All About Spike

Scarborough Fair
By Lesley

This story is a companion piece to Root Systems. Both go AU after S7 TKIM and S4 ATS Soulless. The two form a diptych with the elder story telling the facts, and this story the emotions of the journey Spike and Willow take in a post-apocalyptic world, whilst also taking them much further forward in time. The title of each snapshot of their lives come from the Simon and Garfunkel canticle version of the traditional English folk song, Scarborough Fair.

Willow and Spike interweave their tale together to form a canticle of their own.

English folk songs are often darker than they appear. This one is.

Warning: This is a bleak, dark world they inhabit, and the story reflects that. It also contains images which some people may find disturbing and references to character deaths. NC17.

Dedication: Lori, Magpie, Lovesbitca, Roseann and Karen - they know why.

Between the Salt Water and the Sea Strand

Hands still clutched together they wake naked on the beach. Moonlight gleams on pale skin and paler hair. Where Sunnydale had been there is nothing but devastation, leaving only the unsullied beauty of the sea strand, and a witch and a vampire stripped of everything and everyone. They'd lain mercifully unaware for some hours, as broken bones healed leaving only bruises and small cuts as a visible reminder of shared loss, before mercy withdraws, as it always does for these two, and they stumble back into knowledge and pain.

"The teeth, Spike, the teeth," Willow whimpers as her mind tries to capture what she'd seen in those last moments and recoils from it. She sits up shuddering, drawing him up with her.

"Took her. Saw it when I was trying to hold onto you," Spike's voice cracks. He pulls her closer needing something/her/anyone, but needing.

"It hurts." Her tears sting the tiny cuts the sand had made in her face and blend with his as their cheeks touch and her broken voice whispers, "They're gone?"

Her tears and her need for comfort burn into his own wounds. "I know. She's gone. All gone. Gotta take care of you. Promised, I did. Not going to fail her. Failed her too much. Not failing in this, not the last thing I ever said to her." Spike caresses her hair, with the hand not still anchored to her own.

"Take care of me, Spike?" Her free hand strokes the sand and dried blood from the silk of his back.

"Always." He seals his fate and kisses her.

She pours her pain into his mouth as her hands pull him down on top of her. He worships his promise into her breasts, suckling her closer to escape. She feeds on the salt of his skin while feeling consumed, feeling so desperately wanted, drives him higher. Her hands knead his ass as her need swallows him as surely as her cunt. He thrusts his loss into her as she wraps her legs around him never to let go. Pleasure grafts with grief. Need entwines with orgasm, as the waves of ecstasy bind them together, never to be able to let the other go, no matter how much they might want to.

Make Me a Cambric Shirt

He doesn't love her.

He doesn't love her the way he loved them. He loved Cecily and it killed him; of course it killed her too later on, and his demon still gets hard over that one, though the man shudders away from the memory. He loved Dru and she pulled him into a whirlpool of ecstasy, decades upon decades of dancing his merry way over corpses, until he failed; failed to be evil enough for the likes of her, and losing her killed the Slayer of Slayers. He loved Buffy so much he tried to kill his own demon to be what she deserved.

He failed; the demon's still there. It's the only thing that keeps him from dissolving into the Santa Ana winds - that and his promises. Sometimes he curses that the English Gentleman he's never truly managed to get rid of still believes 'my word is my bond'. It's not as if hasn't already been black-balled from the Club of Life. He knows now how far beyond the pale he'll always be. He takes comfort that his promise means he has to stick around for a few more decades, until Willow's gone, but then he's free to go. Free to go to his love, to her sister who loved him for a while, even to her friends who hated him, but let him live. He hopes that saving the world four times will let him into that warm loving place Buffy told him about, even if he has to go through the servants' entrance to get there.

The soul made him know she'd never love him; not the way he loved her, but losing her still killed him. It just left him walking, talking, crying, and fucking Willow. It was ironic really; he'd have been safely swallowed in the Hellmouth alongside his beloved and her friends if not for his promise. When he closes his eyes he still sees the teeth, still sees them consume his love, and spit him out. He's always been chewed up and spat out.

He takes comfort in Willow. She's got none to give. She needs every piece of comfort he can give her. It breaks all the rules of physics, but two people with nothing left to give still adds up to something. He's just trying to work out what.

Gather it all in a Bunch of Heather

She misses her hands.

She'd kill right now to be able to scratch her nose, but her hands are currently in the Hyperion's safe. She'd float something across the room to scratch that itch if there was anything movable left in the room. But there isn't. Spike and Angel took everything out when she started to lose it. She'd smashed the room up aiming the shards of furniture at her own head. She even destroyed the television Spike brought her to take her mind off, well, everything. She knows she destroys everything and everyone, but most of all herself.

Lacking diplomatic relations with her lungs she can only speak to them with her mind.

That little trick freaked Connor out big time. He told her, "My Father, my true father, taught me, 'thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.' He was right." Angel dragged him out of the room, before Spike could kill the brat. She still heard the arguments. Connor blaming magic and Angel for demonising Cordy and killing her. Angel blaming himself for that, and blaming Spike for bringing Willow here to bring about this new conflict. Spike blaming Connor for upsetting her, and blaming Angel for everything from destroying Dru through to Buffy.

She listens to them argue, fight, and bleed, because if she didn't she'd have to face the truth. If she does she starts to gibber. Once she starts to gibber, her denial - her science - slips away, and her magic tells her what's happened to her. She can't face that truth. The magic petrifies her. Its truth, the tendrils she feels suffusing her every molecule, is beyond the horror of everything she ever saw crawl, creep, and chitter out of the Hellmouth. It's been a month. She's seen CSI, she's read Gray's Anatomy - she should be decayed. She's not. She's in more parts than a Tony Soprano victim, yet her parts remain alive, and she can feel them. The truth the magic's trying to tell her is that it will not let her go, ever. She can't let herself know it. If she does she'll know that she might never see Tara again, and that's unbearable.

She's had so much to bear in the last days, months, years, that the reservoir, of hope, of love, of her, which she had to keep her going has run dry. Spike's kept it from cracking so far, but she doubts he can stop it crumbling if what she deep down knows is true. She's fighting seeing the truth, because it's an impossible truth. She knows it has to be impossible; she's a science nerd. She clings to science to save her.

Human life and all systems tend towards entropy. Humans die. She's human, she has a pulse, she can go out in the sun, she lives, therefore, she can die. She just hasn't found how yet. She will. There has to be an answer. She's just not formulated the experiment properly yet. A plus B equals C - human plus instrument of death equals return to Tara. She reviews her notes in her mind. Poison dosages in different coloured pens, execution methods, the mystical means she knows and has tried; all with the same ill-logical result - she can't die.

She wants to die with every fibre of her being. The only thing she wants more is Tara, and Tara's gone and she failed to bring her back. She denied her friend heaven. She knows she deserves to lose it too. It doesn't stop her wanting it, wanting her.

She weeps. Spike comes in regularly and wipes away her tears. He moisturises her face where the tears chap her skin. He washes her hair, just as he washed away her blood when Angel dismembered her. Spike talks to her. Occasionally she even talks back to his mind. With her lungs and the rest of her upper torso in the hotel meat locker it's the best she can do, and she's failing. She knows she increasingly makes very little sense, but she can't help that. Each time she tries to talk, to tell them, she spirals downwards closer into madness. She knows she's getting closer to insanity each time she faces how real, how disgustingly, horribly, un-naturally wrong, this is, but she can't help it. When it's not cyanide, strychnine, bullets, explosives, fire, acid, dosage and timing charts she gibbers. She hates gibbering. She's Willow, and babbling was always of the good, but gibbering, so not her.

So she cries.

Spike cries too. He takes her head down from the alcove and holds her. He strokes her hair, talks to her, tries to make her laugh, tells her he'll not leave her even if she's only a disembodied head, and tries to comfort her. When that fails he kisses her. That fails too; all he tastes is salt. She can feel him touch her, but she can also feel her right leg vibrate in the box next to the washer-drier in the basement; she can feel all her parts, and kissing is not enough.

The only thing that kept her going before she was shot, before this, was his cock, him inside her - the oak to her mistletoe. Him, heavier than he looks, wrapped around her keeping her snug, blanketed in comfortable death, anchored to life, tethered to sanity. She hasn't had enough of a statistically significant sample to judge his penis by, and her data series is hardly a representative survey, not that she'd ever want enough for a scientific paper anyway. She still wants a woman, Tara, who she'll never touch again, but the solid weight of him in her hands is like nothing else. Oz was alive, and a werewolf, but still a boy. Spike's dead, and a vampire, but he's a man in her hands, and her cunt, and she needs him.

What she wants is to bury her face in Tara's soft breasts, but she can't. Each traitor thought that she'll never ever be together with Tara again chips away another sliver of sanity. His cock inside her saved her on that beach; she needs him to do it again. She has to have him to cling to, even now when she's nothing but a collection of body parts, and that makes her sick.

She'll not tell him that she wants him as she is. She can't lose him to disgust at her. She'll tell him that this latest and last experiment's failed. She'll have to hope that two souled vampires and a magic hating freak can put Humpty Dumpty back together again. She can feel her bits, so she hopes not to end up as an omelette. She'll draw her conclusions from her studies then she'll watch as her sanity shatters. He couldn't fuck Drusilla back from madness; maybe he'll have better luck with her - it's the only hope she has left.

An Acre of Land

Spike's digging Angel's grave.

She rather wishes he wouldn't enjoy the task so much. She liked Angel, well, up until the time he threatened to kill her, killed her fish, oh, and Miss Calendar, but he did save her life so she did sort of like him again. A friend that will dismember you to help you try to die is a true friend indeed, and she's grateful. She'd mind less about Spike's palpable joy if they hadn't saved the world together with Angel and Connor. But it makes no difference. Spike hates Angel, Angel hates Spike; it's one of the eternal truths of the universe. Spike's yet to break into a jig, but the singing tends to give him away, and the broad grin each time he thrusts the shovel into the earth makes it obvious.

Angel is so changed. So old; so shrivelled.

She hates it. It frightens her. She'll never let this happen to Spike. She sees the human prune lying unable to walk in the cavern of his room and she can't recognise the burly vampire she's known most of her life, and expected to continue to know for decades more at the very least. She only recognised him from peering inside his mind. She felt him shanshu, anguish permeating every molecule of Angel's body as he watched his son die, face still turned away from the father he hated. She heard one heart stop and another start. She watched as Angel looked in the mirror and saw the ageing he'd missed fall on him two years a day. She knew his final furious realisation that he'd been screwed by the Powers That Be, felt his fear that he was still damned, and the horror he'd felt at Spike seeing him like this.

Spike had enjoyed the sight.

He'd been good, well for Spike. He'd not actually laughed in 'Peaches' face. Though since Angel was blind with cataracts and nearly deaf, by the time they'd been able to get back to the ruined hotel, he'd have largely been spared the experience anyway.

The Hyperion hadn't been in one piece since the long ignored fault below downtown blew and made people's fears about 'The Big One' look like a teddy bear's picnic in comparison. The fires had taken half the hotel, along with The Chinese Theatre and Rodeo Drive. Only the aftershock that finally slid half the town into the Pacific had saved the rest of Angel's lair, as the collapse of the damaged part slowed the flames long enough for them to be extinguished.

Angel had refused to leave his home. She'd asked him to, but he'd always refused. He'd never given her a good answer. She only found out when she looked into his head. He'd buried his loved ones in the garden, and he wouldn't leave them. She respects his privacy. She doesn't tell him she knows. She let him stay in the intact wing of the hotel. She'll ask him mind to mind where he wants to be buried. It's a farce really. She already knows the answer, she's got Spike digging the hard soil already, but she'll let Angel have the illusion of choice - she's his friend, and that's what friends do.

She's got it planned. Angel's told her that he'll leave her and, most reluctantly, Spike everything he has. He'd never been happy with her relationship with Spike but she'd made sure he accepted it. Sometimes she feels a little guilty about using Lethe's Bramble to help the stubborn vampire see sense, but she knows she saved both of her vampires some bloodshed that way, so she lives with it.

It's arranged. She's getting a family of good demons to live in the basement. They will tend the garden and make sure the rest of the hotel remains as it should be. She'll ward the suite of rooms with Angel's and soon to be her and Spike's possessions in them. She can't stand the thought of living in this ruin, as the memories here both pull and repel her, but she knows she'll be back, and that Spike will too. When they do their memories will be safe for them.

In a way Angel had been lucky. The destruction of most of LA from the fires, the quake itself, and the shift of much of the city into the ocean, meant that LA made a poor terrorist target, and escaped accordingly, unlike New York, Washington, Miami, Chicago and Philadelphia. The wars and governmental chaos as the world economy collapsed meant that there was no money to rebuild even a non-radioactive city, so most people left it. Demons didn't; they'd been attracted, giving Angel and Connor plenty of punching bags to take their pain at each other out on. She remembers those times with joy. She and Spike had played too, until the two vampires had snapped at each other one too many times and they'd had to leave. She'd used her magic to fight, secure in the certainty that three super-strong men wouldn't let her made into more of a walking cripple than she already was. She'd enjoyed that. Spike protected her when they were alone - except when she left him to try and find a new Tara, but they always disappointed her, so she always returned to her vampire - but she'd loved having three men to look after her.

Angel had become a hermit, other than when demon fighting, but his rooms had always been tidy to the point of obsessive-compulsive. They aren't now. Everything Angel possessed, everything his lost loved ones possessed, everything Connor ever touched, is all in piles near Angel's bed, where he'd touched them until he could no longer see them or move them for visitors. He won't let her move them now they're here, and he's never had any other visitors.

Spike visits, shaking the soil from his boots on Angel's best Persian rug. They've nothing to say to each other that they haven't already said a hundred times, and neither can break the pattern even now.

Willow limps into the garden, approves the hole next to the barren patch where she knows Angel burnt the thing that Cordelia became. She felt the weight of his guilt over killing her, and knows that the thought of laying next to even a trace of her for eternity gives Angel some comfort. With Connor's grave on his other side he'll rest with those he loved. She envies him the chance, but she eases her aching bones down to the earth, and lets Angel's memories guide her as she opens herself to her power.

She sees Wesley's broken body buried next to Lilah, in matching plastic. She pulls a high-bred rose with sharp, sharp thorns through the earth, and watches as blood-red roses bloom across their graves. The Not-Cordelia found it funny to reduce Fred down to bones only, no skin. Willow draws yellow roses over the box that contains the Texan. A sturdy tree erupts from the stony soil above Gunn, and shades his girl and his English. Carnations bloom over Lorne's big heart and mutilated body. She tries to give Cordelia flowers in honour of the girl that she'd grown to like, on a really weird level, but she's too contaminated by darkness and the soil remains bare. She doesn't know what flowers to give Angel. She wishes she could turn the site of the Hellmouth into a garden for those she loves. She can't; it's sterile. So she gives what she'd kill to give to Tara to Angel's loved ones instead, and she waters the flowers with her tears.

The fine control she's used tires her and when Spike yells to her she can't get up. Her skin's broken and weeping along with the rest of her, and her knees refuse to support her weight, slight though it is, so she has to call Spike to her. He comes running, lifts her safe into his arms and kisses away her tears. When she stops crying he tells her Angel's going and carries her inside to say goodbye.

Angel 's barely there enough to hear it, but she does. She hates to say goodbye. She's said it too often, and been denied the chance to say it too much. She knows she's got very few goodbyes left in her.

Spike buries Angel, as he'd long dreamt of but never believed possible. It gives him satisfaction to pile the soil on that hated face, but he's surprised to find, as he piles the last sod of earth on Angel's grave, his inner lost boy is scared. He's lost his last piece of family. It truly is just him and Willow now, and that scares the hell out of him. He'd always hated Angel, but he'd always been there to blame, and now he's not. His screw-ups will be his own responsibility, and if there's one thing Spike is certain of it's that he'll screw up.

He tries to find someone to love. He makes a damned fine stab at it sometimes. He's had whole years with both a lover and a Willow friend. But he's always lost them, and he's always taken refuge in his Willow. He's almost getting used to losing his girlfriends, though it never stops it hurting. He's not sure he'll ever be used to getting rid of Peaches; he's overshadowed his life for over two hundred years after all. But he's willing to give it a try, like he keeps trying to find love, over and over again.

For now, Willow says words from many faiths over Angel's grave, then raises lilies for the dead over his grave, where they mix with Connor's wild-flowers. Spike covers his own confusion with a joke that she should have raised a creeper instead. She punches him in the arm, but it hurts her fragile bones more than it does him. He sees her wince and kisses her knuckles better. It doesn't. All her pains are bone deep. But she allows him to carry her upstairs so they can find comfort and distraction in each other, despite the pain it causes her broken body.

A Sickle of Leather

He loves seeing her smile.

She has a beautiful smile, beaten only by the squeals and giggling fit she's currently in. He loves making her smile, and laugh, and glow even more, and he's succeeded big time. He can feel the massive grin on his own face. It gets even bigger as he shakes the salt water from his hair all over her, kisses her face, getting her soaked, and she makes the adorable 'eep' 'eek' noises, and, his personal favourite, the, "You are so in trouble for that, Mister!" He knows he's going to get spanked tonight and he can't wait.

He knew it was a great idea to go loco down in Acapulco.

Her face when he'd told her his idea had been a picture. She'd accused him of having an Elvis fetish, but the way her nose did a Bewitched twitch at the image made it worth being accused of bad fashion sense. He'd kissed her nose and she'd giggled happily and said she wanted to see him do it. The way she'd laughed as he danced, sang, and whirled up the hill with her in his arms was music to his ears. The bottle of Jack Daniels he'd found in the bar overlooking the cliff and the two shot glasses he'd cleaned enough to toast her before setting off was a beautiful bonus.

She's beautiful tonight. She's in a good mood. She wants to make him happy. She's put on the 'face, hair, and fuzzy sweater he first noticed her in' glamour he loves. Underneath the so tangible illusion her hair now matches the picture she makes under the moonlight. They'd found hair dye in one of the shops deserted for two hundred years and done each other's hair. He looks like Spike, he even feels like Spike, and it's bloody wonderful.

Her squeal at the sight of the waves crashing at the base of the weathered cliff-face, and the way she kisses him before he sets off, barefoot and shirtless, up the long destroyed route to the ledge, makes him feel loved, wanted, cared for by a woman he's made happy. The feeling of freedom when he dives into the ocean - even though the sea level is higher than when he'd last been by, before the rise in sea level - it's cleansing. Her happiness, her pride at him, and the gleeful squeals when he climbs back up to her and she pulls him into a kiss are the sweetest balm to his soul. It's marvellous.

It's a relief.

She hasn't smiled until tonight since they'd left Argentina, and that's a long walk for a cripple and a combustible vampire. They'd not been able to teleport. They'd tried it before, to allow them freedom from California, the dustbowl that of the Mid-West, and the wreckage that was most of North America, but, after the unfortunate incident where they'd materialised five hundred feet above Cartagena, they'd decided to walk until Willow learnt more control over her powers. Spike's petrified that next time they'd land over water and Willow would keep drowning over and over again. She's too frail to swim, and he dreads not being able to find her.

Colombia hadn't turned out too bad, once their bones mended. There'd even be some people dwelling behind the old stone walls, and booze, really strong blessed booze. It had been pure rot-gut but Spike had spent a happy week at the bottom of many bottles. Willow had found the best fruit juices she'd ever tasted, and poured some of them down his throat when he was ready to come back from his holiday. Then the 'dos Wills' had danced to drums and guitars with the first friendly locals they'd found in a long time. She'd smiled at him and all was right with his world.

They'd decided to try and stay away from the annual trip to the Hellmouth. Willow would scry from a distance and they'd put miles and their best efforts at trying to free themselves from it in a new continent. Spike had breathed a massive sigh of relief at the treason. He wanted nothing better than to be in Europe, Asia, anywhere but North America and the quicksand of pain that it was for him. He'd known that his Europe was gone. London long since destroyed, Paris nuked - without even a chance to surrender, the essential Englishman in him can't help but snark - Prague part of the fused radioactive glass that forms most of Central Europe.

He doesn't mind about Prague. He has a soul now, but his memories of it are blasted by the horrors he and Dru did there and the horror perpetuated on Dru in return, and he can't help but smile at the thought of those who hurt his girl suffering and dead. He still wears her ring.

South America holds memories of his past sins too.

He remembers the taste of limes on the lips of his victims in Rio, and the beer, blood, and blocos of Salvador. There's none of his favourite Antarctica beer now in Rio - there's no Sao Paulo or Rio, both long since nuked. The 'dois Wills' tried Salvador, whose music he'd loved, but it had degenerated into a horror worthy of Hieronymus Bosch, and they stood out too much as a target. He hates having to kill to protect them both. His soul screams at each fresh drop of blood on his stained hands. He knows Willow hates it too, but neither have a choice in a kill or be killed world, so they hold onto each other like children lost and bloody in the ruins, and kiss the blood from each other's fingers.

It was Buenos Aires that nearly broke them.

He'd wanted to see if there was any taste left there from his days of tango, red wine and redder blood with Dru. There was no music, but there was blood all right - a cannibal cult. A cult that nearly took Willow's new girlfriend for dinner. He'd saved her, but he'd had to slaughter the slavering hoards to do it. Her face at seeing the blood dripping from his fangs and fists had shown everything. Willow lost her.

She'd been the first girl his Willow had tried to find anything with in decades. He'd always encouraged her to try, been there whenever she needed him, been around generally, made nice, but it had never worked. Willow never found what she wanted, and never did start out in her true face, for all his fond encouragement for her to try. This one had seemed different though; she looked to have staying power. They'd found her in the vineyards of Chile, heavy eyed, lush of figure and a good heart. He'd liked her. He'd have been willing to share, but that was one thing they'd never done. Besides, she'd not wanted to share Willow; she'd wanted her all for herself. She'd made Willow smile, and laugh and once even sing.

It had broken his heart.

Losing her girl, when she saw the true face of their life together, broke Willow's heart. He'd known it from her face; she'd never try again. She'd give up on the love and the pain. She'd concentrate on learning finer control of her magic. She'd become more and more one with The Mother. She'd stay with the easy option, with him, but she didn't smile again. Not until today, and it's such a relief.

He kisses her, puts his shirt and shoes back on, and scoops her up in his arms. She can't walk easily up or down the steep streets, but he's happy to hold her, and her smiles absolve him of so much that she's no burden at all. He takes her back to the little hotel catering to the Mexican market half way up the mountains. The big international hotels are half slumped and drowned in the ocean as the higher sea level took them and the beach, so they had to find a more modest place.

He doesn't mind. It's perfect. Though it's been over two hundred years since the spores blew in from the attack on Texas it's still deadly to humans, mammals and even insects. So it's been left - a tropical Pompeii, lacking the lava. Much has decayed, but most survives for them to use, and they have the whole playground to themselves. This little hotel even has a back-up generator with fuel in. They got their first hot shower in years this morning. It was wonderful sharing it with her. There's reading material salvaged from a bookshop they both noticed at the same time - much of it magazines on the then top news of the earth liquefaction demise of Tokyo, but some books too. They'd long ago found Willow didn't need human food to carry on, though like him she's a habit for it, and enjoys it. They've found tins and the chance to see if industrial quantities of preservatives can give them their first junk food in decades.

Even better, there's a small dance-floor and bar. The pockets of people they've found over the years usually brew their own as part of the human need to escape the horror of this life, but he's missed a good tequila, a nice cognac, and he's dreamt of diving headfirst into a single malt. Now he's got the chance. He pours them both a drink and switches on the music and the lights.

He takes the drink to his lady, who sips and smiles at him. He offers his hand and she takes it. He leads her onto the dance floor and a strong voice belts out Mambo No 5 and he mambos. The rhythm blasts him back into guilt and Cuba in the fifties. He can taste the tobacco and sweat on the juicy thighs of his victims. Cane juice soaked so deep into skin that the blood tasted of caramel. Fedoras and toying with mafia blokes because it was fun and Dru freaked them out. He shifts to remembering taking Buffy to this song in a dark corner of The Bronze, thinking she needed to lose her hang-ups, to embrace him, before he knew what a horror he was. All of it takes him out of the music and deep into his head and the venus fly trap of his memories.

He feels the tell-tale tickle of her in his mind looking for reasons why he's stopped stiffening against her belly and stiffened up instead. She finds what it is and pulls him down for a kiss. He hates her little habit, but can't call her on it. Some things he still finds too painful to talk about and this means she offers him the comfort he needs so much without him having to risk her refusing. He's been refused so much that he can't ask anymore. He never has to with Willow.

Besides, she can only access the memories he lets her see and that he wants comfort over. He doesn't let her have the key to his safe, just the rest. If he let her into the stronghold he'd lose her and he can't face that. He knows he would lose her if she knew, but she doesn't and never will. He found the answer to living with a telepathic witch with boundary issues in Angel's books. He hates magic, but he needed something to ensure his privacy while not losing her from not letting her in. He performed the rite and now whatever memories or events he activates the spell over she can't see. They're invisible to her and he's safe. He loathes having to use magic but he had no choice. He knows magic has consequences, nobody on earth that knows that better than he does, even the woman in his arms, but he's willing to pay them in full. He always has, he can't stop now.

If he has to bear the guilt of scaring away Willow's last chance of love then that's a price he'll pay. He'll never be able to let go of the guilt, which he felt letting the girl see the demon in his eyes, when he looked at her like she was desert to add to the main course dripping down his chin. But he needs Willow, and he couldn't lose her. If she'd found love once again she wouldn't need him, and he doesn't think he can cope without her now. Maybe once he could, but not now. If the girl had been ready to play nice, to let him have his place in his Willow's life maybe he'd have not let her get caught by the cult. He wouldn't have let them kill her, didn't need to, the scare worked fine, which proves she wasn't good enough for his Willow, or them. It doesn't help much. The guilt still burns. But he's always played with matches and he's willing to get burnt if it means he keeps what he so desperately needs.

The song changes to Lady Marmalade as he draws her closer. She fits perfectly. He's found his 'soul sister' and as the singer asks 'voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?' so does he. She pulls his head down and whispers, "You know I will, always, Spike." He melts into her and the music. As he strokes her fluffy sweater and she pulls his head down to the comfort of her breasts he relaxes, she's his and she always will be.

Scarlet Battalions

"When I was young I always thought we, well humans anyway, would get off the rock." She smiles ruefully, trying to keep him here in the now, in the sane. "Guess I was wrong, huh?"

He looks at the crumbling skeletons that are all that's left of the giant buildings and launch platforms. Hundreds of years of hurricanes, flooding, and decay have rotted the concrete and steels so they form Florida's very own listing Stonehenge - only this one doesn't look like it would make another century, built as it was of mans' materials rather than the bones of the earth. "Still got time, pet. One thing you're not short of. Might still do it. That dirty bomb thing might have sent people off from here for all them years, and God knows humans ain't up to trying it now, but maybe, give it a few more centuries. You'll get your Star Trek, luv. It was Star Trek, wasn't it? Been so long since there was telly, I forget."

"Wish I could." She sighs. She hates and loves this memory, but needs to use it to keep him from remembering recent losses too closely. "Yes, Star Trek. It was all so clean, and yay progress, go progress - it's your birthday. You know? I can still see me and Xander watching it. I so crushed on Data. That was set now. Bit different, huh?"

"Too right, love. No telly, let alone them holo-watsits. Bit of a contrast to 'return to the Middle Ages but with better guns meets Deliverance' we've got now. Bloody wish it was like on them old shows. I'd even take a What's-his-name lecture on the Death Star if it was. Anything rather than this, this pointless fucking waste," Spike said, thinking of their latest run in with one of the surviving villages, which had left both with a number of bullet wounds and Spike with a lost love.

He'd really thought she was the one. She'd been warm, kind, with the delicate beauty and big eyes he's always gone for. As a demon-girl with a life-span of thousands of years she'd offered an escape from losing his mortal lovers. She wasn't definable as 'good' or 'bad' under the rules of moral apartheid. She was just her, and she'd loved him. She'd even liked and accepted Willow and the non-negotiability of her eternal role in his life, unlike too many of the women he'd loved. Willow had even seemed to like and accept her, unlike some, after the same initial Spanish inquisition she'd given to his last twenty-three girlfriends. Not that he blamed Willow, nor felt he could, after the last-but-twenty-fourth had turned out to be a bad lot out to end the world.

This girl was supposed to be his eternal dance partner. He'd been able to taste it. He'd spent centuries looking for her, failing, trying again, tasting love and having it dashed from his lips. He's supped on the bittersweet escape of madness more times than he wants to remember from losing love. Willow's always brought him back, just like he fucks her back when she slips. She's done it again now. He's pretty sure she used magic this time to help, and that's not something she's had to do before. He'd never got that far before in all his wailing against his losses, but this time he'd wanted to break his promise. He dimly remembers Willow trapping him in tree roots to stop him taking a walk in the sun, holding him through the howling, then her talking and stroking his hair until he'd melted into a puddle of tears as she reminded him of his pledge to look after her. The pre-Raphaelite beneath the buckskin, fists, fangs, and the nose and forehead that don't smooth out too easily anymore, won out on the not breaking a promise to a lady. The fists and fangs tore the killers apart, but he can live with that - he has before.

He's lost lovers before, all of them in fact, except Willow. But this time it's broken something in him. He's so tired. It's been so very long, and he's lost so many of them, it's exhausted even his almost bottomless ability to try again.

He'd known that his girl had been his last chance to cut free of the vines trapping his heart. He'd felt it deep down in his bones. He'd felt his heart warm if not beat. After more than five hundred years of trying he'd finally found the girl, the right one, the one that could give him everything he'd wanted for all those years, and keep on giving it to him for centuries. He'd relaxed. He'd basked in her warmth, in the thought that he'd have his love and his Willow with him for the rest of his life. He'd felt his future lift like one of the Zeppelins he remembers floating above Berlin - while he and Dru munched on Nazis - serene, beautiful, and above the horrors going on below. He never expected to lose his last chance of love, and he's crashed and burned.

Willow sees his tears start to fall. She pulls his head down to her breasts and wraps her arms around him. He nuzzles and his hands slip down to cup her ass through her buckskin skirt. Her arms caress his back and slip under the leather to stroke skin. He nibbles his way up from her breasts through her neck to seek oblivion in her mouth.

Her skin's smoother now that industrial civilisation and the world population have collapsed. She needs glamours less and less to cover the sores, the blisters, and the flaking, and she feels so good now under his questing tongue. She's began to use the glamours on him, when he has problems shifting back. But that's usually for when they come across people, which isn't that often in a world that's only recently beginning to recover from wars, unleashed pestilence, famines, environmental destruction, and the breakdown of the food chain.

She likes feeling his bumpies. The solid proof of the power of him gets her wet. It's a good job it does. She's fed him for what feels like forever, whenever he can't find any animals in the barren, radioactive, disease-ridden wilderness much of their world's become. They've had very little choice as there's no electricity to store blood, and very few butchers shops in the more friendly villages, as most people slaughter and eat their own stock, or barter only with their neighbours. Sometimes she needs his fangs in her neck and breasts. His absolute need for her makes her feel powerful, needed, essential, her blood giving him life, keeping him alive, vital, strong, hers. When she wants to float off into madness feeding and fucking him are the only thing that still tether her to the world. Besides, he can't kill her by drinking - they tried that.

She slips her right hand inside his trousers and wraps it around his cock tethering him to her. He pulls back from her and looks at her. She reaches up with her left and caresses his hair, across his lips and neck, before threading her fingers through his curls. She smiles at him gently and says, "Feed; you know you need to."

He kisses her. "You're tasting sweeter and sweeter, you know that? My sweet." She'd tasted like battery acid for years, but she'd kept him going.

She laughs. "Sea must be getting cleaner. Wanna midnight picnic in the sea when we get closer?"

He says, "Always," and shifts.

She presses his fangs deeper into her neck, grips his cock harder, and starts to pump. She owes him this. She owes him, after she killed the demon-girl that wasn't good enough for her Spike, not for him, not for them - they fight not good demons, they don't love them. She might have let him have his toy if it'd been human or short-lived, but it threatened to stay forever and that just wasn't acceptable. All it took was floating a bullet - problem gone. It was quick and deserved. Willow knows she's not bad. She's saved him from the not-good demon. It might hurt him for short time, but she's saved him from far worse. Someone always has to make the hard decisions, and it's always been her. He should be grateful really. She did it for him. Besides, he's hers, he promised. She owns him, and she's never going to lose him, no matter how much she hurts him, and if she does it's only for his own good.

To Fight for a Cause they've long ago Forgotten

He's not human.

It's been done before. She hung there as it was tried last. She can do it. The knowledge she sucked still fills her; it's planted there, right in the borders of her memory. It would be wrong not to use her knowledge. It's not as if she's doing anything un-natural. He's already un-dead, outside the natural order. There's no Urn needed, no gods to deny her will. He's a vampire - if she brings him back she won't get the First as a two for one, so it's ok.

It's only a few bad people.

They deserve it. They killed her Spike. They took what was hers. That really isn't acceptable. They're certainly not allowed to ambush the good guy and thrust a spear in his back. Spike and she have saved the world - she remembers doing it - therefore, they are the good guys, they're needed, and above everything else they're not allowed to be killed. That's just wrong. So she's allowed to fix it. She has to fix it. She's the good guy. She knows she is. She's only letting them make up for their badness. That's a good thing, the right thing, she knows it is.

She can bring him back.

She deserves this. She needs him. He's hers. She was promised. He belongs to her, and they took him from her. They don't get to do that. They don't get to moan and distract her either. They've already been bad; annoying isn't allowed. She waves her hand at the five people hanging upside down in vines from the trees, and fine stitches double with the thick twine already there, sealing their mouths and giving Willow some blessed silence.

She looks at the bad guys. One's hand is in danger of touching what's hers. That's not allowed. He's hers. His bones are hers. They're not allowed to damage them. So she twists her hand upwards and the very bad people are drawn a foot higher up into the tree canopy. It's a much better arrangement. They swing much better now.

The thought of his bones being damaged, of him ever being in this state again terrifies her. She can't lose him again. She just can't. She's lost too much already, too many.

He's her eternal companion in hell. He's all she has - all she'll ever have. Without him she's got nothing, she is nothing, just an unloved, unlovable, unwanted, unneeded, lost no-one, condemned to wander the earth alone for all time - an eternal broken Wandering Jew.

She needs him and she can't live through losing him again. She saw his body dissolve as he was staked. She'd tried to catch him in her hands as he flew apart, but he only slipped through her fingers. The nightmare's never going to leave her. She's caught in a Mobius twist between the forest and her long lost library, and two ancient vampires that couldn't have been more different, for all they shared a bloodline, but who'd both left their bones intact. She'd known in her head that Spike was almost as old as The Master had been, but she'd never thought his bones would remain intact if he was dusted. But then again she's never been able to face the idea of him being gone, so she'd always shied away from thinking about it. It's not an option now. She can't think of anything else.

She caresses his skull. His forehead shows pronounced lumpies - the main sign of his years - along with wrinkling to his strong nose. But years of drinking blood tied to the life-force of the planet had kept most of his human beauty intact. His lips remained biteable and she'd never had to see him with fruit-punch mouth, or hooves, even when the glamours wore off.

She strokes his fine finger-bones and remembers. She sees a ring on a table in a long swallowed home that could have saved him. She remembers her amazement when Buffy told her Angel had destroyed it, and she curses his memory. But as she holds his hand she thinks about her problem like a good Willow should. She knows that if she only thinks hard enough she can fix it. She tastes the few scraps of information on the Ring of Amarra, like the rest of Giles' books, now part of her. It's only a few clues, but, combined with a reveal spell to know how to forge it, she's, as Spike would say, 'sorted', and so is he.

She does the spell, reads the scroll, kisses his forehead, looks closely at his hands and thinks hard on how to avoid him losing the ring again. She really can't go through this again. She runs her hand down his neck and backbones and smiles. It's simple really - if he doesn't know he has it no-one can ever try to take it away. She'll tell him he was unconscious, and badly hurt, so she had to fix him with magic. He won't like it, he never does, but he's had enough injuries and she's fixed him enough times he'll accept it like he always does. She'll say she had to try a new healing spell and there might have side-effects - heck, it's even the truth.

She can't wait to see him smile in sunlight. They've only had moonlight for so long. She knows he'll love it, and they're heroes who so deserve this.

She concentrates, makes a grasping motion upwards, and pulls gold and silver up from the depths of the earth. The metals rise at her will in thin spirals that heat the air with the stink of hell-fire. Allowing them to float in the air she puts forth her awareness into every plant in the world until she finds the ones she needs. She drags them from their refuge, uncaring that she leaves no seeds behind, and there's so few of these plants left that they face extinction. She waves her hand; they lose their connection with the soil and join the metals in floating in supplication before her. She smiles as she makes upward spirals with her right index finger. The earth itself breaks open as a thin ribbon of lava answers her call. The stench of brimstone scents the air as she moulds the very stuff of the earth into her cauldron. Before the lava-bowl can cool she chants as she circles the metals and plants faster and faster before thrusting them into the heat of the planet's lifeblood. She channels the words of power, the primal life-force itself, as she takes her knife and slits her wrist over the cauldron. Her blood, forever tied to the sea, waters the plants, which fertilises the metals of the core. She forces their germination into a blood-red electrum, which her mind shapes with spells into a thin plain collar with a simple clasp. She digs the knife into the bone and her marrow cools the collar with the sap of life, to maintain his against all possible shears, whether he wants it or not. She drops the knife and the collar flies to her. Then she collapses - collar still clutched in her hand.

She lies there exhausted as her wounds heal, recovers, stands, and walks over to his skeleton. She caresses his skull, kisses his forehead, smiles to him, and says, "Soon, Spike. And I promise it won't happen again, ever. I've fixed it. I'll fix everything, you'll see. We'll be together forever." And she clips the collar around his neck-bone and closes the clasp with a surprisingly loud click.

She takes the knife, says the words, and glares at the bad people for fidgeting in their bindings. She makes shallow cuts. Blood drips onto the bones. At first they stain them, then they soak into them. Nerves form, blood vessels grow into veins and arteries as they writhe and grow. The collar and his bones are soon clothed as organs bud and flower, and skin blossoms. His lips form and she steals a kiss. As the humans start to bleed dry he becomes himself. She moulds his forehead and nose the way they should be, making him her man from the beach again. She licks her lips in pleasure that she's put everything right. The final drops soak into his skin and stop. She sees his eyes start to open. She waves her hand and obliterates the drained annoyances dangling above him. She grasps his hand and he opens his eyes.

He blinks a few times, shakes his head, smiles at her, and says, "Thought I was a gonner that time, pet."

She bends over him, says "Never gonna happen, Spike," and kisses the only oasis in her desert. She misses the sadness that shadows his eyes at her words, but even if she saw him it wouldn't matter - Willow always knows best, and she's fixed it, now they'll always be together.

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