Warning: violence, character deaths.
There are two sides to every story. Every joy hides sorrow, every death brings life.
That was what she could not help remembering, staring at the white fullness of the moon. Bright and round, its luminous beauty brought tears to her eyes. But on the other side, she knew, it was perpetual night.
The Slayer bowed her head and the memories came quickly and easily.
* * *
Wednesday night each week they would meet. Each time, she vowed that it would be the last time. She would curse herself for being a weak fool even as she opened the door.
He would be waiting already, stretched out on the bed watching television or sprawled in a chair, one leg hooked over the arm. He would grin at her and slowly unfold his tall frame, never taking his eyes off her. Her back to the door, she would let him come to her, hands twisted together to stop herself reaching out to him. She would stare at him and his predator's smile, and let him kiss her with his cold, cold lips.
Some nights they didn't speak a word until they were already half undressed, and then it was only a name, an expression of desire.
Afterwards, angry at herself for giving in yet again, she would silently dress with her back to him, acutely aware that he watched every movement with those glittering eyes. She would gather up her belongings and leave without a word, determined that next week would be different.
But deep down, Buffy knew that she didn't want things to change. Had she been truly determined, she would not have come back every single week, always on time. She would not have looked so desperately forward to those stolen midnight hours.
She could not keep away. The times she spent with Spike were among the best in her life.
* * *
She was the only Slayer in the history of time to have known two others of her own kind. Knowing them had been an honour and privilege, whatever the outcomes had been. Each had taught her many things in their own way. They had been very different, two extremes of discipline and defiance, with herself caught in the middle.
Yet at the core they had shared one basic belief. Slaying isn't your job, Kendra had said, it's who you are. Killing vampires, Faith told her, it's what we were made for.
She had never felt it to be more true than now, this single moment as the stake plunged deep into the vampire's heart and the blood singing in her ears sounded like victory.
Each time she killed a vampire, she knew that there was one less demon in the world and a feeling of deep satisfaction would run through her. She knew in her bones that she made a difference in the world, that she made it better. Despite all the pain she had experienced, she would not have given up her life for anything.
The meaning of true peace, she sometimes thought, would be to know that the world was free of all evil. That was her guiding light, her most deeply treasured wish. She went out every night and did her duty in the hope that one day, in the far distant future, one of the Slayers that followed her would be able to make her dream a reality.
Those moments, when she knew that what she did was right, were among the best in her life.
* * *
Sometimes she wondered - did she love him? Perhaps.
But the question seemed beside the point, for it wasn't just love that brought them together time and time again, and nor was it purely lust. There were elements of both, she readily acknowledged, but to her it seemed more a matter of need. Something that had little to do with the heart or the body; more what she would have called the soul, were it not for the fact that he didn't have one.
In the shabby hotel room, with its dim flickering lights and perpetually leaking tap, they could give to one another a peace that they truly craved. To set aside all their worldly cares, to forget the cumbersome details of normal life and defy all logic and reason. An irrational, impossible meeting between opposing forces.
It was release and it was relief. They made for themselves a separate world without consequences in which all that mattered was that they were two people, who shared their strength and passion, gave pleasure and received it.
Her head thrown back, eyes closed, and his lips on her throat, his hands guiding her hips against him as she cried out. Afterwards lying together in the warmth of the bed, lightly touching, the points where flesh met flesh acting like conduits for electricity, charged areas of energy.
Sometimes she would speak in a low voice, her voice so eerie in its intimacy that he thought that half the time she was speaking to the darkness rather than him. Thoughts he never thought her capable of spilled out fully formed.
Once she shocked him with her words, for it was as though his secret thoughts had become her's. In the roughness of her voice there was a hopeless and unnamed longing which he'd thought known only to him.
"Here in this room, I can be human again," she began, and inside him a chord was struck. "Outside, I'm something separate and apart, not to touch or be touched, as are all my kind. But I used to think it could be different for me. Everyone tried to tell me it couldn't be like that - I didn't listen. I wanted to know love and I did, and for a while I was happy. But in the end it hurt me so badly that now there is something broken inside me that will not heal."
She stopped for a long time and he thought that she was finished and the night was over. Every week, despite the closeness that might have preceded it, she would leave him in anger and silence, spine rigid and mouth tight. He wondered whether her anger was directed at herself or him, or both. He was resigned to these abrupt endings now.
Then she spoke again, very quietly. "I thought that nothing would ever reach that part of me again. But sometimes, when I am here with you, I know what is to feel alive."
He wanted to reply, to seize her hand and say ‘yes, yes, exactly, I know exactly what you mean!' But before he could, the moment was over. She had withdrawn, getting up and dressing in swift economical movements. Within moments she was gone, slamming the door behind her.
He was left cold and alone, an empty husk, still hungry for her warmth. At that moment another week could not pass soon enough.
* * *
The hotel room became another world for a few hours each week. But there was a different world just outside the door, which they were forced to live in for every other waking moment. This world was a harsher place.
In this world, Spike might still have the marks from her nails in his shoulders from the night before, but this did not matter a whit in the greater scheme of things. The crescent marks in his skin or the memory of her lips were of no account in this world, where his only aim was to claim the scalp of another Slayer to add to his belt.
Likewise, Buffy wanted nothing more than to defeat him, for as master in Sunnydale he was her true opponent, the ringleader of the vampires she was born to destroy.
Without a true leader since his departure, the vampires of Sunnydale were brought together once more by the force of Spike's personality. Under his rule, they set aside all other concerns in their thirst for the Slayer's blood. They fought a long and bloody war, fierce night battles taking place on the streets of Sunnydale. Slayer was pitted against vampire, as it had been since time immemorial.
However, Buffy proved more than equal to Spike and his minions, thwarting his plans and decimating their numbers. She was assisted, of course, by her Watcher and her friends, whereas all Spike had to rely upon apart from himself was the counsel of the increasingly demented Drusilla. Spike grew increasingly frustrated as his plans went awry time and time again.
So finally he turned to the nastier methods that Angelus had loved so well, which, though he found them distasteful, were effective. Rather than directly attempting to kill her, he attacked the weak points in the Slayer's armour: her friends and her family.
* * *
Buffy wept silently at the memories, tears falling from her cheeks onto the white lilies she held before her.
The war between Spike and Buffy became still bloodier and more horrific with every day. When the attacks had been aimed at her, Buffy had found life on the edge almost exciting. But when those she loved were the targets, every waking moment was misery - waiting in dread for a phone call or a knock at the door that would mean the worst had happened. Even she, the Slayer, could not protect them all.
With those nearest to her threatened and the stakes rising fast, the stolen hours with Spike were her only solace. She counted down the days and hours to Wednesday with something close to desperation. In the few hours they had together, they gave all their passion and desire, made all the sweeter and more painful for the infrequency of their meetings. It seemed absurd to the point of lunacy that the very person who caused her such pain was also the one to whom she turned to for comfort. Yet was it any more ludicrous, she thought, that a vampire could hold the Slayer in his arms, even drink of her blood, and still resist the temptation to kill or turn her? It was incredible, impossible, insane.
* * *
"It hurts outside here," she told Spike, head pillowed on his shoulder. "I hate going back."
"I know, pet." He sighed. "Nothing we can do about it."
For a long while she didn't reply. But then he felt her muscles tense and the finger idly tracing designs on his chest stopped. "But there is something," Buffy whispered in his ear. "We could end it all now."
"What do you mean?" he asked warily. She had sounded almost fey then, and he could think of more than one meaning to her words. "There are two ways," she answered, echoing his thoughts. Suddenly she sat up and faced him, eyes boring into his. Her voice was flat and dead, like her words. "We end the war. You fight me now. Here, in this room. To the death."
After a pause, he spoke again. "And the other?" he replied softly. The Slayer's words had given him a moment of fear, but he did not allow himself to show it.
Her expression suddenly troubled, Buffy lay down beside him again and curled her small hand around his rough fingers. Her voice was warm and full again, a lover's voice. "What we have together is impossible. You know that, don't you?"
"Yes," he admitted freely. "It's fucking insane."
"Exactly. It's insane," she agreed, before continuing in a hushed tone. "But look at what we've done. We did the impossible, Spike. In this room - we changed reality. We turned this place inside out when we met here for the first time, and every time after. You can feel the difference, can't you, whenever you go back outside." Her voice dropped a notch in volume as it heightened in intensity. "But maybe we could do it to everything. Maybe we could go outside this room and take the inversion with us. We could push down the walls and make this room larger than the world. We could pull the whole Earth inside out, turn black into white, and light into darkness. You and I, Spike." She spoke in less than a whisper. "We could be together."
On the last word, her voice cracked and she began to cry.
"It can't be done, love," he told her gently, holding her in his arms. "It's impossible." She wept uncontrollably, tears wetting his shoulder. "I know we can change things - we have changed things. Night into day and dawn into dusk." He twined a strand of her hair around his finger and then let it loose again. "But only here, in this room, and only for a few hours. It'd break us if we tried to do it to the whole world."
"I know. We can't change what we are," she replied brokenly. "Not forever."
"No, love. Not forever. Not even for a whole day."
* * *
One full moon night, vampires broke into the Sunnydale High library. At that time, there were only two people inside - Giles, and Oz in werewolf form. The vampires didn't bother to kill them, for they had a specific task which they wasted no time in executing.
Knocked unconscious seconds after the vampires entered the library but otherwise uninjured, Giles woke in hospital the next day, to Buffy's great relief. But from the first moment he saw her he could tell from the grim set of her jaw and the redness of her eyes that something else had occurred.
The vampires had been sent to do one thing only: to let Oz loose on the streets of Sunnydale. Four civilians were killed and eighteen were injured. The authorities were called in to deal with what they thought to be an escaped wolf from a private zoo. After an extended hunt, they cornered the creature and shot it; but when the body was examined, all they found was the naked corpse of a young man in late teens, his chest riddled with bullets. Public outcry forced several resignations from senior officials; the wolf was never found.
* * *
Buffy came into the room quietly, movements mechanic and eyes dead. She closed the door and leaned back against it, her gaze numb rather than accusing. "He's dead, Spike," she said softly. "He's dead."
He stayed silent, thinking of the twenty vampires she had slain in the past month alone. He was losing the war and this was the only way he knew to win it, however much it might hurt her. So he said nothing as he came towards her and the tears fell from her eyes.
He cradled her face in his hands, feeling the hot tears on his skin. "Close your eyes, love." She obeyed and Spike let the bones shift beneath his skin, till he wore the face of a demon. Slowly he licked the salt tears from her cheeks and eyelids, her throat, his fangs pressing against her skin but never breaking it. He kissed the hollow at the base of her throat, the tip of his tongue lightly touching her skin. She trembled but kept her eyes closed as he undid her shirt, one kiss for every button, lower and lower until he was taking off her skirt.
"Wait," she said suddenly and opened her eyes. "Oz is dead. What am I doing? What are we doing?" She stared at him, her eyes wide and almost frightened.
"Do you want me to stop?" he asked quietly. She hesitated, eyes downcast, and he stepped back.
"No." The word made him stop in his tracks. She pulled him against her again. Her voice trembled, eyes wet with tears. "I need you."
They didn't make it to the bed that night.
* * *
Joyce Summers was a cautious woman. She always wore the cross her daughter had given her. She often carried a wooden stake in her handbag. She did not venture outside after dark if she was alone. She did not invite strangers into her home. She kept a bottle of holy water in the kitchen cupboard.
Joyce Summers, mother of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was prepared for all normal vampire contingencies. That is why they struck during the daylight hours.
Fumbling for her keys in the dimly lit carpark of a shopping mall, she was attacked by four vampires, handpicked by the master himself. The coroner found four pairs of puncture wounds, each pair slightly different in size and shape.
The vampires drained enough to keep her alive, but only barely. Then they broke her neck. They left the body on the hood of the car, the alarm blaring, and then they disappeared into the city's extensive drainage system.
* * *
He wondered if she would turn up considering what he had just done to her, but she arrived precisely on time. There were no tears this time, but nor were there any words. She did not require speech for what she wanted to say that night. Buffy left some hours later, still not having uttered a single word in all that time.
Spike sat up to watch her leave and then fell backwards onto the bed again, unwilling to summon the energy to rise. He was thoroughly exhausted as he had not been for a long time - maybe not since the early days with Drusilla, he thought, half-smiling at the memories.
But as intensely pleasurable as the night's experience had been, Spike was plagued by anxiety. They had originally come together to feel human again, yet this night had given them release for nothing other than physical desire.
Our walls were crumbling, he realised sadly, and not because we are pushing our reality out. The world is crushing us in.
* * *
Willow had never been the same after Oz's death. Buffy, still hurting deeply from the death of her mother, was naturally not as aware of her best friend's grief as she could have been. Xander and Giles did their best, but it was clear that Willow was not healing.
So when Willow simply disappeared one night, Buffy and the others clung to a slim and desperate hope that she had left of her own free will to deal with her grief. The other alternatives were too frightening to speak about, although they thought about them almost constantly. Suicide. Murder. Abduction.
They were half-right. The truth was that Willow had indeed left of her own volition - but her intention had been to end her own life. Vampires found her on the bridge above the river, staring down at the rushing waters as her fingers loosened their grip on the steel strats of the railing. Recognising her as one of the leading protagonists in the war, the vampires captured her and took her back to their master.
Spike granted Willow her greatest wish and her deepest fear - he gave her the peace of death, and at the same time made her one of his own kind.
* * *
The first words out of Buffy's mouth were, "What did you do with her?" Her nerves were strung tight, the latent aggression in the way she moved telling him that she was on the edge of violence or tears, or both.
He gave a non-commital shrug. "Don't know what you're talking about. We don't bring the outside inside, love. That's the rule, remember?"
Buffy snarled her reply. "Don't call me ‘love'."
Spike merely raised a brow. "Finished, love?" She scowled. "Alright then. Let's get this straight. Did you come here to ask about your little friend? Or...?" He let it hang suggestively, though the way he was looking at her made his meaning clear.
"Or what?" she shot back icily.
He grinned, the glint in his eyes dangerous, and said nothing.
"Fine," she said coolly. She walked across the room with deliberate calm, looking him up and down as she walked. When they were eye to eye, she stopped and fixed him with a hard stare. "If that's how you want it."
Roughly she pushed him back onto the bed and then knelt astride him, tearing open his shirt, buttons flying. She ran her fingernail down his bare chest, hard enough to draw blood, and smiled coldly as he tried not to squirm. "Come on, Spike," she said softly, expression unreadable as the single light from above made a dark halo of her hair. "Let's play."
* * *
Buffy, Giles and Xander were inseperable. Missing Willow desperately and shaken by the recent successes of the vampires in raids on the Bronze and other public areas, they patrolled as a trio, watching each others' backs and determined not to lose another friend.
A fortnight after Willow disappeared they were patrolling a cemetary after midnight when they came across what appeared to be a pack of vampires attacking a girl: Willow. She saw them and cried out - "Buffy! Help me!"
Without a thought, they came to her aid, only to be stunned when Willow herself turned on them, ordering the other vampires to attack. The demonic glow in her eyes was like a knife thrust to their hearts and Buffy found herself fighting mechanically as her mind reeled in horror and shock.
In the end it came down three against three - Buffy, Xander and Giles faced off against Willow and two of her minions. Before they could attack, Willow reverted to her human face and lowered her hands, twisting them together in the gesture they knew so well. "Please, Buffy, Xander, Giles," she implored, eyes glistening softly. "It's still me inside. I'm still Willow." She tilted her head and smiled sadly. "I still love you."
Even though Buffy knew it was the demon speaking, the words tore at her heart. Willow stood there so quietly, lips curved hesitantly, in her cute red sneakers and fuzzy sweater, that Buffy did not have the will to plunge the stake into her best friend's heart.
And Willow knew it, her eyes glittering as Buffy slowly lowered the stake. It was all the vampire needed and before Buffy could blink, Willow had leapt forward and seized Xander, sinking her teeth into his neck. He was dead within moments. Willow dropped the body on the ground and licked her lips appreciatively before turning to Buffy again.
"Well," she said. "That was easier than - "
Willow stopped and stared numbly at the arrow jutting from her chest. Then she was gone.
Giles lowered the crossbow. The other two vampires, sensing that the night's fun was up, exchanged glances and then ran for it. Buffy, starting to cry, was too heartsick to pursue them and Giles simply offered her his hand. The Slayer and the Watcher stood in the cemetary a long time.
* * *
Time passed and Wednesday came around again.
They came together with all the tenderness that had been missing from their last encounter. Their fingers entwined together, her mouth against his.
They lay together in the darkness as the rain pattered softly down against the windowpane. She murmured odd phrases to the night, snatches of song, questions she didn't expect him to answer. He could hear a sad smile in her voice and wondered if she herself knew it was there. At one point she might have said that she loved him, but if she did it was in a breath so faint that even his senses could not know for sure. Just the thought of it made him shiver inside. He would never hear those words, he thought sadly. Not from her.
He, as always, said as little as possible. Buffy wondered if he even heard the words she said - perhaps he only registered her voice as a stream of sound, a soft undercurrent to his own musings. She could never read him, both in here or outside, and sometimes it was part of his appeal; other times it annoyed the hell out of her.
I love you, she thought and was startled to feel her lips moving. He didn't react, and mentally she relaxed - he hadn't heard.
But the next part she forced herself to say aloud. She had delayed it too long. She sat up and looked down at him, expression serious. "I'm not coming back." It hurt to say, but it had to be done. This time she meant it. "This is the last time, Spike."
His hand tightened around hers, but he neither looked nor sounded surprised. Only sad. "I know, love."
She nodded slowly. "Then this is goodbye." She leant down and kissed him.
They gave themselves over to desire for the last time.
* * *
Buffy and Giles readied themselves for the last time.
"You and I, Slayer and Watcher, together against the darkness," Buffy said softly, her eyes burning with intensity as she sighted down a crossbow. "This was the way it was meant to be, Giles." A darker note crept into her voice. "It was always our war. We should never have allowed them to get involved."
He nodded, his face haggard and drawn with grief but his eyes alight with the same dark glow. "I know. But it ends tonight, one way or the other." He shook his head slowly and some of the light died from his eyes. "I can't stop thinking about them, Buffy. All the time. Whatever happens tonight - it won't make it stop, will it?"
She took his hand, her eyes sad. "No. Never. We'll never stop thinking about them."
He smiled briefly, surprising her. "I'm glad. I never… I never want to forget them."
"Me neither." Impulsively she hugged him. For a moment they said nothing, simply holding each other.
Giles broke the silence by clearing his throat. "Buffy. Whatever happens tonight..." He stopped. "I mean. Well. If things don't..." He stopped awkwardly.
"If we die tonight," she whispered.
He paused and cleared his throat again. "Yes. Well. I want you to know that - " He struggled for the right words to describe what couldn't be described.
Buffy cut him off gently. "It's okay. You don't need to say it. I know it." She kissed him softly on the cheek. "It's time to go." She was right. They walked into the night without another word, side by side, and that was all that they needed to say.
* * *
Buffy looked down at the lilies, absently noticing that her tears had made silver tracks down the petals, reflecting in the moonlight. Willow, Xander, Oz and her mother were avenged in full. Giles and Buffy had slain many vampires by hand and trapped the rest in the factory, which they then set alight. A few had escaped, but with the death of their master and being so immensely depleted in numbers, they were unlikely to regroup and retaliate for many years yet. Sunnydale was as free of vampires as it ever would be - for now, at least.
The victory had not been without its prices.
Giles would never regain full health; broken limbs aside, the repeated blows to the head he had sustained over the years and in that battle had resulted in chronic head pains. In addition, his vision was beginning to fail. Yet these things had not daunted him; he was still her Watcher, friend and guardian, and performed his duties flawlessly.
Buffy herself had not come through it unscathed - even her innate Slayer healing abilities could not take away her limp. With that injury had come a loss of speed and dexterity, which, she was fully aware, was especially dangerous in her line of work. But so far she had coped, and probably would for many years to come.
But there was one moment that made all that seem insignificant - the moment when she killed him. The moment she had plunged the stake into Spike's heart, tears running down her face and knowing that she was destroying a part of herself. The moment when he had reached out, one hand at his heart and the other stretching towards her. The moment when their eyes had met and the world flipped inside out, when it wasn't Slayer and vampire but Buffy and Spike that stood together on the bloody killing fields, and there was love in his eyes as he died.
Lightside, darkside. Buffy drew in a deep shuddering breath as the tears came to her eyes again - dark, dark side.
She had lingered long enough and so she laid the lilies down on the mound where she had buried his ashes.
For you, she whispered to the night. Murderer. Lover.
Then she walked away, the moon shining at her back and casting a shadow before her.