Fic: Dissonance, Part 2/3

This entry is part 2 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?

Watching’s given him nothing but impatience, irritation and a certain naggy weariness that he’s either absorbed via Buffy or through spending too much time in the aura of Doublemeat himself. He needs to get away, and were it not her night off, he’d take this urge to escape and head up the coast for a night of nothing but open roads and the sound of an engine. But it is her night off, so he waits by her curb to invite her to.

“Go where?” she asks, frowning. Dubious, suspicious, perplexed; these are the most encouraging set of responses she has to his attempts at kind gestures.

“Up the coast. Down the coast. Inland through the hills. West into the great Pacific. Take your pick.” He holds his palms open to her, empty of weapon or deceit.

It’s not enough; her frown’s darkening towards a decision.

“Anywhere that’s not here,” he adds, sighing. Gazes down her street to those distant hills, feels the pressure of the bike at his back that can spirit them there. Knows it’ll be taking him nowhere unless she condescends to cross the eight feet of path and join him. Let me carry you away from all this. Let’s pretend, yeah, just for a night, that it’s just you and me? That’d go down like a bucket of bricks. “There’s that demon bar up in Thurlton what could probably do with a reminder of your presence.”

She bites her lip, gaze slowly drawn to contemplation of the same hills. She wants to go, and not for the bar. “How long?” she asks, still sounding dubious.

“Thirty minutes, each way,” he offers. “Plus however long you feel like pounding heads.” Or pounding him. The bar’s generally harmless, a tiny watering hole for the more benign types visiting the hellmouth region. Doesn’t even serve blood.

She’s silent so long that he begins to suspect she’s forgotten him entirely, forgotten herself, got lost in one of those illogical mazes inside her head. Then, “Okay,” she murmurs, and crosses over to the bike.

“Okay,” he echoes, trying and failing to smother his grin.

Perched behind him, she watches the country fly by like the predator she is, all coiled muscles and sharp eyes, ready to leap, tackle, stab, like some horse-borne warrior closing in on her prey. The speed of the bike thrills her, though she’ll never admit to it; her pleasure is broadcast only in the eager flexing of her fingers and thighs every time he shifts the accelerator. The closeness of her thrills him.

Too soon, or maybe just soon enough, the bar’s appearing before them and he’s pulling to a stop. Sunnydale’s far behind, everything’s far behind, and she must be feeling it too as she jumps off the bike and flashes him a smile. Sometimes, it’s all so damn perfect.

Inside, she ignores the other patrons and orders a coke. A nervous ripple goes through the place; they know who she is and what he is, and no one wants trouble. She takes a booth towards the back, and although a few demon-types slip out surreptitiously over the next ten minutes, the rest gradually settle back into their seats, if not quite as comfortably as before. He mimics her order, deciding not to hand her an argument about drinking and driving. Grabs a menu off the counter and tosses it onto the table as he takes the seat opposite her.

“Had dinner?”

Her eyes flash a warning (this isn’t a date, you’re not buying me dinner, yada yada), but she reaches for the menu. “What do they even serve here?”

He shrugs. “Veggie stuff, mostly. Lots of chilli. Bean burgers and such. Owner’s a jil’krekton.”

If she fails to recognise the species, she doesn’t let on. After reading the second side, she sets the menu down again and picks up her drink.

“Chip tray’s good,” he comments, flicking the page back over. “You can help me make a dent in it.” He springs up and goes back to the bar to order one before she can object. Occasionally, when the mood’s right, the scoobies far away, and the only possible observers are solidly from his side of the tracks, she’ll level with him casually as a friend. Or, an ally, he supposes, from her point of view. Anyway. She’ll eat, if he orders something.

“You sure the food here’s people-safe?” she asks when he returns, indicating with a flick of her eyes the floppy-horned and three-armed man behind the bar.

“Eat here all the time,” he tells her. Well, once or twice, but the food was good, and jil’krektons are sensitive beasts.

“You’re not a people,” she says, and it’s not the eye-rolling automatic response she’d once have used it as but the tighter, more desperately stubborn type of statement she’s been flinging at him with increasing frequency lately.

It’s also flavoured with that new tension that’s been building around them, so he decides to dig deeper into it. “Why not?” he asks, watching her face intently.

Now she does roll her eyes, averting them in the process. It’s nought but a weak attempt to dodge back to familiar ground. “Vampires aren’t people.”

He softens his voice further, towards gentle curiosity and away from old arguments, “Why not?”

A scowl skims across her face. “They don’t have souls.”

They, not you. It’s the same old answer, but there’s some distance to the subject, at least. “So?” he challenges. “Don’t need a soul to think, to feel, to converse with whatever you think counts as people. To make decisions. To love.” He mumbles the last point, refusing to leave it out, yet hoping to avoid this conversation taking a well-trodden turn for the worse.

“It’s not the same,” she mutters. Draws in a breath and her arguments with it. “Look, you can’t understand it without one. Okay, so you can have a conversation and- and enjoy chips and stuff. That doesn’t make you a person. There’s parrots that can do all that. Only a soul can make someone a real person.”

“Sleep with parrots often, do you?” he asks, and yes, it’s snarky, but he’s so bloody sick of this shyte and not getting any closer to understanding her logic.

Her face closes off, and her eyes go to the door and stay there furiously as she computes the fact that storming off isn’t an easy solution all the way out here. He watches her, feeling calm again after that slight slip of his chain, and intuiting suddenly that there is indeed something here he needs to uncover. And beneath the covering fury of her, in the whites of her eyes as they dart to check each of the bar’s exits, he finds it. Fear. She’s not angry that he keeps challenging her notions of personhood. She’s afraid that he’s right. Deeply afraid, now that he focuses on it. Why?

He drops his gaze to his glass, toying with the pattern of condensation drips it’s leaving on the table, backing off from the potential fight with a cornered and frightened slayer. Why? She’s right about one thing; he doesn’t understand. But he’s got another puzzle piece now, so while she cools back down he turns it over and looks for the parts it might connect.

If she accepts that he’s a person, soulless and all… well, would put her actions towards him in a different light, wouldn’t it? She’s always seen a bit of a difference between hitting a vampire for being in one’s way, and harming a person for same. Between using one for sex, and people being used. But if that’s what she’s so afraid of – if that’s behind the way she teeters, conflicted, those moments when she desperately wants something more with him – then that’s sodding stupid of her; he’s always been a willing participant. Or, mostly. And there are enough red marks beside his name in their shared history to balance the rest.

He’s jolted from vague thoughts of just how to go about putting the, we’re both people and that’s a-okay so let’s date properly? argument to her when the chips arrive. They’re spread out on a huge tray, piled over with beans and gravy and guac and tiny whole chillies, a jarring mashup of British pub food and Mexican street tucker. Oddly, perhaps, it works.

Buffy smiles a vague thanks at the three-armed barman, then pokes cautiously at a chip once he’s gone. Her stomach rumbles.

He picks up a chip, dips it in something, and swallows it two bites before waving at the plate. “Go on. I can’t eat this much alone.”

There’s no anger left in her eyes when they turn to him briefly. Just a hint of worn-out sadness. She picks up a chip and starts eating. The girl trusts him not to poison her. It’s something.

“Wasn’t always a vampire,” he points out a bit later, scratching around for a safe edge of the topic. “Do remember what it was like. Having a soul and all.”

Her thoughtful face comes out. “Do you?” she asks, and it sounds rhetorical. Or a rebuttal.

Does he? He thought so when he laid claim to it a moment ago. Bah, forget the question. Irrelevant whether his memory’s been altered by the years or not. He picks up another chilli, while Buffy narrows her eyes at one in thought.

Soberly, she asks the tabletop, “Do vampires wake up with an entire set of memories of their body’s prior beliefs and behaviour that are the complete opposite to everything they believe about themselves and the way they should be?” She pauses, picks up her coke, waves it as she continues in a jesting tone, “Is that why they’re always so eager to prove themselves properly evil?”

He snorts softly, acknowledging the switch to humour she needed. Then shrugs. “Yes and no… Alright, say for whatever reason, you look back on something you did the week before you died. Summat all polite and proper. Can see it made sense at the time, when you were only human and thought you had to fit yourself into society’s norms. Now, though, now you’re a hell of a lot more than merely human. Don’t need to fit in. Don’t need to play their games. Especially when there’s new ones that suddenly seem very appealing. Becoming a vampire changes your priorities. And, far as I can figure it, losing your soul mostly means losing your fear. It’s only fear that keeps your people on the straight and narrow. Fear of punishment. Fear of judgement. Fear of being cast out.”

She shakes her head, brushing his words off easily. “It’s really not, Spike.” She looks like she’s going to say more, then sighs to herself and sips her drink instead. He gets it. She’s walling him out again, placing the behavioural motivations of the bleeding soul-havers as something beyond his possible grasp or understanding. Maybe they are. She herself’s a tangled fucking mystery to him at times, christ knows.

They pick at chips for a while in an increasingly desultory fashion, the conversation brick-walled but neither ready to concede and move on.

“It doesn’t matter anyway,” she says finally, wearily. “What they did the week before. It wasn’t actually them that did it, so there’s no conflict to resolve.”

He’s heard this too from her before, in passing, and no, she’s not going to like his response to it now. But he’s going to argue the point all the same. It feels crucial, right now, to dig his heels in over exactly who and what he is. She’s bloody well hiding enough about their relationship; she can fucking well face up to the basic facts about it in the privacy of her own brain. God, he’s tired of all this, tired and tense and volatile for it. There’s a special type of frustration in watching someone struggle to swim while slapping away your offered hand, and it’s been wearing him down to naked nerve endings for months. Should have taken her back to the crypt and shot for thoughtless ecstasy under the covers instead of this hopeless attempt at escaping what they’ve only gone and brought out here with them. Maybe he still can. She’s about to get angry enough for something to blow, when he picks up this argument. “Sure some of them would like to claim so.” Himself, for starters. “But that’s a load of bollocks. Vampires are still the same-” he huffs to himself in dark amusement, “person they were before they died. Might gain a new set of tastes and lose the brakes, but your watchers are lying to you with that rot.”

“No, they’re not,” she says, in a low voice that drips danger. “The person dies. The demon sets up shop in their body. They might steal that person’s memories, but they are not people.” The words are deeply carved, a commandment she’s recited until it’s scar tissue on her heart. “Let’s go.” She stands up, brushing off her clothing coldly.

He swallows and follows her silently, thoughts scattered into an uneasy jumble of static.

Flying down the highway again, she suddenly tightens the grip of her thighs on his and the bike, lets go of his waist, and leans straight back into the precariously open air.

He grabs her by the front of her shirt with one hand and skids the bike to an abrupt halt. Had his heart been beating, he’s fairly certain it would just have stopped.

It takes him a few missing beats to be fully convinced that they’re stationary, then he cuts the engine, drops his handful of her shirt like it’s scalding him, and storms off from the bike. On the side of the road, facing the desert, he clenches his fingers tight in his hair and screams. The sound encompasses a lot more than the last thirty seconds. Crickets shut up at it, leaving a deeper silence in its wake.

Shrubs, trees, prickly things stretch out into the distance before him. He imagines running out there, just running, like he earlier imagined driving. But she’s in the opposite direction, and in the hollow echo of that scream he needs to crush her to him until both of their ribs crack.

She’s sitting quietly on the side of the bike when he comes back, her head slightly bowed. He touches her shoulder first, tentative, shaken and shaky. He should be mad, but that’s not what this sensation is. She rises at his touch, leans into his chest and slides her arms around his waist, and he squeezes her bruisingly tight until the worst of it fades away.

“I wasn’t going to fall off,” she whispers. “But.” She sighs softly. “I’m sorry, Spike.”

He nods, and strokes her (living, breathing, perfectly unharmed) back once more before letting her go. It’s true; she’d never have fallen. His eyes fall to checking the bike’s controls, avoiding her face. “Warn a bloke next time you decide to play gymnast, yeah?” he mutters.

“Promise,” she says, her voice serious and still sorry.

He sighs and gets back on the bike, and she presses herself onto his back like a limpet, one cheek nestled down between his shoulder blades and her arms tight around him.

He takes it slower, at first for his jangled nerves, then because why rush back to Sunnyhell anyway? Limpet-Buffy’s slowly moulded herself more comfortably against him, one of her thumbs idly stroking his stomach, more snuggly than she ever lets herself be outside of this narrow circumstance. The engine purrs beneath them, the night air tastes clean and crisp, and comfort sinks down into his bones at last. There’s something that happens, something that rubs into him when he’s with her like this. It’s starting to make him nervous, what with all the reminders of his inadequacy she’s been doing lately, but he knows that in all his years of unlife, he hasn’t ever felt so complete as her presence makes him.

The lights of Sunnydale are edging nearer ahead of them when she lifts her mouth to his ear to say gently, “I believe I’ve frightened you, Mr fearless vampire.”

“You’re the slayer. It’s your job to,” he says wryly. A few breaths pass, then he slows them further to say quietly, “You terrify me, luv. In every manner that there is.”

“What happened to being fearless?” The question’s more wistful than anything.

He scoffs instead of answering. God he talks some shit, as if he knows anything about it. The only thing that makes sense right now is her soft weight against him. The vast world surrounding them’s a mystery too big and much too confusing. He lifts one of her hands to his face to press a kiss to it, and she snuggles back down.

When she gives no orders to the contrary, he takes them back to the vicinity of his crypt to put the bike away. Her hands adjust the branches that help camouflage the broken-down mausoleum he stashes it in, moving a leaf here and there with that look of thoughtful sadness back on her face. He should have whipped past Sunnydale altogether, taken her blasting down the winding coastal road and told her to bloody swing off the back like an acrobat if it would make her happy. But he’s haunted enough by nightmares of her falling. And they’d still have ended up right back here.

She tinkers with the arrangement of leaves long enough to have woven them into a wreath, then turns to him with slow reluctance. He waits, the earlier sense of contentment turned sober and cold but still lingering faintly. Sometimes he thinks he could still kill her, just to swallow that feeling down inside.

“I have to patrol,” she says, so he nods and drops in beside her.

It’s a peaceful night, for Sunnydale. A sliver of moon hangs in a cloudless sky, and the first three cemeteries are empty of the undead. The whole night begins to feel like the death of something, emptied for their reflection. In the fourth cemetery she stakes a stray fledgeling, quipless and efficient as the idiot panics enough to bolt straight into her weapon.

“Is that the attraction?” she asks afterwards, staring down at the dust-coated grass with an inscrutable look on her face. “The fear that slayers represent?”

“No,” he says simply. Can’t define his love for her in words in his own head, so he’ll never be able to describe it to her. “That’d be a reason to stay the hell away.”

“So why don’t you? Why hunt us down?”

The dis-comfort she also evokes so easily churns about within him again. What was once solid ground has become loosely shifting gravel under his feet somewhere over the past few years. “Guess I’m just a misfit,” he says in lieu of explanation.

“Mmm,” she murmurs, non-committal and to herself, and they finish the route in silence before she leads the way back to his crypt.

She’s softer, tonight. Easily coercible into the silky sheets he keeps on the bed for her, unusually generous with her kisses. It gives him a sinking premonition that she’s going to end the evening by breaking up with him, again, but he bottles it down to make love to her in the interim. She’s intoxicating. Painful in her perfection. He longs to sob into the pillow of her breasts, and can’t tell whether he’d be crying with elation or despair.

When she lies liquid on top of him afterwards and heaves a gut-deep sigh of regret, he knows she’s about to try to break up with him again. Her fingers clench once, a needy grasp at him that belies whatever she’s planning to say, then she’s pushing herself off and up and searching for her clothes. He doesn’t bother moving. If she wants to flay him there’s no point in getting dressed up for it.

She sits down on the end of the bed to zip up her boots, and it’s only once that’s done, once everything is strapped down and folded away, emotions jailed behind an ice-cold mask, that she says it. “I can’t do this anymore. It has to end.”

“Shush,” he tells her quietly, watching the ceiling. “Don’t say it.” Say nothing, and there’ll be nothing to retract. She’ll be back. She always comes back.

“I have to.”

“Just go, if you’re going.” The next bit tastes like ground glass, but it falls softly from his tongue all the same. “There’s nothing to end.”

“There is,” she says in a tiny voice, and the new admission makes him lift his head to stare at her. He’s been chasing it so long, imagining the way it would mark a great step forward, the way she’d soon come to realise that avowing their relationship has not, in fact, brought the sky crumbling down on their heads but has only made everything easier. She was supposed to find it relieving.

That’s not what’s happening here. She studies the floor between her feet, shoulders hunched, cringing in docile surrender to the pain of it. He ought to be offended, ought to shoot back that it’s not the end of the bloody world to maybe have accepted having some kind of less-than-murderous feelings towards him, but… she’s not trying to hurt him. She’s just hurting, and he’d give anything, everything, to avoid that.

“Spike… this is destroying me.” The scent of tears cuts through the salt-musk of their lovemaking, then she sniffs, standing up and swiping at her eyes, keeping her back to him.

He’s bewildered. Chest aching with the urge to comfort her, tongue at an utter loss for how to. Months they’ve been on this roundabout now, and the closer he gets the less he understands. “Why?” he asks, and it sounds so lost.

She sighs again, a wobble through it. Then turns those sad, conflicted eyes on him for a long moment, weighing something up behind them. “How many of your kind do you reckon I’ve killed?” she quotes in a seductive, malice-laced ribbon of silk. “A thousand, a thousand thousand? Friends. Classmates. Strangers. Whores.” Her lip curls up in a sneer that doesn’t match her eyes. “How can you ask me to-” vehemence serrates the words before they’re cut off in a gulp. She presses her lips together, swallows. “I can’t love you,” she whispers. Then shakes her head and scurries out.

Echoes slide like spilt oil around the cavern he calls home, that shadow he’s been reaching blindly for now bleeding forth, and he lies back to let it smother him. How many of your kind…

Fuck.

 

Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/714054.html

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wolfshadoe

wolfshadoe