Inertia by Bogwitch
(Seven Seven BtVS, Post-End of Days)
Hope can wound with vicious claws.
As Spike pushes it closed, the back door settles back into its frame with snap of the catch; his last hope of happiness fizzling out with a gentle rapping of the blind against the glass.
He should have guessed the value of the best night of his life would be nothing.
As he digs around in his pocket for an essential cigarette, the disappointment plummets into a vast chasm in his stomach. He’s a messed up guy and she’s no better. It’s too late now for the empty phrases she offers that seem to promise the world but just ring hollow. He has no time for denials or maybes grudgingly given; it’s down to a simple yes or no and Buffy isn’t giving.
He’s heard her words, but the emotion behind them is still beyond his reach. Hope has been a curse, with fingernails as sharp as claws that rip gashes into his heart, but as his hope lies dying he can finally admit the truth about those sparks of attraction he’s mistaken for love. She needs him, yes, but he shouldn’t mistake them for something deeper.
Muttering a curse he hopes he hasn’t spoken too loudly, his hand tries to grip the lighter, his finger slipping against the wheel as it trembles. He doesn’t want to wake the girls. Right now he can’t face thirty-odd curious teenagers hearing the emotion break in his voice.
He fumbles with the wheel until he can sustain a flame long enough to raise it to the cigarette perched on his lip, his hands still shaking as the flame licks the end and his lungs finally fill with the nicotine he needs to calm his nerves. He wants to be numb, but the sour feeling in the pit of his stomach where his heart fell again at her words, won’t let up.
“Does it have to mean something?” she’d said. Bloody Hell, she still doesn’t know it means everything.
The night before she’d held him; touched him like she forgave him the unforgivable, for that which he couldn’t forgive himself. The dirtiness he feels inside washed clean in her embrace. To hold, and for once, to be held; it had hardly been an exciting night, it wasn’t snapping the neck of your second slayer or bringing down a house, but it’s a memory he will treasure and keep close to his heart for all the time he has left on this earth. He already knows he’s a fool; but hope is a phoenix that has a habit of reeling him in all over again, tempting him with illusions he should know could never be real.
And what makes all that much more than worse is the fact that he’ll never really matter to her, not really, because she’ll never feel the way he wants her to feel, never see him inside and will never fall for him the way he fell so hard for her, and if she can’t feel this way and her heart she hides so well is forever locked to him, then he doesn’t blame her. That kind of love is denied to the dead. He knows all this has happened because of a deep flaw of his own. William’s romantic heart is too quick to hope and his heart is too easy to shatter. How could all that love be reflected back, when his mirror will always be empty.
The smoke ghosts into the night and dissolves into the haunting air as he climbs onto the motorbike, dead lungs drawing cold comfort from a flame that could turn them instantly to dust. He’ll live forever, but she makes her decisions in geological time, and he’s done with this waiting. Love was just a hormonal reaction, after all, chemicals mixing together to release butterflies into his stomach, he should ignore it as he would a sore arm or aching head.
He doesn’t want to think anymore. He doesn’t know what to think. He doesn’t want to think at all. He’ll ride away and forget he’d ever thought he’d had a chance with her.
The ride to the vineyard gives him some time for his thoughts to settle. He even indulges in a small detour to give him more time. They didn’t have a lot of that spare, but he hasn’t asked for much and he needs this space.
Jealously, greed, want, insecurity, loneliness, despair, the threads that keep Spike together unravel with every mile until, by the time he pulls the bike over, his anger roils like the roll of a turbulent sea.
Yet Caleb’s gone. There’s no sign of the preacher man, and the vineyard is all but abandoned. This will not be the battleground. Spike’s anger has nowhere to go, so he smashes the place into splinters. But the flare of hurt and pain and frustration doesn't last long and it’s power splutters out as he sinks to the floor, his temper vented. It’s over. This pain will be his penance, his reward for what he did over a hundred or so years of death. He thought the soul would be the quick-fix panacea for everything he’d done wrong, that he could be accepted, loved, but all it has done is wear him down, and it hasn’t been rewarded.
So if this is to be the final battle, then that’s fine with him. He’s jaded, tired, enduring life now just for her, and he needs it all to end. He’s not looking for a relationship anymore, god knows, he doesn’t think he could handle one but he’ll stay to see it finished, he’s still fool enough for that. He’ll go out fighting. It doesn’t occur to him that he could ever just walk away. He’ll protect them all and then be done. Make something good out of the wreckage he’s become.
When he picks himself up, he squares his shoulders, flexes his jaw, his determination set. Prepares himself to be nothing less than Spike again. He sets off with the swagger back in his stride. What she feels is irrelevant now. This is the final battle.
And he’s ready.
As Spike disappears into the night and the door swings shut behind him, Buffy lets out the breath she’s been holding. Yet again it seems she’s said the wrong thing. Damn him and his shirty vampire ways.
With a sigh, she turns and heads back into the house. She is tempted to follow him, to try and get him to understand, but they’re at war and there’s still so much to get done. Shaking her head, she wonders if it will rattle; she hasn’t expressed herself very well and it’s her fault the feeling of closeness from the night before has gone; evaporated with his confusion and the sudden distance he’s put between them. But it had been special; she needs him to know that it wasn’t some sort of fluke; that they will go there again sometime. She hopes he remembers her actions and not her fumbling words.
She pauses as she reaches the foot of the stairs. These dramas are something she doesn’t have time for. Not now at the end of the world. She’s sick of the tide of their emotions, the ebb and flow between them that never seem to meet in the middle. Every step they take towards each other just pulls them further apart. He’s terrified; he’s turned himself inside out and what’s showing now is raw and bleeding; and she gets that, really she does. She’s been facing that fear every day, not knowing if she really deserves someone so unswervingly devoted, who adores her so much, when her own feelings are so hopelessly confusing.
Because seriously she just might love him. Its there, making her heart flutter and burst, but she’s yet to find words vast enough to tell him. An ‘I love you’ feels too small and trivial for all they’ve been through, yet they’re three damn words that stick on her tongue, the hardest of all to say. So she’d denied them, leaving them for better time when they’d really mean something.
She hopes that time is soon because she can’t stand it any more. She doesn't like seeing Spike scared like this. She wants him fearless, the way he was before she broke him; impulsive and needy, annoying and sarcastic, but also so strong, with such courage and that tangle of contradictions that change with perspective like a hologram. That very intensity that drove him throughout his existence, his tenacity and his stubbornness were now the very things that were destroying him. Crosses, fire, torture, sunlight, Slayers, he’d faced them all without fear, but it was love that brought him defeat. This distance between them is maddening and she wants it to end just as much, but they’re too close to the big finish to have the luxury of starting something now, she can’t afford that kind of distraction, even though it’s a lot to ask him to put off what’s happening to a later that may never come.
Selfishly, she wishes he had taken that leap of faith she knows he doesn’t have the nerve for, kissing her so she could finally kiss him the way she had never had before – because he was kissable and not because she wanted to lose herself in something other than her shitty life. He would have done that once without asking, grasping at the invitation in her eyes, taking and grabbing the slimmest opportunity, absolving her of the responsibility. The last time they’d kissed he’d been soulless, and she’d tasted death on his tongue, perilous and addictive. He’d seen it as cold comfort, but it never was, not really. She’d drawn strength from knowing that there was someone in the world that loved her the way that he did, even if she’d hated him for it, and she knows she’ll need more from him before the end. She wonders if he’ll taste sweeter or if the madness and heartbreak would linger.
But she knows such thoughts are indulgent. There’s too much about to happen for private moments like that. The battle is entering a new phase and it’s going to be the biggie. The board is set and the waiting game has started. There’s nothing left for any of them to do than to make peace with each other, make endings rather than starts. Maybe if they win, if they’re both still here, they can take that time, to learn the steps to their new dance. She could never hope to match all that passion inside him and she’s still not sure what she really wants, but she knows that one day, maybe even someday soon, it’ll be Spike.
Considering for a moment, letting her head drift back to the kitchen door, she wonders if… No. The scythe feels heavy in her hand, reminding her that there is something she still needs to do before she can sleep like the rest. Yup. Tonight they’ll go and be heroes, like he said, nothing else.
It’s what they do best after all.