Fic: The Letter

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I’m fairly certain that this isn’t what  spikes_heart  had in mind when she put this idea in my head way back when I was using her as a sounding board for my seasonal spuffy idea. Still she planted the seed so this one is for her.

Title:   The Letter
Author:  bearfacedcheek
Feedback:   Well if you’re offering, sure

April shook her magic wand at this one too. She is the grammer fairy.


The letter lies crumpled and unfinished in the depths of his duster pocket along with his abortive attempt at poetry. “An ode to Buffy.” The notion makes him snort disgustedly into his whisky. He’d thought to read something out for her tonight and hoped that in some way, even across the oceans of deception and salt water that separates them, she’d feel it. But the temptation to use words like “valiant” and “gleaming” had hit, and he’d torn the thing in two before he called her fucking “effulgent.” Maybe a century wasn’t long enough to finally make a poet out of him, but at least he knew crap now when he heard it.

He’d spent the best part of the early evening scribbling down sentimental shite for her, knowing all the while he’d never send it. Knowing full well that she wasn’t interested in any parting shot he might want to send her way.

Oh, she knew he was alive all right, because that little prick Andrew never could have kept the secret. She probably even knew he’d been in Rome. Didn’t matter to her, though, did it? That much was obvious. Not like she didn’t know Angel’s number, not like she couldn’t get on a bloody plane. She hadn’t. Hadn’t called, hadn’t come, and the torrent of self pity he can feel drowning his heart is sodding depressing.

What had he written? “I’m glad you’re finally happy, Buffy. You deserve it.” All true of course because for all his inherent selfishness his love for her was never anything but unconditional. And yet a part of him—a small, subversive part that sounds less like the demon and more like his wounded soul—hopes she tastes just a fraction of the misery her disregard was causing him.

He glances at the stage and the young hippy in her shapeless dress spouting on about “Mother Earth.” He’ll be up in a minute and he’ll be crap, he knows that, but at least he’ll be better than this drippy cow.

He makes eye contact with the barmaid and she flows over to him, brisk and efficient, but alluring too, with the dark brown strands escaping from her messed up ponytail to frame her pretty face. She gives him a smile that’s more than professionally friendly, and for just a minute he considers it. She’s good looking and he is definitely going to die. She’s also as geometrically opposed to Buffy in looks as you can get, full figured and dark-eyed, so he could get one last fuck in before he finally back flips off this mortal coil and not have to think about the sodding slayer.

But his smile is polite and distant as she pours him a drink, and she reads the signals faultlessly and leaves him be.

……………………………………………………………….

She can barely remember now the feeling that had coaxed a smile from her lips on the edge of the Sunnydale crater. It had felt like a new dawn, and she’d smiled one of those deep-down soul smiles that’s not just about facial muscles but pushes up from the centre of your heart to blossom on your face, slow and gladsome as the start of summer.

Hope had shone down on her and she’d known. Known beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything was right. The feeling had been gone long before they’d even reached L.A.

But the others had wanted it for her, had wanted this to be her new beginning. “She’s gone and it breaks my heart,” Xander had said through freely-flowing tears. “But at least you got out. At least you get something better.”

And Dawn had bubbled with excited expectation, incessant questions about what they would do, where they would go, and it had been a test of her scant patience to keep her from snapping at her sister.

Because it had only taken such a little while, just an hour’s quiet contemplation on the bus, with the others dozing off their post-battle exhaustion and Giles silently steering them towards their new lives, to realise that the promise of that moment had been nothing more than a glittering illusion.

True, all that was bright and sanguine had called her. Enticed her to step out of the darkness of her old life and into the sun with its promises of dreams finally fulfilled. But what good the lonely sunlight now? When she’d already found the best companionship in the dark and twilight of his twisted world.

She sips rich Italian wine as she watches the Immortal order for both of them with distracted interest. He’s a fine looking man, she thinks, handsome and genteel and, God, how he’s come to bore her.

The still foreign sound of his rolling Italian flows over her like a balmy springtime breeze, and she longs for the chill of winter. The harsh ice of Spike’s caustic inflections. She thinks she might break up with him tonight, but she has grown indolent in Rome and the emotional upheaval seems like rather too much effort.

No, she probably won’t do it tonight, not when she’s exhausted already from all her recent sleepless nights. She frowns at her wine. As if she wouldn’t know he’d been there, as if she wouldn’t sense his fading presence in her apartment. Her mood has swung violently from joy to anger and back again through bitter resentment these last few weeks. The knowledge that he lives and does not choose to find her is almost beyond her comprehension, shaking the certainties of her world until it rattles around her with such sound and fury that she fears it will cave in upon her.

“Buffy.” Willow’s voice is loud and urgent as she approaches, disturbing the other patrons and drawing disapproving looks from the staff. “Buffy, you have to come. Angel’s doing something crazy, and Spike… God, Buffy, Spike’s alive and they’re going to war with…” She pauses in her distressed babble to draw breath and the slayer grabs her shoulders, frightened eyes demanding explanation, the rising tide of fear making her grip painfully tight. “They can’t win, Buffy.”
………………………………………………………………………………………

The battle is lost before it begins. Even with Spike and Angel fighting back-to-back like old times and the devastating force of Blue’s furious grief they can only last a short while. The impossible sorrow of watching Angel die catches him by surprise, and it takes moment to realise that the wretched howl of anguish he hears is his own.

His sire’s dust floats in the air around him, making mud of his tear tracks and flavouring his lips with sulphur. “Sire!” The demon cries out its loss, the unbearable breaking of the blood ties that always bound them. And for all he played at hating Angel, the man in him, the disobedient affection of his soul, weeps for his reluctant friend, his unwanted hero.

Illyria comes to his back and they fight on, two lonely veterans in a writhing sea of demon filth, but they are neither champions nor heroes, and you can only fight so long for the joy of flesh rent beneath your blade and bone crushed in your hands.

He goes first. Feels himself weaken and falter. Exhaustion chases his failing resolve, and the death wish he never truly had materialises into something chilling and beguiling and very, very real. His coat is shredded from his body by talons he doesn’t raise his arms to block and falls in strips of battered leather to the floor around his feet.

Illyria cries out his name and he wonders; if it had been another’s voice, would his strength have come again? Because of course in those last moments, with death opening its arms to him, welcoming and tender as a mother, he thinks of her. Of his slayer. Of Buffy. He wishes as the blood flows in chill rivers from his slashed throat that he had finished the crumpled letter lying useless in the pocket of his shredded duster. Regrets in those last seconds, as we all must regret something, that he never let her know that she was still loved, that even this final death will not stop him from always loving her.

And when the wood pierces his heart, he can almost imagine it was she who dealt the final blow. He sees her clearly behind his closed eyes the way he always held her in his heart; righteous and magnificent. His fierce warrior, all darkness and glory and beautiful blinding light.

“Buffy.” Her name slips from his crumbling lips and the regrets are gone with his body as peace comes.

………………………………………….

She calls his name into the deserted alley. Searches the piled corpses for a sign of him, a glimpse of bright blond hair or the morbid orange of streetlights reflected on black leather. She’s not crying—not yet, anyway—she is still all slayer resolve and desperate fading hope.

“Spike,” she calls, again and again, until repetition roughens her voice to a shrill croak. “Angel.”

The figure that rises up from beneath the gory pile of carcasses is immediately recognisable as neither Spike nor Angel. Slender and feminine and swathed in blood-soaked leather she is a fearsome sight. And even battered and broken as she is her power is beyond question and the slayer inside prepares for battle.

“The half breeds are no more,” the stranger informs her, and the bright blue disks of her eyes flash with an emotion beyond human comprehension.

“Spike.” Her voice quivers over his name and she chokes on a sob. “God, Angel.”

“Angelus chose this path,” the demon tells her haughtily, and she swivels tear-filled eyes full of outrage on this callous creature. “And my pet fought longer than I had anticipated before he, too, fell.”

“Spike?”

“His looks were not repulsive to me.” The birdlike tilt of her head seems at odds with her the clipped superior tone of her voice. “His passing displeases me.”

“Oh God, Spike.” It’s a wail, a desperate, broken sound that cracks in the air around her and grates against her own ears.

“Why do you call for him?” The demon lifts a torn mess of leather in one hand and studies it with a blank expression. “Nothing remains.” She drops the tattered shreds of his duster negligently to the ground and turns angry eyes on Buffy. “I am Illyria, last of the old ones. I do not grieve.”

But the blue china eyes cloud with what must pass for pain and she clenches her jaw violently. “I leave you to your mourning, human. I can bear this stench no longer.” And with that she is gone.

The leather is slick with blood and torn almost beyond recognition, but his scent still haunts it. Smoke, bourbon, and that expensive cologne she knows he never paid for, clinging to the material like her trembling hands.

Her tears wash clean a patch of leather and she rubs her thumbs over the cool surface until her hand slips into the undamaged pocket and her fingertips brush curiously over crumpled paper.

She can’t make out his ridiculously elegant handwriting in the dim light of the alley, so she takes it to the main street and positions herself beneath a streetlamp, his shredded coat still clutched in her other hand as she reads.

And through the crossed-out lines of conciliatory love and contrived verse she can see him. She can hear him snorting disgustedly at himself and tossing the letter aside. Oh, she doesn’t doubt that he’d meant it. “Be happy.” “Always love you.” Of course he had, he had been Spike and his endless devotion was far beyond her question. But mere ink and paper cannot contain the blazing inferno that was their love, their hate, their passion.

His poem makes her laugh out loud, and she’s vaguely aware as a couple scurry past that she must look like a crazy person, with her filthy clothes and tear-soaked face. She thinks if he’d ever known she’d see it he’d have been appalled. It was so bad, a terrible abuse of rhyme and rhythm and the words he’d used: “goddess,” “warrior”. She glances up and can make out her reflection in a darkened shop window. Oh yeah, she’s “magnificent” all right. Pitiful, trembling girl, lost in her grief. Half drowned in her unfathomable regret.

“Spike.” His name passes her lips for the hundredth time that night, and the knowledge that she has lost him tightens like an iron fist around her heart. She should have come. Should have put aside her pride and fear and followed the mindless instinct of her heart that had been demanding, since she’d felt his cooling fire in her Rome apartment, that she go to him.

The agony of her grief is worse even than the loss of Angel, because for all she loved him, for all she’d always imagined he would be there, she and Angel had been finished a long time ago. But in her heart of hearts, she had still believed that she and Spike were only just beginning. Now the knowledge that she has left it too late chokes like sand in her throat and turns her belly to water.

Is this her penance then? That their story will remain forever unfinished? To be—in part at least—forever incomplete? To be always expecting him, perhaps to catch a glimpse of black and blond and truly believe, for just that moment, that he has come back to her, to be always disappointed.

She smoothes the paper out carefully and folds the scraps of poetry in his letter. And with a sigh that shudders through her whole body, slips the fragments of his memory—that are all she has left of him—into her pocket, gathers up his jacket into a slimy bundle against her chest and walks away.

Originally posted at http://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/24086.html

bearfacedcheek

bearfacedcheek