‘problem.’ She valued moving on not living with.
He wanted...he wanted respect for him...for love itself...and...and he wanted, still now, still wanted even now the smallest of signs that God was sane by having her send him a small smack of a paper kiss. Lipstick pressed on a paper smooch.
He smiled. Would not happen, but that’s what he wanted.
So--why should she have the last word always? If he were to open this box, he would be left hanging with no recourse; no quip to sally back no thank you or even a: ‘what’s next?’ and so. And so.
He stood in one swift motion box slung under his arm and went around to the back of the house where he kept the Ben Franklin stove for burning trash.
He threw some kindling in the kiln got the fire going and without a backwards blink placed the box gently on top of the flames now feasting on the wood. He thought about standing and watching it go. He felt no rancor, nor pain nor satisfaction either he just, quite simply, was claiming a part of his life, the only thing of himself he had left he had not given her.
The last word.
He closed the door tightly to the stove--checked the spark guard over the top of the pipe and turned and went inside the house via backdoor and cats a coming.
Screen door open and closed and there, see? A lights gone on in the kitchen window.
Oh, it’s gone out now...
The lights out now inside and the sun on now outside and Spike buried as far away as the coming day would allow in the corner of the house; lying down on his bed and closing his eyes and praying, praying to dream of other worlds...and a better Buffy.
In part II: ‘Boxing Day’