Hello, all. I’m Cindy, and I’ll be providing your daily dose of Spuffy today. :-) I wanted to do something “seasonal,” and I hope you enjoy my contribution.
Title: The Last Days of Autumn
Summary: Spike reflects on the meaning of the season.
A/N: Many thanks to spicklething for the beta.
He could remember, clear as yesterday, when she first mentioned that autumn was her favorite season. A long time ago now. To some. But time was such a relative thing. Sometimes it passed excruciatingly slow. And sometimes years went by in the blink of an eye.
“My California girl,” he’d said back then, running a hand through that shampoo commercial hair. “Never had much of an autumn in your neck of the woods, I reckon.”
“I suppose that’s part of it,” she said, cartwheeling away into a pile of leaves. He stood over her, smiling, and she tugged on his coat sleeve, pulling him down next to her. They lay on their backs side by side, watching a cloud play hide and seek with the moon. It was enormous tonight, hanging low in the sky. A big, harvest moon, golden to match the leaves that floated down to them on the light breeze.
“Fall doesn’t stick around very long,” she said, “but it sure is gorgeous while it lasts.” Her hand found his, and she curled her fingers around his own. “Let’s make sure we’re always someplace where the seasons change at this time of year, okay?”
“Can chase autumn around the globe, if you like,” he said, lifting her hand to his lips. “Though I’ve always fancied spring myself.”
“When a young man’s fancy turns to love?” she teased.
“Haven’t been a young man for a very long time.”
He’d meant it jokingly, but he could feel the change in her mood even before she spoke. “You’ll always look like a young man, though. Someday you can call me your old lady, and really mean it.”
Spike sighed. “Are we really going to talk about this?”
They’d been together a while, now, and though Buffy hadn’t said much up about it, he knew the subject had been on her mind quite often in recent days. Dawn had gone and grown up on her, with a nibblet of her own. And the last time they’d seen Giles, he’d looked pretty worn around the edges. He should have seen it coming, with all the little comments she’d been making lately. But since she was usually more prone to avoidance than discussion, he hadn’t said anything. Besides, it was a topic he’d just as soon leave alone. He knew he wouldn’t have her for long; he just wanted to love her the best he could while he had the chance. And didn’t want to think about what came after.
“I just don’t want you to feel obligated….”
“Stop it.” He propped himself up on an elbow so he could look at her, but her gaze was fixed somewhere in the vicinity of his left earlobe. “Know me better ‘an that, don’t you?” He tried to move closer, but her hands pushed against his chest, holding him back.
“Just let me say this before I lose my nerve.”
Spike gave up, flopping back down on his back next to Buffy. “Guess we are going to talk about this.”
“You know, the Mayor – you didn’t know him, really, did you? He was this evil, immortal guy. And no, I didn’t sleep with him.”
Spike folded his hands behind his head. “Didn’t say a word.”
“Didn’t have to. Anyway…” she faltered, and the next words came out in a rush. “…he told Angel and I that we would never work because he – the Mayor – had this wife who was mortal and when she got old and he didn’t, she hated him.”
“Yeah. Well, that wouldn’t be a problem for you and Angel these days, now would it? Him being all heartbeat havin’ and all.” He knew that Buffy loved him, but ever since the old man had shanshued, a part of Spike always feared that Buffy would decide to run off and have babies in the sunshine with Angel one day. Even after all this time. Like today.
“I know.” She sighed heavily. “Too bad I fell in love with you, huh?”
He let out a sigh of relief. “Too bad,” he agreed.
“Do you remember that time I said you were just convenient?”
“How could I forget?”
“Well, so wrong on that one. So very wrong. There has never been anything convenient about you. In fact, you have been a major inconvenience since the day I met you, you stupid vampire!”
“Love you too, pet.” This time when he moved closer, she allowed him to tip her chin up so that he could look into her eyes. He was still surprised every time he saw the love in them, but there were tears now, too. And something he saw even more rarely: fear. He wished he could wipe that away as easily as the tears that rolled down her cheek.
“What if I get old and wrinkled? And you’ll still be all young and beautiful.”
“You’ll still be beautiful. And folks’ll just think I’m kinky. Which…” he shrugged his shoulders.
She laughed through her tears, and hit him in the arm. “Stop it!”
“Don’t make me use the old, ‘I could get hit by a bus tomorrow,’ argument.”
Buffy sniffled. “A bus wouldn’t kill you. You might be pretty squishy for awhile…”
“You’re all heart, you are. Okay, fine.” He pointed up. “A branch could fall down from that tree right there and pierce me through the heart, and I’d be just a memory that you’d be brushing off your fine leather jacket.”
Her mouth opened in shock as she looked up at the branches above them. “Oh my God, you’re right! No more trees!”
Laughing, she rolled them over and over, leaves crunching beneath them, until they were out from underneath the large oak. She’d made sure that she was the one on top now, of course.
“You can thank me for saving you later,” she said, out of breath from laughing. Then she wiggled her hips suggestively “or maybe sooner.” They were back to joking, and that was probably for the best. But she’d opened Pandora’s box, and now, him being him, he had to say one more thing.
He reached up and brushed some leaves out of her hair. “Always wanted to be your long haul guy, Buffy. You gonna let me?”
She leaned down to kiss him, stretching out on top of him as she did. Their bodies responded to each other like they always did, like interlocking puzzle pieces grateful to have found their match, shifting into place to make a perfect fit. He thought as avoidance tactics went, this was as good as any. Buffy was apparently done talking. But as her mouth moved over his jaw to his neck, he felt her breath hot against his ear.
“I know you’ll never leave,” she said. Her hands clutched his shoulders. “But I might have to.”
“You do that, you’ll kill me as sure as if you staked me, love. You know that, don’t you?”
He could barely hear her, her voice was so soft, though she pressed against him even closer. “Oh, Spike. Whatever I do, I’ve got a feeling it’s going to kill you either way.” And then she kissed away any response he might have made, and they really were done talking.
Being with Buffy had always made him feel alive, and that had always terrified him a little. Because he wasn’t, of course, and made all too aware of it lately. The longer he was around them, the more he felt like them on the inside, and the less he looked like them on the outside. He was a part of life, but apart from it, too. Had to stand by and watch while the people around him changed, as Xander’s temples grayed, and the laugh lines grew deeper around Willow’s bright eyes. As for Buffy, whether because of slayer physiology or just good genes, time was a bit kinder to her than most. The changes he noticed most in her were things you couldn’t see by looking at her, like the way she seemed so comfortable in her skin now, and how she no longer gave a damn what anyone thought.
They got those looks more often these days – you know the kind. Some of them admiring, but scandalized more often than not, especially as Buffy was much more prone to public displays of affection then she’d ever been before. Not that he was complaining.
On one recent evening, he watched with admiration as Buffy sashayed her still fine ass across the bar to put some money in the jukebox. He had to laugh – her taste in music was still for shit. She stopped to chat with a table full of twenty-somethings on the way back; the same bunch who’d been staring and whispering in their direction half the night. She was giggling when she returned. “I tried to tell them that you were the one who was robbing the cradle, but they didn’t believe me.”
“Now who’s evil?” He felt sorry for the lot of them, facing a verbal battle with the queen of comebacks.
“But they so deserved it,” she said, taking his hands in hers and pulling him out on the dance floor. “They had no manners at all. Besides, it was fun. The girls all think you’re gorgeous, of course. And the guys were all ‘You’re pretty hot for being, like, my mom’s age. You must be really talented. Heh, heh, heh.’”
“Surprised there was no bloodshed.”
“Nah, I just smiled and said ‘You boys have no idea.’”
“That is for damn sure.” Spike pulled her into a kiss, and the kids at the table began to applaud.
He sincerely could give bugger all about wrinkles, or the silver that now threaded through her hair – on the rare occasions that she was overdue for a hair appointment. The only time her age mattered to him was when she insisted on slaying. She hated the word ‘retired,’ and he’d get an earful whenever he brought it up.
“For Chrissakes, Buffy! You don’t need to be doin’ this! New slayers are being called all the time. What exactly are you tryin’ to prove?”
“Shut up, Spike! I can still kick your ass, and don’t you forget it.”
Except they both knew that wasn’t really true anymore. While the extra years just added to his experience and skills, she’d lost a step or two, and her reflexes were just a hair slower. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to keep him terrified every time she insisted on going out alone.
One night she came back pale and shaking, but unhurt.
“What happened?” he asked, gathering her up in his arms.
She didn‘t answer for a long time, and when she did, “I’m done,” was all she said. He held her for a long time that night while she cried, and then finally fell asleep in the early hours of the morning. He was wide awake himself; he could only hold her, listening to her heart beat, watching her chest rise and fall. Feeling sad for her, for both of them, and relieved at the same time. His fingertips traced the contours of her face. He might be just a sentimental sap, but he truly thought she was more beautiful now than ever.
“My mom used to tease us that all her wrinkles came from Dawn and me,” she’d told him, once. “Every joy and heartbreak we caused her was a line on her face, she said.” She’d been putting on make-up in front of her vanity before they went out, while he sat on the bed and kept her company. Carefully, she applied her lipstick. “Since I don’t have kids, I figure mine must have come from you.”
“Oh, so Spike gets all the blame, eh? Come on, I’m not the only one who’s caused you grief.”
He could see her smiling face reflected in the mirror, though she couldn’t see him, of course. Was like she was looking right at him, though. “Yeah. But you’re the one who always makes me laugh.”
He was shaken from his memory by the sound of a dog barking outside. The bedroom window was cracked open, and he got up to close it so that Buffy wouldn’t get a chill. The nights were getting cooler as the end of the season neared. He stood in front of the necro-tempered glass and decided he would wait there and watch the sunrise. He could feel it coming, and it was a sight he never seemed to tire of.
As the sky lightened, he noticed that there were still a few brightly colored leaves clinging to the branch of the tree outside. He looked back at Buffy and smiled. She was right – it didn’t stick around long, but autumn was sure gorgeous while it lasted. Looked like it would hang on for a while longer, yet. That was good.
He wasn’t quite ready for winter.
Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/20502.html