quinara: Spike smoking on a crate. (Spike crate)
[personal profile] quinara
And this is the last one for today...

[start of fic and notes]

'I love you' is a thing you say to people who are dying

by Quinara


Season 7. Buffy/Spike. Some Watchers survived, because sometimes people do.

[free association IV]

free association V

--afterwards--

“What was that for?”

Buffy’s lips still tingled with the feeling of kissing Spike’s, so she wasn’t quite sure what to say when he did what she should have expected, namely react. She pressed the offending parts of her body together.

Her heart was racing, thump thump thump thump thump, and their hands were still clasped into sweaty union. Taking a full inventory of herself, Buffy realised she was blushing, which was the most embarrassing thing to happen in all her twenty-two years.

“It wasn’t because I got the coat back, was it?” Spike continued, because he really had no idea how to shut off his mouth. They both glanced down when he said it; Buffy saw his eyes moving as hers slipped to the piece of clothing in question.

Absolutely, it was familiar, the way the folds of leather wrapped around him. When he’d been home, he’d usually been wearing less, but when they were out this was the first layer Buffy had had to take off: it had required the most commitment, been the surest signal of her intentions. Usually they’d then had sex on it, because it was mostly clean and big enough to keep the dirt out.

Still, as strong feelings as Buffy felt sometimes about certain pairs of shoes, she hadn’t ever quite developed that relationship with Spike’s leather coat. No matter what he did with it in his own time. “No,” she confirmed, making sure she frowned so that Spike got she was serious. “That would be really weird.”

“Right,” Spike agreed, glancing away before he returned to looking at her intently. The mattress sank between them, the way they were both leaning in. Buffy tried not to think about it. “And it’s not because that Lydia bird’s been giving me the eye?”

Either he was trying to piss her off, or he had no idea how her jealousy worked. “No,” Buffy said again, holding Spike’s hand tightly enough that probably it was painful. “Although it might be now you’ve told me that,” she warned him, digging for information. “She’s been giving you the eye?

Spike waved his spare hand dismissively. In the strip light, it was remarkably pale. He frowned, like he was trying to get to the bottom of things. Again, he began, “And it’s not…”

By this point, Buffy had had enough. “Look, Spike,” she interrupted, drawing his attention back to her face. Really, she wanted to be serious about this. It was only a tiny, small kiss; it shouldn’t change everything about them. She tried to explain, shaking their clasped hands, “I’m not a complicated person…”

“Ha!” Spike interrupted, a bright sort of challenge in his eyes, like humour or somehow like joy. It was difficult to tell in the blunt shadows of the basement.

“Shut up,” Buffy insisted, holding back her own smile. Not terribly successfully. “OK?” she asked when she had a hold of herself. “If I kiss you,” she explained it all rationally, not at all feeling the way he relaxed against her, in her hold, “it’s because I like you and because you smell good. That’s the story here.” She waved her own other hand, out into the basement and out into the night. “Not this other stuff.”

She didn’t tell him anything about what he meant to her, or why she needed him here at home. It probably showed in her face, as well, because when she looked back Spike’s eyes were narrowed suspiciously. “That’s not what you’ve said before,” he commented, like they were people with histories actually contiguous enough that they could talk about last year as though it had been them.

It caught Buffy off guard; she shifted awkwardly on the bed. “Well,” she said, trying to remember that they were talking about dragons, generally finding her mind filled with far too many memories she had been repressing. “Mostly,” she admitted, remembering, because Spike was someone who knew her feelings these days, “mostly I was lying.”

Even that, though, it didn’t get her out of the dock. “If you were lying back then,” Spike asked her suspiciously, clearly caught up as much as she was in the moment, “why should I trust you now?

It was a stupid argument, one which on another day when the dryer wasn’t humming and Spike didn’t smell like cigarettes she would have had a clear answer for. Because you’re the only one who does?

This time around, though, her hand was all warm and tingly where Spike was holding it. “Guh,” Buffy cursed in frustration, while Spike’s eyes were blue. She wished she could silence the voice in her head. “Will you not shut up?”

And then, like a bad scene in a rom com, Buffy shoved him over just in time for him to resist falling by grabbing at her elbows, groping up her arms to her shoulders. He and his trusty coat caught on the brickwork, not falling as far as Buffy had thought they would. When she lunged over, pushing him, she went a hell of a lot further than he did. Several important half-inches, which she couldn't take back so fast. They were closer – then much closer – and as Spike came springing back it was all too easy for the struggle to resolve with their faces and lips smacked into to each other’s.

This time, the kiss wasn’t quite so chaste. For a start, the coming together part was pretty bruising: Buffy’s eyes fell shut and a gasp seized through her. After her mouth slipped open, it was all too easy to catch the seam rather than the flesh of Spike’s lips. He was ticklish there, right on the edge of his mouth, so for that reason or some other her gasp was met with a cute little chuckle-thing – but then her lip was in his mouth, and he closed against the bottom of it so tenderly she could hardly not take in the top of his.

Buffy was caught out, honestly, by the shot of adrenaline that pumped into her system the moment she inhaled. Not unexpectedly, after all, Spike did smell good. As her heart fluttered, his fingertips landed delicately on her cheek and caressed her, which again just made her shiver. She sought security, aiming for his other lip, but they both had a slightly moist thing going on for them now, which sent her stomach and her hips all to jelly. On the next pass there was tongue, which set off pretty much every chakra Buffy had.

In the end, Buffy was just heaving the Spike closer by the lapels of his musty jacket and sucking at his face. An unholy moan purred at the back of her throat and Spike was smiling – smiling – into her mouth, all the while he ran his tongue so wickedly along her teeth it was like her head was made of melting chocolate. Not quite so much the artistry, Buffy at least remembered what he liked and did for that, cradling his head while he whimpered and enjoying, for a little while, what it felt like to be with him like this again.

So it went on. She’d done this before, Buffy remembered, fallen into bad habits with a vampire who’d left and come back with his soul. She wasn’t remembering his name or his face right now, but the feeling was there. This inescapable feeling.

When the kiss was over, her and Spike didn’t break apart so much as together. Nose to nose and forehead to forehead, Buffy’s hands clasped around his skull and his were tight on her shoulders. It felt like the mutual admission that this particular tension couldn’t be stretched any further without snapping into something else. The next part, they both knew – they both had to know – was where she straddled his hips and ground into him like she was at the rodeo. That part was theirs alone and Buffy burned with it, to remember.

That thought – the extra little kiss it inspired – it surged through several parts of her. This was all too fast, Buffy knew: she could feel her heart pounding to keep up. When they broke again, Spike was panting big gulps of air and Buffy was right there with him, the springs of the mattress unstable beneath her shaking legs and generally quaking lower body.

Thump thump thump thump thump thump…

“Whoa,” she breathed, wrenching back to look at them both. Her hands slipped to Spike’s collarbone and, when he opened his eyes, his pupils were dilated as wide and black as the darkest parts of her soul. Buffy's elbows contracted, almost enough to bring her in again. “Oh…” she added.

“Yeah,” Spike replied. He dropped an arm behind her back, used the other to pull her legs across his thighs, smoothing her down with a shaking hand. It should have been a dangerous move, but actually Buffy found herself calming down. Wow. A little bit of contact went a long way, and with her torso no longer contorted she at least didn’t feel like she was about to fall over any minute, most likely onto Spike in whatever way he would have her.

It did leave him fingering curlicues into her own thighs, though, looking down and not at her face. Buffy put a hand in his hair, not sure how best to touch him. Also because it was satisfying once she’d worked her way through the crust, fingers thrusting because nothing else could.

Scowling like she was an irritant fly, Spike twitched. Buffy giggled, not without delirium, but also not sure what to say as he said nothing. As she calmed down, she was content enough to break up shards of his hair – smooth the freed wisps into order again. And yet…

It was stupid, to be so confident with his body and yet so afraid of what he was thinking, but she was. Buffy didn’t want to hurt him, just like the way she didn’t want to hurt herself. She wanted to have him like this forever, standing by her side on the verge of destruction, hearts in their throats as they waited for hell to rise one of them to be swallowed into its gaping maw. The part after… That was the part after.

It would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it? Buffy tried to convince herself. To go after a dragon? Let alone one who lived in the Bronze.

From the way everyone talked, even Travers, it sounded like it was going to be her who was taken, this apocalypse. The girls, everyone in the house, there was no one else who was going to save them. Buffy wasn’t ready for it, not really, but she’d accepted after coming back that she never would be again.

Before that though, Buffy wanted this, the thing she and Spike suddenly had now, this soaring feeling of leaping, the only good part about dying before she ceased to feel anything so gloriously bittersweet. She wanted it to last as long as possible.

It had been going OK, really, but now they were definitely in mid-air and Buffy wasn’t quite sure what to do, with or without Spike’s hair curling through her fingers.

Thankfully, it wasn’t long before Spike had clearly had enough of Buffy messing around. He let go of her leg to catch her roving hand, bring it down and bite gently at one of her knuckles.

Buffy’s heart fluttered. Their eyes met as he scraped wet teeth across skin; their gazes fused as he released her, as their arms relaxed and their fingers entwined to rest on her knees.

Smiling grimly, Buffy waited, that spark of erotic energy enough to quell her childish impulses. She was certain that if she left it long enough, then some line would come to her that it wouldn’t hurt to say. In the grim fluorescent light, Spike at least looked sympathetic, the edge of fear in his eyes no match for the hunger he had between blinks, glancing down to her breasts and her crotch and back up again, all too aware of how she was watching him.

“So,” Buffy said, squeezing Spike’s hand against her frustration, shoving her fingers between his. This had to be enough for now, even if Spike was going to pout like he did, just a little. “That was, uh…” She sought for a word. “Different?” For us.

A couple of seconds more and Spike gave it up, his eyebrows relaxing. “Yeah,” he agreed, not for the first time in so many minutes. It seemed like this time he didn’t have any snappy comebacks. A small smile of his own and he sobered completely. Buffy felt the final thrill of it all fade away, just as he commented, blithely, “Don’t suppose we’ll see its like again for a while, right?”

In the end, there was nothing Buffy could do but shake her head. She glanced down, wondering why Spike never smelled like washing powder, all the time he spent down here with the laundry. “We have a war to win,” she said, resenting it. “Girls to inspire,” she reminded herself. “Watchers to watch.”

Hand off of her back, Spike tipped up her chin. Buffy didn’t resist looking at him, hoping he could see it, all the little she had for him. “We’ll win it,” was what he said, seriously.

That was the moment to look away – to summon the energy to leave him. So that was what she did.

--earlier--

When she dismissed him, the Big Bad Slayer with a mission to humiliate the house, Spike knew he had to leave. Of course, he didn’t go beyond the front porch. He just leant on the railing, still shaking with anger, trying to work his way through a cigarette and be calm by the end of it.

The tobacco didn’t taste right, with the soul back in, but Spike was beginning to get used to it. He hoped.

You’re gonna fall over.

It was funny, to finally know what Buffy was thinking. Not flattering, certainly, but it at least explained some of the pity he’d seen in her eyes, something about her feelings on the whole trigger business.

What he was going to do about it, of course, Spike didn’t know. Right at the moment, he wasn’t even sure he wanted to try.

The door opened and closed behind him, a little while into his smoke. When Spike glanced back, he was surprised to find that his nose hadn’t got it wrong. “What do you want?” he asked Dawn, refusing to give her the way in he had the last time.

“Buffy sent me,” she replied shortly, looking pissed and not at him. It made sense. “I’m supposed to talk to you.”

“Is that right?” Spike replied, taking a drag of his cigarette. He leaned back against the railing, crossed his spare arm over his chest and wondered what she was going to say. “Go on then.”

Dawn crossed her arms straight back at him, still staring off into the road. It was a quiet night, so there wasn’t much to see. Only his old tree, Spike supposed, but that had hardly seen much action of late. That was, if he cared to think about such action, which he didn’t, especially not when two-bit Slayers were reaming him out in front of everyone like he was a fucking footsoldier.

It seemed like Dawn was happy enough to let his thoughts keep running on, which was annoying, because they’d ended up right back where he didn’t want.

Growling, Spike shut his eyes and concentrated instead in getting the weird-tasting smoke settled right at the sweet point, down the back of his throat where the taste buds stopped and he could just savour the warmth. He could hold it there as long as he liked; that was the magic of not breathing. And he would – focus on the workings of his body like it was some sort of meditation.

“I don’t know why you’re growling at me, you know,” Dawn suddenly snapped at him, which made the smoke come out in one particularly pathetic cough. Her eyes were glinty in the evening light. “She’s the one who yelled at you. You don’t have to take it out on everyone else.”

“Who’s taking it out on anybody?” Spike snapped back, bored now of smoking. He stabbed his fag out on his belt buckle (this particular belt was knackered anyway). “You’re the one who came out here.”

Apparently this topic bored Dawn even more than it bored him. A bird rustled, cawing as it escaped Spike's tree. “You shouldn’t do that in front of minors, you know,” the girl changed the subject after a moment, lifting her chin at his crotch. Spike raised an eyebrow. “It’s suggestive.”

Taken aback, Spike glanced down the cigarette butt, still in his hand. He took a look at himself and tried to figure out how this girl’s dirty little mind had gone from a perfectly functional piece of clothing to what lay behind it. He’d been wearing jeans this tight since 1967, for fuck’s sake. It was fashion, wasn’t it?

And then Dawn was snickering. Realising that he’d been had, Spike glared at her. “The look on your face,” she said, like she almost – almost – intended to share the joke with him.

Spike conceded the point, if only because there was no good way to complain. “You’re a laugh riot.”

“Thanks,” Dawn replied, with a short, false smile. “So,” she added, sweetness vanished from her voice. Another moment; another shift in topic. Spike had whiplash. “Are you coming back inside or what?”

If he hadn’t figured that he would be the one who ended up on yard duty, Spike would have flicked his cigarette butt into the front garden, just for effect. As it was, he kept it squeezed between his fingertips, wishing he’d kept it for the last few puffs. “Or what,” he told Dawn eventually, favouring her with a false smile of his own. At the end of the day, the girl hadn’t spoken to him in months. She, and Buffy more accurately, was living in a dream world if she thought she could just click her fingers and get him somewhere he didn’t fancy being right now. Soul or no bloody soul.

“Great,” Dawn grumbled, rolling her eyes. She rubbed her arms against the breeze, which wasn’t even cold. “You’re gonna make us stand here all night.”

“Don’t let me keep you,” Spike told her, settling his stance a little more firmly and pushing his hands into the pockets of his hated army surplus. It was hardly like he couldn’t win a game of patience with a sixteen-year-old girl. Hell, he was immortal. He could wait.

After all, Dawn was many things, but the master of her impulses she was not. Once upon a time it would have been fair to say that they had that in common.

Time passed, and for a little while, with the focus of it, Spike’s mind was blissfully empty.

So, all right, the soul hadn’t quite fixed his impulse control. Spike could admit that – and had to, eventually. Within seconds of this particular silence, his gaze had drifted back to the front door and he couldn’t help but wonder what was being said inside. For all he knew, the parts were being divvied out for some hare-brained mission Nigel or whoever had come up with and he was missing his chance to get on the Slayer’s team.

Not that he cared, of course – Spike thought as he resisted the urge to tap out a drumline with his foot. Buffy had ratted him out to Nikki’s son, like the soul was a badge of honour rather than the sign of weakness any self-respecting vampire hunter would take it for. And, again, she’d started on at him in front of everyone, like she thought he’d always forgive her or some bloody nonsense.

Risking a look at his opponent, Spike tried to figure out how long it would be before it became more ridiculous to play this game than to win it.

Not six feet away from him, Dawn was staring down at the decking, her mouth small and flat and serious as she waited.

Oh.

Surprisingly to Spike, Dawn’s breathing was even; her pulse steady at rest. With her jeans she was wearing a collared shirt that made her look like she was ready for admission to a seminary.

This was the problem with the soul. The guilt and the nightmares, Spike had expected that. It was difficult to admit that he hadn’t anticipated quite how deeply it would tear him up inside, but that was an issue of degree rather than the fact that it happened at all. No, the thing he still hadn’t quite got his head around were the unexpected stabs of empathy. They got him right in the gut.

Right now, looking at Dawn, he was getting one. This wasn’t the kid he’d known, hungry for attention, full of spit and vinegar. She had patience; she had resentment. She had a bunch of things Spike couldn’t read because he wasn’t sodding psychic, but with the breeze on the back of his neck it was like there were spiders crawling on his skin.

“Look, Dawn, I’m sorry,” Spike said, because it would have made him sick not to say it. The railing creaked as he pulled away from it.

It made the girl look up, but her gaze immediately skittered away. “For what?” she asked dully, looking past him.

His head dropped, all Spike could remember were the evenings they’d spent on this porch, her on the root beer and him on the real stuff, swinging on the swingseat and laughing at the neighbours. “For all of it,” he said honestly, shaking the memory away. He shrugged. “Everything.”

Dawn snorted, which was a bit of a snub. “You bought that feeling,” she said, the hate in her eyes like some sort of rusty pike. It didn’t go into him all that quick, but it hurt like hell. Another bird twittered somewhere. It didn’t matter. “Buffy’s right,” she added, with the same look of accusation. “Everything you do now; you’re not the same person. What you say, it means nothing.”

Spike didn’t know what to say, for the first time in years. A sixteen year-old girl was cocking her eyebrow at him, standing on a worn-out old porch not all that far from a window which was on at least its fifth pane of glass, and yet somehow she had all the class in the world. “Don’t remember going to Africa figuring it was for the good of my health.” That was what came out of his mouth, but it was hardly a considered response.

Dawn shrugged, and after that it was pretty much all Spike could do to strike up another cigarette, mostly to calm the quiver in his hands.

--later--

For all its gnarliness, it turned out the demon Buffy summoned was fast on its feet. By the time Spike was out into the encroaching darkness, following the glimpse of it thud around the junction at the end of the road, he was already too far behind. He kept up the chase for a few blocks, right into the dark, but still he had Buffy’s words ringing in his head.

It wasn’t there, the killer instinct, right when he needed it. He could run faster than this, hunt sharper – push himself right to the edge and over it, careening on the freefall towards somewhere that would possibly be victory. It had been years since he’d truly done that, though, and tonight it wasn’t in him.

By the time he hit the edge of downtown, Spike wasn’t sure where he was going. There were people out, but apparently this thing was in the back alleys, because there were no handy screams to tell him where the demon was heading.

Catching his lack of breath at an intersection, heavy breaths unnecessary but a familiar accompaniment to the flaring tremor in his muscles, Spike wasn’t sure what the point was.

He stood with his hands hooked around his waist, wondering if any of them were going to see Buffy again. The cars drove by, stopped at the reds and revved on the greens, but Spike just watched them.

It should have been enough, this fear he had. In the old days, missing Dru like this, it would have been enough for him to tear the town apart, one street at a time until everything was dead or cowering before him. And that was the wretched girl’s point, of course. The thing was, with a soul, the world seemed so much bigger, the streets and alleyways of Sunnydale no longer a map in his head to be charted out – burned clean – but a big, swirling mess of memories, distractions and uncertainty. Too close to Willy’s, and he’d bring more of the demon world against him; too close to the old factory, and all the screams he tried to keep at bay would rise up into a deafening cacophony.

If he’d had any sort of functioning respiratory system, Spike figured he could have quite happily had a panic attack about this moment and not felt any the worse for it. What the hell had become of him?

“Spike!”

The lights were on green; two lanes of traffic running through them. One car, however, in a familiar shade of blokey silver, was pulling over to the pavement. It rode right up the curb and caused at least two other cars to blare their horns.

The rear window was open. Seconds later, the rear door. Dawn’s head poked out, along with the axe she’d apparently kept a hold of. “Get in here!” she shouted.

There was a car behind them, hoping to turn right. It was honking like there was no tomorrow. In another life, Spike would have found it the funniest thing alive. For the sake of this particular adventure, he tried – but he also got in the car.

“What the bleeding hell are you doing here?” he asked as he pulled the door in behind him.

Dawn scooted over on the backseat of what was a rather crowded car. It was Xander’s, inevitably, and he was driving. Anya was looking churlish in the passenger seat, arms crossed and tossing her hairdo. Chalmers the Watcher was the other side of Dawn, looking annoyed and leaning forward with her fingers curled around the suit hook above the other door. “Come on!” she was saying. “We can go faster than this!”

“Look, Watcher lady,” Xander continued whatever argument they were having as he pulled them away. “The other day you couldn’t even figure out the coffee machine. I don’t trust you on the right side of the road. Not in my car.”

Spike stared, seeing them all with new eyes.

“This thing,” Lydia was shooting back, “is an automatic. One could drive it blindfolded.”

The turned the corner towards the night district. Spike was thrown into the door as Lydia was thrown into Dawn. Anya decided this was the moment to chip in, “She has a point. You’re driving both slowly and recklessly.”

Gunning the engine to a load of empty revs, Xander snapped back at her, “Why did you come?” The car gradually regained speed.

“We only left home a minute ago,” Dawn muttered.

How were any of them going to survive this? “And where are we going?” he roared above the noise. He was getting a tension headache: the sort of thing he used to associate with bloody humans, not least after the chip was put in. This wasn’t enough, that was the thing. This really wasn’t enough.

“We’re following you,” Anya told him, not so very helpfully. She even stretched to try and find him in the rearview mirror.

Spike set his jaw; tried to hone in on this particular spark of rage. It had been a depressing thought for years, but now he tried to find comfort in it…

This lot have saved the world. This lot have saved the world.

He’d always believed, of course – but somehow, now, it was getting more difficult. That was the frightening thing.

They would have to do better, all of them. Starting with him.

“Head to the school,” he eventually told Xander, who as usual seemed glad enough just to follow directions. It wasn’t far out of their way, and it would only take a minute.

Dawn, however, was looking at him strangely, leaning on the axe between her knees. “What’s at the school?” she asked.

Spike quelled the sick feeling in his fingers. “Just a memory,” he said.

--later--

Xander and Anya at least stayed in the car. Dawn and the Watcher, who were apparently on their way to becoming a variety act, decided they would follow after him, even when he said he didn’t need their help.

Luckily for Spike, neither of them had spent months getting used to the twists and turns of Sunnydale High’s slightly too supernatural basement, so he was able to lose them for a little while. It only took him moments, after all, to find himself back at his corner and the boxes where Buffy had tried to package him away.

At the time, of course, Spike had been out of it. He couldn’t even recall what his thoughts had been when Buffy had come by with his coat, nor whether she’d even said anything about why she’d brought it. All he remembered now was how he’d felt seeing her with it, her and Nikki haunting him with guilt.

Spike, you’re pathetic. Had she said that? It seemed like she should have done.

That day, he hadn’t been able to face up to it. Today, as he was, they were one Slayer missing, and her parting command was for him to get his act together. Spike wished it could be so easy. He knew that somewhere in the callous-sounding heart of her, Buffy didn’t think it was, but she made it so difficult sometimes. It was her knowing which made it all the worse, of course, because Spike knew she believed in him. He had a habit of believing in her. That look on her face and it seemed like cowardice not to try and be this final, useful version of him with a soul that she wanted.

God, though – how he hated her.

The coat was buried at the bottom of a pile of junk. There was a lot of junk in this basement, which was weird considering how new the school was. It was probably something to ask Xander about, Spike supposed, if he really cared, since it could only be left over from the old school. More than likely they hadn’t had the budget to get it all cleared away.

Anyway, the coat was there, that was the important thing. Covered in dust, the heavy leather still bore all the rips and knife-wounds he’d lovingly sewn up. A couple if not a score times, he and Buffy and rutted on this thing like animals; he and Dru on occasion when they hadn’t found a bed. Spike had lived with romance, once upon a time. Or been in the process of losing it.

Chalmers and the not quite so little bit came round the corner just as Spike had got the duster out of the box, held it up in front of him. He shook it, and a few motes of lint swirled through the air.

“You’re kidding me,” was what Dawn said, looking wholly unimpressed. “We came here for your coat?”

“Is that…?” Lydia asked on the end of her question, with the eye of someone who’d done far too much research on him.

Spike looked at her, said nothing, and pulled Nikki’s jacket around his shoulders.

The woman shuddered, just slightly, like someone (likely him) had walked right over her over her grave. Then, however, her mouth tightened, and she looked as shrewd as any of the Watchers could be bothered to be. “You shouldn’t have to do this,” she said, like they were friends or something. “It’s no shame to become something – more… To be something other than a killing machine.” The woman shook her head. “She has no right to ask you to be something that you aren’t.”

“She didn’t,” Spike said bluntly, striding past the pair of them. He’d had a plan that he was going to walk out of this basement the way he should have done the first time, not cowering while Buffy encouraged him along. Miss Moneypenny wasn’t going to stop him – and fuck her if she thought Buffy didn’t know him best. “You wrote the memo, love,” he reminded the woman anyway. “This is who I am.”

That should have been the end of it, but of course there had never been a single moment in the entire of Spike’s existence when he’d been able to say something true and cinematic and get away with it.

“I think I’m missing something here,” Dawn was saying as they both trotted along behind him. “Boo, it’s a big scary jacket. I’m sure it’s way symbolic, but was it really worth school on Saturday?”

She was going to tell her, Spike knew. No one ever kept his secrets, never bothered to explain, so when Lydia gave it away to his once dearest friend, it was inevitable. “That coat belonged to the last Slayer Spike killed.”

“Oh.”

Oh.

Spike took the stairs two by two back to the hallway, thinking nothing. He was killing this demon; they were getting Buffy home; he was making sure the Slayer realised how much of a sodding idiot she was leaping into portals to God knew where.

“You know…” Dawn was still talking, clattering up the stairs with Lydia behind him. “Is it really your place to tell me that? ‘Cause I’m not sure it is.”

Spike almost stumbled. He didn’t; just came to the doorway and pulled it back open, stalking between the lockers on the way back to Xander’s car.

“Sorry?” They weren’t jogging to keep up, behind them, just walking. Well, Lydia paused as she said that particular line, then remembered to keep going.

Dawn was railing on the Watcher nonetheless. “Well, you come here, you know? You act like you know us,” she said. “You keep looking at Spike like he’s your pet or George Clooney or something. Like, because you’ve read a load of stuff in books, you’re part of the gang. But you’re not.”

She could be nothing if not cruel, this Summers girl. Spike turned his head back over his shoulder, pausing as they came to the front doorway. “Dawn, that’s enough,” he said without thinking, opening the glass door for them. The Principal would get over the pane he’d broken in.

Of course, Dawn stared at him, like she’d never heard something so unreasonable. Spike raised his eyebrows, not having it. He glanced at Lydia, who looked chastened, her cheeks bright pink, but also a little bit like she fancied him for being her saviour. Really, it was almost enough to make Spike roll his eyes, but he didn’t – for the sake of getting the best out of everyone in this war.

The moment when Dawn had an opportunity to flip out passed right on by. She ducked her head and strode by his arm, through the door. “Whatever,” she grumbled and Lydia followed her, out of linoleum and onto the paving.

Spike followed them to the car, breathing in the night air and wishing he felt more like killing. Whatever. Oh yeah, he was back. Almost.

--later--

It was touch and go, what was going to happen when they found this demon. Xander let everyone out near the Bronze and, as luck would have it, there was a scream out in the distance.

Spike was quickest to follow it. It was a reasonable way off, away from the main drag and into one of the more rundown residential areas of Sunnydale. It was full of nice townhouses from the 20s, this part of town, but most of them were abandoned now: too close to the Hellmouth, really. He and Buffy had had their first shag in one which had to be about two blocks away from where he was now, honing in on the demon, who, frankly, looked lost.

There wasn’t much preshow, when it came down to it. Spike had never been one for finesse, and he far preferred fighting things that were sentient enough to get wound up. He charged towards the beast, aiming for the back of it but getting the front as it turned around. The tails of his duster flew behind him like sweet, comforting batwings as the pair of them crunched into asphalt. The demon roared, but Spike hit it – not with a fist but with an elbow, throwing all his weight to smash at one of the thing’s tusks.

For a moment, the thing was silent, but then it was throwing Spike back with one of its giant, superpowered arms.

“Spike!” That was Dawn crying out, and he felt the first frisson of real emotion in this fight as his eyes caught the shape of her.

What the hell was she doing here? Spike asked himself. The others were still a way behind; Xander had been going too heavy on the doughnuts and Anya was in inappropriate footwear. Lydia, the only one with half a brain among them, probably, looked like she didn’t want to interfere. The crossbow wound, just torn open again in Spike’s side, that agreed with her.

Dawn, however… Dawn was coming closer. “Get back, you mad bint,” he tried to shout at her, but then the demon was roaring again and Spike was distracted.

It came rushing in under the light of a lamp post, the shadow of it as long and as dark as midnight. Spike pulled himself up, quickly, and remembered what it was like to panic because there was no way out.

Dawn was shouting loud enough to wake the next apocalypse. “Godammit, take this!” And then she was shoving an axe in front of him, blade first. Spike took it high up the haft, not looking at her as he ran forward, no other way to distract the beast. “Just don’t freaking die,” she added, like it was necessary.

Going in low, Spike couldn’t pull a swing before the beast clobbered him in the head. The pain was familiar, and he knew he should have got a rush, but he didn’t. Determined, though, he didn’t let himself fall, just ducked with the force of the blow and thudded out a turn into the soles of his boots. When he came around, the axe had a kick of its own momentum, and that, he had to say, did feel good as he went with it, slamming the blade straight into the demon’s lower chest.

About six inches of the steel sank in, got stuck. The demon seemed to lose something – and Spike knew the feeling. He took the advantage, hopping up the curb behind the creature as it stumbled forward. This would have been a moment when Spike would have liked to let the thing go, if he’d had a choice, because the fight was won and it seemed like there was little joy to be had.

Yet with his coat heavy on his shoulders, the fate of all of them and Buffy not least, Spike knew what he had to do. He called on it, that part of him that enjoyed this, and snatched the demon’s head before it could recover from the wound. It was oozing black gore; it was roaring in pain; it was alive and fighting for the cause.

With a short breath and that particular tension in his muscles, Spike wrenched his arms around and snapped the demon’s neck.

It looked easy when it happened, that was the thing. Taking the life from something, it could be easy, but snapping the neck of something like this always hurt and it always left the echo of the motion in his forearms. He had a killer’s hands, and he could take it, but it was difficult these days to accept just how simple all this was.

The demon fell forward as it died, lay down at Spike’s feet like he was a god. For a moment, Spike let himself stare at the body, seeing himself.

.

[PART TWO (breakfasts)]

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Quinara

December 2015

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