Beyond the Darkness

By Nichole (Neko-chan) Johnson

Rating:  PG or TV 14

Pairings:  B/S

Disclaimer:  All BtVS characters and such are owned by Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy (bless that little paper monster…). "You Don't See Me" is by Josie and the Pussycats.

Spoilers: Takes place during Season 5, immediately after "The Body".

Summary: After the unexpected tragedy of Joyce's death, a broken Buffy has a somewhat revealing encounter with Spike, an encounter ending quite differently than their former (see "Crush") which leads to a newer, heated tension between the two former enemies.  Meanwhile the Scooby gang, still intent on uncovering Glory's secrets and the relevance of the Key, seems to have unwittingly stumbled upon a strange and cryptic legend that may just answer Buffy's misgivings about her feelings for a certain, British vampire…

* * * * * * * * * *

Prologue

Despite the late hour—or rather, early—the bleach-blonde vampire, former master, brutal undead killer and just plain all-around Big Bad made his way to the seedy tavern near the bad part of town (the only suitable part, he thought) to catch up on his wallow-in-my-misery-as-well-as-several-bottles-of-cheap-liquor routine.  It seemed that he was doing that all too much lately, but it wasn't at all hard to understand.  Having been the biggest and baddest vamp around since Angel's wondrous resurrection into the realm of the soul-ed, and then having it all taken away in an instant so that he was reduced to sucking pigs' blood from a bag and playing toady for the Slayer and her Scooby Gang…well, it didn't exactly bode well for any future position in the evil department, not to mention keep him on anything but nasty terms with his former "brethren of the night."

This is the place where I sit

This is the part where I love you too much

Is this as hard as it gets?

'Cuz I'm getting tired of pretending I'm tough

The worst part of all was that he wasn't sure he even cared anymore.  De-fanged and soulless, and working side-by-side with the Slayer—if not for Angel's former soul-endowed exploits, he was certain a vampire couldn't be any worse off.

But of course, here he was—even worse.  Not only did he work with the Slayer, but he unwillingly and undeniably loved the Slayer.  It was beyond belief, it was beyond reason, and it was his curse.

I'm here if you want me, I'm yours you can hold me

I'm empty and diggin' and tumblin' and breakin'…

At least the poof had a bloody soul to blame, thought Spike bitterly, hands suddenly itching for the familiar comfort of a cigarette.  Fumbling irritably in the pocket of his duster, he had the small roll of tobacco out and lit—and the rest of the pack returned to his pocket—in astonishing speed and agility, resuming his fast, purposeful pace.

Despite his increasingly foul mood and self-loathing spirits, their was still a tiny voice in the back of the brassy vampire's head hoping and wishing…that somehow, all would work out and the Slayer would realize what she felt for him.  His humanity?  Or was he just going soft?  He inhaled viciously on the cigarette, finishing it, and flung the still glowing butt away in frustration.  He had had enough of humanity.  Humanity had brought pain, rejection.  Worthlessness.  Why else had he allowed himself to be seduced to the dark, in a most clear and literal sense?  Only in the arms of a vampire had he found power.  Power beyond imagining, not to mention love and unending passion…

And hurt and pain and blind, bitter rage.  Bloody fool! his thoughts snarled at him.  You're no better off than you were as a bleedin' mortal!

The voice in the back of his head sighed with forlorn despair, becoming increasingly louder.  If he had had a soul, he was sure this would be it, but as it was he did not, and therefore the voice unnerved him endlessly.  All emotion, all raw, like a wide-eyed child.  But the thoughts that it breathed, the weak human dreams and heavy desires, would never be.  Could never be.

To even wish, even think.  Him…and the Slayer.

'Cuz you don't see me

And you don't need me

And you don't love me…

The way I wish you would…

The way I know you could

"To hell with you, Slayer!" he spat, this time out loud, but barely a vicious whisper, the breeze covering the sound even as it escaped his lips.  Lighting up another cigarette, he growled angrily to himself, staring at the glowing embers that tumbled away on the wind as he took a heavy drag, but not even their fire could burn the young woman's visage from his mind.

I dream a world where you understand

But I dream a million sleepless nights

Soon the small dive of a tavern came into his sights.  Flicking away the remains of his cigarette, Spike stomped moodily into the dank abode, ignoring the suspicious and hostile glances that met him from the variety of demons and humans within.  He strode boldly to the bar; ignoring the barkeep's nervous, shifty glance around the room, then back to him, his irritation now evident.

Well I dream of fire when you're touching my hand,

But it twists into smoke when I turn on the lights

"Oh, as if I hadn't had enough problems tonight!  Master Spike, you've gotta' stop comin' around here like—"

The demon quickly emerged in the moody vampire, fixing the lippy bartender with golden, predatory eyes.  "Bourbon, Willy.  Now!"

I'm speechless and faded, it's too complicated

Is this how the book ends?  Nuthin' but…?

Giving a long-ending sigh, Willy hastily moved to obey, and with the movement, Spike was able to see the far counter of the bar previously blocked by his back.  He wasn't sure if it had been luck, or his unfortunate fate, but he was suddenly affronted by the object of all his misery and human desires.

"Buffy?"

This is the place in my heart

This is the place where I'm fallin' apart

Isn't this just where we met?

And is this the last chance that I'll ever get?

The petite blond looked up from the bottle of whiskey she was currently nursing with shaking hands.  Her features were pale beyond his own undead tone, gaunt and stricken with inexplicable pain, yet somehow retained that effortless beauty that had so caught him from the start.  With bleary, booze-touched eyes, she blinked at him from across the bar, and finally finding recognition focused on him with some difficulty.  There was none of the usual belligerence or disgust she had shown to him in the past.  Only unending pain, green eyes brimming uncharacteristically with tears.

I wish I was lonely, instead of just only

Crystal and see-through, and not enough to you…

"Spike…"  As if she could contain her pain no more, she broke down and wept, awkwardly pushing away the half-empty bottle in her hand which spun as drunkenly as she onto the floor, shattering into a dull splay of glass and booze.

The punk rock vampire was effectively speechless.

'Cuz you don't see me

And you don't need me

And you don't love me…

The way I wish you would…

The way I know you could.

After a moments frozen shock, Spike slowly climbed to his feet, hurrying around the bar in a mixture of confusion and concern.

"Buffy!" he repeated, louder this time, grabbing her arm in time to stop her tumbling from her barstool.  "Bloody hell, you're off your face!"

She laughed crazily amidst her tears, leaning on his arm for support.  "Never thought…ya'd sche da mighty Schlayer drunk in a tavern, 'ey, Spike?"  She sobbed heavily, suddenly and surprisingly throwing herself into his arms, her small hands grasping desperately at the front of his shirt.

"Oh, God, it's all gone, Spike…!" she wailed pitifully, her sobs muffled against his chest.  "Everything is…such a mess…I can't…"

Under any other circumstances he might have enjoyed having her lithe form pressing against him, but in her drunken blubbering state, all he could think of was getting her out of there and safely home.  He didn't even want to think what kind of trouble the Slayer might have gotten into if he hadn't stumbled upon her just now.

He patted her head clumsily, awkwardly attempting to pull her to her own feet.  "Come on, pet, let's get you home now…" he murmured soothingly, eyes darting uncomfortably to the many eyes now focused on them.

As if he had struck some sort of chord within her, Buffy's wails became louder and more heart-wrenching, her body quivering with the exertion of so much pain and despair.  "Home!  Spike, she's gone!  She won't be there and…oh, why did she do this?!  Spike, why?!"

Still attempting to maneuver her towards the door and ignoring the insistent way she was pressing up against him, Spike glanced down at her inquiringly.  "Do…what—Cor, what are you sobbin' about, pet?  Who did what?"

The blonde was strangely and suddenly silent, pressing her dark lashes tightly shut as if attempting to calm herself, and the vampire shivered involuntarily with the pain radiating from her, nearly tangible as her heat.  Yet despite her despair and his own concern, he found himself drawn into the gentle tremble of her heavy, pouting lips.  Her eyelashes fluttered, glittering wetly with her tears, and she gazed up at him through mournful olive-green eyes.  He found himself melting under that gaze, and once again forced himself to tear himself away before the desire overcame him.

"Okay, Slayer, let's get you home now…"

Her grip tightened again on his shirt and he found himself once again looking into her green, pleading gaze.  "I can't…" she moaned, long and drawn out as if the words had been painful to speak.  She began to sink to her feet but his arms caught her, pulling her up again unsteadily and starting for the door once again with her in tow.

"Alright," he drawled in confusion, dark eyebrows furrowing in a semblance of control and reason as they made it out to the street.  Whatever dark thoughts he had been having before this were completely forgotten, as well as any normal urge to shake the effect she was having on his mind and body.  Trying to keep calm and rational was hard with her warm, trembling figure pressed desperately against him.

He shook away the improper thoughts he was having with some difficulty, trying to ignore her warm, musky scent all around him.  "We can't leave you here though, now can we, luv?"  Scanning the lightening horizon, he judged he had just about an hour until sunrise.

"It doesn't matter…"  She threw back her head suddenly, laughing insanely, and oddly reminding him of Dru.  I'm naming the stars, my love…!  He shook the thought away, disentangling himself from her slightly to try and clear the fog from his brain.

Once, he would have found this the perfect opportunity to kill her, simply snap her neck and feed like he had dreamed of for so many years.  She had plagued his dreams—his nightmares—ever since he'd laid eyes on her, and only her death had seemed the answer to their end.  He knew he could never do that now, whether there had been a chip in his head or not, despite her obvious revulsion and rejection of him.

Only having her would ease that pain.  Once again he found her warmth and scent drawing him in, and he fought to keep control.  It was obvious, that just as his sire, he was doomed to live with that passionate and insatiate desire for all eternity.

Or until she took pity on him and drove a stake through his heart.

She was still laughing, staring up at the stars in dizzy, drunken glee.  Pushing off of his chest, she spun away from him, swinging her arms wide in a sort of spinning, pagan dance.

"IT DOESN'T MATTER!" she screamed, giggling insanely, but her giggles quickly dissolved into tears once again.  Half falling, half sinking, she dropped to her knees on the cement and buried her face in her hands, sobbing silently as she rocked back and forth in silent anguish.

Momentarily torn, the vampire lowered himself on his haunches beside her.  "Jesus…!  Buffy, what's the matter?" he crooned, genuinely concerned.  He rubbed her back soothingly with one hand, feeling her body shudder beneath his touch.  "Buffy?"

The Slayer looked up from her hands, staring blankly ahead.  "She's dead, Spike," she spoke hollowly, her words clear and sober.  "She's dead.  Dead.  Dead…"

This time he looked at her firmly, gripping her shoulder insistently.  "Who is, Buffy?"

Buffy swayed, mouth working wordlessly.  "My mother…" she whispered finally.  In a sudden fit of convulsions, she vomited violently, leaning on her palms on the cool cement until she was through.  Then swaying once more, she tumbled against him, finally passing out against his shoulder.

Something flashed in the vampire's being.  A slicing, short-lived pang that rocked him inwardly.  Remorse?  He shook his head, trying to clear his tangled thoughts and easily scooped the Slayer up in his arms, rising to his feet.  Right now, he needed to get the Slayer taken care of and himself somewhere safe before dawn.

Already, the faint light of dawn was beginning to peek over the horizon as the lone vampire and his unlikely charge moved briskly towards the safety of darkness, his soulless mind plagued with conflicting emotions belying explanation.

*           *           *

Willow waited tensely, listening as the line on the other end reached its twentieth ring and still no one picked up.  Cupping a palm over the mouthpiece she turned to the other occupants of the room, eyebrows furrowed deeply.  The faces of the four others gathered in the small magic shop mirrored her concern.

"She's not answering.  Do you think I should…?"  She trailed off, eyes darting from one person to another for help.

Tara was fixing her with a familiar compassionate gaze.  It pained her to see how badly she was taking the last day's events.  How everyone was taking them, for that matter.

"Maybe she's just not ready, Willow.  Let's give her time."

Across the room, Xander leaned back against the chair he was seated in, attempting to appear casual.  His tenseness belied his discomfort, however.  "I'd say she's taking this thing pretty well, if you asked me.  I mean, if my…well…if this happened to me, I'd probably be out having myself a nice killing spree about now."  Nobody laughed at his comment, but for once the humorous young man was looking for no applause.  Seated next to him, Anya patted his knee reassuringly.

Willow suddenly looked worried, forgetting the phone.  "Wh-what if that's where she is?  We should stop her!  I mean, she could get herself killed in her condition and—"

Giles cleared his throat uncomfortably.  "I'm sure Buffy is okay, Willow.  This…this tragedy has doubtlessly shaken her immensely, but I am sure she will be rational enough not to…ah, get herself, ahem… greatly harmed…"

"Let her stake a few unlucky vamps and get this all out of her system, Will," added Xander supportively, making stabbing motions reminiscent of Psycho with a fist.  "Maybe there could be a bright side to this."

Everyone was suddenly staring at him, particularly Willow, mouth agape in horror.

"Scratch that."

Eager to divert their attention, Anya shifted uncomfortably, piercing the others with her wide-eyed, innocent face, devoid of expression.  "What about Dawn?" she asked inquisitively, as always curious and somewhat oblivious as to what she was supposed to do.  "Is Dawn…hurting?"

There was silence as the others shifted uncomfortably, thrown-off as usual by the former-demon's blunt way of coming straight to the point.  The last day had not been easy for all of them.  After the sudden and unexpected tragedy of Mrs. Summers' death, not to mention a short run-in with a newly-born vampire in the autopsy ward of the hospital, Buffy had made a hurried excuse and left, supposedly for home.  Dawn, however, had stayed, still unable to grasp her mother's death, and had eventually gone to stay with Giles, saying that she didn't wish to bother Buffy just yet, which had been just fine with the middle-aged Englishman.  The Watcher had been almost as upset as the two girls over Joyce's untimely death, and had always felt himself as a sort of father figure to the two girls so easily took it upon himself to get them through the ordeal.  He had worried somewhat over Buffy and had nearly gone after her, but had somehow reasoned that she would be alright and instead focused on consoling a broken-up Dawn.

Giles cleared his throat uncomfortably, sliding his glasses off his nose and cleaning them absentmindedly with the handkerchief he kept in his breast pocket for such an occasion, a clear sign that he was struggling for words.

"Dawn is…She appears to be faring well, at the moment, but I believe she is taking this the hardest, due to her…ah, unusual circumstances.  But yes, Anya, I do believe she is…hurting."

The demon-girl nodded sagely, her odd expression of a rough understanding on her calm features.  Beside her, Xander cleared his throat uncomfortably, putting a meaningful hand on his girlfriend's arm as he slowly climbed to his feet.

"Ah, I think it's time Anya and I got some rest.  What with all this excitement and all…"  Giving her a meaningful glance, he gently steered the girl towards the door, giving his friends a short wave.

The others nodded, staring after them in silence until the door chime announced their absence.  Tara shifted slightly, giving Willow another concerned glance, who was still standing at the counter, phone in hand, the dead dial tone blaring loudly in the silence.

"I think Willow and I should be going, too."

The sweet-looking redhead pursed her lips nervously, eyes flitting between the two remaining people.  "Giles, what if…"

The Watcher sighed lightly, replacing his glasses on his nose with characteristic dignity.  "I'm sure Buffy will contact us when she is ready, Willow."  He pierced the girl with a compassionate, paternal glance.  "Right now, I do believe all of us could use a bit of rest.  This ordeal has been quite hard on all of our nerves, and if we wish to help Buffy and Dawn in any way, we will need to be strong and supportive."

Willow smiled wanly, finally replacing the phone on its jack with a resigned sigh.  "I suppose you're right, Giles.  I'm just being the overprotective best friend, I guess.  Emotional trauma is the only area of protection I specialize in, after all."

Giles returned her smile.  "Well, I am sure Buffy will come to you for help as soon as she is ready.  Otherwise, I do believe I will be forced to play the overprotective Watcher until she does so."

There were short good-byes and soon Giles was left alone once again.  He sighed, heavily, fiddling uncomfortably with the worn edges of an old, thin book that had been lying open on the round table.  The door chimed once again, signaling that is was time for him to get back to work.  Closing the book and straightening his glasses, he got up from his seat and went to attend to his customers.

*           *           *

Buffy awoke to disorientation and a screaming headache.

Everything was dark, incredibly dark, and cold beyond the nest of warmth her own body had created in the covers of the unfamiliar bed.  She groaned, and immediately gasped at the gut-wrenching pain in her skull, putting a hand tenderly to her head.  Because of the dark, she couldn't be sure of whether it was night or day, but judging by how long she assumed she had been either asleep or unconscious, she guessed it was more likely the latter.

She remained lying for several minutes, waiting for the pain in her head to lessen as she tried to gather her bearings.  Finally she struggled shakily to a sitting position, looking around at her surroundings as her eyes slowly adjusted to the dark.  Except for the bed, the room seemed fairly empty.  Cold, empty, and vaguely familiar.

Like a crypt.

She blinked, cursing.  "What the…"  Flopping back into the covers momentarily, Buffy finally noticed the strange, yet familiar scent of the sheets, something only she could notice with her heightened Slayer senses.  Very faint, human yet not, and hinting of cigarette smoke and all-too-familiar cologne.

"Good morning, sunshine."

The young woman was startled slightly by the cheerful, British voice, wondering why her Slayer senses hadn't warned her of the vampire's presence earlier.

Spike grinned at her with characteristic brashness, crossing the room and lighting the few candles in it with the one he had been holding.  Buffy followed his movements suspiciously, inwardly glad to realize she was fully clothed and that it was obvious he had come from the other room.  Still, she glared at him, distrustful.  And why should I? she thought harshly.  He's a vampire, he can't be trusted.  It's just a chip in his head, and as soon as he figures out how to get rid of it, you know he'll kill you.

But there was another voice in her head.  At the moment it was silent.  But its silence spoke volumes, especially on her heart rate.

"How's the headache, Slayer?" spoke up the brassy vampire, lazily taking a seat across the room in a rather dusty and archaic looking chair.  As if in answer, she rubbed her head tenderly, frowning viciously.

"What am I doing here?" she demanded in a deadly tone.  Spike seemed unfazed, however; in fact, his grin widened further at her obvious annoyance.

"I think I might have asked you the same question last night, pet," he replied cheekily, leaning back and getting more comfortable in his chair.  He chuckled slightly, enjoying the flushed and furious expression on Buffy's face.

"Don't play games with me, Spike," she demanded angrily, climbing to her feet.  Immediately a wave of nausea assaulted her.  Putting out a steadying hand against the bed, she breathed deeply, waiting for the ill feeling to subside.

She failed to notice the flash of concern on the bleach-blonde vampire's face.  "Lord, you did yourself a number with the liquor, Slayer.  I thought you didn't drink?"

Buffy grimaced, her nausea subsiding enough so that she could stand.  "I don't."

"I can see that," he replied sardonically, getting up and offering a hand.  She pushed him away gruffly, glaring daggers at him.

"You still haven't answered me, Spike.  What am I doing with a hangover and what am I doing in your bed?  You've got five seconds, and then I'm going to beat it out of you."

The vampire ignored her, leaving the bedroom for the main chamber, obviously expecting her to follow.  She did so, grudgingly, angrily demanding he answer her while wincing painfully against the headache and nausea.  The main chamber was brighter, a fire glowing cheerily in the low fireplace and candles scattered around the dusty, cobweb infested room.  Still ignoring the Slayer's threats, Spike retrieved a covered Styrofoam cup from the top of a dusty sarcophagus currently serving as a coffee table.

"Later, Buffy.  Here, drink this," he insisted, kindly but forcefully, shoving the cup at her.  She blinked, taking the cup warily.

She raised it to her nose, crinkling her nose in disgust.  "What is it?  Blood?"

He shook his head, rolling his eyes in annoyance.  "No, it's bourbon, you chit!  It's coffee, what else?  Now drink it.  It might help that nasty hangover of yours."

Buffy raised it to her lips cautiously, taking a sip.  Convinced it was just coffee, she took a larger sip, enjoying the warmth it brought her.  Then she looked back up at the vampire watching her, his expressionless face unreadable, and glared sourly.  The action was mostly out of habit though and hardly as intimidating as she had hoped it would be.  And a part of her couldn't help noticing the concern evident on his face, despite his obvious attempts to appear indifferent.  It felt oddly…comforting.

She almost spit out the coffee.

"Spike, story.  Now."

Gesturing for her to take a seat, which she took gladly, still ill from the after-effects of the alcohol, he perched casually on the edge of the stone sarcophagus.  His gaze was serious, dark eyebrows slightly furrowed, and she realized he was trying to gauge her temperament.  Just to humor him, she made a point to glare harder, but finding it only increased her headache by tenfold, she relented to simply favoring him with a slightly annoyed look of impatience.

Spike took a breath, unneeded of course, being a vampire, and pursed his lips thoughtfully.  "Do you remember anything of last night, luv?"

She smiled coldly, a warning.  "No, so you better tell me exactly what happened or our little coffee break will be ending with your sorry ashes decorating this lovely new-age coffee table."

Now the punk rock vampire was smiling at her brazenly once again, her familiar banter provoking him.  "That's not what you were screaming last night, baby…"

"What?!  Spike, you—"

The vampire waved his hands in mock surrender, giving her his fangiest grin.  "I'm pullin' ya, pet.  You were smashed, said you di'nt wanna' go home, I brought you here.  End 'o story.  All completely innocent."

She glared at him searchingly for a moment, but he gazed back boldly, and eventually she nodded slightly, believing him.

"Of course, I did cop a feel or two, but that was all in fun…"

"Spike!"

He laughed, dodging her weak blow.  "Kidding, luv, kidding!  My, for someone with such a hangover, you're mighty lively, Slayer!"

She growled in irritation, downing the last of the coffee.  "Yeah, well, must be that Chosen One healing thing.  Give me five minutes and I might just be 'lively' enough to kick your ass."

It was Spike's turn to look irritated.  "Now wait a minute, I helped you!  If I hadn't shown up, there's no tellin' what sort of nasty trouble you'd 'a been in by now!"

Her gaze was withering.  "Despite what you try to convince yourself, I don't need your help, Spike.  And I especially don't need you."  She climbed to her feet, already looking steadier, and placed the cup in front of him on the sarcophagus.  "If it's 'thanks' you're looking for, then thank you.  Otherwise, I am leaving, and I don't want to see you again."

Turning her back on him coldly, she started for the door.  Immediately the vampire was on his feet, hackles raised at her lack of gratitude.  She had treated him with cold disdain in the past, but after seeing her last night, all inhibitions gone and clinging to him in desperation, he knew that deep down there must be something that felt for him; that needed him.  He had told her it before, had believed it so strongly, but there had been no way of showing her and now he saw his chance.  Either that or he was just desperate not to let her walk out on him again with his undead heart in shambles.

"Bloody right I'm looking for 'thanks', Slayer!" he spat angrily, fighting back his demon's attempts to surface.  He needed his human face for this, needed her to see him that way.  As a hurt person, not a hurt demon.  "I want you to thank me for all the times I've saved your ass!  I want you to show me some bloody respect for once!  Bloody hell, I gave up power for you!  I gave up my kind, I gave up killing, I gave up my very way of life!  Hell, I even gave up Dru for you, and still you…you spit on me, Slayer!  I was givin' a million 'n one chances to kill you, and instead I helped you, risked bein' staked and tortured by my own kind, and now I've fallen in love with you and you not only turn your back on me, but you do it with hate and disgust!  So yes, yes I want to be thanked.  I want to see you look on me with something other than revulsion for once."

Buffy was silent, her back still to him.  A tiny voice in the back of her mind wept bitterly, something in her aching painfully, but she pushed it away angrily, pulling on every ounce of hate she had in her to quiet it.  She didn't know why she did it, but the memory of pain was so strong.  Angel.  The thought suddenly sprang to mind, unbidden, along with all the buried hopes and pain and suffering.  Never again, a thought whispered bitterly, wiping away both vampires' images angrily.  The pain was too strong, too easily remembered after…

Her mother.  The emotions she had pushed back, numbed by sleep and liquor, washed over her in a torrent and she began to tremble violently under the deluge.

Spike's eyebrows knitted in concern, his earlier frustration momentarily forgotten.  "Buffy?"

The trembling Slayer fought to regain control, taking several stiff steps forward.  "I…I have to…"  And suddenly she was tumbling slowly to the floor, knees buckling beneath her, eyes brimming with tears.

"Buffy!" cried Spike shortly in surprise, rushing to her side.  Leaning on her forearms on the stone floor, the petite blonde stared blankly down at the puddle slowly forming in front of her as she wept.

"Mom…Mom!" she moaned, realization hitting her for the second time in the last day.  Spike put a tentative, comforting hand on her shoulder, then slowly slid it to her back, rubbing gently.  As if some wall had burst, she turned suddenly and threw herself at his chest, burying her face in his shirt and simply letting the pain overwhelm her.

And for the second time that day, the Slayer found herself weeping in the arms of the enemy.

*           *           *

After several minutes, which dragged by like hours, Buffy seemed to have found some control.  Sniffling, she pulled away slowly, eyes still hollow, unseeing.

"Buffy, what happened?" urged Spike carefully in a low voice, although he was pretty sure without her telling him.  He was surprised to find a sinking feeling in his own chest, a feeling he remembered as sadness.  Not as if he had never felt sadness during his long existence in immortality, but never once for another human being.  After all, he had been a killer and he had hardly been inclined to weep for the death of his victims, let alone care in the least.  Caring and remorse were something only a soul could feel.

Or so he had thought.  He could sense her pain now, feel it washing over him simply by touching her, and he was appalled at the raw intensity of it.  Spike had felt nothing of it for centuries, save hollow shadows of the emotion that were mere fragments of the human part of his mind still left intact, and he felt a strange sort of longing to be able to feel so much.  Other than the characteristic demon emotions of rage, hate, and jealousy, he had been empty for so long. 

Until the Slayer began to invade his dreams.  And then the new emotions had surfaced, foreign and dusty.  At first they simply took the form of the only emotions he knew, but after time, they had become stronger and polished, and he had suddenly and inexplicably found himself looking at things in a new light.  She had said he was evil.  He was no longer sure.

"Buffy?"

He couldn't remember when he had started calling her by name.  A week ago?  A month ago?  It had just suddenly seemed right, like it would show he felt more for her than respect for one's enemy.  She didn't seem to notice.  Or rather, she didn't care.

Buffy jolted, as if she had suddenly awoken from a trance, and automatically found herself looking up at his face.  His human face; blue eyes, bleach-blonde hair, high, striking cheekbones, dark eyebrows knitted handsomely in concern.  With his vampire senses, he felt her pulse quicken, pale skin flushing, and then she was pushing him away violently, tearing her eyes away from his face in a mixture of confusion and disgust.

"I…I have to go," she muttered, hastily trying to climb to her feet.  She was still dizzy though, and a bit weak, and quickly found herself once again leaning on him for support.  Briefly, he noted how she had been too flustered to lash out at him and he softened his features further, hoping to take advantage of her weakened resistance.

"Perhaps you should lie down a bit first, pet," he murmured pointedly, helping her to her feet.  Her olive eyes met his blue ones again, searchingly, and he once again felt the spark between them, the link he had tried to convince her of before.  Buffy seemed to have noticed it too, reeling—if not physically but mentally—in surprise.  She fumbled to push him away once again, but this time he was ready and he held her arms firmly.

His earlier concerns were forgotten.  "What are you afraid of?" he whispered, eyes narrowed, searching hers in return.

She faltered, breathing heavily as if she were still struggling, although she was frozen with indecision.  Her eyes narrowed, glaring at him, but the expression was hollow, and beneath it her eyes glittered passionately.  "I'm not afraid of anything."  Her voice was low; almost a breathy rasp, but he could hear the tremor in it.

"Then why are you shaking, Buffy?" he replied, his voice so low it was nearly a growl.  His lips were now barely inches away from hers, the breath caused by his speech gently teasing her face, her heart pounding in his ears like a dull roar.  He was sure that if he had a heartbeat, it would be beating similarly as fast and was eternally glad he had none to speak of.  Already, each of them was gasping for breath as if they had run a race, despite the fact that Spike had no need for breathing and neither had moved so much as a foot in the last several minutes.

Despite the rapid beating of her heart and the roar of her pulse in her ears, Buffy clung to her stubborn resolve like a spoiled child.  Everything in her mind screamed No!, begging to force herself to break away and run, but her traitorous body would not let her, aching towards the familiar vampire with painful longing.  Heat…desire…hissed her feverish thoughts but she pushed them away weakly, clinging, clinging to everything she believed in.  He was a vampire.  And she was a vampire Slayer.  Angel had been an accident, an accident that could never be repeated.  Even after so much pain and death, the memory of that fated love still haunted her.  She just couldn't let that happen again.

Wouldn't let that happen again.

"I'm not afraid of you," she corrected harshly, voice still low.  But she was.  He had nearly caused her to admit it, to herself and out loud, that some part of her needed him.  Wanted him.  Was terrifyingly attracted to him.  As long as she never admitted to it openly, she felt there was still a chance that she could get over him.  Simply walk away and move on, never dwelling on what could have been.  She was over with the what-could-have-been's, had gone through them a million times with Angel, and knew they only brought more grief.

"I can feel it, Slayer," Spike murmured softly, visibly steadying himself.  It took every ounce of willpower in him not to simply lean forward and touch her lips with his.  But he knew that he was just as close to breaking whatever resolve she had against him, and he chose his words carefully, biding his time.  "You are afraid."

She was wavering, and she knew it, but she faced him boldly, if not somewhat lustily.  Buffy wasn't sure anymore, wasn't sure of anything anymore.  All she could sense was him; his strong arms, his cool hands gripping her forearms firmly, and his smoky, cold smell, hinting slighting of cologne.  And the striking features of his face, icy blue eyes gazing intently at her from beneath mysterious dark brows.  There was depth in those eyes, and emotion, not at all like the soulless demon he was supposed to be, and she was hit with even more indecision.  I love you, Buffy.  It couldn't be true, though.  It was impossible.  A demon couldn't love.

"And what am I afraid of?" she demanded, taunting him, frustration lending to her boldness.

His grasp tightened on her arms, hard enough to hold her but still too gently to harm. 

"You're afraid you'll like it," he gasped in a rush, and before she could reply, he captured her mouth with his in a demanding kiss.

They melded perfectly, his cool against her warm, and immediately she felt the surge, like electricity whipping through her body.  She tried to fight it for the briefest of moments, and then she gasped, her desire and longing overwhelming her, and the action allowed the kiss to deepen as he slipped his tongue into her slightly open mouth.  She allowed him to, feeling her blood pressure reach new heights as she did so.  Tentatively, she kissed him back, tasting his lips, his tongue, drinking him in as if she were afraid she would never again have the chance to.

Just as Buffy was finding herself more drawn into the kiss, the lusty vampire gently ended their arduous lip-lock, closing his eyes in amazement as he pulled away.  Buffy licked her lips shakily, trying to calm her panting as she watched him with wary, hopeful eyes, somewhat regretful that their first, non-spell induced kiss had ended so prematurely.

Spike seemed to be collecting himself with some difficulty, panting slightly himself.  Even after knowing how much he had wanted her, how long he had dreamt of touching her, he had never imagined that it would be this…electrifying.  Part of him wanted to grab her and finish what he had started, but something told him to pull back and wait.  Now was not the time.  She was still confused, unwilling to admit to the fire brewing between them.  Now she had a taste of him, and that was enough.

He opened his eyes and the lust and depth was still there, looking at her with tightly controlled desire.  But his jaw was set commandingly, pushing his feelings aside for the moment.  "Now…try 'n tell me there's nothing between us."

Somewhat reluctantly he released her, and turning, disappeared into the gloom of the crypt, leaving Buffy to sort through her warring emotions until the fall of night.

*           *           *           *           *

TO BE CONTINUED…