a sorta fairytale
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Note: The lyric and title used here were pilfered from this song.
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/ the honey spread itself so thin / for me to break your bread / for me to take your word / i had to steal it /
Her life is an accident. She still thinks this way sometimes.
She's drying dishes, and sashaying her hips to the song that's on the radio. Doesn't even know what it is, and it's driving her crazy. It's Oldies Sunday, and she's not old. She's very, very old. Buffy's washing. Periodically, she turns and flings soapsuds at her sister. "Bitch," Dawn says pleasantly. Buffy is alive with fragile happiness. She can't talk to Buffy.
She used to talk to him, to Spike. Wonders if in the dim season, Buffy actually talked to him too, or if it was just this thing they had, where they made bruises upon bruises. Probably. Buffy doesn't talk to anyone.
Spike's pretty old. He knows how to waltz, but she could never convince him to teach her how. He swore to her he'd been at Woodstock, and did his part to conserve the peace, man. If Spike were here, Dawn thinks, he would know what the song was. Too bad she hates him now.
At the breakfast table one morning, it suddenly seems imperative that she know. "Buffy? Did you, like, talk to Spike? Ever?"
Buffy puts her coffee mug down. A bit sloshes over the rim. "Dawn," she says strangely.
"You talked to him, didn't you? When you wouldn't talk to any of us?" To me.
"I talked to him," Buffy says finally, in defeat. "Sometimes. I did, yes. But, Dawn, you've got to understand. You depended on me. All of you. And I didn't have to, to care around him. About what he'd think of me, or, you know."
"No, I don’t think I do.” But she does, of course. Knows what it feels like, to be able to be herself. With Spike it was easy, and it had never been easy back then.
"I didn't care about him. So, it was like I was talking to myself, really." Buffy stops; seemingly disturbed by the way her words have strung themselves together.
And Dawn thinks of the way Spike had looked at Buffy, the way he still looks at her with his face that’s the same, and then she doesn’t know what to think anymore.
On a Thursday, Buffy comes back from the corner store with a carton of milk, a bag of Florida oranges, and a pack of cigarettes that she attempts to hide behind her back.
“He’s kinda flammable,” Dawn says, carefully neutral. “You sure you wanna give those to him?”
“Not that you care,” Buffy murmurs. Rhetorical.
“No,” Dawn agrees anyway. She stares.
Buffy turns away from her and puts the milk in the fridge. She slices an orange into six sections, and licks some citrus juice from her wrist. “You want?”
“Sure.” Dawn leans up against the counter, and pokes at a piece of orange, looking for seeds. The pack of cigarettes lies where Buffy had tossed it, between them.
“You wanna know how I got this scar?” Spike had asked her once. Fingers flew to his eyebrow, and he’d seemed wanting, somehow. His pride was desperate.
“Tell me,” she said. Whatever. He was always desperate over something.
A pause. “Another time, love. Scurry on home, now.”
“It’s still early.”
“Look, get the fuck out, yeah? To me, it’s late. It’s really too fucking late.”
“Spike?” she’d whispered.
He’d jerked his coat on, and armored in leather, jerked his thumb towards the door of the crypt. “Bloody hell. I’ll walk you, all right? Just stop looking at me. Don’t look at me.”
She’d watched him cautiously, out of the corner of her eye, all the way to Revello. He’d just chain-smoked and looked like himself, and she couldn’t figure out what she’d done wrong; couldn’t even figure out what was going on enough to be pissed at him.
“It’s not too late,” she told him brazenly, as he stood at the bottom of the steps, waiting for her to go inside. It seemed like the thing to say.
“You have no earthly clue what you’re on about,” Spike had said. But he’d flashed her a wolf’s grin, and they were okay again.
One day while everyone was in research-mode, she’d done some research of her own. Snatched up one of Giles’s Watcher-y books and retreated into the training room with everything that didn’t mean anything anymore.
Spike was listed in the index under the title of Bloody, William the. That made her giggle, a bit. She thought about how he could always make her smile, kept trying to remember that about him as she read about the things he had done, oh God, the things he had done. The edge of a page crumbled beneath her touch.
“There now, bit. Careful with that. Old merchandise, I suspect.” He loomed above her, like a specter, and she merely blinked up at him as if she were unable to recognize him. “Innit? Chock full of old things. Old words, old blood—”
She stood, apart from him. Coltish legs. A mouth that trembled. “Stop it,” that mouth managed.
“Baby-doll,” he murmured, softer. Catching the brightness of her eyes, and speaking as if he were trying for sweet. Oh, but he could be sweet. Was it an act? Was it? Everything about the way she felt about him had always been so uncomplicated, even while everything else went to hell. She didn’t want that to change. Make it better, Spike. Fix it. “Look, don’t expect me to apologize for anything.” He threw his arms out dramatically, and then let them fall to his sides when he received no reaction from her. “I haven’t the capacity for—”
“You’re sorry Buffy’s dead,” she blurted out, like the child she was always trying to pretend she wasn’t. “You are; I know you are! I know it.”
“That I am.” His answer was delayed and his tone was scarily neutral. She recalled that at that time, in that place, he’d been nearly incoherent with grief. I can love. I can. Don’t say that I can’t. Buffy.
“I know,” she said, like she’d said then. Calmer, she studied him. Old leather, old eyes, old blood on his hands. Yes. “Do you miss it? The murdering and the maiming, and all that jazz?”
“All that jazz,” he repeated, and smiled. “S’what I am, yeah?” But her heart had stopped slamming up against her ribcage, and she just felt— sad. Like, really, really sad. She wished he wouldn’t smile anymore. It looked like it hurt him. She knew it hurt her.
She knew he didn’t want to hurt her.
“Then how come you’re, you know, here? How come you take care of me, and how come—” Tripped over her words. “How come you love me, Spike? I’m not like them. I didn’t make you, like what’s-her-name, and I don’t want to kill you, like—”
“Never said I love you,” Spike interrupted. Wouldn’t look at her. “And where’d you get the notion that I only fall for a girl once she’s had a stake, metaphorical or otherwise, to my heart?” A pause. “As it were,” he added ruefully. Smiled again, a private smile.
Dawn scowled, or tried to. She didn’t want to think about things like that anymore. Spike used to tell her all these bedtime, daytime, anytime stories about little girls in coal-bins and women with bodies built like sparrows, and blood. So much blood, and she’d always wanted more.
It’s different now. Has been ever since her sister fell from the sky like the clouds were too much for her. Like one of Spike’s kills, broken-necked. Broken.
Oh, God. “I got it from you,” she managed. It was almost a scream. “You’re so easy to figure out, you know that? It’s like reading a book.”
“Guess it’s because you love me back,” Spike blurted out abruptly.
“One of those ones with the really, really big print!”
“That’s new,” he continued. It was almost inaudible, and it took her a moment to catch up to him, or to backtrack, or whatever. Another moment to realize that he still wouldn’t look at her.
“I don’t,” Dawn said quickly. “Love you.”
“Right, then.” Spike touched her shoulder and it was a gentle, deathly touch. He motioned to the open book at their feet. “What brought all this about?”
“Bored,” she told him. “Not like they ever let me do anything around here.”
And then she was crying messily onto his shirtfront. She could feel her blood pumping away, feel it all going to her head, and she wondered if he could feel it too, if he wanted it, wanted her dead, and she made herself stop thinking about that. I do love you, Spike. I love you, almost all of the time. Love you.
“Don’t wear it out, pet,” he urged her, as if he were serious. “It won’t seem so new anymore.”
She hit her fist against his chest, ineffectually. “You jerk,” she said, leaning into him. “What-the-fuck-ever.”
She’d gone to see him in the basement, once. Had to let him know, but she found it hard to tell someone you hated them when they’d pressed themselves into a corner in the way they’d pressed themselves into your heart, like they really needed to be there.
Spike spoke of chalk and of how he could never hold onto it. “I can’t hold onto anything,” he told her despairingly, and he was everything he’d always been, inversed.
“Good,” she shot back.
And then there were tears, and she was biting her tongue, she was trying to hold them in because there was no one left to hold her now.
4:12. The digital numbers stick to the back of her eyelids, red and hot, and something is ringing and ringing and ringing.
“He goes out,” Dawn tries a few minutes later, barely awake. Has to try. “Doesn’t he? I mean, I thought— he goes out.”
“Yeah,” Buffy says. Braless, fumbling a shirt on. “But this is different. Sunrise is— And Xander thinks there’s something wrong.”
“Well, yeah,” Dawn mutters.
“Don’t do that.” Buffy doesn’t even look like her sister for a moment. Looks unfocused, eyes big in her head. “He came back, but he’s not wrong. That’s not something you should say.”
“Buffy?” she questions tentatively.
“I’m sorry,” Buffy says weakly. Seems to focus. “I’m just not really awake yet, you know? That’s all.” She comes over and kisses Dawn’s cheek. “Try and get some sleep, okay? I’ll be here when you wake up. Promise.”
But Dawn notices the small things now, has had all kinds of promises broken, and that’s not one of the things she’ll ever be sure of.
She does sleep, briefly. Then she wakes up and remembers the first time she saw a stranger in her sister’s body.
“Go upstairs, Dawnie,” Buffy had said. Thin-lipped and sharp-shouldered. “Go.”
“Lay off, Slayer,” Spike said. “What am I gonna do? Would I come this far, and sabotage it for—” For what, Dawn had wondered wildly. For what? “I’m here making a pact with the bloody Angel of Prissiness, for fuck’s sake!”
Dawn supposed that made him the Devil of the Really Cool Accent. Or maybe not. Buffy didn’t look all that impressed. “All right, whatever. What’s the deal? I don’t have time for this. And Dawn, go—”
The first thing Spike ever said to her was, “Kid just wants to sit here. Be a part of things.” He raised an eyebrow at her, the scarred one. “That right?”
Dawn had nodded mutely.
She was eleven. She didn’t really exist, wasn’t even really there, but she didn’t know that yet.
“Spike! The deal.”
It’s bright in her mind, now. The way Spike had turned back to Buffy in that predatory way of his. The way the cadence of his voice had slipped from something almost amiable into— something else. “Simple. You let me and Dru skip town, I help you kill Angel.”
“Come on, sweetie.” Her mother’s hand clasped hers then, and it was trembling, and Dawn would have cried, she was so scared of something, and maybe she was scared of Spike, but she wouldn’t let him see her cry. She wouldn’t.
Which is hilarious, looking back on it. Except, not. How many times has she wept in his presence? Wilted against him like a flower, knowing what he was, and everything, and oh God, him calling her his sweet girl, the melodramatic idiot. I’ll look out for you forever. Literally, yeah?
No. She knows now that it’s too late for that, just like he said. No more forevers for them.
Still, she dresses in the dark.
She finds him beside the stone angel. The one without any eyes and a gaze of nothing more than flat gray slate. "Hi," she begins, nervous. Trying to make her voice sound hard, but it goes all wobbly on her. She's got a stake, but she can't even make her voice work properly. Feels very open to any vamp within a five-mile radius. She'd make an easy kill. Spike would probably just stand there dazedly while she got all snack-food-y.
Unless he decided to be the one to make a killing. Stupid. Stupid. What is she doing here?
"Spike," she hisses. "Come on." The fear makes her sound hard, but not at all like she'd wanted it to.
Nevertheless, it produces the desired effect. Spike blinks as if awakening from a long, unfathomable dream, and she can't look at that awful, sightless angel anymore, she just can't. Spike looks blank enough. "There were church bells," he murmurs. "And I couldn't hear them. I tried. I tried."
"I'm sure you did," Dawn says tremulously. Her stomach's doing this crazy, spirally thing, like she's going to throw up.
He seems to focus upon her. "Shouldn't be here. All number of beasties out and about, night like this."
All number of beasties between here and there. Bet they'd really go for a little red riding hood like you.
She remembers that. Remembers him. He'd been a lion, with blue eyes. She'd wanted to tame him, her very own pet vampire. Had been enamored with him. The coat, the swagger, the hair. The Big Bad persona was fun. He could be dangerous, she knew. But he'd never hurt her, never ever.
She hadn't known anything. She'd been fifteen. He was a killer and he was her best friend.
"A night like this is every night," she says now. At Spike's bewilderment, she sighs. "Spike, let's go. I wanna go."
"You should be careful."
"I am," she assures him. In the way that I'm not at all, but hey.
"Good." And then, like a changing of the tide, "I’m not always real, you know. I’m not always me. I'm glad I could tell you. It's good. Good advice, that. Good."
He trails off helplessly, and Dawn's left there in the silence, all alone. "It's okay," she says, softening. "I'm not real, either. Remember?" He doesn't answer her. "Well, I haven't forgotten," she continues, and now it's as if it's being torn out of her. "What I am."
"Dawn." He doesn't call her anything else now. She wishes he would. She'd hate him more if he did. She wants to hate him, so much.
Instead, she finds herself speaking; talking to him again. "Sometimes I think that these things that are happening— are me. Are because of me.”
“Why would you think that?” And his voice has gone soft and sharp and familiar.
“That’s the way it was last time,” she nearly gasps. “You know it. I know you know it. I’m not right, Spike. My life is an accident.”
"No. Your life is." Spike is momentarily fierce, Spike-like, but then he's fumbling in his pocket for something and not looking at her anymore, and she's lost him. She's lost him again, the bastard.
"Well, yeah," she says, trying for dismissive. "That all you've got?"
Spike lights a cigarette, the flame briefly illuminating his terrible, beautiful face. "I'm glad for that, is all," he mumbles.
She's touched. Watches him for a long time, this not-man that she'd used to call her friend. The fingers that tremble a bit beneath her scrutiny. The cigarette that he lets go to ash. Gently, she takes it from him.
"I could be glad for you again, sometime," she allows, and in the quiet before Buffy finds them, she tosses the butt to the ground, where the ember flickers back to life. Burns itself out.