This fic is for jamalov29
! You see it was inspired by a picture by mad_brilliant
in this post
(which will show up in the story, don’t worry)... At first it was supposed to be just a drabble, but that quickly went out of the window. Then I thought it’d be neat if I could make it 1000 words exactly, going with the saying that ‘a picture is a thousand words’. Well that didn’t quite work out either... (word count is approx 3100 words). Anyway, that’s where the bizarre title comes from. Title: A Picture is a Thousand Words... (or you know, a lot more.)Pairing:
Spike/Buffy.Setting & Summary:
Spike shanshued post-NFA. It is now 2017 and his and Buffy’s 10th wedding anniversary.Warnings:
Excessive schmoop. Seriously - proceed at own risk! That said, I have
tried to ground the story in reality, but what with it being a hopelessly romantic anniversary and written for this particular
lady, I figured holding back would be pointless. Rating:
I am a total geek. So I calculated Spike’s age. Setting his birthyear as 1853 would make him 27 when he was sired. Turning human again in 2004 would make him 40 come 2017. (Buffy is 36.) Also I’ve never really written shanshued!Spike before - I hope he comes across as suitably Spike-like. He’s hard to keep in character when human.Beta:
The ever-wonderful kathyh
. (I kept editing. Any mistakes are mine!)Disclaimer:
I do not own these characters, I just play with them.Feedback:
Please, please, please? *begs* It's been *forever* since I posted fic...Dedication:
Dear Caroline. I think you’ll like this, even with the total absence of smut. And you never know, I might just write some one day...A picture is a thousand words...
(or you know, a lot more.)
The wind whips its fresh cold fingers through his hair, the sunshine sparks off every surface of the car and the woman at his side is looking utterly stunning and ever so slightly terrified.
"Can we please slow down now?" she asks after another few miles, and, being unable to resist that tiny quiver in her voice, he complies and lessens the speed. She takes a deep breath and looks around at the calm beauty of the landscape, a more solid smile on her face. But the peace is immediately broken by loud protests from the back seat. Spike grins to himself, because his boys know exactly what a sports car is for, even if their mother doesn't. She thinks it's pretty of course, but on the whole she finds it too expensive, too fast, too impractical and - most importantly - too dangerous. Which coming from a Slayer is kinda ironic. And recently she pointed out that if the boys grew just another inch they wouldn't actually fit
in the back anymore, because it is so tiny.
"Well then - looks like you won't be having greens anymore!" he'd told them solemnly, and then she'd punched him.
Without turning he tells them to shut up, and lets the car slow down to a crawl as he reaches out and brushes a stray brown lock off Buffy's shoulder. She is eyeing herself critically in the mirror and he knows that she is soon going to tell him that the wind has ruined her hair - but he gets his shot in first and tells her that she is beautiful... just as beautiful as ten years ago. And then all the memories come flooding back and she forgets that she was going to be a little mad at him. ***
Of course ten years ago she was still a blonde - as was he. The wedding photos on the mantle still make him shake his head as he contemplates their white golden glory (she'd insisted he wear a white suit - he warned the guests they'd better bring sunglasses). Although before and after the big day they'd usually paired up the hair with black.
It's often said, he knows, that having children will give you grey hair, but so far it's just turned them both back into brunettes. He still recalls the evening when the twins had been around 2 months old and by some miracle had both been asleep at the same time. The two of them had collapsed on the sofa, and he'd dragged a tired hand across his face. "This sure as hell wasn't mentioned in the 'Happily Ever After' brochure," he said and she'd laughed a little, before getting up and studying herself in the mirror above the fireplace, making a tiny little whimpering sound at the back of her throat.
"I am a walking haystack! No - I am a crawling-on-hands-and-knees-haystack with sleep-deprivation. They never mentioned this part in the antenatal classes - produce children, become haystack. And look at those roots!"
She made a face and defeatedly slumped back down next to him. "None of the other mums look like haystacks! I am a failure. No goldstar for Buffy. I mean I can look good in an apocalypse
"Grow it out," he'd replied, somewhat illogically, and she'd turned her head with a frown. "The hair, love. Grow it out. I've never seen your natural colour. Well not on your head anyway!" He'd sent her a suggestive look and she'd giggled an actual proper giggle.
"And, did I ever tell you that I have a thing for haystacks? Especially ones as beautiful as you..."
"You’re insane! And you're too tired to see straight!" she replied, before curling up to him, lacing their fingers together. And then his chest had constricted and his heart started beating in that way that still made him acutely aware of the gift he'd been given. ***
Sensing the beginnings of another argument, he stares down the two most obstinate 5 year olds ever born in the mirror. "Please remember that this car has no roof! Anythin’ you throw out will be lost forever
! And I'm not
buyin' you new Nintendo's if you lose the ones you've got!"
A whiny chorus of "Daaaa-aaaad!" promptly starts up, and he narrows his eyes. "Do I have to remind you what I
had to play with when I was a boy?"
"Muuuuum! Make Daddy stop!" one of them complains, and he grins. Although one of these days he must get hold of some tin soldiers to show them that they really can be fun.
"You dad is right!" Buffy replies sternly.
Sullen silence greets this announcement, and seeing Buffy sigh Spike knows he has to think of something to keep them occupied before they begin trying to throw each other
"Right - who remembers what a T'lasha demon looks like?"
There’s a moment, then they slowly reply.
"They're small. Like... dog-sized."
"An' they've got 4 arms with nasty horrible
"An' - an' they're green, but with blue horns and when they're killed they go 'pop'!"
Giggles accompany the last line, but Spike just nods solemnly. "Good. Now T'lashas like to live in hedges, and usually hang out dead birds and the like around their homes to warn off other demons. Try an' see how many nests you can spot!"
Excitement greets this proposal, and a happy air of observation grips the back seat, occasionally broken by exclamations and vocal pointing.
Buffy turns to him and mouths a silent “How much of that is true?", and he shrugs. Doesn't matter, as long as it'll keep them quiet until they reach their destination - thank goodness for England's endless countryside hedges.
Taking his eyes off the road for a moment he drinks in the sight of his wife. She still makes him catch his breath - makes him wonder if this whole glorious life they have together is just a dream or a fantasy. Only he's fairly certain that fantasies never come quite this scary - just the word 'colic' can still send both of them into a cold sweat. Vampires, demons, hellgods - any and all of it they'd faced down together, but two tiny little fragile beings, terrifying them with the love they inspired and wrecking them by never ever sleeping for nigh on four months, had been something else altogether. ***
He vividly recalls the night Angel had come to visit, back when the twins had only been a few weeks old. Angel would have come sooner, but he and Faith (only friends! Honestly!) had been halfway around the world doing something brave and foolhardy, and had only just arrived back in old Blighty. Faith was injured and Angel had forced her to rest, or she would have come too.
There had been a knock at the door at half-past eleven at night, and Spike had put down the screaming bundle he was carrying and gone to answer it. Angel been very apologetic.
“Did I wake them?” he asked, his face looking worried at the wailing that greeted him.
Spike had just shaken his head, and then Buffy called out, asking who it was.
“It’s the man from the circus, love, come to negotiate a price!”
Buffy had appeared behind him, a protesting infant on her shoulder, and shot Angel a droll look.
“You can have them for free!”
Angel had brought with him many congratulations and presents, and then tried to demonstrate his fatherhood credentials by rocking one of the gruesome twosome for half an hour, with no result whatsoever.
"Connor never had colic..." he began, but whatever he would have said next died on his lips as he saw the look on Buffy's face.
When Angel left a few hours later, Spike was sure he detected a distinct look of relief on the other's face. Leaning against the door after saying goodbye, Spike had tried to recall what life had been like before - when his (un)life had consisted of drinking, fighting and killing things, and he'd been able to go where he wanted, when he wanted. When loving someone had meant dying for them, not being so exhausted that he could barely walk. What had happened to him? Was it this hard for all humans?***
They're nearing their destination now, and Spike settles down more snugly in the comfy seat. He can tell that Buffy is getting a little cold - her little wraparound thing is pretty, but not very warm, and he’d offer her his jacket if they weren't so close to their destination. It’s a nice jacket, if he says so himself, and he’s just about become accustomed to it now - the duster having hung in the cupboard for many years. Dawn had said that the new jacket made him look like he had a midlife crisis, and he'd pointedly answered that what with being around 160 that was hardly surprising. Buffy however had remarked that it made him look not entirely unlike James Dean, and so the jacket had stayed. Today it is paired with blue jeans, black T-shirt and a black hoodie - not exactly the height of sophistication, but then Buffy’s dress is stunning enough for the both of them. And if he’d dressed up, she’d have worked out that something was up. So casual is the name of the game, even if he had eyed the duster wistfully when he got ready to go.***
But the fact is that the duster is crammed too full of memories for today’s celebration - it is like a symbol of how far he’s travelled, how much he’s changed. And it is too firmly rooted in who he was to be comfortable now... Looking back, he remembers practically living in it after he'd first become human, trying to cling to what he'd known, what was familiar, when at first it seemed that what he'd lost was immeasurable. To be ordinary, with no powers or purpose... to have senses so blunt he felt deaf and blind and like someone had cut off his nose... No, he didn’t feel that the shanshu was so much a reward as some horrible prank. He'd understood Anya better than he'd ever thought possible, and fervently wished she'd still been alive.
Angel had tried reasoning with him (“You coped with being a ghost! And you beat me to the Cup of Torment! This is what you wanted, you moron!”
), and then called Buffy who’d arrived and promptly scooped him up, the way she always did everything that ever came her way. It had however taken a long, long time before he had been able to accept her declarations of love as anything other than pity - how she'd put up with him he'd never understand.
Only time had done many things he could never have guessed - above all it had revealed the blessings that he'd first thought curses. Memory for one thing...
Human memory was, like everything else, something fuzzy and imprecise compared to the crystal clear recollection of vampires. But as time passed he had found that the blood on his hands slowly faded away... and as it did, the guilt lifted and he was able to see more clearly what it meant to be human - something he'd forgotten in the intervening century, something that the demon had obliterated. ***
And as he looks at his family on this glorious spring day, he feels more a part of this world than he had ever been able to as a vampire. He’s managed to connect to his old human self, to rediscover the dreams that once spurred him onwards. Because this is what he was raised be: A husband and father. He wistfully thinks how utterly delighted his mother would have been if she could have seen his beautiful family.
Shortly afterwards he smoothly pulls in by a halfway house, apparently in response to the twins' sudden loud shouts for food. Couldn't have timed it better if he'd bribed them. A little later they walk through an innocent looking door and the room on the other side explodes with joyous yells of 'Surprise!' and 'Happy Anniversary!'
Buffy's eyes glint dangerously as she turns to him. "You planned this all along!"
His only reply is a smug grin, and then there are people upon people ready to hug them and presents to unwrap and that killer right hook is going to have to wait until later... when it will magically have turned into something very different, hopefully incorporating the negligée he's bought her...
As Buffy ooohs and aaahs over the presents, Spike sidles away and catches the boys, dragging them into a corner and giving them his 'screw with me and you're dead!’
look that never failed when applied to minions, and works surprisingly well on his human offspring too.
"Right you two - here's how it is. This is a very, very special day
for mummy and daddy, as you know. And if you in any way
upset your mother - and I don't care
who starts it - you're not going to stay with Uncle Xander tonight! Am I making myself clear?"
They both nod silently.
He smiles - somewhat grimly - and keeps holding their attention. "Now I don't care if you eat nothin' except ice cream, or if you keep Xander up all night... but do not fight
or even think
about doin' anything naughty until the party is over, got it?"
They nod again, and his smile turns secretive. "That's my boys. And remember those new moves I taught you? I'm sure Xander would love
you to show him tonight!"
Identical evil grins spread across their little faces, and his heart feels like it's going to explode. And since he's actually experienced that once, he knows what he's on about. Thankfully though, fatherly pride isn’t going to kill him.
"Good boys!" he says, ruffling their hair, and sends them off to Willow who always adores them for all of five minutes before she remembers just what little hellraisers they are.
Presents and chatter is followed by a long, leisurely dinner, and to Spike's great relief the boys appear to be behaving - the only one making a noise being Dawn's little Alice, but then at 6 months old that can't be helped.
When the plates have been removed, he takes a deep breath and slowly stands up. Odd how he sometimes still gets surprised by the reactions of his body - the heart speeding up, the slight perspiration. Buffy's watching him quizzically, and he sends her a tiny smile as he leans forward and taps his glass. Silence slowly spreads throughout the room and then every face is turned towards him. A waiter very helpfully brings an ancient microphone and he smiles gratefully - he has a horrible feeling that his voice will be closer to a whisper before he gets to the end.
As he reaches into his pocket for his new poem, he says a few words about how important this day is for him and Buffy, thanking them all for coming - funny how this is something that would have been near-identical back when he was first human. Then he slowly unfolds the paper, even though he knows the words by heart. He's spent months writing this, even though it isn't long - but then how is he supposed to ever be able to encapsulate what the woman at his side means to him?
There is an odd flutter in his stomach as he realises he's never recited any of his own poetry to a crowd since the day before the battle against the Black Thorn. He'd thought it'd a goodbye to life; a last, final visit to his roots before the end. Instead it had been a return to the beginning, a foreshadowing of where his life was heading. For a moment he stares ahead; unseeing, lost to the world. Because suddenly it comes to him that it has been very nearly 20 years since he first came to Sunnydale. A simple trip to the darkest place he knew... and instead he’d found light, brighter than he could have envisaged. A fire that had torn through him, re-making and changing him... burning, always burning, with a pain and joy he could never have imagined.
He closes his eyes, takes a breath. Focus. Focus. He looks at the paper, then takes another steadying breath before glancing at Buffy... and everything goes still. He reads slowly, carefully, never taking his eyes off her face - there’s him, and there’s her, and the rest of the world has stopped existing.
When he's finished she stands up, unable to speak, and just kisses him - deeply, slowly, and with that intense longing that never gets sated. She’s so soft, so warm and pliable in his arms, and as always he’s astonished at the heat between them. The life that pulses though them both, two hearts beating together. He’s discovered the truth in every sentimental love song, the fact that every romantic sonnet ever written speaks directly to him. To them.
Of course before long the boys start complaining, and they part, slowly turning to take in their offspring - one of whom is pretending to throw up and the other one trying to strangle himself, complete with rolling eyes and lolling tongue. Then they suddenly realise that there's actual applause starting, and Spike grins before turning back to his wife.
Can it really have been ten years already since their vows? Feels like less. Feels like more. Time is such a strange creature, one that is forever slipping through his fingers these days. And yet - being held hostage by time has enabled him to hold onto the people he loves. They are his, and he is theirs, and not even the Powers That Be can now take them from him.
"I love you," she says, tears still in her eyes, before grasping his hand. And he holds onto her, as though the world were falling apart. "I know you do," he replies softly, the smallest of smiles on his face. "But thanks for saying it." The End
Tags: my fic
Current Mood: schmoopy