Another short scene (912 words) from a future chapter of my S6 rewrite, Edge of Sorrow, Heart of Truth, structured here as a standalone ficlet titled “Homework”, in which Dawn makes a Spuffy discovery (concerning an event covered in great detail in the S5 one-shot titled “Enough” linked from the End Notes). Feedback welcome.
Her head swimming with inverse functions, Dawn looked up from her geometry homework at the sound of the dull thunk and registered a book flying across the living room to bounce off the wall, and Spike storming out the back door, his coat swishing behind.
“Hey! Is that my book?” She craned her neck to yell at him. All she got in response was the slam of the door.
“Melodramatic much?” mumbling, she tiptoed to the book, her curiosity getting the better of her.
The book lay innocently on the floor, face down, the pages fanned out like a mess of leaves. The Great Gatsby, from her American Lit class, for which she’d promised him a plate of spicy Buffalo wings at the Bronze in exchange for help with a book report. “Huh,” Dawn said to no one in particular, “Never seen that reaction before.”
Spike was a destructive reader, always curling pages, folding dog ears, leaving cryptic notes and cigarette ashes behind, striking through the occasional typo with decisiveness and penning in the error-free word with finality. “I’m not a bloody poncy book collector,” he’d said when Dawn had called him out on it. He had the nerve to give her a lecture, after damaging school property. “A properly read book ought to look read, studied, poured over, lived. Not in unappreciated, untouched, sodding mint condition.” He’d practically spat out the word “mint” like the worst offense imaginable.
So it was easy to track down where he’d left off. Especially–Dawn happened on it and snickered–as the page was slightly wrinkly, with damp ovals here and there. “Ugh, you’d better not cried all over my book!” she shouted teasingly in the direction of the back door, then said under her breath, “Dork.”
Hopping up a bar stool, she traced a finger over one vague oval, then scanned the passage underneath:
So he made the most of his time. He took what he could get, ravenously and unscrupulously–eventually he took Daisy one still October night, took her because he had no real right to touch her hand.
Dawn’s heart thumped violently, and with the book tightly clutched in her hands–her knuckles white from effort–the words on the page jumped in sync with her pulse. She skipped ahead, leaping over phrases and whole sections, catching bits and pieces that grabbed her:
He might have despised himself, for he had certainly taken her under false pretenses… He had deliberately given Daisy a sense of security; he let her believe… that he was fully able to take care of her.
…He had intended, probably, to take what he could and go–but now he found that he had committed himself to the following of a grail… He felt married to her, that was all.
“Oh. My. God!” She flew through the back door, knocking the bar stool over in the process, sending the screen door into a brutal collision with the wall. With a trembling index finger inches from Spike’s nose, she threw down her trump card of an accusation: “You… you slept with Buffy!”
From his throne on the top porch step, Spike blew out a smoke ring, and cast her a sideways glance. It could almost be called lazy, as collected as a cool cat. Which, because Dawn knew better, meant that he was feeling anything but. “Figured that out all on your own, did ya?”
Spun, she searched her memories. Buffy was never good at keeping secrets; there’d be tell-tale signs. How had she managed to keep this under the covers? “But, when?”
He took a long drag from his death stick, then held his breath for the longest time, lost in thought. Even now, Buffy took his breath away, literally. When he looked up again with a glint in his eye, Dawn knew he’d been reliving a treasured piece of memory. His face was a distortion of bliss layered with despair.
She thought he’d spill the beans to her sympathetic ear then. It wasn’t like he had many friends to whom he could pour his heart out.
“Not the kiss-and-tell type, pet.”
Dawn sank down next to him, searching his face for clues. “You must miss her.” Well, duh, so she hastened to clarify, rather lamely, “Like, a lot. A lot a lot.”
The light was fading, something that years of imaginary Sunnydale living compelled her to retreat inside for safety before day fell to night. Behind her was an entire vacant house furnished with no less than a dozen comfy chairs and sofas, yet she was cozying up to a chain-smoking chipped vampire on an outdoor step, struggling with an offer of sympathy for, morbidly enough, the death of her sister. Her life was total absurdorama.
Spike, on the other hand, was all distracted action with no hint of rush: flicking off the stub, patting down pockets for his Zippo, lighting up a new one, then crushing the empty pack into a ball–a series of uncomplicated moves all carried out with expert efficiency that together, still managed to take a while. Finally, he ran out of things to do.
His breath hitched as he said, “Desperately.” He wouldn’t meet her eye.
Something in his rigid body language told her he preferred to prop up the pretense on that last shred of dignity, so instead of giving him a hug, she awkwardly patted him on the shoulder. He neither flinched nor encouraged her, a dying cigarette dangling, unappreciated, between his fingers.
But the tension was gone from his jaw, and, well, the worn leather, surprisingly soft under her palm, felt odding comforting.
There was hardly any view from the back porch, but they sat there, side by side, in companionable silence, for a long time.
~ The End ~
* I’d like it on record that Spike’s abysmal treatment of books does not represent the author’s own and does not constitute an endorsement. I am a “bloody poncy book collector” and proud of it.
* The Season 5 NC-17 story that Spike may or may not be recalling in this scene is “Enough” (LJ link). Until Buffy’s resurrection, memories of it will have to be enough to sustain Spike.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/502574.html