I’m not completely comfortable with tagging, since no matter when I do it, it always comes out wrong, so I’ll just give you guys a general heads-up on the content, and then someone far more LJ savvy than I can make it all pretty later (and whoever does has my heartfelt thanks!).
Author: Niamh (tangwstyl)
Title: Dark Night of the Soul
Word Count: 3,663 (minus note and quote)
Setting: Post Chosen, then veers off canon. Not comic compliant in the least.
Um. I think that’s it. Oh, feedback would be lovely, since it’s been so damn long since I wrote anything, the muse is starving for attention.
[A/N: In the hopes of sparking my muse, I’ve once again entered into the world of Seasonal Spuffy – thank you mods, for managing this community and getting me off my lethargic butt and making me think about writing. There’s some symmetry in this between a couple of my other pieces, but I’m not sure anyone will get the references. They’re pretty clear to me, but then again, I did write them all… so. Title and quote is from Loreena McKennitt, who wrote the haunting lyrics. Me? I just wrote the prose. Joss Whedon and a few others own the rest. Enjoy!]
Dark Night of the Soul
When the dark wood fell before me
And all the paths were overgrown
When the priests of pride say there is no other way
I tilled the sorrows of stone
I did not believe because I could not see
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars
Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me
Then the mountain rose before me
By the deep well of desire
From the fountain of forgiveness
Beyond the ice and fire
Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me
Though we share this humble path, alone
How fragile is the heart
Oh give these clay feet wings to fly
To touch the face of the stars
Breathe life into this feeble heart
Lift this mortal veil of fear
Take these crumbled hopes, etched with tears
We’ll rise above these earthly cares
Cast your eyes on the ocean
Cast your soul to the sea
When the dark night seems endless
Please remember me
Please remember me
There wasn’t a mark.
No physical reminder of the moment. Nothing to mark the passage.
There was only the ache. The pain.
The constant flow of regret and loss.
For almost seven years, he’d been a part of her world. Part of her life, in some small way or another. And for the last two years – he’d been the only person able to hold her, to reach her. To understand, intrinsically, what it meant to be the only one. The Chosen One.
Now, all that was left was the pain.
The constant ache.
She wasn’t sure what was worse – the void in her heart or the non-existent scars on her hand.
Not that it mattered.
Both were just reminders of what she’d lost.
Her hand curled around itself, shielding the pain, holding it close.
Keeping it her own private hell.
Her friends – her sister — all tried reaching her, tried to connect, tried to penetrate the fog surrounding her.
Buffy knew it was futile, knew nothing would make it any less painful. Nothing would assuage the grief.
This must have been how he’d felt, that long summer she’d been gone.
Aching, empty. Hollow. Fragile.
Because neither had really had anything to remember. When she’d jumped, they hadn’t been close. Hadn’t had anything between them but a growing detente, a mutual respect, and a very healthy fear of the other…
When he’d burned, she had so much more than just that. She had memories of passion – passion at times she’d denied at least to herself – but it had existed. Passion, caring, friendship, and, at the end, love.
Their past wasn’t all rosy and Buffy didn’t sugar coat the darkness. Didn’t fool herself into memories shaded by her current emotions. It wouldn’t be fair. Not to him and certainly not to herself. She owed him the truth.
He’d never hidden it from her. She owed it to his memory to acknowledge it.
It was hard though, admitting she had been that much of a monster – maybe even more than he’d been – to herself. Forget about mentioning it to anyone else. None of them understood. Not even the one time she’d tried to talk about it with Angel.
That had been a unmitigated disaster.
He refused to understand, refused to blame her for any of the anger, the hurt, the pain that had marred her initial relationship with Spike. He’d blindly blamed Spike for all of it. Refused to believe she was capable of hurting her lover in any way.
That had been the last real conversation between her and Angel. He wouldn’t listen and she couldn’t explain, no matter what she tried.
The ache in her palm was pounding the entire time she tried talking to Angel, pulsing and throbbing in time with her heart. Halfway through the fits and starts, Buffy half expected her hand to burst into blue flame, searing her flesh. Searing her soul.
Late at night, when she can’t sleep and the world around is silent and still, she stares at her hand, searching for signs of the flames. It’s the only time she allows herself the luxury. It’s the only time she isn’t pretending that her heart is broken and she doesn’t know if it’ll ever recover from the sorrow. She’s not sure she wants to recover.
Spike wasn’t forgettable. His presence didn’t fade with absence, didn’t dissipate into the ether with time and distance. It’s still there, hovering around her, teasing her senses with false hope. His scent lingers on the air around her, his voice echoes in her ears, and his flesh… her body tenses with awareness of his proximity.
Though they spent precious few nights sleeping – just sleeping – together, those nights are etched on her soul. Every night when she lays down in the borrowed bed, she deliberately lays down on her right side, remembering that Spike preferred to sleep with his left arm curled around her, his big hand splayed from breast to hip.
Sleep remains elusive. A fleeting thing she rarely achieves, yet it is one of the things she’s craved; because in her dreams, he’s there. Sleeping beside her, his chest flush against her back, his nose nestled against her neck, the long bones of his legs supporting hers. She can pretend while sleeping, something she can’t do in the harsh light of day.
The phantom of his presence is what finally drove her to try and connect with Angel. The hope that he’d understand that haunting; to accept that what she’s been feeling isn’t just the wild grief she feels.
But he’s just as bad as the others.
No help from that quarter.
It’s been fourteen days since Spike sacrificed himself in the hellmouth, and the pain in her hand is only eclipsed by the pain in her heart. Everyone else is nearly recovered – even Wood, who’s been in the hospital since the collapse, is back at the Hyperion and mending.
But then again, battle scars heal quickly.
Much more quickly than a broken heart.
She’s stopped pretending that’s not what ails her. Stopped fooling herself that her heart aches and the blood it pumps keeps her alive, but it doesn’t do anything else. She’s traced the invisible line of flames around and over her hand so many times, Buffy believes she’s created a mark, the only scar she carries from him.
Giles keeps making hesitant noises about leaving the States, leaving the Hyperion and going back to England and setting up a home base of sorts. That makes no sense to Buffy, because the only other hellmouth she’s aware of is in Cleveland, not England. Even after Giles and Willow attempt to explain it, she still thinks it’s a mistake. Staying or going makes no difference to her, because Spike’s presence will follow her, no matter where she goes.
She is his home. That much she knows. He will follow her wherever she goes, until the end of her days.
And that’s okay. In fact, that’s so okay with her, because she doesn’t ever want to forget him.
He deserves to be remembered.
Two days after Robin is released from the hospital, Willow broached the idea of holding a memorial service, a final way of saying goodbye to all those lost in the collapse. Buffy knows that Willow isn’t thinking of Spike, instead she’s thinking of the new Slayers, and strangely enough, Anya. She only mentions Spike after Xander and the others wander off, and Buffy realizes that she’s probably the only one mourning him.
Willow decides the memorial service should be on the twenty-first day after – a three week anniversary of sorts and no one disagrees with her. No one but Buffy. And Buffy doesn’t say anything about it, because no one would listen to her anyway.
Kennedy has taken over; her natural abrasiveness and ambition pushing her until she is the de-facto head of the new Slayers. Neither Faith nor Buffy care. Of all the people who’ve known her, Faith is the only one to pick up on her distance.
“You okay, B?”
Buffy stared at Faith for long minutes, trying to give voice to the lies the others have been believing for days, when the look in the other’s eyes make her pause. Her throat is Sahara dry, yet the tears well up and Buffy is unable to stop them from falling. The words won’t come, the lies refuse to be spoken. Instead she looks away, shaking her head negatively.
Gauging the look on Buffy’s face, Faith realized while she might want to, Buffy can’t share. Doesn’t know where to begin. And she also realized that Buffy doesn’t want anyone else to be around when she does.
Faith pulled her counterpart out of the lobby, leading her up the stairs onto the roof.
For once in their lives, there is a companionable silence raging between them. They’ve never really been friends – to much rivalry for that, but they know each other all the same. They are two halves of a coin, in a way not dissimilar from they way Buffy and Spike are. There isn’t a whole lot of need for explanation between them. Each understands the other instinctually.
So Faith knows, without Buffy actually voicing the words, that something profound happened down in the hellmouth. The what almost doesn’t matter. Nor does the why. What matters is that Buffy isn’t coping with the aftermath. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. If it had, Willow or Giles would’ve done so days before this moment.
Buffy stares blindly out onto the rooftops of Los Angeles, her eyes focused on a sight only she can see. Faith paces silently behind her, her eyes on the stiff lines of Buffy’s back and shoulders. It takes her long minutes to realize the other girl is crying – no, not crying, weeping silently. She’s not sure though, if Buffy knows she’s crying.
“B?” The question is hushed, a barely voiced sound and Buffy doesn’t respond. Faith tries again, this time using her full name. “Buffy?”
Still no response. Faith wonders if this is the first time Buffy’s allowed herself to cry – allowed herself the release. The euphoric giddiness that seems to surround the others is distant, faded away by sadness. Without waiting for a response, Faith nears the blond, laying a comforting hand on her shoulder. She’s expecting it, but is still surprised when Buffy crumples, her head dropping into her hands and the shudders she’s been suppressing shake her entire body.
“Hey, just let it out.” Faith’s own eyes tear up – she’s never been able to combat it when someone else is crying, though she’s always hidden behind the facade of not caring – and her voice was even huskier than normal.
There’s nothing more to be said. Faith won’t lie to Buffy and tell her everything will be okay, because she’s all too aware that it won’t. She doesn’t need Buffy to say anything. Despite what the others thought, despite even what had been said in Sunnydale, Faith knew Buffy loved Spike.
Wasn’t hard to see – if anyone was willing to look. Faith knew it that night, probably her first night back when she’d fled the swarm of potentials and found Spike in the basement. Buffy’s reaction had been telling. If she didn’t care so deeply, it wouldn’t have hurt quite as much. And if anyone knew about Buffy and her boyfriends, it was Faith.
Full night had fallen while the two slayers sat on the roof. They’ve changed positions many times, and at this particular moment, they are on the ledge, legs dangling over the side of the building. Buffy’s finally talking, spilling out all the things she’d kept bottled up – not just in the last few weeks, but for a long time. Things she had only told Spike. Things she couldn’t – or wouldn’t – share with her friends. Faith holds her comments, knowing that right now, it’s about Buffy and her feelings, a rare moment of insight and compassion from the darker girl.
She’s hoarse by the time she finished, the tears and emotion damaging her vocal chords, but strangely Buffy is feeling better. Not hip-hip-hooray better, but better.
Better enough to go on. To move forward. Not to forget, but to just keep going.
Oddly enough, she feels Spike’s presence even more. Almost as if he were standing right behind her, his arms circled around her, and his unnecessary breathing wafting in her ear. It’s the one thing she hasn’t shared with Faith, but the words blurt out before she can hold them back. “I can feel him, you know?”
If anything, Faith is completely nonplused by that admission. Instead, she muses quietly, “He’s gonna be with you a long time, B. He’s not the kind you just get over.”
A bitter laugh escaped Buffy. “No, he’s not. Even when I hated him I couldn’t stop thinking about him.”
“I wish he’d believed me – that he hadn’t –“ Buffy can’t finish the thought. It hurts too much.
And the tears start again.
Buffy leans back, half expecting Spike’s arms to stop her from falling, but he’s not there. Instead she lands gracelessly flat on her back, staring up into the heavens. The tears give way to hysterical giggles and Faith, rightly, figures she’s had enough. “C’mon B, let’s go.”
“Where?” Buffy managed to hiccup out the question, though she almost doesn’t care about the answer.
“Anywhere but here, sweetchecks.”
And so they go. Out to slay, to fight off the anger and despair.
The night passed quickly, and for once, Buffy can sleep.
Willow’s brim full of ideas, blurting them out left and right, what to do, what to say, and how to plan a memorial no one but she finds necessary. She plans and plans and finally, just two days before the event, she’s found what she wants Buffy to read.
She can’t even look at the page, can’t see beyond the blur of her tears. There’s no words she wants to say, no sounds to convey the loss she feels. Nineteen days, and it’s no better than the first.
The pain in her hand is excruciating. Pulsing, throbbing to the beat of her heart and she can’t focus on whatever drivel Willow is spewing. Pushing her way past the redhead, she runs out into the sunlight.
Cradling her left hand beneath her breasts, Buffy sobs, shudders, and leaves the hotel far behind. She has to move, has to do something, has to focus on anything but the pain and the ache. The circle of her palm is flaring, heat and energy thumping away.
It feels like she’s run for hours, her breath hitching and twitching in her chest, the almost too fast fluttering of her heartbeat in her ears drowning out her other senses. Her nose is clogged, eyes blurry, and it feels like every moment for the past… since the hellmouth imploded is happening all at once.
All the sorrow, grief, anger, fear, relief, despair, loneliness… it’s all here, in this moment with her, and Buffy can barely stand under the weight of it all. Pain radiates through her muscles, every nerve ending twitching from too much exertion. It’s full dark, and when she comes back to herself, realizes she’s somewhere downtown, in front of nondescript, generic office buildings, but otherwise she’s at a loss. She has no idea where the Hyperion is from where she’s standing, has no clue at all. And what’s more – she isn’t sure she can go back there, face the others.
She wants to keep running, leaving all this behind. Forget that she ever was a slayer, that she can destroy demons with her fists, that she – for a time – lead the forces of good. If this is the pain that comes with those powers – right now she wants nothing more to do with them. She wants to be numb. Doesn’t want to remember that even though there are hundreds of girls like her, and her friends survived – the one person she wants to be near is gone. The one man in all her time as a slayer that she really, truly, deeply connected with, whether as enemies or lovers, isn’t with her to revel in her newfound freedom.
Lifting her eyes up, up, up the side of the building, Buffy sends one last plea into the heavens, out into the universe, wondering – not for the first time – why she couldn’t have a bit of happiness to balance out all the pain she’s suffered, all the losses. Just once why she can’t have something for herself. Someone… It doesn’t help that she blames herself, because she had him. For a few brief, shining moments, she had him. And she didn’t realize until after, until he was gone, what she’d thrown away. What she’d refused.
Wiping her eyes, Buffy squares her shoulders and braces herself. Inhaling deeply, once, twice… and on the third breathe realization sinks in. This is where Angel goes every night. This building. A bitter laugh escapes her. Part of the tingles and skin-crawling nervous feeling is because this place is full of demons. With a rueful shake of her head, Buffy enters the lions’ den.
It’s nicer than she would have expected, but the heat is almost oppressive. She can feel the weight of the magics in the air and it’s stifling. Her heart is still trip-hammering in her chest and she can barely flex her hand because of the pain.
The emotions swirl through her, as the elevator ascends to the upper floors. That’s where Angel’s offices are – and why does the thought of Angel having an office throw her even more? It’s all too much, the last few weeks, the last few months. . . All of it. Her life has been nothing but chaos since Merrick approached her days before her fifteenth birthday, and it’s all too much. Too, too much. The pain in her hand is screaming, adding to the roiling of emotional tempest in her belly. By the time the elevator opens, she’s nearly doubled over with the grief.
Vulnerability had never been her strong suit, not even when she was battered and bruised, beaten and cornered. She nearly scrambled back inside the elevator, refusing to ask Angel – of all people – for help. But a frisson of awareness shot through her, the pain in her hand flaring and pulsing in time with her heart. Buffy stepped out, into the lobby.
It’s Wesley she spied first, his lean, tall form standing out amidst the heavier, broader forms of the demons populating the lobby. He doesn’t see her. His attention is focused on someone else, someone Buffy can’t see. There’s noise and chaos and it seems like there’s some minor crisis going on and all Buffy can hear is Angel’s raised voice and the muffles tones of…
She stops dead still in the middle of the lobby, staring at the form beside Angel. Buffy blinks, once, twice, still doesn’t believe what her eyes are seeing. It’s not possible… it’s not. There isn’t a being in the universe cruel enough to… it can’t be. She blinks once more, her eyes again filling with tears. Doesn’t hear the sound of her own voice, repeating “No.”
Blue eyes find hers and a sad smile crosses his features. The harsh lines of his face soften and he steps toward her, but she reaches him first. Angel’s hands reach for her, as Wesley’s voice sounds in her ears. She dodges his grip, ignoring the words – and passes right through Spike’s form.
Buffy whirls around, anger drawn in around her. “What did you do?”
The accusation batters Angel and Wesley both, sending them both back a step. “Nothing. The amulet…” Wesley tries to explain, “Buffy, listen. He just reappeared in Angel’s office. The amulet was delivered and…”
His voice trails off, realizing his former charge isn’t listening to him. She’s focused on one thing, and it’s not him. Wesley nods to security, motioning them to clear the lobby.
Slowly Buffy steps toward the ghostly vampire, her eyes boring into his. “You’re not the first.”
“No, pet.” He looks down at his immaterial legs. “Not quite m’self either.”
“How?” She reaches to touch his face, and her hand passe through him. A sobbing laugh erupts from her and she shakes her head, stepping close to his form. “How do we fix this?”
“Dunno.” He’s as tongue-tied as she is, swamped by the emotions he can see in her jade eyes.
The pain in her hand flashes, doubling her up again. He instinctually bends to her aid, only to disappear before her eyes. Spike’s back before she can recover, but that doesn’t stop the white-hot anger from surfacing. Eyes blazing, she rounds on Angel. “You better find out how to fix this, Angel.”
“What? Why?” Defensiveness isn’t one of his better looks, Buffy decides.
“Your amulet.” She turns her back on him, once again staring at Spike. There could be a hundred other people in the room, but she’s only concerned with one. Doesn’t care who’s watching or listening, they don’t matter. Only one does. And he’s looking at her like she’s the miracle, when in fact, this time, it’s him.
Two steps is all that separates them. Two steps and his current form. She can’t – Buffy doesn’t know how to breach the distance, doesn’t know how to bridge the gap. All she can remember is that he was once her anchor, once her rock and now, she can be his.
She doesn’t remember which one of them moves first, which one steps foward, but it doesn’t matter, because they are only inches apart. If he was real, she could smell him, feel him… but all she can do is see his features. They can’t touch…
The last time they stood like this, the Turok-Han were burning, the hellmouth was exploding, and Sunnydale was collapsing around them. A whisper of sound emerges from her parted lips, soft enough only for his ears. A slow smile blooms across his features and he leans forward, his hand tracing the line of her face.
Her hand reaches up, as if to capture his.
Another gasp escapes her and she stares down at her left hand, then flashes quickly to his face.
This time, Buffy raises her hand, holding it out for his. Spike stares at it for a moment, then lifts his gaze to meet hers.
Hope flares brightly in her eyes and she smiles.
Spike lifts his right hand, matches it, palm to palm with hers.
Light flares between them, and a deep sonic boom, more felt than heard reverberates through the lobby. Glass walls splinter, shatter, then collapse.
There was a moment – time suspends and hangs, her heart falters and stops, he draws in an unnecessary breath – and then she is in his arms, laughter finally replacing the tears and his voice murmuring her name over and over.
Geez, I hope I did that correctly. No matter how many times I practice, I nearly always screw it up.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/463055.html