Title: That I May Cease To Be

Rating: PG-13

Spoilers: Right up through "Never Leave Me."

Summary: After withstanding the First's attempts to break him, Spike suddenly finds himself living William's life as if he'd never died; but how did he get there, and why? And does this mean he'll never see Buffy again?

Disclaimer: Joss Whedon gave us Spike and for that I will ever be his bitch.

Archiving: Please do not archive until it's finished.

Feedback: cousinjean@hotmail.com

A/N: The title is from a John Keats poem, When I have fears that I may cease to be. Big love and gratitude to all of my beta readers and fact checkers: Abby, adjrun, AurelioZen, DevilPiglet, Enkeli and fenwic. More big love to everybody who yelled at me to turn this into a whole fic even after I swore I'd never write fanfic again. Peer pressure works, y'all! If you like this story you can check out my others at http://dancing-lessons.org, or my FF.net profile if that's where you're reading this.

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Part One
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He felt cold. Strange, that. He was cold by default, so he never really noticed it. To be warm, that was the anomaly. The thing to be noticed. Savored. But now he was so cold. At least he'd finally stopped shivering. Maybe. Couldn't really tell any more, truth be told. No ... he'd stopped. Shivering took more energy than he had to give.

The chill was just an extension of the darkness. The others had taken all the light with them and left him there, hanging by his straps. He had no more blood to rush to his head, but he still felt woozy. Weak. Lifeless. This was what dying felt like, some part of him remembered. This was what those girls had felt, before he'd buried them. At least they'd gotten to finish. No such mercy for him. For him this feeling would go on forever.

She kept telling him that. Coming to him, long after they'd left. The room was too dark for even him to make out anything but black. But she brought her own light. She glowed from within as she told him, softly, that nobody would come for him. That even if they did, the room was hidden; they wouldn't find him. But they weren't coming, she said. They believed he'd gone willingly. That he'd turned against them. And if they did find him, they would kill him.

That was what she said, but he knew. He knew she wasn't the real one. He was on to this one's tricks. Wouldn't be fooled again. Her voice, nearby, calling his name ... he didn't know if that was real. He wanted it to be. But even if it was, he had no voice to answer. Probably all in his head, anyway.

In the basement -- the other basement. That had been real. It -- she'd -- oh, God. She could see him now. She could see ... and she ...

He felt himself shaking again. Not shivering, though. The moisture running down his nose wasn't blood. Sod it all, tears. He'd done his best not to holler while being sliced and diced, or when that thing had come crawling up out of the ground, unleashed by his own blood. He'd kept mum whenever the other one taunted him, tried to get a rise out of him. But now ...

She believed in him. And all he could do was hang here and weep like a bloody useless git, praying she believed enough to come and save him.

"Spike!"

Her voice again. Sounded close, right outside. He tried to draw air into his dead lungs so he could call out to her, but it only made him cough. "Here," he finally managed, his voice barely more than a whisper. "I'm here." But her voice moved away. "Buffy ..."

He couldn't hold out much longer. Oblivion threatened to overtake him, and he wanted so badly to let it. But he had to fight, to hold on. She'd expect that of him, and he couldn't let her down. Not now. Not after ... everything. She would come for him. Just in the nick of time, as she always did. He knew this, believed it. Believed in her. He'd always believed in her.

Footsteps sounded somewhere close by, sending a surge of hope through him. A door scraped open, and the room flooded with a blinding light. It washed over him along with relief. He felt hands on him, heard a voice calling his name. But it was the wrong voice. The wrong name. The hands were pushing against him. As he tugged at his straps he realized he was lying on his back.

"William! William, can you hear me? Open your eyes, son."

The light faded to a tolerable level and he did as he was told. As his eyes adjusted he squinted up at the slightly blurred face of a middle-aged man in a white coat. Something familiar about him. A woman stood beside him, wearing an old-fashioned nurse's uniform. Spike tilted his head and stared up at her.

The man in white turned to her. "His glasses," he prompted. She produced a pair of wire frames from her smock and placed them on Spike's face. Suddenly his vision cleared up. "Is that better?" the man asked.

Spike nodded, and continued to take in his surroundings. He lay strapped to a bed, one of a long row of beds in a white room lit by gaslight. "Wh ... where's Buffy?"

"William, do you know where you are? Do you remember how you got here?"

He shut his eyes and tried to figure it all out. "I ... they cut me ..."

"Yes. Whoever attacked you did a horrendous job of cutting your throat. They found you bleeding in the stalls. You're fortunate that Tom Hobson likes to go riding at night, else you'd have likely been dead by the time they found you."

"What are you ... I am dea--" And then it hit him. He wasn't cold anymore. Air flowed in and out of his lungs of its own accord. And his heart ... oh, God. It was beating.

The man smiled kindly and shook his head. "Indeed, William, you're very lucky to be alive. Of course, the police sent someone over to speak with you if you're feeling up to it."

Spike stared up at him for a long moment. Then he threw back his head and laughed.

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To be continued ...