Written for wisteria_, who wanted Post-Chosen, AtS Season 5 angst with lots of conversation and no character bashing. I hope this makes you feel a little better after your floods.
I was lucky to get exactly the assignment I wanted, as I wanted to explore some of the themes of my WIP but with Buffy in Italy. I hope I've fullfilled the 'lots of conversation' requirement, as it's not my strong suit. Lol.
I present to you:
Sunspots - Bogwitch
A call from L.A. wakes Buffy from sleep that dreams keep troubled.
It's the same dream night after night; full of flames and dust, and hands that burn together past agony to ecstasy, fusing together until she wakes from her disturbed REM, choking on loss and yet painfully aroused. She opens her eyes to a world sketched out in the charcoal greys of pre-dawn. It's early, still dark, but the first light of morning is seeping into the Roman sky, and she's panting with fear or grief or lust or maybe all of these.
The phone on the rough wooden table beside her is ringing, a low insistent buzz cutting through the silence. She has to stretch to reach the receiver, which tumbles clumsily into her hand.
"Buffy..?" The voice is weak, soft, unsure of itself but definitely familiar. So familiar that she doesn't grasp its significance at first. It's a sound she'd thought she would never hear again.
She's sleepy and not quite with it yet. "Spike, I'm trying to sleep…" she snaps. Then she stops and it feels like her heart does too.
"Sorry, I didn't…" is the reply, Spike's disappointment is evident, but she knows he won't push.
He's trying to withdraw from the conversation and she panics, even before she has grasped all the implications of his call. "Spike! No! Don't. Don't go," she adds a gentle, "please."
There's silence on the line but he hasn't hung up. Her eyes drift upward, staring at the patterns in the ceiling plaster that she can just about see in the ambient light. The phone cord curls unnoticed around her fingers as she twists it in tension. This is one of those significant moments from which the infinite possibilities of life branch away from each other. Depending on what she says now, her life will spin away along the path she picks. She mustn't get it wrong this time.
She can count the number of times Spike has called her on one hand. Mostly skilful seductions that ended in sizzling phone sex. Once upon a time, this call would have been all about the innuendo, whatever the subject they'd been taking about. Somehow he'd draw out her desires and leave her quivering in lust. This call is nothing like that; the feelings are raw and the call is as much about the things that aren't said as those that are.
"Hello, Pet," his tone is low, velvety and slightly raspy with emotion.
More silence. Two people who don't know what to say, but want to say so much. She's too shocked to start, doesn't know what to say if she could, even though she's full of questions.
"I'm back, Buffy."
"Is really it you?" she whispers, though her voice seems impossibly loud in the darkness. The question is inane, but it's all she can manage right now.
Somehow that statement breaks the awkward barrier between them. "Yeah, it's really me. Who did you think it was?"
She ignores him. "You're alive?"
"Still dead, Luv, but back from beyond, yeah."
Awake now, her guts are clenched. She feels light headed, her whole body fluttery in shock. This couldn't be happening. "How? Where are you? Are you okay?" The questions tumble out. She wants to know everything and now.
How does he explain the why's and how's to her when he doesn't know himself? How does he justify his second chance? She listens silently as he explains the events of the last few months. She's stunned by his turn as the ghost of Wolfram and Hart, but doesn't understand his hesitancy to tell her he'd returned. This is what she's wanted for so long. She'd grieved; suffering in silence around those who would never sympathize that he was no more. To them he was just another fading Sunnydale memory, but he's one of the few that she wants to remember.
Some days she'd be angry with him for making her believe that he'd never leave, when he lied and was gone like the rest. Other times she'd remind herself that he'd died to save her, to give them all new lives. Then she'd carry on with hers, trying to be happy that at least he'd died a hero, while still missing him like crazy.
Life has changed so much for Buffy in the few months since the Battle of the Hellmouth. It's good; she'd finally travelled, as she'd always wanted to do, the whole world opening up before her as she closed in on herself. Everywhere she'd been in that time she'd found herself reminded of him; of how much he'd become part of her life, of how much she felt for him and the love that had ignited in her heart with a scorching hand clasp. Distance from the crater didn't make the feelings any dimmer when she carried them in her heart.
Eventually she'd looked for somewhere to settle. London had been an obvious choice, but for a Californian girl it had been too cold. A flimsy excuse given to concerned friends, when too many voices that sounded like Spike and she couldn't tune them out. She'd found that Italy was better, a country so foreign to her and so unlike anywhere she's ever seen that it felt like a more natural choice to escape to, even if she doesn't always feel like a part of the place. The chic Italian ladies make her feel dowdy, as they link arms with the Roman men. The men here are so dark; eyes and hair and skin, so handsome, so stylish. Their language rolls off their tongues like silk. There was a good reason why Buffy had chosen Italy. These men look nothing like him.
In Rome the sun shines on her face, like a little piece of home, but it was one of those cities made for lovers. She'd walk through the pretty plazas alone and it'd felt like there was an empty space beside her, his absence an endless echo. She'd tried to lose herself in the art of the architecture and the statues of nude, muscled heroes, athletes and gods she doesn't know. But somehow, that made her feel worse. Everywhere she was surrounded by physical perfection, but it was the sculpture of his body she missed. She'd looked at the cold smoothness of marble faces, and wished that she'd had another chance to touch the cool stone of his alabaster skin like a lover, while his strong arms were here to hold her through long nights of loneliness and the times when she's missed him most and thought she'd never love again.
And he's been back in this world all the time.
"Well, you know what they say, life's a bitch and then you don't die," she covers up the hurt with flippancy, but it makes him smile, she can sense it even this many miles away.
"Just another thing we have in common, Luv."
Yet another of those silences as they find the words to say to each other. She doesn't want to fill the void with irrelevant chatter, or with the minutiae of her new Italian life, but she hasn't the nerve to broach the important things; to get at that tangle of stuff that hangs between them unresolved. She knows he wouldn't want to know what she's going to say, while hanging on for every last word. She wants to tell him all those things he wants to hear and never found the time to tell him.
"I've missed you," she blurts out. It seems like an understatement for her heart once lost in dust, blood and bone, now fluttering slowly back to life.
"So are you going to come here?"
"Should I come to you?"
He sighed, "I've been trying to get over you for a long time. I don't think it's a good idea."
"Spike, it's alright. I…"
"I'm sorry. I just thought you should know. I don't expect anything from you."
She doesn't know what to say, to prove to him that it's all right when she's made so many mistakes with words. He's always heard what he's wanted to hear, even if it was not what she'd been trying to say. She'd told him that again and again that she wanted normal and that she didn't want him. Well, her life would never be normal, and suddenly she didn't want it to be. But it's important now that he understands what she's feeling, that he doesn't dismiss her words like he had when he'd died. It had to count this time, it has to be perfect, because it was so simple to break a heart, but she had no idea how to fix one.
"You're an amazing person, Spike. And I love that about you," she wishes she could see his face, with Spike the detail was in his micro-expressions - all 1001 of them. She needs to know how he feels, and suddenly it's the most important thing in the world that he still loves her.
She holds her breath for his reply.