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Sympathetic

by Te

Sympathetic
by Te
January 2003

Disclaimers: Render unto Joss what is Joss'.

Spoilers: Lots and lots. Especially S6-7, up through "Showtime."

Summary: Spike appreciates his moments of clarity.

Ratings Note: R.

Author's Note: ebonbird gave me the idea. Other notes at the end of story.

Acknowledgments: To my bun for audiencing. And to Cecile, of course.

Feedback: Appreciated. thete1@earthlink.net

*

It's a lie.

A necessary one considering his usual state, but a lie just the same. He's aware of it only rarely, in flashes -- the touch of the Slayer's (Buffy, call her Buffy, no don't you have no right) hand on his own, the look in her eyes.

Memory of transgression, assumption. Stupidity and violence.

Truly, the story of Spike's existence -- if he were feeling both cynical and full of self-pity. He isn't. He hopes he isn't.

Hope is one of those things that he'd forgotten all unwitting, in the long, long years he'd spent soul-less and, quite literally, carefree. Hope, like faith, like regret and love and fear -- these are all things that suffer in the absence of the soul. He was an exceptional vampire to have as much of them as he did.

A wisp of nothingness, just the same, in comparison to the human-like thing he is now.

But he must take advantage of these periods of coherence, cohesion. He is being neither tortured nor tormented. He is quite alone with only the tromp of a seemingly endless supply of underaged girls above his head.

And Xander. And Giles.

And that other boy. The one who whinges like a mosquito -- alone is a relative thing, but all he has. He is grateful.

It is enough for his needs. Spike is aware:

The chains, cool and strong around his wrists. Double-welded to the walls, themselves. He would be happier if he could weld them to his own skin. He knows from Angelus' little experiments that this never works.

Himself -- a vampire, filth upon filth, stinking of every death he has brought, of the blood (not his own, never that) that allows him the semblance --

Procrastination. Oh, he is very aware of that.

Dry throat laugh that ends in coughing. He isn't completely healed. It would take human blood to make that process anything but the lengthy, painful process it is. Thick, rich, vibrant --

He didn't go to Africa to get his soul. The very idea is ridiculous. Mournfully so, horridly so, but so.

It would be like going to church for a draught of holy water; a deliberate addition of insult to injury. The act of a madman. Certainly, one worthy of the state he's in now, but then?

Oh, no, oh, no.

He'd had a plan, a very direct one. The removal of his chip, of his artificial conscience, of the obstacles to his revenge. Beyond that, of course, it all became rather murky. The reasons for that revenge, the scope of it, the need for it, perhaps even what he'd truly wanted from that sadist in the cave, but... it wasn't a soul.

For all his mockery of his sire's sire, he'd had no desire to experience first-hand that which could turn a truly legendary vampire into a truly legendary pouf. Strangely, there is room to talk (however illusory) in these momentary flashes of awareness. He isn't nearly confident enough to call this sanity.

It's merely the difference between being beaten senseless and being... beaten.

The Greek Chorus in his head is refreshingly tiresome at times like these, with all its talk of what he's earned and what he deserves. No one in this world gets anything remotely like what they deserve. Humanity had taught him that long before... before anything else.

No, in this there is only the capricious fluke of the powers. How could anything be called justice when there was so little of the entity about?

Spike honestly wishes he had someone around with whom to talk. Someone to help him nail these things down, for good and all. To craft a place to return after he once again... drifts. A pastor, or a professor. He thinks this century's professors are much more like his childhood's pastors than they would ever care to think about.

He only wants to...

The demon, whispering of Dalton. Of Giles... upstairs? Could be lured downstairs, could be...

He bites down on his own wrist hard, unsurprised when fangs sink deep. The pain keeps him from yelling, the effort to avoid yelling is all he needs to push it back down, push the demon back down, ah, sweet Christ, is this what his life would be?

Forever and ever and ever, a Gemini mockery, twinned and hateful and hating and hungry.

"I'd mention that it was dinnertime, but it looks like you've figured that out."

Or not.

He disengages himself from himself more carefully than he would if he were alone. It isn't as though he thinks Buffy squeamish so much as...

There's only so much of his insanity she should have to put up with at any given time, refusal to sensibly kill him or no. "Buffy," he says, and it's all he has.

She looks at him like he's a mirror, or a task. Something designed to be cruel and aging. She isn't the type to be resentful, or he's never known her to be. Sometimes he hates her for it.

He takes the blood silently, and drinks with his eyes closed.

She smells like the sweat of a dozen other girls and there are a dozen things about that he could say that he won't. Instead, "I don't think I know anything about The First that you don't."

"Oh, I don't know. I think you could give a killer lecture on ancient evil and body art." Rueful smile.

"Tell me why I'm alive, Buffy," he blurts, and can't bring himself to regret the bluntness.

And for a minute she looks stricken and for a moment she looks mean. He wants to berate Giles for not training her better. He wants to hold her. He wants to burn for treasuring every small moment of weakness. "Because I still think you're better that way," is all she says.

Why, he doesn't ask. It's a lie, he doesn't say. I remember the way you beat me in an alley when you wanted to hurt yourself and I remember the way you taste and I know the smell of your sweat better than my own and...

She's gone, of course. Taking the bag with her, leaving only her lingering scent and the oily residue of pig's blood on his tongue. He never should have quit smoking. In hindsight, it just wasn't something one did immediately upon gaining a soul.

He lets himself laugh, but it's a mistake -- it sounds healthy, rich. Alive. He always forgets about that. Laughing after a feeding was a lot like whistling in a graveyard. And certain metaphors gained far too much resonance on the Hellmouth.

On his body.

He breathes deep to stifle another laugh and hardens despite himself. The taste of Buffy on the air was something quite different than the smell of her. Or perhaps it was both combined...

His chains let him reach far enough to grip. Squeeze.

Subdue. (punish)

The house above quiets in increments, and he thinks he could trace the path of sleep like a pattern of dominoes, something between childish slapstick and the ominousness of daily existence in Sunnydale.

There is no silence, only the house announcing itself in the absence of human consciousness: creaks and settling sounds, innocent ghosts. The wind outside, the worms below.

Buffy banishes it all with the first near-silent step on the stairs. Another and he can feel her, even without anything like his actual senses: she is barefoot, she is in pajamas, she is...

Staring at him like a puzzle. He wants to protest; she knows everything remotely important.

But this is not new. Not yet something he's come to expect, but still something... of course the Slayer doesn't sleep as much as everyone else. Of course some connection...

No, that's going rather too far to be thought aloud. That's for hope, and the tangle of emotion where hope lives.

She never says anything during these visits, and Spike doesn't begrudge her silence. Because it is a silence. Breath and heartbeat and life chasing everything away but itself.

He watches her in the dark and forces himself not to breathe her in.

She crouches in front of him, watchful in her own right.

With dawn comes sleep, slow yet inexorable. His diet doesn't allow much more. Sometimes she hesitates on the verge of... something before she leaves him again.

Sometimes he tells himself it's a touch.

End.

Other notes: Cecile is my sister. My late sister. We had just enough time to bond over Buffy before she died in '99. When Spuffy hit the screen, I found myself moving to call her every Tuesday night because... well.

She would've loved it. She would've been so redemptionista it hurts.

Writing this feels better than dropping some dying flowers on her grave.

Did you need to know this? Nah. Something I had to say, though.

Thanks, ebonbird, for reminding me that I'm not completely helpless.


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Te

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