Fic: A Time to Fight

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My last offering in which I answer the siren call of the fluff (as best I’m able)

Title:  A Time to Fight
Author:  bearfacedcheek
Feedback:  Couldn’t hurt could it?

Big thanks to my April for all the work she does in proofing my fic, she can’t know how much I appreciate it.

The knowledge that he lives haunts her every moment. Each waking second dogged by the heartbreaking wonder of it, each dazzling dream shadowed by her own unforgivable peeve at his continued absence.

He is alive. Alive and living across the Atlantic in Los Angeles. Still fighting, and no surprise in that because wasn’t he always fighting? But fighting now at another’s side. The jealousy that crawls up her throat at the thought that Angel has him now is surprisingly tenacious, bringing its vile bitterness into her mouth despite her best effort s to shove it back down. Angel has him, his fire, his mixed up love and hate, his tireless fighting.

Her eyes linger on The Immortal lying next to her in picture-perfect repose. He is so handsome, so flawless. A socialite, a lover and a gentleman. He is not a fighter. It’s good. She doesn’t want to fight anymore. She is no longer the broken scrap of humanity she was when the only shred of contentment in her world was the vitiating pleasure of fighting with him: hand to hand, back to back, sometimes even mouth to mouth. They were always at war, the two of them, as enemies or comrades or both, always on the cusp of a battle or lying bleeding in its aftermath.

She makes instant coffee.  The sound of the machine might have woken her lover; besides, there are times when a perfect Café Crème or Cappuccino isn’t what a girl wants—something more rough and ready perhaps. She snorts. Not the most subtle of metaphors, but there it is.

She remembers with headache-inducing clarity the day Andrew spilled his secret, barely in through the apartment door and bursting with excitement. “Alive,” he’d said. “Resurrected.” She remembers the sensation of drowning that had washed over her, and how her hands had clenched at her sides. She remembers vividly how a part of her, that deep shadowed place inside where the slayer lives, had awoken with a fierce cry. “Fight,” it commanded. And though it has no words, that savage voice inside, its meaning was violently clear. “Fight for him.”

But she isn’t a fighter these days, has hung up her stake and chosen to be merely a girl, a sister, a lover. She thinks of her partner sleeping in the next room. He has already begun to notice her distraction, and she doubts now that the relationship will survive more than a few more weeks.

Last night she hunted. She doesn’t try to fool herself that it is anything but that anymore. For the first time since Sunnydale, she answered the call of her blood and slipped from her lover’s warm arms to prowl the streets in darkness. She’d been lucky enough to find a vampire who was just enough like him, although the hair was golden-blond not white.

“Damn you, Spike,” she’d hissed as her stake had driven home. She’d stood then for long minutes amongst the settling dusts and wondered at herself, at the bright hard anger wriggling like an octopus in her gut, sending out its many arms to stir up violence in her muscles and fire in her heart.

The coffee scalds her lips and she raises a hand to finger the slight pain. There had been a night—she sees it clearly in her memory—back in the time when the pleasure of his body and twisted righteousness of her punishment had been the only salve she could find for the wretchedness of her barely-living soul. He’d punched her hard in the face, though she thinks it was probably she who had dealt the first blow, and his ring—one of those ugly tasteless bits of jewellery that had suited him so well—had drawn blood on her lip so that she could taste the coppery proof that she was alive. She’d hated him in that moment more than at any other, more even than when his weakness had sent them down together against her bathtub, because it summed up everything that he did to her. He’d made her live when all she’d wanted was death.

She won’t go to him. How can she? She isn’t the tarnished warrior he remembers, in the dark with him no longer. She is fixed now, living above ground in the bright Rome sunshine with hope and laughter sounding in her days. Yet still he haunts her with the memory of his troubled eyes.

The Immortal’s eyes are dark and tranquil. She decided long before Andrew brought home his impossible news that she liked that about him. Liked that looking into his eyes never felt like falling into a raging ocean of feeling. Better to see nothing but warmth and charm in those shallow ebony orbs. Better that his face never reads like a tale of tragedy in an open book.

She tries to forget, to bury him in the past with Angel and Riley and all the life that went before, but he doesn’t fit, and in trying to make him she is condemned to remember. It’s ironic, and she has come to despise irony; she finds no humour or cleverness in it. Dawn too conspires to remind her of him with careless throw-away lines that tells her more than she ever suspected about their erstwhile closeness. Her sister knows so much more about the vampire she once…loved? Is that the right word for what they had? Somehow “fought” lies easier in her mind.

She despises him now for two things, though she knows it is contrary because they are quite opposed. First that he has not come to her when his pledge had been always to stand beside her, and second that in his absence he will not leave her alone. And if it is unfair to blame him for her own state of mind, then so be it; she’ll be unfair. She always was with him anyway. “Damn you, Spike,” she whispers. She hates this growing need she feels to fight.

…………………………………………………………………..

It had lasted longer with The Immortal than she had expected. Funny how she can look at that relationship with such detachment, as if it were not her own but merely something she thinks she may have witnessed once. Lasted until just a few hours ago when she’d walked with him into her apartment, flushed with wine and dancing, and had known. Known without doubt or question that he had been there.

“Did you think I wouldn’t sense you?” he’d asked her once when she’d tried to slip away from the temptation of him. “Right back at ya,” she had thought wryly as she’d stood frozen just inside her living room, deaf to her lover’s concerned questions. He had been there, had stood inside her haven, and he had not stayed. Had not fought for her.

“Paulo.” She’d turned to him without regret or pity. “It’s over.” And he, dignified and gentlemanly as ever, had simply bowed and kissed her hand.

“Goodbye then, ma bella.” But at the door he’d turned and looked at her with all the wisdom of the centuries he’d lived. “Will you fight for him then?” he’d asked, and she hadn’t known how to answer.

She lets her head fall forward so the pressured spray of water from their newly installed power shower pounds the knotted muscles at the base of her neck. “We shoulda had one of these in Sunnydale,” Dawn had said when they first tried it out. “Would have been great for you when you used to fight.”

The words come back to her now. “Used to fight.” She hasn’t fought for anything in so long she wonders now if she would even know how to begin. Perhaps the fight is gone from her.

There is a chance, a probability even, that in being fixed and whole and healthy she has given up that which made her a fighter, that which once upon a time had made her almost his.

………………………………………………………………………

In the end, the decision to fight for him is ridiculously easy to make. “I’m coming,” she’d told Willow matter-of-factly, and that had been that. They’d protested, of course. She wasn’t active. She wasn’t in training. She wasn’t the slayer anymore. But she’d just shaken her head and let the reality of herself shine through as she’d stared them down. Not a fighter? She’d never be anything else.

The battle had already been raging when the coven had teleported them in. A squadron of slayers, an insanely powerful witch and Buffy Summers arrived at the ball in a flash of purple magic, and they’d all brought their dancing shoes.

It’s like coming home, only she hadn’t known she’d been away. The rhythm of the battle, the slash and kick and punch, beats in time with her heart and every kill she makes a tiny homecoming.

“Buffy.” Angel tumbles from the sky, his sword dripping with the slain dragon’s blood. “You came?”

“Heard you needed backup.” Her own sword finds its mark and her blood sings with the liberation of it. She is a fighter, fighting once again.

By the time their paths cross, the battle is almost done and she’s close to dropping with exhaustion. He looks no better and neither of them have the energy to speak, so they fall in back to back and fend off the last of the demon army while overhead Willow still rains down death like fairy dust on those that remain.

She couldn’t say whether it’s her tired body that needs his for support as they walk away or if it’s the bone-deep slashes in his thigh and side that have him leaning on her. Either way, the result’s the same. Their bodies meld into one and the mixing blood between them binds them together like it were glue.

“Ok?” he rasps as they trail the others to the nearby refuge of Angel’s old hotel.

She merely nods. She won’t need a doctor tonight, just some rest for long-unused powers to heal her wounds and soothe her aching, out-of-practice, muscles. Their arms never leave each other’s waists as they stumble mutely past the victorious, weary warriors and flop down together on the last free couch in the lobby.

When she wakes, without being aware of having fallen asleep, she’s lying above the musty covers of a neatly made bed with him beside her, sleeping literally like the dead. His arm is beneath her shoulders as if he carried her here then didn’t have the energy left to free himself before he joined her in sleep. It can’t be comfortable, not lying on his damaged side like that, so she wriggles free and gently rolls him onto his back.

And in the half-light of the room she can study him without reserve. Her bruised and bleeding fighter. A smile tugs at the corner of her mouth even as tears spring unexpectedly to her eyes. Her Spike, alive and living. How could she not have fought for him? She clambers over him, though she barely has the strength to lift her aching limbs, to lie curled against his undamaged side. Her head rests on his shoulder and her arm lies over his hips just beneath the angry gash across his abdomen, and she sleeps.

Morning comes with much to do. There have been casualties beyond Wesley and Gunn. Two slayers dead and another badly wounded. There are calls to make and people to care for. The alley too, is littered with the bodies of their enemies, and the cleanup is almost as exhausting as the battle.

“Buffy,” Angel greets her with dark, sad eyes. “Are you ok?”

“I’m fine,” she answers, and it’s the truth because she fought again last night and she is still whole, still healthy, still fixed. She had thought in coming here, in choosing him, that she was sacrificing herself and all the contentment she has found in being whole and new. She believed, although it could not have stopped her coming, that becoming a fighter again would mean becoming once more the dark and broken creature that had carved up Sunnydale’s demons as much for her own pleasure as for her duty’s sake.

She is not. She is still, unbelievably, Buffy. She is perhaps more Buffy now than she was just forty-eight hours ago in Rome when she first heard the news that Angel was leading her absent lover into a battle that they could not have won alone.

“Spike around?” she asks, and holds his eyes so that there’ll be no doubt this time about the choices of her heart. He looks for a moment like he might protest, then he tilts his head towards the back and walks away.

“Hey, baby.” The unfamiliar greeting rolls off her tongue with consummate ease as if she has been practicing. She indulges in the notion that perhaps in a way she always has been.

He is so adorably startled and perplexed that she thinks she’d tease him if she had the energy. She doesn’t, so she simply moves into his arms and lays her head on his chest in mute declaration of feeling.

“Luv?” he asks when his paltry patience breaks and she smiles against his shirt at all the flaws in him she has come to love so much.

“Hmmm?”

“Luv, what—”

“Hush,” she frowns at him playfully. “Less talking, more cuddling.” She cocks her head in an adorable show of thinking, then she grins wickedly. “Actually scratch that. No talking, more kissing.”

So they kiss, and kiss, and kiss, until her sore muscles feel like jelly and her head is light with the opiate caresses of his mouth. Finally, she thinks, they’re beginning their happy ever after.

“God, I missed you,” he breathes when they finally break apart.

“And whose fault is that?” She hadn’t realised amongst all the relief and ecstasy of seeing him again that she is still so very pissed about that.

“Buffy, I…” His hands go up in a calming gesture as the sudden violence of her resentment rips her from his arms.

“Save it, Spike.” Damn him. How can he stand there bruised and handsome and look at her with such patronising acceptance? “Because nothing you can say is going to make it okay that you didn’t tell me you were alive. That—God, you came to my apartment to spy on me and didn’t have the decency to see me.”

His expression twists with his own rising anger, facial muscles tightening so that his eyes narrow and his lips purse. “Didn’t see anything in Rome worth staying for,” he shoots back, hard and hurtful as a punch. “Slayer was nowhere to be seen, just some bit of fluff hanging off the sodding Immortal’s arm.”

“How dare you?” Her fist hits his temple with righteous ire. “What right do you have to judge the things I did when I thought you were dead?”

“Don’t give me that bollocks, Buffy.” He sneers out his contempt at her and she could stake him right in this moment with a song in her heart. “I know Andrew spilled the beans months ago. Took you long enough to drag yourself out of that twat’s bed and do something about it.”

Stalemate. He’s right. She could have come to him, but he could have come to her first. So where does that leave them? Other than monumentally fucked up. “Sometimes I really hate you,” she tells him through laboured breaths and the start of fresh tears.

“Mutual.” He looks like he might cry, too, and she can’t fathom how they got here from the perfection of just a few moments ago. Then it hits her like an epiphany. A blinding light on the road to Damascus, a perspicuous moment of complete and sudden understanding.

There is no happily ever after for them. No fairytale ending that could hold them. They are too wild, too fierce, too wrapped up in the fight. Love won’t win out over hate between them, but they’ll thrive on the symmetry anyway and make a stand each day for what they’ve found. Fighters, both of them, how could she have forgotten?

“Wouldn’t have it any other way.” Her lips quirk ruefully and she sees her understanding reflected in his eyes. He gets it, gets her, as he always did. He loves her and hates her and understands her like no one else ever could. And that is definitely worth fighting for.

It only remains for me to say, as all good children are reminded to do, “Thanks for havings me”

 

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/24462.html

bearfacedcheek

bearfacedcheek