Fic: Dissonance, Part 1/3

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Dissonance
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Title: Dissonance
Author: wolfshadoe
Era/season/setting: S6, between Older And Far Away – As You Were
Rating: uh… NC-17?

Notes: One-shot, complete at 8.6k, but I’ve had to split it for postability.
Beta read by the divine Micrindle23; remaining errors all mine.
I’ve been pretty stumped for words since… around the time I thought I could safely sign up for this. But finally thrashed something out just in time. Far from a fairy-tale, but here it is anyway

She needs to end this.

The thought passes through a million times a day, night. Sometimes it’s an urgent yelp, a squeak of alarm. More often it’s something that slithers, silent and insidious, a whisper that’s never quite loud enough to distinguish from the rustling of the breeze and thus is both easy to ignore and impossible to not be aware of.

End it – end it – end it.


(She never finishes that sentence. There might be nothing left to fight for, but that doesn’t mean she’s giving in.)

He’s waiting again tonight, after work, after she sent him away from the backlot of Doublemeat with his belt loops torn and her arousal still wet on his fingers. Her breaks aren’t near long enough to satisfy. She doesn’t think he can be satisfied. Not like that. And so here he lurks, just outside the pool of light cast by her front door, pacing, smoking, waiting. A beast come prowling to lure her away from the threshold of safety. A hopeful stray edging closer to the warmth of that lit door.

She can’t let him in. This he ever refuses to understand, but won’t is a simpler concept; tonight he angles once for entry, hears her weakly exasperated no as the opening of negotiations that it maybe kind of is, and then for the second night running, she puts her back to the bark of the nearest tree in compromise and fucks him once more before bedtime. There’s no alarms in yelps or squeaks or silent whispers of unease while she does so. Just panting breath, and half-suppressed grunts, and illicit, outlawed words tumbling from his tongue to her skin. Her name sounds too… too precious, too powerful, too something when it’s formed by his lips in ragged murmurs. An evocation, a heretical blessing, something that reaches down inside of her and tugs at locks it shouldn’t. She clenches her muscles tight around him in admonishment, in punishment, in need and satisfaction and rebellion, and his breath catches sharply for a second before the illegal litany redoubles. She never can shut him up. Try though she mightn’t. She bites down on the shoulder of his coat in response, in anger, in an effort to silence her own tongue behind gritted teeth. Smoky, supple leather caresses her cheek while the hard flesh and bone beneath rightly refuse to yield to the pressure of her flat-edged teeth. Only when they’re done fucking does she release him, muscles in her jaw beginning to stiffen from the force of her grip. There’s an imprint of her teeth in the leather, and she laves it with her tongue once fondly before she pulls away.

“Now get,” she orders. Scram. You know that’s all you’re getting and more than I should give.

Still buckling his belt, he shoots her a sidelong glare that’s prickly enough to tempt her to respond. But she’s tired (she’s always tired, but it feels a justifiable excuse when midnight’s come and gone and she’s worked a double shift before patrol).

So, “It’s late,” she adds wearily. Too late to keep running these circular arguments with herself and him, too exhausting, all of it, pointless and stalemated and she – needs – to – end – this.

He softens instantly, shrinks from his posturing to a look of apologetic submission that draws back her scowl. If he would only treat this as the dispassionately physical affair it ought to be then perhaps she could let it continue. If she then wanted it to.

“Yeah,” he agrees gently. “Go on and get your beauty sleep, luv. I’ll run another lap, take care of any trouble.”

She hates this the most. When he grovels for scraps. Tries too hard to invent a niche for himself. Forces her to question whether she knew he’d offer, knew she could skimp on her own patrol to get home sooner and do this; whether she’s letting herself rely on him, just a little, just a lot, just enough to get through each day. Their transactions may be highly weighted in her favour, but somehow that only makes her feel filthier; he doesn’t see them that way. She hates it when he’s kind.

She’s still tired and it’s not getting any less late. She dips her chin in a hint of a nod as she turns away, then walks inside without looking back. He’ll still be there tomorrow. And the night after that. She needs to put an end to it.

She’s given someone the wrong order. Maybe. The man standing at the counter seems to think so, if she’s understanding him correctly, which is debatable given that he’s shouting too vehemently to make much sense. Something about the number of beef-chicken-monstrosity patties in his burger and is she some kind of wacko greeny to short him? She considers informing him that the patties are formulated from a wacko tree-hugger vegetable base anyway, but decides against it. She needs this job. She can’t remember what the man ordered, but it doesn’t matter. There’s a protocol. Everything has a protocol. She presses buttons, counts out coins, sets his refund down on the counter. He gives her a final furious burst of words that all sound like so much blah, picks up the coins, and spits on the counter and the front of her shirt before storming out. She sighs and picks up the disinfectant spray, and wonders again if she’s really coming here for exactly this.

Spike’s waiting, of course, as soon as she steps outside for her final break of the night. Waiting – and bouncing with a tense, still-cooling energy that immediately hikes her suspicions.

“How long have you been here?” she asks flatly.

“Long enough.” Frustration flickers across his face, and she can feel a familiar argument needling at the air. One stalemated, like all the others. For now. He lets it lie; juts his chin at her and offers instead, “I was kind. He’ll get a few miles before he has to call for a tow truck for all those flat tyres.”

Sigh. It was kind, in a sense, which was the worst of it. He could have cut a brake line. Steering cable. Whatever parts cars had that meant a mischievous-minded and vendetta-ready vampire could swiftly turn them into death traps. She’d probably never have known. Except her knowing was the whole point of his reacting at all. It’s all another move in this manipulation game that gets them nowhere but frustrated at their locked horns.

She shrugs, sits down, displaying the exact amount of fucks she gives for this petty crime he wishes to gift her. She won’t leave this job. She doesn’t care if customers get away with spitting on her hideous uniform or not. She can’t manage to leave him- to reject him, rather, because they’re not in an anything for her to leave – so what does the rest matter? On any scale of degrading behaviours, fucking a soulless vampire surely sits at the top.

The mood darkens, any hope of lightness draining from this space between the dumpster and delivery door. Or, her mood does. Spike’s expression has taken on that ‘minor stumbling block’ look that usually precedes some quick non sequitur into a new form of attack. Or whatever these attempts to rankle or rally her categorise as.

“I can’t keep doing this,” she says first, matter-of-fact.

“Then quit.” His voice is blunt and the words easy and, she thinks, honest to an unusual degree. Only, she’s not certain which ‘this’ they’re intended for. Both, perhaps. Quit the job, quit the… dalliance, move to Honolulu and let him forget her and this whole mess. They’re both sick and tired of it. By it. For it.

He can’t mean it.

She stares at him in silence for a long moment, at the contrast and contradiction of him, at the frustration and gritty stubbornness evident in the set of his shoulders, echoing her own.

“Kiss me,” he challenges quietly, with a defiant cock of one eyebrow.

It finally ticks her off, so she does. Just to shut him up.

His hands are rough tonight, hard with her, bolshy like the two of them are squaring off to really throw down. Perhaps they should. Perhaps a lot of things, lately.

Fighting, though; worthy of consideration. There’s only so much to do in this shared cage, after all. Fuck, fight. There might be doors labelled flee and feed – his teeth, her stake; take a gamble – but the only door she’s taking tonight is the one just behind her that’s on a nine-minute countdown to call her back to the counter. The timers on those other doors… who knows. Not her. Perhaps they’ve already run down; she certainly seems unable to flee, despite every decision she’s made to do so. Perhaps, perhaps.

“Shut up and fuck me,” she snarls, though he hasn’t said anything. Yet. She craves silence, and not-thinking, and sensations that fill up her awareness. She needs those moments where it doesn’t matter that they’re only together in this trap.

Spike obliges. Brusque hands spin her to face the nearest wall, and she braces her forearms on its abrasive surface before dropping her forehead to press against it too. He jerks down her ugly uniform pants, curt and careless as desired. If there’s a momentary pause at her lack of underwear, a single soft, reverential stroke of fingertips from her naked bum down to her thigh, she refuses to notice. Then he’s yanking open his jeans behind her, the jangle of his belt buckle flashing memory through her mind’s eye of being whipped with it the last time they got like this, down in the basement of the crypt where she could let herself shout. The image adds to her arousal, and disgust, and arousal, but they don’t play those games on the back doorsteps of fast food establishments. Not so far.

And not tonight. One of his hands pins hers to the wall at the wrists, gratingly hard, deliciously hard, but his coat falls carefully around her as he covers her from behind. Soft leather sliding on the sides of her shins, a pool of black shadow enveloping her, making her his, for a little while, for nine minutes (a safe measure of time, really), lining the walls of their shared space and freeing her inside them.

The silence doesn’t last, of course, once the thrusting starts and the not-thinking-but-feeling takes over. Cool breath lands on the nape of her neck, a night breeze of obscenities in whispers, and they’re tripping off her tongue too, none of it mattering, these things said here and now. None of it existing, those things beyond the here and now.

Afterwards he melts against her, a comfortable weight on her back, that on her legs lessened by the supporting arm wrapped around her waist. Her whole body tingles pleasurably, temporarily sated, temporarily cast off and away from its frustrations and pains.

He presses his lips to the back of her head, bestowing a tender kiss to her grease-scented hair, and her eyes prickle warningly at the feeling it evokes. Because she doesn’t want to end this. Can’t. She drops her head lower, hiding deeper in their shadows, deeper in this pocket inside the filth, this space where there’s something too right to be wrong and too beautiful to be denied. The truth of it all is inescapable, naked like this, and it burns her even as she revels in it.

Eventually it becomes too much, and she nudges him off, sniffing back the prickles. She dresses quickly, eyes on the back alley exit, on his coat, jeans, boots; anywhere but on herself and the question that always rises now. What is she, to do these things? It’s a thought that sends her skittering inside, disturbed to the core of every molecule it reaches before she can stomp it out. A queasy-making awareness of the great big fat unknown where so much of her self image lies. She is wrong, she knows, but right is indecipherable. Trapped, is what she is. Trapped between two incompatible truths.

“Only two more hours, yeah?” he encourages, as though she counts them down, as though she cares, as though time doesn’t run by different rules inside the staff areas of the Doublemeat Palace.

“Yep,” she monotones. God, listen to her, already back in zombie-mode the moment she finished rebuttoning her uniform. Hopefully the thing’s not cursed. Or should that be hopefully it is cursed? A cursed uniform would be a nice simple problem to have.

They stare at each other in loud silence for a beat, then she gives him a wonky half-smile and heads back inside. Countdown timers or no, she can feel this running out on them. Some critical battle approaching where it all goes on the line and everything shatters apart. He’s aware of it too; has scented it lurking with that eerie nose of his or something. It’s in their growing desperation; in the way they squeeze each other’s flesh as if to cleave parts of it to themselves. It’s in the storms building in their glares, and fills the silences where it goes unmentioned. This stalemate cannot continue forever. She needs to put an end to it, before they find out where the breaking point is. Before the universe does it for them.

Burning his way through half a pack of smokes, Spike watches, and muses. There’s a hedge walling off one side of the Doublemeat drive-through; behind it, a patch of scrubby trees before the second hedge closes them in. It’s a good place to sit, unseen and all-seeing. Not that the view’s particularly exciting. Across the drive-through lane and through the window, Buffy stands beside the cash register – nay, slouches beside the cash register – drawing patterns in invisible dust on the counter. She hasn’t looked up once in… twenty-four minutes. Her expression is neutral, blank, detached. And just a little bit sad. The fluorescent lighting tries to cast her skin pallid against the bold primaries of uniform and decor, but the warm tones of her refuse to fully submit, glowing softly golden and as out of place as a jackal in a ring of dyed poodles. It’s more depressing than it is inspiring. Poodles too were wild and free once.

Things are changing, lately. She’s changing. The combatative animosity that characterised the first weeks of this new form of relationship eventually simmered down, became a familiar trading of blows and barbs, but the tension which is steadily rising in its place is a whole different beast. One formed of shadow and shades, formless, sure to vanish if it can only be dragged out into the light. But catching firm hold of a thing without substance makes the dragging part a mite difficult. So he’s watching. Tonight, last night, tomorrow, however many more morrows it takes. Observing, gathering intel, scrutinising every angle available to try to pick out just what’s gone wrong, going wrong, going to go wrong, or right. What it is that he’s missing, missed, in all his study of her.

(Sometimes, lately, in the depth of silence and solitude, he fears that he already knows exactly what it is he’s missing. But that one can’t be helped, so there simply has to be something else.)

They’re so good together. Beyond his wildest dreams, to run the cliché. She knows it. Doesn’t even bother trying to deny it anymore. And she has to see that they could be even better. That he could, for her. But it feels like the closer they get to where her objections should start to crumble, the stronger those objections become. Like they’re something outside of her, a mathematical law of the universe, and insurmountable. Which is sodding stupid, because supposed laws of the universe are bent and broken all the damn time around here. The permanence of death, for example. He just needs to put a finger on precisely what this one is, then it can be fought.

Because she’s not fighting it. Not anymore. She fought him, and she fought this, this that they have now, but when she meets the boundary she’s put around their relationship, she submits to it every time. Even if she doesn’t want to. Even if it saddens her, at times. She reacts violently, of course, to any attempt to discuss the topic of this and them. Conflict lashes from her, venom on her tongue and force in her fists, and if he keeps pushing, she’ll only flee. For the sake of keeping what he has, he always drops it. But he catches her out, at other times, when he’s kept his disobedient tongue in line and something’s going well; catches the way she’ll touch him fondly, and hold him to her fiercely for a brief, intense second; catches the way conflict rages deep down in her eyes while she does, pained and despairing. Catches the way her expression turns to sadness with increasing frequency when they’re together, to mournfulness; the occasional hint of salt on the air as she aches for something she could bloody well have if she’d only accept it.

Why won’t you let yourself love me? Most frequently, he falls back on blaming Angel. It’s far too easy to do. But that gets him nowhere except indignantly frustrated, so shove it aside for tonight. There’s something else going on, in that look in her eyes, and somehow he’s going to reach in there and grasp it, crush it, light it up and watch it dissolve. Soon. Asap. Because this tension that’s rising around them is beginning to feel like a chute, a funnel, a whirlpool, walls closing in to race them towards… he doesn’t know. And often wishes it would bloody well hurry up about it; better to face whatever it is head-on and get it over with than continue this interminable wait. But then he remembers the way she clings to him for those split-seconds, and the mourning in her eyes, and he fears that when the dust settles it won’t be on the pair of them, freed of her false convictions and objections, but on her standing alone once more. He can’t let her go. Not now that he knows what it is to be with her. To lap at her naked skin and hear her laughter between the sheets. To watch her writhe beneath the starlight and sink her fingertips into his flesh in needy possession. Not now that he knows what it is to lose her. To exist in a world without her in it. There’s cold steel in the pit of his stomach, a determination to be torn apart before anything ever gets to her again.

A car pulls up in the Doublemeat lot, and Buffy slowly looks up from her fog. Her chest moves in an inkling of a sigh, then she straightens up and slaps that bot-like smile on her face. He lights another smoke, and wonders whether she’d let the real bot come to work for her if it were somehow to be repaired, or if she considers this misery too jealously her own special due.


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