Title: "If My Heart Could Beat..."
Author: Mala
E-mail: malisita@yahoo.com
Fandom: BtVS
Rating/Classification: 'R' for language, futurefic, only vaguely B/S
Disclaimer: Grrr aargh.
Summary: Based on speculation for season 7 and beyond. What the future may hold for our favorite dysfunctional neck-biter. If I had the energy, it would be a big old saga, complete with other characters.

Her muscles strain, skin glistens, as she flips over the pommel horse. Once. Twice. Effortlessly gliding through the air like a ballet dancer. Swirl, stake the dummy, land on two steady feet.

He nods, absently, the approval in that tiny gesture brightening her wide blue eyes even as he rubs his chest, feeling the twinge and the twist there before he swallows hard and looks away.

"Okay! All done! Stuffed baddie vanquished! Time for me to Bronze it!" she announces, grabbing up a towel and wiping the damp glow from her face.

"Oh, no you don't." He snaps to attention, whirls around and grasps her shoulder--the action painstakingly gentle. "You know you should patrol tonight. The books point to a major disturbance in the mystical realm occurring sometime in the next two weeks."

Challenge sparkles in the tilt of her brow, the way she easily shrugs off his hand. "Look, I know the deal, okay? One girl in all the world, Chosen, generations, dark forces, blah blah blah. I'm hitting the Bronze early and I'm doing the gloomy cemetery thing as a chaser." Her famous attitude fades away for just an instant as she continues to stare at him. "I know what my responsibilities are, Spike."

He bites back the memory. The knowledge. The grief. And the acidic anger. "I know you do, 'Bit."

And as she walks out the door, dark ponytail swinging along to the bounce in her step, he does the only thing he can do.

He watches.

***

Nearly four years ago, he was restored to his former glory.

Or so he'd thought upon awakening in a dank, dirty, cave in darkest Africa.

It took him almost ten minutes to realize that there was nothing glorious about blood and mucus and sweat and shit. Humanity.

He swore. He cussed. He threatened and kicked and spat.

In the end, he had to accept his piss-poor luck.

So, he went back to his old enemy, Sunnydale, California, with a very mortal semi-automatic assault rifle...determined to condemn to death those who had, unwittingly, condemned his addled brain to life.

Only to find that someone had beaten him to the punch. Left blood and loss and betrayal in their wake.

And the worm turned. Again.

***

While his Slayer is out being a teenager, dancing the night away with her little friend Janice, he sits in the Magic Box and sharpens her weapons. Axe. Stake. Sword.

Not because he has to. Not because good old Rupert used to do the same. Not because he has nothing else to do besides going home, watching the telly and remembering a century of past misdeeds.

But because he has to be ready.

For the day Buffy Summers returns.

Once upon a time and far, far away...he called it "one good day."

Now, he simply sees it as inevitable Hell.

Because she'll have to die.

And her own sister will have to wield one of these very weapons.

***

He reckoned that they had to accept, if not forgive, him.

After all, they'd forgiven Anya a thousand years worth of trespasses, welcomed Buffy back after she'd gone whacko and tried to kill them, and equalized Willow--getting back the mousy little hacker they knew and loved.

He reckoned wrong, of course.

The sudden ability to tan without going poof aside, he was still dirt. Still someone who had pinned a girl down in her own bathroom and bruised her and hurt her. Never mind that said girl had done more or less the same to him in an alley months before. Men who hurt women were monsters. Period. Whether or not there were demons and fangs and superpowers involved.

So, he crawled back into his crypt. Familiarity. Tried to pretend nothing had changed when, naturally, it had. Aches. Pains. The bloody common cold. A serious lack of decent plumbing or electricity. Various uglies stumbling into the graveyard, wanting to kick his lily-white pansy ass.

After two months, he realized he had to live in the very world that did not want him, did not need him.

After six months, his loony ex-girlfriend turned the Slayer into a vampire and the world had no choice but to let him in.

***

He is waiting when she returns at three a.m., fresh from the fight. She strips off her jacket, reaches for the proffered bottle of water, and hops up on the counter to describe, in great detail, the four vamps she dusted and the Fubana demon whose leg she broke.

He adjusts his glasses, feeling, for all the world, stuffy and pompously British. He's still getting used to the fact that he can't even read a grocery list without squinting and holding the paper two inches from his nose.

Dawn is animated as she speaks. Hands waving, voice rising and falling like a consummate storyteller. Years of lying have turned into creativity. Years of stealing and sneaking around have turned into a vocation.

She speaks to him because she has to...and because, beneath that, some of her old affection remains. The Watcher's Council, now run by the old predecessor himself, speaks to him because they have to...and because, beneath *that*, he is their prize, their experiment.

Everyone else carefully orchestrates silence. Anya lets him use the store without incident...sadly without acerbic commentary as well. Xander refrains from picking fights...and they trade-off Dawn duty like somber spies trading packages. Willow is the only one who walks beside him, but her own past sins prevent her from meeting his eyes.

The only reason he exists, to them, at all is because the Watchers felt it would be an invaluable asset for a former vampire to train a Slayer. "We mustn't waste this opportunity," Giles had pronounced.

And it serves as penance.

"Spike. Spike, are you listening to me?"

"Hmmm? What? Oh...y-yeah, of course."

Of course.

***

She fucked him once before she fled into the night, hot on Dru's trail, bent on vengeance for being made into everything she loathed. The shoe on the other foot...comeuppance...demon teeth against his throat, tearing and sinking in as he sank into her. She fucked him and he made love to her.

That was his apology.

And her forgiveness.

She the vampire. He the almost-Watcher.

When she left, they were even.

At least he has that.

***

Her muscles strain, skin glistens, as she flips over the pommel horse. Once. Twice. Effortlessly gliding through the air like a ballet dancer. Swirl, stake the dummy, land on two steady feet.

He nods, curtly, the approval in that tiny gesture brightening her wide blue eyes even as he rubs his chest, feeling the twinge and the twist there before he swallows hard and looks away.

Is it a sympathy pain, a longing, for the creature he once was?

Or is it simply the breaking of his paltry human heart?

He'll never really know.

--end--

May 17, 2002.



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