Contains more introspection and much less sex than I'd hoped, but I still like it. *g* And probably too many italics. Please - let me know what you think!
Pairing: S/X, though I should warn it's basically Spike-centric
Warnings: Religion is discussed.
Summary: It's Easter. Xander gets chocolate. Spike goes to church.
Easter eve. Holiest night of the Christian year. The old church was packed, both with regulars and the twice-a-year crowd. The scents of lilies and incense floated in the air, heavy and sultry, masking the various human smells. Candles flickered in every alcove, throwing wood carvings and gargoyles into grotesque relief, and casting dancing shadows in the corners. In the deepest shadows of the topmost, empty balcony sat a vampire.
He watched the procession file in, all long robes and embroidery, pageantry and ritual. Massive cross at the front, carried by an intense teenager wearing Nikes and jeans under her surplice. The Paschal candle, as yet unlit, carried by an elderly man who ought to have seen enough of the world to know better than to believe that faith could fix its problems.
How could people believe something intangible, unproveable, enough to change their world? How did humans alter his world, affect his very flesh, by the illogical strength of their thoughts? A cross was just two sticks. Side by side, no problem. Tack them together at right angles, and he had to back away. How did symbols have so much power?
He looked down at the tiny glass bottle on the bench beside him. It was water. Just water. Someone had said some words over it, made a sign. He tipped it up, pouring a single drop into his right hand, hissing in a tight breath as it landed. Teeth gritted, he let it sear into his flesh, while the choir sang music older even than Darla.
Christus resurgens ex mortuis, jam non moritur. Mors illi ultra non dominabitur, non dominabitur!
Another drip, sizzling in his left palm. Marking him. Stigmata of evil, sign of his damnation.
Christ rising from the dead, dieth no more. Death from henceforth hath no power upon him…
What had happened, all those centuries ago? A man rose from the dead. Walked, talked. Ate with friends. So had Buffy.
So had Spike. Twice.
Jesus the vampire. Now there was an image. This is my blood, given for you…. That’d make a great T-shirt – render the religious right apoplectic. How to explain, though, that a dead man rose? And even if he had – how on earth did that matter? People still suffered, died, failed to rise, or rose damned. How did one man change that? Jesu, lover of my soul. Caretaker of souls. Gateway to God. Or so he’d said. Which god, anyway? From what he’d seen of the PTB, he doubted they’d have had much use for the Saviour of Mankind. They didn’t have that much use for mankind.
What was a soul, to be saved or lost? What did his own soul even mean? He’d saved the world at least once before, without one. Saved it physically, at least. Morally – that was a problem beyond his reach.
What was real? These people below him – they might truly believe, or they might not. Once upon a life ago…he’d believed. William had known the service by heart. He’d taken his mother to church on Sundays, and every day of Holy Week. He’d received the bread on his tongue. He’d believed.
How many people have to believe something, to make it real?
He heard the tiny creaks of the aged floorboards well before the black shape of a cassock detached itself from the shadow of the circular stairwell. He smelled soap, fear, purpose. Belief. A fire in the heart.
The man advanced towards him slowly but purposefully, his left hand brandishing a crucifix. His right was hidden in the drape of his vestments – presumably concealing a weapon.
“If it’s holy water you’re packing, don’t waste it,” Spike advised in a bored voice. “I brought my own.”
The priest spared an extremely brief glance for the vial sitting on the pew beside Spike, clearly unwilling to take his attention from the vampire. “How dare you? This night, of all nights!”
Spike shrugged. “Door was open, mate.”
“This is a house of God! You will not slaughter innocents within these walls.”
Spike smiled. The priest tensed. It was not a reassuring smile. “God’s house? He must have invited me, then. Can’t enter without an invitation, can I?”
“We both know that’s not how it works.” He moved closer, brought his right hand up, gripping a stake. “I know your kind. And I know how to kill you.”
“Oh, that’s nice. A warm Christian welcome, that.” Spike cocked his head. “Here I am, minding my own business, considering the state of my soul, and you come stalking around, threatening to kill me. Do unto others. Ha.”
“You don’t have a soul.”
“Nice try, but I’ve actually met the legendary Angelus. He’s…taller.”
Spike rolled his eyes. “Oh, for…. He’s a great overgrown Irish lout! And he’s not the only game in town. Now me, I have a soul, and I didn’t have it inflicted on me for being an idiot. I went and earned it, me.” He frowned. “Which may have been less than brilliant, in the final analysis, but still entitles me to a little consideration. Especially from someone like you. Aren’t you supposed to try and save souls? Not kill their owners.”
The priest looked taken aback at this sardonic train of righteously indignant thought. Spike watched as the man’s eyes unfocused for a second, then sharpened, widening in surprise.
“Well. So you do. Good Lord.” He relaxed his stance, though still had a slightly wary, confused look. The crucifix and stake vanished in the folds of his cassock.
“Neat trick, that,” commented Spike.
“Comes in handy.”
“Whatever happened to ‘Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live’?”
The priest shrugged and sat down on the pew, though maintaining what he no doubt thought was a safe distance. “It’s pretty much gone the way of ‘Let your women keep silent in the churches’, or the prohibitions on mixed fabrics. The Church realized that talents like mine could be useful.” He paused. “They’ve been using magic for centuries, actually. It’s only recently they’ve acknowledged it isn’t inherently evil. The problem is the corrupting influence of that kind of power.”
Spike nodded. “Yeah. Friend of mine nearly destroyed the world once. Love affair gone wrong.”
The priest raised both eyebrows. “Really.”
“She got over it.”
The organ crashed into action as the congregation rose to mumble through the offertory hymn. “O loving wisdom of our God, When all was sin and shame, A second Adam to the fight And to the rescue came...”
Spike snorted. “I met the most recent Adam. Good at the fighting, but overall I don’t think you’d have approved of him.”
“I don’t follow.”
“Never mind, mate.”
“O make but trial of his love…”
“So, when’d you meet my souled wanker of a Sire, anyway?”
“Yeah. Angel. Angelus.”
“Angelus… is your Sire?”
“So… the soul thing. This a father-son thing?”
“No! I got mine on purpose. And not for him. For…”
Silence. Bells. The choir began the Sanctus, slowly and quietly.
“For love,” Spike said finally. “For jealousy, shame, loneliness and longing, and a lot of other fucked-up reasons. But mostly for love.”
“That’s a good reason.”
“Didn’t quite work out the way I thought, though.”
The priest looked at Spike’s hands, splayed on his thighs, each with a charred hole right through. “And this is helping?”
Spike tipped his head back, closed his eyes. Failed to say anything. The choir continued on into and through the Benedictus, finally falling silent. Brief stillness, before the celebrant began the prayer of consecration. Finally he opened his eyes again, looked sideways at the priest.
“You’re good at this.”
“Confessional. You just sit and wait. Everyone spills it eventually.”
Spike turned his hands palm up, regarded the ragged, healing edges. “Nothing to spill.”
“I didn’t mean literally.”
“Stolen blood. Soul that by rights should be at peace, if I hadn’t pounded on the door and made a nuisance of myself, demanding it back. Body that should have rotted away a hundred years ago. Paradoxes.” He gestured out over the nave. “And look at you. All of you. In here tonight, all love-thy-neighbour – and out there tomorrow cheating, lying, stealing, swearing, tearing each other apart.”
He grimaced. “I’ve done it all, and better. Still do. I’ve got a demon. What’s their excuse?”
“The fight of good and evil is played out in each one of us, every day of our lives. We all have our demons. Yours is just more…manifest.” He nodded thoughtfully. “Soul and demon. You’re the battleground of the world, in microcosm.”
Spike arched an eyebrow. “No idea I was that important.”
The priest turned and looked him fully in the face, deadly serious. “Every soul is important. You’ll just have longer than most to determine its fate.”
“Think my fate’s already been determined, mate. Hundred years of mayhem? Not the kind of thing you can just wipe out.”
“Salvation is always possible. That’s the nature of Love. It calls to the best in us.”
“Love,” said Spike thoughtfully, “has always been a real bitch to me.”
The priest chuckled softly. “God can be a real bastard too. But in the end – what else gives our lives meaning? Love. Purpose. Faith. Something to fight for.”
Spike grinned. “Excellent. I have official permission from a man of the cloth to fight.”
The man smiled in return. “Fight the good fight.”
He stood up. “I’d better get down. It’s almost the end of the service.” He hesitated, extended a hand, fingers crooked. “I’d say God bless, but I don’t know what hurts you, exactly. So – good luck. In love, and all the rest of it.”
He nodded his head, turned and creaked back down the stairs as the final hymn began.
“For love in creation, For heaven restored, For grace of salvation, O praise ye the Lord!”
The apartment was dark, but a thin streak of light spilled under the bedroom door. Spike dropped his duster on the couch and headed over. He paused and looked down at his palm, where only a faint stain of pink marked the nearly-healed wound, turned the doorknob, and walked in. The bedside lamp was on, Xander evidently having dozed off while reading. He enjoyed the sight of messy brown hair, strong tanned shoulders, and one foot hanging out over the edge of the bed, before reaching out and tickling the sole of said foot.
Xander rolled over, pulling most of the blankets with him, and blinked owlishly up at Spike. “Where’ve you been? I thought you were just going out for smokes.”
“I went to church.”
Xander blinked again, then turned back over, securing the blankets under himself. Back to Spike, he muttered, “Uh-huh. You don’t want to tell me where you’ve been, you don’t have to.”
Spike sighed. “Okay, fine. I went out to get you a bloody giant chocolate rabbit, but everywhere I went was sold out.”
Xander rolled over yet again, effectively cocooning himself in their bedclothes, and grinned. “That’s okay. The girls brought a couple by while you were gone. It’s kind of a peace offering – one for each of us.” His expression turned serious. “I think – I think they finally get that this is real.”
Real. Spike closed his eyes, savouring the words for a moment, before kicking off his boots and collapsing on the bed beside Xander.
“Aren’t you going to undress?”
Spike pouted. “You’ve got all the covers. I’d get cold.”
Xander untangled an arm and cuffed him playfully. “You idiot. Get in here.” He unwound the bedclothes, and held them open invitingly. Spike wasted no time in divesting himself of clothes and sliding into a warm nest of flannel, blankets, and naked Xander. He wrapped himself around his boy, nuzzling into his hair, licking his collarbone, and wriggling appreciatively when Xander smoothed long, slow strokes down his spine. For love. For grace.
His salvation was right here.
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