Title: Ars Poetica
Author: Lirazel (penny_lane_42)
Timeline: “Becoming Part II” – post-“Not Fade Away.” Canon all through BtVS; ignores the comics and “The Girl in Question.”
Rating: PG-13 here, R overall
Installment: Part two of six.
Disclaimer: The world and characters of the Buffyverse do not belong to me. Neither do any of the poems.
Poetry: The poems featured in this chapter are Portia’s speech from The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare and “Death is a dialogue between” by Emily Dickinson.
Summary: The story of her life with Spike, Buffy realizes, is written in poetry, not prose.
“Always knew you were a kinky one, Slayer—and that you had a thing for me. Haven’t hardly been in the house for more’n a few hours, and you’re already chaining me up.” Spike jangles the chains around his wrists experimentally as she finishes locking the ones around his ankles.
“Oh, yes, Spike. You’ve finally figured me out. This is all part of my elaborate plan to put you at my sexual mercy. The kidnapping, you getting all emasculated—“
“—you coming to me for help, the Chumash interruptions—I orchestrated it all with my powerful magic spells.”
“Well, you have got a witch workin’ for you.”
“I will now proceed to go into the other room, dress up in a leather corset, and come back here and have my wicked way with you.”
Silence. Then: “While you’re down there, love, would you mind making a few adjustments a little further up?”
Buffy looks up from his boots to his face, startled. He nods about half between said boots and face, and she obediently looks.
And promptly flushes scarlet. “Spike! You pig! You’re absolutely disgusting! I should stake you now!”
“You were the one mentioned corsets and bondage, Slayer. Shouldn’t be complaining if a man has a reaction to the mental picture you created. ‘Sides. ‘d rather be the one stakin’ you.”
“Okay, that’s it.” She stands and storms over to the bathroom door.
“Where are you going?” Spike yelps.
“I’m getting as far away from your perverted presence as possible. I think the Andromeda galaxy would be too close.”
“But you are comin’ back, aren’t you?” His tone is that particular brand of whining that she had previously thought only small children and smaller dogs were capable of. “Bringing me some blood? I’m hungry, Slayer!”
“I’ll think about it. Once I’ve bleached my brain.”
“And they say I’m evil!”
“Spike, you say you’re evil.”
“Well, I am. But apparently not nearly as evil as you are! Supposed to be a warrior of light, aren’t you? All things soft and fuzzy? And you don’t have a drop of mercy in you!”
“I didn’t kill you when you showed up at the door interrupting my Thanksgiving. I’d say that’s plenty merciful. Now if you shut up, I’ll leave, and once I’m far enough away from your corrupting influence, I might just think about getting you some blood. Maybe.”
“Oh, yeah,” Spike snipes as she opens the door. “You’re real merciful.” She glances back in time to see him lean his head against the back of the tub, sigh profoundly and intone solemnly.
“The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath; it is twice blest,” he says as seriously as a preacher might. Buffy rolls her eyes
“Oh, goodie. Yet another reason to walk away from you. You’re doing that weird poetry thing again. Well, have fun with that.” Then, she steps outside and slams the door behind her.
“Oh, Buffy. Good. He’s secure then?” Giles asks as he steps out of the kitchen.
“As magically-reinforced chains can make him. He’s not getting away. Which reminds me. Why do you have magically reinforced chains anyway?”
She would swear that he blushes as he coughs and turns away. “Watcher necessity. One never knows when such things could come in handy.”
“Right. Where did I put the muffin tins?”
“I believe they’re in the sink. What do you intend to do about Spike?”
Just as she’s about to reply, a bellow blasts out from behind the closed door of the bathroom.
“It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown…”
“Shut up, Spike!” Buffy yells back.
“Good Lord. Is Spike quoting Shakespeare?” Giles demands in a tone that wouldn’t have been out of place if he’d been asking whether someone was using his books as kindling to build a fire to make ‘Smores.
“Huh? Is that who that is? I guess,” she replies as she starts collecting the utensils she’d brought over from her mother’s kitchen. “Where’d you put the big bowl?”
“Buffy. There’s a vampire chained in my bathtub quoting The Merchant of Venice. And you aren’t just the slightest bit… unsettled by this?”
Again, Spike’s voice can be heard echoing off the tile in the bathroom, accompanied by the clunk of chains against the porcelain tub.
“His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway…”
“Oh, it’s just a thing Spike does. He gets excited, he starts quoting poetry. He gets morose, he starts quoting poetry.” She sights the large mixing bowl perched precariously on the top of the bookshelf. Now how did that get up there? “Never mind; I found it.”
“Buffy, do you even know what ‘morose’ means?”
She glares at him. “Yes, Giles. I may not talk like my diapers were made of tweed, but I’m not stupid.”
“Yes. Quite. Forgive me for underestimating you.”
“…It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.”
Buffy lets out a long-suffering sigh. “He will so totally keep that up all night. He knows how much it annoys me.”
“But, Buffy, why is he quoting Shakespeare?”
“Because he lives to torture me.” She pulls a chair over from the table and clambers up so that she can reach the bowl. “Leave him to stew for a few hours, then give him a raw steak or something,” she instructs as she hops down onto the floor. “I’ll pick up some blood in the morning before I swing by here.”
“You’re leaving me alone with him?”
“Giles, you’re a big bad Watcher with a crossbow. Besides, he’s being all obsessed with Shakespeare. Isn’t that what English people do? So you can do it together. Now, I’ve had a very long day, what with the cooking and the moral crises and the making bears and such, so am going home and going. To. Bed. Good night.”
“Hey. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet!” she says triumphantly, remembering that Shakespeare came up with that quote, too. And with that, she slams the door behind her.
A Dialogue between the Spirit and the Dust
She lets herself into the empty house a few minutes before dawn. Angel’s gone, back to L.A., despite all his words about staying as long as she needs him. He would have stayed longer, she knows, but he wouldn’t stay forever, and she knew that if he stayed any-longer-but-not-forever, the pain would be that much greater when he finally did leave. So she told him to go. Not something she ever imagined she would do, but then, she never imagined having to bury her mother or face down a hellgod. Her life is about necessity now, not choice.
The house is cold. She’s let herself in thousands of times nearly this early in the morning, when all the lights are out and Mom and Dawn are safe in bed, either climbing through the window or drawing the front door closed so slowly and softly that the sound of it closing wouldn’t wake Mom and Dawn. Her mother and sister are (were, she reminds herself. She has to refer to her mom in past tense now) both quiet sleepers; all those thousands of times she returned home, the house might as well have been empty for all she could tell: silence and darkness. This moment should feel like those.
But it doesn’t. Somehow, she can feel that the house is empty. Somehow, the absence (of Dawn, at Willow’s; of Mom, gone forever) is so tangible that it’s nearly suffocating.
She flips on the light in the hallways. Steps into the dining room for a moment, flips on the one there. Finds the switch in the living room, turns on every lamp, even the decorative ones that are never really used. Heads to the kitchen, does the same thing.
Bodies are strange, she thinks. Corpses, really. She’s never spent much time considering it, but at this moment she is so thankful that whoever designed vampires did it the way he (she? it?) did.
Dust. She stakes them, they turn to dust. Other demons sometimes melt away or dissolve. Mostly, they just lay there and rot, and she has to haul them to a dumpster or behind a clump of bushes for the cemetery caretaker to find and dispose of. But that’s okay. Those bodies don’t bother her. They never looked human to begin with, and after death they look like pieces constructed for movies, the leftovers from some special effects extravaganza, made of plastic and other substances that start with the prefix poly-or end with the suffix –cone.
But vampires. They look human. Or, they do without their bumpies. Most of the ones she slays are in game face and look alien enough that it doesn’t even make her pause. But there have been times—not very often, but common enough that she gets nightmares about them—when she’s staked one while it’s wearing the mask of its human face (strange, strange: there have only ever been two vampires that made her feel as though she was looking at their real faces when they looked human; with Angel, with Spike, the bumpies were the mask). The false humanity there always made her pause—could have gotten her killed, though it never has (the Master looked anything but human).
But she can do it. Thrust that stake into that body because she knows that she won’t have to deal with a corpse later. It will just… fall away, blow in the wind, no evidence left behind of the death her hands has wrought.
But it wasn’t like that with Mom. There was that body, a shell, cold and empty and so very, very there. Physical, solid, unignorable. Present. Even if every single thing that made that physicality Joyce Summers was gone forever.
Her hands tremble as she turns on the lights over the sink. She’s about to turn on the stereo, drown out the silence this time as, just a few weeks ago, she drowned out the sound of Mom’s ranting. But then she pauses.
There’s a new piece of paper hanging on the refrigerator, held up by a Snoopy magnet. The paper is off-white, a little wrinkled, and she knows it wasn’t there before she left because she stood and stared at the calendar beside it for fifteen minutes this morning, looking at all the items written in her mom’s handwriting, all the things that Joyce Summers had planned but would now never do.
She shoves that thought aside and removes the magnet, holds the paper in her hands, scans the handwriting. It’s cramped, small, like the writer was trying to disguise the fact that it’s actually beautiful script. There’s only one person she knows who can write like that, and only one person she knows who would leave a poem for her to find. Because that’s what this is. A poem.
She reads the words slowly, unsure of whether she’ll be able to find any comfort in them or if Spike’s demon has made him so insensitive that it will end up hurting more. Despite all her protestations, she knows that he wouldn’t hurt her purposefully, especially at a time like this, and besides, she knows he always liked Mom. But still… demon, right? Who knows whether he’ll get this right or not?
DEATH is a dialogue between
The spirit and the dust.
“Dissolve,” says Death. The Spirit, “Sir,
I have another trust.”
Death doubts it, argues from the ground.
The Spirit turns away,
Just laying off, for evidence,
An overcoat of clay.
She stumbles out into the living room, collapses onto the armchair. But all she can see is the couch, the one Mom was lying on when she… So she stands up, turns the chair around to face the kitchen door. Curls up in it, clutching the paper close to her as she trembles so violently her teeth chatter. Like she’s cold. And she is. But this cold is somewhere else, not her body. Somewhere deeper.
Dust. Mom will be dust, too. Like the vampires Buffy fights every night, like the vamp dust that blows away. Spike gets that, of course. None but a vampire could know better. That hurts.
But she knows that he was trying to comfort her, and in a way, he has. If even a soulless vampire can believe that Mom’s spirit, the thing that made her Joyce, has defeated the inevitability of dust…maybe she can, too.
The words echo in her ears and drown out the sound of her own weeping.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/341073.html