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April 30th 2006
Rona said it today in Advanced Hand-To-Hand Combat Tactics. I said it to her when she was a potential. Spike said it to me outside the Bronze the night I got staked. And The Master said it to Spike in Paris in 1899.
He told me about it one of those nights on patrol after I was resurrected but before the singing demon made things go bad. Back when we were friends.
Darla was looking for help with Angel’s soul and she dragged Spike and Drusilla along to see The Master with her. Spike kind of liked all the formalness of The Master’s court, as long as the visit stayed short. Anyway, it was better than Angelus trying to beat him whenever they disagreed. Plus, Spike said The Master was more interested in little boys than in stealing away Drusilla.
The Master said it when he was teaching Spike and Drusilla how to do thrall better. Spike never caught on — big surprise — but he remembered how the sessions always ended.
Back then the story mostly made me feel a little smug about Angelus and the morning after. You say it’s not like you’ve never been there before, Angelus? Then how come Darla couldn’t take you there, huh? Had to ask for sex tips from The Master and the little skank still couldn’t do it.
But now I think of that little phrase. From The Master to Spike, Spike to me, me to the potentials. And when Rona shows Anusha that she’s still too slow to block a combination leg sweep and elbow twist she finishes by telling her “here endeth the lesson.”
It’s like we’re all connected. The Master and I were never close, though we did kill each other. That promotes a certain togetherness. But Spike and I and the potentials and the new slayers — we all share something. Something more than just the words that symbolize it.
Giles says it’s an old Church Of England thing to close sermons, like saying ‘amen’ after a prayer. But that’s not how it came into our family — the slayer family.
Tomorrow I’m teaching the most popular course at the slayer school. And I owe Spike for more than just the closing words.
I call it The First Rule Of Slaying: Don’t Get Killed. Lesson the first: A slayer must always reach for her weapon, featuring Xie Hsu v. William the Bloody, 1900 and Buffy Summers v. Angelus, 1998. Lesson the second: Death is your gift; staying connected to the world through friends, family, and sister slayers. Lesson the third: Trust your instincts, how to retreat and regain higher ground. Based on an original seminar by William The Bloody, Slayer Of Slayers.
I didn’t print that last bit in the course catalog.
It’s a three day course and we have to limit enrollment so that I can work with all the girls. Kennedy is after me to do it more often than the six times a year I already do. Turns out a lot of the new slayers would like to take it more than once.
But it reminds me of Spike.
It was all simpler the year he died.
I mourned him. Missed him. Thought about the little things we never got a chance to do together. I still can’t believe we never actually danced. He never whispered sweet nothings in my ear and I never dressed up just for him.
I used to offer to do the dishes or clean up the bathroom even when it was Dawn’s turn if she’d just tell me a tale of The Adventures Of Dawn And Spike from that summer I was gone. It was like recovering little pieces of him one at a time. Dawn would tell about how they missed me but edit out the parts where they were sad.
Spike and I depended on each other, needed each other, died for each other. Even loved each other.
At least I thought we did, there at the end.
When we traveled around the world hunting down the new slayers I missed him. Here was the chance that he won for me to see the world outside Sunnydale and he wasn’t here to share it. I was sure he would have smiled — would have been glowing to be with me and show me the world himself.
Maybe I was wrong.
Doubt is even harder than knowing the worst. Eventually that winter I talked to Willow about his last words. They had been gnawing at me. She promised me he only said it to be sure I would run out and escape the hellmouth. That he hadn’t died believing that he was alone in the world, hadn’t taken his final breath certain that I had never loved him.
Then Andrew told me that he came to the apartment. Spike was alive — or undead, whatever. And he was working with Angel, which was a world of strange. And he hadn’t wanted me to know.
Which hurt. A lot.
I waited for them to come back the next day. And the next. Pacing the apartment, nervous, confused, ready to burst. I didn’t get any sleep to speak of. Then I tried to hunt them down in Rome. It never occurred to me that they might have come by once and then just left town without wanting to see me. That they bonded over their little rivalry so much that actually seeing me was just an afterthought.
Andrew gave me Angel’s office number and I was going to call. I had waited a week for Spike to call and explain and heard nothing. So I had to call Angel myself and track him down, which was not going to be easy to explain to Angel. But when I called the recording just said the line had been disconnected.
The next day Giles called to tell me about the big showdown in L.A.
Spike came back and lived with Angel — Angel who he hated most in the world — rather than come to me. He came to Rome — again with Angel — and didn’t even stay to see me. Spike went on a suicide mission and didn’t even think to call me on the phone.
He really did mean his last words to me after all.
There were no survivors.
This time I checked. Willow and four other powerful witches around the world cast simultaneous locator spells strong enough to break any ward, see through any glamor. Spike and Angel were gone.
I couldn’t even ask anyone what happened. I’ll never know what changed for Spike, why he left me, what he was doing that final year.
I was finally ready to invite him into my life, onto my bed, between my dimpled knees. And he decided I wasn’t worth a second go. I’ll never even know why.
Wesley and Winifred and Charles Gunn and everyone on their team in L.A. was dead. There isn’t even anyone to say whether he asked about me or talked about me or dreamed about me or worried about me or cared about me at all.
One member of Angel’s team slipped away before their final battle with Wolfram and Hart. Giles and council seers located a demon who had been working with Angel those last few years. I hoped maybe he could have told me what Spike had been doing and what he had been thinking. Maybe he did still love me but he couldn’t come to me somehow. Maybe Angel talked him into leaving me for my own good in some stupid vampires-with-souls gesture.
I know I’m grasping at straws.
But it would be something to grasp onto.
But when a team of slayers tracked him down in a ratty little hotel room outside Branson, Missouri it was too late. Wolfram and Hart had been there first and he was beheaded. Not only that but the head was smashed. The slayer from Kansas City said it looked like grasshoppers on a windshield.
And my final hope was gone. What’s worse than losing your lover and your best friend? The doubt of never knowing whether he loved you at all.
Now the scariest words in human speech are “no you don’t, but thanks for saying it.” I still have nightmares about them sometimes. How could I have known they came with a silent coda “and neither do I”? I should have followed my first instinct and stayed right there to hash it out with him. If he wanted me to go he shouldn’t have said something that needed to be discussed and understood. And refuted. And fixed. And I should have stayed.
Giles had known, of course. Andrew said Spike made him promise not to tell, but I know Giles didn’t give a shit what Andrew promised to Spike. He lied to me and kept it secret from me because he hated Spike. Even after Spike died for us, after all Spike did including saving Giles himself from Angelus.
That was nine years ago now, in our first mission together. Spike slid up to me all sexy hips and “hello cutie” and everything changed for us. Or for me, at least. I don’t know what he was thinking anymore.
At first I wanted to fly to London and sock Giles in the nose but then I decided I had to do something worse. I took the Council away from him.
It almost fell apart. When I first put together the Slayers’ Union I didn’t have any money or organization and I hadn’t been active for almost a year. Slayers would talk to me but they wouldn’t leave the watchers or stipends from the Council behind. They knew my name but I hadn’t earned their trust.
Then Kennedy called me. I hadn’t expected her help after she moved on from Willow but I should have remembered that she always felt put upon by authority. And her dad did international finance on Wall Street so he knew the contacts we needed to raise money and overrule the Council’s influence. Friends in the bureaucracy are one thing but the finance ministry is where the real power is in most of the world.
We were demanding a living wage stipend so full time slayers would never need a part time job for basic subsistence, plus a small pension fund. But most of all we demanded that slayers never be sent on dangerous missions alone. The best chance of survival is when someone is watching your back and every slayer should have a partner she can trust when things get bad.
Faith came on board for that and everyone likes her. Kennedy already brought along ten percent of the slayers who loved her for being the first slayer out of the closet even if they couldn’t stand her personally. And Kennedy is a pretty good administrator even if I have to step in to restrain her lust for power sometimes.
Still it was tough going for a while. Then Margarita Valdez died fighting Xenopus demons in the Amazon. Alone. Faith restrained Kennedy from making a spectacle out of her death but the girls made it count anyway. They all came over; the Council capitulated.
Now the Council of Watchers operates under the Slayers’ Union and we elect half the seats on their board of directors. We opened a new academy in Rome that we call the Ludus Venatorum because Willow told me the Latin word for school is the same as the word for sport.
And I teach the most popular course based on a moment I didn’t even know I was supposed to savor with a man who used to love me.
Sometimes I blame the soul.
And it makes me feel so bad and selfish. You can’t wish someone you love would lose his soul, just for you.
Not even if it was why he couldn’t love you anymore.
If I had just been paying attention, if only I had listened to the little things I would have known. Maybe I would have known in time to do something about it.
Spike didn’t just decide to leave me all at once in the hellmouth. He started the moment he got his soul back. Maybe sooner. In the basement when he accused me of liking men who hurt me I should have listened. He wasn’t just trying to get me to stake him; he was making up reasons to leave.
After I rescued him from the First, he didn’t want me checking his ribs for fractures. He never rejected my hands on him before. I thought he was just embarrassed in front of the potentials but maybe he just didn’t want my touch healing him.
When I went on that ‘date’ to check out Robin and he said all that garbage about “my eyes are clear” and “think I still dream of a crypt for two with a white picket fence?” I thought it was just a brave face. It’s not like I didn’t think of a certain crypt for two while he was saying it. But he was saying exactly what he meant. I just didn’t take him seriously.
And he was really going to leave me that same night until I asked him to stay just for me. I knew that even then. Why didn’t I put the pieces together? If I had known he was planning to leave me I could have stopped him; we could have talked about it. I could have made him believe me that last time we had together in the hellmouth.
But he never gave me the chance. I was in the fight of my life and it just isn’t right that I had to carry the entire relationship with the guy I needed, who was my best friend and my partner. Tend to his needs full time or he was going to leave me. Then the fight was over and I could tend to his needs and he left anyway.
The biggest clue was that speech in a stranger’s house. At the time it was so romantic and wonderful it gave me all the power I needed to go on and beat Caleb if only I could take the strength from sleeping in Spike’s arms.
But I should have listened. He told me clear as day. “When I say I love you, it’s not because I want you.” So romantic. Unless I need him to want me. “I love what you are, what you do, how you try.” Sure he loved the slayer and the mission. But what about the girl who needed him? “I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are.” Exactly what I am is the girl nobody with a soul has ever wanted to stick around with.
With that soul he understood the real secret me, the one I didn’t share with anyone else, the one that’s weak and needy sometimes. Maybe he still loved the slayer. He just didn’t want Buffy anymore. He even said it; I just wasn’t listening beyond the pretty words.
I wanted him to want me. And I never guessed that he really didn’t.
The next day I said that when it was over we could try dating. Start over and do it right. He cut me off like it didn’t matter. “Just leave it. We’ll go be heroes.” I still thought he was just giving me time. I had no idea he was turning me down.
I didn’t know what it meant, didn’t think it had to mean something specific yet. Maybe if I had just made him talk to me about it he would have understood. I could have made him understand.
It’s not like he was never weak and insecure. Couldn’t we be weak and insecure together and strong with the rest of the world? I guess that wasn’t enough for Spike, wasn’t enough for all the potential in that shiny new soul. That soul I’m really not going to let myself hate.
Maybe just a little.
And he laid himself down beside me those last two nights, held me even. I felt as secure and protected and loved as ever in my life. I stood up to the First. I knew we would win. I woke up stronger. I knew I was in love even if I couldn’t say out loud quite yet. So I let him know by being there, with a caress on his arm as he held me.
But that wasn’t what he was feeling.
I should have known when he never put a move on me. It just isn’t like Spike to leave me utterly unmolested three nights in a row. I had been hoping he would initiate some gentle lovemaking that last night, was so nervous coming down the stairs and looking across the room at him. But he never did.
I should have started it myself. But I hoped I wouldn’t have to do it all myself, could trust Spike to hold up his half. I thought we were close. I hoped he would want to top the best night of his life.
Maybe he did, but not with me.
I haven’t done a lot of dating since that spring with Immortal. That spring I could have been with Spike if he’d still wanted me. When you have a guy who loves you unconditionally, who is always there for you, who would even die for you, and who you are beginning to think might be the love of your life and when you tell that guy the first time that you love him and he immediately dumps you like a really hot, heavy thing —
It makes a girl shy.
But things are going well now. Wolfram and Hart is in trouble. They couldn’t prop Berlusconi up against the Italian people any longer and he was knocked out of power last week. That jerk Roger Windham-Price finally gave up his position on the Council board. Faith has become a world class negotiator and she made a deal to allow slayers in to clean up the vampire outbreaks in Darfur. Maybe slayers alone can’t stop genocide but we can stop ten thousand vampires from speeding it up.
And I have a boyfriend. He’s handsome and only eight years older than me and he even knows about vampires from his days as a surgeon for Doctors Without Borders in Angola. He’s a good dancer and he’s proud of my work. Dresses a little funny, but that’s okay.
It’s been going well about four months now and sometimes I find myself waiting for him to wig out and leave. I’m not going to let it happen again, though. This time I’ll never, ever tell him that maybe I could be starting to fall in love.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/124049.html