Title: "That Final Gasp"
Author: Mala
E-mail: malisita@yahoo.com
Spoilers: end of "IWMTLY"/"The Body"
Rating/Classification: 'R', B/S, angst, character death, sexual situations, language.
Disclaimer: Grr aargh.
Summary: Buffy breaks after her mother's death...and Spike breaks, too.
Dedication: To Lynn, for giving me a first line and always encouraging--and craving--B/S fic no matter what dark clouds are cast on their horizon.

"And when I dance for him
somebody leave the light on
just in case I like the dancing
I can remember where I come from." --"Mother", Tori Amos.

All it took was one time to break me. One time. One door crashing back against the wall. One flurry of punches pushing me flat against the edge of the tomb. One look at her pale face, at the empty green eyes that didn't even really see me. One broken whisper.

"Come on, Spike. Don't you want it? Don't you want your 'real good day'?"

I wanted to tell her "No." To say, "Well, then...what's this about Slayer? What've we got here?" But I didn't get a chance to say anything.

She didn't give me a chance. I tell you, she didn't.

I tasted the salt of tears on her lips for just an instant before my mouth filled with blood. Hers? Mine? I don't know. But her teeth were sharp...so sharp and so furious. Furious at herself? At me? I don't know.

Tangy red lust...anger...her hands pushing up my t-shirt...pushing and pushing. Until the stone lid of my sometimes bed dug into my spine. I still have the welts. She was growling, I thought. Or was it whimpering? Crying, I discovered, as my arms hung helpless at my sides. As she forced them up so she could pull my shirt over my head and fling it away. Her wet anguish trailed it's way down my bare chest...warming it in ways that it had never been warmed before and bloody well never will be again.

I don't know when I stopped staring down at her like a half-wit and actually let myself touch her. When I went from wondering if it was a dream to crushing her reality to me and following the drying trails of tears from her eyes to her cheeks to her throat.

She feels like soft, sun-heated silk, you know.

And she tastes...she tastes like blood and honey.

I knew better than to ask why...to question the gift of divine providence. Questions would come later. Along with recriminations and a possible stake up my sorry arse. I knew I had to take the chance...you see? How could I not?

All it took was one time to break me.

I broke when she pulled away just a fraction of an inch...just far enough to unzip what needed to be unzipped and unbuckle what needed to be unbuckled.

I broke when she came back to me with cold death and amber fire in her eyes and we crawled, together, onto the cold stone slab that suddenly felt as soft and comforting and right as my mother's favorite eiderdown.

I know what you're thinking...that it's a bit of Freudian madness to think of your mother when you're having at a girl...but you have to understand...you have to understand that I felt safe for the first time in a century. I felt whole. I felt very nearly human...and, let me tell you, *that* was an experience in itself.

I felt like nothing could hurt me.

Except her, of course. But that was expected. Those were the unspoken terms of the encounter.

I broke against her pounding hips...the bones, under peach-tinted skin stretched taut, staked me down every time I tried to move up and take her deeper.

I broke inside her, as the ginger and wheat of her hair lashed my face like a thousand tiny whips...as I was drowned in her self-loathing and her sweat and such rich, bitter, desperation.

I broke when she finally seemed to see me again. When the fog seemed to lift from her eyes as her body tightened. When I wanted to breathe, but couldn't. For several reasons. Most of all, her words.

"'That final gasp, that look of peace'...I know what it's like now...I...*know*....I know where it leads. It leads to death," she whispered, frozen above me like a Precious Moments statue perverted. "It leads to *you*."

I managed two syllables. Quite a feat for a bloke in the throes of the best sex he's ever likely to have. "Buffy?"

And she said three words I'd never expected to hear. Three words I'd never *wanted* to hear. A couple of other sets of three words, perhaps, but not these.

"My mother's dead."

"Joyce?" It wasn't a question as much as it was a confirmation. As if she had more than one dead mother...as if it couldn't be Joyce...no, not the slightly-to-the-left-of-batty woman who always remembered to put marshmallows in my hot chocolate...who had a secret crush on Miguel from "Passions"...who had hit me with an ax once and warned me to stay away from her daughter.

Advice you probably think I should've heeded, but I've never been very good with advice and you know that, too.

"She's dead," was all that the Slayer said in response.

So, you see, I wasn't the only one thinking about my mum...does that make it somehow better, more justified, or is it worse?

And then she was possessed again--not by the fierce hunger of before--but by something so sad, so young, that I knew this must have been the Buffy *before* slaying. The Buffy I'd never met.

"Make it stop..." she pleaded...she *begged*, throat bared. "Make it stop."

I understood it perfectly. The desire. The golden gleam in her eyes. That split second of resignation that I've tasted twice before. And I could've done it. I really could have. I'm not a coward. I'm *not*.

But I'm also not a complete bastard.

No matter what gets bandied about over tea at the Magic Box.

No matter what I'd like to believe about myself and my demon and my capacity for evil.

I kissed her pulse. Felt it leap beneath my tongue, echoing her request.

And then I held her until all the tremors faded away.

I held her for hours. Memorized her taste and her touch and her scent. Memorized the feel of the sun on my skin. Because that's what she is...a hot, shining, ball of fire. Too bright for me. Too high for me.

I held her.

Until I felt the subtle changes. The onset of daylight. The onset of that wonderful stage of grief that comes after denial and anger...acceptance.

Not of me, of course. Never that.

She accepted the inevitable.

That she had get up, to wipe the traces of me from her body and look away from my hopeful face. That she had to go on. For the niblet's sake. For her own.

I watched her comb her fingers through her hair and button up her jeans. I watched the steel rod go up her spine and listened to her take a great draft of air into her lungs.

She didn't look at me once. I don't think she could.

She didn't say "Thanks for the shag, I'll stake you next time, Spike." She didn't say "Forget this ever happened." She didn't say anything.

I didn't give her the chance. I tell you, I didn't.

I *couldn't*.

I made a show of studying the cracked black paint on my thumbnail as I said, "Don't ever come back, Buffy Summers."

As I said "Good-bye."

I didn't raise my head to watch her walk to the door. But I heard her pull it shut behind her. A creak. A click. Her exit was a thousand times louder, more final, than her entrance.

All it took was one time to break me.

And, no, I don't need your pity. Or your tears. Or your judgment. Or your sneers.

I don't regret any of it. I'd do it all again, exactly the same.

Let's raise a pint to old Spike, eh? And to love.

Because all it took was one time to put her back together.

--end--

February 24, 2001.


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