Title: The Glory and the Dream
Disclaimer: I own nothing
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Notes: This story takes place in my Gifts-verse, where Spike was resurrected as a human after “Chosen” in 2003 and went back to the name William. In 2008 he and Buffy were reunited, in 2009 they married, in 2011 they had a daughter named Eleanor and in 2015 they had a son named Geoffrey.
The title and several quotes are from William Wordsworth’s Ode Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.
There is also a quote from W.H. Auden’s September 1, 1939.
Warnings: I hesitate to post this story. It is very, very dark. I’m not even sure it’s “canon” for my Gifts-verse.
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
The Glory and the Dream
Buffy had gone to deal with another apocalypse, and the sink was full of dirty dishes. The unmentionable odour of death – and nappies. Eleanor wouldn’t stop whining, Geoffrey wouldn’t stop crying, the laundry was piling up, and he’d really rather be coping with what’s-his-name-the-wannabe-Angelus than this. He was glad he no longer had a vampire’s sense of smell.
“We have a traditional Victorian marriage,” Buffy liked to quip. “He’s the wife.” Well, no, not quite. Buffy had no idea what an actual Victorian marriage was like and he doubted she would like it much, even if she got to be the man. But it seemed rather pointless to explain, so he limited himself to telling her that if she ever called him the Angel of the Hearth he would get himself turned again just so he could kill her. She smiled sweetly and mouthed the words, so he threw a dishtowel at her and resumed scrubbing.
Not that she didn’t help. Sometimes. Bloody convenient, though, how Big Bads always seemed to need attending to when the home front was at its worst. He still hadn’t forgiven her for her suddenly essential presence at a battle in Jakarta that had apparently been going quite well – until the moment they discovered that then 18-month-old Eleanor had smeared Vaseline all over the nursery in a Grand Artistic Statement.
A crash followed by screams and “Daaad-y he knocked over my spaaace-ship!” erupted from the living room, and he went to deal with the carnage.
There were moments, though (mostly when the demons were asleep) when he knew he wasn’t unhappy with his lot. No, he hadn’t quite know what it would be like, when he’d chosen this. (When had he ever known the real consequences of his decisions? Get the spark, all it does is burn. Have kids, live in permanent state of exhaustion.) But it was more than that…
So much of what he did was for Buffy, and in some ways, this was too. But that was only a tiny part of it.
It was for every child he’d ever killed.
And it was for himself, too. Of all the things he’d ever been (and he’d been so many) this felt the most right.
But…he’d thought the kids would bring him and Buffy closer together, and they didn’t. Being parents just laid bare the gaping chasm between them. He remembered what for him was the defining argument, when Eleanor was first starting to eat solid food, and he’d told Buffy he wanted to raise her a vegetarian, like him. And it came out that Buffy didn’t really get why he was a vegetarian at all, and he couldn’t explain. The child is father to the vampire, the vampire is father to the man, the man thinks you shouldn’t eat anything you’re not willing to kill yourself – and his wife thinks that’s just weird. That was the moment he realized she had no idea who he was now.
What scared him was that he didn’t mind. He didn’t need her to see him. He just needed her to not interfere. He’d responded to the vegetarian argument by saying that it didn’t really matter what she thought since she wasn’t going to be around much anyway, and even as he said it he knew it was an unforgivable thing to say.
Geoffrey woke crying. He had a fever. William spent the rest of the night holding the hot little body and thinking that he could not possibly survive the death of one of his children, but he knew he would survive Buffy’s death just fine.
Geoffrey’s fever broke at dawn, and he left the toddler sleeping peacefully and went to the window and looked out at the silver light over New York City. “Make me what I was, so Buffy can get what she deserves.” But he couldn’t go back to what he was, and he couldn’t transform himself again, either. On the surface he was exactly what Buffy deserved, exactly what she needed. He made it possible for her to both be a slayer and have a normal life. And he loved her. But she was no longer essential to him.
She’d been more essential to him when he’d been trying to kill her.
“Daddy, tell me a story,” Eleanor said.
“What story would you like?”
“The one about the vampire who fell in love with a slayer.”
He was sitting in the rocking chair, holding the sleeping Geoffrey. Eleanor was sitting up in her bed next to them, looking at him with eager expectation.
“Once upon a time,” he began, “there was a vampire who fell in love with a slayer…”
When he finished she gave him a piercing look. “Is it true?”
“Yes,” he said. He wondered how she would feel when she found out the whole truth.
“But it happened a long time ago, right?”
A long time ago.
“Do you miss Mommy when she’s not here?”
Damn perceptive brat. “Yes.”
But not as much as I should.
He couldn’t sleep. He finally turned on the light, and picked up his tattered copy of Wordsworth. “Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood.” He’d first read it when he was 9, and the shades of the prison-house had been just beginning to close around him. He remembered his stomach clenching in fear at the words, At length the Man perceives it die away,/And fade into the light of common day. He’d been determined not to let that happen to him. And when he realized it had anyway, he’d let Drusilla bite him in despair.
By night or day,/The things which I have seen I now can see no more. He didn’t have the eyes of a child anymore. Or the eyes of a vampire in love, either.
He thought of the way he’d once seen Buffy.
Like Wordsworth, his memory remained. Perhaps that was enough.
He took Eleanor and Geoffrey to the playground. He pushed Geoffrey on the baby swings while Eleanor, spunky and outgoing as always, found another little girl to play with. They seemed to be getting on just fine, so he only kept a part of his mind on watching them, and the rest of it on Geoffrey. The sensation of swinging, the sound of a bird singing, the sunlight through the leaves, the warm wind carrying the salt smell of the Hudson at high tide – Geoffrey responded to everything with utter joy. The glory and the freshness of a dream.
His heart ached for Buffy, because the dream was so distant to her. She remembered heaven, but that was a source of anguish, not solace.
She came home that night. He asked her how it had gone and she replied shortly, “We won.”
The children hung back from her, frightened.
Later she told him, what she’d seen, what she’d done – what she’d had to do. He listened, and held her while she cried.
She wanted it again. He could see that.
He thought they all might be better off when she got it.
And he knew, then, that he didn’t need to be a vampire to kill a third slayer in his heart.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/362154.html