Sometimes, all Spike wanted to do was stop. He could remember a time, not so long ago, when he had the leisure of doing whatever the fuck he wanted, whenever the fuck he liked, and he missed it. He missed it more than he missed the murdering; more than he missed Dru. The future was a heavy burden, and it looked at him with a nasty glint in its eyes.
Now, sitting in the darkness of a freight ship, there was a different sort of business that he wanted to be over. He had all the time he could ask for, filling up what he knew would be the last days before the mental chains of a soul wrapped and bound his sickness into a whole new method of existence. Soft rain thrummed in rushes against the hull outside, lapping like the waves; the night watch were quiet and unlikely to bother him in the cell he’d paid his way into. But he felt empty, in a way that clawed and clung to his insides. He wanted it to be over.
It wasn’t the first time, of course, that Spike had found himself at a loose end. In the old days he’d have gone out and got a drink, found a fight; more recently he’d have put the telly on, read a book. On the very darkest days, he always would have tried to write, never mind that he could only bear bring pen to paper, usually, when he was sick to his heart so far that it choked him. Here on this ship, however, Spike could only yearn after activity with the deep, leaden drag behind his eyes.
He thought about sleeping, but then he didn’t want to sleep. He didn’t want anything, other than to find this demon in Uganda and, also, never get there. He wanted…
Now this was unexpected.
Nonplussed, Spike watched the fantasy step out of the light and over to his side. It looked like her, smelled like her and moved the way she had exclusive power to; her heart was a steady, hypnotic sound that set off the warmth of her in his cold, damp room.
“Geez, Spike; what’s up with you?” It spoke to him again.
He shut his eyes, not saying a word. There was madness in what he was about, but he refused to be this far gone.
Another few days, and it came for him again. He woke from a memory, feeling sick and full of violence. Her voice spoke to him again. “You know,” she said, conversationally, “a soul won’t be enough.”
“There’s nothing that will ever be enough,” he told the image, rolling out of bed and unsurprisingly right through its crouching form. Even Buffy wouldn’t come to sea in a lacy, sleeveless top. “I remember how guilt works,” he added, splashing his face with water from the basin. “It’s a poison, rotting everything down to that same stinking mulch. It can’t be sated, can’t be scratched. Only thing to do is embrace it and hold on to your hat.”
“I guess that’s what you’re doing, huh?” she asked him, turned and risen to her feet. Today the rumble of the engine was louder than the water. She looked cute enough to eat with her hair in one of those sloppy knots she did. Before she chopped it all off like the spiteful cow she was. “Oh, come on,” she said as his eyes narrowed. “You never really thought I was her, did you? So why not come along in a haircut we both know you liked?”
Spike shook his head, looking around at the dull blue-and-magnolia walls. Corporate imprisonment, that was all he had left for him now. “I ain’t exactly got a plan, here,” he said, because apparently he was talking today. It was a day to go out, he realised, and eat at least some food with the crew. He was going barking.
No, wait; he’d already gone.
Vision Buffy didn’t seem to mind. “But you do,” she said, not unkindly. And yet in the same voice she always used to rip his heart out. “I know you do. As well as I know you would have done it, if I’d given you the chance. It’s OK; it’s understandable. You think this will bring you forgiveness, show your penance.”
“Never,” Spike spat, insulted. He turned to meet her eyes, to try and convince her, but the moment his eyes ducked down and hers ducked up she was gone. The shadows and the shape of the light switch glimmered to find him on his own. He stood there staring for a long time.
Sometimes, all Spike wanted to do was stop – but when he stumbled off the train to the hard, dry land of his destination, he knew he wanted to die. This blaze of glory was just as bright as any other.
“Coward,” its voice said to him, buzzing like a fly in his ear. “Coward.”
All that meant was that it had plans for him yet. But goddammit, goddamn her… He listened.