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as is the sea marvelous

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He wonders if this felt different for Angel.

Angelus was with Darla for over one hundred and fifty years. There'd been plenty of passion and obsession, mutual admiration of the other's sadistic ways, the sublime feeling of beauty in each other's kills, but it was never love. Angelus and Darla were incapable of love. He figured it probably worked that way the closer you got to the original sire of your line, the closer you got to the original demon.

Drusilla was further down the line and her insanity had probably maintained some of the emotions of her humanity. Probably meant when she'd sired him, she put that taint of humanity in him, too. Would explain a hell of a lot. So, he and Dru loved each other. It wasn't the way a creature with a soul loved, to be sure. It was obsessive and selfish, about possession and control, about limitless sex, and came wrapped in a warped skin of shared bloodlust. A complete bastardization of love.

He knows this, now he's got a soul. It doesn't mean he loves Dru any less; he just doesn't love love her. He loves her the way you love an old abusive ex or a longtime friend you've run into after a couple years apart. It really doesn't mean what it used to and he's no interest in exploring what it means now.

Darla had two guns trained on Buffy in the school gymnasium. In his head, Spike can hear the story in Dolby surround. Angelus told him without any remorse the year his “big happy” with the Slayer brought him back. Dru had a vision of it, but she was in one of the bad spells she got after Prague and crazier than normal, so he'd brushed it off as a lark, until the grapevine got back to him. Buffy had told him during one of the quiet moments the last year in Sunnydale, her eyes wide with wonder after Spike had casually mentioned some of the ties between the two older vamps.

And after the madness and chaos of the damn alley, when they'd beat more demons than they'd thought they could, when they'd finally had the chance to slink away down another side alley into a manhole, Angel had collapsed against the wall, sunk his couture clothed ass into the sewage, and told the story as Spike hovered there beside, propping himself with both hands against the slimy concrete, dripping his own blood into the nasty brew. Why then and there, Spike has no idea. He can't remember what smart ass remark he'd made, but it made Angel open up to him, as rare an occasion as any he's ever had.

Darla had two guns trained on Buffy in the school gymnasium. Angel's choice was to kill his soulless sire, or save the woman he'd come to love and see as his soul mate. He killed Darla and then acted as normally as he could about it until he got back to his apartment. When Spike asked him what then, he'd said, “Then nothing. I stayed there a couple days, brooding as you would put it, then got my ass back to helping Buffy. Darla was a soulless demon, Spike, the one who turned me! Couldn't exactly mourn her, could I ?”

Angel's words keep ringing the wrong pitch in Spike's ears, making the whole night seem even more surreal.

Seeing the unattended bonfire as he drove past, he'd parked and walked down to put the bloody thing out, cursing the whole time about protecting humans from themselves instead of demons. He could see and smell they'd thrown petrol on it, made it burn hotter, longer, the sand nearest the fire gleaming in crude glassy lumps. Bloody teenage idiots he'd thought as he started to cover it with more sand. Then he smelled her.

She'd had a young girl, maybe ten, innocent and terrified, her favorite kind of treat. She'd let her go when Spike said to and he told the kid to run home to her parents, lock the door, and never come out at night alone. Drusilla had giggled something fierce at that, some secret joke between her and the universe no doubt. He'd asked her to leave L.A., told her Angel's promise was the same it had been when he'd set the girls on fire, told her he'd back the old man up on it.

She'd stared at him then, her dark eyes damn near soulful, then asked him to dance one last time. Not sure what the hell he was doing or what the bloody hell she'd meant by “last time,” he'd stepped forward anyway and she'd fallen like a dying dove into his arms, an intimate little waltz.

Spike closes his eyes now to play the scene out in his head, to make it real, because it still doesn't feel quite real. It happened hours ago, but it still doesn't feel real.

“The stars are lovely tonight, my Spike. They keep whispering to me it's time to go home.”

Spike had tilted his head and spun her out away from him, still holding her arm, “Then maybe you should go home, pet.”

“Silly Spike. Silly Willy.” she'd spun herself back under his arm, until her back was against his chest, took his right arm with hers, had him holding her tight there around her waist. He'd still had no bloody idea what they were doing, only that it felt right.

“How's that then?”

“You're here. Angel's here. This is home,” and she'd reached that same arm up around his neck, bent her head back onto his shoulder, closed her eyes. They were still swaying gently to the rhythm of the waves slapping against the sand.

“No, love. Different side of the fence from you, we are now. No greener here, either.”

“Same fence, my sweet. Different side, same fence. Aren't the stars lovely tonight, Spike? Can you hear them singing? Go home, little lamb, Ms. Mary wants to fleece you.”

She'd reached her left arm back toward his pocket and Spike was swift to put his hand around hers, around the stake she was now holding. Not raising, just holding. He tilted his head again, arching back slightly to look at her face, trying to read her intentions.

“Can't be home if the stars are telling you to go there. Can't go somewhere you're already at, ducks.”

She'd opened her eyes, staring in the same intense way at him.

“Not nice to lie to me. I saw it. The stars saw it. They sang it out to me and they whispered it, too. The beach is nothing but the ocean's dust. Don't you lie now. Your heart was always true.”

As she'd spoken she'd slowly raised the stake to hover over her own heart and Spike hadn't been able to move to stop her, hadn't been able to do anything but look at her while keeping his hand wrapped with hers around the wood. Then she'd spoken again.

“They told me you'd take me home, Spike.”

She'd eased her hand from under his, eased it down to land on his arm around her waist. She'd put the stake completely in his grasp, held oh so precariously over her heart. He'd not been able to think. He couldn't have breathed even if he had needed to. They'd both stood there, silent and still, Dru's eyes closed again, her head resting peacefully on his shoulder, both arms, one over his arm on her waist, the other around his neck, holding him so tight.

Then she'd begun to hum. Some nursery rhyme he'd quickly remembered his mother singing to him so he would go to sleep, something he hadn't heard since he was very young, not like the other songs his mother had sung as he grew. Drusilla couldn't have known that one. He'd never told her that one. He hadn't even remembered it until the moment she'd started humming it. It'd made him feel tired and nostalgic and sad all at once. It'd made him feel, which he wasn't sure he should be doing right then.

Spike suspends his thoughts here, dragging details out at a snail's pace, has to make it real. He can't let this not be real. If it's not real, then it will be someday and he'll have to remember it again another way.

He'd turned his gaze up, shut his eyes tight, strengthened his grip on the sharpened wood enough he cut his fingers. Her fingers gripped him even tighter, nails drawing blood, pressure bruising and pleading. They hadn't moved otherwise, a bloody fucking romantic tableau fit for a dime novel cover. He'd have laughed if he could have. There'd been only one thing left he could do, though.

“That was the last dance, then, plum. The stars are all putting away their music. Ready to go now?”

“Oh yes, my love. Please.”

She'd started humming again and her hands relaxed, her body totally losing all tension against him, totally surrendered to him. Without opening his eyes, without looking down, he'd taken a deep shuddering breath, more emotion than air, then he'd pushed until he'd felt the point hit right above his own heart. She hadn't screamed, hadn't flinched; the tune she'd hummed suddenly stopping and a nearly inaudible but almost relieved sigh had been the only indication she was gone other than a sudden loss of weight against him.

He'd stood there, arms wrapped around empty air, opened his eyes to stare up at the cloudy sky, pondering where she'd last seen those bleeding stars. He'd eventually dropped his right arm, but kept the stake balanced over its target with his left. He'd stood there forever.

The moon is almost half down over the ocean, with the edges of dawn nearly visible as he turns around and looks at the hills, the last low flames and burning embers of a now forgotten fire still glowing red at his side. The tide is beginning to crawl out again behind him, following the moon. The weapon still in his hand is lowered to his side now. He wipes her ashes off his duster slowly, methodically, trying to get every last particle to disappear at his feet. He does the same with the stake before he puts it back in his jacket pocket, sucks the blood off his fingers, gives himself a good shake and preps to stroll casually back to the car.

“Don't you lie now. Your heart was always true.”

He twirls a one eighty without thought and goes down, bends forward, putting the flat of his palms against the sand before his knees, ignoring the small drops falling from his face to land beside his healing fingers. A few more milliliters of saltwater for the sea, is all. He stays there for too long, cursing as he feels his hair start to smoke, his skin sizzle. He doesn't look behind as he's running toward the red speedster, trying to beat the sun to his necrotinted shelter. He makes himself start the car and leave, because he knows he'll just sit there forever, eyes glued to the beach, if he doesn't. A single thought keeps his eyes glued to the pavement instead, heading toward the hotel, because he can't focus otherwise.

Angel said he couldn't mourn Darla, but he never said he didn't.