Title: Five Times They Don’t Make It (And One Time They Do)
Word count: 2147
Prompt: The course of true love never did run smooth.
A/N: They take turns shooting themselves in the foot.
They survive the LA showdown. Senior Partners rained hell, they stopped it. Great heroes, Champions, the lot of them. So there’s celebration, team hug and all that sunshiny rainbow stuff good guys do after they (inevitably) win, and then it’s business as usual. The fight never ends, after all.
Except it’s not (business as usual, that is), and it has (you know, the fight).
Because the big man, Angel, is a man now. He signed it away, and that meant some kind of twisty double reward for being all self-sacrificing and noble-like. (Spike thinks he knows the real reason. The PTB have another souled up vampire Champ to string along now, so they can spare a little charity and toss Angel a bone. Angel privately agrees.) The fight’s ended for him, not like he can do much as a puny human with no brains.
Not Wesley-smart. Not Fred-smart. Not Willow-smart, Angel corrects with a glare, but I do have brains.
He’s a bit useful on the demon identifying side, but he’s retired (a consultant, Angel corrects, and Spike admits that is a little more accurate). Anyway, the important bit is that he can’t fight.
She’s overprotective as she’s prone to be over humans and the ones she loves. He tries to do some patrolling, but a few centuries of skill in a superhuman form does not adapt well to regular human speed and strength. He humbly accepts this and takes a backseat. Number one vamp now a sidekick. He’s not used to it. But he adapts. They live happily ever after.
She doesn’t know he’s alive.
Spike wants to keep it that way, thank you very much. Can’t stand watching them. Can’t stand knowing. Can’t stand it if she knew too.
He fights the fight in LA, and everything’s business as usual except now he’s the number one vamp in the gang.
He’s alive. She learned it from Angel one sleepy summer afternoon, with the sun high in the sky and them holding hands as she always dreamed and being happy and—Alive, Angel said.
I know you’re alive, she laughed. It’s everything we ever—
Spike. He’s alive—not like me, but… He’s in LA.
Now she stands there, glaring down Gunn and Gwen and Illyria, tapping her foot, arms crossed. Just waiting. Coiled up spring, wound up toy, coffee jittery. Waiting. For Spike. Till he comes. Not moving.
You are unreasonable, Illyria says. Incomprehensible. You tossed your two suitors around when they were both half breeds, but now relinquish your human toy for what you are designed to destroy. You continue this tiresome juggling routine even when you believe to have decided on a superior option. She does not specify what the superior option is.
Buffy ignores her. She’s been getting good at that, keeping her anger down. Tap tap tap.
The doors swing open. “I smelled the weirdest thing,” Spike begins, tracking mud through the hotel floor. Then he stops dead. “Huh.”
Gunn and Gwen tug Illyria away, and the three disappear up the stairs. Have fun, kids, Gunn calls out.
ldquo;So it’s true.” She walks towards him. He does not move, fixed in place. She tries to sound steely, to look steely, but she’s pretty sure she’s failing. He drinks her in, like he’s the one who thought her dead. “You’re really…” She lifts a hand to his face and moves it towards him infinitesimally—then she lets it drop down and lets out a shuddery breath. She really should punch him. She doesn’t. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“At first? Physically couldn’t. Then I got wrapped up in all this stuff, LA demons.” He lets out a small disbelieving laugh. “Too busy, bloody classic excuse. But true. Then after the battle… you got Angel back,” he seems to be struggling here, “and I figured he would say or you’d find out somehow, so I just… let it lie.” It sounds like a lie.
“Happily ever after,” she says. She’s sure Spike can hear her heart racing, see her thoughts written across her face.
“No,” she says, shaking her head. “We split.”
“Oh?” His tone is careful, but his eyes fill with wonder and hope. She’s surprised by how much restraint he has.
There’s an anticipatory silence that neither of them fill. She thinks of all those months mourning him, forcing everything down. Thinks of him palling around in LA then. Thinks of the unresolvedness between them now.
She waits anyway. For him to speak, because he hasn’t in so long. He doesn’t, still doesn’t.
“Well,” she finally says, a vice on her heart. “Glad to know you aren’t dust.”
And she leaves.
They meet again, because good guys always meet up when there’s evil arising. Spike mostly hangs with the Niblet, making up for lost time and ties. Angel is more sullen than usual. Buffy acts the part of general.
He avoids her, and he’s pretty sure she’s avoiding him too. Their last meeting is burned into his mind: the racing heart, rising hope, and silent rejection. But they still fight side by side, back to back. They’re the ones best in combat (Illyria has long left to another dimension), deadly slice-dice, and he forgets the important bits when he fights with her again. Important bits like heartbreak and rejection, which are hardly new to him in his entire unlife and life, but he’s hoping to be less pathetic.
He tells Dawn this one evening, when he’s battered and on the brink of sleep. He only realises Buffy was listening too when Dawn informs him the next morning.
All the more reason to stick to his resolve. Stop with the fool for love act and start learning to actually survive in the world. First things first, he tells himself, take back your dignity and have a real chat with her.
Buffy begins, unexpectedly enough, with an apology. And she’s looking straight at him, right in the eye. That casual but striking talk he has in mind flies out of the window, and he barely manages to keep a hold on his dignity. But he gathers his wits just before his silence becomes gaping. “Words, words. Sound nice enough. But very nearly useless.” He’s learned that the hard way, a long time ago. “Straight-up apology’s a step up from the usual punch or avoidance, I’ll give you that.”
She doesn’t back down, doesn’t miss a beat. “You want action? Not a problem.” And she steps towards him, too bloody close—he clumsily, stupidly takes a step back. He can’t read her expression.
His turn. “S-so, apology accepted.” He is saved the onus of saying goodbye when Giles enters the room to call them out into a meeting.
He’s had the talk just as he planned. Not a fool, then—but since when had he become a coward?
She finds him reading in Giles’ library and smiles. She walks up as quietly as she can; he’s so engrossed that he does not hear her steps or smell her scent. Honey and vanilla, he once said. It’s probably orange and plum now, because she’s changed her shampoo.
It’s poetry. Flowery, flowing poetry. To her surprise, it’s one she knows: something about ships passing in the night.
She remembers that last year in Sunnydale, quiet nights and back porch company. She remembers when he found that old poetry book Angel gave her so long ago—Sonnets from the Portuguese, love poems pressed in the pages. He briefly mentioned Angelus, she briefly mentioned Angel, and then he lyricized, from memory:
Go from me. Yet I feel that I shall stand
Henceforward in thy shadow. Nevermore
Alone upon the threshold of my door
Of individual life, I shall command
The uses of my soul, nor lift my hand
Serenely in the sunshine as before—
She’s close enough now that he must know she’s there. “Poetry, huh? You never did tell me that particular story.”
“Story?” He doesn’t look up.
He’s not in a giving mood, but she didn’t expect him to be anyway. “You. Poetry. Story.”
He manages a stiff shrug. “Not really.”
Spike? Will’s calling from the corridor. Spike, where are you?
Buffy looks to him. He gives a slight shake of his head. “They want to take measurements for a bloody uniform,” he volunteers.
“Dawn’s idea of torture.”
Willow’s voice fades as she moves from the corridor.
“Library’s a pretty good hiding spot,” Spike says. “No one comes in here. And no one would think to look.”
She smiles. “Like in high school. The old, the original Scooby hideout was the library. Perfect spot, though I got conflicting reputations as delinquent and geek.” The labels coalesced nicely into weirdo. She sits on the edge of the desk, making it clear she’s not intending to go anytime soon.
He fiddles with the corner of the page for a few moments. Then, abruptly: “What do you want?”
Now he looks at her. She’s not sure what she sees in his face, and that unsettles her. “Sometimes,” he says, “it takes more courage for words than action. So speak. Spell it out.”
She raises her eyebrows. “Someone’s singing a different tune.”
“Changed my mind,” he says unabashedly. “Actions are too muddy. Words, you get intent. The right words, anyway. So. What do you want?”
He’s right. Words are harder. The apology was easy enough, because she turned her wrongs over and over again in her mind till the guilt built up. The words he wants now… well, she’s very good at denial. Her intent is a careful mystery even to herself. “To… go back to what it was. We’ve been weird, and… avoid-y.” She wants to… Friends is on the tip of her tongue, should be perfect, but she can’t say it. Not that label.
“Done,” he says. “Anythin’ else eatin’ at you?”
She misses him still, and even if they fall back into comfortable companionship of Sunnydale, if they are friends, it won’t be exactly right. She wants to say it now. But that means thoughts in her head and everything out there, and she doesn’t do that. “No, that’s all.”
He’s walking to the shelf to put back the anthology. “Well, gotta go head off the Bit. See you later, pet.”
There’s something wrong with her, pushing everyone away. Spike used to get that, read her. He used to push back, and she wishes he would now.
She’s still holding back. She thinks he’s not waiting anymore.
They take turns shooting themselves in the foot.
Buffy runs up from behind him, catches him on the shoulder. He wonders if she has it in mind to break that particular pattern, but it’s his turn to self-sabotage.
“Words, actions, whatever,” she says. “You’ll just change your mind again.”
Before he can react, her arms are around him—one at the back of his head, one on his back—and kisses him furiously. He can’t help but sink hungrily into it. The world is drowned out and there is nothing there but her green-hazel eyes, her scent of citrus and plum, her soft gold hair, warm skin, Buffy. They break apart, Buffy gasping in a breath, and he murmurs her name raggedly, as a man starved.
He can’t stop himself. He’s not thinking, running on emotion—so he gasps out, “I love you.” His heart feels like it’s beating again.
And he steels himself for the rejection, because this is the self-sabotage he’s always drawn to, inviting pain in, never…
She’s looking at him with that look in her face, that look from the cavern in Sunnydale—eyes wide and wet, pinning him down more than sunlight ever could. “I love you.” A smile, blinding. “I love you.”
The world has stopped.
Then reality crashes in, harder than ever with piercing screams. Shouts. They know! They’re here! Buffy, Spike, we need you! A quick look at one another, then they’re racing down the corridor.
They take turns, they do. But Buffy caught him this time.
There’s a fight, big and bloody, and they’re unprepared. One of those final apocalypse-type things that roll around ever so often. Slash, magic, Buffy’s on the floor.
They take turns dying too, and she is overdue.
Their story is cut short.
and one time they do
They take turns coming back.
He thinks she’s a dream when she does. He’s spent months and months waiting. One hundred and forty seven has passed a long time ago. Three hundred and one is the mark now. Three hundred and two today, and she appears.
He stays stock still as she speaks. She touches him then, and he breaks down, leans into her, cries out, and doesn’t let go.
They fight demons and each other, save the world between doing dishes, and that is happily ever after.