Dedicated to [info]virtualpersonal, who first encouraged me to write, and then wrote a sweetly sad (award-winning!) ficlet that made me start thinking about death and endings. Rated R for themes and language.



Death Was His Gift


by
Electricalgwen



Spike flat-out refused.

He not only refused to do what Xander asked, he refused to even consider the idea, and when Xander tried to discuss it yet again, he left the house and didn’t come back for two days.

Dawn found him.

She would. She’d known him for sixty years, after all. Age had mellowed her slightly, but she still had more power over him than anyone except Xander. She’d let her hair grow again in recent years, and wore it tied in an elegant silver knot.

He doubted that Buffy would have aged so gracefully.

“Spike,” she said, sadly but firmly. “You have to talk to him. You don’t have to do this thing, in the end, though for Xander’s sake I truly hope you will. But you have to talk to him. You owe him that much.”

The near-inaudible growl and flicker of gold made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up, atavistic response to threat, but Dawn wasn’t fazed. She hadn’t been afraid of Spike’s demon in… well, ever.

“Spike,” she said again. “Go home. Talk to him. You have to.”

The growl this time sounded more like the whine of an injured animal, and even knowing what she did, Dawn was undone by the depth of anguish on Spike’s face as he finally raised his eyes to meet hers.

“Bit. How can I… after… and what if he… the soul… he knows what it would… How can he possibly ask me this?”

Tears spilled over Dawn’s cheeks as she reached out, gently pried his fingers off the beer glass, and held both his hands in hers. “I’m so sorry. I really am, Spike. I wish… Well, no, I don’t wish things were different, because then I’d be wishing humans weren’t human. But I’m sorry this is part of the package. And I’m really sorry I can’t give you the time and the space you need to work this through, but I can’t. Because the universe won’t. Time is running out, Spike, and by hiding you’re making a choice, whether you acknowledge it or not.”

He didn’t want to hear this. He wanted a cigarette. Badly. He didn’t have any. Hadn’t smoked any since Xander had – since Xan’s breathing had – since he decided it was a waste of money, that was all.

Beer would have to do. He pulled his hands away, grabbed the mostly full glass, tossed back its contents, stood, and whirled his arm round. The glass shattered squarely in the fireplace on the opposite wall, a few shards spraying out across the floor. All conversation stopped. A few other drinkers tensed, made a move for concealed weapons. One turned blue; a couple slipped into game face. Spike glared round the bar, daring anyone to comment.

No one did. Spike’s shoulders slumped, the other patrons relaxed, buzz of talk and dart-playing started up again. Dawn stood too, offering an apologetic glance to the room, one hand reaching out, not quite touching Spike.

His voice low, rough. “Sorry, Dawn. I just… so damn powerless. I don’t want to do it, and I don’t want to not do it, and… sometimes you just gotta break something.”

She smiled ruefully. “I know. That was impressive, and may I thank you for getting it out of your system here and sparing my living room window, although I have to admit it’s overdue for its annual breaking-by-demons.”

He couldn’t summon an answering smile, but held out his arm. Dawn slipped hers through his and he guided her through the dingy bar, up the stairs into the balmy evening smelling of lilacs. Flashed back briefly to the day he’d walked her up the aisle, arm in arm. So proud. His girl. His surrogate child. He’d never made a Childe, never would.

Swore I’d never drain anyone again. Made that promise to Xa-

Cut the thought off. Too painful.

Dawn hailed a taxi, turned back to him. Caught him in an unexpected, warm hug.

“Spike – remember this – Xander loves you. As much as you love him. He does know what he’s asking. Trust him, Spike.”

She slid into the back seat, gave the driver her address. Blew him a kiss as the taxi pulled away from the curb. He watched the taillights out of sight.


~*~*~*~*~


“And Spike? You have to promise me one more thing. I really mean it.”

Spike looked shifty. “What’s that, love?”

“You are absolutely not allowed to stake yourself afterwards.”

Spike looked affronted. “Would I do that?”

Xander simply looked sympathetically at him.

Spike shifted uncomfortably. “Not like you mean that much, old man.”

Xander sighed and raised an eyebrow.

Spike abruptly stood up and kicked his chair. “You have no right! You have no right to ask me to – fuck, Xander, you’re asking me to kill you! You have no right to ask that, and you for damn sure have no right to tell me what to do afterwards!

Silence. Absolute. Only Xander’s thin breathing. So thin, so thready. How did humans manage even a single day, knowing this was to come?

He looked at Xander’s bent head, knotted hands.

“You have no right,” he said softly.

Xander looked up.

“I know that, Spike. I know I’m asking something really, really huge here. You don’t owe me anything. I was hoping…”

He trailed off. Spike dropped to his knees beside him, gathering Xander’s hands in his.

“I know it’ll be hard for you,” Xander said quietly. “I know I’m asking a lot, but Spike, remember when I asked if you would turn me?”

Spike remembered.

“We talked about it for months, Spike. It was our decision, together. We made that choice then, knowing that it would lead us to this.”

Spike tried to interrupt but Xander overrode him. “We knew that I’d die, one day, Spike. That’s the whole point of being mortal. Now – I’m there. I’m going to die sooner rather than later, Spike. Been to the doctor, had the talks, know the options. I’m gonna die soon. And I’d rather die with you than in some ugly hospital room. I’d rather die in bliss than in pain, or too doped-up to know what’s happening.”

“And… Spike, I want you to drink me, to have all of me. Take me with you, wherever you go. I want you to feed from me and remember me.”

He stopped, out of breath, rubbing the pad of one thumb over the back of Spike’s hand. Spike’s hands, that looked the same as the first time they’d stroked Xander’s skin. Xander’s fingers were thickened and twisted with arthritis – Spike remembered with a pang the day Xander had had to give up woodworking – but still touched Spike with such tenderness that Spike felt tears threatening, prickling behind his eyes.

“Xander,” he said soberly. “I would die for you. You know that. But this? I don’t know if I can.”

Xander bent forward, pressed his lips against Spike’s soft, ungelled curls. “Baby. If you can’t, you can’t. I’ll understand. But – I’m going to leave you one way or the other. And soon. I’d rather give you my blood than have it go to waste, congealing in my veins.” Spike shuddered fiercely against his leg, but Xander took a pained breath and continued. “But no matter what you decide, I still want you to promise that you won’t do anything stupid.” Pause, small deprecating laugh. “Stupider than usual, I mean.”

Serious again. “Spike – please. Promise me.”

Spike gave in. He’d always known he would. Survived torture, paralysis, madness, Hell, Angelus, the chip, Glory, the soul, the First, Wolfram and Hart, even death – ha. Xan needs me to say this, I’ll say it. And… mean it. For a time.

Xander grinned suddenly, unexpectedly. “Spike, if nothing else – you gotta outlive Angel. Hell, I’m counting on you to stake him for me, the day he finally gets tired of that broody soul!”


~*~*~*~*~


They were snuggled among the pillows on the large bed. Xander lay across Spike’s lap. Over the previous week, goodbyes had been said, arrangements had been made, friends had hugged and cried and kissed and talked. All that was over, done, left outside this space. This last was private, was for them alone.

Spike’s lips traced Xander’s collarbone, the skin so thin and fragile over it. He nuzzled into Xander’s nape, inhaling his unique scent. Licked gently, tentatively, over the old silvered scars, almost invisible, that marked the bite with which he had Claimed his boy so long ago.

Xander felt Spike’s face shift against his neck, demon rising. He wove his fingers through Spike’s hair, caressing his skull, pulling him tighter against him. A faint tingle of adrenaline, of anticipation, was humming very quietly along his nerves. They were here and it had come to this and he’d won, in the end. This world and far too many hellworlds might have done their best to smack down Alexander Harris but he’d survived, he’d lived his life the way he chose, and he’d shared it all with this beautiful, wild, complicated creature who now held him. He was leaving, if not in a blaze of glory, at least in the way that he desired, and his Spike was with him, and it was going to be okay.

More than okay.

Spike was delicately nibbling Xander’s neck from collarbone to angle of the jaw, fangs skittering over unbroken skin, tongue smoothing behind. Hesitating. Xander tightened his grip, pressed Spike’s mouth firmly against his neck, and went completely still. Offered himself, held his breath, waiting, waiting, not moving, until he felt the cold sting of fangs descending into his carotid and let out his breath in a weak gasp. Heat began to radiate out from the bite, he felt his nerves singing even as his vision darkened.

Spike drank, and memory flooded him along with the blood. He tasted the sweetness of Xander’s teenage adoration for Buffy, the richness of their maturing friendship, the lingering poignancy of her death. The fear and love as Xander talked Willow down from the edge of madness. The courage of night after night fighting the good fight; the pain of Anya’s leaving; Xander’s pride at building his own successful business. The exhilaration of their first days and weeks together, and the miracle of decades shared. He moaned and sucked harder at that beloved neck, as he tasted the unswerving devotion that Xander held for him, even now. Sunlight, chocolate, beer, and the deep, oceanic salt of blood mingled in his mouth and in his mind, as he pulled more from Xander than ever before.

Xander’s hands, one tangling in Spike's hair, the other now stroking his shoulder, stilled their movements. Spike drew back from his neck in a panic, licking a trickle of blood from his lower lip instinctively, frantically turning Xander’s head to meet his eyes. Ashamed, he wanted to shift back to human guise, but forced himself to keep his demon face in place. This was what Xander had asked for.

He saw no fear. Sadness, yes, regret that time had brought them to this place, this event. But no fear, only love. Love beyond all deserving, beyond all hoping.

“My Spike,” Xander breathed. “Thank you. Always.”

Spike couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, for the agony in his heart and the sobs in his throat.

“Do it. I love you.”

Spike lowered his head, but not to Xander’s neck; first, he kissed both eyelids, then his forehead, then took Xander’s mouth one last time, slowly, sweetly devouring it.

“You have been my light,” whispered Spike, and Xander smiled. Closed his eyes. Tilted his head, yielding his neck with Spike’s mark standing in vivid contrast to the abnormally pale skin.

Spike offered a prayer to a long-neglected god, hugged Xander closer, and bit one last time. Drank fully, sparing nothing, until at last he pulled Xander’s heart’s blood into his mouth and felt love exploding in tiny sparkles on his tongue.

Felt Xander’s heart, empty, try to beat one last time. Felt the faintest of pulses, then silence.

Felt Xander die.

He sat there, thinking of nothing, listening to the sound of neither of them breathing.


~*~*~*~*~


Hours later, he heard footsteps. He didn’t turn. Sitting there, still cradling Xander’s body, he felt he might never move again. Xander wouldn’t. What reason did Spike have to move?

Small creaky noises as stiff joints bent, easing Dawn down to sit on the bed beside him. A head rested on his shoulder, a hand stroked his hair.

“Spike?” she said tentatively.

He didn’t turn to look at her. Kept on gazing at Xander’s face, seeing the boy who had once lived there.

“Spike,” she repeated. “I’m so sorry. I – Well. I can’t know how you must feel, but I can… try to begin to imagine. I loved him too.”

Spike’s mouth twisted bitterly. “Yeah, Bit. Love him. Loved him so much I not only let him die, I helped him along the way.”

“It was a gift, Spike. It was what he wanted, and he knew… he knew that you were strong enough to give it.”

“Don’t feel strong,” muttered Spike. “Feel like shit. Dust me now, Bit. Bury us together. Fuck immortality. Fuck outliving Angel. I promised Xander – “ his voice had risen, he was almost shouting, “I promised him I’d go on, but what the fuck does a promise matter?! He’s dead, he won’t fucking know I broke it! He’ll never know! I’m not as strong as he thought I was! I never have been!”

He looked down, realizing in horror that he’d been clutching Xander’s body tightly, almost shaking it in the ferocity of his outburst. He drew in a deep, shuddering, unnecessary breath, easing his right hand out to smooth Xander’s hair. White, but still thick and springy under his touch.

Dawn reached out, stilled his hand. Twined his fingers in hers, brought them to her mouth for a gentle, forgiving kiss.

“The hardest thing in this world,” quoted Dawn softly, “is to live in it.”

“I don’t live in it, Bit,” Spike said tiredly.

Fond look of fake exasperation. “Spike. Quit splitting hairs.”

Spike seemed unable to meet her eyes, and his hands were shaking. He opened and closed his mouth several times; Dawn waited patiently, radiating calm and compassion.

Finally he spoke, voice raw, “I can feel him, Dawn. In me, in my veins, in my bones. So warm. Why do I feel this way? I haven’t drained anyone in years, maybe I’ve forgotten – but I don’t remember feeling this. Ever. I – it’s like he’s – hell, I can’t explain it, but it’s as if he’s... inhabiting me. As if I’ve been consumed, not the other way round.”

He shifted finally, removed his hand from Dawn’s. Laid the body on the bed. Crossed Xander’s arms on his chest, gesture to ancient custom. His gaze lingered on the sunken eye socket. Coins for the ferryman. Xander, where are you now? Wait for me.

“I’ll be… all right, Bit,” he said at last. “Actually, I’ll be complete shit, but I’ll stay in this world for now. Promised him, didn’t I? You needn’t worry. Get back along home, before that overprotective grand-daughter of yours comes looking for you.”

Dawn managed a watery smile. “Yeah, Tara definitely thinks you’re a bad influence on me. Ever since that time she got home from clubbing three hours before we did.” She sighed and patted Spike’s leg. “There you go, another reason to go on living. You have to teach that girl how to relax a bit. Not to mention her grandchildren. If she ever lays off the magic long enough to get pregnant.”

Spike mock-groaned, though his gaze didn’t leave Xander’s face. “I promised to protect you, Bit. I didn’t expect to get suckered into protecting the Summers line for all eternity. You lot take far too much protecting, for one. Couldn’t you be secretaries or soccer moms or something?”

Dawn raised her eyebrows. “Sure. Because being raised by Slayers, Watchers, Wiccans, lycanthropes and Uncle Spike is bound to lead to all-American normality. We never had a chance and you know it.” She paused and picked a thread from her sleeve. “I’m happy with the life I’ve had, though, Spike. Happy with my children, with their children. I’m happy with the choices I made. And so was Xander. You know he was.”

Spike nodded almost imperceptibly. He didn’t trust his voice, but reached out and squeezed Dawn’s shoulder briefly. She sighed, shifted her weight and pushed up off the bed.

As she rose awkwardly on arthritic knees, she lost her balance. Falling forward, she reached out, though not unduly panicked. Years of familiarity had taught her subconscious to expect that Spike would move in with vampiric speed to catch her.

Spike did stand and turn towards her, but, caught in a slow miasma of grief, moved sluggishly. Dawn’s hand clutched the heavy window covering instead of his shirt. It slowed her fall, but as her weight hung from the fabric, the curtain rod slipped from the end bracket and Dawn tumbled to the floor in a puddle of dark velvet.

Morning sunlight poured in, bathing Spike full in its rays.

He closed his eyes in acceptance, welcoming the fire for the second time in his existence.

He opened them at Dawn’s gasp.

Looked down to see the look of shock and awe on her face. Looked down at his body, standing in full daylight, undusted, unharmed. Felt the warmth of the sun on his face for the second time in almost two centuries. Felt the warmth of Xander’s love permeating his being. A benediction. A gift.




The End




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