I almost died. My mother may be dying. A dead man sits next to me.
You know, it always seems like no matter how hard I try, I can't outrun death. I really hate that.
My wound is healing though. And my mom--she'll be ok. She has to be. However, Spike is still sitting on the steps next to me. There's a shotgun--it looks older than my grandmother and I wonder how long he's had it for and then I wonder why it matters and why I even care--by his side. I keep thinking about what he said to me outside the Bronze, about dancing and how all Slayers wonder about and wait for death.
Pain never ceases to surprise me. There are all kinds and each one hurts in its own way. You can never prepare for it, no matter how much you want to, because each kind is different. There's the pain of realizing that you can be beaten, and it's not always by someone who's faster or better or cleverer. The vamp that stabbed me is nothing special. But yet he is, because he almost killed me. There's the pain of realizing how much I took for granted--about myself, about who I am.
There's the pain of losing people. I've lost so many--Jenny, Angel, Faith--and now--maybe Mom. She's been walking around the house like a ghost for weeks now and that scares me more than any demon I've ever faced. I want to scream at her for getting sick; I want to make her well. I don't want to lose her. I don't want to lose anyone else I love. I want my world to be a safe place.
I realize the impossibility of that. It's just another kind of pain.
Spike said that it was my ties to this world that kept me living, that I live only because I want to. That doesn't seem like anything at first--in fact, it seemed like just another stupid sentiment echoed by the neutered annoyance who is addicted to more soap operas than I am.
But when I was standing in that alley, listening to him tell me about the second Slayer he killed--that was a new kind of pain. One of understanding. All it takes is one moment to end it all. It doesn't matter how strong or how fast or how brave I am. It doesn't matter how hard I try. There's going to come a day where I slip up or I get distracted or get tired or just stop caring. And even if it's only for a fraction of a second--that's all it takes. That Slayer in New York died--not because she wasn't good at what she did--but because. Just because.
He talked about dancing. I like dancing, I always have. But now I have to wonder at what that release means, if it's as innocent as I think it is. I think about why Spike is still alive (do you know how many time I could have killed him?) and I have to wonder about that too. Sometimes I get tired of having so much to think about. I'll never be a philosopher, that's for sure.
The other thing is...I thought Spike was going to kiss me. Just for a moment, but still. The thought of that--of me and him and--I can't even say it. It's unbearable.
No, wait. It's frightening. That's what that moment was. It was terrifying. Watching him lean towards me-- (and this is the hard part but here goes--when he leaned in towards me I understood what he was saying, what he was thinking)-- in that moment the fine line I'm always walking wavered away. I watched it dissolve and I thought about what it would be like if I crossed it. It would be so easy. It would feel so good.
So I hurt him. I hurt Spike as much as possible. I did it because I could, because listening to him made me realize that every weakness has to be exploited. For whatever his reasons--and I can't begin to understand his mind or the way it works--I am a weakness of his. And I used it. He hurt me--he scared me. He made me look at myself, at what I do--at who I am. I hurt him because of that.
I started thinking about where he imparted his final bit of "wisdom" (only Spike would couch his talk in pseudo-religious blather --Here endeth the lesson, indeed. Asshole.) when I was walking home. When I first came to town; when I first realized that being a Slayer wasn't something you could take on and off like a pair of shoes, I went for a walk. I was heading down an alley near the Bronze when I heard someone following me. I surprised him--Angel--and he told me "Don't turn your back on this. You've gotta be ready." For a long time, I loved that moment. I thought about it all the time. I thought about how Angel warned me, tried to help, worked to make sure I succeed.
Tonight I realized that Angel told me only what he thought I could handle. He told me bits and pieces of the truth--about himself, about his past, about everything and usually only when he had to. He didn't trust me enough. I don't blame him--I wasn't ready to hear about myself, much less him. If he'd come to me that first night, introduced himself as a vamp and promised to help why would I have listened or believe him? I would have staked him and been on my merry way.
But all that aside, he didn't trust me.
Spike has never shied away from making me face the reality of who I am and of what he is. I hated him when he first came to town, and I really hated him when he came to me, waving the white flag because he wanted Dru back, when he told me that although Angel wanted the world to end, he wasn't ready to die. I hated that he, a vampire, loved someone enough to fight for them. I hated him when he came back to town again; when he told me that Angel and I were lying to each other. Why did he see that when no one else did? I know the answer to that question now and I hate the answer more than the question. I hate him because I haven't killed him and I hate that he had answers to questions that I need to ask and I really hate that he answered those questions. He trusted me with the answers.
I think I hate that most of all.
Sometimes--not often, but sometimes, Giles will comment on how I've changed over the last few years. He says I've matured. He'll mention something I did back when I first came to Sunnydale, back when I was still hopeful enough (stupid enough?) to think that Slaying was just a chore and that it would never really affect who I am.
He acts like the girl I was isn't a part of who I am. But of course she is. It seems like a long time ago to Giles, but I still remember her. I still remember being the girl who lived only for shoe sales and planned all her weekends months in advance. I remember when walking down the halls at school was what I lived for. . I remember when a bad trip to the mall meant I would sulk for days. I still do that sometimes; sulk over a bad trip to the mall, I mean. But I don't do it for days anymore. It's just not as important to me as it used to be. It's not my whole world. It can't be.
I am Buffy Summers. I am the Slayer. I like being strong and fast. I like knowing that vamps have heard of me. I like watching them worry when I show up to kick their asses. Sometimes I even like saving the world. But I'm still the girl I was. She made me just as much as being "the chosen one" did.
I can't forget my past. I don't want to. For every thing I did that exasperated Giles, there's something that kept me happy. That kept me focused on my world, my life, my friends, myself. I used to think that was selfish--that not thinking about Slayer stuff 100% of the time meant that I wasn't really trying, that I wasn't really committed.
I still think it is selfish sometimes. But I've come to realize that being a Slayer isn't just about the powers I've got or the role I have to fill. It's about me. My thoughts, my life--even back when I was a spoiled teenage princess--it matters. All of it does.
I think that's what Spike was talking about. Too much time dwelling on my non-Slayer life is bad, sure. But so is not having a life. I'm thankful everyday for Mom and Willow and Xander and Giles and Riley. I'm glad I've gotten to know Anya and Tara. I'm also thankful for me. I'm thankful that I like chocolate and pizza and ice-skating and that really nice shade of MAC lipstick that I picked up at the mall last week. It all matters. Every step I take in this world, in my life outside Slaying--it's just as big a part of me as all the training I do and all the vamps I kill.
So what do I do with all of this? With me, my past, myself, my future? What do I do to walk in this world and to keep myself from forgetting to care?
Spike is still here, still sitting beside me. Having him pat my back--god, he was clumsy, his hands a hesitant weight --I don't know how it felt. No, wait, I do. It was annoying and terrifying and exhilarating. I watched him walk towards me, a shotgun in his hands, and I knew he wouldn't kill me. I knew it. I understood what he was doing. I hurt him, he wanted to hurt me. I did the same thing, after all.
He talked about dancing and that is what I am doing. That is what he is doing. Maybe that's what all of us do.
I am poised on the brink of something. I'm on the edge of something and if I jump, I'll find it, I'll fall into it, it will fall into me. I don't know what it is, I don't know if it's good or bad, I don't know anything. It's funny that it's taken me all this time to realize that all I've learned is nothing compared to what I need to know. I've got so much more to figure out.
But I do know this. I don't have to jump tonight. I don't have to jump till I'm ready. I don't have to jump at all. It's my choice. I look over at Spike. "Do you want something to drink?"
He shifts a little beside me and I watch his hands rubs across his knees. His nails are hideous--I guess that that's what they looked like when he died all those years ago, short and bitten and chewed. They're a reminder of who he once was. (They're also speckled with what looks like bits of black nail polish, which is so two years ago).
I know he wishes that the chip was out of his head. And if it was...
If it was, would this moment have happened? Would he have told me all that he did? Would he have walked towards me intent on mayhem, and dissolved into compassion?
"Yeah" he says. He looks at me for a moment and then glances away. He moves his feet down the steps, just a little, and the gun shifts beside him.
I go into the kitchen and make hot chocolate. My mother still talks about the time he showed up in our house, complaining about Dru and drinking cocoa. She thinks it is a funny memory. I once asked her if she realized he could have hurt her and she gave me a look--the "I may not be a Slayer but I'm still your mother and all my brain cells still work" look and said. "Of course he could of." I know what she's thinking when she gives me that look.
But he didn't.
The microwave beeps and I take two mugs outside. I give one to him and we are both careful to keep our hands on opposite sides of the mug. But it isn't awkward. It just is. He looks into cup while I sit down and I watch him take a sip of a drink he doesn't need.
I look down into my own mug. "My mom."
"Your mum?" he says and the word "mum" makes me smile--it's so British, so Giles. But the man next to me isn't Giles. He isn't a man.
I used the kind of hot chocolate that promises it is for marshmallow lovers, that there are "extra marshmallows" in each package. They are a bunch of them floating in my cup, a sea of brown punctuated with tiny dots of white goo that are slowly melting. If I were small enough to swim in the sea inside my cup, would I reach for something to save myself? Or would I choose to hang onto something that will slowly dissolve and break down, becoming part of the ocean? Would I let the ocean close over my head?
"She's got to go to the hospital." I tell him. "They don't know what's wrong, but they're going to have to run tests."
I hear him inhale, an unnecessary breath for him, but maybe he needs that pause. Maybe he needs a moment. "Buffy..."
I look over at him and see the moon out of the corner of my eye. It's as light and as bright as his hair and I think about how it spins around the earth. How the earth spins around the sun. How Spike and I spin around each other.
We're all dancing.
Shadow Position--used in ballroom dancing. Dancers shadow each other's movement on the same foot and in the same direction but dancers can be closed (touching), semi-closed (within arms reach of each other), or completely apart.