She found herself standing in a field full of flowers. Pretty white things with yellow centers, as far as she could see. They bobbed in the wind, the motion almost hypnotic. Clouds rolled overhead, moving with the currents and obscuring any real light that tried to filter through. It was peaceful. Quiet. Oddly familiar, somehow.
A sense of calm fell over her, and she let herself sink down into the flowers. Their scent surrounded her, permeable in the air.
She let her fingers play over the delicate petals, feeling their velvety smoothness. So soft. So unlike her. Everything in her life was… Hard. Harsh. Painful.
But here, she could just exist. She could be just a girl, in a field. Taking her time to enjoy the little things. To really live in the moment.
“Daisies, you know. There’s a legend about these. When a child dies, God puts daisies down to cheer up the parents.”
Spike had come to stand next to her, a stark contrast to the dreamy landscape around them. His duster was missing, as was his shirt. She tilted her head, taking in his form. Beautiful, in a way, though he’d probably balk at the word.
“Why are you here?”
Spike picked one of the flowers and began plucking the petals from it, one by one, letting them go. She watched them float to the ground, dancing on the air as they went. He gave her a strange look when he came to the final one. Something between a smirk and… She couldn’t quite identify what was behind his eyes.
“All kinds of meaning to these. Had a puppy one time, named Daisy. Dru ate the poor bugger, of course. She was always destroying things like that. Could never be happy to just let them blossom.”
The sunlight peeked through the clouds, casting a warm light over Spike’s face. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back, basking for a moment. He didn’t smoke or sizzle or turn to dust though.
“Feels nice to be in the light for once.”
He took in a deep breath and smiled softly at her, his eyes sparkling blue in the sun. He looked so human. She knew better, of course, but…
“Time to go, Slayer.”
She took in a choked gasp of breath as she slammed back into reality. Spike’s cool chest was bare against her face, and his arms were tight around her. The world jostled unevenly around her. He was running, she realized.
He barely glanced down at her, but she could feel the shaky breath as he took it in. Vampires didn’t need to breathe. She knew that. Most of them didn’t even bother to pretend. But Spike did it all the time, except for when he was asleep. The only time he couldn’t consciously do it.
“Gonna be…just fine, Swee…Slayer. Got help now. We’re almost there. Just hold on for me, okay?”
The world around her dissolved into darkness, replaced by a colorless mass of trees. She could see no path to follow in any direction. Branches seemed to reach for her, stretching out in the dark and snagging in her hair as she took stumbling steps.
Panic started to rise in her. She didn’t know where she was, or where to go. She had no direction, no compass. No idea if she’d ever get out of there. And she was so alone, in the silence of the trees. The only sounds were her breathing heavily and twigs snapping beneath her feet.
“In the middle of our walk of life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.”
He was concealed in shadows, blending into them so perfectly she almost couldn’t see him. His voice was the only indication that he was even there, or where there was. He stepped forward and dropped to his knees in front of her. Pale light danced over his features, casting sharp shadows on the valleys of his face. Half in light, half in darkness.
His hands came to rest on her hips, and he rested a cheek against her stomach. She tried to ignore the heat low in her gut that ignited at his touch. Dug her nails into her palms to keep from raking her fingers through his hair.
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day..?”
“What are we doing here, Spike? What is this place?”
He stood suddenly, his eyes going dark as he pushed himself away from her.
“Trying to find the path, of course! You, you know the way. You’ve got the map. Got the compass, too. Always points the right way. I’ve got nothing. Nothing but you, and what good does that do?”
“You know what I am. Can’t follow the sun, like you can.”
He came close to her again, and bent so that his mouth was close to her ear. His cool breath fluttered across her skin, leaving goosebumps in its wake.
“But I’ll let it burn me, anyway.”
She opened her eyes, and found Spike again. They were outside now. Outside. She’d thought she’d never get to see the stars again, or the moon. Never get another breath of crisp night air. Never feel the sting of it in her lungs. They were out. Spike had gotten her out.
Tears flowed from her eyes. God, she was free.
“Where’s the bloody car, watcher? You said it wasn’t far!”
“We’re… nearly there… should be in the next lot…”
“Oh, should be, should it? You’re really taking that wanker at his word!?”
Giles panted next to them as they ran through the darkness. Giles was there. He’d come for her.
“No, I’m not. I’ve assured his cooperation. There it is! Get her loaded up and get behind the wheel. Unless you’ve got more medic training than I have.”
She could feel herself starting to nod out again as she was laid across the back seat of a vehicle. Spike’s hand was shaky as he touched her face, stroking where her tears still clung.
“Not leaving you, pet. I’m right here. Need to get someplace safe. Watcher is gonna fix you up, yeah?”
Don’t leave me…
She wanted to speak the words out loud, but she’s drifted back into unconsciousness. The roof of the car had been replaced by a fireplace, the seat by a carpet.
A cabin. Cozy, warm. Much nicer than the forest had been. But there were little things that weren’t so nice. Cracks in the walls. A thin layer of dust covering everything. Still, she felt safe there. Comfortable.
She’d almost drifted off when the humming started. A soft, strange tune that seemed to follow a normal pattern before drifting into something completely different. She rose to her feet, managing only a couple of steps before a familiar woman… wafted into the room.
Drusilla. Swaying around the room with a lazy elegance, fingers flittering over the furniture as she moved, leaving trails in the dust.
“Fairies,” she murmured, then brought her finger to her mouth in a shushing gesture. “Made of bits and bobs. Flecks of dead matter scattered all about in layers.”
Then she twirled gracefully before taking a dainty seat on the couch, a reminder of the proper lady she’d once been. She patted the cushion beside her in invitation.
“Um, yeah, no thanks,” Buffy said. “I make it a point not to let my enemies be within biting distance.”
“Is that so?” Drusilla said with a sly smile. Then she laughed, a deranged cackle as she gleefully clapped her hands together. “But my little Spike….”
She opened her mouth wide before snapping it shut in a biting motion. Then she moved suddenly, fast enough that she seemed to vanish.
“Not an enemy then, is he?” Dru’s voice from behind her, breath cool against the side of Buffy’s neck as the vampire spoke.
Buffy swallowed thickly, goosebumps rising on her skin. Just a dream, she told herself. Dru couldn’t hurt her here.
“No,” she finally answered. “He’s not.”
Drusilla laughed softly — sadly — before moving away, motions gracefully sharp, like some sort of dancing spider.
“I tried to warn him, you know. Mrs. Edith can be a filthy liar, but the stars… the stars always know, and they whispered their secrets on the wings of the pixies. I told him what they said, but he didn’t listen.” She glared at Buffy. “He refused to push you away. And now….”
She approached the fireplace and held her hands out to it. “Mustn’t touch, our kind. Must never, ever touch, lest we burn away. But he wouldn’t listen. Wouldn’t push you away. And now see what’s happened.”
“Nothing’s happened. I don’t know what you think, but–”
“Oh, but it has, foolish child, and you haven’t a clue what it is you’ve done. My darling…”
The stone walls shook around them, low rumbling slowly building. Clicks and crashes joined in as small knicknacks and things fell to the floor Then it all came to a sudden stop.
“All that you know will crumble. Fall all around you like rain from the heavens.”
Buffy awoke again, relieved to be out of the weird Drusilla madness dream. Then, just as quickly, not. Giles pushed a hand on her chest, holding her still as she became very aware of the burning pain in her abdomen.
“You must hold still, Buffy. The worst is nearly over. Spike? I’ll need your belt.”
The jingle of a buckle being undone, and the smooth sound of leather being pulled through loops came from close by. The front seat, she realized.
“You’re gonna be just fine, Slayer. Flesh wound. That’s all it is.”
She could tell he was trying to reassure her, as he’d spent so many weeks doing. But his voice wavered. He wasn’t as sure as he wanted her to believe. Even with Giles there, she wanted to reach out to Spike. She couldn’t, though. Not yet.
“You’ll want to bite down,” Giles said, offering the leather belt to her. “This… Won’t be pleasant.”
It’s a miracle. No organs or arteries were damaged, and it’s a clean exit. Straight through the muscle. Her blood loss is likely from the adrenaline. I think she’ll be just fine, Spike. The most pressing concern is an infection, but… Between the dose of antibiotics and her natural ability, I hardly think there’s reason to worry. Now, I am going to have a very much needed drink and go to sleep. I suggest you do the same.
His own wounds still needed tending, but they could wait. He wasn’t going to die of blood loss, or infection, or shock. Stake to the heart, or beheading. Or a nice morning walk. But not from a few gunshot wounds. Buffy on the other hand… Even if she was in stable condition now, he still felt the need to watch over her. Look for signs that she was going downhill. Everything that he was screamed to not let her out of his sight if he could help it.
He’d tucked her into bed as soon as they’d got to Giles’s hideout, piling a few blankets on top of her to help maintain her body temperature, and taken up vigil on the floor. The watcher had come in a while later with a mug full of warmed blood. Donated stuff, the same kind they’d had in the Initiative, but without the bitter taste of sedatives. It made him sick to his stomach to drink it, but it was all they had available for the time being. It was better than nothing, and it would have to do.
He could still barely believe she was alive. The thought of losing her kept coming back to him, reopening that black hole in his chest. She looked so peaceful as she slept, but she was so pale… She could almost be a corpse. If not for her slow breathing, and the sound of her heartbeat, he wouldn’t have known otherwise. He slipped a hand beneath the blankets, his fingers seeking her out hers, and grasping them tightly when he made contact. She was so warm. She was real, and there, and alive. And that was enough for him to let his own exhaustion finally claim him.
When he woke up, his hand was empty. The bed was cold. Buffy wasn’t in it.
He shot to his feet, already in a full-blown panic, and bolted from the room. He paused for a moment in the hallway, outside the bathroom door. The scent of steam and something light and flowery lingered there, but it wasn’t fresh. She wasn’t in there anymore. He moved on, further down the hall and into the living area, forcing himself not to run. She was just up and about, right? She’d showered and was probably just up watching telly or something. So he told himself, but it didn’t do anything to calm him down. But seeing Giles standing in front of the counter, calmly preparing a meal? That did wonders. If he wasn’t worried, Spike shouldn’t have been either.
“She’s on the beach,” he said simply as he stirred what was in the skillet. “She’s been out there for quite some time now.”
Spike strolled quickly across the room to the window. He could see through the sheer blinds that the sun was low in the sky, shades of red and orange blanketing as far as he could see, the fire in the clouds reflected against the rolling waves. And Buffy… God, she made him feel like he had breath to take. She was a silhouette, standing out in sharp contrast to the colors of the sunset, but she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever laid eyes on.
Shimmering radiance. The scintillating array of the sun naught but a pale backdrop to her magnificence. A glorious mirage before the setting sun.
His chest ached in longing. He knew he didn’t belong in her world, from the very start. He was dark, while she was light. Two sides of a coin, destined to ever be back-to-back. Never side-by-side. Never to gaze into each other’s eyes, faces drawing close as they leaned in for a… But still, he could tread on the edges, like this. Watch her from afar and join her when he was permitted.
“I thought perhaps some fresh air would do her good. An open sky, some sunshine. It won’t make everything she’s been through go away, but… It may help her begin to move past it.”
Giles came to stand next to him, offering a mug of warm blood which Spike happily accepted. It took a lot of self-control to not gulp it all down and ask for more. It wasn’t the bagged stuff from the night before. Animal, maybe cattle. And fresh. The watcher had gone to the butcher?
“Spike… I appreciate what you did for her in there. And I apologize, for having not heeded your words when you came to us for help. Much of this could have been avoided if we’d listened to you, and for that I’m sorry. What you did… It shows a depth of character that I did not expect. You have my gratitude.”
Spike took a few more sips from the mug, thinking about Giles’s words. “Why do I feel like this little speech of yours has a ‘but’ attached to it?”
“Because it does,” Giles sat on the arm of the couch, a glass of scotch in hand. “I am… aware that your chip is no longer working. I saw Walsh.”
And there it was. He’d been hoping Giles had overlooked her body, to give him a buffer. Some time to prove to them that he was serious about trying to change. To prove it to Buffy. It was foolish to think he’d even get the chance.
“Figured as much. Well, lay it out for me, watcher. Gonna drive a stake through my heart next time I nod off? Or just shove me out the door right now and watch me burn?”
“Spike. I know. About your feelings for her.” Spike’s eyes shot up. “And I know that you may think they’re real-”
“You don’t know the first bloody thing about it,” he growled. “And you don’t know what happened in that place. To her, or me.”
There was no point in denying it. Not to somebody as sharp as Giles. But he wasn’t going to sit by and be mocked and told what he felt for Buffy wasn’t real. He wasn’t going to let it be dismissed as some kind of what? Vampiric stockholm syndrome? Giles really didn’t have the first clue about anything that happened in that place. He didn’t understand, and he never would.
“You are a killer, Spike. I’ll leave the decision of what to do about you up to her, but… Whatever has transpired between the two of you… It cannot go further. For her sake, I hope you know that.”
He scoffed and strolled back over to the window to look out at her. For Buffy’s sake. Yeah, he’d bet. Giles just didn’t want her shacking up with another vampire. But that wasn’t his choice to make. It was hers. Nobody got to dictate who she did, or didn’t, let into her life. Nobody but her. And that was something Giles was going to have to deal with. Spike was quiet for a long moment before turning back to Giles. “Can’t leave that up to her, too?”
“Buffy follows her heart. That’s always been true. But it hasn’t always steered her in the right direction. After what happened with Angel… Well, I’m sure you can understand.”
“Angelus is a wanker.”
“We are in agreement on that matter. Still… You can’t be trusted not to give in to your baser instincts.”
“Oh, right. Because I’m not all soulful and brooding? At least my baser instincts don’t involve deflowering a teenager. Look, watcher. I know you’re all protective and whatnot. I get that. I’m not gonna do anything she doesn’t want me to. No killing, no feeding. I’ll figure out the rest as we go.”
Giles took a gulp of his drink and sighed before pinching the bridge of his nose. “Do you truly intend to pursue a relationship with her? You can’t possibly think-”
“Well, that’s not really up to you now, is it? Now, you can try to deter me all you want. Threaten me. I don’t care. I’m not going to abandon her. She’s had enough men in her life do that already. I won’t be the next.”
Giles stared at him, a perplexed look on his face. Finally he sighed and pushed himself off the arm of the couch. “I see.” He walked over to the tiny stove, and gave the skillet a final stir before turning the heat off. “Spike. I’m going to make myself perfectly clear. If you aren’t genuine… If you hurt her in any way, it will be the end of you. If it takes my dying breath, I will make sure-”
“Dust. Yeah, I got it. That stuff ready? Get her a plate ready, I’ll go fetch her. Sun’s set now. She shouldn’t be out in the cold.”
Spike turned away without another word and walked through the door. As much as he wanted to go back in and bite that pompous ass of a father figure, he knew he couldn’t. And he knew he wouldn’t. He just wished that they’d know it, too. He wasn’t… the way they all thought he was. If nothing else, he was loyal to a fault. Sure, he’d make mistakes. Slip up from time to time. He was a vampire after all, not a saint. He didn’t have the moral direction that humans did. But he did have Buffy, sort of. She’d see to it he stayed in line. Right?
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