Chapter 1: Notturno
He still dreams of Buffy sometimes. Dreams of her eyes and her smile, the scent of blood and strawberry lipstick, the way she used to stand on her tiptoes and tilt her head to kiss him. Dreams of the sword in her hands when she sent him to hell, and how she said I love you just before killing him (he didn't tell Connor that he loved him before cutting his throat, and he wonders if that's better or worst, if love can really justify death and if truths whispered at the end of your life are better than lies that can keep you alive)
He dreams of her shouting at him. About Faith ( "You chose her over me" she said, and she sounded hurt and cold and still so obviously in love with him) and about Spike ( "How could you not tell me he was alive? How could you?" and hearing the tears in her voice, that's what really hurt, even more than the fact that it was her first call to him in years) and about a life that never happened because he was too stupid to accept a gift he never deserved, no matter what The Powers That Can Go Fuck Themselves seemed to believe ("I'll never forget" she promised, yet she did, and it was unfair for him to expect otherwise, but)
He dreams of her crying while telling him about the place in her heart that Spike had stolen away. You want to know why? Because he was alive, Angel, more alive than I was at the time, and more alive you've ever been. (and he remembers James telling him the same thing not so long ago. Looks like his progeny got all the life he never had. Angelus used to laugh at them for that. Called them children, taunted them. And how ironic is that now, really) He danced and laughed and ate pizza, and he didn't do it for me, but because he liked it. He still likes it. He breathes while he has sex and he sighs when he comes, you knew that? (yes, as a matter of fact he did) It's nothing like fucking a dead man with him. (I'm sorry that I'm dead, Buffy)
He dreams of her dying and never come back.
He dreams of her in hell.
And some nights he wakes up and it feels like he had all of those dreams in a row. Some nights they don't even feel like dreams, just like the truths he's now too old to keep ignoring.
The only warning he gets is a soft 'whooops', then Spike falls on his bed, wet clothes and muddy boots and all. Angel doesn't even have the time to say what the fuck before he starts blabbing, his stupid radioactive head nestled on the pillow just next to his.
"Okay, so, if the world was ending and killing her was like- like, the only way to save it... 'Cuz I was wondering, y' know? and, and if it was you I'd kill you, of course I'd kill you, I just need a good excuse to kill ya, y' know? but. But her, if the world was ending and I... If she... Bloody hell, where are my cigaret- Oi, give it back! Fine, keep it, Champion-Of-The-Thieves. And stop distracting me. I mean it. Would you kill her, you stupid ponce?"
"Would you kill her?", he asks again, more softly this time, and he's drunk, he's always drunk when he tumbles into his bed, but some nights are different than others for him too, darker and scarier and full of memories he never shared with Angel, and on those nights, unlike him, Spike seeks sober lies instead of drunken truths.
And usually Angel wouldn't give a rat shit about what Spike needs or wants, but you know what the say about getting soft in your old age, and Angel's really old and really tired now, and Buffy's really far away, and Spike looks really young and lost, and why the fuck should he always play the hero anyway?
So he lies. And he doesn't care.
"No, I couldn't kill her, either", he answers. "But I'll gladly kill you too, if I had such a good excuse."
And Spike smiles and god, god, on nights like this one, it's more than enough.
Connor never calls him daddy (never had the chance to, because daddy is a children word and if Connor ever said it, fake reality or not, it was always a name for another man) (a name Angel lost, a name Angel gave up), and it's actually a good thing, because he hates that word, hates the memories it brings.
Broken dolls and holy places, little girls praying and begging and dying, his sister crying out for their father, lullabies for dead things, masterpieces, dark curls wrapped around his fingers, fucking her on the church's floor, brushing her hair with bloody hands, counting the stars on his chest, lace and silk and hot wax on naked skin, crazy talk about fishes and pixies, snakes in the woodshed, snakes in the woodshed, snakes in the woodshed, a beautiful pale little bottom turning red underneath his hand, getting candies for his dead children, whips and chains, hate and love, family dinners, fairy tales written in blood and tears, Angelus' loved ones.
And some nights he still can't help thinking about her, his only daughter, his greatest sin. And he can hear Drusilla laughing in his head.
(Damaged and yours forever, daddy. Eternal torment, you said, and eternal torment it is )
Connor never calls him daddy and it's actually a good thing, because Angel can be a father, a brother, a friend, a champion, a lover, but he'll never be a daddy (all of these things at once) again.
Spike once told him that Illyria likes to dance, sometimes. Alone, on the roof, under the stars that nobody can really see, surrounded by her flowers and the sound of car horns coming from the streets.
He remembers him saying that she looked like an unwritten tragedy, and when Angel tried to picture her in his mind (because nobody with a shred of survival instinct would ever be so crazy to actually spy on her) (nobody but Spike, obviously) all he could see was Darla.
Darla, dancing in a dark alley, jasmines in her hair, her pale body shining like pearls and old bones under the moonlight.
Darla, smiling with red lips and black eyes, mouth full of dirty little secrets and no big regrets, blood on her hands and bite marks on her neck.
Darla, always a whore and never a mother, except when it counted, of course.
He wondered if he'd ever see her again in hell, and then remembered he didn't.
He can see them better in the dark, when the shadows hide the blood and he can focus on their faces instead. (He can still smell it, though)
Doyle, and Cordelia, and Wesley, and Fred.
(Those who die are always heroes)
Sometimes Kate, and Lorne, and Gunn, and a baby that once upon a time was his Connor.
(Those who are lost are always a secret grief)
He can see all of them in the dark, but they never look back. (They just stand there, reeking of blood)
It makes him laugh how the Senior Partners' idea of hell was actually something with flames and demons in it. So damn cliché. But evil always is. He's not going to tell them, of course, but if there's one thing he knows about it, is that to make a good hell you need someone who knows something about good. Or, at least, someone with a past and a conscience.
Handsome man saved me from the monsters. (and then he fed me to one of them)
The Father will kill The Son. (and you did it, you did it, you bastard)
Where we in love? (we were. And I died because of it)
Drusilla sired me, but you made me a monster. (and you really can't fix that, can you, git?)
I love you. (and I'll kill you anyway)
You are not my father. (and you never will be, not even now)
Here, dear enemies, a secret for you: Angel makes his own hell every night.
There is this one night, though.
Bad month, bad week, bad day, and he returns home covered in blood and splattered brain, face like a twilight made of bruises, jacket and jeans in shreds, missing one of his shoes.
And there they are.
On the couch.
And playing video games.
They don't even bother to look at him, too busy trying to press buttons with one hand and distract the adversary with the other. There are beers on the table in front of them, and french fries scattered all over the carpet. Spike's smoking, the cigarette barely hanging from the corner of his mouth while he cheers and laughs and scoffs at the kid next to him, and Connor returns all the teasing, American slang versus British (the only fight Angel can't really join on neither side), and elbows the vampire into the ribs to make him lose concentration.
And Angel just stands by the door, looking at them, unsure whether to smile or cuff them both around the head. Instead he just stares in silence for a little while, and once he's sure to have that picture saved for good into his memory, he heads for his room, craving a shower even more than a drink.
Family's still a strange feeling. Warm. Nice. Good.
“Turn down the sound of that damn thing”, he shouts anyway, just to make a point that he's home and displeased with them.
A "yes, Grampa" in a mocking tone is all the answer he gets. From both of them. In chorus. Connor's spending too much time with Spike, Angel decides. And he almost goes back on his feet to give them that good smack he had in mind, but they are still laughing and teasing each other, and that's really too much of a nice thing to spoil it just on a principle.
Chapter 2: Ballade
This is a dance he'll remember for the rest of his life. This is his first dance.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
A short fairytale: once upon a time there was a place called Sunnydale. In Sunnydale there was a house, in the house there was a room, in the room there was a closet, in the closet there was a box, in the box there was a stolen lighter. The end.
Spike always had his suspicions on the whereabouts of that particular lighter, but he never knew for sure. And now, of course, it's too late. Sunnydale's gone, their fairytale ended, and Buffy will never tell him again that she loves him, that she loved him even when she shouldn't have.
The remarkable thing here is this: he doesn't need to hear it. Wants to, yes, obviously. But he can survive without it. Without her. Because she did so much more than loving him. She believed in him. She made him a man.
And burning for her was just the smallest thanks he could think about, really.
(It's 1900 and everything is red. China's burning in fire and drowning in blood, children are screaming and Drusilla's laughing somewhere far away, Darla and Angelus are nowhere to be seen, and a sword almost took away his left eye, but she missed and cut his eyebrow instead, and now he sees everything in red. It doesn't matter. There's just one thing that matters now, and that's the Slayer in front of him. The way she moves, the spark in her eyes, the beating of her heart. She speaks a language he doesn't understand, screams threats he doesn't need to understand, and he's loving all of it. It's not even a survival thing anymore. It's a party, this is the dance floor, and they are dancing the oldest dance in the world)
(This is a dance he'll remember for the rest of his life. This is his first dance)
(It's 2003 and everything is dark, except for the light from the basement lamp that makes Buffy's skin shine with blue reflections. It's the last night before the big battle, the Hellmouth is waiting for them, and Spike never touched her since that night in the bathroom. But now she's right in front of him, and she wants him to touch her. Needs him to touch her. And he does so because, god, he'll do everything for her, he is her hero, her soldier, her Champion, whatever she wants him to be, really, but when he undresses her she has bruises all over her body, blue stains on white skin, and he remembers the night in the bathroom all too well, so he stops and says: "I died too young, I never made love to a woman. I only know sex, I don't know how to touch you". But Buffy smiles, takes his hands in hers and says: "It's the oldest dance in the world, Spike. Just dance with me")
(This is a dance he'll remember for the rest of his life. This is his first dance.)
It's 2014 and now they usually run into each other every apocalypse or two, so for him it's kinda a good thing that the world tries to terminate itself at least a couple times per month. Gives a man the opportunities to make memories.
He likes to remember this one time: it's just him, Buffy and Dawn in a pretty lame pub, celebrating another win with a scotch for him and a soda for them, and all of sudden Wind Beneath My Wings starts to play, and he grins and Dawn laughs and Buffy screams "hell no", but he picks her up and makes her dance with him anyway.
Another fight, another win, another pub, and before they know what the hell is happening, they're all drunk, Willow's singing Anarchy in the U.K., he's laughing his ass off and Buffy's recording everything with her phone. It's still blackmail material.
Others times are less fun, of course. Times when they're all together and it's almost impossible not to notice the empty spaces where friends used to stand by. Times when they win and it doesn't feel like it. Times when he notices wrinkles around Buffy's eyes and the urge to punch something is way too strong.
But he's her equal now.
Not her slave anymore, not her soldier, not even her champion.
He's her friend now.
And some nights (“if you're very, very good”, she whispers in his ear) he's a lot more.
(Some nights he's her man)
"You died a hero", Angel said once, when Spike was still a ghost.
It was a halfhearted attempt to comfort him, and sure as hell it wasn't easy for Angel to say those words.
But it was too soon, Spike was still hurt and that "no, you don't" was still burning on his lips, so he just laughed in the other vampire's face, angry and cruel like the good old times.
"Fuck you and fuck your bloody hero thing", he shouted back, "I died for her".
(It's 1898 and everything is blue. Lighter and lighter blue. It's almost dawn, the sun is coming up and he lies on the ground, broken legs and a stake in his chest. Missed the heart, but it doesn't matter, soon he'll burn and the demons will have their revenge anyway. He was drunk and careless and stupid enough to pick a fight with them, but god, he had fun. He lights a cigarette with the only hand he can still move, then closes his eyes, waiting for the fire, wondering for how long Drusilla will cry for him. He hears the footsteps approaching but doesn't bother looking, and only when he feels strong hands lifting him from the ground he recognizes Angelus' scent. The discovery comes with a lot of questions. Why. What. Why. But he doesn't ask, doesn't question his fortune)
(When he opens his eyes again the sky is gone, Angelus still holds him in his arms and he doesn't understand)
(It's 2004 and everything is dark, except for the streetlights that makes Angel's skin shine with red reflections. It's the last night before the big battle, Hell is waiting for them, and Spike wonders why the fuck he keeps doing it. Back in Sunnydale, dying for Buffy was the right thing to do, the only thing he could do for her, but for who and for what is he dying now? For Fred? For Angel? For his own champion complex? Hell comes, and he still doesn't have an answer. He fights anyway, because he's good at it, because it doesn't matter, or maybe because it matters too much. He fights until he falls, just as it should be, and somehow he knows everything is good)
(When he opens his eyes again the sky is red, Angel's nowhere around him and he doesn't understand.)
It's 2009, he left Los Angeles two years ago, now. He wanted to try the solitary hero thing, and quickly found out that he liked it. With Captain Forehead in the States and the Scooby Gang in Europe, he figured Asia would make a good place for him. He was right. He's even learning Chinese.
Angel still calls him, from time to time. Small talks that always end up in insults, but Spike always answers anyway. Always insults him too, because when you are good at something why hide it?
"You know, I'm beginning to think that you actually care about me", he says one night, teasing him after finding thirty-five missed calls on his phone. He was on a hunt, a big one, and missed their weekly call.
There is a moment of silence from the other end of the line and then:
"Well, took you long enough", Angel replies with a sigh.
And Spike hangs up because what the fuck, honestly.
Being around Connor obviously brings out the old man's worst paternal instincts. And maybe he was drunk too. Yes, that's it. Alcohol and kids. Horrible mix up.
He text him back some insults, just for the love of closure.
- Idk how it happened but it looks like this just became a collection of one shot somehow inspired by classical music. Oh well.
- Written for the WRPG challenge @ maridichallenge, prompt red/blue.