ABOUT THE PAST
Okay. Where do I start? Certainly not six months ago. Stop laughing at me. I know you're laughing at me. You can't hide it. I can tell.
No, not there. It goes back longer than that. I remember you drunk and angry and weeping for Dru. But that wasn't the start either. Not really. Thinking about it, I guess it goes all the way back to a scared kid running through the streets. Terrified he'd be too late. Terrified there'd be no one alive when it was all over. Playing what-if's and alternatives through his head as he gasped for breath. Banging on the door, imagining the funerals. Imagining the worse possibility of no funerals. Trying to figure out how he would keep on living - if he would want to keep on living. Banging on the door, trying to raise the dead, terrified of being the last one left, of being alone.
Yes, I know, that was always my biggest insecurity. It's not like I know why, really. It just always has been. I guess it's because, no matter what, for most of my life I had Willow and Jesse. I can face most things as long as I'm not alone. I hate to be alone. I think we have that in common.
Back in those days I was still reeling a bit. It was all still so new. And Jesse. Did I ever tell you about Jesse? I don't think I ever did. You see, the first day I met Buffy, Darla took Jesse. A few nights later I staked him. It was an accident, of course. I barely had the theory back then, let alone the skill and certainly not the desire. Eight years of friendship lost in a moment. Hence the reeling.
But in all fairness, that is where it starts - barely six months after Jesse, with one demon offering my neck up as a snack to another. Yeah, I know, you told me how tempting I was not.
Me? I couldn't decide whether I was more afraid of you, or angry at him. Come to think of it, I was probably more than a little afraid of him too - I'm being honest here. But mostly I was angry. Well, you know, he was supposed to be one of the good guys and you don't do that to your comrades in arms. Okay, no, you're right, we weren't that yet. It did come, but only much later and even then it was strained. At that point I had hardly spoken to him. There was the night Buffy died. But after that we went back to circling each other. Well, I went back to circling, he went back to ignoring. No, at that point we were still strangers who didn't like each other, who happened to be on the same side because of the same girl. Some things never change - still don't like each other. And some things do - it became my fight. Not something I did because Buffy did it. It became something I believed in.
No, I don't know exactly when that happened. It was some time after that night and before Faith. Don't growl, it's not necessary. Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I'd been late for school that day. Or not turned up at all. I know exactly what you're thinking - knowing my luck, short with a brutal end. But I think you might be wrong about that, you know? I lived in Sunnydale all my life and for the first fifteen years I was as oblivious as anyone else. I never saw a demon. Fifteen years on the Hellmouth and I never saw a vampire. It wasn't until after I knew about them that I turned into a demon magnet.
Well anyway, to get back to the point - that night kind of set a trend. I mean, you get offered up to an evil blood-sucking fiend for supper, you're not likely to give the same fiend that much credit for a while, are you? And don't forget the whole kidnap thing. Getting hit on the head with a microscope... it sets up a pattern of expectation and response. Given a best option of starving to death - well, it didn't instil any sense of charity and forgiveness. Not in this heart.
So, yes - two years and two occasions when you could say we actually met. But there were other times when I saw you. It's not like I didn't have lots of evidence to support the whole hate you with a vengeance thing. Heh! Sorry, yes, bad choice of words. But honestly, I was thinking Bruce Willis, not Anya.
Dear old Anya. (That was my Giles voice by the way.) I wonder where she is now. I wonder in the sense of 'I hope she never feels the need to come and see me', but I do wonder. I love Anya, you know? I probably always will. There was a good buzz to life with her in it. I know I messed up and I really wish I hadn't, but for a long time it was good. Trouble was, we stopped talking. Yes, you can sneer, I know it's a cliché. But if we had talked more, maybe I could have told her earlier how I felt. I'm not saying it would have been easy. But I might have. Huh! No, you're probably right. There were two of us in that mess and we both contributed to it. But you have to admit, it was mostly my fault. I started it by buying a ring because I thought we were all going to die, and then not having the courage to take it back. She wanted that so much. More than I realised. Wanted to be normal. So she jumped at it. She nagged me all summer, you know? To set a date, when she saw me hesitating. Then she rushed for the finish, because it had taken her so long to get me to the starting blocks, she was afraid I'd... No, I'm going to quit that metaphor now. Always a good idea to quit when you find yourself faced with too many alternatives, none of which quite fit. Metaphors are like sarcasm - they should be sharp and on target. Bit like stakes, too. Sorry. So, yes, mostly my fault, because I set up the whole situation and then went along with her.
Other evidence? Sure there was. Well, there was the threatening outside the bronze. That was the first time I saw you. There was the being hunted through the streets thing on Halloween. Which I only really appreciated in retrospect - seeing as at the time I didn't know what the hell was going on. Yeah, so what's new? Bugger off! As you would say. But that wasn't all. There was the vampire wannabes with their children of the night delusions. I didn't see you, but I saw the panic and the body afterwards. Buffy staked him as he rose, did you know that? Then there was the kidnap and stuff. Oh no, that was later. Before that, there was the vampnapping, wasn't there? When you tried to kill Angel and sent the bug man after me.
Now there, all by itself, is enough reason to hold a grudge. I don't care if you didn't intend him to come after me. The fact is, he did come after me. I had to hide in the cellar with Cordy. In fact, that was when we got together. So the microscope must have been a long time later. It gets confused - I lose track of the time. So. Bug man - that was a while before Acathla. You must have been in that wheelchair for a while, huh? Hey, you should have seen Cordy trying to get the bugs out of her hair - only time a girl ever asked me to help her get the wet T-shirt look... except... No, not telling that story. Let's get back to what we were talking about. Bug man. Vampnapping. Church. Ritual. Actually, you know, if you'd succeeded I could have forgiven you a lot of the other stuff.
Anyway. Evidence. That was my point. We met, if you could call it that, twice, but I saw you a whole bunch of other times and I got a really strong impression that you were evil and that didn't really make it likely I'd look at you and see you as beautiful, sexy, desirable, gorgeous, etc, etc, etc. I'm just explaining the history. Why I didn't like you back then and why I gave you a hard time then you first turned up with the chip. It was sweet revenge. The worm turned and the gear shifted. See? You didn't think I knew that sort stuff, did you? It's just engineering and metaphor. Short, sharp and to the point. Worms move things sideways and you were shifted. They convert circular motion into linear, you were converted into an impotent killer. I don't care if it's not polite to call you impotent. I'm back in the moment right now. And yes, okay, I was showing off. But even you would have to admit that it was fantastic - for me. Of course I taunted you. What did you expect? You'd have done the same. Anyway, you *were* impotent - in the killing department, even if you were still fully functional sexually. And I really didn't need the details of the Harmony times. I don't care how drunk you were when you told me. No-one needs that. They especially don't need it when... never mind. I haven't got there yet.
I guess we've reached the basement of doom, haven't we? No, I wasn't happy to take you. But yes, looking back, that's when things began to change. When we couldn't talk, I started to look. You have the most expressive face. Or maybe you were just being so insulting, it was obvious what you meant. Yeah, probably.
When you tried to off yourself I really was mad about the coffee table. But I was mad about you giving up, too. I know it was Willow who said it and who dragged you out with us. There was no way I would have done that. I'm being honest - I would have left you to do it again, probably. But I think I would have been sad as I vacuumed the floor. Hey! You're welcome! It's true though - at that time, I couldn't have managed more.
It was the fact that you gave up. I never thought I'd see that. But I did, and it made you real in a way you hadn't been before. Not to me. It made me look again. I still didn't like you, but maybe I didn't hate you so much after that. I started to notice. And no, it wasn't enough to overcome the previous two years of just hating. But it was one more shift of that gear. My gear, not yours.
That's why I was so glad when you moved out. It meant I could stop noticing and go back to the comfort of hating.
So much time wasted on needless hate. Maybe. Possibly. Was it though? If you think about it, could it have been any other way? It takes time, doesn't it? To change. There were other things in my life then. More immediate things. And I was right in the middle of it.
All this - this self-knowledge - I couldn't have done that then. All this came later. When it was over and I had time to breathe and think back. When the world had shifted so far that all the patterns were broken. That's when I could look back and see it with a new eye. Perspective. That was a joke by the way. No, I'm not laughing either. Well, maybe a little bit.
But then... then I tried my best to ignore you. I really tried. And I really did get mad about the whole stalker thing and the bot. That was just so wrong. Not only what you did, but why you did it. It was wrong for her. Wrong for you. And on top of that - it was just wrong, period. I wasn't thinking about me. I really wasn't. I had Anya and I was happy with her. I didn't want, or need, anything else for myself. But I knew it was wrong for you. For both of you. So I hated it. And that gave me another reason to hate you. Even though I didn't really.
When we went on the run from Glory, and all that summer after... what was it you said? Something about brothers in arms? You know I can't hear Mark Knoffler's voice without thinking of you. Douglas Adams said his voice was the world's only real, natural aphrodisiac. I guess old Doug never met you, eh?
'We band of brothers', that was it. Almost the same. We weren't friends, but we were comrades. Real comrades. Not like Angel, where it was always through Buffy. For those few months when she was gone, we had to deal directly with each other. Adversity forged tolerance and that led to... an almost friendship. On my side anyway. And I think on yours too.
It's sad to think that we could have had more, back then. Been more. Something could have happened. If we'd only taken the time to look a little bit harder. For those few months there were times when I almost admitted to myself that I could like you, if I gave you the chance. Or myself the chance. Whatever.
But I was too busy digging myself into one huge mess with Anya and you had your own obsessions when we brought Buffy back, so...
And then my whole life fell apart and we were all wrecked by the fall-out. Wrecked more.
Why was I *so* mad about you and Anya? Partly it was Anya. And partly it was you. I felt twice betrayed. I never said I was being logical. The bathroom incident with Buffy was just the icing on the cake, or the straw on the camel's back, or something like that anyway.
I think I may have been a little bit insane then. Guilt will do that to you, won't it? Well, you know.
It went horribly quiet after you left. After Anya left. Not the quiet of reprieve. The twisted, hurting quiet of guilt and regret and what-if and pain. And I was angry. I was furious. I hated. You. Me. Buffy. Life. The only person I didn't hate was Anya. Since it was my fault, since she was the wronged party, I couldn't hate her. So I hated everyone else.
Except now, with time and distance and the major sideways shift, I think I did hate her, too. I can admit that now. The point is, I couldn't admit it then.
* * * * *
You know, I didn't set out to do this - rehash the whole past. I was really just trying to explain about us. How I felt about us. But somehow that seems to involve everything else in my life, too. It's all just come pouring out. Probably with little sense attached. All the stuff I've thought about over the last six months, and all the stuff I didn't know I'd been thinking about. Who would have thought (in the first days of the 20th century) - yes I have read HG Wells. Well, okay, I listened to the CD. Jesse had it and I inherited it. And it just occurs to me that I misquoted anyway.
And I'm prevaricating, aren't I? I'm trying to put it off. Putting off talking about the end. Like if I don't get there it won't have happened. Stupid. Because it did. And that is what this exercise was all about. Facing the truth. Dredging up the joy and remembering the good times. Making them real, so they don't fade away.
So you went away and I wallowed in my guilt and my remorse, until I had to climb out and stand in the sun again, just to see if I was still alive.
I built myself back up. Constructed a persona who walked and laughed and talked and took care of Buffy and Dawn. Because there were only the three of us left. Another summer of concentrating on the essentials, of staying alive. You laugh, but I really thought I had it all figured out. With my new car and my new job and my suit, I really thought I had come out the other side, stronger and more whole. I thought I was real.
I knew you'd laugh.
Then you came back - crazy.
And Willow came back - broken.
And Anya didn't come back. And Giles didn't, either. Not at first.
And Buffy dumped you on me, like something she was ashamed of. Like... I don't know, I want to say ‘the elderly relative no one wants to be bothered with‘, but while you may be old, you’re certainly not elderly. And I was hurt and angry. Hurt at being dumped on, like my life didn't matter. Angry that she saw you as something to dump, like you were just an embarrassment she wanted to shove away out of sight. I know there were good, logical reasons, but I'm talking about feelings.
You know - maybe I was wrong. Maybe that is where it started. It was deja vu all over again - us living together. But it was new, too. You were different and so was I. For a week or so I fought to keep it like it had always been. To revive the old feelings. To think of you as the microscope wielding monster. Except, I heard the nightmares. Daymares. Whatever. I listened to you talk in your sleep. I heard William cry for his mother.
I tried to tell myself it was pity. The first time I went into your room and soothed you back to sleep, that's what I told myself it was. After that, I didn't tell myself it was anything - I just did it. Maybe I told myself I was trying to make you shut up. But that wouldn't explain why I stayed, watching you sleep. You never did tell me how often you were really awake and faking it.
You remember the guy with the letter jacket? That kid at Dawn's school? What was his name? JR? No that was Dallas. Something like that anyway. I knew I shouldn't let you put it on. Were you surprised when I kissed you? You never said. We never really talked did we? We never had the time.
God! I was so embarrassed afterwards. After it was burnt. I was just glad the girls were too caught up in their own embarrassment to notice mine. As I remember, you looked smug. Made me so mad.
Was that the first time you faked a nightmare? I kind of knew it. You were over-acting. But… you pretended to have a nightmare and I pretended to believe it was real. And when you woke up and looked at me and smiled and called me 'Love'. When you reached out and pulled me down and kissed me. Well, it was too late then for pretending, wasn't it?
I suppose we both decided not to talk. It wasn't just me. In my case, I thought we'd have time later or we'd die. I just absorbed you - the comfort of contact. I was scared that if we talked, we'd end up spoiling whatever it was. And we had so little else. Except girls. We were bursting at the seams with Potentials. But no hope, no plan, no future. Just the stolen nights of comfort in each other's arms.
Comfort. I got it, you know. I did get it. The whole Anya thing in the Magic Box. Maybe not at the time. But later. When it was you and me, not you and Anya. Or even me and Anya, now that I think about it. I loved the peace and comfort. For a while I thought I might love you. But I don't think so, there was no time and we never talked. About us, I mean. No, I'm not being girly. It's not girly to recognise the importance of talking. But, because we never did that, I never got to know you. So how can I love you?
Except I did - know you. Your actions spoke. You were so gentle. So careful. So hard and so was I. The day we woke up all sticky I didn't know what to say. But you just smiled and kissed me again and it was all right that we didn't talk about how we felt. I thought we'd have time. Or we'd both be dead.
Anyway, the world was going to hell in a big way outside, so we concentrated on that. I wonder if Giles would have let Robin try to kill you if he'd known about us. Maybe he would have helped more. Can't say I'm sorry though, because it set you free. There you were, chipless and free of The First - two of your leashes gone. I think it was around that time you really came to terms with your soul... Once it was the only thing holding you back, or pushing you forward. I remember that was the first night we made love. Can I call it that? You opened yourself to me and took me in. You gave yourself to me like it was the most natural thing in the world. Although I felt so awkward and clumsy, you made it sound good. Were you faking it?
It was all new to me... and to be with someone who was more experienced.... I'm not counting the Faith thing, because I don't really remember it. It's a blur and I'll leave it that way, thank you very much. Before Anya, there was fumbling and stuff, but Cordy and me... we were both dealing with the unknown, running on instinct. For all her worldly wisdom and cynicism, she was young and innocent, too. With Anya I knew what I was doing. But with you, I didn't. And when you did me it was obvious you'd done it before. It was so good. I could easily have decided I was a natural bottom, you know? If you'd have let me. If it hadn't been for the eye. My eye. You shouldn't feel bad about that. If it weren't for you, he'd have got both and I'd be dead.
I missed you when I got out of hospital. And when Giles said where he'd sent you, I was really worried I'd never see you again. I was so relieved when you came home that morning, I didn't even mind that you'd been with Buffy. Well I did, but I tried not to. I did understand you know - about you and her. I did know that it was different from you and me. And you gave me something precious that day. More than your body. You gave me my dignity back. You gave me back myself. Crazy, isn't it? But the next day I knew I could fight. Knew I had something worth fighting for. So when we went to the school, I really had hope. For the first time in ages I believed we would make it and I had my part.
I wish I could have gone down there with you. But it was superpowers and potential superpowers only and I was needed up top. Good soldier that I've always been, I went where I was needed. But I wish I could have gone, too. If only to be there with you at your end. To share part of your pain. To be your witness. God Spike! I miss you! I miss you so much!
Mid-Atlantic. 10pm Pacific Standard Time - I've already set my watch for LA.
I don't know why I brought this book. I just did. I wrote this when we first got to England and I've carried it ever since. I couldn't bear to throw it out and I didn't dare to leave it at headquarters, where anyone might have found it. Anyone probably being Andrew. It's too personal. No one has seen this except me. And I just read it again for the first time since I wrote it. And it really doesn't make much sense. If I hadn't lived it, I wouldn't know what I was talking about.
You know what my first thought was when Andrew told me? Well, after the shock and the surprise anyway? After I'd got the whole incorporeal, corporeal story out of him? After I heard about Dana and what she did to you? After I found the number for the airport and was waiting for them to answer? My first thought was to calculate the time differences, and whether you would be awake or asleep. I think I was in the taxi before it even occurred to me that you might not want to see me. See how I've grown? It took me four hours to doubt my welcome. Of course it was too late by then - I'd committed myself. Sure, physically I could have turned around and gone back, but emotionally, there was no way.
So here I am, halfway across the Atlantic, heading for LA, heart on my sleeve, filled in equal parts with hope and sickening dread. I've spent the last few hours trying to work out what I'm going to do when I see you. And I've decided I'll just give this to you. Then it's up to you.
Can I just ask one favour? Don't do anything from pity. I would rather you laughed in my face than took me from pity. Well actually, I'd hate that. Can you maybe find a way to let me down gently? Just good friends or something? I'm going to stop now. Maybe read it again and remember.
* * * * *
Xander nursed his whisky as he leaned on the bar, gazing down into the yellow liquid, lost in thought, while his ears strained for the sound of the door and footsteps coming his way. He started when a hand touched his shoulder and Spike slipped onto the stool next to his, signalling for the barman to set up a couple more drinks.
Xander raised his head carefully and watched as Spike put the notebook down on the polished surface of the bar. "I wasn't, you know," he said, adding, when he saw Xander's confusion, "Faking it. It really was as good as I made it sound."
When Xander still looked confused, he sighed and flipped the book open to a page marked by a scrap of paper and pointed to one line. "You weren't awkward and clumsy and I wasn't faking." Then he grinned, reached a hand around Xander's neck and pulled him in for a brief kiss. "Hello, Lover," he said.
Mark Knoffler is the lead singer of the band 'Dire Straits'. Douglas Adams
wrote 'The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy'.
He made the observation about Mark Knoffler's voice in 'Goodbye and Thanks for all the Fish' (I think).
HG Wells wrote 'The War of the Worlds', which was turned into one of the classic rock operas of all time,
with Richard Burton's fantastic voice as the narrator.