A Thousand Sunsets::celeste::
A short for Aruala, who apparently likes her Spuffy angsty and full of love. Happy Birthday.Spoilers
: All of BtVS and all of AtS (that includes the last episode). Not too much, but if you really don't want to know might be best not to read- just so you don't end up blaming me for ruining even a little bit for you.Rating
: R for implied (very implied) sexual acts and a lot of rather graphic violence. Character death as well.Disclaimer
: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it’s character and world, belong to Joss Whedon and whomever else owns the rights to their own personal slayer. Celeste owns neither, makes no money by writing this fan fiction, and generally just likes to toy with their lives without making any sort of profit from it. This disclaimer will only show up on the prologue, but it applies to every chapter of this story. Not allowed to be publicated or distributed in any way that would infringe upon the copywrites of those who actually own the two series. Just so she doesn’t get into hot water for it.
Inspired by a scene in CinnamonGrrl's brilliant story Without
, and also the Angel episode Underneath
. No beta. You'll have to forgive all the mistakes.
"But I want you to know I did save you. Not when it counted, of course, but ... after that. Every night after that. I'd see it all again ... do something different. Faster or more clever, you know? Dozens of times, lots of different ways … Every night I save you.
" - Spike, After Life.
It wasn't the manacles binding his wrists that pissed him off so mightily, or that he was being shoved along by a huge ape-like demon with really bad breath, it was the fact he'd been bloody caught in the first place. Every other blighter, even smurf, had gone down fighting. He'd died before in an apocalypse, it was how things were done. Now they were screwing with the natural order of things.
Spike reached up with his chained hands and wiped the blood from his eyes before getting another less than friendly push from his escort. "You mind?" he snapped, shrugging out of the hold and pausing long enough to straighten out the leather.
His answer was a flash of rotted fangs, all various shades of black and yellow. Spike grimaced. "Guess the Senior Partners don't have all that great of a dental plan, eh?"
"Etock Demons crave a lot of sweets," came a voice echoing down the never-ending chamber they'd brought Spike to. He'd heard of the white room, and glancing around, guessed this would be the place.
"Sugar aside, mind tellin' me why you've brought me here?" Spike called to the small figure advancing down the hall.
"Be happy to," the man answered. The closer he drew, close enough for Spike to get a good look at his face. Fresh, young kid- likely just out of college. With a smile fake enough to make any plastic surgeon weep, the kid reached into his suit and drew out an envelope.
And a pen.
"Oh- you're one of them," Spike said with a roll of the eyes. "If it's all the same to you, I'm done with lawyers. You can tell the Senior Partners to stick whatever contract that is right up their arses," Spike paused, "if they have any."
"Afraid this wouldn't fit," the kid replied with a short laugh, a laugh Spike didn't share. When the laughter faded, accompanied by a light shake of the head, the boy was left smiling. "I wasn't told you had a sense of humor. That's good." The smile this time was actually a bit sinister, though Spike thought it could use some work. "We'll enjoy ripping it out of you."
Scoffing, the vampire glanced around at the others. "Is he serious?" He leveled an unimpressed glare at the liaison. "Gonna have to do better than that to shake me up mate. I ate boys like you for breakfast, lunch, and dinner once upon a time."
"Funny you should mention that, because it brings us right to business," the boy said, opening the envelope and sliding out a slip of paper. "We here at Wolfram and Heart pride ourselves on our severance packages. The Senior Partners have decided to give you a few options on how you'd like to spend the rest of eternity."
Spike narrowed his eyes.
"Option one: we take your soul and let you go to return on your merry way," he started, already taking a breath to continue.
Spike didn't even take a second to interrupt. There was nothing to think over. "Nope."
The boy gave him a searching look. "There's only one other option, and it isn't very pretty Mr. Bloody. The Senior Partners are offering you a chance to avoid one of their Hell dimensions."
"I went through a lot for this soul," Spike replied, spine straight and eyes never wavering at the implied threat. "And I don't do the dealing with the devil gig anymore. So you can go ahead and toss me into one of your suburbs, 'cause I'm not giving up what's mine. Not again."
The boy's false smile was stretching his face. "Very well. Sign here please."
Spike snatched the pen that was handed to him, and his chains dangled over the bit of paper in front of his nose as he signed his name on the dotted line with the large, ominous looking x.
The contract was plucked out of his fingers, and the boy turned to start walking away. Spike raised his brow, glancing down at the pen left in his fingers. "You forgot your pen!"
"Keep it. Consider it a gift for your service here," the liaison said back before disappearing back down the corridor.
It was the last thing Spike heard before the corridor seemed to shorten in the span of a second. The white walls that had stretched into infinity collapsed around him, and then all went dark.
His eyelids were glowing orange, and that was strange to the extreme. In fact, that his entire body was warm was strange. So was the hand moving up his chest, come to think of it.
Spike's eyelids snapped open, and at the realization that sunlight was blazing over his unprotected face, he yelped before tossing himself towards the side of the bed.
Taking the covers with him, wrapped around his bare legs, he hit the floor. Surprisingly, that hurt. After taking a moment to lift his palm, blinking down helplessly at the pinkish hue to the skin instead of his usual pale, creature of the night shading, Spike then realized he also wasn't on fire. Usually this would have been a very good, salute it with a bottle of Jack sort of discovery, but his memories of the white room came rushing back.
Spike leapt to his feet, eyes taking in the room he was now inside uneasily.
He recognized the bedroom. He spent years fantasizing over it. The slanted ceiling, the little touch lamp atop the dresser next to a frilly bed. The closet behind him that he knew would smell like her
. The her in the bed, yawning sleepily and rubbing a palm over her eyes, muttering some indistinct words like Spike and bed.
Cautiously he worked his way over to the window, hesitantly reaching out his new, non-flammable hand and pulling back the curtains. It was sunrise, he realized with wonder as he stared out at the colors that seemed so bright and beautiful. Eyes moving to the tree, he saw a drop of morning dew slip from one of the leaves, sparkling as it fell back to the earth. Something so beautiful and long forgotten Spike could have spent all day writing a poem about it.
"Okay," Spike murmured before letting the curtain fall and walking over to the corkboard with all the pictures pinned to it of the Slayer's nearest and dearest. He blinked at seeing a lot of himself- some complete with little red hearts drawn over the corners. Vampires and photographs didn't go well, but then as he felt his heart hammering in his chest, he supposed that didn't apply in- wherever dimension this was.
Sunnydale had been destroyed, so they hadn't sent him back to the Hellmouth. Which meant this was his personal, hand crafted Hell.
Glancing back over at the bed with Buffy resting, mostly covered by the blankets except for that hint of a slip, Spike raised a brow. She was probably going to go psycho on him at any moment, take out a butcher knife and cut out his heart. Maybe turn into a demon and slash him to Spike-sized bits. Who knew?
"Ah, hell with it," Spike said to the room, to life, to the Senior Partners, and to the air in general before leaping back into bed with the girl of his dreams.
"Coffee?" Buffy asked, her smile lighting up the little kitchenette while she held up a fresh steaming mug in her hand for Spike.
The recently turned human man gave one of his little smiles back before nodding his agreement with a fresh cup. "Love some, pet."
Their fingers brushed as he took the offered cup. The scent of freshly roasted grounds played under his nose, causing him to sigh reflexively before taking a tentative sip of the hot liquid. "Y'know," he began, "it's a right cheery morning out there, isn't it luv?"
"Beautiful," Buffy agreed before untying a very June Cleaver apron. "Should we have a picnic this afternoon?"
"That or hunt out a few demons," Spike answered with a teasing smirk, sipping again.
Buffy blinked at him once, then twice, before laughing lightly. An intimate little slap to the arm followed, one that didn't hurt in the least- considering how violent their play could get. "Demons? Are you reading Anne Rice again?"
It took a moment to figure out that though she was joking with him, Buffy truly meant what she had asked. When Spike finally did figure it out, he set down the mug and stared at Buffy. "Let me guess," he began softly, "you're not a Slayer, and we don't fight the hordes of evil together."
"Not that I know of," Buffy replied, still grinning as if Spike was the most adorable thing in the world, even compared to a four-month-old puppy. "But the door to door salesmen always give us a good round or two."
"Right," Spike answered, hiding his frown behind the rim of his mug.
It only took minutes to forget all about the fact that he and Buffy were nothing but an ordinary man and woman who spent their mornings in an ordinary fashion instead of planning out how to best keep from getting killed in an apocalypse before lunchtime. Buffy proved to be a good distraction, especially the way she bustled about like a happy homemaker to fix breakfast, talk to Xander on the phone, or give the rest of her attention to Spike who accepted it gladly.
It was strange seeing the look of love in the Slayer's eyes, but it was something he could easily get used to. They touched a lot; little fluttering brushes on the arm or hand, or long caresses through the hair, down the back, and with lips that could never seem to get enough. They talked too. Piddling little comments over the paper, long discussions on the merits of Spike's favorite Soap Opera, or teasing remarks that were playful instead of aiming to wound.
There was silence too. Not the heavy sort that seemed to suck the air out of the room, but a kind where words simply weren't needed- just the presence of the other. At one point in the afternoon, Buffy had brought him a pad filled with versus- most comparing her to some Roman Goddess or the sun shining down on a struggling flower. Words Spike had thought before, but had long since given up jotting down. He'd had his fill of poetry the night he was turned, and the Slayer would never have appreciated the words anyway, at least, the real Slayer.
As the hours stretched on Spike knew well and good this Buffy wasn't the real one. She was too happy, too in love with him, and just too beautiful for even his clumsy rhymes that tried to grasp a single moment of that loveliness. This house had been destroyed long ago, and this place was really a center for evil- not an ideal setting to play lovebirds in. Spike knew this, and he didn't give one damn about it.
For the first time in his far too long existence, he was happy too. He felt loved in a healthy- none crazy capacity, and all the frustration and violence seemed to have dissolved with the dawn he couldn't smell coming. The white room and Wolfram and Heart seemed farther away with each tick of the wall clock, and soon Spike was having trouble thinking of anything but the now.
They decided to take that picnic, because it sounded like a truly fabulous idea, and went to a normal park instead of a graveyard to do it. Laughter was as easy as breathing, complements flowed like the freshly squeezed lemonade, and though Spike would never have believed it was possible he found himself falling even harder in love with Buffy than before. It was truly the perfect day. It was the perfect life.
The nagging warnings in the back of his mind that he was supposed to be facing horrible torment eventually quieted to a point where Spike could fully immerse himself into the fantasy. By the time the picnic came to a close with another long lasting kiss, he had completely forgotten anything having to do with his past, just as anyone might forget a nightmare after waking from it.
The day seemed to go by in a blink, as time often does when one isn't thinking on it. As the couple strolled hand in hand back towards the house to a sky awash in gold as the sun began setting- it was a natural thing to stop and admire the majestic feast for the eyes it presented.
"Can we do this every day?" Spike asked gently, afraid he might disrupt the mood surrounding them as if it were some fragile bubble easily popped.
Buffy's hand closed tighter around his, her head finding purchase on his leather-clad shoulder. "Why not?"
"Lets then," Spike replied with his heart.
There was another soft kiss, and then Buffy's attention seemed to focus on something across the road next to where they were standing. "Ooo!" she began with delight, "violets!" Her eyes shined at him. "I should pick some for the kitchen."
"Alright," he answered with another laugh. He gave her hand a second squeeze before letting it go, attention still fixed on the sunset before them.
Another kiss was pressed to his cheek, and then her hand was gone from his while her footfalls came to his ears as she crossed the pavement. Spike folded his arms, still admiring the view, and listened to Buffy as she hummed some nameless tune while the light snapping of stems accompanied her song.
It was when the breaking of flower stems stopped and she had started back across the road that he heard it- the roar of an engine, the peel of tires spinning as if possessed against the street. The sounds of a car speeding far to quickly down the road, careless and with wild abandon.
It seemed to take eternity to turn his body, to focus his eyes on Buffy. Already, a blur of shinning red registered in the corner of his vision. By the time the image imprinted on his retina was translated by his human mind, the sound of metal impacting with flesh and bone interrupted the sweet song of the birds. The vision of red as blood splattered against his face replaced the hues of gold he'd been staring at moments before.
The scream wrenched from his throat cut through the timid silence after the squeal of the car breaking. "BUFFY!"
Spike ran only a fraction slower than the rate of his pounding heart, unable to look at anything but Buffy- who lay motionless on the street. "BUFFY!"
A choked sobbed escaped his throat after kneeling by her in one deft movement. She had always been so small and fragile looking, and even when he had been intent of doing her in, Spike had been amazed that something seemingly so weak could be so strong. Now he'd give everything so she could have that Slayer strength back, so that he wouldn't be able to tell with one look she was utterly and completely crushed from the ribs downward.
It didn't seem anything had been spared trauma. Her forehead was mangled so badly her face glistened with blood that was no longer appetizing to him. Her arms and legs were arranged at an unnatural angle that could only come from shattered bone. Breath was hard to come by, accompanied by little hisses and bubbles as she struggled for each intake of air. The eyes were still bright, still shining, but this time with pain instead of happiness or love.
Spike gasped out an Oh again before gently working an arm under her head, needing to hold her in some way. From the rest of the pain he doubted such a small movement would register, and she did seem to relax at least partly into such a tenuous embrace. Their eyes locked onto each other.
"Spike," she said.
The chill of night was around him as he could do nothing but stare down, shake her a bit, and call her name with a whisper. He could not have said what went through his head then. Just a blaring knowledge that he'd lost her again, and it was so much worse this time.
"Shame. Such a tragedy when they die young."
The familiar voice interrupted Spike's shattering grief, and the man now shutting the car door- walking towards him with that familiar sinister smile evoked a vision of red of an entirely different nature.
"You," Spike accused, eyes narrowed with a blinding sort of hatred that consumed and burned everything in him.
The liaison to the Senior Partners gave a jaunty wave. "Hello again."
"You…" Spike had trouble finding a grasp on the English language, but eventually it came back to him. "You sonofabitch
The slight weight of Buffy's body was gone; Spike was on his feet and came up close and personal to the liaison as he took a flying leap across the distance. Used to his vampire strength, he put everything into his furious punches. Though the jolt on his knuckles was more painful then he recalled- he was still satisfied immensely with each hit that the outcome was vastly the same.
Spike transformed into some sort of mindless killing machine, which was all dandy with him, while he mercilessly beat the laughing young man into the ground in a whirlwind of fists.
When the liaison went as cold and still as Buffy had, Spike kept on for a few more minutes until he was very certain the bastard wouldn't be getting up again. Breathing hard, he reeled back onto his heels and stared down at the mangled mess of a skull and crushed features of the man. It was very eerie how that mouth continued smiling.
In the darkness despair came crashing back when the fury was gone, and Spike could do nothing but cover his face and scream through it.
It had taken all night until Spike had eventually passed out on the street from fatigue and overwhelming grief. Therefore, it was quite a shock to wake up on a mattress, with the sun glowing once more on his face and a warm body in the bed beside him saying, quite clearly, this was no hospital room.
No. It was, he discovered upon opening his eyes, a bedroom- a very specific bedroom. The one he'd awoken in yesterday. It was a bedroom where he discovered Buffy sleeping beside him as if waking into some sort of dream.
Locking his jaw against the tide of grief, Spike took a moment to compose his raw and flayed emotions before stiffly sitting up to the sunlight streaming in through the window. It was as he peered at the dawn's light, as he was trying to figure out how to live again, that a slight shift in the mattress alerted him to the fact all that warmth wasn't just from the sunlight.
Hope was a very strange thing. It sort of sprang up from nowhere, even when the well should be dry, and took over every rational minded thought. He hoped before he looked that it was Buffy. He hoped the night before had been a product of some crazed nightmare. As Spike slowly gazed over and took in the blonde hair that framed a familiar face of the only woman he could ever love, Spike realized hope wasn't such a bad thing after all.
"Buffy," he breathed in wonder even as his hands moved of their own accord over her sleeping form. It was the only name, the only word, racing through his thoughts. The hows and whys would come later. For now, it was Buffy and her general status of living and healthy.
What else mattered?
He couldn't remember touching anyone with such love in every press of skin-to-skin, nor such tenderness as his body was entwined with such rapture to another. If his body had it's own language, that morning after she had stirred it continually repeated three little words with every stretch of its muscles.
It took a long while for the metaphorical smoke to clear. At least twenty minutes after Buffy had dressed and gone downstairs to make breakfast. Spike had relaxed into the pillows, laughing at himself for most of that time. He really was an idiot to get so worked up over a little bad dream.
Sure, it was bloody weird that the day was just the same as it had been before. All right, it was a little strange that the aroma wafting from the kitchen was the same as the previous morning's breakfast. That the pictures which never were still hung in the same spot, that the same clouds floated by just outside of the window, and that he was still warm flesh and beating heart after being a vampire for nearly a century was all a bit on the unusual side. But, once more, Spike found he didn't really give a damn.
At least, not until the déjà vu kicked up a notch when Buffy spoke to him once he'd gotten his lazy arse out of bed and gone downstairs for whatever it was that smelled so grand. "Coffee?"
The mug, the apron, the smile- Spike froze in the doorway and simply stared. Soon as his throat remembered how to work, he felt as if he were reading lines from a script. "Love some, pet."
The coffee was pressed into his hands by the same obliviously happy Buffy, and Spike let it warm his fingers as if it could chase the chill creeping up his spine away. Of course, he could have been imagining it. Coffee was a fairly standard thing for mortals to get in the morning, after all. "Y'know, it's a right cheery morning out there, isn't it luv?"
Standing in the fires of Hades couldn't have warmed his blood when she answered. "Beautiful. Should we have a picnic this afternoon?"
Even if Spike had undergone a lobotomy and lost all ability to think at all he still would have shouted, "no!"
She paused, frowning a bit in concern. Then, like the clouds being swept from the sky by a strong enough breeze, she smiled again. "Okay. Lazy day around the house it is."
The unease was enough to turn his stomach as Spike went back to sipping from his coffee.
Nothing can go wrong
, he constantly assured himself as the day progressed in a continually similar manner to his nightmare. One Spike was increasingly certain hadn't been a nightmare at all. In fact, when Buffy handed him his notepad of poetry, Spike gazed down at it and wondered for a long time if he wasn't going a bit mad.
He recalled the white room and the contract all too well. He remembered Lindsey's private hell, and even went off while Buffy was watching their Soap on the telly to check out the basement for a possible S&M demon with a pile of hearts by a sacrifical table. Naturally he didn't find anything that suggested this was the same dimension, but Spike remembered that each were different according to the Senior Partner's wishes.
There was still the happy homemaker atmosphere. There was still a Buffy who was madly in love with him, a Buffy not afraid to express that love. It was the hardest part of all to deny, and Spike began to dismiss his worries to fall back in love with her all over again. To do so was dangerously easy.
When Buffy didn't press him on the picnic again, Spike went completely into the fantasy once more with wide spread arms. Even though he might have been free falling, he still wasn't a complete idiot, and decided she wasn't leaving the house today. Spike figured that as long as she was here nothing could possibly happen.
Eventually the time to make dinner tore her away from their cuddling on the couch. Spike sat with the curtains open, the setting sun casting the same golden hues to a pinking sky. He became engrossed in the program on the tely, and only barely heard the clatter of pots and pans from the kitchen as Buffy worked on that evening's meal.
Spike had relaxed into the couch when all of the sudden he heard a very odd sort of sound from the other room. It was something like a bug zapper, but one that was far larger than any he'd ever seen. When the electricity in the Summer's home winked out for a moment, and a flare of blue and white came from the kitchen, Spike stood from the sofa and stared off at the direction of the hallway. "Buffy?"
Spike swallowed anxiously before working his way towards the hallway, noting the smell that brought back memories of the burning Chinese city turning the Boxer rebellion. "Buffy?" he asked again, louder, as he moved to step into the doorway.
The sight was not one he could take, and he quickly spun away before leaning against the doorframe, eyes unfocused on the wall across from him.
"Electrocution," he muttered in a somewhat crazed and strangled voice, eyes wide as the sounds of the television washed over him. It must have been the water by her feet, and the light socket that was still sparking away.
"I get it," he went on, nodding to himself as if he could shake the image out of his mind entirely. "You're going to kill her off every night, aren't you?"
A perfectly timed knock sounded from the front door. Spike gazed over rather blankly before managing to walk over to it, hand curling around the doorknob and giving it a slight turn.
A familiar, smiling, face was on the other side. This time, the liaison was dressed in some sort of uniform- standard issue gray, with a hardhat on his head. Spike's whirling mind saw past him to the truck parked along the curb with the words Sunnydale Electric Co stenciled across the side.
His eyes flickered back to the liaison's face which continued smiling. "Wanted to give all the residents a heads up that there's a surge in the power lines," he said in a very matter-of-fact way though his smile was anything but cordial and friendly. "Might want to leave any switches or outlets alone for a few hours."
"Don't say," Spike stated rather flatly.
"I just did Mr. Bloody," the man returned jovially.
Spike nodded wordlessly and then on a whim decided to ask a burning question. "Are the Senior Partners fans of the Twilight Zone by any chance?"
"Huge fans," the liaison answered before tipping his hat. With another broad knowing smile- he turned around and moved back towards the van.
Spike slammed the door shut.
Hope was a funny thing.
Spike learned to cling to it. It was his life preserver, the only thing that kept his sanity in tact. A thousand mornings, he thought, since that first one had gone past. A thousand perfect days with Buffy, and nine hundred ninety-nine tortuous sunsets. He'd always hated sunsets. As a vampire, they were a very real reminder of what sort of monster he was. As a human man trapped in Hell, they were a very real reminder of how little he controlled his fate.
He had tried for months to keep it from happening. He'd always been a very stubborn bastard, and he wasn't about to lie down and take it as the liaison killed his Slayer each evening. Unfortunately, that bitch had a very creative imagination. Spike could tie Buffy in a hastily constructed padded room, and he'd find something 'accidental' to kill her with. Loose nails, bit of carbon monoxide, hell- even a stray piece of insulation clogging the airways. Humans were very fragile creatures.
When he finally discovered there was no preventive measure he could take, Spike began hunting out the liaison from the moment he'd re-awaken. That lasted a good year or so. Eventually he figured out that the liaison was a busy man, and obviously made a special block of time on his schedule to visit Spike. Always the same time, probably right before he left the bloody office for the night.
He'd killed the liaison plenty of times, but in the end it changed nothing. There were some sort of special rules here. Ones designed specially for Spike, it seemed.
Spike eventually realized he had one of two choices. He could leave Buffy to her fate, alone, and nurse down alcohol at Willy's, or he could pretend each day that the sunset would never come. It wasn't much of a choice. It may not have been Buffy herself, might only have been the best damn recreation of her ever, but she was good enough to fool his heart. He couldn't just leave her to die alone, no matter what toll it took on his sanity.
And he was slipping. The waters were rising slowly but surely, and he found himself wishing he'd died with Angel and the others. Or just stayed dead when he'd defeated the army of Uber Vamps. He'd fulfilled the Shanshu prophecy. He was a real boy again, that much was certain. Bloody thing had never mentioned this, though.
Funny how things turned out in the end, he mused by the roadside as he stared off into the sunset. Some reward for being a hero this was.
It was ending tonight- or, he hoped it was. Spike wasn't certain just what would happen- he'd never tried this avenue out before. Wanted to all the time, but never quite worked himself up to it. Convinced himself someone would come for him, just as they had for Gunn. No one ever had and three years was quite enough.
Course, he'd likely wake up again, but it was his last ditch effort before letting go of that floating bit of wood.
Each morning Buffy always suggested having a picnic, and each morning Spike would decline. Every time she died a bit of his soul was torn away, but the first had been the worst of them all. Technically the second, he supposed, but he wasn't going to quibble with himself over details. Fact was the car had been the worst of them all because it was the one where she lived the longest afterwards. It was one thing to suffer himself, but it was another to watch it in her.
Now the same golden hues were burning their way across the sky, and Spike smiled slightly at them. Buffy was across the road, and he knew what was coming. Usually he would dread it to a point where it would be hard to breathe, but this sunset was different and special. He was going to make it different and special.
As the engine roared and the tires spun to life, Spike sighed lightly before turning his head just in time to watch the red viper hit Buffy. She was tossed up and over the car, hitting the ground hard. He recognized the sight well, and his heart bled again, resolving his decision that this time would be the last.
Head hanging low, Spike crossed over to her and knelt down. His arm went behind her head again, and he gazed into her bright eyes.
"You're not her, luv," he started as his hand went into his pocket. "Not really. I'm sure at this moment you're married to that bastard the Immortal, maybe you've even got a few ankle-biters mucking about on the rugs and all." She continued to stare up at him, still working for breath. "It's alright, though. Long as your happy, it's all worth it."
He drew out the object he had crafted so carefully and laid it across his knee before continuing. "They probably thought it would break me faster, making you love me. The day being so beautiful and perfect, then this happening every night- enough to bust a normal man in half, I'll grant 'em. Angel would have gone mad years ago- poof he is. But, see, that was the mistake. They gave me proof you loved me, and that's enough to keep on living. Should have tortured me with whips and hot pokers, would have worked a lot better. I suppose they thought I was too strong for that, thought my heart was weak. Too bad they didn't realize that it's actually the strongest bloody thing about me since I met you, isn't it?"
"Then again," he continued as her breath turned into the telling wheeze, "it got me my soul, let me burn to cinder just standing there- so they must have figured it would be the thing to target to get rid of the spark. I suppose that makes sense to a demon. Would have to me, but I always did prefer getting my hands dirty. Never was much a desk man."
Buffy's eyes were dimming, and Spike knew there wasn't much more time. "You're not real, but you feel real enough to me. Can't stand to see you go on like this. It's my hell, after all, not yours. So I'm ending it tonight, Buffy- only way I can. Before I break I've got to try one last thing."
He lifted the amulet and stared hard at it. Stupid wankers had left the Sunnydale home just as it had been before the final battle that had destroyed it, and that meant all Red's books had been inside. It had taken a lot of reading, but eventually he found the right spell.
"I love you," he said finally, unwinding the amulet's tanned leather strips just as the liaison's car door was opening. "Going to end the suffering now. Won't hurt a bit anymore."
With that said, and a final farewell kiss, he fastened it around her neck just as her heart was stopping. There was a time after she had jumped through the portal to do anything to bring her back, but not for this sort of life. Whatever it was.
The magic shimmered in the air over her body, and Spike heard the liaison utter the first angry remark in all their time together. With a tender smile as the last thing this ghost of a memory would ever see, Buffy faded out of existence before him.
The pounding feet on the pavement behind him caught up while Spike was still smiling. The liaison's furious words only confirmed what he had hoped would work. Spike didn't even need to wait till morning to know that Buffy would not be back.
"You think this gets you out?" the liaison asked in a voice so dangerous it sounded through even Spike's blissful sort of happiness.
"No," Spike answered easily. "Gets her out though."
"She's not even real," came the furious statement.
"I know," Spike said softly, still staring at the ground where she'd been laying.
The liaison's hand went on his shoulder, pushing him so that Spike was forced to look up. "Then why do it?"
"Because," Spike answered evenly, feeling a sort of peace descend over him that he hadn't known all his life, "now you bastards can't touch any part of her anymore- even a reflection." From the blazing of the gray eyes, Spike knew he'd been right on that one. He sent a mental thanks to Red for the books before adding, "no one messes with my girl."
"We'll figure out something else by tomorrow," the liaison hissed dangerously before straightening up and spinning around on his heel. He walked the length of the street, nearly to his car, and turned around to glare again. "I suggest you get a good nights sleep. It'll be the last you'll ever have."
Spike only smiled in response, thinking he just might. For the first time in a thousand sunsets, he was no longer dreading what the next one would bring. He'd finally saved her.
And that was enough.