A/N: My first Spuffy fic! :-) The first couple of chapters are gonna be a tad short, but once I get farther into the season, they'll get a bit meatier. (At least, I hope so.) This story follows the entire run of Season 6. It'll be mostly canon in the beginning, but as it progresses it will become more AU. Hope you like it!
Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its characters are the property of Joss Whedon.
Here lies resting, out of breath,
Out of turns, Elizabeth
Whose quicksilver toes not quite
Cleared the whirring edge of night.
Earth whose circles round us skim
Till they catch the lightest limb,
Shelter now Elizabeth
And for her sake trip up death.
-Little Elegy by X.J. Kennedy
Time didn't mean anything anymore. All was stillness, and warmth, and comfort. She drifted in this womb-like state for eons, without care or worry duty to weigh her down. There was no loneliness, but she was alone, and after a while, her thoughts quested outward, wondering if she was all there was. That was how she found them; everyone she'd left behind. She saw them all. Willow, Giles, Xander, Dawn. Anya and Tara and Spike. She witnessed all they experienced in her absence. Saw them grieve, and fight, and keep the ever-growing tide of demons at bay. For a while she was content to simply watch, but then she began to try other things.
She found herself able to focus on a single individual, seep into their minds until she knew and felt everything they did, as if she was them. She also discovered that she could travel back through the span of their lives, see and experience everything from birth to present time. She did this with all of them, but again and again was drawn to one life in particular. To Spike. She really couldn't say why, at least at first, but something kept pulling her attention to him. She learned so much about him, all those years of blood and destruction, the loneliness and unrequited love. She experienced firsthand the agonizing moment when, as the human William, he opened his heart to the aloof Cecily, only to have it shattered by her cruel words. She felt the anguish that drove him out into the night where he met Drusilla, who transformed his life forever. She saw it all, from moments of extreme depravity to sweet tenderness, from callous indifference to genuine compassion.
She was wrong; vampires could feel. Emotions were not seated in the soul. Being here, in this warm, safe place, gave her the clarity to see what should have been obvious. After all, animals had no souls, and they still had feelings. Animals were innocent, yet capable of the most brutal acts. The difference was, they couldn't feel guilty. Because that's what the soul was, really; the conscience. It wasn't that demons were evil so much as they weren't capable of understanding right from wrong. They didn't understand the concept of guilt. This didn't make her actions as the Slayer wrong; the demons she killed were a danger to humanity, like rabid dogs. They might not be totally responsible for their natures, but they still had to be dealt with if they proved themselves a threat.
Knowing all this gave her a new perspective on Spike's actions over the last year. She'd dismissed his love as nothing more than obsession. The incident when he chained her up and threatened to sic Dru on her if she didn't return his feelings only seemed to reinforce this impression. But now she knew, his lack of a soul to guide him, combined with an extremely limited romantic life—first the insane Drusilla for over a century, then the idiotic Harmony—meant that Spike honestly didn't know how to go about showing how he felt for her in a healthy way.
Even when he made a real effort to do good, she'd only shown contempt—
"You want credit for not feeding off bleeding disaster victims? You're disgusting!"
—treating him with none of the basic compassion she would have shown even the least likeable human. Even though she hadn't returned his feelings, she knew now that she should have let him down easier. Shouldn't have said the things she did—
"You're beneath me."
—just because he was a vampire.
She knew him now. Knew everything about him. She saw him at his best and his absolute worst. She understood him now with perfect clarity. And for the first time since her death, her peaceful rest was tinged with regret.
Spike's most recent experiences were the most painful for her to witness. He changed so much in those few months. His grief over her death consumed every second. The only way he could sleep without the dreams of her to haunt him was to drink himself into a stupor day after day, while his nights were spent patrolling with the Scoobies and watching over Dawn. He kept up a stoic front for Dawn's sake, when in reality he was barely keeping it together. There were times when the only reason he didn't dust himself was because of his promise to Buffy to look after her sister.
He was so alone.
Sometimes he swore he could almost feel her with him, and he didn't know if it was worse than not feeling her at all.
It started with a tug. It grew to a steady pull, then a sudden yank that threatened to hear her out of her safe place. She fought it, clawed back and tried to anchor herself. This strange force was relentless. She felt herself slipping and dug herself in tighter.
What was happening?
It was like a tether pulling her away. Her mind followed it to its source...
Willow. She was trying to bring her back. Back to the fighting and the duty and the bloodshed. Away from this place of love and acceptance.
Back to Dawn. Back to Xander and Willow and Giles. Back to Spike. Spike...
Willow was starting to falter. The spell's hold on her weakened. If she held on, she could stay. Or she could let go. It was her choice now.
She let go.