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Spike/Inanimate Object Ficathon - World, Mostly Turning
Even in the darkness, every colour can be found
desoto_hia873
desoto_hia873
Spike/Inanimate Object Ficathon
My entry for m_annalore’s Spike/Inanimate Object Ficathon. This is my very second ficathon story.

Shades of Grey Nomination Love's Bitch Nomination - Balm Spuffy Awards Nomination - Balm

Love's Last Glimpse Award - Balm Love's Last Glimpse Year's Best

Vampire Kisses - Best POV - Balm Vampire Kisses - Best Short Fic Runner-up - Balm

Title: Balm
Setting: Post-The Gift, BtVS S5
Rating: PG
Word Count: 2,411
Written for dream_bringer who wanted Spike and, er, vanilla chapstick.
Summary: Post-The Gift, Spike deals with Buffy's death.

Disclaimer: Joss likes fanfic. He said so.

Profuse thanks to flurblewig and sunnyd_lite for beta-reading and encouragement.



Chapstick the First

The sight of Buffy’s broken body lying on the concrete brought him to his knees. Holding his head in his hands, he rocked and moaned as a wave of shock and grief overpowered him. He crawled to her side and gripped her hand, unaware that he was speaking aloud.

Please, no, don’t go, Buffy. Open your eyes, pet. Please, God, no, don’t take her, not yet. Come back, luv, come back.

The sun of the new day rose higher, dispelling the protective shadows of the buildings next to the scaffolding. Its rays prickled and scalded his skin and yet still weren’t warm enough to restore the heat to her cooling body. Hands tugged at his coat, distant voices beseeching him to take shelter in the warehouse. By the time Dawn finally coaxed him away from Buffy’s side, small flames were smouldering in his hair, and his face and hands were blackened and blistered. He huddled in the darkness of the warehouse, listening to the sounds of the ambulance workers as they placed her body on the stretcher, lifted her into the truck, and took her away from him. He remained crouched in a corner, weeping, until Xander and Giles returned with a blanket and drove him back to his crypt.

Spike lay on the floor where he’d collapsed next to the armchair, the pain behind his ribs matched by the tendrils of fire that seemed to crawl across his scorched skin. He reached for a bottle of whiskey, but his shaking hands caused him to spill as much as he managed to swallow. The alcohol burned his parched lips and stung the charred gashes on his fingers. Pushing himself to his feet, he staggered around the room looking for something he could use as a salve. Aside from hair gel, vampires didn’t go in much for personal grooming products, so there was no help to be found there. A box of motor oil for the DeSoto stood near the wall – that might do. It would make him smell bad and look worse, but he was beyond caring. He opened the box and found that it contained only two empty bottles. He kicked the cardboard across the room, and then slid down into an ungainly and dejected heap at the base of the wall.

Midway through another scalding swig of whiskey, he noticed a small yellow cylinder lying on the floor behind the television. He leaned forward and retrieved it. It was a tube of chapstick – Dawn or Joyce or one of the Scoobies must have dropped it the last time they were here. He pulled off the lid and his eyes welled with fresh tears as he inhaled the dearly familiar aromas of vanilla and mint. He’d tasted those flavours on a kiss just a few days ago. Buffy’s, then. He smeared the waxy moisturiser over the worst of his wounds and choked back the last of the whiskey. Curling up under his duster on the floor, he held the tube close to his body, let the sweet fragrances surround him like a shroud, and slept.


Chapstick the Second

"Spike."

Buffy. She was calling him. He pushed himself up onto his elbows and saw her framed in the doorway. Limned in the gold of the setting sun, she moved towards him, smiling. Soothing words of reassurance tumbled from her lips. He reached for her and pulled her into his arms. She was warm, she was alive and unbroken, she was here. The nightmare hadn’t happened. She hadn’t jumped from the tower. She hadn’t died from the plunge. He buried his face in her hair and breathed in her scent: honey, spring breezes, vanilla, and mint. He tightened his embrace around her and, suddenly, she was dissolving.

He emerged from the murk of sleep to find himself lying on the sarcophagus and grasping at air. He was alone in the silence and darkness of his crypt. The warmth that had swelled in his chest at the sight of her was replaced by a cold hollowness. Another dream. It was just another dream. He slumped back down on the stone lid of the tomb and stared blankly at the ceiling as reality rushed back. She wasn’t here. All of it – it had all happened. She was gone. Forever. He longed to be back in the dream world where she was glowing and vibrant and alive. He didn’t want to be in this world. Not without her.

His face contorted with renewed grief. The movement hurt, the burnt skin dry and cracking. His lips were chafed and crusty; even blinking made him wince. Dawn had come by earlier in the day and the bottomless sorrow in her eyes had been replaced by horror at his appearance. Sometimes not having a reflection was a benefit – he didn’t really want to know how bad he looked. She’d used up what was left of the chapstick, gone out to get him some more, and returned with blood for him to drink and bandages to dress his hands. Only his fingertips remained uncovered by gauze. He sat up, his head swimming from the effort. Clumsily, he opened the styrofoam container and finished the blood, unmindful of its congealing texture. He rubbed more of the Buffy-scented balm onto his face as gently as he could. Then he lay back on the cool stone, the uncapped tube clasped in his hands, breathing rhythmically to fill himself with her fragrance. After a while, sleep returned and delivered him to where his Slayer waited.


Chapstick the Fourteenth

Spike stood in the shadow of the warehouse, smoking a cigarette and glowering at the rickety tower. It had been two weeks since Buffy had taken her last steps on the platform suspended far above his head. A few of Glory’s crazies still lingered in the area, unsure of their purpose once their task had been completed. Most of them, though, had wandered off to be swallowed by the night or by whatever else was lurking out there. He had no pity for them. They had aided Glory in the plan that had injured Dawn and built the instrument of Buffy’s death. He couldn’t hurt the crazies himself without setting off the chip in his head, but he didn’t mind if someone or something else did.

He’d come here every night since he’d healed enough to get around. On some nights, the sight of the tower sent him into frenzied rages, and he hurled bricks and rocks at the hated structure and epithets at the frightened brain-suck victims who cowered in the shadows. Other nights, he just stared at the place where she’d lain, a slow and deadly fury rising in him like dark cumulonimbus clouds before a storm. When the anger swelled to the point where he had to find a release or burst from the effort to contain it, he’d return to the cemetery to hunt and destroy as many demons as he could find.

The broken bones from his own fall from the tower had mended and the bruises faded. Sunlight, however, was poison to vampires, so the burns to his skin were healing more slowly. His face and hands no longer cracked and bled with every movement, but they itched continuously as the layers of dead – deader – skin sloughed off. He looked like a vampire with an exceptionally bad case of psoriasis. Frequent applications of the vanilla-mint balm reduced the unceasing desire to scratch. In his weaker moments, he would close his eyes and let the aroma seduce him into believing that Buffy hadn’t left him and was still somewhere nearby.

Except that she wasn’t. And she wouldn’t ever be again.

He dropped his cigarette butt and ground it out viciously with the heel of his boot. Panting, and with a final glare at the tower, he shouldered his axe and turned away. He needed to find something he could kill.


Chapstick the Thirtieth

The gas station’s convenience store was deserted at this hour. The dozing clerk had roused when he pulled up in his DeSoto and was now regarding him fearfully as he counted out the change from Spike’s purchases. It wasn’t so long ago that he wouldn’t have bothered with paying and would have just eaten the lad instead. But Buffy wouldn’t like it and that knowledge worked as well as any brain-implanted silicon chip when it came to behaviour modification for this vampire. The clerk fumbled with a roll of quarters and bent down to retrieve the ones that clattered to the floor. Spike used the opportunity to nick another chapstick from the display on the counter. He didn’t really need it anymore, but had fallen into the habit of keeping a tube of it in his pocket as a talisman. As long as he had it, then some small part of Buffy was still with him.

His outward appearance showed few signs of that terrible night at the tower. Bones, flesh, and skin had healed nicely and the scars had already begun to fade. Inside, however, the pain was as raw and fresh as ever. He patrolled dutifully with the Scoobies, but the fury that had previously fuelled him for the hunt was gone. He spent most of his time alone, either sitting in silence next to Buffy’s headstone and fingering the chapstick in his pocket or slumped listlessly in front of the television in his crypt. He fed only when someone remembered to bring him blood, not having energy or interest enough to go out and get it for himself. He had little desire or tolerance for the company of the living, although he sometimes made the effort for Dawn, preferring instead to smoke and drink and wallow in the dark, and then drink some more. Eventually, the alcohol would lull him into a welcome numbness that in turn led to long periods of heavy slumber. Gone now were the dreams of a gold-lit Buffy returning to his arms. When he dreamed at all, he dreamed of frantic efforts to save her, to stop her from jumping, to catch her as she fell. All of them ended in failure and he woke every evening feeling as ragged and exhausted as he had before going to sleep.


Chapstick the One Hundred and Forty-Seventh

Spike watched as the Buffybot staked the vampire that had been leading the Scoobies on a merry chase through the graveyard and heard her utter an inane line about marzipan and pie plates. His eyes narrowed – Christ, he hated that thing. He wished for the thousandth time that he’d never asked Warren to build it. Pushing himself to his feet, he fell in with the Scoobies as they made their way back to the cemetery gates. He listened to Giles nagging Willow about the latest glitch in the Bot’s programming.

"We need the world - and the underworld - to believe that Buffy is alive and well."

"And I will therefore fix it," Willow repeated. "I got her head back on, didn't I? And I got her off those knock-knock jokes."

"Oooh, who's there?"

Spike gritted his teeth and restrained himself from creating more Bot repairs for Willow.

"You know," said Xander, "if we want her to be exactly - "

"She'll never be exactly." Spike’s voice was low and rough as he shouldered his way past the boy and strode off towards his crypt.

Letting himself in, he paused and listened to the words replay in his head. She’ll never be exactly. A lifetime ago, it had been enough to pretend that the Bot was the real thing, but no longer. The only really real Buffy was the real Buffy and she was gone. Really gone.

As the summer had worn on, the sharp pain in his chest had dulled to a chronic ache. It still hurt when he thought of her, but the unbearable grief and paralyzing depression of the previous months had finally loosened their hold on him. A few weeks ago, he’d suddenly become aware of the colossal mess of empty whiskey bottles and cigarette butts in his crypt and had spent a day cleaning. When Dawn had seen the change, she’d given him one of the few genuine smiles that he’d seen from her that summer and it had warmed him from head to toes. They spent their evenings together now more often than not. He taught her poker, snarked about her taste in music (but still let her play the boy band tapes in the DeSoto), and stroked her hair when she fell asleep with her head in his lap while watching late night movies. He even found himself seeking out the company of the others – playing pool with Xander at the Bronze, helping Willow with research, or Giles with chores at the Magic Box.

He still visited Buffy’s grave at least once a week to bring her flowers, catch her up on the latest news, and let her know that he was watching over Dawn and that she was doing well. Instead of feeling a great yawning black pit open up inside himself during these visits, now he thought he could feel her somewhere that was just out of reach but not too far away. He liked to think that she was at peace.

Spike realised with a start that he was still standing near the door, his hand still clinging to the tube of chapstick, and had been for several minutes. She’ll never be exactly... because she’ll never be again. She was gone. Really gone. And yet, not. She lived in their memories. She lived in Dawn. She lived in all the slayers who would come after her.

He pulled the chapstick out of his pocket, took off the cap, breathed the vanilla fragrance deep into his lungs, and held it there. Then he put the lid back on, walked down to the bedroom he’d dug out in the lower level, and pulled a wooden box from beneath the bed. Opening it, he sifted through the few mementoes he had of her, all the while twirling the yellow tube between his fingers. He held up a picture of her and gazed at it, letting her image fill his eyes and his heart. Then he replaced it in the box, laid the chapstick carefully beside it, released the breath he’d been holding, and pushed the box back under the bed.

It was time to let go.


*


[A/N: The dialogue in the last section was lifted from Bargaining, written by Marti Noxon and David Fury.]

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16 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
debxena From: debxena Date: July 21st, 2004 11:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
That was really moving – and I like how your title works on so many different levels. Nice to see a serious fic in this ‘thon.
desoto_hia873 From: desoto_hia873 Date: July 22nd, 2004 08:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I must give credit for the title to Flurblewig - she was the one who suggested using simply "Balm". She also said she uses vanilla chapstick. :-)
sunlit5 From: sunlit5 Date: July 21st, 2004 11:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
You did a fine job hon.

A real fine job.

*hugs*


Sun
desoto_hia873 From: desoto_hia873 Date: July 22nd, 2004 08:14 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks so much. I'm still pretty new to writing fanfic - it's alot easier to read than produce!

::hugs you back::
viciouswishes From: viciouswishes Date: March 13th, 2005 07:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Wonderful look at Spike's emotional arc after Buffy's death.
desoto_hia873 From: desoto_hia873 Date: March 13th, 2005 11:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! :-) Spike and, um, vanilla chapstick. Very strange request! Glad you liked it anyway.
beadattitude From: beadattitude Date: December 19th, 2005 04:50 am (UTC) (Link)
This is lovely - well deserving of a win! congratulations!
desoto_hia873 From: desoto_hia873 Date: December 20th, 2005 02:38 am (UTC) (Link)
Aw, thanks! It was a very odd thing to write, Spike/vanilla chapstick. Talk about an odd request. :-)
kcarolj65 From: kcarolj65 Date: February 23rd, 2006 01:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Beautiful, gritty, real. I felt every word here. Just wonderful.
desoto_hia873 From: desoto_hia873 Date: February 24th, 2006 12:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you!
sockmonkeyhere From: sockmonkeyhere Date: March 23rd, 2006 03:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I just discovered this gold nugget of a story while prowling through your Memories fics, and I'm so glad that I did. It's one of the most touching Spike stories I've ever read. I remember seeing the title at one of the award sites, and it won, I think, but I didn't know you at the time and I lost track of the link before I could read it!
desoto_hia873 From: desoto_hia873 Date: March 23rd, 2006 04:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! I'm glad you liked it. When I got the request of Spike/vanilla chapstick, I just about tore my hair out, I can tell you. :-)
kats_meow From: kats_meow Date: March 23rd, 2006 04:45 am (UTC) (Link)
OH MY! I came here based on sockmonkeyhere's rec and am ever so glad that I did. This fic is just beautiful and heartbreaking and tragic and good. I love how you intertwine the stages of grief with Spike's behavior, and the number of days that Buffy's been gone with the number of balms. S5 & S6 have some of my very favorite Spike moments and you've captured him so wonderfully.
desoto_hia873 From: desoto_hia873 Date: March 23rd, 2006 10:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks so much! You're the first person to mention the stages of grief - that's exactly what the five parts are based on: disbelief, denial, anger, depression, and acceptance. OK, bargaining is supposed to be in there too, but I couldn't think what to do for that one. Besides which, the show took care of it for me. :-)
comlodge From: comlodge Date: March 20th, 2013 05:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Well dang. I can see why this has garnered so many awards. What a beautiful charachter study taking us on Spike's journey through the stages of grief as he copes with the loss of his slayer through a discarded tube of balm. Clever, angsty and ultimately soothing.
desoto_hia873 From: desoto_hia873 Date: March 20th, 2013 09:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad you liked it! Spike and chapstick--the request still makes me laugh.

Of course, you know what happened on Day 148. ;-)
16 comments or Leave a comment