|The bedroom door had barely shut behind them when Buffy had him up against the wall, her hands reaching eagerly up under his shirt. Her mouth was hot and urgent on his, as though she wanted to steal back more than a year's worth of kisses missed, all on one breath. She broke away from his lips only for as long as it took to yank his tee shirt up and over his head, discarding it on the floor beside them.
"Love you," he managed to breathe between frantically returned kisses, letting his fingers slip through the silken strands of her hair as it came loose under his hands. Her own hands, it seemed, were everywhere on him at once, leaving him dizzy with the sensation of trying to follow their progress over his skin. Spike trembled when she ran her nails lightly down over his chest and stomach. Nimble fingers made quick work of both his belt and the fly of his jeans.
Buffy's lips puffed against his in a surprised laugh. An inquisitive noise was all he could manage to organize, pinned between two indescribable pleasures. I don't know if it's a good idea if the woman laughs at this point...
"You're so... warm," she explained, smiling against his mouth. "I didn't really think--"
He froze. "Buffy, I can't do this." It took everything he had, but he lifted his hands to gently cup her face, and pushed her away until he could see her confused expression clearly. "I can't."
"It's all right," Buffy said, with sudden comprehension. "I'm saying yes."
"No." One thumb gently caressed her cheek.
"Yes. I told you, I forgive you. And... I want this." She took his wrists gently and brought his hands to her waist. "If it's better, just lie down, and let me--"
"It's not that. Well, it is, partly, but..." He tipped his head back as though the ceiling would offer him sudden inspiration. "Buffy, am I really human now?"
Her fingertips traced his lips and then slipped softly over the high arch of his cheekbone. Is that what you're worried about? "At least as much as I am, William - but I don't know if that's really an answer. Why? I mean - it was never a problem before."
"Because if I am... Hell, this is going to sound stupid... I don't... I didn't bring any condoms."
Oh. That is different than before. She looked at him thoughtfully. Not that there aren't many other ways, and we've certainly tried them all at least a couple - or a couple dozen - times. But I want you now, here with me. Buffy closed her eyes, contemplating her next words and their implications fully before she spoke again. "We've both seen so much death... we've both been dead long enough. Tonight... I'd risk life with you."
Spike stopped resisting her then, and she led him to lie on her frilly, girlish bed, where she adjusted the pillows tenderly behind him. He tilted his hips to help her ease his jeans off of him. He'd never made a secret of what pleased him, though she'd rarely been bothered to see to his pleasure before. Past time to make up for things, she thought, watching with satisfaction the expressions of helplessness and amazement that chased across his open-mouthed face. All too soon - and just in time - she let him slip from lips that curved in a contented smile.
Buffy stood at the side of the bed where she could be sure he could see all of her. Her blouse came off in one fluid sweep of her hands, and the demure cotton bra followed in a brief moment. She pulled the last of her hair free from the clip to cascade over one shoulder. He'd always loved her hair.
Her jeans and panties joined the rest of their clothes scattered on the floor, and she slowly began to nibble and kiss her way up his stomach as she climbed up on top of him. Buffy straddled his hips and lowered herself onto him with a sigh. She began a gentle movement, and after a time he began to match her rhythm, thrusting upwards to meet her body descending, tentatively at first and then with growing confidence.
He had a bad moment when she closed her eyes and he feared she was leaving him, drawing away into herself as she always had - but then she leaned forward, pressing against him, and whispered, "Put your arms around me."
He did so, his fingers outlining the individual delicate bones of her spine, his palms feeling the play of muscles in her back as she moved slowly above him. Her body rose and fell more rapidly, after a time, and her breathing quickened, and he was content just to know that she could still please herself on him. He trailed his fingers up the soft skin of her thighs to where their bodies joined. His touch sent her into a shuddering climax that left her lying spent on his chest, sweaty and dishevelled, but to him still heartbreakingly beautiful.
Buffy lifted her head and looked down at Spike. His eyes were closed and his lips pressed into a tight line. She could feel him yet, still achingly hard in her. "Let go, Spike. Come for me," she whispered in his ear. "Come inside me, lover."
Her words undid him at last, and she captured his groan in her mouth as he came, helpless under her.
"I love you, Buffy Anne Summers."
"I love you... William Summers," she said with a laugh. "We really should look into getting that fixed for you. I don't know what Anya and Dawn were thinking."
"No," he said thoughtfully. "I have a new life. It's fitting, then, that I have a new name. Let it be. I'll try to be worthy of it."
"Oh William," she sighed, drawing him down to her again. You already are. "You're not just saying that to foil my plans for a big wedding, are you? I wanted Dawn and Willow and even Anya for bridesmaids, and Xander and Angel could stand up for you. Giles would give me away..."
"Don't tease, love. I'd be tempted to do it just to see the look on his face."
No need to specify who he was, given the context.
"Who said I was teasing?" she asked guilelessly, grey-green eyes like ocean depths, drowning him.
He was seized with a sudden vision of Buffy on Giles's arm, coming down an aisle towards him swathed in silk and lace, pearls about her throat and trembling at her ears. The room spun around him, and he shivered in her arms. "Anything for you."
They spent what seemed like forever lying still, nose to nose, forehead pressed to forehead.
"I love you," he said again. What else was left to say?
"Yes," she replied softly, and he drew back and stared at her, puzzled, until he finally realized that she was only answering the question he had told her lay beyond the words. Please, may I be yours? His eyelids prickled suddenly with unshed tears, and he blinked rapidly to hold them back. Oh grow a pair, you git. She doesn't need to think you're any more of a milksop. Bad enough you have to know it.
"Love you," she said in turn.
William just managed to keep the tremor from his voice when he replied. "Forever. Always. You were my obsession... now you're my salvation--"
She put her hand over his mouth before he could get into full poetic flight. "Can't I just be the woman who loves you? Because if you insist on... those other things... you won't see me anymore."
"I'm yours. My whole life for you," he declared fervently.
"That's not much of a promise," she teased. "We could both be dead by the next regularly scheduled apocalypse."
"Life is uncertain; that's its seduction," he countered.
Buffy only laughed deep in her throat and reached for him again, hungrily, as though she'd not had him only minutes before. "Speaking of the seduction..."
He caught up her wrist before she could touch him. "Buffy, promise me. Promise you'll tell me... when it's right."
"Now would be a good time," she said, pushing playfully against his hold.
"I'm serious," he insisted, as he tightened his fingers. "I've got hardly any control. Maybe I do have a soul, but half the time I can't hear it, can't tell right from wrong."
"Then you'll just have to learn."
"I need you to tell me."
"No." She freed herself from his grip. "Take responsibility for yourself. I had to."
"And if I'm wrong?"
"Then you deal with the consequences, the same as the rest of us. That's what having a soul is all about."
Yes, that is edging perilously close to being a whine. Years of living with a younger sister had taught her ears every nuance. She lunged upwards and caught his lower lip, none too gently, between her teeth. A spot of blood welled there when he pulled away. "The hell...?"
"What's with the self-pity party?"
"Self-pity?" he sputtered angrily. "Is that it, then? I can betray and hurt - even kill - people I care about, and it's 'get over it and come fuck me, Spike'? I suppose since it worked so well for you..." Bitterness choked his voice.
Buffy felt as though she could clearly read the path to every secret pain of his heart. "Allie's dead, Spike," she said softly. "You did everything for her that anyone possibly could, and she's still dead. It's not. Your. Fault. And Angel isn't ever coming back, and I've touched heaven and will long for it every day for the rest of my life. That doesn't mean we stop living. We fix the things we can, and we're still allowed to enjoy being alive, together."
He closed his eyes. "I don't ever want to hurt you."
"I'm still dangerous," he insisted.
"I know. So am I. I don't think anyone else could hurt you the way I can, now." Gentle fingertips traced the scar on his brow. "Spike..."
"Don't call me that any more. Spike was a monster."
"You told me that when the soul is taken, everything else is already there and is just set free. So what made you Spike was always there, waiting, inside William. You don't get to decide to throw it out now, just because it makes you uncomfortable. And what makes William now better than William then is everything that was Spike."
He didn't know how to reply to that. Hell, he wasn't even sure he could follow that, so he just waited for her to continue.
"I'm not made of glass. Not really breakable. You know... I need a little monster in my man. You're safe with me. And I trust you... Spike."
He seized her shoulders, fingers digging deeply into her flesh, and rolled her to her back, pressing her into the mattress. His kiss was demanding and harsh - and she responded enthusiastically in kind. They drew apart only when they both had to gasp for more breath.
"There," Buffy said, satisfied. "That wasn't so hard, was it?"
He tucked the tip of his tongue up behind his teeth and looked down at her with half-lidded, shameless eyes. A welcome shudder made its way down Buffy's spine as he looked lustfully at her. "I'll show you what's hard," he breathed, and captured her mouth again.
He brought his lips to her ear, then, and whispered the same tender obscenities that had always loosened her limbs so effectively for him in the past. If the voice now was somewhat broken and the words bittersweet, she could choose not to hear it until he'd had as much time to heal his wounds as she'd been granted.
"Think you can still make me scream?" she sighed softly against his cheek.
His teeth closed sharply on her earlobe and she gave herself up to him.
They came back to one another in a puzzle-ring tangle of limbs, milk-white and honey-gold.
"Fuck..." William panted, his heart slowing gradually to a less frantic pace.
"Oh," Buffy breathed, as they carefully extricated themselves. "That was... oh."
He smiled with something of Spike's old slyness. "I think we're gonna need a bigger bed," he deadpanned in a flat American accent so perfect that she had only long enough to wonder Just how many times has he seen that movie, anyway? before she surrendered to a fit of giggling that threatened to topple them both off the bed.
I'll make you laugh at least once every day, he promised himself, and let gravity take both him and her - and half the bedclothes - to the floor. Laughing now himself, he twisted under her as they fell to take her weight as they thudded onto the hardwood.
Some time later, after they had remade the bed and climbed back in, they found a position together that seemed marginally more stable. They sat up braced with pillows behind them, Buffy leaning contentedly against him with his arm around her waist. "In the letter you wrote me before you left, you quoted a line from poem about love," she said. "Do you remember the rest of it?"
"Do I remember it?" he asked, with mock outrage that she should insult him so. "You're asking this of the man whose greatest ambition was to be declared Britain's Poet Laureate? Of course I remember it. 'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways'. Probably Elizabeth Barrett Browning's best-known sonnet. A schoolchild could recite it."
"Browning?" Buffy threw back the covers and went to her small bookshelf. "I have a book of her poems, I think. Angel gave it to me." She looked back with a guilty start, as if mentioning her first love's name yet again in their bedroom would be an unforgivable cruelty.
William only smiled. The sweet curves of her body were maddening in the room's half-light, and he'd forgive her anything so long as she'd never leave him. "And I'll wager he never actually read one to you. Give it here." Buffy tossed the book to him, and he leaned back again against the pillows, the bedclothes puddled in his lap, leafing through the pages. "Sonnets from the Portuguese, I should have known. Some of the greatest words ever written on love, and he expected you to read them to yourself. Uncultured oaf," he snorted, but without heat.
"Here. 'Say over again, and yet once over again / That thou dost love me'. " He turned a page, and squinted down his nose as though recalling absent glasses. "' And when I say at need / I love thee ... mark! ... I love thee--in thy sight / I stand transfigured, glorified aright'. " Another page. "'I should not love withal, unless that thou / Hadst set me an example, shown me how'." He set the book down in his lap and looked up into Buffy's face to see her eyes shining. "You see? The passion in it - you can only hear it, never read it. The real power of it is in the telling, pouring the words out into your listeners' ears, meaning what you say and making them live every joy and heartbreak with you."
He picked up the book again and opened it at a random page. His expressive face grew suddenly still. "'O Belovèd, it is plain / I am not of thy worth nor for thy place! / And yet, because I love thee, I obtain / From that same love this vindicating grace'," he whispered.
She slipped easily back into the bed beside him, leaning into his embrace. "I don't like that one. We've had that conversation already, and you lost. I intend to see that you lose every time." She rested her head on his shoulder, and he closed the book in favour of caressing the golden curls that tumbled there.
"Anyway, I think you owe me a poem," she insisted. "Since you only ever wrote part of it in your letter. Read it out loud to me now."
"I don't need to read it from a book," he said. "It's burned in my heart, every word, for you."
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
They'd heard Dawn come home hours before and had giggled themselves nearly giddy trying to keep quiet. Now her early-morning namesake was already beginning to pluck at the curtains with pink fingers.
William placed one hand reverently in the hollow between her breasts, feeling the quicksilver beating of her heart. "So much love here," he murmured. "And enough forgiveness, even for one such as me." Moving his hand, he bent to kiss her there, breathing deeply of her sweet musk and tasting the salty droplets on her flesh. He laid his cheek against her soft skin, and she pressed his head against her, the better for him to hear her heart beating there, loving him.
Her fingers raked trails in his sweat-damp hair. "Let me tell you a story about yourself. Yourself, and me... and the first Slayer."
She watched as his face softened in sleep, smoothing away some of the pain lines that bracketed his eyes and mouth, and she thought about the nature of love. This new love she'd found was fierce yet tender, it was possessive but it was also protective. And as such, it was at least as complex and contradictory as the man lying now in her arms. A measure of peace descended on her as she realized that she didn't have to deny her past to make room for her future. Her love for Angel would always be there, sweet and melancholy, part of the girl she had been and the woman she might still live to become.
No pleasure without risking pain, right? 'Cause if it were easy, everyone could do it. She tucked her head under his chin, her face pressed into the curve of his throat, and let sleep steal over her as well.
There was no such thing as happily ever after, of course. They had too much history for that. There would be some days that she would throw the things he had done back in his face. He would then, in turn, cruelly point out her hypocrisies and failures. Even on their most peaceful days, there would always be a part of Buffy that William despaired of reaching, and a part of him that she knew she'd never be able to own. But there was love.
It would be enough.
"In a statement issued today by the law firm of Wolfram and Hart on behalf of biotech prodigy Incruentus, the company has denied all knowledge of and involvement in the thefts from blood banks that have plagued southern California. The company denies any wrongdoing, and claim that reports linking both the missing blood and the blood substitute to occult groups have been fabricated by biotech rivals desperate to increase their own market share. Trading in Incruentus stock was frozen on Wall Street today, as shares took another record plunge in value...
March 2002 - September 2003
Well, that's it. This story has consumed a year and a half of my life, and endless hours of angst wondering if I would ever be able to pull the next chapter out of that inexplicable little wormhole in my brain that leads to the story idea place. My life (and, I'm told, my writing style) has changed remarkably over that time, and yet I still feel the same. Change creeps up on us, until one day you are completely different - and you never felt a thing while it was happening.
I don't know what I'm going to write next, though I do know that I am going to write. Don't know when, either, but I find that things like that have a tendency to take care of themselves. There's an NC-17 WIP sequel to "Fragments of a Dream" that's posted here. It's only got two chapters so far, and I don't promise regular updates, either. I find my brain actually contemplating a human AU Spuffy pairing... might as well jump another bandwagon while I'm here. Time will tell.
One last note: I figure if I borrow stuff without asking to make my story better, I should at least tell you about all the bits that aren't mine - like you hadn't figured it out anyway. So on that note...
From the 'credit where credit is due' department
Joss Whedon, 'cause he made up all these cool characters and hasn't sued any of us for taking them out to play with. "We love you, Joss!"
My marvy beta reader HurrySundown, who always makes me sound better than I am.
And last, but certainly not least, all of you who read, reviewed, and generally made me feel as though I'd created something worthwhile. Thanks again, and see you next time.
Wow, you read this far? In that case, I'll offer you a little lagniappe: an epilogue to this tale. "The Letter (postscript)" was written more than a year ago with plans to present it at a PBfP in Chicago, but the timing never worked out. It's never been seen or heard since. The official ending of the story is up there, where you just came from, as far as I'm concerned.
But the unofficial ending...
Since I wrote it so long ago, it actually reflects a much lighter tone to the story than it ended up developing. I don't consider it canon to this story any more, which had originally ended up with Spike coming over to make Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, and all would be well... Cute Spuffy, but hardly realistic. Just think of it as the after-dinner mint. Nice, but not substantial.
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