Implied character death.

She could move like... she could sing as low as... Why is it that I am now trying to discover every facet of Alice's nature for myself? ... All these fragments of memory... Those moments, those few pages in a book we go back and forth over.

In the Skin of A Lion, Michael Ondaatje


She Fell Away


He stumbled blindly through the rain and empty streets, cars rushing anonymously past in a flurry of water and mud, until he came to a late-night diner where the air was thick with the scent of grease and coffee. The lit rectangle of the doorway beckoned, so he ducked inside, slid into a random booth, and shook his head impatiently at the bored waitress who made to come over with her little notebook and check apron. Then he changed his mind and called her back again.

"Coffee. Black. Strong. Hot."

She cast a casual glance over him - saw the dripping black leathers, wet bleached hair plastered to his skull, waxen skin of a corpse. "Looks like you need it, hon." But she walked away swinging her hips, her heels clicking on the lino in time with the chewing of her gum.

No, he answered silently. I don't need it.

For he was already warm, full to the brim with blood. He leant his arms on the faintly sticky surface of the table, rainwater pooling around him on the vinyl seat, and suddenly thoughts came flooding to him unbidden, all these pieces of a girl.

* * *

She moved like a glass of wine - that suppleness, that sort of silkiness and the warmth of the alcohol afterwards. Scent of cinnamon and cloves, making him drunk on the summertime in her skin, and her arms sliding around him while she laughed at some unknown jest. The devil-may-care walk she so unselfconsciously slipped into when in danger, tossing back her golden hair with the killing hand and smiling.

Glimpse of perfect white teeth.

* * *

She spoke to him staccato, sentences shorn of all but the essentials. 'Let's, Spike,' Buffy breathed into his ear, her voice so hot the words came out as steam and were written in the cold cemetary air as frost. 'Here and now, or regret it ever after.' Teasing him with her lips, body pressed up against his, the promise of something more.

She hit all the right notes and barely waited for his assent before moving in for the kill, a kitten that got into the cream. Her sly smile as she knelt above him, pulling off his shirt with her varnished nails and flinging it over a nearby headstone with a flourish. Catching his lip between her teeth as she leant into him, the slight tickle of her hair brushing against his collarbone, and the sound of her ragged breath - all this bringing him closer to the brink.

Buffy, he said to her; but he might as well have said 'fever', for she delivered him to the hands of delirium.

* * *

She danced like a woman who knew she was going to die.

I've got cancer, she could have said to the boys who flocked to her side, and they would have believed her. Or, at least for a little while, until maybe they saw the fey gleam in her eye and the way she threw her head back to toss down a shot, faintest sheen of sweat on her hairline and the nape of her neck. Her bare arms, slipping around the waist of one such and the neck of another, sinuous and graceful, but her amused and darkened eyes meeting only his own across the crowded room.

Slow realisation that the opposite was true - Buffy didn't dance like the doomed. She didn't believe that she would ever die at all. And in this mood, in this moment, who would dare to tell her anything different?

He raised his glass to her and through it saw her burnished bronze, an underwater swimmer in the waters of the Caribbean. This object of desire turned to him through the humid haze of smoke and gin, threw him a slow wink, and beckoned him with a shrug of her golden shoulder. Spike drained the glass and came to her, cutting smoothly through the mass of blurred and sweating bodies like a fine-honed knife.

But when she touched him, intoxicating and pheromone, he knew that there was no sharper blade than she, that any wounds inflicted between them would always be his own.

Dance with me, she said, her hands sliding around his waist. I like it when you dance.

Yes, sweetness, I'll dance with you and cut myself to ribbons. You and the dark angel standing over your shoulder, baby, for you're one and the same mystery to me. Don't you know that you're poison?

But he said these things only to himself, and soon forgot them in the sensations of flesh against flesh, the sound of a hundred moist hearts beating in time to the music, the way she shimmied her hips against his.

Her girl-woman voice softly whispering, where should we go from here?

* * *

"Coffee. Black."

The waitress dumped the cup and saucer down before him unceremoniously, the brown liquid lurching dangerously close to the lip. Spike started, the chain of his thoughts abruptly broken - a small mercy.

He wrapped his white fingers around the cup, feeling the heat of the ceramic soaking into his chilled flesh... And with a spasm of panic realised that already her warmth was fading, that the last drops of her blood were cooling and soon he would be left with only these sharp, painful fragments of memory. Mental shrapnel, working their way in deeper with every moment.

She danced like... She sounded like...

Every memory a glittering bauble, worn from handling but the colours still butterfly-bright and mystifying. Or fragments of a puzzle, jigsaw of a sunlit girl, except that the sections only seemed to fit and never really did. He used to kiss her like a man trying to unlock a jewel box in the night, feeling the tumblers shifting in the lock but unable to make them slide into place.

He had never completely understood her.

The mystery maddened him, taunted him. It galled him that all his secrets were laid bare to her, yet to him she remained behind closed doors. All her separate parts were his - the peals of her laughter, the cadence of her walk, her endless thirst for living - but never the whole.

* * *

She tasted like...

Was there ever any doubt that in the end it would come down to this? Mouth full of blood, spilling ruby drops into her hair, and her cries muffled in the leather of his coat.

Hush now, he said to her without any words. Just let me know this one thing, let me comprehend you and all your components, and I will be satisfied.

Lying above her mothlike struggles, pinning her limbs to the ground, his sharp mouth on her neck. He could sense that the answer was almost within his grasp, the final shining something that would tell him what made her true. He drew her into himself, her heat filling him till he burned with it. He was nearly there, the picture sliding into focus, just one more mouthful and -

Her heart stopped.

* * *

Stumbling through empty streets in the rain, blinded with tears and numbing anger. The moody clouds opening above, broken by lightning on the horizon and pouring their misery down upon him.

Never know, never know, never know... The pattern that his drunken feet made on the slick pavement, the sound that his mind screamed as the last traces of her essence dissolved into his flesh. Walking into the diner unheeding, still warm with her potent blood and dazed by images of unlocked rooms and broken keys, moths that flew into the flames.

Left with the memory of the way she had moved like wine.

* * *

He pulled a handful of change from his pocket, not bothering to count it and leaving an untidy pile on the table as a generous tip for the indifferent waitress. The coffee still untouched and now lukewarm, a puddle of rainwater all over the seat and the floor, and the tinkle of the bell over the door as it swung shut behind him.


October 2000
Named after the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds song.

[Rowan's Fanfiction]