Burn down the house with us in it. Why was it always flames for him, he wondered. Still, it had a certain symmetry. What had he said that night? -that he always knew heíd go out fighting. Fist and fangs. Back against the wall. Death, glory, and sod all else.
Well, some werenít meant for home, hearth, and white picket fences. A fighter has to fight, and at least thereís some point to it if it isnít just to get the next meal. It had felt good the last time, making a difference. Although there didnít appear to be any guarantees on where-or how-heíd end up, after. Probably nothing as blessedly simple as dust.
Only a fool would have regrets after more than a century of existence. And it wasnít as if he deserved to have anyone mourning him. Not again.
Still, tying up loose ends seemed proper. Not always he got this much warning before he died.
He didnít have a will, of course. What was there to leave? What heíd managed to accumulate before had gone-up in flames, naturally, both times. Even the coat was gone, all that terrible, sweet, bloody history blown up and replaced by soulless Italian clones. And he could hardly send her that, even if it had been the real one.
But a letter, at least. Some kind of explanation. Not last words, exactly. But an effort to mend things.
He got out paper and pen. Thought. Began.
Dear Dawn, I guess by now Andrew has told you that Iím back in the land of the unliving . . .
No, not the right tone. Especially if, by the time she got it . . .
Dear Dawn, By now, Andrew will have told you that Angel and I just missed you when . . .
Bollocks. No way he was going to let the Brooding One intrude on this.
Dear Platelet, I know it was wrong not to have gotten in touch with you before this. Of course, at first I couldnít even hold a pen, and Iíve never been one to see myself giving dictation. Not that Iím better communicating face-to-face. We didnít have much chance for conversation last time we were together, what with a house full of Potentials chattering like magpies and the First making me its puppet. I know you had good reason to steer clear of me then, and I donít blame you for it. I just wanted you to know that thereís more than one Summers woman who will always hold a place in my heart, and that my staying away and staying silent all this time wasnít because youíre not special to me but rather because I wasnít sure youíd ever even want to lay eyes on . . .
No, that was no good.
He sat, staring ahead vacantly. After a while, he realized that he was staring at the photograph heíd tacked to the wall opposite the table. Probably should have framed it, of course; never got around to it. Stuck it up for the novelty, really. After all those years of blank mirrors, it had been odd to see his own face again. Taken in Angelís office that night theyíd all come back from wiping out some nest of baddies-a nice, simple, straightforward piece of do-gooding. Feeling full of adrenalin and satisfaction, and with just enough blood in the air to give a tingle. Fred had taken it; sheíd gotten hold of one of those silly disposable cameras and was gleefully capturing all of them at their moment of triumph.
He gave it a detached inspection. Taken from his left. Sprawled in the chair, looking back over his shoulder. The scar on the eyebrow he was used to feeling rather than seeing. White-blond hair, tousled a bit from the fight. Blue eyes, smiling up impudently at the photographer. A mischievous grin, boyish, with just a touch of sexual innuendo in the twist of the lips. It didnít look anything like a monster.
Thatís probably the only thing in this bloody world Iíve got left that I value, he realized. A gift from one of my girls. Another one I was too late for. Tried to let me see myself the way she saw me. Something worth saving.
Well, maybe it wasnít the perfect choice. He couldnít be sure that this was the face sheíd remember, anyway. Had he grinned much, or at all, those final desperate weeks theyíd tried to evade Glory? That long, sad summer of Dawn patrol when Buffy was in the grave? And when Buffy came back, and heíd hardly seen her at all, except at that endless birthday party-what face would she remember from that time? After the soul-no, not much grinning then. Cautious smiles, sometimes. Maybe this carefree, relaxed pose-a man with his friends, celebrating after a job well done-maybe that would almost be an insult to her. Or would it be a relief, to think of him that way? Donít worry about me, Iím fine. How are you? Itís not how we start; itís what we make of ourselves after.
He got up, walked over, and carefully took the push-pin out of the print. Rummaging through loose papers on the table, he found an envelope among the unpaid bills, one without a preprinted address and large enough to fit the photo in without bending it. But that still left the need for words.
Dawn, love, I wanted you to have something to remember me by. Iím hoping youíll want to remember me, sometime, if not just yet. My memories of you-the real ones, the ones we made together-have helped keep me going during those times I wasnít sure I . . .
No, he thought. I canít do it. Face down a whole pack of demons, burn up closing the Hellmouth, but I canít think of the right words to ask her to let me back in.
Iíll leave it up to her, he decided. I used to hang around under that blasted tree and smoke endless cigarettes, waiting for Buffy. Even when I knew there was no hope. Persistence, that was always my gift. She deserves to have me standing outside, me not knowing if sheíll ever open the door, but her knowing that Iím there for her if she does. Friend, brother, protector, fool-whatever she needs from me. Till the end of the world. Even if that happens to be tonight.
So. Just need someone to trust with the delivery. Why not? The boy deserved a nod; heíd earned it. He pulled forward the envelope and jotted it down; all too easy to remember the address from that comic opera trip to Rome. He took out a fresh piece of paper:
Andrew, Youíll know when to give this to Dawn. Thanks, Spike
Then he turned the photo over and quickly wrote on its back. He held it in front of him for a moment, looking at the words as he waited to let the ink dry. Five little words, but in the end they were all that really mattered.
Yes, he thought. It would do.
The bold dark ink mocked the careful penmanship, suited more to a quill than a felt tip:
Dear Bit, Yours always-Spike
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